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explore: Ramana's Garden
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explore: Ramana's Garden

Former Hollywood actor Dr. Prabhavati Dwabha came to India to find herself; instead, she found people in need and a new purpose in life. At Ramana's Garden, Dr. Dwabha is working to give a future to children who would otherwise be without one.

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Produced by explore.

Learn more from the Friends of Ramana's Garden organization and at Dr. Dwabha's website.

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Segment 1

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explore
CHARLES ANNENBERG WEINGARTEN
I met this woman the other day, and when I asked her how to describe India, she called it the land of magic. But she said she felt like India was also losing its magic.
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Ramana's Garden, Rishikesh, India
CHARLES ANNENBERG WEINGARTEN
You had this inspiration to start a school.
DR. PRABHAVATI DWABHA [Founder, Ramana's Garden]
I met these kids and I realized that this is what I wanted to do with my life.
CHARLES ANNENBERG WEINGARTEN
Is the school K through fifth grade?
DR. PRABHAVATI DWABHA
K through 10.
CHARLES ANNENBERG WEINGARTEN
And what do the kids study?
DR. PRABHAVATI DWABHA
Everything.
CHARLES ANNENBERG WEINGARTEN
What's the background of the children here?
DR. PRABHAVATI DWABHA
You have to either have no parents, or one parent who couldn't in any way take care of you, to live-in. And to come into the school, you have to have parents who earn less than 1,000 rupees justifiably, means through a disability, or you're a beggar, or you're a sweeper, or you're an unskilled laborer.
CHARLES ANNENBERG WEINGARTEN
So does that kind of parlay into the whole Indian caste system.
DR. PRABHAVATI DWABHA
They're all Untouchable.
CHARLES ANNENBERG WEINGARTEN
What is an Untouchable?
DR. PRABHAVATI DWABHA
My concept of it is that it was set up originally to make India work. There were teachers, who were the prasads. You had the priests, who were the pandits. And they needed somebody to do the dirty work. So they created a caste called the Untouchables, and it's their born birthright and duty to clean the shit of other people. And, for example, when I started working, I immediately wanted to put lunch in all the schools, I wanted to feed the children. And the villagers opposed me and they said, "We will not let our children eat with those children." And I said, "Why?" And they said, "Because they're Untouchable. They can't eat in the same place, they can't drink from the same tap." I put in water lines to the school, and at night they broke them, because an Untouchable had taken water from it, so it was desecrated.
CHARLES ANNENBERG WEINGARTEN
Is there anything to compare to in the West, this kind of caste system?
DR. PRABHAVATI DWABHA
Prejudice. But here it's religiously acceptable. They were branded. And they're no longer branded; what they are is they're denied education. They wind up being the ones that fall through the crack of education, so they become the scab labor. Like this boy: this boy's father works for 40 rupees a day. He has five children. He sold this boy when he was nine years old. We managed to get him back. He sold him because he couldn't feed the others. If you were taught, like these children were, when they were born, that they must be very careful, they must never take water from certain taps, they must never do anything that would make someone else's life or place dirty -- then if no one told you that it wasn't true, you would believe it. And the whole idea of Ramana's Garden is that it's not telling them that it's not true, it's giving them a life that makes them know it's not true. It's giving them a future. Look. This is going to be a multimillion-dollar resort. If we walk over there right now, there are 500 Bihari laborers building that. They're laboring for 40 rupees a day. They're doing that because they're hungry. They're doing that because they don't have an education. Never. Not one of these kids will every carry a brick on their head, they won't have to. Our kids are so well educated, and they speak perfect English. And when they come out of our school, no one would ever dare to believe they're Untouchable. That's what Ramana's is all about: making sure that every one of these kids will be able to go to university, every one of them. This little girl, living under a piece of plastic on the bridge, you know? She lives under plastic. Several of these kids do. They come here and go to school, and so from us they get their lunch every day, they get their clothes, they get their books. They get everything free, otherwise they would be in the street, begging. And if you beg in the street from this age, what are you going to do when you grow up? You'll either be a thief or a beggar. But she won't have to do that. None of them will. Anrak, what do you want to do?
ANRAK
I'll be a teacher.
DR. PRABHAVATI DWABHA
He wants to be a teacher. His mother breaks rocks, and his father carries them on his head, they build roads.
CHARLES ANNENBERG WEINGARTEN
What do you want to do?
GIRL
I want to be a doctor.
CHARLES ANNENBERG WEINGARTEN
You want to be a doctor?
CHILDREN
Teacher. Pilot.
CHARLES ANNENBERG WEINGARTEN
So when I ask them, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and they actually are saying their dream -- that's almost unheard of.
DR. PRABHAVATI DWABHA
