Empowering the economically backward

Not everybody is brought into the world with a silver spoon in his or her mouth. A lot of people have to struggle to meet both ends meet. These people are the posterity, which leads the country to greater heights through their unwavering determination to achieve success.

 The Indus International Community School is a unique initiative. It is a place where children from diverse backgrounds and adverse conditions come every morning, all spruced up in neatly ironed uniforms, with a glint in their eyes and ambition in their hearts. These children understand the wholesome meaning of passion and hard work. They understand that they are the lucky few who go to an institution where they are offered high-quality education; a replica of the kind of education offered to the mainstream school that they are a part of that is Indus International School, Sarjaura. Karnataka, India.

They feel privileged to study in a center of excellence for Technology, English and Vocational Skills that is offered at a Lilliputian cost as compared to other schools offering the same amenities. Also, learning through practical knowledge which children who are not well off are usually not able to gain is an added perk for them.

However, only a handful number of people are aware of this brainchild of the esteemed CEO, Lt. Gen (Retd.) Arjun Ray. A School that is meant for the rural poor who live below poverty line (BPL) and children who come from families those are economically disadvantaged.

 

This is the an interview with Lakshmi, a girl from humble origins who is now studying in the community school:

 

Q: What school did you go to before moving to IICS?

A: I studied in a Kannada medium school.

 

Q: Did you like it there?

A: No, I always wanted to study in a school where I would be taught English. I asked my mother to send me to an English medium school but she always shrugged away by saying that we did not have enough money.

 

Q: How do you like Indus.Is it the kind of dream school you had yearned to study in?

A: I love it here. I feel so privileged to be studying in IICS because It’s only because of joining Indus that I know how important education is.

 

Q: What do you like studying and who has been your biggest support?

A: I love studying English. It is my favorite subject and is taught by the best teacher in the world, Ms.Naima. She takes very good care of me. However nobody can love me as much as Lt. Gen (Retd.) Arjun Ray, Mr.Rao, Mrs.Rao and Mrs.Anuradha Gulati. They have taught me innumerable life lessons.

 

Q: Why are you so passionate about being well educated?

A: Learning is a blessing. When one is educated, they can become something. I aspire to become a police officer and it is only through education that I can achieve this.

 

Q: Why a police officer?

A: My father and brother drink a lot. They do not go to work and refuse to refrain from this habit. I see my mother and elder sister working really hard for paying off our house loan, running the house and for something as basic as food. If I were given the opportunity to become a police officer, I would ensure that such practices are stopped.

 

Q: We know that you live on campus. How does it feel like to be a boarder?

A: The hostel and the girls are very nice. It’s a great experience to stay with them. Our house-parents have taught me very good things that I always follow. They have instilled in me the lessons of never steal money, always bathing and respecting others and their privacy. I was never taught all this in school. Therefore, I don’t like home as much as I like school.

 

Q: Don’t you miss your mother?

A: I do but she comes to visit often. I went home for Diwali and ate food cooked by mom that I absolutely love.

 

Q: How about friends, do you have a lot of them?

A: I have lots of friends in IICS and IISB and they all treat me as an equal.

 

Q: What do you like beyond studying?

A: I enjoy swimming and football.

 

Q: Is there something you would like to share with our readers?

A: I would like to urge all of them to study and make their dreams come true. Also, never consume alcohol or smoke cigarettes as they ruin your internal organs and make you unproductive individuals.

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Text within a text

I’m bored mom, I shouted from the love seat right outside the changing room in Nordstrom while my mother tried the dozen clothes that she had taken inside after spending literally an hour searching in the section that had tacky neon and electric pink posters with Sale printed in curly fonts.

I was an 8 year old and an impatient one at that. My mom walked out and handed me a ten dollar bill on which Alexander Hamilton looked away, smiling (more like smirking)

“You can go to the bookstore next door on one condition” she said

“Don’t loiter around, stay in the section for kids” I mimicked in my mother’s accent” (I had finally perfected it).

She smiled at me instead of shouting at me for misbehaving in public, that’s what shopping does to her.

I entered the bookstore, bewildered as ever. One of the women who helped there who remembered me from my previous excursions came to me with a wide, white-toothed smile.

“How can I help you?” she asked sweetly

“Can I go to the kids section?” I said

“Of course love” she replied, catching hold of my hand and guiding me to one of the back aisles.

She took a seat at a corner while I rummaged through fairytales and picture books, graphic novels and comics, mysteries and encyclopedias.

