A Fine Line …

Sania Naqvi

Along with two members of the Community Mobilisation team I set out walking into small by-lanes with houses on either side, in a low income area of Sangam Vihar, that we visited.
I quietly followed Sarika and Rameshwar because as a volunteer I was very unfamiliar with their work in the community. After having walked for nearly 20 minutes I started to question the purpose of our visit; we hadn’t talked to anyone, nor had we handed out to anyone the pamphlets we were carrying which outlined ETASHA’s courses.
Although the area seemed to be quite thickly populated, roads weren’t as crowded as one would have thought. Once in a while, I even saw fancy cars pass by, which left me to think about their purpose of visit in this place.
My curiosity was put at ease when Sarika told me that sometimes kids get themselves admitted to ETASHA programs but don’t actually attend, so our mission today was to look for them to find out the exact cause of their absences. Our first visit was to Aditiya, who had registered but not turned up.
We finally reached the lane we were looking for and I jumped across a drain which passed through his house, I constantly had to waft my hand around my face to stop the flies that were flying around me from entering my mouth or nose. I saw an elderly woman whom I presumed to be his dadi (grandmother) sitting on a wooden sofa outside the door that led to the house.
We asked for Aditya, and his dadi screamed out for him to come. We saw him peep down from the balcony above in order to get a good view of all of us and his dadi informed us slowly that Aditya’s father had died recently.
When Aditya finally came down he explained that he works in a local shop to make some money and that he finds no time to come to class. However his mother interjected and sternly told him that he should take 2 hours off work every day and become regular at class. Aditya had been coming to class since his father died but not regularly and the impression I got was of a teenage boy who was not focused, ambitious or motivated to do anything other than drift.

I had often wondered about those teenage boys who neither want to go to school nor work hard to improve their lives. Some say it’s because boys mature at a slower rate than girls but I believe that since girls in India have to fight to get an education and boys have everything handed to them on a platter that girls are more much more conscious and appreciative of the importance and value of education.
We also visited Aditya’s friends and found the same story. Many of the boys seemed content to go aimlessly through life and were uninterested in thinking long term. I was so surprised to see that they were not grasping such golden opportunities in life.

Since we obviously stood out from the rest of the people there, it was easy to get their attention and talk about ETASHA’s programs. In the beginning, to my surprise, the response was rather good; parents seemed keen to know about ETASHA and a few boys also walked up to get more information and take a leaflet.

Walking our way through one lane into another we gave out a some pamphlets to two women standing outside their houses. To my surprise, they seemed very interested in the programs because they had girls about to begin vacation and this seemed a good thing to do to occupy them during the holidays, but when we told them the course came with placement and was for those who wanted to work they said, ‘’naukari karke kya karegi’’. (“what would they do with a job?) I wished I had argued the case for girls working but my colleagues seemed used to this response by now and knew that in this case debating was not going to  lead anywhere. They explained that they frequently met, persuaded, debated, convinced and reasoned with parents to help get women into programs and into work – but that in this case, in this instance, experience told then that they’d be doing more harm than good. It’s a fine line they tread  between debating an issue and alienating a parent! Hats off to the patience and energy that they put in and the experience that tells them when not to push a closed door!

Sania Naqvi, Inern, Sophia College, Mumbai June 2013

5 thoughts on “A Fine Line …”

  1. What can one say? Burro? e force pazzo? Who knows perhaps a manirara means stick in whatever feels right . You are a glorious cook, and you do follow your instincts and I would trust that, unless the spaghetti slithers off your fork in a protest of it’s extra greasing or a startled guest exclaims, butter? do I taste butter? I think I do! how bizarre! Otherwise, it’s your call but seeing the beautiful graphic films you did, and watching that golden fat slide into the red sauce, is indeed curious, but probably delicious.

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