SalamatRaho presents the inspiring story of Lokesh Abrol. An optimist for whom a challenge brings in a new possibility. A doctor by profession, an India travel and Heritage author by hobby, having published for NCERT, Discover India, Incredible India, Outlook Traveler, Swagat, Srishti, Tashi Delek. He even did an honorary stint as a weekly heritage talk show host for Hindi Khabar TV.
“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.” – Allen Saunders
‘This has been so true so often that I look forward to what’s going to pop up next’, says Lokesh Abrol. He likes to humbly describe himself as a doctor, educationist and social worker, by destiny rather than design. ‘I was and am an incorrigible outdoors person, a wannabe soldier, forester, farmer, traveler, photographer, in other words a dreamer lucky to have lived all my dreams’ says he.
Lokesh Abrol–The initial journey.
Young Lokesh was enamoured with the uniform, with the spirit of courage, and exploring the far frontiers of the motherland. He had his sights set on joining the armed forces, but the chance discovery of a missing beat in his pulse, put that dream to an abrupt end. Never the one to give up, he toyed with the idea of aiming for the civil services. The idea too was short lived though.
While cycling to school one morning, he passed by a ground floor cotton godown on fire, with two children trapped in their apartment above. Lokesh ran to the stairs at the other end of the hall, across the burning bales and rushed back safely with the kids. Excessive smoke inhalation, however, led to congestion, fever and pneumonia by the next morning. It was the beginning of a long weekend and apparently the only two physicians had gone out of town for a conference.
Lokesh Abrol-The turning point moment
The helplessness his family went through, became the catalyst for his decision to pursue medicine as his career. His dedication and soldierly perseverance brought in the love and loyalty of his patients. He moved from Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi, to the then semi rural Gurgaon in 1991, just to be closer to the villages, where he felt most at home.
Serving people was his calling. Even with a well established practice, there was this burning desire to do more. Traveling once every two months, to explore lesser known places, mostly involving long drives, was just one of those things. He would also photograph and write. His writings got published in several national magazines. An article on Coorg became a chapter in the tenth class English Text book, ‘First Flight’.
Watch the video: https://youtu.be/kFJwE3_qs6Q
He would go for a walk early in the morning, gathering kids in his sector garden, showing places and frontiers of India on a map, telling stories from India’s glorious history that never found mention in text books. telling them about places that he visited, or those on his bucket list. Places that not many had heard of in the pre internet era. Kids would wait for him, and miss him when medical emergencies or travel kept him away. Those were the years before smartphones, the internet and social media.
Dr Abrol’s friend Rajesh Khullar, IAS, then Commissioner of the Gurgaon Municipal Corporation asked him one day in 2008, for a favour. He wanted Lokesh to take charge of planning, building and operationalising a shelter for stray cows. This was hardly a favour. As always Lokesh was literally waiting for any opportunity to do more, and different, and this was a God send. Rajesh Khullar immediately approved Lokesh’s idea to make it a Gurukul-Gaushala complex, providing solace and succour to stray cows as well as to underprivileged children, making it a model multipurpose community space, leveraging the planned resources.
By 2011, there were two Gaushalas with over 2600 stray cows, 1200 trees, 200 children. The road accident rate came down dramatically, as the cows were no longer crossing the streets. Dr. Abrol was on a mission. 14 acres of toxic waste dump had been cleared and converted into a beautiful and happening community space. The joy of creating was far bigger than the awards and accolades that started pouring in.
Gurukul Kalpataru Aravindam was born in 2009.
Around the time the Gaushala construction started, Dr Abrol happened to meet Ms Ewelina from Poland and Dr Surbhi Khanna from USA, who initiated the first batch of children into the non-formal education under a Keekar tree in the Gaushala labour quarters. A library was also started with books from Dr Abrol and Sh Khullar. While Surbhi returned to the US, Ms Ewelina stayed on for a decade, helping to develop the Gurukul into a vibrant institution, and training the senior learner’s to take charge when she left.
