Sitting in her parents’ small vegetable shop near Malsi in Dehradun as a child, Kritika Kumari would see tourist cars whiz past to Mussoorie.
A few tourists who stopped at her shop would buy lemons to overcome the nausea triggered by the winding hilly roads.
Kritika often hoped the tourists would also buy some vegetables even though they did not need to on vacation. Her family needed the money, the sooner the better.
Today, when 19-year-old Kritika sits in her class at the Phillips Exeter Academy in the US, her hopes are different and dreams bigger.
Pursuing an international undergraduate programme from the Asian University for Women in Chittagong, Bangladesh, she managed a selection for the summer course in the US.
Thousands of miles away, standing in the same vegetable shop, Kritika’s mother Krishna Devi said, "I told her to dream big because dreaming did not involve money.”
Kritika’s parents once could not afford to keep her in a private school, but education altered the youngster’s life, earning her a scholarship to the prestigious university in Bangladesh.
The Purkal Youth Development Society School of Learning, more popular as the PYDS School, has made this possible.
GK Swami, a freelance economist from Tamil Nadu, set up the school in 2000. "I came to the hills to lead a retired life, but could not sit idle,” he said. Swami’s school, run with help from friends and philanthropists, has transformed Purkal village, tucked in a corner of Doon hills, into a centre of educational excellence.
Children from economically and socially weaker sections of Purkal and adjoining areas get free education from nursery to class 10 at the CBSE-affiliated school. What’s more, the children are provided nutritious meals at school.
PYDS School has a tie-up with another school, where its students complete Class 12.
PYDS School’s principal, Harwant Singh, remembers Kritika as a bright student. "We enrolled her in Class 6. She came last in the examination, but we decided not to make her repeat the class. Within a year, she was among the brightest students and hasn’t looked back since.”
The school has also enabled Priyanka Pal, daughter of a motorcycle mechanic, to bag a scholarship to the Asian University for Women. Another PYDS School student, Meenakshi Pal, is doing her BBA from the Institute of Management Studies, Dehradun.