Vidya Balan won some hearts in the remote village of Lusa in Mirzapur district — nearly 75 kilometres from Varanasi — on Thursday.
The Bollywood actor, who spent over two hours travelling on potholed roads and ditches, was visiting the village as part of Chhote Kadam Pragati Ki Ore, a literacy initiative of the Nikhar Naturals brand of Marico.
Vidya introduced the abacus to the village kids, named the learning apparatus Rang Birangi Lusa Gend (colourful Lusa ball), sang songs, interacted with the womenfolk and exhorted the men to send their daughters to school, all in pure Hindi. In the process, she also learned a few Bhojpuri words. Phir ayib (I'll return), she promised as she bid them goodbye.
Almost the entire village with a population of 5,000 was waiting since the morning to catch a glimpse of the actress. Looking elegant in a brick colour anarkali suit and crème dupatta, Vidya instantly connected with the locals as she flashed her million-dollar smile and said namaste while getting off the car.
As media persons mobbed her, she straightaway headed towards a house where she taught the kids how to work on the abacus. Soon the children started opening up. Eight-year-old Babli told her that she wished to study and after growing up, work like her.
When somebody in the crowd pointed out that no educational qualification was required to be an actor, Vidya shot back saying, "Padhai kabhi khali nahi jaati (Education never goes waste)". From here, she headed to another household to interact with rural women.
She sat on a charpoy surrounded by womenfolk dressed in colourful sarees and told them that she had never seen so many colours together at one place. As the women shared with her how they had battled all odds to send their girls to school, Vidya told them they were very brave.
When they complained that some men in the village taunted them for stepping out of the house, she asked them to sing with her, the song Kuch to log kahenge. She also rang a bell, especially set up in the village school to spread awareness about literacy.
Later at a press conference, she said she was happy to see so many people turning up to hear her. As for the literacy drive, she said each and every drop contributed in making an ocean.
Her initiative was a small step towards spreading literacy, she said, adding, she dreamed of an India where every person would be educated. Replying to a query on the rampant corruption in the country, Vidya said it could be reduced only with literacy. She also said she was amazed to see how self-confident women of the region were. The initiave Chhote Kadam was organised in partnership with the NGO Cry.