MANORATH - We Voice Rights for All Children

About CRY

For over 30 years now, CRY – Child Rights and You has worked on the reasons why children are deprived of rights. Every year, CRY together with 200 partner NGOs across 18 states works to address the root causes of exploitation, deprivation and inadequate livelihood options that constrain the rights of children. This collective action permanently changes the lives of over 6 lakh children in 6700 villages and slums each year, who live learn and grow well. None of these micro-miracles would have been possible without public support – every year, 2 lakh individuals, come together from all walks of life to stand up for their belief in the rights of children.

CRY’s mission is to enable people to take responsibility for the situation of the deprived Indian child. We motivate people to confront the situation through collective action thereby giving children and themselves an opportunity to realize their full potential.

Manorath is one such Volunteers group with CRY which through its endeavors is voicing Rights for all children.

Manorath is a group of volunteers with Child Rights & You (CRY). Manorath members see themselves as campaigners for change. Our first campaign focuses on the right to educationfor all children in the NCR region. Manorath sees it growing as a movement to ensure every child the right to childhood.

RTE Campaign Mission:~To ensure that every child in India gets free compulsory n& quality education.
~To ensure state responsibility and accountability to provide free, compulsory, equitable and quality education to all children through public system of education.

RTE Campaign Objectives:~Create public opinion of RTE
~Mobilise the citizens of India to stand up for RTE
~Demand that state implements a common school system
~Ensure that educational institutes are equipped with holistic development of every child.

RTE Action Plan:~Capacity building as a collective : Enabling ourselves to lectures, discussions, readings and focused group discussion and forming study group on child rights
~Conducting research survey audits and document findings to enhance knowledge on RTE.
~Filing of Public interest litigation (PILs) and Right to education (RTIs) as and when required.
~Participating and organizing rallies, protests demand charters, workshops, seminars and conferences on RTE

To Join Manorath
Email : OR
Call Amit Aggarwal +91-9717277599

Thursday, October 7, 2010

We and Them

Today, while discussing the works of Jawahar Lal Nehru and Monica Ali with my friend over a cuppa at the Oxford Book Store, epiphany struck me... That I was only among a smattering percentage of India's vast demography who had been to a high school and would be successfully completing her junior college ( graduation)... About 60% of girls my age in the country would have dropped out of college till now, would be married, raising kids and doomed forever to live a life of diffidence, impoverishment and ignorance. The boys would be working as cheap labour for factories, as domestic workers, as roadside beggars or worse still, as pimps and drug dealers... Sadly, education like most of the basic things in the country, is still not egalitarian. Though the middle class and the upper class is well educated, education in the proletariat is still elusive. The blame game names corrupt politicians, inefficient governments, inactive government teachers and also, the slimy and ugly working class as those responsible. Passing the buck, is , funnily, the typical Indian way to renounce responsibility. But let us, the educated and the morally conscious ones, introspect a little. When was the last time you saw a below 18 child working in your known ones' place as a servant? When was the last time you ignored / snapped the child who was begging at the red light while you were in your air- conditioned car? What is the most that we have done for the underpreviliged ones ? The most ,that we have done for them is given a meal, some worn out clothes, that stale mithai,the extra "dal" or 15-30 Rs. But the solution lies not in giving the ends to them,BUT IN GIVING THE MEANS!!!! That's where the Right to Education ( RTE ) comes in , that declares the education of under 18 as compulsory in the eyes of law. But the law is only like a gun without bullets, till the time it is not implemented hook, line and sinker in every community and in every household... When we make sure that EVERY child goes to school, and NO ONE DROPS OUT!! The India of our dreams will be a reality only when we educate each and every child, irrespective of the caste, sex and class he / she belongs to,rather than hiding it behind the enamor of our intellectual elites. CRY ( Child Rights and You) gave me the opportunity to work towards the cause that I strongly believe in, so that I could help, in whichever way I can towards the development of the children of the country. For I believe that the INDIA of our dreams will someday be.... The India of our dreams will be when "THEY" become "US"..

By Divyani Rattanpal

When was the last time you took a postcard seriously?

