This former railway clerk from Nellore station, known as “Daddy” to more than 120 children, runs an organization that provides food for the body and soul to some of the most battered lives in our country.
Sarath Babu has been rescuing children who beg and steal on railway platforms for a long time. Today, one of his children works at a national research institute as a scientist, another is a circle inspector, and yet another is a professor. He has rehabilitated children who could not read and write until they were 12 years old, yet they work as teachers today. To make such a difference to one child is an incredible task, but to do so for 120+ children is nothing short of Herculean. Ask him how he has done it and he says, “They are so intelligent already, I am nothing but a humble enabler.”
When Sarath Babu was working with the Railways, he used to see dirty urchins from different backgrounds daily on the railway platform. He first started out with providing these children with a place to eat and rest and sleep.
Next, Sarath Babu approached the elders of Gollapallem village in North Amulur Panchayat, Allur Mandal of Nellore district in Andhra Pradesh, requesting them to spare a piece of land for the experiment that he was keen to conduct to rehabilitate children from the platforms. The villagers gave the land and their consent on a temporary basis so he could go ahead with this challenging task. A hut, measuring 30 x 15 feet, was constructed with some material available in the village.
The process of rehabilitation was so challenging as to be almost impossible. The children’s life experiences were such that they would send shivers down the spine of anyone listening to them. Battered and bitter, the only life many of them knew was of stealing and begging; anything different felt alien to them, hence they were suspicious of the change Sarath was trying to bring about by starting his ashram home. Rehabilitation work was slow and needed to be handled very delicately with the right amount of tact. There were instances of Sarath being tied up to his cot and being left there by one of the children, or being constantly pick pocketed by another child. Stealing and violence were all that the children knew as a way of survival.
But on seeing the efforts of Sarath and his team, the villagers supported him and encouraged him to continue working in the village. They donated 4.5 acres of land to develop the school and living space for the children, which came to be known as the CHILD ashram. The children from the village and the children from the railway platforms are treated with equal love and warmth by the residents of the area.
In fact, the children of CHILD Ashram are the first to receive an invitation for any wedding or function organized by the villagers. They are also the first to be served food, a custom that is reserved for the most honoured guests.
Sarath does not like to call the CHILD ashram an orphanage. These children, who were off to a terrible start in life are now being slowly transformed again into responsible and contributing members of society. Sarath is a staunch devotee of Shirdi Sai Baba and has dedicated himself to the service of these needy children. When asked if the children who leave contribute to the ashram, his reply is that he wants them to carry on the good work by themselves somewhere else so that society benefits more. Sarath’s dream is to see each child become another Sarath!
The system that Sarath has developed is so effective that if he is to leave the organization today, the children would be able to manage the show on their own! Each child is assigned to a group, each group has a function within the ashram. One group takes care of cleaning, and other groups are responsible for cooking, going to the market, teaching the other children, washing utensils, etc. The girls’ quarters are strictly cordoned off to any men and are maintained very well with ample sanitation and privacy. The ashram children also grow their own vegetables and lovingly take care of a cow.
These are the stories of some of the children who have benefitted from Sarath Babu’s efforts:
One of the children’s father was an employee at Trirumala Tirupati Devastanam. Due to conflicts within the family, the father committed suicide, the boy left his home and lived on railway platforms, and was involved in petty thefts. This child, under Sarath’s care, went on to pass Class 10 in the 1st division and completed M.Sc. in organic chemistry with distinction. He is now working as a Jr. Scientist at the National Institute of Technology, Suratkal, Mangalore.
A second child was hit hard by his father’s sudden death and mother’s subsequent depression. He fell into bad company and took to living on platforms. After being rescued by Sarath Babu, he has today completed a polytechnic course in civil engineering and is serving as a Work Inspector in the Panchayat Raj Department.
A third child, who used to beg for alms on railway platforms dressed in nothing but ragged underwear, is today serving as a Sub-Inspector in the Andhra Pradesh Police Department
The fourth child’s story is even more heartbreaking, yet amazing. His father lost his arm in a saw-mill and later died. His mother used to sell tea and the child, left uncared for, began to live on railway platforms. He travelled the length and breadth of India and spent three spells in government observation homes in Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad. He started his basic schooling when he was 11 years old, under Sarath Babu’s care. Within a year and a half, he completed Class 7, passing with 1st division. He passed with distinction in Class 10 and 12 too. He went on to complete BTech and higher studies and is now a physics lecturer in a private college.
Sarath is an inspiration to all of us! We have a lot to learn from him and his children!
You canSarath Babu at:
J. Rama Chandra Sarath Babu
CHILD Ashram School,
North Amulur Panchyat,
ALLUR Mandal ,
Pin : 524315
Phone no : 944037537
(Written by Hima Bindhu Vankayalapati)