Penned by Board Member Ms. Alo Pal

Balaji has a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Logistics in Foreign Trade, he was selected through campus recruitment by Lucas TVS in April this year, which he will join later this year once he gets his official degree. He currently works as a sales executive at OPPO. Even as he continues to work, he is gearing up to enroll in a correspondence course with the School of Management at Pondicherry University for an MBA in shipping logistics and documentation. In the near future he plans to go to Kolkata and Mumbai to get hands-on experience in the field and in the future he plans to open his own business in the domain.

Balaji is a tall, well-built young man, interested in weightlifting. His body language emanates confidence, his resting face has a hint of a smile. His eyes are mischievous and I can well imagine Mr. Ravianand and the social workers having to manage his energy when he was a child in the Summer Camps. “I have many friends, and many of them have bad habits, but I want to show everyone that I am not a bad person, I know how hard my mother worked to get me to where I am today.”

Balaji’s mother has worked most of her life as a house maid in 6 to 7 houses. Sharana gave her a loan under our Social Entrepreneurship Programme (SEP) for a sewing machine. Working in the houses and tailoring for her clients who are essentially members of the houses he works in has been her life of relentless slog. Her husband, a painter, with the potential of earning a decent daily wage is a life wasted in alcohol.  In such a situation Balaji and his brother got very little time and attention from their parents. These circumstances made him take on certain responsibilities on his own and from the 10th standard onward between 6-9 pm he has been working part time at a departmental store. 

Spirited, perhaps sometimes difficult to control though securing good grades, Balaji learnt from Sharana what was meant by abuse and what his rights were. One day, upset that his mother had beaten him, he called ChildLine and made a complaint! 

  • -Not your father? Didn’t he abuse you?
  • -Yes, he did ma’am
  • -Then why?
  • -I did not understand why my mother hit me, I got angry and I called. I did not fully understand the situation at the time.
  • This moment must have been the only time while I spoke to Balaji where the spark in his eye dimmed. He had normalized abuse from his father but his mother hitting him without cause had hurt the child deeply. Today he rationalizes. He is extremely empathetic to his mother’s hard work and harder life. He probably understands that he did nothing wrong but was unfortunately the target when his mother had snapped under her burden.

It is easy to judge and difficult to understand why the vast majority of the poor in these parts of our country exacerbate their condition with alcohol abuse. As George Orwell once said “A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks”. Nothing feeds one another more destructively as unproductivity and alcoholism. 

But then I will be honest, it is true that this story ticks all the right boxes of a heartening Sharana intervention, but I would rather make it about focus, confidence, direction and ambition, and the qualities a good education had given Balaji.