Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Spread the Smile- Ritika

A 'Smile' is such a beautiful feature we human have got from the Almighty. A 'Smile' is one thing that can get the stress off anybody with the blink of an eye. A simple but real smile has the ability to win the hearts. Our smiles may have a lot of meanings but it has only one motive, to let others know that we are good.
Everyone appreciates a smiling person and a smiling face, it blossoms the entire surrounding and can lift the bad mood up. Moreover, it takes nothing to smile.

We have one such, ever smiling, little angel Ritika. Very soft spoken, shy to strangers and naughty to friends but ALWAYS smiling(Touchwood). Ritika lives with her Nani Ma as her parents don't live together. Her father used to beat her mother in front of Ritika and it had become a part of their daily schedule. One day when her poor mother could not take it anymore she left the home with Ritika and now Ritika lives with her Nani. At this tender age of 6, Ritika has already seen a lot but one thing she has always carried with her is her beautiful smile. This is the beauty that even while complaining about anything or anyone in the class, she doesn't lose her smile. She knows very well about her parents and she actually doesn't like them much, may be because her heart as a child has never seen them living happily so she is not very comfortable accepting them as one.

We in our lives can have no better example than Ritika. In spite of all the hurdles, all the problems she never forgets to smile. Smile is something which she carries with herself wherever she goes. She is excellent in studies, stands first in her class, never fights with anyone, is very punctual and diligent when it comes to her homework, but when anyone meets her for the first time, the first thing they get impressed by is her angelic smile.

It takes nothing but a second to smile and all your surroundings get lightened up. People start liking you more and appreciating you more, while all you do is smile. So we'd suggest you to take out some moments off your busy schedule and smile at least twice a day and it will not bite you, trust us! :)

Dream Of Neha- An Unbiased Society

We live in a modernized time, an era of technology and can see an overall developed society. With every passing moment, we’re achieving new heights in each and every field be it technology, infrastructure, medicine, economy or education. We aim to discover the whole universe in a blink and are working towards it. We have a very advanced and civilized society which believes in gender equality. We talk a lot about girls and their empowerment in the society and for that we have a lot of organizations working in the direction to get them their rights.

Everything seems so perfect if you see it this way, but have you ever thought of the kind of biased society we are? In fact, we live in a dual faced civilization which on one hand talks about gender equality and is biased when it comes to two different genders on the other hand. Be it an advanced urban area or a backward rural, gender bias is everywhere. It has penetrated our society so deeply that we don’t even realize when we actually get biased to a particular gender.

In Sarthak, the slums we cater to are also not an exception in this area. We have a 13 year, over enthusiastic and energetic girl Neha in our Chinhat center. We found out she was so interested in studying that we could always find her waiting for us outside the class. She always had so many complaints about the government school she attended. You could easily guess by her gesture that she had so much to say, so much to talk about and when we talked to her she actually had a lot to share. She has 3 sisters and 3 brothers in her family and she doesn't differentiate among her siblings in spite of their different genders. Unlike her, her parents never leave a chance to show a preference towards the male children in the family.

Neha tells us that her parents never miss a chance to give special privileges to the boys in the house, be it the slightest of the comfort, education or even the medical assistance. The three boys in the house are attending a small private school which is all their family can afford. Unlike the boys, the three girls go to the government primary school where they hardly get to learn anything, thanks to our mighty education system. Neha tells us that their preferential treatment is not just limited to education; they are biased in each and every possible aspect.
It is very sad to know that her own parents do not care enough for her just because she is a girl. I feel amazed about the mother who herself is a female and is biased towards her male children. Moreover, Neha is not the only case there. You can find such cases in every family in Chinhat slum and why only the Chinhat slum, you can find such sick mentality everywhere.

In urban areas, we boast of our educated society which is leading the development to the front. We discuss a lot about women empowerment but in reality we distinguish men and women in our own families on different grounds. We are totally ignorant of the fact that such biased nature of ours has definitely been a major hurdle in our progress. When it comes to education, our inclination towards boys can never lead us to growth. If we want an actual growth rate and a strong developed society, we can never ignore a girl child’s education.

Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher has written in his style:
“If women are expected to do the same work as men, we must teach them the same things.”

If you want to hear her story from her, please click on the link below:
"Dream Of Neha- An Unbiased Society"

Dream to Spread the Happiness- Kalona

"A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes. " - Hugh Downs.

