'We always eat dal and rice because we cannot afford vegetables'
This is 11-year-old Shyamala. She is originally from Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh but her family has stayed in Guwahati for several years now. Shyamala goes to Harijan Hindi School in Guwahati.
She lost her mother some time ago, due to ill health. It was then that her father started drinking alcohol. He works as a cleaner at the railway station. He earns Rs 2,500 every month. Shyamala believes that her father started consuming liquor because he is depressed over her mother's death. The family has been through numerous domestic issues in the past.
Shyamala wakes up at 6:00 every morning and cooks for her father and brother. She makes dal and rice every day because they cannot afford to buy vegetables. At times she has to borrow rice from her aunt when her father goes broke. But thankfully she does not have to worry about her lunch since she eats Akshaya Patra mid-day meal at school. Her father sends both the kids to school mainly because Akshaya Patra mid-day meal is served there. He wants them to finish schooling so they get a Government job.
Shyamala is well aware of the hazards of alcoholism since she remembers reading Mahatma Gandhi's quote about it at school. She has also made an attempt to convince her father to give up drinking. These are one of the many benefits education and Akshaya Patra mid-day meal offer to young kids like Shyamala. She aspires to study well and get a permanent job that pays her sufficiently in order to support her family.