Pramod Mathur: We call Utsah Toli the Third Space…a space where members can be by themselves and spend time as children...painting, reading, playing carom or surfing the net…simply experiencing childhood…as their peer group does in the cities.

Pramod Mathur: While the tourism industry brings in much needed cash into the local economy, it has a detrimental social impact on the young children. Parents push their children to earn a quick buck by soliciting business for small hotels, paragliding, restaurants and shops.

After the 12th class, most children opt for quick earning options during tourist season rather than going to a college that is about 25 kms from their homes.

Migration remains the only other option, though Uttarakhand Open University does provide a distance learning option.

Pramod Mathur: Emphasis on basic education of children is high. Parents hope to send their children to a metro city for jobs and some space in metro city life. What kind of space…? They don’t know until the ill-equipped children land up in the slums with menial jobs.

Pramod Mathur: Girls are mostly married off soon after school. It is physically or financially not possible for them to commute two hours to the nearby town to attend college on a daily basis.

Costs and risks are high. The reality of compulsions is stark.

AT Utsah Toli we are trying to motivate senior members for distance learning both for graduation and vocational studies that can provide local employment…especially for the girls.

Pramod Mathur: By and large, most members of Utsah Toli are stunted in physical growth. The parents compromise on the nutrition of their children but will spend on the latest mobile phone or even an expensive motorcycle.

Protein and fat is either missing from their daily diet or is very low. Tendency for junk food is increasing including low-grade noodles, chips and other packaged snacks.

After performing well in the exams, Neeraj Palariya was asked to speak to the other members about how and why he studies to perform well. His speech has been translated into English and you can read the Hindi version as well.

Members were asked about their perception as to why Utsah Toli was started. Here are some answers. They have been translated from Hindi.

The reason is that in a poor region, poor children do not know everything and are deprived of many things. The reason for starting Utsah Toli is also that children do not just wander hither and thither and learn something.

So that children learn good manners.

Utsah Toli has been started to open doors for our future.

So that children can express their thoughts and develop self-confidence.

So that we do not just idle away our time at home and can come to Utsah Toli and gain some knowledge instead of wandering the streets.

So that the talent in the children of Naukuchiatal finds a space for expression and also that they remain disciplined.

At Utsah Toli, children are entertained as well able to learn something.

So that the children of this region develop a thirst for knowledge and move towards a brighter future.

Utsah Toli has been opened so that many poor children can learn many new things.

So that more and more children can come and learn something and gain knowledge.

Utsah Toli has been opened because in our poor region there are no facilities.

When we had summer vacations, if we went to our grandparents place one year, next year father would say no need to go anywhere. So we would be just remain hassled at home. Utsah Toli has been opened for the needs of children because if we go out to work, parents say this is not your age to labour.

It was a treat to visit Utsah Toli with life-long friends Neelima & Pramod Mathur recently. What a wonderfully enriching environment they have created for the young people of Naukuchiatal!

The children were all bright eyed and enthusiastic, but the highlight was hearing girls and boys speak with confidence about their career aspirations. Each was unique and beyond what one would

expect given their rural background or gender. One girl dreams of becoming a police officer. A young boy aspires to be an artist, because he's good at it. And another dreams of studying

medicine and returning to the community to build a clinic, because they don't have one in the area. Utsah Toli not only enables children to envision a unique future, it prepares them by teaching

that by seeking information they can acquire knowledge and by doing, practicing and striving they can achieve. And through achievement and the experience of success, every child's self-

confidence and sense of purpose blossoms. It would be wonderful if such a centre was available for children everywhere. If every community had an Utsah Toli, the world would be a better

place.... full of hope for the future.

Nestled far away from the maddening crowd, in the picturesque hamlet of Naukuchiyatal, lies the humble endeavour of Utsah Toli- where kids from the nearbymountain villages come to learn,

play and evolve in the most candid environment. Like always, It was my great luck which provided me a chance to be an instrument of symbiotic exchange with the kids, whichhas left me

richer in experiences and memories. All the kids are extremely talented and adept, with a nag of adding new arrows to the quiver of their aptitudes - and the instant bonds we created with them

were amazing to say the least. Utsah toli is not only giving them a shared space to co- evolve but more importantly is silently shielding them from the osmosis of the ills that plague our modern

societies. The democratic structure and collective decision making capacity in such young kids, which has been carefully inculcated and nurtured by the pioneers Neelima and Pramod Mathur is

something which is painfully absent even in the most prestigious abodes of learning in our country. This has led to the creation of a 'roots upward' and decentralised culture in the centre, where

even the most mundane decisions are taken collectively, and that too without altering the discipline and professionalism with which the centre is efficiently run. The kids are blessed with

exceptional abilities ranging from dancing, singing, painting, magic etc. I along with Simone thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the cosy guest room of the centre and the warm cordiality of our

gracious hosts- Neelima jee and Pramod jee. But above all helping the kids enhance their public speaking was the real cherry on the top- and I must commend each and every one for putting in

that extra satisfying step from their side

I am Simone, an undergraduate student from JNU.

I spent 10 days with the kids at Utsah Toli and I have a beautiful memory for life. They are such lovely kids, full of life and they have tremendous enthusiasm to learn and know about new things.

I must congratulate Mathur Sir and Ma'am for nurturing the Utsah Toli family so well and thank them for giving me an opportunity to be a member of this beautiful family.

I taught at UTSAH TOLI for 10 days.

This was a big experience for me.

The Indian children are very clever and interested.

Neelima and Pramod are doing fantastic work in helping Indian children.

The children are disciplined and intelligent . They painted and drew very nicely.

They wanted to learn.

They were very interested, and I always had to take new ideas for the lessons. This made me very happy. I speak little English but Neelima and Pramod helped with the interpretation right through everyday .

It was a very beautiful environment, in a very beautiful building, where we worked.

I am thankful for having been there and I want to go back next year.

I would love to teach the Indian children again.