When Devram begins to talk about his grandfather, there is a change in his body language. He sits on top of his hands, as though he is afraid someone will try to take them, and focuses his eyes ahead, on a point far away. He describes how his Dada used to give him a few rupees each day to buy fruit, before he came to live at the children’s hostel at Gandhi Ashram. Devram prefers apple or guava, but during the summer, he would bring home a mango, his Dada’s favorite.
“He taught me only good things,” Devram says. “He taught me to never steal or lie, and to work hard.”
Devram’s Dada also taught him to read and write. These days, surrounded by dozens of playful children at the hostel, he still prefers to study and read his school lessons in his free time, rather than join in the mischief and impromptu cricket matches with other boys.
When his Dada passed away in January, Devram refused to take time off from school to be at home with his family, worried that he would fall behind in his studies. His eyes fill up with tears when he thinks about it.
Despite his sadness over his grandfather’s death, Devram’s studies have not suffered. He continues to place first in his class. Yet, his future remains uncertain. In the past, the Ashramshala hostel has only accommodated children until the seventh standard. Until recently, Devram had planned to return to the Ahmedabad slum in which his family lives, and attend the public municipality school this year as he enters eighth standard. He explained that his parents did not want him to leave home again to study in another hostel, but one can sense that the wish to be home may be mutual.
However, his mentors at Manav Sadhna felt it would be a shame for his bright future and shining potential to be eclipsed by the uncertainty of life in the slum and the neglect of public schoolteachers. Since Devram has proved himself to be a hard-working and conscientious student, Manav Sadhna has arranged for him to live in the Ashramshala while he studies and continues to attend the Gandhi Ashram School No. 1.