“Maa! Your photo”, shouted the 8 year old Boy as his mom turned back with a smile.
Mom: Rohan, 40 teachers including me have been awarded “Best Teacher” in the state, the poster is in that regard.
Rohan: Even I want to become a teacher when I grow up and win an award like you.
Mom: That’s nice, what will you be teaching?
Rohan: I love stories, I will teach them about it. Everyday a new story! ~ There was a twinkle in his eyes as he said that.
Mom: They don’t teach that at schools beta!
His innocent eyes dropped down to the ground as he mumbled “I don’t want to teach at any school, I want to teach them.” ~ Slowly pointing towards the street kids playing with a broken ball near the Metro station.
Mom: What made you say that? ~ intrigued by her son’s innocent yet powerful words, she became curious to know more.
Rohan: Maa, whenever I go to school, I find them there and also when I come back they are still there. I figured they are scared of school as I was, so I thought why not I teach them myself when I grow up and make their fear disappear.
Mom ~with tears in her eyes, she hugged him close: I am proud of you my son, I wish I was more like you.
That day changed something in her, she started to see a dream, the one which she saw in her son’s eyes, and she knew somewhere down that she would leave no stone unturned to realise it.
That gut feeling got stronger with leaps and bounds in the next few days as she journeyed herself for the very first time to the places she only heard of, to hear their plight which was unheard.
Next day (Hindi version at the end)
Sakshi: Sarla, How is Roshini? Which grade is she in?
Sarla: Madam ji, she isn’t going to school anymore. The only school in our neighborhood had got closed as its roof had fallen down.
Sakshi: Haven’t you got the complaint registered?
Sarla: We had got it done a number of times but there was never a response. Even if the school reopens, there are no teachers to teach.
Sakshi: So what about Roshini? Will she not study further?
Sarla: Madam ji, Roshini would turn 16 in another two years. We will find her a nice groom and get her married to, then she would be all happy.
Sakshi: Will she? Won’t you let her study and grow up to become someone with a decent job?
Sarla: If it was their in her destiny she would have studied further but it isn’t so. So we could only do what is left with us.
Sakshi: Destiny isn’t written by someone, it’s written by us. Take me to the school tomorrow and get Roshini along. Let’s see what we can do.
Sarla: Okay Madam ji.
Rohan: Mom, are you going to teach there?
Sakshi: Let’s see, I have no idea as of now.
After a moment, Rohan went close to her mom, teary eyed and hugged her tightly.
Rohan: I love you mom, I love you.
: I love you too champ.
That day when she visited the school and the area around, she understood what poverty could do to a person or a family and realised education would be the first victim. Her priorities to change this were set right the very same day, the day she met Roshini, the girl who wrote beautiful poems which were way above her age. In a way, she saw herself in Roshini and she wanted to provide her with the necessities for her to become someone special, someone who could realise her own potential.
The situation, in the meantime, was grim; the school had been converted into a den of gamblers and alcoholics. The stink of the place was so disgusting that people had abandoned the area completely and moved to safer places. The only option left was to start the school in the housing society she lived. So with a lot of effort and with active support from her husband she managed to open her school, her life which it became for years to come. She had to convince a lot, for her first lot as the parents were hard to change but eventually they budged and so the journey began. With 10 students in a class then, the number grew to 100 in a couple of years.
“Shantaram School” as it came to be known became popular with time, attracting many socially responsible individuals with good number of youth among them. The curriculum of the school was allowed to be twisted to make every student understand and learn the way they could benefit the most. New courses began, arts was introduced where children were taught about dance, music and literature. The dream was growing and it reached its sweet moment when an individual walked in for an interview to teach in the school.
Sakshi: Tell me about yourself.
Him: Ma’am I am Ryan, I have a degree in engineering and would like to teach your students about the art of story telling.
There was an indefinite pause after the last word was uttered, and before Sakshi could say anything he continued.
Ryan: I know it sounds strange and a little comical but I think it would be a great help to the students. It would allow the imagination to grow, it would allow them to create and believe they could possibly live them one day. And when they do that, I am pretty sure they will rewrite their own story into something better. That’s what this school which I have heard a lot about is trying to do, and I just want to add to the same effort.
Sakshi ~ with a smile on her face: Can I see your writings?
Ryan: Sure ma’am. I even write poetry as you can see.
Sakshi: “Inch by inch we shall strive, till success we are alive.” That’s a nice quote.
Ryan: I wrote it ma’am.
Sakshi: The writings are impressive, let’s see how you deal with the students.
She took him to the nearest classroom and made herself comfortable in the last bench as she heard him narrate the story. He began with his part as he drove the attention of the students and the lone teacher in the class, and ended with a thanks to his inspiration and the title of his story, “Best Teacher“. Her eyes were on the brim of tears as all the children in the class looked up to her and the claps never stopped.
Hindi translation of the conversation between Sakshi and Sarla
“Sakshi: Sarla, Roshini kaise he? Aur woh school ja rahi he na?
Sarla: Kahan Memsaab, school to kai dinno se bandh pada he. School ki chhath bhi, do din pehle gir gayi.
Sakshi: kissine complaint nahi ki Kya?
Sarla: Kiya toh tha, Lekin koi fayada nahi he Memsaab. School khul bhi Jaye, koi teacher padhane ke liye razi nahi he.
Sakshi: Phir Roshini ko padhaogi nahi?
Sarla: Aur do saal ke baad, 16 ki ho jayegi. Shaadi karwa denge uski, tabhi khush reh paayegi.
Sakshi: Tum nahi chahti ki woh padh likh ke naukri Kare?
Sarla: Agar uske naseeb mein hota tho padh leti, Lekin lagta he uski kismat mein itna hi likha he.
Sakshi: Naseeb haton ke lakir se nahi, khud banaya jata he. Kal Mujhe uss school tak Le chalo, aur Roshini ko Bhi lete Aana.
1. Beta – Son
2. Class- grade/standard
3. Ji- It is used out of respect for someone.