Yesterday I took a walk down the lane outside Vasundhara Resort. It was probably noon…an odd time for a walk, isn’t it? But after two days of incessant rainfall, the skies had finally cleared. And I was out there to make the most of it.
I had never seen the countryside look more beautiful, and as I trod slowly down the path, I couldn’t help noticing it: the terrifically verdant trees, the cool monsoon breeze and of course, the intoxicating fragrance of rain on earth.
Around the bend, was a charming red-roofed house seemingly bustling with activity. Kids ran around in the yard, some on see-saws, others swinging away to glory. I investigated further, and stepped in. Inside was a classroom: charts listing out fruits and vegetables, and the English alphabet covered three walls, the fourth had a blackboard. Perhaps it was a school, and not wanting to disturb anyone, I quietly made my way out.
That evening, as I sat with my usual evening cappuccino by the pool, I asked a member of the hotel staff about the “school” I had encountered that afternoon. Turns out it wasn’t a school, but an anganwadi centre, specially constructed by the Vasundhara Resort for the underprivileged children of Valayar.
So, what exactly was an anganwadi?
I spoke to Mr Anand Nair, the general manager, the next day and got the low-down. An anganwadi centre is part of a Government of India project started in 1975 to address the health and developmental issues of children across the country (www.aanganwadi.org). It is essentially a small establishment in the rural areas, providing basic healthcare (right from immunisation to medical checkups) and non formal pre-school education to the villagers. By extension, it can also function as a crèche of sorts, where mothers can leave their children for the day, while they are out working in the fields, or markets.
Like most anganwadis around India, the one near Vasundhara, for the longest time, was small and dilapidated, far from the “haven” the Government had initially thought it would be. No electricity, no water, no playground, no bathroom—a truly pitiable sight. And that’s when Vasundhara stepped in. Under their Community Development program, the resort decided to build a spanking new centre for the children, complete with a classroom, a meeting room, a storeroom, a kitchen, a bathroom and even a parents’ waiting area. Outside would be playground, fully equipped with slides, see-saws and swings. And, almost overnight, the anganwadi centre regained its popularity. Today, it is a hub of activity, courtesy the good graces of the Dr P Vasudevan and his administration.
“Our Community Development program isn’t just about this particular anganwadi. At Valayar junction in NH-47, we have built a bus stand for the commuters, protected from the scorching sun and the pouring rain,” Anand informs me. The resort has also contributed to a Nursery Division for the nearby Lower Primary (LP) school, and organises the occasional Swach Bharat campaign, and other similar drives.
I paid a visit to the anwagadi again (thank you, rain god!) a few days later. The house looked as quaint as ever, and outside a small girl was busy pushing her friend on the swing, which was almost double her size. The countryside just got more beautiful.