children

The Gift of Education #FundAhamBhumika

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Sanuj bit his lower lip as he peered through the tiny peep-hole on the wall of the teachers' meeting room. He could hear the teachers furiously arguing inside. He tried to make sense of their words, but for a five-and-half-year-old, they spoke too fast for him to comprehend. But whatever bits and pieces he could understand only stood to confirm the rumour that had been going around for a few days now. Nine-year old Adisha had first heard it from Khurram Chacha, the friendly uncle who cooked  biriyani for them every Friday. Though he had mentioned it in passing, a shocked Adisha had mentioned it to her younger brother, who them faithfully passed the news along, and very soon the kids were in a state of panic.  

A sudden gust of dry, hot wind rushed through the open corridors and Sanuj was forced to step back from the wall. He vigorously rubbed his right eye, trying to agitate out the dust particles that the breeze had deposited in his eye. His ears perked up at the distant sound of rubber chappals slapping against the cement floor of the corridor. He would get into trouble if someone knew he’d been snooping. Grabbing hold of the tattered cloth bag that held all his belongings, he rushed barefoot across the verandah and out into the large open courtyard. Hopping and skipping over the burning stones that adorned the unkempt and dusty courtyard, he made his way towards the giant banyan tree in the corner.

 

Trying to catch his breath, he lay down under the tree and gazed at the thick branches that intertwined with each other, almost blocking out the sun in its entirety. He took a deep breath, inhaling the humid, dry air around him. On a whim, he sat up and brought his cloth satchel onto his lap. Shuffling through the eclectic contents, he pulled out a children’s book, that had definitely seen better days. The cover was tattered and corners of the pages were curled and yellowing. In fact, some of the pages were so brittle that Sanuj had to be extremely careful while turning them, so they wouldn't crumble up like confetti. But it was his book and he cherished it. Well, in reality it was someone else’s book that had been donated to them. But he’d picked it from the giant box that that Dubey Sir, the head teacher, had brought and it was always by his side. He gently opened the book and took a whiff of the pages. It smelled warm, dusty and moist; just like the bark of banyan tree he was lying under.

 

He didn’t know why, but the scent of the book brought a smile on his face. Closing his eyes and clutching the book tightly, Sanuj lay down under the large banyan tree. He still remembered the day they’d come home. Well, he called it home, but in reality it was nothing more than a dilapidated shed he shared along with his parents and four other sibling. He’d been with his sister, Kalya, in the forest behind their home, trying to forage for anything remotely edible. Even as they’d examined a strange looking root, they’d heard the loud roar of the jeep. Curious to find who it was, they’d headed back and had found two well-dressed middle-aged men in their courtyard, talking to their father, Madhu. Sanuj remembered how amused he’d been to see his father shake his head vehemently at whatever it was that these men had requested of him. Eventually , when they handed over a large sack of rice and some provisions, for the first time in his life, he saw his father break down. Later, he would come to know that those men were from a nearby NGO. They were donating rations to every family and in return, were requesting that they send all the kids in their household to the school they had set up a few kilometres away.

 

And that’s how he and his siblings had ended up coming to this school run by the NGO, two years ago. Today, most of the kids in their village could read, write and even communicate well. But all that was about to change. Because, if the rumour that they’d all heard was true, then the school was going to shut down, because of lack of funding. A few tiny tears formed on the sides of Sanuj's closed eyes, and rolled down the sides of his cheeks. He did not want to go back to scavenging through the dangerous forests for food. Or for his brothers to do the odd-jobs at the chemical factory down the hill. Or for his sisters to go into town with his mother every day, and work as domestic help. They all enjoyed coming to this school and learning. They loved the books and the little lessons they were taught every day.

 

If only, someone would fund their school.


 

What if you could? Would you? 

What if I told you that the above story isn’t fiction? What if I told you that it is a true story? A slice of life from a land not too far away from where you are? And what if I told you that together, we could all make sure that kids like Sanuj could continue to get their education and have a better life?

