Friday 19 July 2019

Being A Champ In Your Own Little Way

I had back to back trips in April, May and June this year. So I have gathered quite a few alternate learning moments.

Surfing through Facebook groups I see an opportunity in a college that does not believe in degrees. It was a short assignment for roughly three weeks. I ping the Education head on Watsapp, get interviewed and few days later I am on a train to manage one of their centers.

I had taken up this assignment to know more about this sector – education, housing, environment- in a more practical way. I was very keen to work in the social sector and my decades of experience in corporate was kind of hindering this. My mind was open to observe and build my learning on these short meaningful experiences.

Soon after I landed in this center that was running a month long summer camp I get to hear from all the facilitators, Ayahs and even the wardens about one particular girl who was  just not attentive in class, never participated, or wrote any notes and  always demanded everyone’s attention to herself – Ok now that is a long, tough one.

I made a mental note of her name and decided to spend some time.

In the corridor of the hostel, I found a short haired girl calling "Maam" repeatedly with a sense of urgency. I did not realize she was actually calling me as I was heading towards the Dining space. I stopped as I heard her, waited for her to walk to where I stood, looking at her inquisitively to know what she wanted to share that was so urgent. As she approached me I asked her what is it that she wanted to talk to about.

Her response, “Are you going to the Dining Space?”

Even before I answer, she slowly walked away without another word.

That’s when I knew this was the girl they were talking about.

A couple of days later, one of the girls mentioned, “Maam, she does not write anything in class” to which my dear girl had a ready response in Hindi “Kaahe ke liye likhu main phokat mein” (Why should I write for nothing?)

I saved my sermons. I stifled a smile at the way she spoke.

In the next two weeks I had brief sessions with her when I received complaints from other girls about her temperamental outbursts, all of them ending up in Hi fives to lighten the atmosphere and returning to their rooms as friends.

In mathematics class I noticed, she actually did not attempt to solve any sum and as the class ended, she quietly slips her notebook into her bag and comfortably moves to one corner of the auditorium so that the facilitator who is busy with other students misses her completely.

I was in that class to observe the facilitator's mode of delivery but I had my eyes fixed on the girl. I slowly walk towards the sofa, made her take that notebook out and complete a couple of sums - just multiplication. That is what she needs every minute – undivided attention to get her to do anything.

On the day of final ceremony, she was in tears and threw tantrums as her costume was given to another girl and she refused to perform in spite of practicing for three weeks. We promised to arrange a beautiful costume for her, but she did not budge an inch and kept asking me to talk to Maam, however she did not name anyone – So I wasn’t sure who I should approach.

I understood it was not easy for the child to be abandoned in the last minute for want of a costume - on the day she was supposed to perform and handing over her costume to someone else was all the more hard to deal with. 

And yet, the little girl was mindful not to mention any facilitator's name who did this to her. She wasn't even blaming anyone. She kept repeatedly telling me to talk to all Maams. I tried to imagine, in a scenario like this, how would an adult behave? 

What a champ she was! And sadly, we adults fail to recognize that.

I held the dance facilitator responsible for this as she had to  have the exact count based on performers for each act. She had a rationale though to give the costume to another child as the other girl was performing in the first row. The Dance facilitator promised me she will own this up and definitely have the crying child perform on stage after another costume is arranged – which she did.

By the end of the day, the young girl was very happy as her costume was indeed more beautiful and she looked very pretty.

After the ceremony, once we were back to the hostel, many girls began collecting phone numbers of their favorite facilitators as the next day morning the girls were supposed to return home.

She was a happy child now and caught me just outside the dining space door, sat down in the chair nearby, asked for my number and beautifully, carefully noted every digit in her note book with an ink pen, as I dictated.

I sat beside her, appreciated her handwriting and reminded her of the day when she told “Why should I write for nothing?” I asked her, "Now do you think writing is important?" She was too shy as I reminded her behavior the first day and her approach towards writing. She smiled quietly.

I saved my sermon for the last day. I have no idea what was her takeaway from the camp but mine was simple – Never to give up on any child.

While most of us try to see potential in a child for a job driven market, we miss to notice the underlying promise of a good human being in the making.