A few months ago, I grabbed a golden opportunity of visiting a child shelter home and spending some quality time with them. Initially, I was hesitant to enter a dingy place emanating foul odour and speaking to strangers but I mustered the courage to get into it. I along with five more volunteers were baffled seeing a score of teenagers in tattered clothes sitting on the ground without a mat. We wondered who would dare to break the ice and start a conversation with them. They were staring at us from head to toe. Our attire and the expensive cellphones in our hands amused them. I took the challenge of initiating the conversation. I greeted them in the humblest tone possible. To our surprise, they responded in chorus with a lot of enthusiasm. It gave us a positive sign of the frolicking day we were going to have.
After dividing them into groups of four, we commenced our session which included a myriad of activities. They quickly told me their names. The four kids allotted to me looked malnourished with white patches on their bodies. My sympathies arose when I got to know that one of them was an orphan whose parents had died when he was six years old. The boy’s melancholic face after revealing this fact forced me to digress from asking any personal questions. I chose to change the topic to their aspirations. Surprisingly, all four of them were more ambitious than me. One wanted to be a teacher, the other two had a passion for aeroplanes and the fourth one aspired to be a doctor. Saving people’s lives so that they don’t have to part from their parents was his pursuit. My eyes welled up with tears on realising how the bereavement he was subjected to motivated him to dream something so big.
The session was turning out to be an emotional one. I wanted them to have fun. I looked around to get a cue from what my comrades were upto. They had started with the academic part. I too, started with Maths and did not expect them to know the tables upto 15. They were bubbling over with joy when I appreciated their mathematical skills. Making them converse in English was a tedious task but their curiosity to learn English and be one of us was evident from their body language. One of my students thought that Gandhiji was still alive and struggling to oust Britishers from our motherland. But I fell in love with the world they were living in – full of whims and fancies. The revelation of the fact that I possessed a car, a computer and had a room of my own was difficult for them to believe and digest.The next hour, we were cracking jokes with each other. All the cares of the world slipped away. Three to four hours elapsed and we decided to bring them together for dancing. One of the volunteers played a Bollywood number on his cellphone. In no time, we witnessed all of them grooving to the beats of the song. The radiance of their smiles was infectious.
However, the dancing session was interrupted by the mother of one of the kids. She had come to take him to the garbage dump where he worked. My protests turned futile as she shouted at me saying that they aren’t affluent like us and had to employ their kids to work and earn money. The angst when she was narrating the trials and tribulations these people had to go through moved me.Those kids and their kindness taught us some of the most valuable lessons of our lives. They showed a burning desire for getting educated and get out of the vicious circle of poverty.Their kindness and aspirations had brought about a sea change in my perspective towards life.Those moments will remain etched in our hearts forever. I remember one of my volunteers saying,” These kids have big dreams. Their dedication and focus is a unique one. They will realise their dreams one day. If not, they will definitely touch the fringes of it.”