Yes, it’s true. A bulk of our country people are underprivileged and cannot afford even the most basic things. Across India, there are a number of NGOs, comprising of people from all walks of life - yes, people like you and me - who strive tirelessly to help these underprivileged people. Aham Bhumika is one such NGO.

Who are Aham Bhumika?

Aham Bhumika is an NGO. A group of like-minded people, from all walks of life - artists, housewives, engineers, tourist guides, teachers, government employees - who have come together to help uplift the underprivileged in rural areas of India.

What do they do?

These are some of the things they do:

  • Collect clothes from donors & distribute them to those in needs - like the kids in Anganwadi and schools, adolescent girls and widows in villages
  • Prepare sanitary napkins from donated cotton clothes & distribute them to village women who can’t afford to have even a clean piece of cloth during menstruation.
  • Collect grain for ‘Grain Bank’ and provide it to the destitute, disabled and orphans living in villages. In exchange, the only thing they ask are to enrol the children in schools  ; They even take the effort to deliver vocational training for the destitute and disabled and help them earn a better living
  • College books from donors and establish informal libraries in the villages, helping the kids develop the joy of reading.

 

[You can read more about everything they do here]

 

The Crisis

As in the story above, the pre-school that Aham Bhumika runs in Borda, Bhopal, is facing an acute shortage of funds. Despite all their best efforts, they are struggling to fund their on-going rural-preschool program. While a lot of generous individuals have been helping them stay afloat all this while, it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to fund this project.

Presently, there are 40 rural children from the underprivileged category who attend this pre-school. As you can imagine, all of them, kids like Sanuj in the story above, look forward to going to school and learning, in the hopes of a better future. But without extra funding, all their dreams and hopes will vanish. Aham Bhumika say that they need a minimum of Rs. 14000 a month, to meet the expenses of the pre-school. This is where we come in.

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So what can we do?

Of course, the first thing is you could pick up your wallets or handbags and donate some cash towards the school fund.  Remember, no amount is too big or too small, and every little helps. After all, it all goes towards a good cause and education.

Here are the details you’d need :

Online bank transfer/ Cheque payments can be done using following information:

A/c name: Aham Bhumika Swayam Sevi Sanstha 
SAVINGS ACCOUNT NO. 2073101015874
IFSC Code- CNRB0002073
Bank - CANARA BANK
Branch - MAHARANA PRATAP NAGAR, BHOPAL
Please send them an email to the e-mail id  --> ahambhumika@gmail.com with the following information:
Name,  address , donation amount ,PAN number and Contact number.
 All donations are tax exempted under Section 80-G of Income Tax of India.

Additionally, you could also contribute to Aham Bhumika in the following ways:

  • If you’re in Bhopal, volunteer with them and share your skills and knowledge to help others
  • You could also donate clothes, books, toys and grains  to their collection centres in Bhopal.
  • Or if you’re really feeling iffy to donate stuff, you could buy some of these amazing rural merchandise that they sell.[gallery type="slideshow" link="none" ids="3356,3357,3358,3359,3360,3361,3362"] From hand embroidered cushion covers to gorgeous paintings to hand-painted shoes, there are plenty of items that’ll tickle your fancy. You can check them out either on their blog, or their Facebook or Twitter pages. Alternatively you can also email them at : ahambhumika@gmail.com for more details and find out how you can contribute.
  Of course, if you’re a blogger or you write, another way to support them is also to write or blog about the initiative and about the work they’re doing. Use the hashtag #FundAhamBhumika on social media.  So, how will you be contributing today?
 
 PS. This is not a sponsored post. We’re all doing it to spread the word and in the hope that together, we can support NGOs like Aham Bhumika who are trying to help the underprivileged live a more meaningful life.
All images and information have been taken from the ‘Aham Bhumika’ Facebook and Twitter pages and their blog

So, you want kids?

