Pune is a sprawling city in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. It was once the base of the Peshwas (prime ministers) of the Maratha Empire, which lasted from 1674 to 1818. It’s known for the grand Aga Khan Palace, built in 1892 and now a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, whose ashes are preserved here. A historical city and an Oxford of the East, it is surrounded by hill stations – Mahabaleshwar, Panchagani and Lonavala. Pune itself was known as a pensioner’s Paradise- home to those who had retired and wanted a peaceful life in a salubrious environment. But with the upsurge of IT Companies, the city is heading to become smart cities giving ample opportunities for employment. Along with the high sky scrapers, the city is also escalating in population and also in poverty. Amidst all the hustle and bustle of the city, there is an increase in slums. Kalyani Nagar is one such place known for ‘Richness’ and Osho’s new ideas, but many aren’t aware that there are poor maids and construction workers dwelling near the sewage that flows into the river Mulla- Mutha.
In an effort to alleviate this problem, the Kalyani Nagar Outreach Program was started. It helps the students of theology to encounter this reality of life and be an instrument to accompany slum people and children in their studies. It was for the first time that we worked in the slums and it was an enriching experience to have known the reality of the people who stay in the slums. It was directly encountering poverty and coming close to the people who suffer and struggle to earn their living. Working with the people of this region was a different experience overall. They were so polite, courteous and genuinely-hospitable, despite being in deep pain; they had accepted their fate with a quiet surrender, but still hoping that things would change someday. The cry of these people haven’t reached the authorities because no one is ready to stand for them. They struggle in every aspect of life. For example when the students or children go to school they have to learn Marathi and when they go home, they speak Kannada. It’s a daily struggle for these children too since there is no one to motivate them. If only teachers could understand and show personal interest in order that the child may learn! But the children are just bombarded with knowledge which they can’t grasp. Some children study in English medium schools but they aren’t able to grow in their studies. This is the plight of the children. Parents do their duties by enrolling their names in the schools. But they can’t do more than that. They cannot even help them in their studies since they themselves have not gone to school. But their dream for their children is to study; so that at least they may be able to get out of their daily misery and grow up well.
Kalyani Nagar Outreach Program has been a drop in the ocean to assuage the pathetic conditions and suffering of the people, but nevertheless, it has changed the lives of the people in some way and also changed our theological perspectives towards life in general too. It has made us see this broken body of Jesus in the these suffering people, which has in turn made us a transformed people of God.
Sch. Anthony Tribhuvan
(Anthony is a 1st Year Student of Theology at JDV)