Avinash Nakat honoured the memory of his wife in a heart touching way – by digitalizing a zilla parishad school with the money that was earmarked for the rituals after her death.
The Taj Mahal is a symbol of love the Mughal emperor Shahajahan had for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. It immortalized her forever.
Avinash Nakat from Tandli Buzrug village, Akola, Maharashtra, gave the same honour to his wife Rupali – but perhaps in an even better way than Shahjahan.
A 35-year old housewife, Rupali’s world was her family – her husband and daughters, 9-year-old Samruddhi and 5-year-old Anandi. Avinash Nakat is a well-known face in Akola as he works for the rights of farmers through his NGO Yuvarashtra. Rupali too took interest in Avinash’s social work. The family looked absolutely perfect.
But on February 3, 2016, Rupali’s nose started bleeding. She was taken to the hospital in Akola where she was diagnosed with acute leukaemia. Next day, Avinash took her to Nagpur to get her better treatment as there are no haematologist in Akola. But the cancer had damaged her brain cells, resulting in a haemorrhage.
Rupali lost her life on the fateful night of February 5, 2016.
After the cremation, Avinash came back to the house and announced that he would start working again from the next day itself. He also said he would not spend on the rituals but would digitalize the zilla parishad school in his village with the money. On hearing this, the villagers threatened him of spiritual consequences for not conducting the rites. They also tried to provoke Rupali’s parents against Avinash’s decision. However, Rupali’s family supported him.
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“When I announced that I will be spending Rs.1.5 lakh which was supposed to be spent on the rituals and the feast after my wife’s death to develop the village school instead, all the villagers boycotted our family. The room, which was filled with people, emptied in minutes,” says Avinash.
But Avinash was firm in his decision. This was the school where he had studied as a child. The school used to have 30-35 students in each class when he studied there. Although Avinash had later moved to Akola to run a pest control business, he used to visit his village often to look after his farm. As active members of Yuvarashtra, Rupali and he would also visit different villages every Sunday to help the farmers. Once, while visiting his own village, he noticed that the zilla parishad school where he had studied now only had 5-10 students in each class. On enquiring, the authorities told him that these were kids of farmers who could not afford better schools; other people did not send their kids here anymore as it was in a very bad condition.
“I remember Rupali told me once that I should do something for my own village too. I did not pay attention to what she said then, but after she left me, her words kept motivating me to do something for this school. That is when I decided to provide all the facilities available in my kid’s school in Akola to this school too,” he adds.
Avinash started working on the development of the zilla parishad school, Tandli, just five days after his wife’s death. On February 22, 2016, Avinash’s mother inaugurated the ‘Digital School, Tandli.’
The following changes were made to the school:
All rooms were painted at a cost of Rs. 40,000 – the exact amount that was supposed to be used to arrange for a feast for the entire village.
A projector was installed for Rs. 26,000, the amount that was to be used to get new clothes for the relatives who attended the funeral.
A computer for Rs. 18,000 – the amount earmarked for a priest to do the rituals.
A white board was brought for Rs. 5,000, a home theatre for Rs. 2,500, two fans for Rs. 3,000, electronic fittings for Rs. 5,000, ventilated windows for Rs. 5,000, flooring was done for Rs. 10,000, carpet fitting to the flooring for Rs. 10,000, and software for classes from 1 to 7 for Rs. 14,000. These miscellaneous costs are incurred each year in the rituals that are followed on the death anniversaries.
The total amount spent was Rs. 1,43,500 – to digitalize a school that is going to now do wonders for the future of these children.
The inauguration function of the school was so wonderful and the smiles on the children’s faces even more so, that the villagers who were opposing Avinash on the first day stood right beside him now.
One of the villagers also came up to Avinash and promised to install a water purifier system in the school.
“I am a believer in God, but I do not follow traditions blindly. We need to see the need of the hour and work accordingly. My fellow villagers have now started saying that they have been a part of the feast after hundreds of deaths in the village, which did no good to the village. But this one step has given something which the village will always be thankful for. Most of the villagers have promised me that they will now follow in my footsteps, which I think is a true tribute to my wife,” concludes a satisfied Avinash.