It has almost become a habit and we blase about it..
The class X results were out and all the kids passed with a few compartments, mostly students who had joined us recently or were very weak when they came to us, some even failures..
At a time where reservation is spliting the country wide open, these children are a proof of the fact that with a little help and large doses of positive stroking, kids pass and with good marks. Of the 28 project why kids more than 8 have secured more than 65 marks with 2 having crossed 80. These are students who can stand on their own and compete with any peer and succeed.
I do not know what caste they are, to me they are simply children of India who deserve the best. If we can , with our limited means and resources, ensure such results, does it not prove that what we need is well run schools to erase social or other differences.. The question is do we really want them to succeed?
In my quest for a future for Utpal there have been many lessons that have come my way. The overwhelming support for this child, the kind words of people from far away lands have crated a network of friends till date unknown.
Many have also pledged their support to finance this child’s education and maybe he could stand as an example of how a good education from the word go can make any child compete in an open field.
The first step was to locate a residential school which was not too up-market and in or near Delhi. We did find one, an hour’s drive away and it looked very promising. The school authorities were willing to accept him provided Project Why be the local guardians. We got our legal friends to draft a small paper which stated that we would assume responsibility of this child. Everything seemed to be on course till a mail dropped in my mailbox with a new draft from the school.
While some parts of the document was acceptable – assurance of payment of fees, participation in PTAs etc – there were two provisos that were beyond comprehension. One that the school would not be responsible for any mishap that occurred in school or during picnics. The other that we would be responsible for any legal claim made by parents/relative/individual/ government etc.
Utpla may have had an initial setback when he sustained burns, but he is a healthy young boy. Now any child can either develop a problem or get hurt and a residential school has to assume that responsibility. As for the legal claim, Utpal has a mother who by the law of the land is the sole person to decide on his future.
The draft the school sent makes me uncomfortable as it subtly sets Utpal aside from the others. Will he then be treated fairly or is this one more case of preconceived notions based on the origins of a child? Here is a case of a baby who has been in our care from age one, and who has received the kind of attention, care and love that our kids get. Come to think of it, more than many as he has people the world over willing to help and ensure he gets the best in life. One would have hoped that the school would accept him as a challenge.
In the light of the reservation issue that is dividing our land, Utpal’s story stands out as an example or how difficult it has become to smooth differences and yet the only hope we have is that such preconceived ideas are done away with and a healthy acceptance of each other sees the light of day.
I have always held that many of the problems in India need to be addressed simultaneously from top and bottom so if the non-political committee to review the entire reservation policy that is being sought by students is the top, then maybe securing Utpal’s future is a step to be taken at the other end.
Wonder what a mundane potato chip and a prayer to God have in common..
Yesterday I had a fall as the old knee gave in resulting in a badly bruised ankle.. An ice pack and bandage later I hobbled to where Utpal was playing.. he stopped and looked at me with a quizzical face.. Upon hearing what had happened he got up and went to a fetch his pack of potato chips and with a serious face took one out and told me to eat it as it would take the hurt away.. then he declared that he would pray to bhagwan to make it all well and turned his little face up, shut his eyes and folding his hands he sent his simple petition to the heavens..
I cannot find the words to express the multitude of emotions that filled me as i watched this little fellow pray.. The room was for that moment in time filled with palpable much energy and divine light..
His prayer finished, little Utpal went back to his toys leaving us all overwhelmed by the power of what had happened..
Needless to say my pain was gone..
God listens to children.. maybe we should too
Once again the dreaded happened: two young children of india took their lives away in the land capital city because they failed their Boards examinations.
This has been happening with obsessive regularity and yet no one had don anything to put an end to this..
Wonder what goes into the head of a child that makes him take this extreme irreversible step
Is failing in a set of questions in a limited number of subjects – some so inane and useless to life – tantamount to failing in life itself.. is our society so perverse as to judge a human life in whether it knows how to add, or remembers some statistic or the other.. is it the parents who put undue pressure, the peer group or the inadequate opportunities our society gives its members that make a child who has barely taken a few step in life take this momentous decision..
Imagine the sense of despair that the child must feel at that moment..
It is not the child who has failed but we adults who have made the norms of success so narrow and bigoted that they cannot account for those who are otherwise endowed.. Who knows the child who took her life may have turned out to be a musician, an artist or maybe just a good human being, something so rare that we have forgotten its relevance..
I work with people who by our standards are failures as they have never passed an ‘examination’ in their entire lives and yet when one looks at them, one can see that they stand far above what we call successes, maybe not in material terms but in what makes a human being worthy of that name. Mothers who never give up, women who carry on their station in life in circumstances that would make us give up a thousand times, men who toil so that their children can have a better tomorrow, people who may have nothing but are generous to a fault..
What makes my blood run cold is that every year, as if on cue, one or more children take their lives after failing in a school examination and we do nothing barring a few chuckles of sympathy. One child dying for in this way should be enough to make us stand up and do something.. There is something terribly wrong in this numbers game which is foul in more ways than one..
I cannot begin to express the sense of immense let down I feel, when an illiterate parent comes beaming from ear to ear with his child’s school results wanting to share the joy of the child having passed. A glance at the report card where no number exceeds 33 and the words grace marks jump at you, are sufficient to prove the worthlessness of this piece of paper where the word PASS stares at you. You know the child will ultimately go the same way as his parents, as the certificate gathers dust and fritters with age..
What is this pass fail ka khel and can someone change the rules?
Ram Pyari, Nanhe’s mom had told us that she was off to the village for a few days with Nanhe. We thought nothing of it, though we wondered why she had chosen the hottest month to do so..
Yesterday we were taken aback when she came back and told us that actually she had taken nanhe to Narayan Seva Samsthan’s specialised hospital in Udaipur for his leg surgery.. I remembered her telling me a while back that she had registered at the polio camp held by the Sri Sumathinath Jain Navyuvak Mandal in Delhi last year. At that time we were worried about nanhe’s general condition and I had not given much heed to what she was saying..
Seeing Nanhe back with his smile and a cast on his leg led me to stop what I was doing and savour a very rare moment.. here was a mom saddled by destiny with 3 disabled children, a woman who had lost her husband and who fed her tiny family by selling cucumbers in the day and boiled eggs near the local watering hole at night, a mother who had never given up on her child, no matter how ill or debilitated he was.. one who had found the options possible by herself and left not stone unturned to see her last born walk, even for a short time..
Ram Pyari is a rare woman, one who takes on life with a smile not matter how bad it is, who never gives up and knows that miracles happen when you want them to, and above all that they happen when you have the courage to walk alone.. and a smile like nanhe’s to light the way..
When I come across women like Ram Pyrai, I feel tiny…