One Step Forward

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For the uninitiated, let me first tell you that Avanti is a non-profit organization which helps economically less privileged students to realize their dreams of making it to premier institutes, mainly IITs. IITians take these ‘loti in the mud’ under their care, christen them ‘Fellows’, give them access to free coaching for the JEE and provide one-to-one mentorship right until they complete their undergraduate degrees.

In Roorkee, it all started almost half a year ago. Since then, our journey has been nothing less than an ambitious voyage of the “Pirates of The Caribbean” sort. It has been tumultuous, wavering and at times almost lost amidst the storms of variable nature – personal obligations of our sailors (read end terms), school board exams, lack of awareness and above all the constricted vision of the management of many schools. The absence of Jack Sparrow certainly added to our woes. But, being indigenous, this story too has a happy ending. “Cometh the hour, cometh the men” and the ship, named “Avanti Fellows – IIT Roorkee Chapter”, was steadied. Now what lies ahead is an ocean to conquer but the hour of “official” start of this voyage was no less exhilarating than the journey to reach the start mark itself. 

It was a bright, scorching day but the spirit of our team outlasted the fury of the “Sun God”. The red carpet was rolled out, arrangements made and thus came the most eagerly awaited moment – The Launch Event of the Roorkee Chapter. Excitement as well as nervousness kept mounting up as we waited for our ‘guests’ – fellows and their parents. Anticipation gripped everyone as a fellow finally appeared on the scene with his parents. Definitely not well experienced in receiving guests in a professional manner, some of us tried to look busy, some rushed for the water stand, some greeted them with ‘namastey’, some with a more professional sounding ‘hello’, some just stood there dumbstruck wondering what to do. After some tense moments things started to look under control. The milieu of confusion and uncertainty was replaced by a sense of responsibility and cooperation. Then came the media; we felt like being at a press conference with all those cameras and notepads. The proceedings began with an invariable calmness in the room which was modified to suit the needs of the hour.

After being invited by Ankita Bhutani, very precise presenter, a very inspiring note by Shishir Saini, MD, CE in which he touched the very spirit of the relationship of ‘CE and Fellows’ certainly set the mood right in the very beginning itself. His quote – “Ye aapke hi nahi, ab mere bhi bachhe hai”, directed at the parents says it all. A briefing about Avanti Fellows was definitely on the cards as Naga Reddy, Director – Operations, Avanti took the mike. He spoke in ‘shuddh Hindi’ which definitely prevented his time on the dais from getting boring. As the introduction of ACT members started with Babji leading the charge, Akash lightened the moods just by the way he greeted us all. This was followed by the distribution of certificates to Fellows.

Then our presenter asked the parents to express themselves. As expected, a stony silence prevailed before a father stood up and made his way to the dais. He told us all a story which filled us with a sense of gratitude. The story was about a boy, stuck in a storm, who spent his whole night hanging on a tree because he thought that ground was far down and someone would come to help him at the dawn. At the dawn, he came to know that ground was just two feet below him and he could have avoided all the pain he endured if he knew it. Symbolically, Ground is the destination – premier institutes for Engineering, Light or Dawn is the mentoring/coaching. He further added – “Hamare bacchon me bhi wo baat hai ki wo us do feet ki doori ko chal sakein, unhe jarurat sirf us ujale ki hai jo unhe batayega ki doori sirf do feet hi to hai”.

Now the atmosphere was getting a little sentimental as one mother gathered her courage to speak and expressed her hearty thanks to Avanti and CE. She spoke a little but everyone felt what her trembling hands and moist eyes were trying to say. Meanwhile some parent quoted himself as ‘garib’ which prompted Stuti from CE to speak with incredible zeal – “Koi bhi paise se ameer ya garib nahi hota, sanskaron se hota hai. Aapke bachhe kahin jyada sanskari hai aur mujhe is baat pe garv hai ki mujhe aapke bachho ko ek achha nagrik banane ka sauhagya mila.” I felt truly blessed to be there at that moment. Everyone was ecstatic.

As the sense of ecstasy subsided, Akash took the stage again, and thanked everyone for coming and making it so successful and meaningful. Now was the time everyone in the team was waiting for – refreshments. Colas and Fantas were being literally gulped by some diehard cold drink fans. The mentors mingled with the parents of their fellows and spoke their heart out. It felt like a family function in full swing.

All said and done, we learnt a few lessons too about punctuality, team bonding and team spirit, organizing an event and of course planning. ACT, IITR thanked CE for all the support they have offered.

After a successful and engaging event, we set out to our campus with a determination to make a dent on Naga’s pocket. He went with the flow and took us to Nescafe where we enjoyed till midnight. It was a day made more special by the return to action of one of our prominent members after a serious health problem kept him away for three months; that member was me!

-Nishant Tomer

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