My first experience of social service

[Post updated on April 20, 2016] There’s this organization in Pune called Eklavya Nyasa, that works with the children of Commercial Sex Workers (CSWs.) Recently, my employer wanted some volunteers to go to this NGO and interact with these children every weekend. I jumped at this opportunity!

It was an overwhelming experience! For the first session, we decided to play with them and to generally speak to them about traffic rules, personal hygiene, and about India, by asking them to participate in skits. Since we were the first batch to go, we also had to share our experiences with the batches who would go on future weekends. This post contains a part of an e-mail that I wrote to the group about our experience:

“All right, as far as yesterday’s experience goes, there’s loads and loads of stuff to write. For starters, I would like to say that these few hours that we spent with the kids gave us peace of mind, and disturbance of mind, in equal proportions. Peace, because it’s a wonderful and soothing feeling to be amidst these children; and disturbing, because behind those smiling faces is hidden a truth so bitter, that makes us feel very, very fortunate as compared to them. And the difference hurts!

Okay, so after a fair amount of brainstorming on Saturday, we met at the DagduShet Halwai temple on Sunday, practiced our skits, our dialogs, went through our “Do’s and Don’ts”, and went to the building where the kids gathered to read and play! Indrayani Gavaskar (The chief coordinator and daughter of the founder Renutai Gavaskar) was there and so were a couple of kids. We sat down and started speaking to them, sticking to our formula of “likes-n-dislikes: yes, personal-n-family questions: no”. Slowly, lots of other kids started flocking in, and believe me, if one did not know their background, they would seem very normal. We started asking their names, their favorite movies, games, actors.

We played Antakshari with the kids, and the younger lot seemed to enjoy it a lot. But there were older kids too, and they looked a little bored.

Hmm, then it was time for the long-planned skits. But no, the children refused to do any sort of skit. They were pretty much interested in mimicry and stuff like that, but when we tried coaxing them to do skits on topics, they wouldn’t budge.

So, the change of strategy: we simply had to get all of them talking about how much they know and understand about traffic rules, personal hygiene, and India.

Much to our surprise, they knew most of the things. Traffic Lights and Zebra Crossing, washing hands and having bath, dressing wounds, brushing teeth, they knew it all. That they didn’t really practice all that is another thing.

They knew our National Anthem very well, and the Pledge too (which I’m sure most of us volunteers did not.) They also knew the 3 colors of our flag, the Ashok Chakra, etc. And they had a quest to learn, because when we mentioned Ashok Chakra to them, they started asking us questions about the Ashok Stambh, the Sarnath Stupa, the “structure with 4 lions” on currency notes, etc.

I mean all-in-all, they were a bright lot. They were extremely interested in listening to stories, so we had story-telling sessions with them. We played games too, and they knew all those games before.

One thing that many of them did not know was reading the clock. So each of us grouped a few kids and taught them how to do it.

There were quite a few talented kids, and well informed ones too. For example, we were pretty surprised when a boy called Ramzan told us that Italy won the FIFA World Cup, and that there was a head-butting controversy during the match!

Vaibhav is very good at painting, Sooraj at making crafts (he had made this very cute caged lion), and most of the other kids seemed genuinely interested in learning something creative, BUT not in form of lectures or the usual “study” ways. That was pretty obvious by the fact they rejected our idea of skits forthright.

Okay, now to the darker side, because the above description shows only one side of the picture. There was this girl Pooja, who asked me at least 4 times whether they were going to get “dabba“. (they were hoping we had brought them goodies).  There was this girl who was called “Don” by her friends because she was quite aggressive at times (the reason for her behavior being her abusive father, which we learnt later), there was this guy Ramzaan who generally kept to himself and didn’t get involved with others, simply because if there was a fight, he couldn’t control himself. Well this list could go on and on and on, but I don’t know whether this is the right platform to list everything.

Neha came up with a very good idea that we can have some kind of a collaboration with the Andha Vidyalaya, wherein the older children from Eklavya Nyasa could write the exam papers of younger kids. This would have 3 benefits: 1) the kids would get to interact with the outside world, 2) the ones who will write the papers will feel that they too can be of some use to others and may be 3) they will realize that there are other underprivileged people in this world.

Another thing I would really like to appreciate is the way the guys gelled with the kids. I have always observed that boys generally don’t take to young kids, girls are better, but I must say that all 4 of these guys completely washed away my belief. The children really flocked towards all of them, and they too handled them absolutely comfortably.

Well, there’s a lot more to say, but I’ve written such a long e-mail that I think half the recipients are not even going to read it fully :-)))))

So more about this, when we actually meet.

But as a bottom-line, this was definitely a very enriching experience, and it would be a pleasure and an honor to have more of such kind.”

 

 

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16 thoughts on “My first experience of social service

  1. It is feared in this post “half the intended recipients are not going to read it fully”…… , dear Amrutha. But, I do not endorse this. A live experience always is interesting. And, when it, the experience, flows from heart it exerts a tremendous hold / grip. At least, I assure that I am not in that “half”. I further assure that I would be a regular visitor of your blog as a sincere disciple because I came to an insoluble conclusion that you are a “miner” – a conscientious “miner” – at work at the “mine” which I have been believing to be a great treasure of human talent, spark and creativity.