While deciding for a campaign, always be flexible as it might be that you would have to change your approach.Example : Dwarka postcard campaign. Initially it was decided that we would go for RTE campaign and target 25% reservation for EWSchildren in private schools. But after initial surveys we realised that first the government schools need to be disciplined.More than 50 households were surveyed in the Bharat vihar colony, Dwarka. Since there were Nagar Nigam and Rajkiya Sarvodaya school in the nearby area, so the survey had questions concerning government schools in the area as well. While going through the surveys it became apparent that locals were more interested in issues concerning government schools.What also compelled us to shift our focus was the apprehension that locals had for private schools.Since the RTE was implemented this year only and it was not binding on private schools to accomodate all the provisions in the Bill,we decided to shift our focus from private to governement schools. Once clear in our approach ,the volunteers started visiting Nagar nigam schools in the area.Soon we realised that we were right in shifting the focus as issues ranging from makeshifttent classrooms to corporal punishment to unhygenic washrooms,came forth.
Leading upto the campaign was an extensive awarness campaign and eventually we ended up with 70 odd postcards from children.With help from jurist Ashok aggarwal, we took the issue to the Delhi government through the postcard campaign. A bench comprising Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Manmohan (Delhi High court) converted the postcards sent by these students into a public interest litigation (PIL) saying "it is a serious matter'' since it highlighted the shortcomings in implementation of the recently enacted Right to Education Act and sought a reply from the MCD and Delhi government by August 18.
A final word of advice: Do not worry about the legal hurdles that might come up once the issues (Child Rights) are raised.Since its easier to tackle government bodies than it seems. RTI (though we didnt use it), local activists and little persuasion are all thats required.

(This article is by Dhruv Anand, one of the lead volunteers of Adhikaar - a CRY Dwarka group. The postcard campaign was highly successful. And that is an understatement.)

A Tale from the Margins

Bhagirath sat huddled on the earthen floor with his demure wife. As I entered his tent, he looked up inquisitively and waved to a dry spot opposite him. Inside, a few bundles of clothes and vessels caught my attention. It had been pouring non stop on a July afternoon when I had taken respite in the make shift home of two construction workers in South Delhi. These were farmers who had arrived in the city, a few months back to embellish the pavements for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

“The City is very different” Bhagirath opened the conversation. “Yes” I politely consented. “It’s not like the village where everyone knows each other. The milk here is like water. Back home my neighbors are looking after my fields. By the way, which village are you from,” he asked and “where do you study?” He swished out his mobile phone for a second to check his message while I marveled at his exuberance.

“Any children?” I asked Bhagirath. “Two. Both Boys” he answered proudly. They were tucked away in a private boarding school in a village in Madhya Pradesh in Southern India. I pointed at a small child dancing in the rain.” Whose kid is that? Does he go to school?” “Our neighbor’s. They are from Rajasthan. He goes to a nearby government school for a few hours a day”. “You must be missing your own boys”, I asked Bhagirath’s wife. Her eyes moistened as she nodded.

I quickly changed the topic. “Was yours a love marriage?”“No.Arranged.The elders decided” Bhagirath explained. He was only 9years old when he was betrothed to his wife Suraj who was 7 years. The game of courtship was not allowed in his village. Speaking of games, I asked. “Will you watch the Commonwealth Games” “What do we have to do with the Games”, he shrugged. “After work finishes we will move on, in search of more work”.

A wise teacher once told me that everything we see around us are symbols which represent something. As individuals what we wear, what we say, what we think each day, brings to the table a different self. Similarly as a city we try and do the same. Delhi is trying to portray itself as a pretty postcard. But are not we trying too hard.

If a painter gives his brush to a layman to paint an idea, it would not have the desired impact. The Games can be seen as a project where a similar discord has taken place. A juxtaposition of two opposite ends of the spectrum, between the people who visualized the landscapes and the people who are trying hard to implement it. Rustics like Bhagirath.

“Will you remember us?” Bhagirath and his wife shyly asked. Photographs had been clicked. Smiles exchanged. They had the satisfied glow of having been the perfect hosts for an hour and I was thankful for their warmth. On the other hand Bhagirath and the thousands of construction workers like him are also the City’s guests. The first guests.They have crept in slowly from the margins only to return to their native villages, much before the Games have begun.

