Summer internship with Pravah – Sahil from IIT Delhi

Wildcard Entry for: –  28th July 2012

Name of the intern: –  Sahil

Institute: –  IIT Delhi

Organization interned with: –  Pravah

“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” So I reach this Sambalpur station after a twenty-two hour long tiring journey and did I expect too much if I thought that there would be someone from Patang to receive me? Maybe yes. Be excited, think positive — I kept repeating in my head. Dal-chawal for lunch– nice. They had their usual lunchtime Oriya chit-chats while I stared at their faces like an illiterate. Right-right-left-right-left-right-left and I reached my home-sweet-home. It had all the basic facilities (mind you, my definition of “basic” had a shrunk version there) except a wash-basin. I locked the door to go have dinner in some nearby restaurant. “Oh my God! Is this the same place that I saw in the afternoon?” I thought as soon as I turned around. A mini jungle on the side, a red bulb glowing out of somewhere, a silent road and darkness. I was scared to death at the first instant. Right-left-right-left-right- “Uh-oh- which turn am I supposed to take next?” I somehow found my way out and I was back in the city of human beings. Relief. Had my dinner but did not want to go back to that scary place again. But I lacked options. There was a turn in those series of right-left turns where a few dogs gave me a hostile stare and followed for quite a distance. I realized my fear of stray dogs then.

I reached my room but had no clue what to do next. Browsed through the contacts in my cellphone and called my friends to feel a bit of human presence around me. The next day was almost the same with a couple of changes:

  1. paani-chawal for lunch (apparently it prevented heat-stroke)
  2. the calling list- “Sahil! Seriously? Aaj achanak?” were the responses that I got. Not their fault. Even if I was in their place I would have least expected that call.

Two people from Patang and me on a motorcycle went to a village some 50 kms away in the scorching heat to watch the 3rd episode of Satyamev Jayate with the people there. No electricity in the village, the motorcycle punctured, waited for two hours for the mechanic to arrive, realized that he had not yet taken off, dragged the motorcycle for 3-4 kms, the sun beating down hard on us. I guess I can safely call it the most frustrating day of my life when I did absolutely nothing and still ended up wasting a lot of my energy and time.

One day I got up at 4.45 a.m., took a train, then a bus and finally a bicycle ride to reach Hathiswara village. No prizes for guessing what we had for lunch. Dal-chawal. Met with the youth and tried to understand some of the problems that they were facing. One noticeable thing about villages is that everyone seems to know everyone else in the village as if they are part of one big joint family. Took a bath in the river. Dinner time. My expectations weren’t too high for obvious reasons. But to my surprise, the dinner plate had chicken and some strange looking sabji in addition to dal-chawal. I don’t eat chicken nor could I make up my mind to eat that other strange thing. So effectively, dal-chawal it was again!

I had planned a fun creative way to teach the decimal system and origami to some of the less privileged kids who came to our  “Anubhav Shiksha Kendra” (ASK). But I was shocked to see that some of them didn’t even know simple addition. A 7th grade kid among them didn’t know to read or write. I enquired of Patang people about the situation. They told me that since the inception of right to education, what some of these government schools do is that they promote each and every student irrespective of his/her performance.

I witnessed a local festival in Sambalpur. Rally of performers and hordes of people filled up the streets. Drums-variety of idols-traditional dances-unusual get-ups-cheerful faces. Great show! I was highly impressed by the energy and enthusiasm of all in the scorching heat. It being a Sunday, the Patang office was closed and I had the golden opportunity to have some rotis in lunch. I ordered veg-thali. Even their thali had just dal-chawal and some aloo. I started laughing that maybe the whole of Sambalpur was conspiring to make sure I had my daily dose of dal-chawal.

I spent a day in an orphanage- Rukmini Lath Balniketan. Played cricket and got to know a bit more about the place and its residents. Their cheerful faces were really inspiring. I consider this as one of the nicest experiences of my life. I can go on and on with the things that I did/experienced like the summer camp for ASK kids, the marriage in Khulia village, the Friday namaaz in a mosque, etc. To be honest, I think I learnt a lot more than I could give back. Maybe I could return back some day and actively contribute to Patang’s endeavour of building youth leadership for social change. All said and done, this was one beautiful experience for me  travelled places and made some great friends. If only I had some variety for lunch :P

Was this interesting? If yes, please like the post on Facebook (below) and help Sahil become winner of the week and win the prize (Rs. 1,000/-) that he truly deserves!


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