Walking through the lanes of Mazgaon, I couldn’t help but mentally hypothesize the origins of each family in each apartment based on the structure of each flat from the outside. Mazgaon, just to provide some context, used to be one of the fashionable areas of South Mumbai before the British & Parsi citizens moved out of the area, post which it lost most of its charm.
My train of thought suddenly broke when Pinku arrived to help my colleague and myself reach Jeevan Dhara — an NGO we took off to meet; my first NGO visit. If you have read my previous article, “The Digital Life”, you would know that my experience in the development sector is quite minimal. My perception of non-profits was largely based off of what I had seen on TV or read about in articles. So, my imagination told me that we were visiting a non-profit organization that had an ample amount of space with an ample amount of people helping out.
Suddenly, Pinky stopped walking and so, I assumed we arrived at the destination. My eyes gazed around for a bit until they gave up; I couldn’t find Jeevan Dhara. A small room was what I saw in front of me, with 4 chairs, a table and just enough space for a 5th person to join in the conversation. Pinku and Mrs. D’Silva being the only two people at the NGO.
What followed next were a series of stories that Mrs D’Silva and Pinku recalled about the birth of Jeevan Dhara & the countless encounters they faced with people of different ages, genders, religions, and backgrounds, with countless issues to be resolved. After the meeting, I remember walking to the main street of Mazgaon from the tiny lanes while reflecting on my first NGO visit experience, and more than any other emotion, I felt overwhelmed.
Pinku’s story in particular changed my perception of how NGOs run and who they’re run by! Pinku was orphaned at an early age and was taken in by Don Bosco, through which he received his education. Post his education with Don Bosco, Pinku started working with Mr & Mrs. D’Silva to build the foundation of Jeevan Dhara. In an alternate universe, Pinku could’ve completed his education and gone off in the corporate world to build a better life for himself. Instead his experiences have led him here, with the willingness to do something for society, to give back in return.
While most NGOs might be funded by large corporates, Jeevan Dhara isn’t one of them, and I am glad to have visited this NGO as my first one, only to realize that everyone really is fighting a battle and striving for a better India!
Written by #CFMember, Nikita Shah