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Indian society has a problem. We somewhat detest the live and let live’ philosophy. Rather we’re followers of the live and let’s tell others how to live their lives’ movement. And true to this ideology, if you happen to be a single person on the slightly northern side of the age scale that begins at twenty-one, it is highly unlikely that you haven’t been asked even once - “So, when are you getting married?”. And even if you somehow manage to run away from that question and eventually with someone you want as your better half, they come up with the next question - “So, you’ve been married for ’n’ years - no kids yet?”. Sadly, there's nothing much we can do about it apart from silently mouth, 'Mind your own business!' Or deliver that witty and sarcastic one-liner we've been carrying around.  

As the father of a 33-month old cuddly, yet at-times overly active toddler, I have my hands full. Pretty much all through the day. Anyone who says that looking after young one(s) is not considered as a ‘job’ in the real sense of the word - kindly get a rectal examination done - your head seems to be stuffed all the way up your behind. Because, trust me - it’s the mother of all jobs. And hats off to every single mother on the planet for making it seem so effortless. I guarantee you - it isn’t as easy as it seems.

 

Ever since we’ve had our little one, there have been times that we’ve questioned the sanity of our decision to have kids. Yes, it is incredibly delightful - sometimes like living with walking, talking, laughing, utterly cute and cuddly teddy. But at times, it is also a rather dreadful experience when neither you nor the kids know why each of you are throwing a tantrum or bursting into tears over something as silly as a broken glass vessel. Yes, it’s a mixed bag of emotions, feelings and experiences, to say the very least.

 

During my pre-fatherhood days, I’ve often mused about this whole parenting thing.

What is it that a kid brings to that already healthy equation of two loving partners who mean the world to each other? Is a kid necessary for you and your spouse/partner to complete the picture of a ‘perfect’ family? Or is it because you are really worried about your lineage and that without kids, it may stop with you? Or is it because you love your parents so much that it has been your life long dream to give them grand kids?
  There were plenty of such questions running through my head when we were trying to decide if we wanted kids. And to be brutally honest, even as we waited for the home pregnancy test unit to show either the plus that would make us jump up for joy or the minus that would just make the optimists in us try again, I still did not know the answer of many of these questions.   I got around to writing this post because over the past year, ever since my ‘Daddy Journals’ started gaining a bit of popularity, I’ve had a few friends and readers ask me this question - if fatherhood/parenting is so awesome as you make it out to be, then why aren’t more people taking it to it? I could be plain blunt and answer that question with the charismatic smirk of a know-it-all diplomat and say ‘To each one their own’. And while that as a phrase is as good an argument as any, on a more personal level, I can only tell you what I’ve learnt.   For what it’s worth, I’d like to share it here:  

Do not let anyone rush you into this parenting thing. Because once you’re a parent, your very life as you know it, will change. You will still have late nights - except that the drinking and dancing will now be replaced by a feeling of helplessness while trying to figure out what a confused little soul wants. Oh, did I mention a confused ‘crying’  little soul? Enjoy.

Parenting is complicated. It always will be. People will try to 'un-complicate' it for you, but remember this - only YOU can do that. Because every kid (yes, even each of your own) is different.

There are no shortcuts or right ways to parenting. And no, there are no coursebooks. It is mostly a learn-on-the-go kind of practical lesson and you must be open to trying out what best works for you, your partner and your kid(s).

Having kids is like trying to eat your favourite ice cream while trying to navigate a heated obstacle course filled with LEGO bricks and other every day objects. Yes, if Daddy Journals ever got made into a movie, LEGO bricks would play the supporting cast.

If you’re lucky, until they grow up and are ready to clean after themselves, every day will involve either dirty diapers, poop-y behinds, sniffling noses, watery eyes, various bumps all over the body, chipped tooth, messy clothes, wiping drawings of Picasso off various surfaces such as walls, tables, sofas and sometimes even your favourite white shirt, projectile food and picking out stuff from your hair or pockets and being held to ransom over going to bed and wanting to play.

If you’re extremely lucky, you may get to see all of these in a single day. Sort of like the weather in magnificent England.

