A Class Act

If one is ready to brave, more than bear, the excruciating pain of constant familial and social ridicule, especially the one layered with virulent disdain and septic contempt, the exhilarating gain of transforming offbeat paths into beaten tracks knows no bounds. 

Thanks to the arid, bureaucratic mechanisms of conventional NGO bodies, proletariat activists and CSR practitioners across the globe, social responsibility, knowingly and unknowingly, has come to harbor several blatant assumptions about the larger cause of end-beneficiaries (often generically slotted as ‘target groups’ or ‘deprived’ communities) Overlooking the fact that deprivation is only circumstantial and in no way indicative of the instinctive and intellectual capacities inherent within the community, the supply-side forces rush to emancipate the downtrodden, and sadly, they are themselves rendered deprived. Busy peddling jargon-heavy black and white prescriptions, they are unable to spot playful smiles behind suppressed yawns that the ‘deprived’ reserve for the  ‘privileged’, led by doubt more than disbelief. 

My workshop intervention programs have been a mixed bag of trials and triumphs, including both dazzling success stories and dismal failures. Since I have never felt the need to showcase my "track record", the outcomes of these interventions hardly guide the future course of action. Shrugging off every disappointment and steering clear of dangerous assumptions following every accomplishment, I march on barefoot, unearthing profound truths following every interaction with the target audiences, who more often than not are kids.    

2019 was an year of scintillating discoveries. Thanks to the prompt help of activist Rahul Shende (who runs an NGO called Urmee in Pune), I was introduced to a few ZP schools in and around the vicinity of Pune.

After a few horrifying 'experiences' with blatantly conniving teachers, highly suspect managements and stone-faced government authorities, I finally gatecrashed into a ZP primary school nestled in the lap of rustic environs, exuding an elusive charm that one can sense from afar. The motive was to directly interact with the teachers and students and try to gauge any need for enablement in some form or the other. The head mistress was low on comprehension but very high on compassion. Rahul took the responsibility of paper work (the usual application letter with photocopies that eventually rest (read rust) in peace in some godforsaken store room) and the headmistress helped expedite the "approval" from the higher-ups.

Luckily, all 'mandatory' things fell in place and I landed at the school one fine day, ready to mingle with the cheerful students of class I, II, III and IV, all seated in one spacious classroom.

In a month's time, many of them - Kartik, Karan, Megha, Arjun, Kartiki, Aarti, Sanskar and Saima   among others - showed exceptional grit and gumption to absorb the umpteen freewheeling lessons on Math, Science, English, Sanskrit and General Knowledge that came their way without warning. Mind you, these are the kids of nomadic brick klin workers, seeped in abject poverty and alarming deprivation. Yet, the self-springing resolve that a few students showed should be enough to inspire the whole nation towards positive thought and action.

Meet Kartik (right) the wonder boy from standard IV, a pro at picking up the right accent and intonation. He feels at home with both words and numbers and can now comprehend the logic underlying Pascal's Law. He can recite a poetic proverb in chaste Sanskrit (leaving no trace of  his native twang) and he understands the essence and credence of the famous Einstein's Riddle.
To his left is Sumeet, a confirmed brat, who was quick to sense the need to be with Kartik in the snap. The native urge to mingle with a superior mate is earthy intelligence that invariably fuels progression. Hats off to Sumeet as well! India needs both Kartik and Sumeet to pave the way forward in this era of artificial intelligence.