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A different kind of street-smart

Published : Apr 16, 2016, 11:03 pm IST
Updated : Apr 16, 2016, 11:03 pm IST

City-based social worker, Abhishek Bharadwaj is one of the few folks in the city who are working for the betterment of homeless people.

Abhishek Bharadwaj
 Abhishek Bharadwaj

City-based social worker, Abhishek Bharadwaj is one of the few folks in the city who are working for the betterment of homeless people. But in 1999, when he had left his hometown in Bihar, little did he know what fate had in store for him.

“I was a big fan of Amitabh Bachchan and aspired to become an actor in Bollywood,” recalls Abhishek. But the proposition didn’t go too well with his parents. Without their support Abhishek landed in Delhi, soon after graduating in Economics from St. Xavier’s College, Ranchi . “I had no shelter and lived with other migrant workers in Delhi,” he says. But things didn’t go according to his plans — he couldn’t qualify the admission test at National School of Drama, Delhi. “I spent my nights in Connaught Place and I saw how the young kids were exploited by the rich people,” he adds. Subsequently, Abhishek started working with Rita Panicker’s NGO, Butterflies. In 2002, Abhishek came to Mumbai again, but not to become an actor. This time it was to finish his Masters in Social Work from Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

Once on a late night trip around the city, he noticed a spot at Mahim Reti Bunder, where the more than 2000 migrant workers sleep without a shelter everyday. “The disparity was too stark to overlook, on one side you could see the glitter and on the other side it was completely dark,” he says. Alternative Reality was founded by Abhishek to work on the often overlooked story of Maximum City’s destitute masses.

Through the last decade Abhishek and his team have directly worked with the homeless in the city. “The issue of homelessness is much larger than the popular imagination. The city has about 1,50, 000 homeless people,” he points out.

Abhishek’s Alternate Realities recently celebrated a victory. Earlier this month, in a meeting with the BMC, Abhishek convinced the authorities to build shelters for the homeless, the first of its kind. “In 2003, when we had first made the proposal, the authorities completely ignored us. Now, after more than a decade, they have finally agreed to build shelters for the homeless and this is one of our biggest victories,” he states.

In the past, Alternative Realities have organised several welfare programmes for the city’s homeless — from proper citizen documents (Voter ID card, Ration and Aadhar card etc.) to building libraries and healthcare services. But while they’ve tasted a few recent victories, the journey, says Abhishek, is still a long march ahead.

To volunteer or donate, visit the page, Alternative Realities on Facebook.