 

However as with everything in life, parenting has this balance which you must experience to see the blissfulness.

Like in my case, I was happy as a person before I met my wife. But having her in my life gives it a whole new meaning - a new dimension of happiness that I cannot begin to describe. And with my little one added to the mix, I’m now happier than ever. For it is a strangely humbling experience to realise that you will do everything in your power to make your kid’s life as perfect as you possibly can.  And despite the constantly messy, confusing and exhausting life that I have now, I am richer and feel more loved than ever before.

 

Plus you have the perfect excuse to eat ice cream almost all the time and play with toys and video games.

Jokes aside, there is no right or wrong answer to why you would or wouldn’t want kids - there are just careful, deliberate choices. So if you do end up having kids, make sure you give them the best you can. And if you don’t want kids, well, you can always be the fun uncle or aunt - all the fun but not much of the pain.

 Image courtesy - shutterstock.com


Extinguished

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As the December wind whistled through the dry leaves of the Amaltas tree in their back yard, she tossed in her secret blend of spices. "Ammi-jaan, Faruq and Imran will be coming home with me after special class. Can you make your special biriyani please?”. His teenage words rung fresh in her ears, as the aroma of the spices made her eyes water. She wondered why. After all, she’d been making this biriyani for years and not once had her eyes filled up. ‘Why today?’ she wondered, as she mixed the spices with long, amber grains of the basmati rice. Her little boy was growing up fast. She looked at the haphazard drawing of the car, that Khalid had drawn on one of the pages of his notebook. She still remembered the excitement in his eyes, as he explained each part of the model to her, completely oblivious to the fact that she didn’t understand anything he was saying. She’d never been to school. But she knew it was important to him. So she'd carefully torn out the sheet and pasted it on the cleanest wall of the otherwise sooty kitchen.

Wiping her moist eyes, she smiled as the Imam called out the ‘Salat-az-zuhr’. ‘Allah, please take care of my son. May all his dreams come true!’ she whispered, inadvertently reciting the prayer with the Imam.

A few miles away, as the rickety Land Cruiser pulled away, fourteen year old Khalid lay by the road side, his eyes wide open, his bullet ridden body devoid of all life. Back home, as his mother lovingly added the final touches to the biriyani, the flame of the gas - stove suddenly went out.


 

Authors Note:

Truth be told, I had written this piece the previous Sunday. Two days later, when I heard the news of the Peshawar attack, I was in shock. Not just because of the brutality and the massacre of those innocent souls, but also because to me, it seemed like something I had written as fiction had actually come true. And for some inexplicable reason, my conscience was guilt-ridden. As if somehow, my words literally came true. And that somehow, in some minuscule way, I was responsible too. (Have you ever felt that way?)

I'd almost decided to delete this piece from my draft folder, where it was constantly haunting me. But then I decided to publish it anyway. Not just a dedication to the hundreds of innocent dreams and ambitions being quashed every day. But also to serve as a reminder to me. To bring up my son to be a more tolerant and better human being. And for the thousands of dreams that were crushed to pulp by those cowards hiding under the shroud of misplaced and misconstrued faith. 

P.S. The original ending was this, but I changed it because the coincidence was far too creepy for me.

A few miles away, fourteen year old Khalid lay on the classroom floor, his eyes wide open, his bullet ridden body devoid of all life.
 Image: Freedigitalimages.com

