Chandra Shah: A Boarding School that Feels Like Home

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Name: Chandra Shah

Business: Sweet Memories High School

Location: Panchgani, India

Industry: Education & Training

Reason for starting? I was a single mom and I wanted the best education for my children. I had sent my son to a boarding school, but then realized that the boarding didn’t offer Vegetarian home food. My children were always home sick, and good home cooked food is such an important part of a child’s growth and routine. I liked Panchgani as the weather was cool and the place was friendly and safe. I decided to rent a place and educate my children there.

The need to pay my rent, and the children’s school fees led me to start a boarding house in 1984. I started with two children. In those years the thought of having my own school had never occurred to me. Survival was important. I wanted to do something where I could give time to my children, they both needed me. With two children, I started making an income on which we all survived. The next year we had five children. and it grew from there.

Related: Read about another entrepreneur working in education here. 

How do you define success? For me, success is a never ending journey. The parameter increases as I accomplish each goal, and this helps me to keep on learning and move ahead in my life. Success is a feeling of happiness and satisfaction inside. When so many pupils who study from my school, Sweet Memories High School, go on to become great individuals in their personal and professional lives, it gives me immense joy, as I have been able to touch so many lives.

Biggest success: My biggest success up has been watching students grow up to be beautiful and successful individuals, even when they have had all the odds stacked against them. When I started my own school, Sweet Memories High School, I felt like I was taking a stand in society and building an institution that was shaping a vision of academic success for all students — one based on values and academic standards.

What is your top challenge and how you have addressed it? When I started the boarding house I started needing more space to house the children. I had no funds, so to grow it was necessary to shift to a bigger premises. My parents bought a bungalow and asked me to use it until I could manage to buy my own some day. That was my first hurdle. Then, the children who lived in the boarding house with me studied in different schools. I was their mother, mentor and teacher. Soon the word went around, and we were full with 50 children in our house. There was a time when I had to deny spaces to parents because we were so full — but the parents insisted. It gave me satisfaction that parents trusted me so much with their children.

Related: Scaling Up: When Equity Matters 

Who is your most important role model? My father is my role model. He always stood by me. We come from an orthodox background, and in those days divorce was not an option. I was one of the odd ones, hence looked down on by society. My Guru in those days was my mentor. He told me: “You just earn and make money and society will keep you in high regards. Don’t negate your energies because of what they have to say.”

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Edited by The Story Exchange

Posted: March 29, 2017

Victoria FlexnerChandra Shah: A Boarding School that Feels Like Home
  • Ami Dedhia

    Superb . Really commendable

  • Amit Dedhia

    She was our Mon away from home. Respect as a word will fall short to explain this Iron Lady of our life…

  • Vinita Sagar

    That’s the word for her…

  • Samit

    Truly inspiring.

  • Mona Desai Gupta

    This quote reminds me of Chandra Aunty: “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. – Anais N.” Panchgini would have not been the same without you. Thank you for being a mother, mentor, teacher and a friend to us!

  • Kishore

    I have been among the first 10 student in my aunty (Chandra Shah) hostel, which she was more then mother to me, what ever I have achieved in my life was not possible if she had not put those efforts in my education. I am the living example where I have seen Chandra shah reach those success and the hard work she put in us which only mother can put. I am feeling so proud reading her artical and feel as my mothers artical. Too too proud of you Aunty.

  • Dharit Desai

    A very well written article and true to it’s word! Aunty was a ‘mother’ any child could hope for when away from home. Her love and care knew no bounds, even after one left the hostel. I remember this time when I had moved to Pune after 10th and had fallen very ill. Aunty immediately rushed to Pune from Panchgani, got me admitted to hospital and took great care till I was well. Who does this?? And that too for a boy no longer in her boarding! I call her Aunty but I respect and love her as my Mom!

  • Kunjal.Karia

    At this stage of my life I feel proud to both my father and aunty because my father had send me to aunty where I was for only two yeasrs of my life. But now I know the values what I learned from her. In same way what my father did, I am also planning for my son for his future.
    Thank you “AUNTY” .
    Anywhere I here the word aunty means only “Chandra Aunty”.

  • Pratik Sheth

    Holla everyone,
    At this point of my life I can thank you God for making Chandra aunty for what she is. I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else besides her homely dorm. It’s been more than 15 years I am out of the hostel but the experiences and values of that life is still alive. The food, the care, the values and sports is just something I can never forget. She makes life very different, special and valuable. I came out with a focus in my life after I passed out from there in 1999. Cleanliness was the part of our living there. I was never a bright student but I was a great sportsmen, that was found about me living there. Both her children Dhaval and Ami added so much life to the life that we use to live there. Any problem taken to them was never unsolved. Breaking rules was my lifestyle there, but it was handled in such a way that I was forced to think if I should do it next time. This is the beauty of them. All children are family to Aunty and this is the best quality of her. Till date I meet her and she is just the same. Her voice by itself make a lots of difference. Her personality​ is just something that anyone could jell along. Thank you for everything that you have done for us all in those day. Really appreciate it all.

  • Jinal Shah

    A lot to learn from her

  • Rima Chheda – Desai

    Very Loving person, hardworking, determined and courageous. So proud to have known her and learnt from her. Great tribute to Chandra Aunty 🙂