The Right to Dream

When we lived in the City, our next door neighbour was a lady who taught in a primary school run by the Municipal Corporation. One year she was assigned to teach the 4th standard class.

Now there are exams for scholarships for students studying in the 4th standard. Almost the whole 4th standard class in the school that she taught, sat for these exams every year.

Not many students from the Municipal schools could obtain marks comparable to those of students from ‘private’ schools. So the authorities had decided upon a certain number of scholarships to be given to students from Municipal schools regardless of their rank in the combined merit list (of govt. as well as private schools).

My neighbour knew that this made the students feel inferior, even if they did receive the scholarship. So that year she decided to coach the students so well that some would make it to the general merit list.

For six months before the exams, she went one hour early to school every day, and made her students come early, too. The school was held in two shifts, so there was no classroom available for them to use. She bullied the school authorities until they designated a classroom for her scholarship class.

The hard work paid off and that year a few of her students actually did make it to the list of meritorious students in the general category. I still remember the look of joy on her face as she told me how proud her students and their parents were.

I am sure that the sense of self-worth that she gave her students, helped them later in their lives also. She realized exactly what the children needed to give them confidence, and guided them to achieve it.

She taught them that it was possible to realize their dreams.

These were small dreams, as dreams go. These were not dreams about going to the moon or winning an Oscar. But all the same they were important to the lives of these children.

All children have the right to dream and to feel that there is a chance of their dreams being transformed into reality.

I remember a workshop that we organised in Dharavi a few years ago for fifteen or sixteen year old underprivileged girls. A young friend of mine was doing a post-graduate course in Journalism at the time, and I asked her to take a session on ‘Choosing a Career’.

She discussed several different career options and then talked at length about her own career choice- Journalism.

I remember that the girls listened to her as though mesmerised. There was pin-drop silence in the room. This was something that they had never experienced. Someone was actually telling them that they had a choice!

You see, these girls very seldom ventured out of their area.The ‘outside world’ they saw mostly on television through serials or movies- and they were old enough to know that that was not their world.

If any of them had ever thought of a career, it was to become a teacher. A teacher could get a job in a government school. She could also takes tuitions at home. If they were really on a flight of fancy, they thought of becoming doctors.

That day they learnt, from a girl not much older than themselves, that there were other choices. And these were choices which could possibly turn into reality with diligent studying and a bit of luck.

These were the kind of dreams that these girls needed, not dreams to become millionaires overnight.

Slumdog Millionaire dreams are just what children living in Dharavi do not need. What they do need are dreams that will make them work just that little bit harder, study just that bit more, in the hope that they will transform into reality.

There is a need for people more fortunate than these children to connect with them, to teach them to dream, to lend them a helping hand for just a little while, so they can start on the path to making their dreams come true.

There are some things that can be achieved with money, teaching children to dream is not one of them.

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33 thoughts on “The Right to Dream”

  1. Manju, some of your posts are very uplifting, very real. The fast-disappearing connect with real India that I keep complaining about is so evident in the issues that you talk about and in your understanding of them that I am filled with hope and suffused with a positive energy.

    In so few words you have said so many things. I think you need to get really involved in giving direction and shape to the dreams of the forgotten children of India.

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  2. Who can inspire the others?People who are at ease with themselves and peaceful. They have an innate sense of enthusiasm and a “yes-mind”. This is inspite of their moderate financial standing and having to face normal problems of living in Mumbai. (stressful by any count)Their words can inspire others and lead many a youth to aspire for greatness through hard work and sheer confidence.

    If that inner peace and joy does not exist, we will just be doing a job and that is where we fail. Pay, promotions, transfers and prospects seem to occupy our mind the most.

    Sadly though, such inspiring teachers are out-numbered by those who have no motivation or who take up teaching for the reasons that you mentioned..job + side money

    I thought that this needs a mention here. I have heard that in Germany some of the highest paid are teachers, judges and policemen (not necessarily in that order). Are we missing something???

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  3. Vinodji- There are so many people who understand the reality of the lives of the underprivileged and work quietly for their betterment. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from some of them.

    Mavin- Yes, inspiring teachers are few, particularly in government-run schools. My neighbour’s students were very fortunate!

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  4. Modesty is a virtue that is not greatly appreciated in this word. I am not sure that there are enough people working quietly for the betterment of the underprivileged with the necessary understanding and connect. Had that been so, things would have been very different today.

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  5. my neighbour who was now 8 was well aware of the elections in america. one day as i was giving him a ride, he asked me “can i become the president ” i was surprised that he had learnt to think at that age if he could become a president.

    as i grow i realise that anything is possible at any age — dreams do not need an age — it only needs the will and the action to do it —

    on another note manju, i echo vinod’s comment. congragulations manju.

    vinod is also another person who encourages bloggers — The encouragment in his voice through his blogs and commments is very inspiring.

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  6. Great Post . And I am right behind Vinod Sharma and Anrosh . 🙂

    And thank you for saying this – “Slumdog Millionaire dreams are just what children living in Dharavi do not need. ” .

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  7. There are people can and should dream.There are ones like you who encourage them to dream.My belief is that unless you dream big,you can not acheive much.

    I don’t claim to have done much but I am proud that me my wife have actually seen through one child’s education in Municipal school for 5 yrs.

    If I can be of any assitance in your future efforts in this direction,I will be happy to get involved.

