My Ikigai

An Effort.

For Prof.Kaul and Mrs.Kaul, after a hectic career, retirement came as a boon. However, rest was not to be an option and, our minds wandered in search of some useful occupation and Lo! Behold! we soon got it as said , ‘Seek and you shall find.’.
Delhi – where we settled had several opportunities and now we looked for one.
Being a Rotarian, Prof.Kaul was asked to organise a biscuit distribution camp in a village near our residence ,this being a Rotary project. This gave us an opportunity to set a foothold in the village.
On the biscuit distribution day , an old lady came to me and suggested a million dollar idea. She said “ Madam, you are doing good work but, it would be better if you do something that would help these children earn the biscuits for themselves.”
Oh! what a thought !it just clicked and, instantly my project had taken shape. It occurred to me that, we could open a literacy centre for the children here for, education is the best weapon for empowerment.

Back home, the plan was discussed and an action plan chalked out. Having dealt with village people in his career, my husband warned me that caution was the keyword as village folk are very suspicious of the intentions of town folk, and, to break any ice elders of the village had to be convinced about our intentions and taken into confidence to make any impact. For this, it was decided that we make regular trips to the village and mingle with the elders.

With this plan, we started visiting the village daily as I was told that elders assemble daily at the Chauhan Chaupal for a hookah and cards. Now that the journey started, we visited and stayed at the Chauppal daily for two hours, all with the intention of befriending the elders. This was a period of turmoil as, the host community was hostile and did not much appreciate our daily visits. After a few months of adjusting to our visits, one day the cat was out of the bag. The headman in a fit of rage, brazenly asked my husband the purpose of our daily visits and flung a few unsavoury abuses and insults at us which, I daresay we town folk really deserve. The headman said , ” You people come to us to fool the ignorant villagers. You do this as you get paid for this. Sir , please tell me what both of you get as remuneration for sitting here for two hours. You do all this to trap us simple folk but no more of it. We have understood your activities you can fool us no more.”.
These abuses and the like became a daily affair but, with our goal in mind we brushed them all aside and shamelessly continued the daily visits. At last one day seeing our resilience, the headman agreed to allow us to open a literacy centre at the Chauhan Chaupal itself , probably to keep an eye on us and our activities..
After an year’ s struggle under their strict vigil the center was inaugurated at the Chauhan Chaupal by the headman himself in April 1995, and the first battle had been won.

Guldasta , my school started with 5 children and 1 teacher and myself to guide.

This lasted for 2 years and then the teacher got married and left the village. Having no other hand to help, we decided to shift to Sarita Vihar our colony of residence. Here, the environment was expected to be better and more welcoming with an educated gentry as its residents. However , this was not to be. It proved to be just another battle of sorts. Here we had to shift venue from one park to another as, the residents were hostile. Their complaints were that these children make too much noise they scratch cars and walls. I tried to convince people that this would happen any way as, these children are the children of maids coming to the colony. However this argument was not accepted. One day, one of the residents told me to wind up the school within 2 days or else she would sit on dharna and then fast unto death. This threat was too much and now we were to be pushed out of here also. Now with this bold warning we had to finally decide whether we shut the school or look for an alternative. My husband lost his cool at this juncture and said that we should close it down and call it a day. However, I requested him to try just once again and then we will close it. With this mission, we began looking for an alternative space . With divine grace and guidance, we found a sprawling park in a dairy farm of the village, a park as if made for buffaloes.

Here in the M.C.D.Park, the scene was very interesting. Friends , just imagine – buffaloes taking a siesta, cow dung strewn all over the place and in this, patches of land spruced up for accommodating the school. Here we had one rolling board, three chairs for teachers and mats for children to sit. We managed to collect hundred children all from the dairy itself. Though this sounds weird ,believe me friend , here we spent fourteen years of our life and turned out several first generation learners.

After fourteen years in this unsavoury environment our luck looked up and we got visitors from another N.G.O. ,the MADAN MOHAN MALVIYA TRUST.
Being impressed by our efforts and the study schedule they offered us financial support. They offered us the salaries of teachers and rent for a pucca venue. However this would be given only to an N.G.O For this again an N.G.O. had to be formed and Vasundhari Society for Social Action was formed. Now the money started coming from January 2012 and Guldasta saw its first pucca premises. This was a set of four rooms and now it looked like a real school with white boards in each classroom. a notice board, charts. Z, class timetables and registers .
In this place we worked for eight years from January 2012 to March 2020 when Corona hit us, and we had to close the school. In the interim period we had to give up the space and so now back to the dumps once again. Bad luck never strikes single as, in the meantime the Trust has also withdrawn its support so, after two and a. half decades we are back to square one once again looking for space and financial help.

The school has opened again in October 2021 and we now there are good hearted people that will lend support.

For studies we follow the CBSE syllabus and NCERT books.
Besides studies ,we follow some activities like Drill, Yoga, Drawing. Painting, Candle Making., Embroidery, Dancing and Mehndi Application.

Made a dent for education of girls. At one time sending girls to school was a taboo and

to day, after getting the taste of education all girls of this village are going to school and many are even working as professionals. This ,I feel is the result of the persistent efforts towards studies and we witness this transformation!


This little known school has catapulted to a project of National acceptance when I received a “REAL HEROES AWARD in 2010.
This is followed by an “Achiever’s Award” from Shivaji College of Delhi University,
“Hero of the Nation” from Nisha Foundation.

Awards and accolades might come but I am more interested in keeping the school running and transforming many children’s lives for the better.

I have found my Ikigai.

About the Author

Vimla Kaul has not stopped working since she retired as a government school teacher more than 20 years ago. She educates under-privileged children in Delhi. All the children are from around the area – their parents mostly work as maids or drivers, servicing the middle class housing colony across the road. Students are taught English, Science, Math and Environment using NCERT textbooks. Her story inspires thousands of people all over the world!

2 thoughts on “My Ikigai

  1. How can I ever expect anything less from my teacher Mrs Kaul as I know her nothing deterred her from her goal, a visionary and heart of gold
    Kudos Miss so proud of you may God be with you in all your noble endeavours


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