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Dear Gidda Anna

Updated: Feb 4

A heartwarming story written by a DLRC parent :)

Last week at our son’s school’s Republic Day Function, something special happened that left us with tears in our eyes.

A bright, chilly morning on the 26th. All parents and kids are gathered around the central amphitheatre. The emcees announce, “Let’s welcome our chief guest!”

The chief guest slowly enters from the back of the campus (fact: as he stays on the farm), accompanied by the school’s three founders. As he walks, a couple of middle-schoolers lead the way with the dhol and tasha.

He must be a local dignitary, I think. Short, stout, and attired in a white dhoti-kurta and a bright yellow turban, he looks the typical politician–maybe a municipal councillor or panchayat chief. The flag is unfurled, the national anthem sung–we are ready for the main program.

But let’s introduce the Chief Guest first. And that’s when the surprise hits us.

The man in the yellow turban is not a councillor, Panchayat member or local dignitary. He is Gidda Anna - the chief contractor who has built the school with his own hands and an amazing team that works on the farm till date.

So, our son’s school (DLRC) is unique in many aspects, including the campus. Spread over a lovely green expanse, right next to farmland, the school comprises several eco-friendly structures built using wood, bamboo and other natural material. Open classrooms let in ample sunlight and fresh air.

The founders are deeply involved in campus’ design and construction. And who helped them build it with his ingenuity, hard work and enthusiasm? Gidda Anna.

Hailing from a small village in north Karnataka, Gidda Anna – who had only studied till a 1 year CPED after Grade 12 - had found a natural inclination to carpentry and construction and had learnt the ropes through years of trial and error.

Back to the function. Gidda Anna is called on stage to address the audience. He walks up and clumsily fiddles with his phone for the speech. He looks up at the crowd in front of him: about a 100 folk–kindergartners to 12th graders, and their parents.

And Gidda Anna falters. He cannot muster the courage to address this audience. He stumbles back, shaking his head and wiping tears from his eyes. The emcees walk up to him. One of the co-founders puts his hand on his shoulder and gives him courage. A parent cheers “C’MON GIDDA ANNA.” All of us start clapping for him.

Slowly, steadily, Gidda Anna is led back to the mike. The emcees think on their feet. Instead of a speech, they make it a Q&A. 

“Gidda Anna, we heard you were a very fast racer in school”

“Yes, in my time, no one could run faster than me in entire Hubli-Dharwad”

Wild cheers.

“Who inspired you the most?”

“My mentor, Late Andy ( Rajeev Almelkar), from whom I learnt everything”

And then a final one.

“Gidda Anna, what is your happiest memory of DLRC”

“Aaj hi sabse khush hun” (I’m the happiest right now) he says and wipes his tears.

We all do the same.

Kudos to the school and founders for recognizing the work of folks like Gidda Anna and teaching the kids an invaluable lesson that can’t be learnt through books.

By: Ravishanker Iyer (a DLRC Student's Parent)

Edited by: Avishi Dalmia (DLRC Alumni and Media Lab Curator)

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