Vijay Bahadur Bhola was lost in Lucknow at the age of 10 and started begging as a means to fight hunger. Now, 42-year-old Vijay proudly says that he earns enough as a rickshaw puller and credits Sharad for giving him a respectable life.
At the tender age of 16, Sharad Patel from Mirzaganj, Uttar Pradesh, noticed the poor conditions of beggars near railway stations, outside hotels and around hospitals. He observed that many of them were struggling with drug addiction, which bothered him deeply. Thus, he came up with a plan to help them become self-reliant and lead a dignified life.
What started as an urge to help beggars has now grown into an organisation catering to an often overlooked segment in society - beggars and their means to satisfy hunger.
Sharad Patel is the founder of the NGO Badlav. He is actively working towards the rehabilitation of the deprived, exploited and marginalized people, and connecting them to mainstream society.
In the words of Sharad, Badlav (meaning change) is a movement through which he seeks to change society and ensure an equal footing for everyone.
In the 4th edition of our #socialenterprisestories, we learn about Badlav and the essence of what it does.
Moving to Lucknow was an eye-opener for Sharad. Having experienced a family health crisis at a young age, he realised the challenges faced by a middle-class family during such times. He realised that he wished to help others and started studying Medicine in pursuit of this wish. However, soon after, he felt that pursuing Medicine was not his cup of tea. Upon graduation, he embarked on a journey of social development with his first venture being working with social activist, Dr Sandeep. The honesty and purity with which Dr Sandeep worked inspired Sharad greatly, who believes that working under Dr Sandeep's tutelage has had a strong influence on his style of work.
Daily observations in Sharad’s life served as building blocks for his idea behind Badlav. Early sparks for this drive to bring about change came when Sharad walked past religious institutions like temples and mosques on his way to and from college or home. He noticed many beggars around these places, either intoxicated or helplessly pleading for money. He wondered why temples and mosques did not serve langar (the practice of serving a free meal to all visitors, without distinction of religion, caste, gender, economic status or ethnicity, typically at a Gurdwara).
Sharad's encounter with a beggar further strengthened his feelings of empathy towards them. The beggar pleaded for some money and appealed to him by saying he hadn't eaten in 2 days. Fearing that the beggar would use the money to consume intoxicants, Sharad bought him a plate of Puri-Kachori (fried indian bread made with whole wheat flour, stuffed with onions, potatoes, or lentils) instead. The vulnerable manner in which the beggar asked for money stuck with Sharad for a long time. He realised that although he had helped feed the beggar once, he may not be there to feed him the next time.
This incident was etched in his mind and affected his behaviour. Many days later and after several questions from his close friend, he finally shared his grief. Thereon, he decided to embark on a journey to enable beggars to become self-reliant and earn a respectable life. These events gave shape to his thoughts and his desire to empower others, and thus began the journey of Badlav.