Mahendra was born into the Brahma Caste in Darjeeling. His father left home and married when Mahendra was quite young. When his mother remarried, he chose to be raised by his father and stepmother.
A Catholic priest noticed his passion for education when he was in nursery class and encouraged him to do well in school. His maternal grandfather supported him in his studies and helped him to become the person he is today. After completing high school, Mahendra tried several times to enter the army. However, due to poor vision, he was not accepted. At this point Gene, a missionary living in Delhi, came in contact with him and encouraged him to become a soldier in God's army. This intrigued Mahendra, so he pursued his education in a Bible College in Chenaii. When he returned home to Darjeeling, he found there were no other Christians living there. His family was not supportive at that time. He set up Bible studies with neighbors to begin planting churches. He worked for a period of time as a border patrol along the Nepal border. Then he joined forces with a couple other friends to open a delivery service which later developed into a FedEx office.
He came to the Bagdogra to work and rented a room in a boarding house on the main road.
Back in Darjeeling on a visit, he met Jyoti through her involvement with a "Western Asian Bible Society." She was living her life as a soldier of Christ. Her heart for Christ and evangelism intrigued him. Soon they were married and ready to start out on their own.
They relocated in Hatiduba Busty renting a room from Krishna and Pulshery. Every evening at 7:00, Jyoti and Mahendra would pray. Their landlords immediately began chanting Hindu rituals to cover their home simultaneously. Night after night and month after month, this friendly battle went on. Until the day came that Krishna became their first convert and the church of Christ was born in Hatiduba Busty.
In 2002 they brought four-year-old Dolma into their home to raise and educate. They nicknamed her Elizabeth.
On Gary Tate's visit to India with Joe Crabtree in 2008, Gene invited Mahendra to come to a gathering at the hotel in Guwahati. Gary was impressed by his enthusiasm for spreading the gospel and began supporting his efforts.
In 2009, Mahendra and Jyoti moved into a back room in a school that they took over when those running it wanted to disband. The school was in chaos and disrepair. Mahendra says it is easy to open a school, but it takes skill, determination and great organization to run a school. Several families left when they saw how Mahendra was instigating rules and regulations, but those that truly wanted the best education for their children stayed and continue with him to this day. Beginning in 2009, Mahendra and Jyoti set out to run the first English Medium school in the area beginning with nursery classes at three years of age. Meanwhile, they have continued to provide an education for the children previously enrolled in the school they inherited in the Hindi (language) Medium.
In 2010 after the birth of their first daughter, Grace, they found it very difficult to live in the bamboo school building with no electricity. About that time, his mother moved from the tea plantation where she had labored for many years to live with her son and his family...helping after a difficult labor and delivery. Pooling a portion of her retirement funds with his savings, they decided to buy land and build their home. Their former landlords sold them a plot of land directly across the street from the school building. They quickly built a three room bamboo home and shortly thereafter added an office on the front. They have continued to improve their property over the years. It is now plastered with adobe exteriors and has a separate three room structure with a well room, a kitchen and a small dining room. Another separate building of three rooms completes their living quarters. It houses the Turkish toilet, a shower and a large storage room. This year they have really focused on their landscaping as well as adding a small tin garage to house Mahendra's motorbike, Elizabeth's bicycle and Grace's small pink bike.
In the past year, they have added two little girls to their home. Rima came to live with them in March of 2012. She is now a darling nine year old with a short buzzed hairdo for the summer. She exudes personality from the moment you lay eyes on her. Her intelligence is obvious in the vast English vocabulary she has garnered. Coming from a home that did not value education for little girls, she had never attended school before coming to the Giri home. Now she attends Morning Star English School where teachers and students are required to speak only English all day long. She is now attending Upper Kindergarten (UKG) with seven other children above age for LKG. Her eyes light up when someone walks in the room. She draws you close to her side and loves to cuddle and be rocked. (Connie, this would be a great place for your rocking chair!). Rima is responsible for washing all the dishes and caring for all of the plants as well as taking care of Grace. She rises early before the family and studies late into the night.
On the 15th of March of this year, Grace became a big sister! Glory Giri is a precious six month old who is beginning to add a few bites of table food to her diet as she begins to teeth. Her face lights up at the sight of her daddy returning home from school. Grace delights in playing with Glory and coaxing giggles from her baby sister. Grace is a tease! She is quick to warm up to all who come her way. She is the apple of her father's eye and runs the household with her desires. To say she is queen of everything would sum things up pretty well. She understands English very well and communicates enough to let you know what she wants you to do. Her impish smile and flirting eyes melt your heart very quickly. Grace studies at Morning Star in the nursery. She does her nightly homework both spelling and writing three words that begin with each of six letters...in English, her second language!
Elizabeth is now fifteen ! She is a beautiful young lady who seeks to meet your every need before you even realize you have a need! She is attending a Hindi Medium School about six miles from their home. She rises early (before sunrise) to prepare breakfast for the family, clean the porch and driveway, help with Glory and take care of other duties before riding her bicycle over rocky roads to school. Elizabeth is glad to have Rima share her room and study with her at night. Mahendra has promised her a new bicycle at the end of the year if she is number one in her class of ninety nine students! We stopped by her school on our last day in town to surprise her and say goodbye. When the headmaster called for her to come to the office, I am sure she was a bit nervous. But when she saw us standing there, her face glowed with excitement! She was eager to take us down to her room to meet her teacher and classmates. We were flabbergasted to find a classroom with one teacher and ninety nine teenagers all sharing benches and table. Five students shared each bench in a room with open windows on one side only. She looked sharp in her crisp uniforms and cute butterfly clips and headband!
Tabita is Mahendra's mother. She and Grace share the third bedroom in the home. Tabita is constantly caring for a little girl. While Jyoti and Elizabeth do the majority of the cooking duties, Tabita and Rima are responsible for clean up after meals. With a six month old baby who is rarely laid down, Jyoti's life would be very different without her mother-in-law there.
Recently Jyoti's younger brother has come to live among them. He teaches classes 2 & 3 in the same room and lives on the new school campus about a mile from the home in one of three connected apartments for teachers. He eats all of his meals at the house in one of three rotations around the dining room table. Amit Rai is darling! He is twenty five years old with a charming personality and is handsome as well! He is the best teacher on campus and is ever-so-helpful in getting the girls to and from school each day with his motorbike. Living on campus, he also serves as guard and caretaker for the school.
Jyoti is a beautiful woman, faithful friend, loving mother and wife and normally runs the school office and finances and oversees the teaching of nursery and LKG classes. Her heart for the Lord is evident in her care and concern for others and her knowledge of scriptures. She is a servant of all and is never caught sitting around like an idle! I know she is an excellent teacher, but her best talent is cooking! We were fed like royalty all week.
In January of 2013 Morning Star English Medium School opened classes for 89 students in their new facilities! The campus is amazing! Mahendra has overseen every detail of construction with the same stern perfectionism with which he runs his home and his school. When you first see the campus across the rice patties from a mile away, you know this school stands out from the rest. The crisp white buildings and neatly manicured grounds are strikingly clean and inviting. The cement archway entrance is prestigious, and the fields around it just seem purer and crisper than others. This is not your ordinary school! Children arrive at school and report to their class lines outside the classrooms for morning announcements. They stand at attention waiting for their fellow classmates and teachers to arrive.