I had a daughter, who looked just like you; she had deep, dark grey eyes, a forever-plastered smile, a crow-like nose, and wavy blonde hair, just like yours. 4 years ago, when she was 7, I was driving her to school. It was just like any other day, my ex-husband called up and shouted, “You’re over Meredith, your happiness is soon going to be taken away and then you can drink as much as you want, drink away to glory.” I retorted, “Shut up you drunkard, go and immerse yourself in your work and bottles of whiskey.” the line was long dead. I cut his call and looked up, staring into the bloodshot eyes of an obviously drunk truck driver.

SMASHHHHHH.KABOOOOOOM

My car had been split into two vertical pieces. The part where I had been was intact but the part where my daughter had been sitting was in such a bad shape. I could see her hand reaching out to me from underneath the door, I tried to reach out but before I could make a call or save her, her hand went limp.

I ran out of the bookstore on seeing the woman crying, I ran to my mother, crawled inside from underneath the stall and howled like I used to when I was 4.

My mother shrieked first but realizing that it was I, she looked at me, patted my back and pulling me close to her said, “How many times have I  told you to stay away from those horror stories, look at yourself, you looked so messed up sweetie.”

I didn’t say a word, just hugged her frail frame and hid my face in her pink fluffy shirt, which had a price tag hanging off the shoulder.

Something Exchanged

She came up to me, running, out of breath, excited with gleaming eyes that shouted. I looked at her with interest, observing her carefully I said, “What is it Peyton, why that funny look on your face?” She looks at smirks, shrieks and blurts out loud “Its here, the one thing that is bound to make you happy is here.” I think of chocolate and ice cream, good grades and a new laptop but not even once does the actual thing cross my mind. “He sent something, his friend Jamal just handed it over to me” she says, smiling.

He sent me something. WHAT. NOWAY.

I look at her, making sure that my expression is a straight face, not giving away my keen interest or excitement or shock and I say “OH!” That’s all I say, I don’t shriek or start jumping around which I should have done considering how ecstatic I was.

Peyton hands me over a small package; I take it from her and stuff it into my bag.

“You aren’t opening it” she says bewildered.

I raise my left eyebrow to make my 3 year younger sister buzz off.

She raises her hands in surrender and says, “Okay, okay. I understand, you need your space, its your life, you don’t want me to see what’s in it”, “Also, you don’t want me to tell mom and dad about it”

I smile at her contentedly, “You are getting smarter by the  second little sister” I say.

She smiles back at me, understanding my sarcasm. “See ya soon big sista who is obviously in love with Omar,” she says.

I hide my scarlet red face by turning around

(When you move around while blushing, the blood from your cheeks starts flowing throughout your body, so you are no longer red, hence MOVEMENT IS MANDATORY.)

As she walks away, jamming her fingers on her phone, typing away noisily, I proceed towards my realm, my room.

I lock the door behind me; sit on my bed, facing the package, apprehensive and freaked out.

Should I open it or not, it could break my heart but nevertheless I choose to open it and deal with the result later.

The package consists of a Black Diary which has Omar’s journal written on the jacket cover. (I’m a little more hopeful than I should be)

Backflips, butterflies and somersaults seem to take over my stomach and controlling me completely.

I slowly open the Journal, reading it carefully, word by word, page by page and then faster, flipping through the pages, flying through them till I reach the last page.

I stop.

Am I ready to know the end to this unbelievable story?

Maybe/maybe not.

I close my eyes, take a deep breath and heave a sigh.

LETS DO IT.

I read the entire page, holding my breath, in one go.

There is a wide grin on my face when it ends, I look into the mirror and see the smile lighting up the corners of my eyes.

HE LOVES ME. HOLY SHIT. HE REALLY DOES.

CRAP.CRAP.CRAP.

SHIT.SHIT.SHIT.

He wrote an entire journal about me, how he stalked me everyday, how happy he felt when he saw me, how I made him feel stuff that he hadn’t ever before.

I felt like a princess, I mean it isn’t often that you get a gift that is not materialistic and has more value than all the materialistic gifts in the world put together.

I close the journal and hug it closer to myself and notice a note sticking at the back.

“If you feel the same way about me, come and meet me behind the school auditorium tomorrow morning at 7am, really hope you come- Omar”

And that is how the fairy-tale of a lifetime began, with the exchange of love, the exchange of feelings, the exchange of that black journal and hearts.

What lies in a name?

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Everybody has a name.In my opinion,even anonymous is a name!Some names fall in the ‘short category’ and some in the ‘long category’ and there are a few that are ‘stuck in the middle’ and just like my height, my name too is stuck in the middle.

An unusual name with various pronounciations which are all acceptable cause its a proper noun, my name is Raina.

It belongs to the Persian/Arabic origin and means Queen-which I’m obviously NOT but like every other girl, would love to become.