As Mr. Downs clearly quotes, happiness does not come from where we live, what we eat, what we wear or what we earn, it comes from within. A happy person is not a person who resides in a lavish palace or who earns millions a month. A happy person is one who knows how to live happy. It doesn't matter if he lives in a palace or in a slum. He has this tendency to earn happiness out of each and everything from his day-to-day routine.
There are two types of persons in the world, those who run after happiness all their lives but are never able to get it and those who simply live their lives and happiness comes running after them. The second type is mostly found in places where one could hardly expect happiness to be. Some people can't be happy when they get an annual appraisal hike of 20% of their salary because they were expecting 25%. Whereas some people find happiness in a single piece of sweet which they are going to share with their family. Happiness is actually nothing but a state of mind.
Most of us think that these days, no one is happy and satisfied with their present conditions. We also used to think like this until we visited slums for our study centers. Be it our Malhaur Centre or Chinhat centre or our newly born Vikas Nagar Centre, the situations are almost same everywhere and so are the people.
Kalona, a five year old student at our Chinhat centre, clearly knows where and how to find happiness. She has one elder and one younger sister at her place and you can easily see the bond of love among the three siblings. Kalona loves to play with her sisters. In spite of all the scolding Kalona gets from her elder sister, she loves her too.
Kalona knows that her sisters love sweets, specially the elder one. So every time we distribute sweets among the students as a token of appreciation, she never eats her piece of sweet and keeps it aside for her sisters and most importantly, she does it HAPPILY. There's no pressure on her to keep it for them but she does, deliberately and happily. This is the bond of happiness she shares with her loved ones. These are small things for us but such things do matter to her. Kalona is a happy person one would love to meet. You can always find a satisfying grin on her childish face. If you want to see a happy person, go and find Kalona in her slum playing in the open ground with her sisters, in no shade to sun.
We have learnt from her that happiness can be found anywhere, in any form, with anyone. All we need to find out is what is the source of our happiness. External factors can never affect our happiness. It's only a state of mind. Some may differ from my point of view but this is what I have learned till now and is actually a personal approach towards happiness.

To listen to Kalona's full story from her, please click on the link below and watch the full video:
"Dream to Spread the Happiness- Kalona"

The Ignored Beggar Child- Rajinder

It’s a fine Saturday Evening and you’re parking your car in front of the city mall. You have a movie to catch and you hardly find a place to park your car. All of a sudden, you hear a scared knock on your window glass. You see a girl of around 6 with her toddler brother, asking for five rupees. What would be your reaction then? Most of us would just ask them to shoo off and not to knock on the glass again. Some of the generous people would prefer to just ignore them as if they didn’t exist and the knock never happened. There are a very small number of people who would actually ask the girl about the purpose of the knock.
This scene can be seen everyday and everywhere in our day-to-day life. We have learned to ignore these poor beggar kids so well that now it does not even make us feel bad for them. Such kids have become a common feature in our lives, just like the red light at the crossing or the grocery shop in our way. We have forgotten to treat them like living beings. All we have learnt is to just ignore them. I’m not saying it is true for all of us, but it definitely goes for the most of us these days.
In our Chinhat centre, we got to meet one such boy, Rajinder. He, along with his two younger sisters, goes everyday for begging in different areas. He can be seen near prominent shopping malls and multiplexes of the city. The irony is that he doesn’t even know that he should not beg. Since his parents are also into begging, he doesn’t feel that begging is not good. He has seen them begging from the very first day and he doesn’t mind it. He wants to study but he doesn’t want to let go of begging as well. The saddest part is that we also couldn’t stop him from begging as his whole family does it and they have no other source of income at all. The surrounding has put him into so many other bad habits as well, he drinks TADI (Indian local liquor), chews tobacco and has been seen smoking BIDI as well. In the last one year, all we could do was to motivate him to come to our classes regularly and to constantly keep reinforcing that he should not drink or smoke.
Rajinder is not the only such lad in the locality and Chinhat is not the only such locality in the town. There are numerous such kids whose families depend on begging only and who are totally ignored by people like us. I am not saying that we should encourage begging by giving them money. All I need to convey is that these beggars are also kids like ours and they also don’t like to be ignored and more importantly they have done nothing to deserve this.
It is so easy for all of us to pacify our conscience by thinking that we should not encourage kids to beg. The question is that what do we do after that? Do we take any step to improve the condition of the kid in any way? Do we come out of our comfort zones to help these kids live a better life? As a society, is it not our duty to take care of the well being of these kids? These are questions that already have answers. Now is not the time to answer, now is the time to take that first small step to bring about a change.

