My best friend kept on forcing me to join an NGO but I was always reluctant, thinking that I won’t be able to give my time because of my studies. (I have always been a sincere and regular student.) “I like to do things in a certain organised way and I won’t be able to do justice to my work. I need my conscience to work in that direction. It’s not the right time,” I made my friend understand my thought process.
On his constant insistence, in March 2016, I attended an event in which the children studying under the NGO were participating. That was my first meeting with the innocent ones about whom I had heard stories from my friend. Being a part of their audience as a photographer was a moment of ecstasy for me. I remember that evening very well when I spent hours trying to express my sentiments on paper all in vain. Eventually, I was able to write a short piece of poetry but words could not do justice to my emotions. They fail sometimes.
The curiosity to meet these children again was so much that I visited them during a session called Roobaru, where they scripted and enacted advertisements under the supervision of volunteers. The eagerness to know and help them increased and finally, the right time arrived.
I reached Indraprastha metro station at the decided time where I met the community coordinator and volunteers. We walked past the WHO, New Delhi building and took a left. After crossing a big nala which was surrounded by garbage heaps on both sides, we entered the slum. We reached the teaching venue after taking many lefts and rights.
Children had already started to assemble. They welcomed me with big smiles on their faces. While some volunteers went to call the other children, other volunteers and I started to spread mats on the ground. As new children came, they greeted us with a warm hello. Not for a second did I feel that I was meeting most of these little ones for the very first time. When we were done with the setting up of the place, we sat down to wait for others.
I started to interact with the kids by asking their names, the classes they studied in, their likes and dislikes, when a little girl dressed in a light-purple coloured frock came to me. She told that her name was Saloni. She seemed to be upset about something. On my asking her, she responded that she didn’t have a notebook. I instructed her to go to her home and return back with her notebook quickly. She said that she had no new notebooks. All her old notebooks were used. I suggested her to buy a new one to which she replied that her mother had thrown away all her notebooks. She was hesitant to answer the reason of her mother’s action. When I asked her a second time, she replied that she didn’t know. On insisting, after a while, she told me an astonishing thing. Her elder brother had new notebooks but he didn’t share them with her. I advised her to tell her mother about this. Her mother doesn’t listen to her was her answer.
Before I could ask her anything else, the coordinator arrived asking every student to settle down so that the teaching session could begin.
On my way back home, various thoughts kept on hovering in my mind about this mulakaat. I couldn’t participate in the successive teaching sessions. I had forgotten her completely until a few days back. I contacted the coordinator to get information about her. She had attended one session in which I was absent, after which she never came. This was all that I could gather about her.
She was upset when I saw her. She must be having an urge to study. All she wanted was a notebook. But she did not have it. Why? Were her parents against educating her? Did they prefer her brother’s education over hers?
Read all the Mulaakatein here.