New Beginnings

Kalpana Dabhade, who has lived and studied in a remand home and a shelter for women, recently cleared the chartered accountancy exam

"'Remand home', that is one word that changes everyone's perspective. And imagine what people feel when I tell them that I have studied in remand homes and other such institutions," begins 35-year-old Kalpana Dabhade. "But that is precisely why I insist on telling my story, to tell everyone that all those who go to, or come out of remand homes are not criminals," she says.

She sits in the office of a girls' hostel, hunched-up over the accounts books. Dressed in a simple yellow chikan salwar-kameez, her brow is furrowed in concentration. As the clock strikes five, she closes the books with a sigh, massages her temples for a few seconds and walks out of the tiny office. This has been her daily routine for the last four years, but now, Dabhade will not be working with this charitable institution for long. She has just cleared her chartered accountancy exams, and from January 21 onwards, she is a certified chartered accountant.

Born in Pune and bought up in a small settlement near Rajguru nagar, Dabhade had to be sent to boarding schools from a young age. Her mother, who used to work at nearby houses, washing clothes and utensils, was unable to support Dabhade, especially after her father abandoned them. "She had no choice, that is why she applied to the government institutions for my education. She thought, I would at least get food and shelter there," recounts Dabhade.

She was then sent to a remand home in the city for education. "What most people fail to understand is that there are many children there, who are practically orphaned, who live in these shelters, which are like homes to them," says Dabhade. After the remand home, Dabhade then went on to live at the Anath Hindu Mahilashram, from where she finished her schooling. She then went on to study commerce from SNDT college, Pune. After that, to support herself, Dabhade started working with earthquake relief NGOs in Latur, after the devastating earthquake in 2001. "They paid me around Rs 1,500 per month. But I was lucky to get lodging and boarding free," she says.

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