We all heard Tara Balgopal’s story; she was once India’s dancing pride and joy, to the point that a postal stamp was commemorated in her honour. She is skilled in the country’s most celebrated dance forms - Kathak, Bharatanatyam, and Kathakali. She was very close to the Gandhi-Nehru family, especially with Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Indira Gandhi. She would have charkha weaving competitions with Mahatma Gandhi and family friend, Lord Mountbatten, would address her as ‘tulip’. Needless to say, back in the day, Tara Balgopal was a respected woman amongst some of India’s most important families.
Until just recently, her situation wasn’t too great. She lived in a dilapidated house, with no question of savings. However, through one man’s initiative, Taraji’s quality of life took a 180 degree turn. Nikhil Sarup, the man behind Taraji’s rehabilitation, had an inspiring journey with Ketto to help Tara Balgopal.
Taraji on the news
Nikhil came across Taraji’s story on the news and decided to pay her a visit. “Taraji was heavily on the news and social media: Facebook posts, newspapers, online news feed. Through some smart Googling, I found her number and decided to visit her. You have to understand, I am 6’3 and can be quite intimidating to those who don’t know me. So I decided to visit her with a female colleague so as not to scare her.”
Nikhil needn’t have worried about her being scared of him though; “She’s quite a fire-brand. People think that those in need are passive individuals. However, Taraji is quite the feisty woman,” he says, laughing.
Helping the “South Indian woman living in a Punjabi neighborhood’
Nikhil was appalled seeing Taraji’s living conditions, “The photos you saw were bad, but trust me the reality was much, much worse. Her house was completely run down and smelly. She also had no funds to speak of to nourish herself. Her neighbors were not very friendly to her, simply viewing her as a South Indian woman living in a Punjabi neighborhood.”
At first Nikhil thought he’d provide her with legal advice, as he is the founder of a legal advice start-up, LawRato. But he realized that legal action takes time, and he wanted to take some immediate action to help Taraji. “I thought of crowdfunding as a good option. Initially, I thought of GoFundMe, but decided to settle with an Indian platform. Ketto seemed to be the most suitable option for me.”
Nikhil took some pictures of himself with Taraji, gave her some money for immediate expenses, and immediately went home to start a campaign. “It was great starting this fundraiser on Ketto. There were so many helpful tips on their website.” The goal amount for Taraji was initially 3 Lakhs, but after the resounding success, Nikhil pushed this to a higher amount, raising over 8 lakhs for her.
Taraji’s current situation
Thanks to Nikhil, Taraji now has a care-giver, taking care of her from morning to evening and clearing up her cluttered house. A painter has painted her home, making it look as good as new. Nikhil had earlier employed a tiffin service for Taraji, but she wasn’t too fond of the roti-sabzi, and her south Indian soul begged for vadas and uthapam. So, he visited New Kwality Snacks, a nice clean restaurant near her house. Once the owner, Rahul Khatter, heard about Taraji, he insisted that he provide her meals for free. Other repairs in her house, such as the plumbing and electricity, have also been taken care of. Let's just say that Taraji’s life has improved exponentially thanks to Nikhil, and she is metaphorically dancing again.
Image Courtesy: Hindustan Times
Taraji, belonging to a much older generation, couldn’t wrap her head around the concept of crowdfunding online with Ketto. Nikhil simplified it for her, “I just told her that I promise to get help and that there are a lot of people who are worried about her. I told her that all these people are willing to help, and, with them, I will raise money for her so she can live a better life.” Nikhil made a promise to her that he would help her before Diwali, and he did just that.
Nikhil’s thoughts on crowdfunding
Needless to say, refurbishing someone’s entire life is not easy! “If I could do one thing differently, I would have involved more people. In this case, it was easier for me to raise money than to get the work done. Campaigners should think about the best way to mobilize the funds once they’ve raised them.”
Talking specifically about Taraji’s wellbeing, “It would have been simpler to involve one of her neighbors in this cause, who could overlook the painting of her house. However, this was my first crowdfunding experience and gaps are sure to arise. I look forward to help many more through this brand new medium.”
Thanks to social media, we see a story like this on our timeline every day. But what do we do about it?
Nikhil Sarup has shown us a beautiful way to be proactive and make such a huge impact on someone's life. Experience this beautiful feeling. Put it on your bucket list.