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Empowering Lives: The Badlav Story Part 2 (in English)

Sharad’s journey was full of challenges. Professionally, he went against his father's wishes by abandoning his UPSC preparation in favour of pursuing his Masters in Social Work. Halfway through his UPSC preparation, Sharad came across a piece in the newspaper advertising the final vacant seats for the Social Work program through an extended deadline. It was instinctive for Sharad to enrol for the course, who convinced his brother that the degree would strengthen his candidature for UPSC.

Initially, he had to work without any organisational setup and bootstrapped his operations due to misconceptions that existed in society. They accused such organisations of soliciting foreign funds and pocketing it themselves in the name of social work. People also looked down on beggars, and believed beggars begged only as a means to get intoxicated. Furthermore, Sharad was persistently discouraged by others and told that he would become a beggar if he continued to work in this direction. However, these accusations only added more meaning to his purpose. It made him realize that was the mentality he sought to change and that it was the correct time for him to make a difference and help beggars feel welcomed by the society.

He continued to operate in silence for a year. In the beginning, he faced difficulties in communicating effectively with beggars who disregarded him as alien. The initial pain and discomfort that he felt at the incidence of giving food to the beggar had taught him a lesson - be one amongst them to gain their trust. From this, Sharad started to build a relationship of friendship, so that they felt comfortable enough to share their sorrows and seek help. He began spending time with beggars during the evenings. Soon, this developed into helping solve smaller problems such as obtaining ration cards for the beggars. He fought very hard for this as convincing authorities to provide ration cards to over 100 beggars without any proof of address was a goliath task. This was Sharad's first step towards gaining the trust of beggars. Other beggars soon started approaching Sharad for their ration cards. His efforts soon bore fruit as the beggars started sharing their sorrows with him. Midway through their stories, many of them would start crying. This deeply moved Sharad, urging him to help his new friends.

In exploring avenues for the intoxicated beggars, it came to his knowledge that the government too had set up several rehabilitation centres for this cause. However, not many were being rehabilitated here despite the government's efforts. These centres had no data about the total number of beggars and some other questions Sharad had, compelling him to put himself in the shoes of a beggar to seek some answers. Together with his friend, Sharad grew out his beard and hair, wore ragged clothes and abandoned his mobile phone to start living on the streets. While they told their families they were embarking on a journey of meditation, they were actually out on the streets struggling to sleep. They woke up to beatings from the police to go to another area.

The time spent with the beggars made Sharad realise that every beggar had a story behind them, and a different reason to beg. While some had lost money in their daughter's marriage, others had struggled to find employment. However, there was one thing common amongst all, and that is and that is the desire to live with dignity and earn a respectful living.


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