Post by Gehena Chauhan.
Photos by Arjun Khosla.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Commonwealth Games 2010 : From “mind-games” to reality!

“Pillar by pillar it rises,
Loading my every new day with surprises,
Every new visuals are marked with the “signature”,
That clearly defines the inevitable omnipresence of its “creator”!
As I sit down & write about Commonwealth Games 2010, popularly known as “CWG 2010”, I’ll have to admit my own “knowledge-based” infrastructure about the event may not be up to the mark to support my views about the showdown on our “part” of earth. But let’s see what I have to offer!
Now that the games are within “striking distance” all the possible human emotions have started playing on the minds of people located at each & every strata that is related to the event.
For me, it’s only now that these “mind-games” have taken quite a control of my mind as the time starts closing down.
My idea of Games has been governed by two behaviours of me:
· CWG 2010 – From the mind of an impression-ist,
· CWG 2010 – From the mind of an expression-ist,

CWG 2010 – From the mind of an impression-ist:
The very opportunity of holding big-scale games itself boosts the city & accounts for many developments to happen on a pacy scale. Same has happened with New Delhi . When the first set of “golden letters” talking about the developments that will happen for commenwealth games 2010 appeared in the newspapers, i was quite anxious to see what developments would happen in the name of the GAMES, and the list was huge & ambitious!
That “epic-list” consisted of some heartening necessities like “expansion of Delhi-metro routes, widened roads, many world-class sport arenas “etc.
The impact of the games was so proportionately spread-out that even the ground beneath our feet & our farthest skies were made aware of it. With such ambitions building, i only hoped for a better things to come in the future.
I admit that even I had gone a bit ambitious.
CWG 2010 – From the mind of an expression-ist:
Now when the games have arrived there’s lot to offer from the government in terms of “actions” & we- the people, in terms of “reactions”.
Once I had read that New Delhi has already made her mark by being the “wealthiest” Commonwealth Games organized so far with its total “assets” surpassing the previous best - Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games.
But when it comes to the distribution of this “wealth”, it somehow starts showing on the city’s “health” and a further “check-up” of those ambitious “check-lists” brings out many expectedly harsh realities.
Amidst of all these scary “legal road-occupation” induced traffic jams, haphazard movement patterns, dust filled air-free surroundings, numerous dug-up holes (seeming far more purposeful & a fresh change from those governmental “loop-holes”) , large scale renovations & low-scale innovations on buildings, ever piling garbage dumps, etc., I would still say that in totality the Games have been a good opportunity for us not only to come up & match some celebrated “hi-tech-giant” cities but most importantly also to come up & create innovative, sustainable & meaningful solutions.
Talking about the built-forms, unfortunately there hasn’t been much visual delight in terms of aesthetics & design but one or two names are still worth mention, these are : JLN stadium & the Indira Gandhi Air-port. Hope this pattern improves in the future. The ancient-built heritage of New Delhi needs to be seriously dealt with. We still have many areas that need to be conserved properly e.x. the Purana Qila, the mosque in the Qutub etc. Hope this is also dealt with properly in the future.
Two biggest achievements during this “Games-reign” are “Delhi-metro expansion” & the “BRT-corridor”.
BRT-corridor, I think is a success for me. Apart from the better public transport, it has brought cyclists & their “cycling” back to life- alive & kicking! This is a welcome “greener sides” of the Games 2010, known more for their “darker sides”!
We have never been efficient organizers, and therefore the last year “scare” of Games being slipping from India’s hands wasn’t much of a surprise. It was good that the “scare” was short-lived. But the change is happening & we are improving, but this change will happen gradually. Some grievous issues of labour-exploitation, inadequate supply of funds through the “work-chain” , pillars falling off, etc. need to be addressed more severely & I hope it happens.
Being-green is the need of the hour & the more we conserve the more we’ll have for longer needs to be implemented properly. This also accounts for “judicious handling” of funds, the more we “blow-off” results in much more pressure on limited resources. This is where “vigilance-guys” come into the picture. They should keep an eye on these scams & should not spare any “wealthy-bummer”!
The overall appearance of the city has undergone a major “surgery”, but some of the “scars” (unwanted ugly fly-overs) unfortunately cannot be accepted & erased!
We still have done quite a bit in terms of “green & sustainability” for Games 2010 & that’s good start. Hope we fare better in the future! Culturally, it should be a rich experience, and hopefully New Delhi celebrates a rich cultural carnival with its “former-colonial mates”!
The future lies on being “sustainable” & this is what we need to pick up & infuse in our other “usual-preparations”.
Last but not the least:
We are now into the “Gaming” zone,
& the arrival of “queen’s baton” has set the tone,
For all the “showdown” to hit the centre-stage,
But the “mega-models” are still far from final-makeover backstage,
& within striking distance have “they” reached,
Here we still have many “hospitality” lessons to be preached,
I hope we are & we will be ready,
To celebrate the legacies of our erstwhile colonialists,
& together we all create one of the best “play-stations”!

