We lived in Bhopal the State Capital of a Newly carved state in 1958. My father was a Government servant and mother a housewife. She has passed Intermediate and was trained Montessori Teacher but had never practised.
She and her friend Tai Nafde found a need in the new township of T.T. Nagar for a kindergarten / pre-school / play school cum creche’ in this developing cosmopolitan suburb full of Government employees transferred from Maharashtra, UP, Bihar, Southern India.
The Old town had its own system of education and there were developed systems. The two ladies spoke to the neighborhood and decided to start a ‘BALAK MANDIR’ – initially a playschool cum creche’ and slowly began admitting students for nursery and kindergarten. They had just about 30 kids to begin with. The timings were from 10 AM till 5pm and if parents wished to take kids home early they were flexible.
The fees were nominal INR 2 per month which was affordable and they did not provide any food or milk/ vegetables – it was to be provided by the parents.
This was our first experience of Entrepreneurship. I was 5 years of age and was preparing to go to the school when this venture started. It worked very well and began getting famous and growing so much so that my mother and her friend both began running independent Balak Mandirs at their own homes and the demand was still growing.
One day, my aunt who was a Director of Tribal Welfare landed into our home with her beautiful smart looking lady friend who arrived in a long Impala ( Chevrolet) or something like that of a car I remember it was open hood and very long with a chauffeur). They discussed with my mum and her friend for an hour and by evening my mother decided to give up the Balak Mandir to her friend as she was Offered a Job in the Government’s Education Department as a Teacher for KinderGarten project which the State was starting. The lady was Director of Public Instructions DPI as she was called – was an ex-Royal from Bhopal family and a powerful persona.
This was my earliest memory and inception into Entrepreneurship. My mother continued in Government service and post-retirement worked for Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and Shabri Kanya Ashram in Raipur and interior Chhattisgarh teaching small children till the end. That was her mission and purpose of life and she dedicated it for the cause. I met several girls from age 2 -22 in her hostel who were mainly from NorthEast and my mum was their Didi/ Teacher/ Friend/ philosopher and guide.
The mother’s friend continued with her Balak Mandir and did it without many expansions – she was content having a batch of 30-35 children which she could manage with the help of two young teachers/ help. She also did it for many years.
No financial help from anyone, much to the chagrin of my father and uncle ( my mothers; friends husband the two ladies decided a course – and became successful entrepreneurs. They also helped many ladies to start similar outfits in other localities as mentors free of charge.
I learnt my second lesson – Mentoring is Free.