Travelling to this sleepy hamlet one has to take a train to Canning station, followed by a bumpy ride on a three wheeler to Sonakhali, a boat across the river to Basanti Bazar and then ride on a motorized ‘van-rickshaw’ to arrive at the Maheshpur Jasoda Vidyapith. The distance can be traversed in about 3 hours from Ballygunge station - all for a princely sum of 33 rupees per person!
Situated on the eastern bank of the Matla River and south of the town of Basanti, this village is separated from the river by large tidal flats edged with mangroves in the distant. Laurent Fournier, Smriti and I took a non-motorized van-rickshaw for the last leg of the journey, which took longer, but we enjoyed the view while the rickshaw puller entertained us with his good-humoured chatter.
The Late Rakhal Chandra Pandit had arrived here as a young man from Midnapur in the early 1940’s after dodging the police who were hot on his heels for his activities linked to the Indian freedom struggle. He set up the first school in the Sundarban delta in 1959 in his wife’s name – Jasoda. It is now a large government aided school with about 1200 students and has separate hostels for about 70 boys and girls.
|Amal Krishna Pandit|
Arriving at the School compound we were greeted by a smiling, energetic man - popularly known as Amal Pandit, a teacher and social activist, who started a home for orphaned boys about 20 years ago. It is called the Maheshpur Rakhal Chandra Sebashram. At the moment the Ashram is home to eighteen boys between 3 to 18 years of age. I was told that there would be two more coming soon. Accommodation in the ashram is basic and has no more room for expansion. Amal da, therefore plans to shift the ashram to a new location 5 minutes away. This is where our first “Olive Ridley Shelter” will come up…and hopefully more.
|The site...behind the trees.|
We visited this location and talked to Amal da’s brother Shyamal da and their cousin Haradhan Bera about skills of local artisans and builders, as well as, availability of raw material. Things look satisfactory. We have been offered a room at the ashram for us to stay and have our daily meals with the children.
After more than two years of agonising and trying to find partners the project is all set to finally see the light of day, thanks to the support of CESC Ltd and our friends.