This is such a happy picture. Pretty faces and such confident smiles. Such selfless love, A bit of confusion also. 32 Nation builders is what I saw when I walked to their classroom.
But this is not how the class seemed at first when I walked in first. What I saw was completely different. These kids had no voice, no opinion, no dreams of their own, no wishes. This is how hopeless my first day was. I spent close to 700 days with this lot, listening and being confused myself.
Slowly once the walls of fear and hopelessness broke down, I discovered that these young minds were a curious lot, so many questions. I often found myself at loss of words. I didn’t have answers to those questions. I didn’t know what was right for them, But I felt responsible. Because It took me back to my childhood, which was “privileged”. I was thinking how come I didn’t have these questions, after a lot of retrospection, I figured, I didn’t have the courage to have questions. I was always silenced by people around me. No one had times for me, no one had time for my questions. No one wanted to hear me out.
No one told me, it’s okay to have questions, no one told me let’s find out together. It was a difficult journey. It was hard to travel alone, with ambiguity, and no one to share how I am feeling.
Sometimes talking it out just helps.
Out of these 35 of them, although all of them were my favourites and each one of them has a special story to share; two are extraordinarily beautiful.
Rishi, when I met him was a 9-year-old boy with beautiful eye, with so much energy that he couldn’t sit in the classroom. As soon as I turned to the blackboard, he would get up and hit a child and comeback and sit down. But, used to get so scared as soon as I walked towards him and hide under the desk. I wondered what did I do. Rishi scored really poorly in the class. English and Maths were exceptionally difficult for him to grasp. I tried, tried but nearly gave up. I went to his home one day. Saw him getting a bad beating, on failing in a maths assignment. I went into flash back, I saw a repeat session on what happened to me when I failed in Hindi.
Rishi is an exceptional athlete. He is just unstoppable on the ground. But no body knew this. Gradually , Rishi opened up to me and share, “Bhag Milkha, Bhag” was his favourite movie. He really respected PT Usha. I wondered how he knew all these big names. Rishi wanted to be a Sprinter. But no one knew his dream. He didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know how will he become a PT Usha or a Milkha Singh. That day I promised him, I will be by his side, and make sure he realises his true potential one day.
The second one is Ruzaan .
Ruzaan is an extraordinary child. Gifted and blessed with zeal, compassion and love for ART. I always noticed him sitting alone in a corner. Reading a text book or colouring his table. As soon as he saw me walking to him, he would ease what he had drawn, or put away the book he was reading. Academically he was really sound, so I never focused on him. Because I had bigger worries to solve. On one lunch break, I saw him sitting alone, noticed he doesn’t have friends and rarely anyone from the class speaks to him. I went to him and asked him , why don’t you make friends, he replied, “Didi, I eat eggs na, that’s why no one talks to me.”
He just simply shared, the discrimination he was facing for almost 300 days out of the 700 days I spent with them. I was so unaware. I understood it was time for me to emphasise on ‘inclusion’ in the classroom. I understood, that It was time for me to share with Ruzaan, that it is okay, okay to eat eggs.
Ruzaan after a few pep talks became the most cheerful, happy curious child of the class. He was pretty famous. Apparently, all the girls in the class wanted him to draw for them.
Ruzaan found his voice in his colours.
I often end up asking myself this, what if I was not there for Ruzaan and Rishi. Would they end up struggling like me.
A lot of times, young adults lose confidence about themselves and do not find the right path.
Our young adults, are looking for someone to talk with, and just be listened too. This helps them navigate through tough times. Often it helps them to listen to their inner voice, their true feelings, and eventually helps them to hold on to the hope of following their dream.
Do I require a degree to talk to and mentor a child?
No, But I do need to be mindful. Kids are really impressionable. And this is why we are present in their life to anchor them. To have their back.
Let’s shape one life at a time. Know more about Dosti Project.