By Arundhati Roy & Ajeet Bharti
Vaishali (UP): Ganga Kumar is not the usual babu that you and I hear about in everyday news. A resident of Bihar, an alumnus of Hindu College, DU, who made it to the civil services at an age of 22, ISS officer Ganga Kumar is on a crusade to raise awareness about cancer.
It’s been over two years that his architect wife was diagnosed with cancer. Since then, the couple has made it an unsaid weekly ritual to create awareness on the disease. Advising us as we were interviewing him, on being aware of the symptoms, he said to ask our friends and family to get mammography and pap smear tests done.
Every week they do programmes under the name ‘Hausla’ to raise awareness in villages, small towns and cities in Bihar, Odisha and Delhi. Hausla is one of the main endeavours under his NGO, Grameen Sneh Foundation.
Grameen Sneh Foundation is not like every other NGO. The office has a modest human infrastructure and is run by two people each at the three centres in Patna, Delhi and Odisha. They do hire people as and when they need more hands. A quarter of the funding is done by the couple themselves and the rest is taken care of by their brothers, friends and other family members. Ganga Kumar said he didn’t want funding from the government or other sources.
A corner of his living room had a showcase decorated with various awards that he got for his efforts. His modesty quickly prompted him to say, “These are mostly for the office, I am just the one sitting in the chair.” Among various honours, the most recent was the Udyog Ratna Award.
Initially the NGO was engaged in health education, art and culture, early childhood education reform and holding health check-up and blood donation camps. However, the focus has now shifted towards cancer and the intensity has also increased as it is a personal cause for him.
Shuffling through brochures and pamphlets of the NGO, he showed images from the campaign as we asked about his other endeavours. He also runs a website which is centred on the glorious past of Bihar.
‘Bihar, Ek Virasat’ is an endeavour under the Grameen Sneh Foundation. Apart from the website www.biharekvirasat.com, there are Android as well as iOS apps which keep people updated on various events and happenings regarding the NGO.
He has written several books on Bihar’s glorious past which, he said, was limited to merely Nalanda, Bodh Gaya and Rajgir. When we conversed about the reasons, he said Biharis themselves didn’t do enough for the state.
Lamenting on the fact about migration, he remarked, “Everyone comes from Bihar to work, but no one works for Bihar.”
Even as we talked, he had to continuously attend to calls regarding the October 10 Hausla event. When asked about how he gets this much time and energy, he said, “Life is small and each one of us must do our part. We must give back to the society. It is our responsibility to work for the betterment. Awards and accolades all come when time wishes. That shouldn’t be the focus.”
“I have been working for cancer awareness for long now, however, now I am being asked to give interviews. I don’t like giving interviews. I would rather work. That’s why you never heard about me till now,” he added.
Explaining about the events that were in pipeline, Kumar informed about a film festival that is set to unfold in Patna on February 4, 2016. The 4-day film festival will have many Bollywood stars like Manoj Vajpayi, Sanjay Mishra, Ravi Kishan at the event.
Asked about the entertainment aspect of NGO’s events, he said, “The youth need a message in their own language. That’s why we need bands and film festivals but the focus still remains on the cultural aspect.”
Ganga Kumar: The person and his philosophy
Straying away from the discussion, as we talked about Ganga Kumar’s personality, he came across as a very thoughtful man who had clear visions about family, friendship, relationships and parenting.
Young in looks and thoughts, he philosophised on the relation of individual to the society, “We are at a distance from the society. The older you grow, the more society consumes you. The key here is to adapt and not give in.”
“People do not change, they remain the same. However, adaptability is the key.”
“Do your work, leave the rest to God. Keep a balanced life. Happiness and sorrow are part and parcel. When time comes, your efforts would be recognized,” he continued.
In a very friendly and, at times fatherly manner, he advised us on various aspects of life from choosing a friend to the institution of marriage and giving back to society.
Kumar’s happiness, apart from his social efforts, lies in opening a ‘Sattoo restaurant’ (in future) where people could come and consume various delicacies made from the humble gram flour consumed in various forms in Bihar. It is one of the main ingredients of ‘litti’ of the litti-chokha.
NewsGram hopes to be a partner in his endeavours by spreading awareness about his efforts and wishes him and his family best of health and life.