Bonds beyond chemistry, Arunaway kid leads child safety net

Bonds beyond chemistry, Arunaway kid leads child safety net

With an MSc in Chemistry and a Master’s in Social Work and gifted with inborn leadership qualities, Chittajallu Anand Kumar would seem cut out to be the CEO of a company earning a fat salary. But, Anand delights in another kind of chemistry in life and that puts him in a class apart. To grasp the world of Anand Kumar, you need to listen to his life story as he himself narrates it.
“I belong to a traditional, middle class Hindu family of Vijayanagaram town which is also the headquarters of Vijayanagaram District of Andhra Pradesh. My father Krishna Rao was a technical helper as he had studied ITI. He worked in various factories, but would not stick with anyone for long. My mother Lakshmi was a house-wife and had studied up to 7th class. I had an elder brother by name Kiran and a younger brother by name Ravi.
“My father earned enough for all of us to live a respectable life. But he was addicted to alcohol which almost ruined our life. He would disappear from home for long periods of time and then reappear suddenly. In the meantime, my mother had to get all the things we needed from her parents. But when he reappeared he would grab everything in the house and sell them for his drinks. I had seen my mother being regularly abused, both physically and verbally.
“Once, when I was around 7 years old and studying in Class III, my father disappeared for a long time.My mother was finding it very hard to bring up the three children all by herself. One day, she took us all to our maternal grandparent’s house in another part of the town. Since it was difficult to keep all three of us there, one day my aunt came and took me to my paternal grandparent’s house. My paternal grandmother was a school teacher. Unfortunately there I was not happy. I was separated from my mother and my brothers. On the one hand, I was angry and sad, on the other, I was jealous of my brothers. I always wished to escape from my grandmother as I was scared of her. I was also constantly punished and shouted at by my aunt, who was my father’s sister. As for my grandmother, though she was a school teacher, she hardly seemed to understand children and childhood. She wanted me to do all the household work at the cost of my going to school. My mother and siblings seldom got an opportunity to see me. This situation went on for some years.
“In the meantime, I made friends with Sunil, a boy from the neighbourhood. He was facing similar problems at home. So we both decided to look for better options. We left our homes without informing anyone. It was in 1995, when we were both studying in Class VIII. Sunil and I met outside our school while the other children were in the class. We went to a shop where bicycles were given on rent. After taking one such bicycle, we started riding in an unknown direction. After riding for about 120 km, we were completely lost, so we left the bicycle there and went to the railway station. It was Tuni Railway Station near Visakhapatnam. We did not know where we wanted to go, yet got into a train. The ticket examiner saw us and spoke to us. After hearing our story, he put us in a train which would take us back to our home town.
“After reaching the station, Sunil went to his house with a lot of fear in his heart. I too was scared to go home. So I came to the neighborhood and enquired from a neighbor about the situation in my house. He told me that my grandmother, aunty and everyone was upset and angry about my running away. I got so scared and thought that they would thrash me if they found me. So I entered the house when my grandmother was not there, and taking some money (I knew where the keys and the money were kept), I ran out of the house, never to go back again. On the way I counted the cash –
Rs. 600/-
“I went straight for a movie. From Vijayanagaram, I remember taking a train to Vishakhapatnam, then a bus to Tuni and then a truck to Rajahmundry (All these were done just to mislead my family members from tracing me). From here I got into a bus again. This brought me to Vijayawada early in the morning. I went down to the Krishna River to have a bath. Someone stole my clothes when I was having the bath. I had entrusted my clothes, with all the money in my shirt pocket, to a family I saw on the river bank. This was one of the worst days in my life! I was left with only a towel around my waist. I was embarrassed and kept hiding in the cold waters for many hours. Then I noticed a shirt hanging on a drying line for a long time. At one moment when no one was watching, I took that shirt and walked away. I spent some more time on the river bank and then walked towards the railway station. I was wearing a towel and the stolen shirt. I was very hungry. There at the railway station I was met by another boy named Srinu. He talked to me and then took me to Don Bosco Navajeevan Balabhavan.
“At Don Bosco Balabhavan I was given a good meal and clean clothes. Though I stayed there only for a few days, there I felt accepted, loved and nurtured. A staff member, Mr. Anand, interviewed me and wrote down some of the details. I recall not being able to trust anyone and giving all false details. Based on the interaction that Mr. Anand had with me, I was sent to Vidya Bhavan, a unit of Navajeevan. Here I was with 20 other boys of my age. The place was like a home with foster parents to look after us. Within three days of my stay, I was admitted in Class VII in the R.C.M. High School in Pezzonipet.
Initially school was not an interesting experience. I would fall sick often. Since I was a runaway child – a street child – I was treated with contempt by the teachers. They behaved towards me as though I was a second-rate student. I worked hard and slowly created a place for myself. I kept working hard but I didn’t receive recognition until one day the Maths teacher put before the entire class a difficult mathematical problem. I was able to solve it and nobody else could! Thereafter the Maths teacher began to like me and I began to feel accepted.
