There used to be a bunch of highly prestigious awards called the Padma Awards in India. These were given to exceptional achievers in society. But the awards also often only went to the rich and elite.
That has changed, with the new people’s Padma Awards. Now it goes to anyone making waves, with a focus on grassroots India, and nominated by the people. This is an outstanding initiative.
Most of the awardees are uneducated and illiterate. Some were married off early, and some ostracized by society. Many have toiled laboriously and continue to do so. It is not wealth or income of these awardees that decides their inclusion to the list, but rather their quality of impact.
A few examples: A 77-year old retired principal has been changing the lives of destitute children by teaching them to read and write, at a mind boggling cost of 2 rupees (2.7 cents) a year. A 68-year orange vendor who grew up in abject poverty and never had access to education, used all his earnings to setup a school for the kids in his village. A 77-year old woman who had no education is dubbed the ‘Encyclopaedia of the Forest’ having planted over thirty thousand trees and knows everything about the flora of the forest. A 102-year old class 7 dropout (no money to continue further) has been teaching kids and adults basic math and alphabets for many decades, and all for free.
Nothing can be more inspirational than these people who started with nothing but have yet achieved so much. Their secret? Selflessness. Imagine what each one of us could achieve, given the head start we have in life, and if we worked so selflessly!