Mohandas Karamchand known as Mahatma or “Great-Souled” Gandhi has impacted my life since childhood. The Gandhian philosophy and teachings have stuck with me when I had nothing and it still resonates with me today. Gandhi was more than a person, he was an idea, and ideas can’t die. Thus even after his death, he lives. Today, like every day, I observe and practice the ideology of Gandhi.
I always wanted to change the world, but I knew institutional change couldn’t be achieved overnight. I always stood by Gandhiji’s quote which said: “You must be the change you want to see in the world”. So first I had to bring the change in me. I had to be selfless, I had to contribute and I had to reform. And with years of practice and sacrifices, I have established institutions that have changed the event of longstanding poverty, inequality and disparities.
Gandhism in the heart of KISS:
Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS) located at the intersection of Education, Food and Holistic Development is home to 27,000 indigenous children. 12,000 students have already passed out from the Institute and creating change in the community. The sheer magnitude and scale of upliftment through KISS is both awe-inspiring and a story worth emulation. The satellite centres of KISS in 10 districts of Odisha caters to 10,000 other tribal children. This wave of change through educating generations, creating changemakers and building a new India has created a revolution in tribal communities in India. The once deprived and beleaguered are mainstreamed and get a new lease of life through KISS. It has been hailed by policymakers, statesmen, academicians, Nobel laureates, jurists, intellectuals and all who visit the slice of heaven on Earth. Many of them have called KISS the re-establishment of the Gandhian dream and aspiration. It’s been rightly appreciated as it is based on basic tenets of Gandhian thought and follows Gandhism in letter and spirit in its evolution, existence and expansion.
Mahatma trusted in the conviction that Education is an all-around drawing out of the best in a kid’s – body, mind and spirit. At KISS, the stress is given on comprehensive education and lifelong learning with the focus on sports, vocational training and spiritual training. The students have excelled both in academics and co-curricular activities.
The focus on bread labour and dignity of work is a part of their learning while growing up. They are equipped with vocational skills for employability according to their capacities and interests under the “Earn while you learn” scheme. They are made self-reliant and act as changemakers for their communities. Simple living and high thinking run in the nerves of KISS and all its elements.
Gandhiji popularised the word “Harijan”‘ meaning “the people of God”. He made it his life’s mission to wipe out untouchability and to liberate the depressed and the downtrodden people and eliminate poverty and Hunger. Education, he believed is the most potent tool to kill the tyranny of poverty. As a servant of mankind, he preached that all human beings are equal and hence the Harijans have a right to social life. KISS is the real-time manifestation of this mission of Gandhiji and a live realization of his unfulfilled dreams.
Gandhiji’s model of women empowerment and girl child empowerment has been the guiding principle at KISS. Mahatma said that women have been suppressed under custom and law for which man was responsible and in the shaping of which she had no hand. Rules of social conduct must be framed by mutual co-operation and consultation. At KISS, 60% of the students are women who excel in sports, academics and cocurricular every single day. They become the change that the world wishes to see in women.
Thus, KISS Foundation is truly a reflection of the fulfilment of Gandhiji’s dream of Equity, Education, Development of Rural villages, women empowerment, bread labour and triumph of veracity. The dream of Gandhiji is practically being fulfilled at KISS.
“By education, I mean an all-round drawing of the best in child and man in body, mind and spirit. Education should be so revolutionised as to answer the wants of the poorest villagers, instead of answering those of an imperial exploiter.” ~Mahatma Gandhi