Padmanabha Arkalgudand (83) and Venkatasubba Rao (81), may have retired many years ago, but just by the virtue of their age. Mentally and physically both men are not only active, but also giving back to society in their best productive way.
- Padmanabha retired as a Senior Vice President from ITC Ltd. while Rao retired as General Manager from the Reserve Bank of India, Bangalore
- Padmanabha and Rao have been friends for over 60 years, since their law college days
- The duo have been going for their morning walks as a daily routine and one such walk motivated them to change the environment for better
- Unlike many of us who would just be armchair activists, Padmanabha and Rao are fearless and real activists who have worked to save lakes, bring down the crime rate in their neighbourhood through community vigilantism and also build toilets for students in government schools
- Both men believe in bringing a real change to the lives of people
- One such incident encouraged them to take the plunge and also solid action
- One fine day, when both friends were out on their regular walk, they came across a foul smell that made them investigate its source
- It was coming from a toilet opposite the government primary school in Byasandra
- They could have covered their noses and walked away, but the senior citizen duo decided to do something about it
Padmanabha quoted to The Better India,
Just imagine 150 students using those toilets without even a door. If one girl went in to use the toilet, one would stand outside guarding the place. Even inside the toilet was just terrible.
Plan For Raising Funds
- Initially the two friends started reaching out to friends, family, acquaintances via whatsapp and emails appealing for financial help
- They also made the messages interesting by sharing images for the same
- The contractors had quoted them a total estimate of Rs 2.75 lakh
- The duo had already raised Rs 31,000 donated by a temple trust in Jayanagar
- They also brought a few volunteers to help them in the project
- Funds started flowing in after a local daily carried an article about their crowdsourcing
- As a matter of luck and goodwill from the people, they managed to raise almost double the amount that was actually needed
Padmanabha, who is the Founder President of Citizens Forum, Yelahanka New Town, Bengaluru says,
Once the toilet was built, one of the biggest challenges was maintenance. That was when the Inner Wheel Club stepped in and said that they would help maintain it and took over the task.
When the two later went there for inspection, they realised that they would be short of Rs 63,000. This is when they sent out another set of appeals and subsequently managed to raise the money. The project at Sarakki, JP Nagar, is complete and was inaugurated it on October 14. The other one at Bandepalya is in progress.
After hearing about the work the duo had done, they received two more appeals from schools facing similar situation.
Adding further, Padmanabha said,
When we embarked on their toilet-building mission, we faced a lot of resistance from the locals. On most days the locals used the classrooms and toilets after school hours for various illegal activities. Rooms were free and toilets were available so it was free access for all.
Knowing fully well that the local slum dwellers would try and enter the toilets, they built the toilets with steel doors and also installed steel barricades at almost every entry point.
They also conducted a session for the teachers explaining them to take education beyond books and teach students about basic hygienic practices. Padmanabha says,
Education is inclusive of behaviour and given how infections could spread with the use of bad toilets, the need to change that is imperative.
Padmanabha concludes how this is physically taxing task for the two of them, and while they continue to do it, it would help to have youngsters come forward and do some of the running around work.
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