Spotting Santa

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I cannot help licking my lips as I watch Gary cover the sponge cake with dark-chocolate frosting. There is a certain finesse in the way that he applies each layer, just gentle enough to kiss the surface, but merciless enough to make sure that it stays on. I know that there is work to be done, and that in approximately four minutes and twenty-three seconds, Chef Pierre will be screaming out my name for not having done the dishes. This would be followed by him thundering into the room, picking me up by the collar and rattling me like a toddler’s toy. I should know - we’ve followed the same pattern of events every Christmas eve, for the past eight years I’ve been employed here. Despite that, my gaze is fixed on the piece of art that Gary has been perfecting for the past three hours. And as I stand there, hiding behind the thick curtain that separates my kingdom of grease-laden pans, grimy cutlery pieces and soap suds of various shapes and sizes, there comes the booming voice calling out my name. “Georggggge….!”. I sigh loudly. Not because of my name being called out incorrectly. I sigh because a large blob of glistening dark chocolate frosting has broken the ranks and smoothly slid onto the floor, where it will soon form a dark, brown pond of melted chocolate liquid, which is of no good to anyone. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to taste that delicious cake that is being constructed!

But wait! Where are my manners? Let’s start again. This time with an introduction. My name is Jorge. Jorge Gabriella. And I’m all of ten years old. And before you call me ‘George’, let me stop you - it’s pronounced ‘Hor-hey’; Yes, I understand the difficulty. And yes, I blame my immigrant Colombian parents too. At least, I think they were Colombian. You see, I’ve never known my parents. I grew up in an orphanage in Jersey, and when I was two, I was kidnapped and then sold to Roberto Maquis, the owner of this grand restaurant that I work in. Or so I've been told. And today, I reign as the undisputed leader of the ‘Clean Pots, Utensils and Pans’. Or the C-PUPs, as I call them.

I know what's passing through your mind. Why don’t I run away? There is a good reason for that. In exchange for my cleaning the PUPs, I get all the leftovers that I want and a comfortable bedding made from the empty sacks that the onions come in. I don’t go to school, but I do get $10 every week, something I have been collecting for as long as I can remember. I also don't run away Mr. Maquis says he has a lot of connections and that he would find me, break every bone in my body, and not give me any food. And if I’m honest, I don’t want to risk it. Plus I don’t really know where I’d go if escaped.

But there is something that I’ve always wished for. To celebrate at least one Christmas like how they show in those movies. With friends. With family. Waiting for Santa. Opening presents. Have a nice roast for lunch. Watching lots of television. Drink lots of egg-nog. And then go to sleep with a tummy full of food and heart full of warmth and love. Not that I don’t enjoy my Christmases. I have a day off on Christmas. But since there is no one to look after me, I’m usually locked up at the restaurant. I know it sounds awful, but it really isn’t that bad. Gary usually leaves a piece of roast chicken with some mashed potatoes in the fridge for me to have on Christmas Day. Of course, Chef Pierre or Mr. Maquis doesn't know about this. They’d fire Gary in a heart beat if they come to know. Thankfully, they both leave early on Christmas Eve, so it’s usually Gary closing up.

I normally spend the rest of my Christmas Eve up in my little corner in the attic of the restaurant. It gets quite chilly there at night, but I like to sit by my little circular window and look outside. Last year, I even tried to stay awake through the night, so that I could catch a glimpse of  Santa as he slid down ‘The Humberg’s’ chimney to deliver little Ethan his presents. Sadly, I fell asleep. Not this year though.

Gary has offered to take me to his apartment this year. He even got me a camera - a shiny, red one - so that I can capture a photo of Santa delivering presents. He also told me that I shouldn’t be upset if I don’t actually get to see Santa. But I’m sure I will. Gary lives in a really, tall building across town - one of the tallest, he says.  I like Gary - he’s the only person here who cares about me. He gets me presents and cooks me nice meals, without any one else knowing. I wonder why Rachel told me to be careful around him. Rachel, is one of our station chefs by the way. She likes to make up stories about people, sometimes. I asked her why, but she wouldn’t tell me.

I must go now. I need to finish those vessels before we close for the day. And then I shall go home with Gary today. He has promised to make sure that I have a good time. And maybe I will spot Santa this year, after all.


[This post is written for the Project 365 program at We Post Daily aimed at posting at least once a day, based on the prompts provided. Was there a toy or thing you always wanted as a child, during the holidays or on your birthday, but never received? Tell us about it.]

Image courtesy : HDwallpaper.com