A nice house, a car and a beautiful wife in the hustle-bustle of the metropolitan city, Delhi. I couldn’t be asking for more, addicted to the comfort life has been offering lately. One day my childhood friend Shivam called me. Shivam, who completed his education from USA, like many others who dream of handsome salary and settling in foreign country, differ from masses and wanted to come back to India to take an active part in the process of making a difference. Much to my surprise, he started working for NGO called Jagriti foundation. Life is for living but for some it has different meaning. Prolonged suffering makes the poor kneel down in front of rich.
Out sweet home, shelter the happiness proliferating every day; ever wonder that the people making those bricks on which foundation of our homes are laid are homeless. Being poor would not have been so dreadful if these Brick kiln Owners who are rich & influential people weren’t around. It’s a degenerative cycle of pain, sorrow, poverty where land less farmers who has no funds for living due to either with some natural calamity i.e. drought, flood or liquor kneel down in front of interlocutor who supply cheap labor to Brick kiln owners and become migrant labor. These farmers go to the Zamindar mortgaging their land the series of events follow to make him lose all he had. Several similar stories end up reaching to the brick kilns, setup at the exterior of Kanpur. But this isn’t the end of the story, the story begins here.
Helplessly they watch themselves perish working in those brick kilns .They are brought to the work here with family in absence of basic necessities of life & deprived from anything we think of. On top of it they are Paid but not enough to satisfy their hunger. Some are born along the way and some die. The story is about those who are born, not aware of the bitterness life has in stores for them. When the children of age group still pissing in their pants, they become the helping hands to their parents and some guardian to the younger ones. Where every day is a struggle to get food and water, education seems a far sighted goal. Apna Skool (Spelled like this only) is a conceptualization of flexible schooling for those who have been deprived to the right to education due to several reasons. As a matter of fact the young ones have to contribute to earn the mere wages.
Apna School is sun in the evening so that they can come after finishing their part. Contrary to expectation of Imparting knowledge is not an easy task. But beating a number of odds there are several Apna Schools running. One of the hurdles is the light without which our lives turn upside down. So, we decided to distribute solar lanterns to the schools.
With a feeling of pride and sense of achievement already, I got ready to leave for IIT Kanpur, where my friend Shivam stays. We, I and my friend Sawsat took solar lanterns and banners of RISE foundation. We reached IIT KANPUR and enjoying the picturesque view of beautifully landscaped gardens sprawling with greenery, spotless clean pathway, well structured building and the icing on the cake was the peacock dancing in the garden. After the beautiful morning start we planned to go to APNA School, but the taxi driver declined to go there after knowing our schedule. Shivam told us that didi has arranged for Maruti Van to visit the school. Face of kanpur changed when we moved out of IIT, if one moves further into outskirts it is worst.
Then come the air so black with coal dust, one could not avoid but notice. Under the scorching summer heat, it was very difficult to be there even for sometime. There were bricklins with a lot of people working to earn a living. We visited the first Apna skool which was a virtual school, a black borad under a shade of tribute some bright sparkling eyes starring that blackboard, an emotional turmoil had already engulfed us seeing that, then we decide to move to other school after giving the solar lantern demo.
Second school was a low rise four walled structure covered by dried grass and bamboo shed, but few little things like multicoloured flag, fruits & vegetable chart paintings etc imparted an unique belongingness of those kids to the school. Small ones, who were mainly rag pickers, welcomed us whole heartedly with a mesmerizing smile. They sang a patriotic song and perform a group dance for us. Joyfulness in their heart could be felt very well.
After that we proceeded to third school where we met Didi. Didi is an extremely sensitive yet practical old woman in her 60s. She held one small boy in her arms and inquired about his studies. To my surprise she knew every kid by his name and shared a special bond with each one. We also had some young volunteer student of IIT Kanpur to support the cause.
We got hand made paper caps, friendship bands and colorful paintings from kids as a token of love when we left. With Didi we visited some more school & tried to educate about solar energy and use of solar lantern. At last we visited Apna Ghar, which is a hostel to facilitate the education of outstanding student who come from Apna School. All of them had a big dream in their eyes, to be successful human being to change the destiny written in their hands or forced upon them.
Thanks to Bhartendu Chaurasia, Shivam, and Saswat Sahu of RISE Foundation to share his feelings and Experience.