From Padma awardees who inspire to a man who rose above disability, the top social stories this week

This week, we feature stories of people who inspire and motivate us to do more and do better, each and every day.
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Attempting to solve the many complex issues dogging society can be a daunting task. But many people are playing an active role in changing status quo in their communities, institutions, and neighbourhoods.

This week, SocialStory brings you the stories of people young and old, doing some inspiring and thought-provoking work.

This 24-year-old Chennai girl is changing a woman’s world with education, financial literacy, and Inner Goddess

Chennai-based Inner Goddess educates women on financial literacy, covering aspects like financial anxiety, mental health, and personal investing. The organisation follows a teacher-training model by conducting three-hour workshops.

Anannya Parekh, the Co-founder and CEO, says her team understands that many problems arise due to a lack of financial independence in young girls. They only pick up these skills in times of turmoil or early adulthood. During its work, the team came across numerous stories of women whose husbands passed away suddenly.

Team Inner Goddess

"So, the vision right now is to ensure that a lot of these girls get the right kind of information about personal finance. It will automatically help them make better decisions," Anannya says.

Started in September 2016, Inner Goddess claims to have impacted over 10,000 women across Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Bengaluru, having conducted over 70 workshops. A renowned public speaker in Chennai and an alumnus of AIESEC, Anannya has also represented India at many global summits.

Meet the Padma Shri awardee who has performed last rites of over 25,000 unclaimed bodies

The Padma awards announced this year features a number of people who have worked relentlessly for the uplift of society and the downtrodden. They include 82-year-old Mohammed Sharif, also fondly known as Sharif Chacha, who has been honouring the dead for the last 27 years.

Mohammed has cremated 25,000 unclaimed bodies so far in Uttar Pradesh. Hailing from Faizabad, the bicycle mechanic does not discriminate on the basis of caste, creed, or religion when it comes to honouring the dead. He arranges for the last rites according to the religion of the dead.

Sharif Chacha (Image: TV9 Telugu)

Mohammed’s mission began when he lost his son many years ago. His body was found on a railway track, partly devoured by animals. He then decided that unclaimed bodies should be given a decent burial/cremation. Since then, he has been carrying dead bodies on his cycle or a pushcart to a nearby cremation or burial ground to perform the final rites.

After losing both hands at 12, this man rose above disability to accomplish his goals

Subojit Bhattacharya lost both his hands after being accidentally electrocuted when he was young. However, this did not stop him from accomplishing his goals. Today, he works as a graphic designer in a Bengaluru-based non-governmental organisation, and is all set to go on a biking expedition to Ladakh. 

Subojit receives an award from the CEO of the Association for People with Disability (APD).

From completing his education through an open schooling platform, establishing his own design studio, and playing football at district level, Subojit has done it all. However, he says, the journey was not easy.  

“There were a lot of lows in my life. At one point, I even suffered from depression. It was the drive to do something purposeful that enabled me to keep making progress,” Subojit tells SocialStory

Meet the 68-year-old Padma awardee who built a school in his village by selling oranges

Inspiration abounds in India's villages and smalls towns. Among the many Padma awardees this year is Harekala Hajabba, a resident of Newpadpu village in Dakshin Kannada district of Karnataka. An orange seller, he has built the only primary school in his village.

The 68-year-old recalls an incident where a foreigner asked him the price of oranges in English, and he couldn’t reply as he did not know the language. This prompted him to start a primary school so that young children in his village did not have to go through a similar situation. 

Herekala with children from the village (Image Credit:BBC)

In 2000, Harekala lived on meagre earnings of just Rs 150. But he still managed to build a school with the help of villagers. He takes care of the school premises by boiling water, sweeping the floors, and doing other chores.

His efforts have made him so popular that his struggle is part of an undergraduate course at Mangalore University. He has also received several awards for his work.

With Ancient Living, this Hyderabad entrepreneur is making eco-friendly products and reviving traditional art forms

During the ‘Jagrati Yatra’ this year, Social Story came across Ancient Living, a startup working towards eco-friendly alternatives.

Founded in 2010 by Kalyani Gongi, the Hyderabad startup is re-introducing eco-friendly products and is trying to revive dying traditions, culture, and bring back artisans and their skills of cultural art and painting.

Women work on a batch of organic soap at the Ancient Living facility.

Most conventional body care products in the market today are usually laced various chemicals and are non-biodegradable. Unlike these products, Ancient Living ensures its products don’t harm the environment.

Apart from this, Kalyani has also brought women into the mainstream through her programme, Vidya. The startup has trained about 70 women to make aromatic candles, paper/cloth bags, and pouches.

(Edited by Megha Reddy)