He named it Aravindam which is Sanskrit for Lotus, the flower that rises above muddy waters, in a refreshing bloom. This was Dr Abrol’s vision – to help the children bloom despite their station of birth.
The foundation was formally registered on 11th January 2013 under section-25 as a non-profit company named ‘Fundacja Aravindam Social Development’, where Fundacja is Foundation in Polish and Aravindam is Lotus in Sanskrit.
Gurukul Kalpataru Aravindam soon became a popular learning and development center, promoting creative thinking through fun development activities after school hours. It provided children with a variety of educational activities that add value to their creative and versatile development. The Children showed great improvement in a short time. It has come a long way since, with three centers running, and an online non-formal Digital Learning Gurukul in the pipeline.
When you do the things in the present that you can see, you are shaping the future that you are yet to see. Dr Abrol’s vision was long term for these children, whose only after school activity would be either roaming their dusty streets, or locked in their one room shanties, till parents return from the day’s labour. The Gurukul provided not just a refreshing loving environment with at least one wholesome meal a day, but also a safe and secure environment, especially for the daughters, while their parents were still at work.
Promoting Indian Culture and Heritage.
Dr Abrol recognised the fire that raged in the children’s belly. We just needed to ignite their minds to tremendous possibilities. That is how the art and cultural learning classes came into being. Lokesh scouted for and gathered some of the top trainers for Sanskrit, Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Kalaripayattu, Yoga, Maratha drums etc. The Gurukul is providing a level of training that is the envy of some of the top schools in the millennium city of Gurugram. Dr Abrol hopes to open up new employment opportunities for the children, as skilled trainers of India’s timeless arts. Already the mandatory learning of at least one heritage art, as per the new education policy, will be opening up a huge demand for such trainers.
For Abrol, every pinnacle is just a stepping stone to the next. He is now working on creating the first one of its kind of Free of cost Kalakshetram, where his Gurukul kids will rub shoulders with the advanced students of top Gurus. His dream is to make India’s heritage arts a part of daily life, a soft power that becomes another one of India’s healthy lifestyle gifts to the world.
A team of young architects including his son Abhimanyu (NayaLiving) from IIT Kharagpur, Arpan from Earthworks Kufri, Purushottam Rawke from NayaLiving and Vedantee Chaudhury from Mumbai is already working on the Kalakshetram design that will be in ancient Indian style and made from locally sourced stone and cob.
Annapoorna Aravindam- The work shall go on
Annapoorna Aravindam is for every family connected to the Aravindam Gurukuls children, including their neighbours in the slums, and any people within reach, who may be in need, for want of resources.
Over 1200 individuals from over 160 families of over 300 Aravindam children are being supported with rations and cooked meals since the first lockdown of the Covid-19 Pandemic. The volunteers have been gathering resources to feed, treat, arrange oxygen, ambulances, and concentrators, and to ensure that all remained safe and taken care of, including room rent payments for those who lost their jobs.
They crave to fly, show them the sky
True to his tagline all of Dr Abrol’s time goes into finding and creating new opportunities and best possibilities for the children. Even his patients figured out it’s best to catch him in the Gurukul after his clinic hours.
Dr. Abrols’ dream of creating green, clean and inspiring learning environment, supporting entrepreneurial development through creative education, nurturing talent, empowerment of the mothers (through Haatmake Aravindam), planting and protecting forests (through Prakriti Aravindam) is a constant work in progress and there’s no time to stop and sit back. He has stood by his people through thick and thin like a true soldier. His contribution to his country by revival of national culture, developing national pride and patriotism stands tall in the form of Aravindam India. Dr. Lokesh Abrol has raised the bar high and paved the way for many to follow.
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Fundacja Aravindam Social Development
828, Sector-15, Part II, Gurugram-122001, Haryana, India
Tel. +919971674073 (Bindesh Bharti)
Team NomadLawyer salutes the person wearing multiple hats Lokesh Abrol!
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