Happy Independence Day.
I know it’s been long to talk to you. This mail will quickly update you with the goings so far.
On 13th August evening, Arun & I confirmed with the parents and school teacher Mr. Shinde about their meeting scheduled on the other day.
So 14th August morning, Mr. Shinde accompanied me to the slums. (Actually all the adults & even the teenagers in the slums leave for their daily casual work latest by 8 am and return back late evening in either totally exhausted or drunken state. So the only time to have a healthy discussion with them is early morning.) Shinde talked at good length and high spirits to the parents about the importance of their kids’ regularity in school and all the basic facilities a student gets in the school. As expected we got a great response with almost everyone acknowledging the necessity of disciplined behavior.
On 15th August morning, Priyanka joined me for the slums at 7.30 am to properly enlist the names and ages of the kids to be admitted to the school. While on the way, I just thought of celebrating this important day with the kids and so shared this with the friends. After jotting down the details of the kids we headed for school, hoping for getting a classroom for this activity in the noon. The environment there unchained all our school memories. The students, teachers and local VIPs had gathered there for the flag hoisting ceremony. Fortunately we could attend the whole function. Sight of the whole lot of political figures and the bragging speeches about their parties’ triumphalism and extreme patriotism then incited us to harness the opportune moment to showcase them our common goal which could then give a leg-up for our project. We figured out our action, with all facts and figures and that are now in almost a cinch of getting about 20 kids admitted to the school. The startling scene was however that the figure talking boastfully (on whom we thought of betting upon) played a truant! This was clearly perceivable from his vacuous body language and indifferent attitude. Perhaps he felt we were poking our nose into ‘his’ business! May be we caught him with his pants down by presenting his unchartered territories! The positive part is however our efforts didn’t go futile and we could manage to invoke some knee-jerk reactions. Some of them then personally lend their ears to us, showed the spacious hall which we can use for any of our future activities and then expressed their ‘strong’ and ‘sincere’ support to our efforts concerning education for the slum-kids. One of them stepped ahead promising to ‘rally’ with us around the slums to spread the message of education. Other promised to get us an admission into the college for an eleventh standard pass out boy but then also enquired if I had a Voter-ID? (Are these people really so caring or are just trying to grab their pound of flesh by leveraging upon our mission?).Anyways, Caution is truly the keyword for us!
Frenzied with these experiences, we headed for collecting all the materials like crayons, flags, chocolates etc for the kids and penned down our tentative event-schedule. Mind-boggling response! We had expected about 20 but surprisingly 35 kids thronged into this event. I still remember the way all three of us- me, Priyanka and Beena had to rush around to make up for the shortfall of items at the eleventh hour. We sang our national anthem, asked what they would like to be by first explaining them the role of all the professions in the society, asked them to draw out their likes with colors. We dint have player but then the mobile tunes/songs could manage to twist their bodies. Finally we relieved them with flags and chocolates. If it had not been for both of my friends, I wonder how I would have been able to manage and overrule the whims of these smart naughty kids.
Things described above would have definitely painted an encouraging picture before you. But let me tell you that when we all were having fun with these kids at one place, there was one brave girl Madhuri humbly displaying her fortitude.
(Madhuri is a puny girl of about 7 years whose parents have inflicted their other 3(out of total 8) children on her. This smart girl has a great aptitude for learning but their parents cannot send her to school because she has to take care of their complete house and her 3 brothers/sisters daily when they are out to work. A 7 year child bogged down with the 7-tonne responsibilities!)
It was when I went into the slums, while on the way to school, just to ensure that no kid gets left-away for the event, I saw her lying on the bare floor in her house. I called her aloud to join us but after not getting any response I crept in to sense the matter. She was not crying but her eyes and cheeks couldn’t conceal the truth. Stammering, the pain came out and I somehow managed to get something to cover her. I got out immediately to look for help from neighbors but was rebuffed by vacuum. About 10 meters away I saw a woman, her distant neighbor. I took her to Madhuri and was shocked to see waving her brother’s cradle with one hand as well as managing her sister with the other. I made her lie down and requested the lady to look after her while I get some medicine. I had heard of medical stores kept open even during bandhs and strikes; but Airoli medical store-keepers seem to be oblivious of their actual responsibilities and more inclined to enjoy the government holidays. However by god’s grace I could find a medical and then rushed back there to find Madhuri out of her home to appease her crying sister. I dragged her back to home, gave her half the dose of metacin and ordered her not to get up. This time I could feel some relief in her eyes and also building up of some faith on us. I gave vent to my anger on the woman about her negligence; she gave a pat reply—“They don’t listen to us”. Her response not only left me dumbfounds, but also was a manifestation of the lack of trust and friendliness and care among these people. Averting any further arguments, I fled away by again requesting her to give Madhuri the other half dose, if needed.
I am sure any one of us would be equally shaken if he/she faces such a blood-curdling incident. What daunted me more was the indifferent attitude of these people in dire times even among themselves. This clearly tells us how carefully we need to tread our path. If a 7-year old feeble girl’s pathetic condition fails to move the emotions of her old neighbors, just think of the disappointments which we – just a few days old friends-turned-strangers may have to encounter while dealing with them. So dear friends, I am sure you would have derived your own important inferences from this incident but I would like to add one more— don’t keep any expectations!
After this brush, it would have been really very difficult for me if Priyanka and Beena would have not joined in this event. Their passion, energy and commitment reloaded me again with the energy and we could successfully bring some more cheers and smiles to the kids. Great applause for both of them! (Priyanka has captured some cool snaps of the event. She will be soon sending it across.)
On 17th August, we gave the details of kids, draft-affidavit and Rs.2000/- to a high court advocate (Vandana) who has promised to get all the affidavits done by the next day without any consultation/service fees. At first, I was little bit surprised by such a quick encouraging response but it was today when I met her personally, I got the opportunity to know her properly. She is a very energetic and determined lady very active in all such social activities especially women-related issues. I would request you to go through www.streeshakti.co.in to get some more details. What I could gauge her from 15 min talk is that she is willing to support us for any activity we would like to take up for such cases.
I told her that we are a group of few friends who have just kicked off this theme & we were desperately looking for something for women too as I have met few teenager girls and around 25-30 age band women in these slums who have to toil very hard just for few bucks. We were anyways planning some sort of vocational training to these girls/women for better life and ‘protected’ environment. And much more. Her response simply drove me delirious. They are ready to provide all the resources—place, office, funds, sponsors, technology, legal assistance etc…And they have great influences too. So it’s just that they want some committed and passionate minds like us to utilize all these things. Its like we tell them the design of our platform and they create it for us to perform! Isn’t it great?
Photos - http://picasaweb.google.co.in/lead.airoli/IndependenceDay#