Alkagauri Joshi was the quintessential Pune girl till her twelfth standard. Then she attended a camp organised by the Vivekananda Kendra at Kanyakumari and her life changed. Since the last fourteen years, Alkagauri has been engaged in teaching children in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh and changing their lives for the better.
Alka was born in 1973 in Pune in a middle-class family, her mother being a teacher and father a marketing professional. Alka has inherited a love for social work from her grand-parents - she is the grand-daughter of Dadasaheb Chaphekar who served the cause of leprosy patients and women's empowerment in Talegaon-Dabhade near Pune.
After completing her twelfth standard, Alka attended a camp organised by the Vivekananda Kendra in Kanyakumari and was impressed by the women who had dedicated themselves to carry out social work under the aegis of the Kendra. That was the turning point in Alka's life and she resolved that she too would do the same.
Meanwhile, Alka completed her B.Com and, thereafter, completed a year-long photography course as well. Even while pursuing her studies, she had already become associated with the Kendra as a local volunteer in Pune. After completing her studies, she decided to serve the Kendra full-time. She had also assisted in expanding the work of the Kendra in Nagpur and Nashik.
Alka reached the conclusion that life would be meaningless unless she plunged whole-heartedly in the Kendra's work. But those who wish to serve the Kendra full-time are required to face stringent conditions - they have to cast off all family and financial responsibilities, are required to lead austere lives, should be willing to serve anywhere in the country and have to pledge that they will not marry for the first five years at least.
Alka's parents were unwilling to part with their girl on such rigorous terms but she convinced them and, finally, left for Arunachal Pradesh.
The people of Arunachal Pradesh are simple folks but faced with immense challenges - lack of education, the problem of infiltration from neighbouring nations, and the problem of addiction among the youths. Natural calamities are also a bane. Notwithstanding these challenges, Alkagauri began her work - that of teaching children in primary schools, kindling a feeling of patriotism in them, promoting the activities of the Kendra in the villages by showing documentaries and video clips and organising mobile libraries among other things. "Anandalaya", a project initiated by Alkagauri, has been very successful in Arunachal Pradesh. Under this project, the Kendra trains youths who have passed their tenth standard to teach primary school children.
As a result of the Kendra's efforts, it has become easier to obtain education in Arunachal Pradesh and Alkagauri's role in this regard has been significant. Alkagauri had a choice between pursuing a career and immersing herself in social work. She chose the latter.