No one gets to decide where one is born. Very often, the life an underprivileged child leads, also comes with a trail of societal prejudices, that draws the line between the haves and the have-nots. Even if it’s as elementary as going through primary school education. But sometimes, we can make a choice of changing that equation for a few children. If we want to. Spend some time with little ones who hope to be better off than the family they come from. Sometimes teaching or sharing, sometimes just cracking a joke.
This is not the choicest of public schools that would be granted a second look when you pass it by. You may not even know, there is one hidden in the by-lanes of a lower middle class neighbourhood. You may also overlook the fact that, at a stone’s throw away from the school, a sewage line overflows onto the road and is not considered a health hazard for the school children. No fancy boards, no reception area, no play-area except for an open ground full of small stones and rubble. Here, little feet are forced to feel happy for more reasons than one.
Come lunch time, and the children rush out to be fed by ISKCON’s noon meal scheme Akshay Patra. Hygienic food with balanced nutrition, through charity. The government puts in some grants to keep the school running. The teachers and staff put in their best to see at least one bright hope somewhere, one child who will be a proud alumni, maybe, from a mix of all kinds of students, some creative, some notorious.
In-between all this struggle, there is the beauty of hope. You get to meet little minds, who are also brimming with ideas. Many of them may not speak english the way the western world wants to, but these little minds also have the spark to open your eyes. Like when a little girl comes up to you and appreciates the paper bag you are carrying. Before someone thinks that she wants the contents, the little angel is just happy to know that civilized society is using paper bags, and reducing plastic!
Then there a few others who have surprised the teachers so well in art, that their work adorns the office of the headmaster, who is due for retirement in 2 years. He shows us the stationery a software company has given for the kids. He preserves the pencils and the geometric boxes with care under lock and key, for the next batch of students. It also opens our eyes to small needs that a student in a government school may have, something, which our kids just take for granted.
It is easy for us to feel good when we leave the school and thank the forces that be, for the prosperity that many enjoy. But we have more to do. We have to go back and tell our kids that there is a sea of children who are not so lucky, but delightfully smart and waiting to be taken care of. Maybe, they already know. Some students in our apartment complex approached us for collecting toys and books for underprivileged children! One couldn’t just help wonder, that maybe our kids are now more thoughtful than many of us.
We could call it a choice. We could call it a commitment. But if there is a little bit that we can push ourselves to think for others without an iota of prejudice, it could be to provide an equal platform for young underprivileged minds and tell them that they are all beautiful inside.
Artworks by students adorn the school office wall at Govt School No. 92, Sanjeevi Nagar, Hebbal, Bangalore