To listen to Rajinder's full story from him, please click on the link below and watch the full video:
"The Ignored Beggar Child- Rajinder"

Priyanka's Dream- A New Life with the same Zeal

These days, we can easily find ourselves crying over petty issues in our lives. Issues which are actually petty and can easily be ignored but we choose to crib over them ignoring all the fortunate things we have got. Some people have salary issues in their office because the 7 digits salary they get annually is not enough to bear their expenses, some people are tired with their health because of the migraine attacks they get once a week,some are not satisfied with their 3 BHK apartments because their colleague recently bought a 4 BHK apartment, some are frustrated with their relationships because their partner demands too much of their time and this list goes on.
Have we ever thought of the actual problems which a person may have in her/his life? There are numerous people in our country who don’t have enough sources of income, houses to live in, food to feed their children, money to buy medicines and they lack in each and every necessity.

Priyanka, one of the oldest students of our Chinhat centre,belongs to one such family. She has 5 siblings (all sisters) who along with their parents and an uncle live together. Her father drives a taxi and this is the only source of income for the family. Still, most of the times, he somehow manages to feed them properly. But lately he has taken ill and has not been able to go to work. This was the start of the real problems in Priyanka’s family.There was no one who could earn for the family. So they had to be dependent on Priyanka’s uncle. He plays Dhol in the wedding bands and doesn’t earn much. Though her father is admitted in a government hospital, the family is not able to bear his medical expenses.

With all these problems, the education of 6 girls is neglected, for obvious reasons. They don’t go to school now (previously they attended government school) and they are dependent on our regular classes now. Every single thing they need seems to be out of their reach now, be it proper food, proper residence, proper medicines and even proper education.
After all these problems, the commendable part about this family is that they have not lost their zeal to live. The family doesn’t allow their daughters to go and beg like other kids in the locality. Although they have lost everything they had, they still have not lost the hope, the zeal to live and this is what makes them stand together as a family no matter what.
We all should learn from such families around our lives. They do not have enough resources like we do but still they have chosen to live their lives with full optimism than cribbing for what they don’t have. In spite of all the difficulties, they have chosen to live the life to its fullest and make the most out of it and with the dream to have a better life.

To listen to Priyanka's full story from her, please click on the link below and watch the full video:

"Priyanka's Dream- A New Life with the same Zeal"

Dream Big- Ajay

Have you ever noticed a Kid working on a small tea shop, washing utensils, serving tea, running here and there to take orders at small restaurants? You can find them easily at any small restaurants taking orders, at tea shops serving tea, at nearby confectionery shops selling stuff or a small tire puncture repairing shops looking after burst tires of bicycles. These kids are not ordinary kids, these kids tolerate a lot of physical and mental abuses every day, they work their heads off and get nothing in return but a bread to survive, they have no one to complain and they don’t even know if they should really complain about it at all. Most of them have already accepted it as their fate and they try to live maximum out of it. They do whatever they are asked to with a smile on the face, though a sad one. But not all of them are the same. There are some, who come out of their shell and let the world know what they are capable of doing and moreover what they want to do.

In our Chinhat Centre, we also get to know one lad of such kind, AJAY. In spite of having strong inclination towards study, Ajay had to work at a nearby tire repairing shop because of his family background. Both his parents are alcoholic and don’t work at all. His father considers his age (which is mere 11 years) old enough not to study but work and earn something for the family. Ajay used to get 100 rupees on daily basis from the shop where he worked but in return he had to face the abuses from the owner. He didn’t like to go there but had to because of his father. But when he saw us, teaching kids in his locality, he finally gathered his courage and left the job. He started coming to our classes and now he is one of those most sincere students in our classes. He loves to study as he has never been introduced to any kind of formal schooling ever.

Ajay is one of those few kids who dare to come out of their unfortunate conditions and struggle to get a better life. He has to struggle everyday to come to our class but he’s just not ready to let go of it. He knows very well what is good and what is bad for him. You can always see a strange, pre-matured maturity on his face. But he never lets you feel sorry for him. He shares his sorrow with you and draws a dark patch of sadness but quickly lightens the environment with a meaningful ambitious smile which clearly shows how desperately he wants to change his fortune.

