Building Institutions for the generations to come

Anant Shah is my friend since last 25 plus years, we meet sometime in the mountains of Aravali or on the Himalayan heights, but whenever we met, he was always accompanied by a group of young girls and boys. The boys and girls he brings from a place called Kapadwanj, a not so known small town in Gujarat. They were coming to the mountains and valleys to experience the wonders of nature and also to realise their own potentials. While the children go through physical and mental challenges on the high mountains and deep valleys, realising their potentials and possibilities, Anant Shah remains just a catalyst for the transformation of the children. He has a clear vision, these children should be able to understand the value of nature, natural resource and the elements of nature.

So when I got a call from him two days back, I was sure that he was planning another trip either to the mountains or to the valleys with a group of children from Kapadwanj Kelvani Mandal, an organisation started by visionaries of this non-descript town much before India became independent.  But this time, to my surprise, it was an invitation to me to visit the organisation and spend some time with the principals and teachers of the educational institutions nurtured by Kapadwanj Kelvani Mandal popularly known as KKM. They all were getting ready to start a movement, under the Central Government initiated scheme National Green Corps, to start several Eco Clubs in all their institutions.  They were ready to make a commitment that would make Kapadwanj and its surrounding a better place to live by growing and nurturing trees and by adopting environment friendly life style. Interestingly a signboard proclaiming “Welcome to Kapadwanj Kelvani Mandal” with a banyan tree logo is the first thing that you notice before you turn towards the town.

The time given was 10.00 am, I was late for 12 minutes but the entire team of KKM was there in the conference hall waiting for the guest that was me. I was introduced to Shri Vinal Patel, an alumnus of KKM and now the Range Forest Officer looking after the social forestry of Gujarat Forest Department. I realised that it was a formal function which I am not used to. The thirty plus audience in front of me included Principals, Vice Principals and Coordinators of different activities, many of them having the best degrees in their respective fields including PhDs. The connecting link between all of them was KKM. I felt privileged to sit among such august audience and started thinking about words that can appreciate the great initiative they have taken up, greening the earth.

I might have talked for 15 minutes, about the “only earth” that sustains life. Tried to make sense by telling the audience that there is a wonderful combination of sunlight, air, water, soil and space; the five mega elements of nature that create the life on earth and sustain it.  I also tried to touch our ancestral wisdom of respecting these elements and the way we spoiled all of them with our ignorance. They all were receptive to what I said. I concluded my brief talk with apologies, because I was talking in their mother tongue, Gujarati, a language that was alien to me forty years ago, but they clapped and appreciated and one of them said that your smile compensates the mistakes you made while talking in Gujarati.

KKM, known for its three pre-primary, primary, secondary and higher secondary schools and three colleges, was initially supported by the great philanthropist Late Shri Suryakant Chandulal Dani, founder of Asian Paints, followed by his son Shri Ashwin Dani who is now 80 years young and Shri Jalal Dani, son of Ashwin who is the young face that drive KKM as its Vice President.

Gujarat is the right model for philanthropy by the rich. I would love to call it compassionate capitalism.
March 12, 2023

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