Forty-five-year-old Dhaneswar Boro is excited that his days of illiteracy are over. He can now write his name in Assamese and he is gradually getting to know his rights as an Indian citizen.
But it was a bleak story till last year. Life remained stuck in a morass of underdevelopment in Bakrapara village in Rani development block, just 30 km from the state's main city of Guwahati. However, the winds of change are now blowing, thanks to Guwahati's NPS International School that has adopted the village as part of its CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiative.
For decades, Dhaneswar and his fellow villagers here lived without the basic facilities. Their life revolved around cultivating land, fishing and selling the catch in the local market. Many among them earned their living as daily labourers. The developmental schemes of the central and state governments didn't reach this village, which lies in the Dispur assembly constituency.
The curse of illiteracy passed on from one generation to another -- the 70 families here could not afford to send their children to school due to lack of money. The dark shadow of poverty loomed large.
But all that's in past now, ever since the village was adopted by NPS International School in 2015.
"We adopted the village in 2015 as part of our Corporate Social Responsibility and we are working for the betterment of the living conditions of the people," NPS International School director J.N. Das told IANS.
"The families here belong to the BPL category and we are training them on alternative livelihood options.
"We have brought in experts to train the villagers on rearing pigs, ducks and chicken, which has benefited them economically," Das added.
Thanks to the effort, several villagers have now taken up rearing pigs, ducks, goats and chicken, moving away from their traditional occupations.
It's also changing for the senior villagers, for whom the school organises literacy camps. They are also being trained on health, hygiene and other issues.
The initiative also has an environmental aspect to it -- the villagers are being made aware about the hazardous effects of plastic.
"We are telling them about the need to conserve the environment," Das informed, adding that the the village has been declared a 'no-plastic zone' and anyone found dumping plastic and other non-biodegradable waste is slapped with a fine.
The villagers have planted about 100 saplings last year as part of the green initiative.
Das's claims are endorsed by Dhaneswar. "There have been so many changes here after the NPS School adopted the village. We are learning how to conserve the nature. My wife has been trained on rearing duck and chicken. It is benefiting us economically," Dhaneswar told IANS.
"Politicians come here only at the time of elections. But now, the days are changing for good. I feel the younger generation will see better days," chimed in Dipak Basumatary, another villager.
A primary school was set up in the village about 20 years back. The few children who study there now have a chance to interact with their counterparts at the NPS International School.
"These interactions will certainly benefit our children as they will learn a lot of new things," said Ila Kachari, an elderly village woman, who proudly added that she too can now write her name after participating in the literacy programme.
"The village used to be backward. But we are now developing it as a model village. We are ensuring that the villagers participate in all the activities," Das said.
(Aditya Baruah can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)