“I motivated five other Navajeevan companions of mine in my class. We decided that we would show everyone that we too can perform well. In fact, all six of us did very well in studies. With the support and constant encouragement of
Fr. Koshy and Anu Aunty, I improved in academics and started taking part in all extracurricular activities. We also did well in sports, science club, and various school-level and inter-school competitions.
“I started receiving the love and care that I had always longed for, but never experienced. In addition to that, my foster parents, Fr. Koshy and Anu Aunty were regularly in touch with me. I was a topper in my class and soon the leader of the Home. I started motivating all the boys in the group and soon our group became one of the best groups of students in Navajeevan.
“In Class X, I became the leader of my school. I stood first in the public examination. All my companions from Navajeevan also secured First Class with high marks. I became the topper in my school with 78% marks! The things that helped me the most in my journey ahead were the love, care and personal attention I got from Fr. Koshy and Anu Aunty. We were given freedom and were trusted, and that changed the lives of so many boys, including me. Fr. Koshy became my role model and I in turn became a role model for other younger boys. It was a beautiful feeling to be recognized and appreciated.
“When I finished my Class X in 1999, Fr. Koshy sent me to Loyola College to do my Intermediate Studies. I stayed in Navajeevan and attended college. It was the first time I was learning everything in English. It was a struggle. I scored 63% in Intermediate. After this I joined Satavahana Degree College, Vijayawada, for a B.Sc. degree (Maths, Physics and Chemistry).
“In 2004, the third year of my Degree course, encouraged by many persons, particularly Anu Aunty and Santhosh, a longtime friend of mine, I decided to pay a visit to my home. Ten years had gone by since I left home! So many changes had taken place that it really took me a lot of time to locate my mother’s house. And when I identified the house there was a woman sitting outside the house. I asked her if that was Rama Rao’s house. She was actually my mother’s sister. She almost guessed it might be me and then slowly recognized me. She was so overcome with emotion! She was all excited. She hugged me and welcomed me to the house. My mother was not there at that time; she had gone to her elder brother’s (he is a police constable) house in Visakhapatnam. My mother’s sister informed my mother at once and the following day my mother came home. I was happy to see my mother, yet I was not so excited. I recognized that I had some anger towards her. Later I realized that it was not really her fault that I was sent away to my grandma’s place. In the absence of my father’s support she was trying to divide the burden and manage the situation. Then I accepted her and showed my love towards her. I was happy to get back my family again. Thereafter, I have kept up the contact with my family.
“In the same year I received the news of my father’s death. Since he had the habit going from city to city, one day some people found him dead on the wayside. It was also reported in the newspapers. Some people gave the news to my home and my family members identified the body. I went home for the burial.
“I finished my Degree in 2004 scoring 68%. At this stage I wanted to get into a job to earn some money. But everyone encouraged me, particularly
Fr. Koshy and Anu Aunty, to continue studying. Hence I enrolled myself for MSc Chemistry (Though, personally I wanted to study Computer, everyone encouraged me to go for Chemistry). In 2006 I completed my Post Graduation with a score of 71.1% marks. Almost immediately I got a job offer from a reputed Biotech Company in Hyderabad, as a trainee in production. I worked there for six months (I was paid Rs. 4,000/-a month. I was not happy to continue there as I was missing Navajeevan.
“I wanted to be in Navajeevan and work for children like me. I wished to give back some of what I had received from
Fr. Koshy and Anu Aunty. Hence I joined as a staff at Navajeevan in 2007. Knowing my desire to work with them, Fr. Koshy suggested that I do my Masters in Social Work. Soon I registered myself for MSW in Nagarguna University through correspondence. I completed the course in 2010. After this I got associated with the Child Safety Net Project (CSN) under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS). Now I am the Project Coordinator of this project at Navajeevan. Now I am paid a salary of Rs. 13,000/-a month
“I wish to continue to work for children through Navajeevan as this is the place which gave meaning to my life. Many people ask me why I am working in Navajeevan for a small salary, when I am a Post Graduate in Chemistry. But I am determined to serve Navajeevan and strengthen its programmes and projects for children. I have also undergone many training programmes under NIPCCD, UNICEF, etc. I enjoy being a Trainer in Children’s Parliament. Soon I hope to become a Programme Manager in Navajeevan.
“I stay in a flat outside Navajeevan. Sometimes my mother stays with me. She also stays with my other brothers for some period during the year. Since my home is some 400 km away, I am not able to go home often to meet my brothers and others.
“I feel proud of being a part of Najajeevan, which did not just look after me, but nurtured me! This is where I learned to respect children. Navjeevan has a fantastic scheme, and a heart for caring for children. I have learnt immensely from Fr. Koshy, Anu Aunty (Ms. Annapurna) and others. Fr. Koshy is the one who has influenced me most. His life is like a book for me; I imitate him every way!”

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