We continue our ‘India week’ on Triratna News with a profile of Amitayus, a young Indian Order Member living and working in Amaravati, a busy city in Maharastra, central India. He’s one of over 450 Order Members in India.
Like many others, Amitayus’ grandfather’s job was ‘untouchable’ work, to carry dead animals away from the village. His grandparents often had no food except the flesh of rotting animals. With no land of their own, they were forced to serve the dominant castes. But his grandfather was determined his children should be educated, and eventually Amitayus’ father became a schoolteacher. This meant he was able to send him to an ‘English Medium’ school where he received a decent standard of education. That was just the beginning - today he’s developed the skills, experience and confidence to become a leader and role model for his community.
“I feared that if people knew my background they would act differently towards me.”Amitayus lacked the confidence to tell people at school that he was a Dalit follower of Dr Ambedkar, fearing he would lose his friends and have marks deducted. He developed a stammer and started ‘acting up’. He also felt under pressure from his parents, who desperately wanted their children to escape the stigma of caste. Being the only son, Amitayus felt the burden of expectation that he must achieve a good job to support the family.
In 1993, he attended a Karuna-supported ‘Ashvaghosa’ cultural programme of dramas and songs, covering issues such as alcoholism, drug use and domestic violence. Amitayus is clear that without Ashvaghosa he would have become a criminal and addicted to alcohol. He was already a gang member. Being surrounded by supportive people at Ashvaghosa, however, Amitayus began to grow in confidence.
Eventually Amitayus began performing himself and discovered he was a talented singer. He also joined a men’s Buddhist residential community, and did voluntary work at the Karuna-supported Amravati Boys’ Hostel, where he found particular satisfaction in looking after the new boys who were homesick. His understanding of the issues affecting the local communities was also deepening: for example, through playing the role of an alcoholic, he realized the impact this had on other family members.
“Everyone feels they can have a say in decisions…we work well together as a team.”Today Amitayus is a team leader in ‘Bahujan Hitay Amravati’, which runs all the social work activities supported by Karuna in Amravati, the seventh largest city in Maharashtra. Through his broad experience of the projects - as a beneficiary, volunteer and worker - he understands the importance of working well together. He has tried to create an environment where everyone is valued and can have a say in decisions.
Would you like to raise funds to support people like Amitayus’ practice of the Dharma – and engage in a unique form of spiritual practice? Karuna have built-up a network of over 7,000 regular donors all across the UK using volunteer door-knocking appeal teams; as a result we send over £1 million every year to India - click here to see an interactive map of Karuna projects and project partners in India.
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