He may be all of 27, but Chinu Kwatra’s life is an inspiration for many.
After a massive financial crisis hit his family, a young Chinu would run around helping his mother run a dhaba. There were times when she couldn’t afford paying his fees, but an academically-inclined Chinu worked twice as hard. His rising academic graph compelled his school to support him financially.
While in school, he would teach his peers, and once he left for the day, he rushed to his mother’s aid to deliver food and wash utensils. Though he passed his 12th grade, he was unsure where his life was heading.
Around this time he met a girl and fell in love. Her support and resolve to teach the boy fluent English got him into an MBA program.
After finishing his MBA, Chinu moved on to become a marketing professional. He remembers how his cousin, who had opened a pre-primary school in Thane, asked him to help her market it. During his regular visits to the school, the brother-sister duo often came across two young girls, aged four and seven, in heavy makeup who sat right outside the school gate. The girls had shown an interest in education, and would often look at other kids their age rush through the gates with their satchels.
So Chinu and his cousin decided to visit their homes to speak to their families. The visit revealed that they were orphans and were currently living with their aunt, who worked as a bar dancer to earn a living. Moved by their story, and his cousin decided to enrol the kids. The caretakers were supportive as they did not want the girls to get tangled in the vicious cycle of intergenerational commercial sex work. Beginning with the basic alphabet, numbers and personal grooming, Chinu & his sister turned their lives around.
After this, Chinu decided to spend more time teaching underprivileged kids. The cousins decided to start an NGO, Aarna, to work for underprivileged women and children
Life seemed to be falling into place for Chinu. But 2014 shattered it all. The girl he loved died in an accident.
Her death pushed him into a severe depression. He tried to take his own life over three times.
But those dark days were not the end for Chinu. Instead, this breaking point became a turning point in Chinu’s life. He decided to devote his life to serve the cause of the underprivileged.
Having worked for a good five years while working simultaneously on his NGO, Chinu decided to quit his job and do social work full time in September 2017. He was also appointed the District secretary of All India Council of Human rights, Liberties & Social Justice in 2017.
Today Chinu’s NGO takes care of the educational needs of over 700 underprivileged children and have adopted two schools in rural Waghbil and Amarnath district. They also work for menstrual hygiene among underprivileged girls and women by distributing eco-friendly sanitary napkins and menstrual cups.
But a personal project, kickstarted on 5th December 2017 with a few friends, independent of the NGO, is the Roti Ghar. It is their attempt at providing a healthy one-time meal to over 100 underprivileged children and women at the dumping ground in Thane, Mumbai every single day.
These are kids and women living in tiny makeshift huts in the slums surrounding the dumping ground who have minimal or no access to food at times.
When the clock strikes 5:30 pm at Thane East’s Hari Om Nagar dumping ground, over 100 underprivileged women and children form a serpentine queue with steel plates in hands for a plate of healthy and simple food.
While dal, rice and pickle are one of the staple diets, some days their plates are graced with a piece of chocolate or a slice of cake or gulab jamun.
With just a donation of Rs. 35/- per plate from any well-wishers during birthdays, anniversaries, or even in the memory of a loved one, this unique initiative by the 27-year-old completed 90 days recently.
“When we get donations for birthdays and anniversaries, we cut a cake and even send the video and photos to the donors on Facebook,” says Chinu.
While most of the money is raised by Chinu, other members including Akshay Mandhare, Swarup Tokal, Pranav Shirke, Rishi Tripathi, Karan Shah and Satya Murthi are his helping hands who take care of the initiative when he isn’t around and regularly serve food.
Chinu broadcasts messages asking for donations to a network of over 500 or more people every day. “Even if 16 to 17 sponsors come forward every month I can efficiently run the Roti Ghar for the entire month without any issues,” he says.
The food is cooked at his own dhaba, so he doesn’t incur any labour costs. Besides, his family network with vegetable and foodgrain vendors helps him buy quality ingredients in bulk at a reasonable cost.
“The idea of Roti Ghar is to not just giving food. We don’t want to make the kids lethargic. So we started cleanliness sessions too. We are ensuring they wash their hands before eating. We don’t carry thermocol plates or plastic. We ask them to get their own plate. They have to finish the food and only then are they given cake. We want to change their lives and make them better individuals,” says Chinu.
The success of his Roti Ghar reflects in the number of requests he has received from suburbs of Mira Road and Mulund to replicate the model there on a weekly basis.
Life seldom gives people a second chance to turn things around. Chinu is an example of how sometimes grief can be the biggest motivator not just to heal yourself but also change the lives of those around you.
If Chinu’s story inspired you, get in touch with him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Whatsapp him on 9769181218. Follow Roti Ghar on Facebook @rotigharofficial and on Instagram at rotigharofficial.
(Edited By Vinayak Hegde)