Jaipur’s mother of 66 fashioning new lives

By Anil Sharma, IANS
Saturday, February 26, 2011

JAIPUR - She has not given birth to them, but she proudly calls herself the mother of 66 children. Manan Chaturvedi, 35, would probably have become a top fashion designer earning fabulously and living in style. But she chose not to and dumped midway her promising career in fashion designing.

Chaturvedi, who has three children biologically, instead turned to Jaipur’s street children to give them a new life.

She picked up these children - aged between six months and 18 years - from railway platforms, pavements and even dust bins, legally adopted them and brought them all to her house in Jaipur’s Vaishali Nagar area.

The children have now grown up calling her “maa” (mother).

Under the banner of her organisation, Surman Sansthan, Chaturvedi has found ways to raise the much-needed money.

She paints and organises painting exhibitions. The money thus raised goes into children’s education and other expenses.

Her mission has so far received no support from the government.

“After completing a course in fashion designing from Delhi eight years ago, I got off a bus at Sindhi Camp bus stand in Jaipur. I crossed a girl child lying in the garbage outside and it changed my whole approach to life,” said Chaturvedi.

She said when she saw the half-naked girl, she wondered “what’s the use of becoming a fashion designer?”

“I wondered for whom will I design clothes when half the population in this country goes about without them,” she said.

Her three biological children have the same food that the other children take and they play with the adopted ones.

Her own children have no privileges over the others, she insisted.

Initially, Chaturvedi’s family had some reservations about her mission, but they started supporting her when they saw her determination.

The mother says that she dedicates her talent for fashion designing to these children now.

“I design clothes for them and have learnt the craft of painting over the period. When I put these paintings on exhibition, people literally rush to buy them. That’s how I manage to run my little family, including these 66 children,” she said.

Interestingly, Chaturvedi does not allow others to adopt children from her house.

“I am not running an orphanage. Mine is just a big family. Besides, those who adopt children always come with a reason behind it. I want these children to grow unselfish so that when they are grown-ups they also support others like them,” said Chaturvedi.

According to her, that would be like a revolution.

She said she saw great potential in all the children who are left abandoned and forced to beg at railway platforms and other places.

“They could be a great strength in the country’s development. But nobody cares,” lamented Chaturvedi.

Most of these children came from disturbed backgrounds, but are now feeling very positive about the future.

“We are taught to think positively,” says 14-year-old Lalita, one of the children with Chaturvedi.

“I want to become a government employee and am studying hard to be one. I will surely take maa’s (mother’s) cause forward in the future and will help others like me,” she says, optimism brimming in her words.

(Anil Sharma can be contacted at anil.s@ians.in)

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