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  8. All that I wanted to say has been said beautifully by Vinod Sir and Anrosh 🙂

    your posts do uplift..specially this one and the one about your mom and how she taught kids 🙂

    the realisation that they have a ‘choice’.. this really said it all..We dont even realise that the choices that we take for granted are so hard to even imagine for some…and girls more so..

    on a diff note I agree with Anrosh 🙂

    Vinod Sir inspires and encourages with his words and comments 🙂

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  9. Vinodji- Yes, it is true that not enough people are working for the betterment of others…

    Anrosh- Thank you!And completely agree with you re: Vinodji encouraging other bloggers.

    Kislay- Thanks you!

    Sraboney- Yes, to have dreams is very important, as you say- otherwise what is the point of living?

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  10. I have always felt that Gyan daan is Maha Daan.If you can teach somebody about something, than there’s nothing comparable to that coz that would help the person for an everlasting time.

    I still remember few teachers who contributed to uplift me. Its sad that these days, we are witnessing teachers who just know how to beat the students.

    And there is absolutely no comparison between self accomplishment and getting something granted.

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  11. BTW by accomplishment and granting thing, i mean that accomplishment can not be compared to something that is granted. Because we can not actually respect what we are granted simply. We respect and love what we’ve earned!!

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  12. Fantastic post. I think the kids there need to be provided direction. They will be able to pick up the pieces and run ! As quickly and as effectively as possible. Would love to know more about the workshops that you organise for the kids there..

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  13. the picture on the top reminds me of the history i learnt in class 4 – It was all on shivaji — and the black and white movies in marathi showing dadaji kondke ( i think ) etc –i don’t know how many times i have come to watch this picture today !

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  14. BK Chowla- Welcome to the blog!

    Indyeah- I am very sure that you must be teaching from the heart just as my neighbour did, and making a difference in the lives of your students!

    R.K.- You are absolutely right! We value that which we have worked hard to earn.

    Kavi- Thank you!You know, almost all the students in my neighbour’s class were from underprivileged homes. She told me that some even lived on the streets.
    As you say, they just needed some direction to shine!

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  15. Anrosh- The picture is a ‘Gad’ near Chiplun on the Konkan coast, but I can’t remember the name! I’ll ask my son tomorrow- he took the picture.

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  16. Anrosh- The picture is of Gopalgarh on Dabhol Creek. I think you once mentioned that you have visited Dabhol. Perhaps you remember it from then?
    BTW- It is not near Chiplun- my mistake.

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  17. thanks manju.. i am making notes of all these so that next time i am in bombay i can explore them. aurangabad is also on my list.i may have visited dabhol creek on a picnic from school – that is decades ago.there is more to maharashtra than bombay, i always say.. thanks once again.an.

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  18. Manju,What a great post. And this needed to be said. And I have myself seen, very closeby, what timely advice, a good example in front, and a sensible set of parents can achieve.

    Unfortunately , I have also seen an extremely well educated and well-off family’s children, intrinsically clever chaps with really no perceived problems in their education, suddenly coming up with a reservation-enabling-certificate when applying for an admission….

    Both sets of children from different families. One set learns to dream. The other only learns how to get the cream. I wonder at the values their children learn.

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  19. ugich konitari- That is a lovely post of yours!
    The lady-your household help- must be an amazing woman. She is an excellent example of what an underprivileged person can achieve, if given a chance.

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  20. Manju, every new post of yours surprises me endlessly. This is the kind of inspiring posts very few can come up with. When we talk about education and teachers, i gather that the Latur teachers are role models in that they strive to provide the very best and their dedication ends up in the vastly superior results. I will keep feeling nice for a long time, i am sure!

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  21. Manju, That was a truly inspiring post! And I have to second what Vinod and Gopinath are saying! You come up with such inspiring posts – such live examples of how every little can make a difference!

    ‘There are some things that can be achieved with money, teaching children to dream is not one of them.’ – So true! And this is true irrespective of anybody’s economic condition, isn’t it?

    Loved your post!

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  22. Manju ji,I have seen this need for dreams and also a need for a role model in the girls , daughters of the Women In Prostituion , I have worked with. For children, or adults of any socio economic class the ability to dream and a sense of self worth is all that is needed sometimes to attain the higher goals.

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  23. Chrysalis- Yes, the ability to dream and a sense of self-worth- that is what is needed. But that is precisely what underprivileged children find so hard to possess.

    The children/ young girls I came into contact with, were underprivileged in that they were very poor and had parents who were not educated.

    However, there was no social stigma attached to their situation. In this respect they were more fortunate than the girls you mention.

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  24. Very nice. There are quick methods that are covered in reel life, and then the arduous and long methods that really make a young mind grow in real life. We must choose the right one.

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  25. Some mature blogging going on here.

    Just what the new generation of India needs-an active discussion and that right dose of encouragement,without being brainwashed and made to believe in what some self appointed judges think about the future of girls in the less fortunate circles.

    The slumdog millionaire observation was very astute and relevant.

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  26. Beautifully written post. Yes, every human being can dream and with a little bit more effort, can realize those dreams. The comments are also nice, Manju!

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  27. "Slumdog Millionaire dreams are just what children living in Dharavi do not need " – 100% true.Thought provoking post. And ya.. a proper guidance and direction is all a child need!

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