Summer Internship with Teach for India — Yojet from Ramnarain Ruia College

Daily Winner for: –  7th August 2012

Name of the intern: –  Yojet

Institute: –  Ramnarain Ruia College

Organization interned with: –  Teach for India

“We dance for laughter, we dance for tears, we dance for madness, we dance for fears, we dance for hopes, we dance for screams, we are the dancers, we create the dreams.” This quote by Albert Einstein is what defines the people of Dharavi, the largest slum in Asia.

All cities in India are loud but nothing matches the 24/7 decibel level of my Bombay, where traffic never stops and the horns always honk.Noise,nevertheless, is not a problem in Dharavi,the teeming slum of one million souls, where as many as 18,000 people crowd into a single acre. By nightfall, deep inside the maze of lanes too narrow even the putt-putt auto rickshaws, the slum is as still as verdant glade. In Dharavi, everything old becomes new. Nothing is a waste here. Plastics and other trash are recycled to form scales, combs and slippers. Dry cowhides end up as purses and jackets.

For I have taught kids of this slum area, who talk and walk Dharavi. For I believe in being the change, the change which I want to see. I did my internship with Teach For India for eight months. My job as an intern was to assist a Fellow in teaching and along with a co-volunteer was responsible for teaching 3rd-6th grade students.

It was a Municipal school named  Rajshri Shahu School. It was more than just a school for kids and me. The way they saw it, and still see it, as a place where they can forget all their family and social problems. It is a place where they share their untold emotions with someone close — emotions which are not vocally spoken about but physically unfolded — and it makes me feel rather proud than just pleased and satisfied that they have (I am still in touch with them) someone to open up to. Because it’s an almost impossible task to persuade these kids mentally,with all the barriers they had formed around themselves owing to their myriad hardships.

The school’s infrastructure was competent enough to admit a thousand to two thousand kids. My school had nine wash rooms of which two were always flooded by the outside sewage canal. It had only one house-keeper responsible for the cleanliness of the whole school. It had a playground for kids to play football and volley-ball which at times, even I joined. Secondary school students had their lectures in the mornings and primary school students had theirs in the afternoons.

My class strength was 32 kids, predominantly boys. I, along with my colleagues, taught them mainly English and Mathematics. Both were taught through various activity-linked sessions. We used to ask them to meditate after they came back to class after recess. My class consisted of different categories of kids. Some showed abusive characteristics, some displayed violence, triggered mostly by the former reason. These were the initial traits that kids of my class showcased, because it took time for them to settle down with the new Fellow and volunteers. But later towards the end, a new relationship was created. A bond that these kids started to rely on, started to trust. This was a special kind of bond which couldn’t be expressed in the manner in which it is supposed to, yet it was overwhelming and just an out-of-the world experience. One is not bound to experience such things in private or government based schools.

As time passed, I started analysing these 32 kids more closely. On inception, I found that, of these 32 kids, 2 of them sought to have a special need i.e., Occupational and Speech Therapy. So it was time to let my contacts work like a charm so that these two kids, Abdulla and Farooq could get that which they were denied due to financial reasons. With everything in place, I still see to it that their therapy is continued as long as financial aid is provided.

It was not just assisting a Fellow or analysing and observing student’s behaviour but along with all that we even used to visit a student’s house to get to know him/her, his/her background which could help us in handling him/her in the class. After visiting we used to go home by burying our minds in deep thoughts, as to reality was so hard to accept. This internship had everything, no proper electricity, windows which if opened could damage your olfactory lobes, ceilings of the class room which could have fallen any time, no locks on the doors to stop these kids from running out of on-going classes, a giant municipal dustbin for the locality which was dumped right outside the school gate and extra effects given by a meat shop, and everything extreme — you name it, this internship had it. For the fact that the school was located in Dharavi itself satisfies all the conditions of ‘having everything’. I couldn’t do anything but accept it the way it was.

Had I not done this internship, I don’t think I could be the person I am now. Because this internship gave me a whole new platform, be it on a professional, personal or social level. Only now do I realize how important it is to save a drop of water, because one save by me makes a lot of difference. By the end of my journey, all that I could count was the love, affection and blessings offered by my kids and their parents and also the non-teaching staff in my school. The word ‘bhaiya’ has been treasured since my last day at Rajshri Shahu school, as this precious and meaningful word still echoes in my head. It reminds me of these lines from Silverstein’s poem, Colors:

My skin is kind of sort of brownish pinkish yellowish white.

My eyes are greyish blueish green,

But I’m told they look orange in the night.

My hair is reddish blondish brown,

But it’s silver when it’s wet. And all the colors I am inside

Have not been invented yet.

This poem epitomizes the essence of the kids from my class, filling Colors by their own life in mine. Some call Dharavi an embarrassing eyesore in the middle of India’s financial capital. I call it home.

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