    Even with regards to the “Hi-Fi” knowledge of “cricket”, “world cup”, “Italy”, “FIFA”, etc., I admit with a little shyness, I know nothing. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for your efforts and the idea of sharing them with all. I would be even more “gratitudious” if I am given an opportunity to steal the efforts of your team members – your fellow “miners”, if any.

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  2. Amruta,….collaboration with the Andha Vidyalaya, wherein the older children from Eklavya Nyasa …with the benefits listed is a wonderful idea.

    In fact the point where it will make them realise that there are other underpreviliged children is a stroke of genius.

    Reminds me of the oft heard line, `I complained that i had no shoes till i saw a man with no legs’

    Really, i hope some day life i am able to get out of the rut and give back to society. Some day, sigh.

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  3. Hi Amruta,

    Reading this blog took me back in memory lane, when I used to travel in Pune TCS bus and I had overheard a conversation on this topic between somebody sitting in a nearby seat. Somehow I had not seen who was talking. Now I know one of them was you! I felt sad at the plight of these kids that day and today again, when I read this blog. Its great that you got a chance to go and help them in some way.

    Btw, I got to your blog from Kedar’s blog. He happened to mention me today about his blog and eventually your blog. I read some of your writings, you are too good at it. Your thoughts are beautiful.

    You can never imagine how a person could be by merely by looks, but you tend to form some image of the person in your mind. And its a strange feeling, when you actually come to know about the person through some means.
    In this case its your blog! I had seen you in bus, but never knew you were such an intellectual person 🙂

    Keep writing… you just got a new fan! 🙂
    Best Regards
    Nalini

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  4. Hi Nalini,

    Well, I read your comment the first thing when I logged onto my machine today morning. And I must say I was pleasantly surprised! 😀
    Thanks for all your praise, and welcome to the blog. 🙂
    Keep reading and writing in! 🙂

    P.S. : Are you not with TCS any longer? I can’t really picture you….any hints?

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  5. Hey… Good morning

    Yeah I am in TCS…in Milpitas, California. What about you?

    I don’t think any hints would work, coz we never spoke. Even I couldn’t picture you until I saw your snap on orkut. I thought of adding you in orkut…but stopped after reading – no ‘new’ friends! I don’t know which category I would fall – old or completely new acquaintance! 😉

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  6. Hi Nalini…a very good morning to u too. 🙂
    I work at TCS Nyati. 😐 hehehe….
    Well, my orkut profile also says that i’ll add old and new ‘known’ friends…. and by the way of kothrud Bus, and this blog, i definitely know u now! 🙂
    And ofcourse, u know for which kind of people that sentence was inserted rite!!
    Sure u can add me! 🙂
    Anyways, so, any more comments/suggestions about the other posts?

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  7. An experience everyone can relate to!

    My first rendezvous with Renutai was a bit weird. As a student, searching for her in Budhwar Peth, I landed up in the Police Station. And that’s where she came down looking for a strudent who was supposed to meet her. And since then, my life transformed..

    I am sure, any and every one who have been to Eklavya or has been in otuch with this context at some or other point of time, they are going to understand what lif eis.

    By the way, a friend of mine wanted ot know about Eklavya, and while googling the same, I found this link. And could not resisit commenting.

    Cheers & regards..

    Frd. Darshan P. Mundada

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  8. Hi Darshan,

    Thanks for ur comment, and welcome to the blog!

    Well, I am sure this comment of urs will make all my readers curious about knowing how ur life transformed. Could you please share it with me, and them?

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  9. Hi!

    Hey, Thanks for the reply! Though I read it today!
    I’ve just started with a blog.. So hope I pen down my experiences in this field.. Though I am not too good at it!

    Cheers..

    Frd. Darshan P. Mundada

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  10. Hi once again Darshan!
    Well, the last time I read your comment; I thought your name sounded a little familiar…So googled your name and found that you were an able activist; and even Mr. Abdul Kalam has metioned about you on his site. Wow man!! Got to read about the work you do as well. Hats off to you! 🙂
    Plz plz do share your experiences and your thoughts. Me and all my readers will be very happy to read them.

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  11. Hey Amruta!!!
    Just encountered your blogs..All of them are very well written!! That was anyway expected from you [:)]
    The reason for commenting on this particular topic is that I actually wanted to speak abt it with you..
    You might be wondering why I suddenly disappeared from the Eklavya work ( I know I haven’t done much), but still..here I get the space to express it..

    To be very frank, the few hours I spent there gave me lot of disturbance of mind with little peace of mind.. I was shocked at the superficial casual appearance of the kids..The appearance don’t tell u what they might be actually going through at home/society..what’s their fault and what can we do but provide a temporary shelter? I might sound pessimistic but I couldn’t help thinking about the future of the kids, especially girls. There are many well meaning volunteers and mentors at Eklavya who are doing great job there. But at the end of the day, they still go to their homes and they not being adults, all their decisions are taken by their parents. How can that be avoided? How can we protect them? How can we make sure that they lead a normal life ahead?
    I am sure you must have gone through the same turmoil at your 1st visit..Please share..
    –Sayali Kulkarni

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