Making Connections

When we lived in the City, some friends- SAHMs like myself- and I, used to meet once a month to chat, discuss books and current issues, etc. After a few meetings, we decided that instead of just discussing social issues, we should actively do something.

So we decided to start a ‘Sanskarvarga‘.

There was a colony nearby, consisting of five or six buildings built by the government, for people of low income groups. Class four Municipal employees – mostly of the Sanitation department- lived in a couple of the buildings. The rest of the tenants were mostly poor mill workers, Railway workers on day wages, or people of the fishing community.

In the open space at the center of the buildings, there was a Workers’ Welfare Center- consisting of a clinic and a small hall. We were given permission to use this hall for our Sanskarvarga three times a week. We used to go turn by turn- my turn was on Fridays.

We started this activity as an experiment and ended up continuing it for two years. At first we taught the children songs, told stories and played games for an hour each time.

One game everyone was fond of was the map game. We had put up a large map of India on the wall. The children would be divided into two teams. Each team would ask the other team to find a city on the map. As the children learned the names of more and more cities, they began to choose obscure, little-known towns which the opposite team could not generally find, resulting in a lot of teasing and arguing!

After a few weeks, some parents asked if we would help the children with some school work. So we changed the routine a bit, and conducted activities like games and story-telling for half an hour. For an hour after that we helped the children with their school work.

There were generally 20-25 children of various ages. We usually helped them with English and Mathematics, as these were the subjects they found the most difficult.

I often remember the children. There was Johny, who lived with his grandmother. His parents lived at Mahim, where his father caught fish for a living. Johny was about eleven years old, and his grandmother was determined that he should not ‘fall into bad company’. She came to see how we conducted our class, and then started to send Johny. If the other children were occasionally lazy about attending the class, she would round them up and make them attend.

There was one girl whose ambition was to become a dancer in Hindi films. She was convinced that this was the only way to make money. We slowly succeeded in making her understand that there were many other career options too.

800px-Entrance_of_Nehru_Science_CenterThen there was the field trip we took to the Science Centre at Worli. I will never forget the joy on the children’s faces when they realized that they were actually allowed to touch the exhibits and see how they worked.

When we started our Sanskarvarga, we used to have a lot of discussions about what we should teach the children.

Then we began to realize that it didn’t really matter what we taught.

Of course we did try to help them with their schoolwork. We also tried to get them interested in various extra-curricular activities.

But I think even more important than that, was the connection that we were able to make with them. And with their parents.

During the two years we went there, we taught the children a few things. But they taught us even more.

The most important thing we learned was, that if we wanted ‘to make a difference’, we did not need to go out and try to change the world.

We could make a difference in our own little corner of the world. And I like to think that we did make a bit of difference in the lives of these children.

They certainly made a difference in ours.

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21 thoughts on “Making Connections”

  1. Wow Manju! That is absolutely impressive! Yes, what you have done is really what ‘doing your bit’ is all about. I have heard from my mother how my grandmother used to teach children of workers and servants like this.. It is amazing and its people like you who will actually touch so many lives! Bravo!

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  2. “We could make a difference in our own little corner of the world.” – Very true….If everybody realises this, the world will be even more beautiful..Pl.continue your good work….

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  3. Manju, this post will touch many…if we want, we all can make a difference. What you did is truly impressive, mainly because the honesty of purpose that comes through in your description of it.You are a shining example for all of us and I hope that those who read this post or meet you are inspired to make a difference too.

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  4. Smitha- there are many people who ‘do their bit’, we did not do anything very different. 🙂 We did enjoy being with the children, though!

    Krishna- Later we moved from the City to the suburbs, so I could not continue there, but I was later involved in a couple of similar activities. I shall write about them in another post.:)

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  5. Sunder- Welcome to the blog. 🙂

    Vinodji- What we friends did was not so impressive. And I did not write about our experiences to get praise. 🙂

    But I did write this post for a reason.My view is that there are times when a mass movement is necessary- as during the Emergency when thousands went to jail.

    During other times, small activities such as Sanskarvargas can prove beneficial to society. I think that we must cultivate the habit of doing something, however small, for our society. Not only during times of crisis, but regularly.

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  6. I did not know where to comment this…so excuse me if not appropriate!Well…I came to ur blog from Gopi’s and I just read ur blog name and all i can say is….too good…I live in the city of Lewis Carroll now! I love his works and the lines u said being one of the things I remember by heart! Will be back for more Manju!

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  7. Loved reading about your experience 🙂 And I agree it does not matter what one teaches, just talking about a hundred things is in itself a lot of learning, both for the teacher and the little (or older) pupils :)I believe this is what is called doing our bit.

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  8. Manju this is simp-ly wow! Now you understand why I thought you deserved the award (butterfly)??

    I am sure that you al made a difference in their life. But most of all I like your conclusion that they made a difference in yours. Thats the way it is. Isn’t it wonderful??

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  9. “Sanskarvarga”….what a beautiful name and idea.You seem to have taken many such social initiatives. Very very interesting.Nice to know that you have through such initiatives making some difference in the lives of those who have a little less than what we have.Is “sanskarvarga” still on?….

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  10. Mavin- We could continue our class for only two years. A couple of friends had some personal problems at the same time our family moved away from there. So the Sanskarvarga was discontinued.

    Maybe it would have closed down in any case. It is dfficult to sustain participation of everyone in a group over a longer period of time.

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  11. Interesting. I come from a small village in Kerala, and I can understand the impact you might have created. My father was part of the 100% literacy campaign in Kerala. I was a school kid that time. He pushed all my cousins of or above high school education to be part of the volunteer team.

    It was a two-dimensional effort. The old people at the least could sign on their own,others could start reading too. The other dimension was, my cousins grew up with a sense of social responsibility which they still carry in their life after many years.

    “Little drops of water, Little grains of sand
    Make the mighty ocean, And the beauteous land
    Little deeds of kindness, Little words of love,
    Make our earth an Eden, Like the heaven above”

    – Mrs. J. A. Carney

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  12. Nasrajan- Welcome! 🙂

    I have always admired how Kerala conducted its Literacy campaign. Other states would do well to duplicate this.Nice to read about your father’s involvement and the sense of social responsibility learnt by your cousins.

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