SPECIALLY WRITTEN FOR VIKALP SANGAM
As you drive into the small by lane off of Whitefield main road, you enter the urban village of Vijay Nagar; just a stone’s throw away from large, luxurious gated communities in the area. A deep contrast perhaps that is a reality in most of urban India. As you drive along the narrow paths, you might almost miss it but for the small group of people hanging around what looks like a local store. No fancy board, lights or store shelves. Re-store written in green paint on either sides of the store is the only identity it carries visually. But for the local community it is a go to space. Fayaz, who is a digger at the local graveyard, is a frequent visitor “I have plenty of things from Re-store,” he says as he pays Rs. 50 for a pair of branded sneakers he just picked up. It is his go to location especially for warm clothes that his job requires.
Re-store is the brainchild of Devyani Trivedi and her 12 year old daughter Anvita Trivedi. What started as a one-time activity to give back to the community emerged into a more permanent set up and a channel for community engagement and development. Two years ago, new to the Whitefield community, Devyani was troubled by the approaching winters and the plight of those who had no protection from it. She sent out a note requesting ideas and help from Whitefield Rising, a citizen initiative in the area who recommended a donation drive of warm clothing. What followed was a proof of the generosity of the community that not only offered clothing but much more. A team needed to be put together to just sort out the donations but it planted a seed for a larger initiative. It was evident that people had more than enough things to spare and these items could find a new life – an excellent channel for reuse and recycle.
“I didn’t like the idea of me standing there and handing out items to the folks in the village. They aren’t mine to proudly give away. It put me on a higher place/pedestal that I didn’t really like. I wanted there to be something to equalize us and bring dignity to the process.” says Devyani. That’s when she started Re-store that would be a more permanent set up in the village that would accept donations from people and sell it at a token amount. The store boasts of a fairly large range of items from clothing, footwear, bags, toys, stationery, some electronic items, home decor and curios ranging from Rs. 5 – Rs. 300. And the villagers are quite happy to haggle a bit and walk away with a bargain. Two ladies come in to pick up some clothes they had already sorted and put aside, while two more women come by to chat, curious about me being there with a camera. Its evident the store is popular but the connect that Devyani has with the community and elders of the area is more important. She even takes advice from them and changes the way she deals with the customers. Two kids come by keen on a pair of binoculars, Devyani is clear anything above Rs.10 will not be sold to kids, unless accompanied by elders. She has learnt this the hard way. Parents do not want the kids to squander their money on unnecessary items. “Go bring your parents for the binoculars.” she says to them.
From time to time, Devyani also arranges for little games and challenges for the kids and gives away prizes. She has a connect with government and Montessori schools in the nearby community and channels stationary and toys to them. At a point she used her spare time at Re-store to connect with the community and teach the children in the area but now she wants more structure for them and encourages parents to send them to the local government school where she volunteers time to teach Math and English. “The women are the pillar of this community” She says, they are the breadwinners, the men mostly unemployed squander off the little money that is there. In her own subtle way she works with the women to influence their thinking on child education, sanitation and marital abuse.
Devyani was a network programmer by profession but was always restless with the mainstream and volunteered at many opportunities through her life including a short stint at Oxfam, UK. Her daughter is a chip off the old block, an eager volunteer outside school hours, helping to sort out donations, stacking and sales. This mother daughter duo’s initiative is a wonderful example of community outreach and the smiling faces of the community is proof of them bringing small joys into their lives.
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