Pushpa is an incredible woman of substance and yet nothing about this diminutive, ever-smiling woman reveals her indomitable strength. She too is one of the many masters that Project Why brought into my life. She has taught me patience, determination, resilience and serenity.
Pushpa came to Project Why a decade and a half ago looking for an opening as a teacher. I warmed up to her immediately and offered her a job. She belongs to the very community she serves. Sometime later, Sophiya, another teacher, told us about the plight of children in Okhla, the area where she lived, and how they were targets of multiple predators looking for easy prey. There was no school in the area and no organisation that could care for them. I knew what had to be done but did not know how. Pushpa was quick to offer to assist Sophiya find a way to start a centre to help these children. I had no idea what it would entail. The area in question was an industrial one, with factories and small slum clusters tucked in between.
The two ladies began classes in Sophiya’s house in the morning and set out to seek greener pastures in the afternoon. A few weeks later they both came to me and said they had found a ‘place’ and wanted me to go with them ‘see’ it. After a bumpy drive we reached what could be at best described as a garbage dump and I was a tad crestfallen as I could not see how it could be transformed into anything close to a children’s centre, but Pushpa in her soft voice told me that it was possible and that all it needed was a little ‘sprucing’ up! What I did not know at that moment was that the two ladies had already spoken to the local police and local politicians and obtained permission to ‘use’ the space. I was clean-bowled by their spirit of enterprise and nodded my agreement. Trucks of garbage were removed, truckloads of earth brought in, and lo and behold a few bamboo sticks and some bright blue plastic sheets was all that was needed to begin our work.
What ensued was a battle of wits between the local baddies and my two strong ladies. Every weekend the fragile structure was brought down and ever Monday the two ladies would erect it again till the day when the breaking stopped. They had won the war!
Today the Okhla centre is a beautiful space with incredible energies. It reaches out to over 350 children and employs 12 staff from within community. It has primary and secondary classes and a computer centre too! runs like a clockwork orange under the firm but gentle hand of Pushpa. No one can imagine the trials and tribulations she went through from cleaning ‘poop and puke’ to standing up to the local goons. She has never lost her smile even when faced with the biggest adversity.
Pushpa is an example to all of us. She is respected by the staff, the children and the community. She runs her centre with determination and pride and epitomises what Project Why stands for, in all the ways that count.
Pushpa has truly given wings to my dreams.
Have you met a teacher like Pushpa? Been taught by a teacher like her? What do you think of the teaching model at Project Why, where members of the underprivileged community are empowered and supported so they can teach and empower the community in turn?
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