By Akhil Nagar


When I read the newspaper, I sometimes feel that I live in a totally different world. How can I, sitting in the luxury of my drawing room my legs fully stretched on the cushy sofa legs understand the misery of a child forced to work in a firecracker workshop inhaling millions of poisonous gases, so that he can get a morsel of food. I am definitely not capable of understanding either what a young girl goes through when her parents just to feed their remaining children sell her off. I thought I knew what pain was until I saw children at the construction site pick up bricks twice their weight. This is probably one of the many things I can never understand rather dread to understand.

Once when I was traveling in the train with my friend, I saw a small girl not more than 6 years old with her face all painted in different colours. On entering the compartment she immediately started doing Hoola-hoop around her neck and then around her waist. Her mother carrying a toddler was singing a song to whose tunes the young girl was dancing. She had a big smile painted on her face and on finishing her act when she came to me to ask for money, I saw her eyes. Her eyes bare of any emotions yet deep down I felt connected to her sorrows, and I couldn’t look at her any longer. For a 6 year old to dance like her I can imagine how much her mother must have beaten her. And then is when my friend said that the toddler’s face is also painted……..rather her fate is painted. I wondered how a mother could do such a thing to her daughters. I couldn’t do anything but stare at the empty fields where the wheat was brightly shining under the blazing sun.

Our current government is often accused of increasing the prices, making the lives of the common man miserable but one credit I would definitely want to give this government is to make RTE as an act. Well the question of how effective it might finally turn out to be is a question I always ponder on.

Sometimes I feel without the awareness that the media creates I would have remained ignorant throughout my life. Awareness plays a very vital role in making people aware of their own rights. Children are not aware of their rights but their parents ought to know them. I strongly believe that EDUCATION makes a huge difference in the life of a child. This is what made me join Manorath because it works on a much broader platform of child rights. I always knew that I had to do something for these children and by joining Manorath I have got a real purpose in life. It has been 3 months since I have joined Manorath, and my awareness levels on RTE has increased manifoldly. I have seen the passion in the eyes of my fellow volunteers and the moment you reach the CRY Office the motivation to do something just can’t escape you. Earlier I used to think that as a volunteer I can bring dramatic changes in the education system but my involvement with Manorath has taught me that changes have to be dynamic and sustained and it has to be achieved in collaboration with the respective bodies not by fighting against them. And this in turn has helped me in my professional life also.
Recently I attended a session with the new volunteers and I could see the same amount of confusion in the faces but a zeal to do something. I am sure that Manorath will guide them well. My association with Manorath and CRY has been extremely enriching and I hope to do a lot a future.

P.S. - Say NO to Crackers !

