Know Surat

The House Of Hope. #VatsalyaDham

The year 2014 for us, the Team at @LifeInSurat, ended with an opportunity to profile and document this great act of love and compassion - Vatsalya Dham. And we are happy that the year 2015 for the blog is starting with this post.

We felt privileged to be able to spend a day at this noble institution which is a sincere effort to make Surat a better place and are happy to be able to share it with you today via the medium that this blog is.

Vatsalya Dham is a social service initiative, funded by Smt. S. H. Gajera Charitable Trust, and is dedicated to providing a stable and loving atmosphere to abandoned or neglected children of Surat. The ashram orphanage which started in 2006 with 35 kids, today cares for 700 children giving them a chance at better and balanced tomorrows.


This ashram styled orphanage not only provides food, clothing and shelter for these kids, it also makes sure each of them get proper schooling and education. The daily life of these kids is a full and well balanced routine, teaching them both responsibility and discipline.

The day for these kids begins with an early morning prayer and yoga session.

The orphanage farm grows fresh produce for their staple diet. The ashram cows provide fresh milk for the children and staff. And the kids help the kitchen staff produce three nutritious meals daily.

Vatsalya Dham focuses on a well-rounded upbringing of these kids and education forms an important part of the lives of these kids. And facilities here are at par with most other private schools of the city.

The facilities also include a Science Lab, a Computer Lab, the Theater Room and well equipped play areas for the all round development of these kids.

It is also worth noting here that all of this has been built and is being maintained by the Smt. S. H. Gajera Charitable Trust without any donations.

We spent a whole day at this House of Hope, talking to children, listening to their stories, their dreams. Some dream of becoming a doctor, some dream of becoming a scientist, some even want to become photographers and writers and travel the world. And we could not help but appreciate the sincere efforts of Gajera Family and people behind the Trust which funds such initiatives helping these children dream these dreams and become contributing members of Indian society.

2015 for the blog could not have started on a better note :)

@LifeInSurat Team.

Surat's Secret Santa!

When guys at VR called me to confirm that i had to document the festivities at their Surat center on Christmas Eve i had no idea that i would actually come face to face with Surat's Secret Santa who has had such a huge positive impact on all of our's @LifeInSurat. Here is how it happened -


So on the shoot day I reached there on time and was briefed by Mr. Anupam Yog (Director - Virtuous Retail Services Pvt. Ltd.) about the list of things I had to keep in mind during the documentation and I carefully made a mental list of all his pointers. Here is the beautifully lit 30 feet tall Christmas Tree I shot just before i went for the meeting -


Since there was still time left for the festivities to begin, we (Me and Anupam) started chatting, and he started telling me about the group's philosophies behind the VR Surat project. I was highly impressed by the idea that VR does not intend to be just a retail space like so many other "malls" that have mushroomed all across the metros. VR has much more character than that. It aims to be a 'Community Center' that Surat is yearning for. Was pleasantly surprised to know about the initiatives by VR to build the social capital of the city like sponsoring the Annual Magdalla Boat Race and organizing the Dumas Art Project to name a few. (He also told be about the hard time he was having convincing a book store chain to come to Surat! But he is trying hard as this is a must for Surat as a community.)

Would have loved to continue with the conversation but had only so much time as the carol singing was about to start. So i rushed to the tall tree and got on with my job. Here are few images from the Christmas Carol singing event -


So there I was in the middle of all the festivities... documenting the huge 30 feet (Surat's biggest) Christmas tree, taking pictures of the glittering reindeers, listening to the Santa going 'Ho! Ho! Ho!' and distributing sweets to everyone around and there i was listening to the Christmas Carols & LOVING IT! And i suddenly realized that this was my first time listening to the Christmas Carols! (call me ignorant but this is a fact.)

Everyone around was having a good time. This is what a community center does. It builds bridges... encourages local participation & enhances experiences.

It was then that it struck me. The management team at VR seriously is Surat's Santa-In-Disguise! 


This blog post is a big Thank-You! to the VR Team for taking so many super initiatives and bringing to us all these innumerable community building activities and experiences.

Thank You all for reading and do share your experiences at VR Surat in the comment section below.

[P.S - Dear VR Team, I would be forever in your debt for getting Caramel Popcorn and Zara to Surat :P]