Mrs. Shakuntala Athalye
Mrs. Shakuntala Athalye founded Pragati Kendra for her mentally challenged daughter, Meera, on 23rd April 1978, with a foresight of helping many more, such children in future. Even today at the age of 90, she is very active. Her concern for the rehabilitation of mentally challenged is to be felt to believe.
Mrs. Shakuntala Athalye founded Pragati Kendra – an institution for mentally challenged persons – on insistence of her daughter Meera who was unfortunately one among such persons. She cherished a dream to do everything possible that would bring such persons among the main stream of society. In those days there was no awareness of mental retardation as such and the problem these persons faced along with their parents. Being totally ignorant of such mental condition of child, the parents either blamed themselves for their past sins or their own fate. These poor children were kept hidden on the arrival of any guest in the house. There was no special school for them in the whole Dadar – Matunga – Sion area. Initially she spotted such children in her vicinity and literally went from door to door explaining the need for special school for their special children. She emphasized on the point that they are already the victim of fate let them not be victim of our neglect.
Many social workers, well-wishers and friends joined in her struggle and with five such special children Pragati Kendra was established on 23rd April 1978. Then came the period of her relentless efforts to work in this field and left her with her only aim -The wellbeing of the mentally challenged children.
In the years to come she was so much involved in her school activity that little did she realize how and when her personal life was dissolved in Pragati Kendra. Every thought and every breath, was regarding the betterment of these children. She showered her love on the students and paid her attention to the suffering parents. She was also concerned for general health of her staff as well. She got satisfaction when the school became known in society.
Now a genuine need she felt was for owning a premise for the school. To achieve this goal she worked hard with great devotion and dedication. Though it seemed a little hard, she did not give up her hope.
At this ripe old age of 90 years one with failing health and memory, she has only pragati kendra in mind, and at times has to be told that she is at home and not in her beloved school.