Naga Reddy, Delhi, 4 June 2011
After a 2 year hiatus, I am once again back to doing community work and feel in seventh heaven. It’s already been one and half months since I joined my dream job at Avanti Fellows and I am grateful for this opportunity.
I have spent a large part of my first few weeks conducting home interviews of prospective fellows. Making my way through the streets of villages and semi-urban areas, like I used to in the past, I have felt a new lease of life. Listening to the problems of their households, I have felt both sad and helpless at the realisation that I would never be able to solve them. But having something in hand to offer these kids who really deserve it, has given me immense pleasure.
I began my journey by the Delhi metro and then caught a rickshaw to search for the first address amongst the ‘junta’ houses of Delhi. When I finally found it, it felt like I had discovered a treasure. During the interview, while the student was busy attempting the short concept-oriented test, his father excitedly showed me all his certificates – varying from participation in cultural activities in school to science tests at the state level. In spite of drawing only a small income from his machinery shop, he had never been discouraged from providing the best study environment for his kids. The next three home interviews went by in a similar fashion.
When I reached the house of the fourth student, I was shocked to see a large three-storeyed bungalow in front of me with a plate saying ‘Dabas House’. Then the student took me to the second floor and offered me a seat in the hall. Recovering from the shock, I began to observe the interiors more closely. The furniture seemed too old and out of place for the size of the house. While the student was busy with the test I had given, I interacted with his mother and slowly learnt more about the bungalow and its past glory. An unfortunate accident 15 years ago had sent the student’s father into a coma for years together. This incident had a major impact on the family’s fortunes. However, in spite of the worries and tension, his mother had never neglected her children’s education. As I left the house, I was convinced about why they had approached us for the fellowship.
Then came the last student who with the ambition of becoming a scientist in the armed forces, kept nothing but studies in his day-to-day time table. He had already completed studying a few subjects of eleventh standard, for which he begins school in July. He was an extremely hard-working boy and as a constant topper in school, he had given immense joy to his parents who are daily wagers.
After completing the home interviews, I found it extremely difficult to sleep at night. Until I reached a convincing conclusion regarding whom to reject, it was impossible for me to get any peace of mind. This was the same scenario in Roorkee too and I am sure the other cities where we have operations.