Chaitrali Joshi, Mumbai, 11 April 2011
Just back from a grueling schedule at B-school, it didn’t take more than 2 days at home for me to volunteer for any help. However, being taken for a home interview after a hearty meal and made to walk at 2 p.m. in Mumbai’s dusty by lanes, I was already sulking and ruing offering help.
That changed the minute we walked into the first house – a tiny, 1 room house tucked away amidst hundreds of identical ones. The student: Ajay, a brilliant but scrawny lad who’d already scored amongst the top ten in the test on April 2nd. Krishna asked him to solve another paper and meanwhile I got to explaining what the program was about to Ajay’s parents in my stilted Marathi.
The elder son, Akshay, now studying for his CET, was equally accomplished and his parents proudly showed us his marksheets. When asked for the income certificate, the father initially thought that the program was meant for students ABOVE a certain income level. He apologetically started to explain how the income certificate stated a number but that he worked overtime to make ends meet. He had obviously also taken a loan to fund Akshay’s CET coaching.
Ajay emerged from the loft above the house half an hour later with the solved paper. Before heading for the interview, we were told by one of the volunteers that the paper was tough and there were other students who hadn’t been able to solve a single question. Ajay however had managed to solve almost all of the questions in the half hour given. Meanwhile, perhaps realizing the intent (or floored by Krishna’s incredible Hindi), uncle had got some Pepsi for us.
I have always thought that bringing up children with an innate sense of responsibility is a challenge in itself. However, to do that in such decrepit surroundings where there is perhaps constant pressure not to study (there were men drinking beer right outside their house), is to my mind, nothing short of incredible. All in all, an extremely touching and humbling experience.