- By Nithya Ranganathan


12 years of schooling. 1 year of college.100 sets of paper, 100’s of outings with friends, but never thought of those unprivileged children whom we often meet at a traffic signal on our way to work. Only thing we usually do is pity them and may be beg them a ten rupee note or abuse the government for their not so working strategies. But what after that?
Another signal, another set of children and our same set of emotions. Its then when I realized to use my free time to help such children to go to school, to educate them, to help them get their childhood back and made up my mind to join CRY. Through cry and its group MANORATH I feel that I can really make a difference to at least some of the children. It feels great to be part of such an organization where you have great freedom and a nice atmosphere to work.
The orientation session really sorted the differences in my mind. It made the direction and goal of joining CRY very clear to me and trust me, it feels great even if u do a small bit for such children. For instance- when I visited the schools on second Saturday, I felt bad for the children who study there, just because the state of the MCD School is really bad. The schools were supposed to organize a PTM but were closed. It was really disappointing at first but on the other hand it gives me a confidence to do something and bring about change through my efforts.
As said by Ellen Glasgow- All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward. One day our efforts for sure will result in a measurable growth!

- By Mansi Nagpal

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Beginning

Gaurav Khare, one of our volunteers, wrote the following piece some time ago, when he had just joined Manorath. Couldn't resist sharing it. Read on. (You can find the original post here

Beginning of a New Voyage

We live in a society which consists of vary different type of people. Differences can be there in the form of religion, cast or financial positions. I cannot envision my life without a farmer who is growing vegetables and fruits for us, delivery men of gas cylinder or news paper/milk or cleaning staff in our office premises. There are endless examples those we can list down here.

They all are doing their jobs to help us in living a better life. But do we ever think of the life they and more importantly their children live. What is the fault of a child who unknowingly and unintentionally born in a underprivileged family, off course there is no mistake they have made. So being a very important part of our civilization do they not deserve equal rights of proper food, education and other basic things. If we are reliant on them for the things which we cannot live without, Is not it our responsibility to help those children to get a better life?

I have been keeping these things in my mind since long and wanted to start doing something which can help the needy and deprived children. Finally the day came when I visited the office of CRY(Child Rights and You) an NGO working for children.

I attended their induction program and came to know the reason behind the name “CRY”, why they are following the philosophy of Child Rights and not of Child Relief. I got educated on the areas they look into, current projects and the way CRY works. After knowing all the important things I decided to join the group and started working.

Now I think that I have wasted many years without doing anything for this cause, but it’s never too late to start something really good. I don’t know, how long and how much will I be able to contribute, I am not sure how much my contribution will help those children. But I deeply trust that “Something is always better than nothing”.

Friends, We owe a lot to this society, so let’s join hands and do our part in return.


Manorath is gearing up for a new activity this year. It is planning to impress upon the citizens of Delhi the significance of the rights of all children, especially the right to education. The adage goes that charity begins at home. Though we as a rights-based group don’t believe in charity (ask why), we are heading home – actually to residential colonies. There we will be conducting workshops on child rights. The planning and preparation have already begun. Permissions are being sought from various residential associations in the city.

If you want us to come to your colony, send us the contact details of your RWA. If you want to participate, book a seat in the volunteer orientation that happens on the first Sunday of every month. But before that make sure you contact the volunteer manager.

See you.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Chance To Voice Child Rights

As you might have read in papers, a private school association in Rajasthan has filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the Right To Education Act. Interestingly they have called it unconstitutional as the Act requires those schools to reserve 25% of their seats for children from poor economic background.

Read more about this in the following news links:

Manorath sent a letter to the HRD Ministry asking Mr. Sibal to not to succumb to this pressure from the private school lobby. We have decided to file an Intervention Application in the Supreme Court. We also initiated an online petition. The link to the petition is here.
If you support this cause, make yourself heard.
Your signature will also support the Intervention Application we are going to file.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Budget for Children: Some Food For Thought

By Tulika Sheel

Any budget analysis becomes pertinent only when it is set in the context of the situation of the group of persons it is meant for. What then is the situation of the children in India that needs to be addressed with “available resources”? More importantly, are the resources being allocated and spent “adequate”? Clearly not, if despite all its strides in the global market and its advances in GDP rankings, the current situation of the children in this country continues to be reflecting the following (data based on union government report):
India is home to the highest number of child laborers in the world
Out of every 100 children, 19 continue to be out of school: Of 81 who enroll, almost 53 % drop out before reaching Class VIII (Elementary level). Of every 100 children who are enrolled 70 drop out by the time they reach secondary level. Despite the promise of education for all, and non-discrimination being recognized as the basis of human rights, of every 100 children who drop out of school, 66 are girls; 46% children from scheduled tribes and 38 % from scheduled castes continue to be out of school as against 34% in the case of others. Children affected or infected by HIV/AIDS continue to be denied access to schools.

