It was love at first class. My relationship with UshaKiran, that is.
Looking back at when I first heard of this place….it makes me wonder how I could remain oblivious to this pocket of joy right here in my neighbourhood.
For about a year now I had heard of this charitable tutorial school for the children of our society’s maids, drivers and guards – some good Samaritan was running in our society itself. But not until this day did I go up to the place just to see if I could help. Selfish me! I knew I was bogged down by my life and could hardly manage to slip from one role to another within the mere 24 hours handed to me. I knew that between household chores, lessons, lesson planning, meetings, phone calls and everything else this would be one more ‘thing to do’ – I did so want to go and be a part of it especially because it was right here next door and yet I knew it just wasn’t possible with my crazy schedule.
And then it happened.
Pratik, my lad, whose intent has always been serious, wanted to ‘finally’ do this. Go and teach kids who need teaching, but for free. ‘I want to do it for myself.‘ Sadly this noble desire had risen in my young man just when his tutors were vying for his throat, time and attention, all at once. He was to appear for his Class 12 board exams this year, after all. And, as (ill) luck would have it, he was a Science stream student too. You know what that means, don’t you? Even if he had no intentions of sitting for the Joint Entrance exams – he had to slog over problems, numericals, tables and the like night after night and still his vast syllabus would be far from over.
So just as I spoke to Chaya, who runs the NGO – UshaKiran , and fixed up a class for Pratik, for kids in higher classes who need tutorial classes, his Math tutor decided to show up exactly at that time as a test had been scheduled the next day at school.
Chaya seemed very reasonably perturbed when I told her of my situation and asked if I could step in. I agreed to, sheepishly, knowing I shouldn’t back out at the last minute. What could I teach? English, of course.
A bunch of wide-eyed boys hardly 13 or 14 years old were busy studying when I peered in. A young girl who had been doing some lesson with them, came out and welcomed me. Chaya too stepped out of her home, which was next door. She introduced me to the boys whose faces glowed with an eagerness to learn. Their warm smiles were tinged with a slight anxiousness I could feel.
Manouvering my way into this small bit of a room packed with chairs, I went right up to the end and stood with my back resting on the whiteboard and took a deep breath in. Somehow it seemed this day had always meant to happen.
I asked what they wanted me to teach. ‘English’ they chorused. ‘We want to speak English well.’ Okay, I said. Do you think you can do it? ‘Maybe’, some said. Yes, why not? said a couple of confident ones. ‘Don’t know’ said a few shy glances.
An hour later, Chaya walked in and asked how they enjoyed the class. We were both surprised to hear all of them saying they were already feeling confident of speaking in English. Flushed with my happiness at connecting with these bright and enthusiastic youngsters, I felt a surge of joy in just watching them laugh and speak English in disjointed sentences. I walked out of that room that day, softened by these earnest souls, feeling mirthful in their joy, realising how precious the education being provided, was to them. They shared tales of how the teachers in their schools would hardly explain concepts, would beat them with canes if they gave incorrect answers and how the top favourite punishment in their schools was ‘murga bano’. What a diametrically opposite world I taught in day in and day out – many of our children would have no idea that this kind of a nether world also existed in the same universe as theirs. Thanks to institutions like UshaKiran these children can still have some faith in the system when they see us privileged people give up their time and resources to help them discover their talent in art, dance, singing as well as in sports.
My thoughts turn to Chaya and her tribe when I think of the immense dedication required for this kind of work. Our country needs more people like Chaya to spread the shade of knowledge and brighten it with rays of hope. This love story is far from over. Our journey from darkness to light has just begun.
Blog Author : Annapurna Das (volunteer)
MA English, with 18 years of Teaching Experience and Corporate Trainer
Personal Blog link: http://iexploretolearn.blogspot.com