An architect, an artist, a painter, a pilot. A pilot with a difference. If they become a teacher, they'll be a teacher that makes a difference. If they become a doctor, they'll make a difference. It's not about just having a job, it's understanding that we all have to make a difference, in our own little ways, our own little pond. This is our pond.
DR. PRABHAVATI DWABHA
We want to feed you.
CHILDREN
Welcome to Ramana's Garden.
DR. PRABHAVATI DWABHA
They will have a future where they can create their own future. Right here and now, they can say, I want to be an engineer, I want to be a doctor, I want to be a teacher, I want to make a difference.
CHILDREN
This is our kitchen. Where we can get food.
DR. PRABHAVATI DWABHA
We have our own bakery. The kids bake cookies, croissants. They're learning to make a difference. They're learning that this food makes a difference. They know that people eat here and not in the other restaurants because we make a difference.
CHARLES ANNENBERG WEINGARTEN
So it's all organic and vegetarian?
DR. PRABHAVATI DWABHA
It's all organic, it's all grown by the kids. There's a benefit to grow your food healthy. So we now collaborate with a group that are trying to spread green awareness. They're called Navadania, and they have got over 1,800 farmers that are now willingly growing organic. So we support them. Down in the café right now, you'll find people down there that are saying, "We eat here every day because it's different."
CHARLES ANNENBERG WEINGARTEN
Do you have any success stories you can share?
DR. PRABHAVATI DWABHA
We have 13 teachers that are Untouchable and are teaching in schools in Delhi, in the high private schools of Dehradun, which is the capital of education of all north India. We have 16 boys that are electricians; two of them have their own electrician company, to do wiring, and bring light into Brahman houses. I like that.
CHARLES ANNENBERG WEINGARTEN
That must make you feel good.
DR. PRABHAVATI DWABHA
Yeah, don't you feel good when your kids do good?
CHARLES ANNENBERG WEINGARTEN
Yeah. It's really rewarding.
DR. PRABHAVATI DWABHA
Yeah. It's nice.
CHARLES ANNENBERG WEINGARTEN
It's great.
DR. PRABHAVATI DWABHA
I like it. I love beating the system. I was an actress, living and working in Hollywood. I came to Pune, as a seeker.
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Ganga (Ganges) River
DR. PRABHAVATI DWABHA
I lived in an ashram for 18 years, and wound up in Lucknow, with the oldest and strongest disciple of Ramana Maharshi, which is why this is called Ramana's Garden. And he brought me here to Ganga, on a pilgrimage, and took me to a place that's seven kilometers upriver, which was a broken, decaying, the roof-falling-in old ashram, and there was a cave there where he'd spent a lot of time, and he told me that I needed to stay there in silence and [meditate]. And I started meeting kids, and basically kids were just coming because they were curious -- this crazy white lady in a cave by the bank of the Ganga. And you know, they didn't have any buttons. That was the first thing that struck me: none of them had a button on their shirt, and a lot of them would have the whole sleeve hanging off. So we started sewing buttons. And then we started making numbers, and then we started learning to write our name, and first there were five and then there were 10 and then there were 20. It's not like I came here and said I'm going to be a social worker and I'm going to change anything. I was trying to change myself. I started to feel totally helpless. Like, so many kids came, and so many villages needed help. And I had very little money left, and so I decided I had to leave. It was too big for me. I can't do this. And if I can't make a difference, I don't want to be here. I've seen something living here, these kids have touched me. If I can't make something change, then I shouldn't be here. I should do something else. So I was actually going to leave, and had come down from the cave to make those arrangements to leave. And Ganga rose; she rose double or triple her height. And while I was away, she rose and she took everything I owned in the world. The cave was gone when I came home. And I came back and all the kids were there to meet me, and they were so excited. And they were jumping up and down and shouting, "Ghate! Ghate!" ["Loss! Loss!"] And I started saying, "Ghate, ghate," because I thought it was some new greeting. And then all of a sudden I see that where my whole life, where my whole identity, where everything I thought I was, is a wave of water. It's gone. And in that moment, villagers start arriving, and they keep telling me, "Chinta mat karo," and I don't know what that means either, and it's, "Don't worry. Everything's going to be fine." And they build me a little structure. And they brought food, they brought a string bed, they brought a mattress, they brought carpets, they brought buttermilk. And there's 70 of us in there in a space this big. I looked at these people, and I realized: I'm not going to leave. They're giving everything they have, and asking zero in return. Their only concern that night was that it wasn't enough. It was all they had and they wanted to give more, and I'm going to pack and run?
CHARLES ANNENBERG WEINGARTEN
What is the message of the Ganga?
DR. PRABHAVATI DWABHA
Every moment will be new. Embrace it. If you hang onto anything, you'll suffer. The essence is with the river. The essence is in the eyes of the kids. That essence, it's still here. Magic is still here.
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With the support of the Annenberg Foundation, explore has made funding possible to: Ramana's Garden. To learn more: www.sayyesnow.org www.friendsramanasgarden.org
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explore.org