Mahesh Raut, fondly known as 'Mahesh bhau', grew up in the interiors of Vidharbh region of Maharashtra
He was born in Lakhapur village, in the district of Chandrapur, famous for its tigers and brought up in the village of Wadsa in Gadchiroli where his family moved after his father’s early demise. His father was a 'police patil' in the village, entrusted with the registration of birth and deaths in the area and the care of unclaimed property. It was probably from him that Mahesh picked up his love for the village and its people, his tendency to look out for the weakest and care for the neglected.
After his father's death his mother and her sister took care of the family. Growing up among these powerful, independent female figures made him comfortable in understanding the issues of gender and in engaging with women, a trait that helped him in his years of work ahead, too. It also made him humble, sensitive and self-reflexive in a way that most men aren't trained to be in our society. Mahesh was very influenced by the thoughts of his grandfather, who was a well loved local political leader. He had famously refused to marry off his daughters to anyone who demanded dowry. Little Mahesh spent a big part of his childhood with his grandparents and would often accompany his ‘Bahaji’ to meetings and programmes that the latter was invited to.
Mahesh along with his two younger sisters had to move to different villages and live separately with different relatives to continue their elementary education. He studied in the Navodaya school of Gadchiroli and pursued his higher education in Nagpur. He briefly worked as a teacher of Mathematics in Kendriya Vidyalaya, Chanda, Chandrapur, to provide for his family. Through it all, his love for teaching and learning continued and soon after, he enrolled into the Tata Institute of Social Work, Mumbai, Maharashtra.