Although, the share of child education is the highest amongst all other sectors, the Union Government funding for education has for the last few decades constituted only 10% to 15% of the total public expenditure on education. India remains “at risk of not achieving the millennium development goal of universalization of education by 2015” and has already failed to achieve the goals it had set for itself in the Tenth Five Year Plan of - All children in school by 2003; all children to complete 5 years of schooling by 2007; investment of US$ 1223 million - 1333 million (Rs. 55-60 thousand crore) over 5 years.

One in every 10 children is born with, or acquires some physical, sensory or mental impairment by the first year of life. Based on this estimate the world population of disabled children is placed around 140 million, of which 25 million are in India. According to the Census Report, amongst all persons living with disability, 35.9% (46,38,26,702) are children and young adults in the 0-19 age group. Three out of five children in the age group of 0-9 years have been reported to be visually impaired. Movement disability has the highest proportion (33.2%) in the age group of 10-19. This is largely true of ‘mental’ disability also. However, they continue to be deprived access to education and other opportunities as adequate measures for “inclusion” do not exist.

What is a matter of even greater concern is that under-spending the financial resources provided for children is a recurrent feature. The actual expenditure in all the years has been less than the allocations. Clearly, even the small budget share for children remains unspent. Across the four sectors within budget, under-utilization of resources stands at an average of 1.57% during the period of study for which figures are available. What may appear to be a small amount when taken as a percentage, actually comes to millions of rupees in absolute terms. Moreover, within the budget certain sectors have always shown under-spending, these being health and protection. This under-utilization of funds – a recurrent feature that prevents the benefits of financial allocation from reaching children – is a serious matter that often gets glossed over.

This string of facts and figures boils down to one conclusion. The current state of children is not just because of a lack of funds but a lack of focussed planning. The government is answerable to people who voted and also the people who didn't, the mass of population aged under 18. Can we not speak on their behalf and seek serious welfare measures for children?

Workshop Diaries

We have concluded the first phase of our school workshops. We have covered a good range of MCD schools. The two stories shared here are also two first experiences. The first post by Shubham is on the first ever workshop of Manorath. The second post by Gehena is her first workshop.

By Garima Shukla and Shubham Kalyan Aggarwal

Our first school workshop was conducted on 25th July No. 1 MCD school, Dakshinpuri . It was nice to see months of meetings and hard work finally bearing fruit :). There were indeed a few glitches, but if there is so much learning and fun such hurdles can be easily overcome. Let me take you through the day's events :

The workshop began at 11:00 am when an anxious Manorath team was greeted by an equally anxious student body of the school.

Once the children were seated [with a lot of help from the teachers :)], the skit began. Sakshi, the Madari, enthralled the bunch of young girls with her acts while Habiba amused everyone as the lost Jamura.

Bulbul, Shweta, Harpreet, Ankur and many others later joined in to play their respective characters. The children were in awe, everyone standing, craning their necks, trying to get a glimpse of the show.

The girls from classes 4 and 5 were however seated on the 1st floor, and were kept busy by Smita, Bhavay and myself. They sang and talked about their future.

And just to make sure that amidst all the fun we dont lose track of the real idea, it was important that the children be made aware of their rights and hence the CRY anthem followed the skit.

Then started the painting competition. The children were seated in circles and given colors and a plain white sheet, and they were told to put down there imagination on those sheets, and it was awe inspiring to see the creativity that was unleashed in the school hall. The once blank sheets now had houses, trees, kites, little children, tables, clouds, rivers, mountains, flowers, fruits, even rakhees of different colors. We had a tough time choosing winners.

Once the competition was over to hold those little angels back in the room was another challenge.In a room full of more than 300 ppl and fans not working and monsoon not helping us in any way!!

The workshop ended just on time, by 12:30, parents had lined up to take their children back home, and we couldnt hold them back any further :).

Our work though was far from over, because then came the real deal. We had a one to one discussion with the teachers, which was an eye-opener, helped us assess our campaign and we were able to document important results.

