Thursday, December 11, 2014

Let's all become Akshaya Patras for our children

None of us wore watches to school, but that was alright. We didn’t need a timepiece to let us know that it was recess time. The loud rumbling of our stomachs and our increasing inability to focus on what was happening inside the classroom was enough.

Soon the tring-tring-tring of the school bell would sound over the clamour of the voices of a thousand schoolgirls and it would be time to dig into our little plastic and steel tiffin boxes and savour the joys they contained.

Most of us had been sent to school with a full breakfast. And the recess was only a comma in what would end in a hot home-cooked meal when school closed and we got home. Most moms were stay-at-home in those days.

I cannot even begin to imagine the plight of children, millions of them, who go to bed hungry, wake up hungry, then go to school hungry, their minds unable to hear the voices of their teachers over the din raised by their empty bellies.

If at all they go to school.

In between they might nibble on something utterly devoid of nutrition that does nothing to appease the hunger pangs.

What is their motivation for staying in school?

More importantly, what is their parents’ motivation for sending them to school? Their poor parents are more likely to pull them out of school, and utilise them as two more hands to work, rather than one more mouth to feed.

The promise of a meal at school is the key to keeping a child at school while providing for their growth and nourishment. The offering of one square meal in the middle of the day might seem trivial to those of us who have never known real hunger. But to the child who is malnourished and seemingly destined for a life of misery, it is the only means by which we can ensure a healthy future for both their bodies and minds.

The Akshaya Patra Foundation has been working relentlessly, not only to fight hunger but also to keep children in school, away from the streets, and give them the opportunity to better their lives. Beginning in the year 2000 by serving 1500 children across 5 schools, Akshaya Patra is today the world’s largest (not-for-profit) mid-day meal programme which serves wholesome and sufficient foot to over 1.4 million children from 10,661 schools across 23 locations in 10 states of India.

How much does it cost to keep a child fed through the academic year? Just Rs 750.

Take that kind of money with you to the mall, and you’d soon learn how pitifully insufficient it is. If you and a friend went to a multiplex to catch a film, you’d spend much more for the film and the snacks during the interval.

After the film, if you and the same friend went to a decent restaurant with that kind of money, I doubt you’d even reach as far as the appetizers.

And yet that kind of money can feed a child. For a whole year.

A startling idea that brings a whole new perspective to life.

If you want to be part of this revolution to defy hunger and build a new generation of people, you can. As Mother Teresa said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

If you are willing to do that, rush to the Akshaya Patra Foundation’s online donation page and see how easy it is to make a difference.

A nation that does nothing while its littlest citizens go hungry has no right to call itself a great nation. Over time, children who are hungry or even malnourished find themselves suffering from a diminished capacity to understand and learn, to make the right decisions and to live life to the fullest. It is one meal a day that can save them from such a cruel fate.

Poverty is a complicated issue. And despite decades of posturing and shouting slogans like “Garibi Hatao,” I doubt it will be possible to eliminate poverty. And yet, through a programme like the midday meals, Akshaya Patra offers us a way to break down the barriers of poverty and make a difference to each child.

A midday meal boosts school enrollment, attendance and academic performance. A child that is well-fed is a child that will stay in school. A generation of children who are well-fed will mean a stronger, more able-bodied generation, that is not just literate, but intelligent and more competent to steer this country forward.

Akshaya Patra’s efforts teach us that it is possible for each of us to do something to feed our children.

In the Mahabharat, the Akshayapatra (Sanskrit for inexhaustible vessel) held a never-failing supply of food for the Pandavas every day.

Each of us could be the Akshaya Patra for our children. All we need to do is to spare Rs 750 to feed one child for one academic year. 

One hungry child at a time.


  1. Well said particularly reference to Mahabharat. Though lot of industrialists earn billions but pay tax equivalent of 30 lac earner but do not sympathise this kind of causes but blow on marriages/birthdays. Kudos to you for this small effort.

  2. Thank you, Pat, but my attempt to blog here is nothing compared to what these guys are actually doing. They have kept so many children in school. Without their efforts, I don't know how many of these would have been educated or survived.



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