Running in through the school gates , making castles by the beach or just a game of cricket under the scorching sun are a number of faces smiling , weeping , laughing , complaining , fighting and enjoying. By the ice- golawala asking for a free ice ball , by the grocery store demanding a free tazo or by the balloon-man getting ‘A Pink Balloon’ , you pass by them and you can’t stop but smile as those memories tickle your heart and take you to back when you were a child .
As we swing through these words we imagine colorful things , nicely dressed kids , our big schools , and all the good things , all in all a pretty great childhood …but the scenario can also be a kid running in through the school gate to provide tea , or making castles because they don’t have toys and playing cricket with the litter around . It can be a free ice-ball which they ‘begged’ for or a kid ‘selling’ ‘A Pink Balloon’ ; and in a split second we realize that childhood is not that great for each and everyone of us .
Caught up in this monotonous routine which we call ‘being busy’ , be it at a traffic signal or a market place , we see such kids…naah – we stop , notice , pity and move away sometimes giving them a penny or two. But neither do we touch their lives nor do we make an effort in making at least one of this life worthwhile . And the maximum we can think of is donating food and clothes because they sum up the ‘GOOD DEEDS’ for us . But to be actual good is to be a ‘shooting star’ if not a ‘wish come true’ in someone’s life . And that is what Kinjal Shah and Miraj are to the 100 underprivileged kids who come to them seeking knowledge .
Started 8 years ago with a motive of educating the underprivileged children , SHWAS today helps with the education of 100 kids of which 26 have now been admitted to private schools and their finances are looked after by the NGO.
“For the initial 6-7 months we taught them in the gardens or their vicinity after which we started teaching them in municipality schools on weekends . We used to teach them hygiene , cleanliness , nutrition and indulge in extra-curricular activities with them for nearly 3 years during which we realized that they have immense potential . It just needs to be channelised . So we started admitting them in private schools and teaching them for 2 hours daily . And since the past 4 years we have been doing this !!” , says Kinjal with an unusual spark in her eyes .
Soon I turn to Miraj , a teacher and supervisor at SHWAS , questioning how teaching these kids is different and he says , “ They lack basic knowledge and have to be taught everything from the ABC of a subject.”
And no wonder that with a C for cause comes C for challenges leading to C for change. “ Space was a big challenge . After 3 years tenure with the municipality school got over we had no space to teach . And school dropouts , early marriage , gender discrimination are always ‘IN’ when you work for a social cause. But we talked to the parents , convinced them and it worked in our favour. We even got this place and it has given us many fruitful years.” , she says while taking a quick glance at the place. And my eyes couldn’t escape that expression full of flooded memories – the good and the bad times which her face gave away.
Girl Education , one of the most cliche topic , on which all of us love to talk , advertise , draw and paint with only a few of us doing something worthwhile , we forget that , ‘Talking big is nothing but doing small can definitely lead us to something !”
“Usha , one of our students is presently in 11th commerce . Her parents are so supportive when it comes to her studies and even she is very dedicated . She passed her 10th grade with flying colors though she didn’t know gujarati when she started coming here.”,
says Kinjal with proud eyes as a soft ‘Hats Off’ escapes my mouth.
“We learn to be humble . We learn to get going no matter what . Before I was very poor with giving interviews or speaking up but now I can . We are a family , all of us here and Kinjal always inspires us . It is the way she loves these kids that I admire.” , says Miraj, summing up his journey.
And as I near the end of our conversation I ask Kinjal if she would like to give a message to the people out there and she says,” You have to go out in the community and talk to the people to know their problems . Sitting at a place and developing some app wouldn’t solve it when they don’t even have smartphones.”
And as I drive back I can’t help but be in awe of their work and as I breathe in – I remember SHWAS – breathing in dreams , passions , smiles and laughter. And suddenly the air around seems a lot lighter and full of joy and happiness as I realize that a number of tears have now been replaced by smiles , broken hearts have now been bandaged and unfiltered minds are now being channelized as finally we can have TAARE ZAMEEN PAR for real!!