The Road Less Traveled

As a recipient of a highly subsidised education in the best environment India can provide with some of the most intelligent people in the world, my days at IIT were focused on getting a challenging job that would offer the most money. I am sure there were several people with the same goals – get a job in the fourth year, graduate, make a lot of money and spend a life of leisure. Some decided to insert the additional step of post graduate studies before joining their professions by doing an MS, MBA or PhD.

By my fourth year of professional life I realised that my job paid more than average, the quality of work was not challenging at all and my life of leisure was not entirely that. That was when I happened to catch an email dated 13th March 2004 that my friend was reading. The title was “Parivaar” and it said:

Dear Sir,

My name is Vinayak Lohani and I am a 38th batch alumnus of IIM Calcutta. After graduating from IIMC I did not take up a corporate placement but started Parivaar, a Residential School for socially ostracized children from categories of orphans, children of women in prostitution, street children, children abandoned by their families etc.

Parivaar Centre (as it is called) started in January and currently houses 20 such children. We are admitting 40 more children whom we have identified who are highly vulnerable and need immediate support.

IIM Calcutta alumni have been of great help and 35 IIMC alumni (15 from my batch i.e.. 38th) have extended support to one child each at Parivaar. We need 15 more individual donors to place these children and ensure that they too get opportunities like children form ‘normal’ backgrounds.

You would be able to read about Parivaar Center at:

You can extend support to one child at Parivaar through our Child Sponsorship Scheme. The cost of one child at Parivaar residential Centre is Rs. 1025 per month i.e. Rs. 12,300 for a year. You will be associated with the sposnored child over the years and will be apprised of his/her progress.

Sir, this is a personal appeal to you for joining hands with us in this cause. If I do not get confimred support from 20 individual donors before March end I would not be able to admit some of these highly vulnerable children, 15 of whom are girls who have been identified to be under threat of being trafficked and forced into prostitution.

We had planned for 40 children this year but since 15 more such extremely vulnerable cases have been reported we need to move away from planning. What is planning when human lives are concerned. And hence for this reason I am writing to IIM Calcutta alumni who might be willing to extend their support. Your contribution will be a destiny-changing support to one child.

Looking forward to your reply.

I would be glad to answer any queries that you may have.

Vinayak Lohani

The mail shook me awake. Vinayak is a person of roughly my age who, after graduating from IIT-Kgp and IIM-C could have gotten an extremely lucrative job. But he chose to attend a higher calling and leveraged his network to do something that I can only dream about. This was what I had spoken about in my comment regarding Taare Zameen Par.

I visited Parivaar on 3rd October 2004 to experience first-hand what it felt like. It had to be one of the most humbling experiences of my life. The rain did nothing to dampen the spirits of the children, who each wanted to meet me and talk to me. They were a happy lot. Really happy. You could sense how much being a part of a family mattered to them. There was not a child whose smile did not touch my core. These children now attend mainstream schools and get an education that would help them compete with others from the more privileged classes.

Starting with 3 children in January 2004, today Parivaar has not only extended its reach to 386 children, but it also has lent a helping hand to other child shelters struggling with infrastructure issues. All thanks to one visionary individual who decided to choose an option that does not reward monetarily but amplifies manifold the satisfaction you get out of life. There are other organizations that care for the underprivileged, but Parivaar is the one I know most about and hence able to comment better on.

My visit to Parivaar changed me quite a lot. It taught me that there is so much more to life than flexing your intellectual or fiscal muscles. It made me much more mellow about a lot of things like uncooperative colleagues, decisions not going the right way and so on. Of course, I still maintain an argumentative streak, but someone who knew me 5 years back is bound to notice the difference. After all, what I face are minor trifles.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

From Mountain Interval by Robert Frost

Few things exemplify Robert Frost’s poem above better than Parivaar. Take a bow, Vinayak Lohani and Parivaar! May your tribe increase!

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