Prize distribution was done the following saturday.

By Gehena Chauhan

The day began with haggling over ten rupees with an auto walla in NewFriends Colony market. I ended up misplacing my phone in the sameauto. (Should have given him that tenner !!) We proceeded to theTaimoor School in a rickety rickshaw which was on the verge of collapsing due to two very “healthy” Indian girls.Amongst the backdrop of humming noises emitting from the variousclassrooms, the survey sheets, pens and crayons were quicklydistributed amongst all twelve of us Manorath volunteers. We were amix of both experienced volunteers and amateurs, including some likeme who had recently joined and had no clue of what to expect from ourfirst workshop.Nervous and confused with trickles of sweat on my brow, I enteredThird B. Excited eyes peeped out at us as we gave them instructions.To be honest the other more confident, experienced volunteer did that while I merely nodded, smiled and after distributing crayons noddedand smiled a bit more, trying to look important.Soon enough I was assigned a section of my own to interact with - Third A. Asking the girls to draw anything that came to their mind, I watched with envy as they filled their blank sheets with brown mountains, yellow smiling suns , huts, matchstick figures, bluerivers, Indian flags, traffic lights, grapes and mangoes. Being an ardent mango lover, the latter caused my stomach to misbehave and makesome very aggressive audible noises. “Ma’am May I go to the bathroom?” I looked up from my survey sheets,and saw one tiny girl who was clutching her stomach. I clucked sympathetically and gave her my “ever so important” permission. Not even sixty seconds had passed when another voice pitched in “Ma’am mayI go to the bathroom ” I smiled and could see myself years back doing the very same thing. Needing a friend…everywhere. Like most other girls their age, these girls simply loved to talk. I took full advantage of this and tried needling them with questions about their teachers, parents and siblings.I was amused to see some girls trying to paint a rosy, picture -“the food is very nice, the teachers are very good with us”. Whereas others would instantaneously spill the beans and complain-“No, the food is not nice and I was hit by the teacher.”A gang of concerned girls stumped a volunteer ten years elder to them“Bhaiya what do you want to be when you grow up?”. Another was advised a career “Didi, you are very pretty. Please join Bollywood ”. Onevolunteer felt appreciated when he was declared the class’s favourite teacher only to realize that they were doing that to every volunteerthat day. Kids nowadays are either getting older too fast or maybe our generation is getting too slow.At the back of their drawing sheets, the children were asked to write their name, Father’s name and his occupation. This one girl told me that she did not know her father’s occupation. When asked why, shetold me that her father had expired and in a matter-of-fact manner added that even her partner had lost her father. On the other hand, I later found out how a girl in ‘fifth standard’ burst out in tears at the mention of her late father.This incident taught me that maturity is irrespective of age.When I had selected the three best drawings I went to the class anddistributed them. Each girl looked at me with hopeful eyes, expecting me to say her name. Since there were only three prizes, I had to givethe rest verbal consolation as to how each drawing was very specialand each of them were winners. One volunteer shared with me that a teacher had suggested to him that we should be distributing prizes to all the children.One face lingered in my memory long after the workshop. One girl asked me if she could write her mother’s name as she only knew her spelling. But she got stuck on her occupation. I asked her politely if she was a housewife. “No”, she replied, “My mother has been sick for many years. So what is her occupation?” Coincidentally she had come First. I tried to imagine the moment when this talented, soft spoken girl would have shown her prize to her mother. As for my prize, I didn’t get a pencil box or a certificate but what I got was a snapshot of smiling faces and lingering memories and I knewI wouldn’t have missed the Taimoor Nagar school visit for the world.The workshop wrapped up with a few of us going back to New Friends Colony trying to find my phone and then celebrating the lost phone atAl Bakes’ with shvarmas and mayonnaise .

This article was compiled taking help from the experiences shared by fellow volunteers-Archana, Harpreet, Ashutosh, Mridul, Gaurav, Gaurab, Tullika, Niyati, Subhash, Menakshi, AND Abhilasha.

I’d like to thank my best friend Anchal and her mother for their invaluable suggestions.