Its been a week, more than a week per-se, since we were there. Aniket and I. With Veeru consistently behind me for the past whole week to pen down my experience, he finally gave up too.
It was not reluctance or putting it for later, but the sheer fear, that I might not capture the entirety of the essence of the experience, might not fully translate the intensity of emotions that we went throu or just do justice to what it really did to my conscience.
It was the day of confrontation, I was a jerky mess. I haven't done this alone before. Got up very early, with tightened nerves. Still the tape of the last few days were replaying on my mind, is this going to make a difference, how is going to affect me? Would I be judged pretentious? What is this going to be in the long run. Finally, opted for an open mind and went with the flow of what was planned.
The place was far from where I live, after much asking around, we reached.
The first sight of Ramchandra Kurulkar Trust, supported by Sewa International was far from what I pictured. We are o enamored by the images that movies throw on us, on how service based organisations are filled with trees and laughter, a playground and happier than thou kids. But no. This was a dilapidated old flat, a but dark and damp (blame the dampness on the recent splashes of rain). It was a battered old building, trying hard to retain its sanity in the spew of weather changes. Not digressing here.
We went in.
Discussing with the trustees and Ramesh (our handler), we understood with poor public funding, and a non-existent government support, the trust was purely running on SEWA International's financial support. And yet they have done an awesome work in providing for the children the best they can. They also discussed how it is a challenge to convince the parents of the children to give them education, most of whom are emotionally abandoned by their parents at a very early age, after discovering their challenge.
Some kids were getting curious, some shy and Guddi was supercute , they tried to sport an occassional glance and very rarely a smile while we were taking a tour of the place. The place was very minimal, even missing some of the basics. They had converted three single-bedroom flats to accommodate the 60 children, their classrooms, kitchen, sanitary needs etc... The place needed a lot of upkeep, they have done their best with the teachers and most of the staff getting zilch in pay, and still continuing to serve was quite heartwrenching.
The trust had done the best with the little they received and still unbeaten they continue their service. When they uttered, 'whatever you offer in time, kind, support, however negligible, we shall be grateful'.
We were served lunch in the terrace, while, we were also introduced to everyone. The kids were super-awesome. They were born challenged, but the smiles on their faces could make up for all the madness in this crazy world. Some tried uttering their names, saying a namaste, while some smiled with all their heart and the rest shied away behind a coy 'Hi'.
Lunch was served and we had our wholesome meal between stealthy glances,shy smiles, a tete-a-tete with the staff, in the terrace on a monsoon midday. Distant mountains, dark clouds, moody weather and the green silence around added to the deep serenity of the hour.
After lunch some kids joined us downstairs. What started as a singing soiree, later developed into all the kids falling in to dance, to a self-sung song. Music was in the air, smiles all over, we added some chocolates to the laughter and the cheer. Our volumes went a notch higher, that neighbours came out to watch, smiled heartily and returned to there hiding spaces. Our little gala came to an end with us bidding goodbye to everyone.
Walking out, all the kids and staff from four different floors, screamed goodbyes peeping through their windows and doors. Peering through we were consistently waving our hands, incessantly smililing, holding onto our hearts from popping out of our mouth, uttering byes.
We promised we will be back.
We promised we will be there.
We promised that this is just a beginning.
So mote it be.
Other Places of work...
ASMITHA: JOGESWARY East: School located in a lower middle class locality. Service activities of various types in and around locality to help poor. A select group say from 8th , 9th and 10th can be identified and interaction can be had with them on setting career planning, goals in life and self motivation etc. Having food with only a select few will be a bit odd. I can find out how many attend morning batch on an average. http://www.asmitajogeshwari.org
Gruhini Vidyalaya, Mahim:
Hostel for 20 tribal girls where they are traied as nurses. They attend classes and practicals from 9 to 5 and return in the evening.The visit may happen only after 6 pm.
Kurulkar School and Hostel for Deaf and Mentally Retarded , Panvel:
This school provides free education and hostel to 60 handicapped tribal boys and girls. Deaf and Mentally Retarded children are identified from the district by volunteers and admitted here.