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Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that the Gayatri mantra, which concludes with “may this inspire our understanding,” is chanted daily at the Khushi Charitable Society’s school in Rishikesh, India, where self-awareness is the backbone of a complete education.
Often called the birthplace of yoga, Rishikesh is the home city of Anand Mehrotra, a yoga teacher known for his motorcycle-riding retreats through the Himalayas and founder of Sattva Yoga Academy. Mehrotra established Khushi in 2002 as a way to fund two tuition-free schools for children from low-income families who couldn’t otherwise afford uniform costs and school fees. “In the deep teachings of yoga, it is impossible not to serve,” Mehrotra says.
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With Rishikesh flourishing as a yoga destination during the past several decades, locals from neighboring states migrated to the Ganges River banks in search of jobs. “As I grew, the town grew,” says Mehrotra, who started meditating with a local guru in the 1980s when he was four years old. The city’s population increased by a third between 1991 and 2001—and more than doubled between ’91 and today (from 45,000 residents to 102,000). This influx of people included lots of low-income families with school-age children.
Beyond the sponsored education, students receive one meal a day, annual eye exams and dental exams, medical treatments, plus yoga and meditation as part of their curriculum. “Our mission is to make the kids self-aware and self-sustainable,” Mehrotra says.
But despite all these offerings, retaining children at school can be challenging, and families sometimes require additional support. Take Mukesh, whose father, a laborer and the sole breadwinner for his family of six, wanted Mukesh to quit school and start working when he was eight. (In India, it’s not uncommon in some families for children to start working at this age.) Khushi paid the family to keep Mukesh in school.
Now twenty years old, Mukesh is studying computer science and volunteers teaching math. He is one of hundreds of graduates who received higher-education scholarships from Khushi to pursue careers such as computer science and graphic design.
For hundreds of Rishikesh children, Khushi is more than a path to a brighter future; it’s a place where they can learn and carry out the meaning of seva (selfless service). “This is just one of the gateways to a natural expression of expanded awareness,” Mehrotra says. “When you are fulfilled, you like to give.”
Learn More about Khushi Charitable Society’s School
- Founder: Anand Mehrotra
- Website: khushi.org.in
- 2,000 children served
- 1,000 medical checkups performed
- 100,000 meals served
- 50 graduates who returned to volunteer at Khushi