Ajay clearly knows how can he change his situation and he is working towards it with the help of our classes. And hopefully, we will definitely make a change in his life and light it with the happiness all around.

If you want to hear Ajay's story from him, please click on the link below:
"Dream Big- Ajay"

Dare to Dream- Sanjana

You always get to learn something new whenever you start something fresh. We humans always tend to discover new things out of every task we perform in our day to day lives. Sometimes it may turn out to be quite shocking and unbelievable. In our case also, when we started our endeavour towards teaching the underprivileged, we actually discovered a lot of untouched facts of our society. The more we got into their lives, the more shocking facts we got to know each day. Among these, one of the facts that really shook us was the condition of primary education in our government schools.
This story revolves around Sanjana, one of our brightest students. Sanjana, who has 5 sisters and 3 brothers, comes from a family where education for the girl-child is not a priority for the family. She goes to a nearby government primary school but is strictly told by her mother that her studies are not going to last beyond 5th grade. She is very sincere and bright when it comes to classes and it was from her that we learnt about the actual situation of her government school. In her class, there are around 50 students who come from the lower income families. They rely on the school for their career and education but there is hardly any teaching happening. Sanjana told us that her teacher hardly comes to class and even if she does, she comes only for the attendance and then sends some senior students to teach. This is how children survive in most of the primary schools run by our government.
Due to this situation Sanjana totally depends on our open study centre which is helping her. She rarely talks about her family in front of anyone but whenever she does, you can find her eyes moist. Her mother is an alcohol addict and Sanjana really feels bad about her mother and wants her to quit alcohol completely.
Sanjana, in spite of being so sincere towards our classes, has to skip them at times as her mother wants her to finish the daily chores before leaving home.
Sanjana loves to go to school as she likes her classmates, she likes their company a lot but at the same time, she wishes that her teacher teaches them sincerely.
Sanjana is just a small example of how big the problem is of our system being so inconsiderate when it comes to education. If she would have been taught properly in her school she would have not needed us. And why only Sanajana, all the students who go to primary government schools, depend on them for their education. When the parents see their children not benefiting in terms of education, they lose their interest and stop sending the children to schools.
So if we really want the underprivileged children of our country to be educated, the government and the society will have to work together in the direction for stabilizing the current situation of our Primary Schools. Hope it gets better soon! 

If you want to hear Sanajana's story from her, click on the link below:

"Dare to Dream- Sanjana"

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Dreams To Fly- Krishna

We were trying to stabilize our second center for which we were taking weekend classes in an open ground in the Chinhat slum. The number of students was approaching to a decent number day by day but still we used to notice one lad every day that used to wander in the open ground, playing with marbles, watching others study but preferred to stand and watch. In spite of being asked many times to attend the classes, he was rigid enough not to. Finally after cajoling for a month or so, he started to sit halfheartedly with us, when he saw that others were actually enjoying the classes. It was then that we got to know our cute devil, KRISHNA. 
Krishna resides in the same slum with his family. He has 10 brothers and 3 sisters. Yes, you read it correctly; he has 13 siblings surviving in a very low monthly income. But we could see a shine on his face, though he didn't have fancy clothes to wear, he didn't take bath regularly, he had dirt covering his body but still there was a charm in his personality, an attitude saying 'I'm not inferior to anyone'. So that's how he started his classes with us and now he knows complete ABCD and loves to recite it in front of anyone without any hesitation. He is one of those kids who have been transformed drastically. It gives us immense satisfaction that Krishna who also used to beg like his brothers has now quit it completely. He knows that those who study don't beg. 
One day, we got to know that Krishna was seen smoking BIDI (Indian Cigarette) with one of his friends of his age. We were shocked with the fact that these children indulged in such practices at such a tender age. But that is the tragedy of these 'ignored by all' slums and its dwellers. After all, kids imitate their elders, copy whatever they see them doing, so we had to take extra classes on 'Effects of Smoking and Tobacco Chewing'. After this, Krishna promised us never to smoke and is scared of the ill-effects of smoking. 
It feels really good when we see him improving day by day. Now he's taller, more polite, much cleaner and most importantly way more interested in studying and learning. He wants to be a pilot and wants to drive all types of wagons, not because he has a passion for driving but because he is fascinated by these vehicles. We just hope and pray that one day Krishna meets his Angel Fortuna who makes his dreams come true. 

If you want to hear Krishna's story from him, click on the link below:
"Dreams To Fly- Krishna"