The annual trip by a hired van, costs about Rs 20,000 contributed by Committee members whether or not they make the trip. Several of them make the week-long trip, often foregoing pay at work.
June: the monsoons have arrived in Mumbai and the west coast. It's time too for the Mandal's annual date with Ratnagiri's rural children. Local dailies would have announced the babus' schedule; country schools await them, having arranged a series of little ceremonies.
Encounters with the unplanned:
You cannot run something like the Mandal for 15 years and not encounter moving human experiences.
A doctor at the Nair Hospital routinely gives away to the Mandal, the money she used to spend on her child's birthday party. Two upwardly mobile young businessmen of Mumbai, read about the Mandal, went on a week long trip in the van, gave away a lot of materials and adopted four children. When disabled young boy Sintre died in Thane, his parents fulfilled his last wishes that money set aside for his annual shradh, be given away to the Mandal. A Hyderabad school-girl sent in the Rs 100 she had saved. When a village panchayat saw Mandal members wade through knee-deep water to get to their school, they were moved to years old demand for a foot-bridge. A mango merchant in Mumbai loaned Rs 30,000 to a cash strapped Mandal, on just a phone call from Pawar, no questions asked. A Muslim couple had built a school in Kodunda village, Sangameshwar taluka, but the children didn't have the money to pay the boatman to ferry them daily to the school. Mrs Shinde at the Nair Hospital chartered the boat for a year! In 2003, the Muslim man died leaving a polio afflicted son with a cardiac problem. The Mandal now ferried him to Nair Hospital and got reputed doctors to attend on him.
More such stories keep gathering by the day.
In recent years, the Mandal has also taken to honouring local leaders of note; like Vijay Narkar, a social activist and rain water harvesting evangelist; Tambe, an ex Mumbai-banker turned organic farmer; a lady who nabbed thieves; a child who won a National Bravery Award- all those small Indians we are too busy to notice. They await too.