I won’t mind hijacking Kate Middleton’s life and marrying Prince William, in fact it would be a beautiful dream coming true.I would attend balls,galas and benefits, roam about in Limousines,Lamborghinis and Aston Martins and be the much ‘hyped’ talk of the papparazi.

But all that is secondary, even oodles of money can’t match the feeling of being a ‘Royal’ , belonging to a family with the richest heritage,longest of lineage and deepest of culture.

You might find this funny, think of it as something a 5 year old might want but in our heart we all will always be 5 year olds wanting to become princessess like Snow White or Rapunzel, marry a handsome prince and have our ‘Happily ever after’.

On goodbyes, or maybe have a good life till we meet again?

‘‘I won’t let people in again. NEVER’’
 This was the way my brain processed after fights with friends whom I thought were forever, being lied to, bitched about, isolated to fend for myself ALONE.
I swore that my walls would always be up. High. Impossible for anybody to break, crack or fire at with a canon. I’d become the secluded princess, forever alone, away from the manipulative world but, there’s always a but.
But I still hoped that someday, somebody would come-my knight in shining armour or maybe a friend who would hold my hand and teach me to walk again? 
Patience does pay off, doesn’t it?
I met you. 
I was scared to commit at first but slowly I embraced having you in my life, slowly you became my life line, my speed dial and you brought me the happiness which I once knew cause I had known somebody remotely like you a long time ago.
You’re leaving now, for good. 
I’m trying to accept the fact that you won’t be around to be my emotional support but somewhere on the inside, it’s still a joke to me, hasn’t struck me yet or probably I’m not ready to open my eyes and face reality.
I’ve been a sucker at goodbyes, so it won’t be a goodbye. It will just be a you’ll be missed so come back soon my friend. We have history to make.
 
Take care.
Farewell.
 

My Plea

I’m scared to walk out of the confined four walls,
I’m scared to roam about alone in the malls,
I don’t feel secure,
There is no safety any more,
Too many restrictions,
Thoughts and ideals of individuals causing frictions,
I would rather be treated like a boy,
Not just a use and throw toy,
I want to be free like a bird,
Not always be considered another target in a herd,
I want to have an open life,
Not threatened with society’s knife,
All I wish for is a better future
For all those little girls
Who deserve to be nurtured to become beautiful pearls…  

This poem was written post the Delhi rape case and is one that is really close to my heart.

 

 

The Disappearence of Scarface

Ziya had grown up as an outcast.She had always been the black sheep in her family.no one cared about her and her house was a living hell but this did not stop the mysteriously scarred girl from becoming a bully in school.She could eat from anybody’s tiffin box,swear at anyone and steal anyone’s money without being threatened because everybody felt like a coward in her presence. She had an undefinable aura and her face was proof that she had suffered much. There was only one person who could stand up to her without blinking an eye , and that was her ‘so called’ friend Aayan.

And then one day, out of the blue Ziya disappeared.No one knew where she was.Her forever drunk father had been out since 3 weeks and hadn’t returned. Her careless mother had left the house, saying that she was going out with friends for the weekend but that was 5 days ago, and when Ziya didn’t show up in school for 4 days in a row Aayan got tensed up and suspicious. Moreover, Ziya wasn’t even picking up her phone. So, Aayan decided to pay the Shah house a visit.

The Shah house looked as though a hurricane had hit it, wrecking havoc. There were pieces of broken glass on the floor, the house was stinking and hadn’t been cleaned in a month. But Ziya’s room was like a contradictory statement to the rest of the house.

It smelled of tube roses, though a bit rotten. The room was very meticulously maintained and had stars painted on the walls which had faded and there were chapped parts which were unsuccessfully hidden. The only oddities about the room were that the contents of the cupboard had been hurriedly messed with and the bedding had creases,and looked as though it hadn’t been made since a week.

These peculiar findings were pointers to the fact that Ziya had left the room in a hurry. Which brought mind-boggling questions to Aayan’s head about Ziya’s sudden disappearance. Had she been abducted? Was she alright? Had she eloped? He shrugged away the last question on realising that Ziya would never do that, she was not a coward. But her being missing suddenly brought tears to his eyes, and he broke down… astonished that he had done that, and that was when he realised that his best friend Ziya completed his life, made him feel secure, made him feel loved.

What Aayan didn’t know was that the very brave Ziya had actually run away, having no other option left. She had discovered a fact that was heartbreaking. She had been lied to, well one wouldn’t if their entire life was a lie, if their existence was a lie.

The very thing that made her an outcast was not a mistake but a very carefully planned plot by her father. The scars that covered her burnt cheeks were not due to the hot tea that she spilled on her face as a kid but had been given to her when her father had tried to murder her alive as a kid by shoving her face into the fireplace.

Ziya was a strong girl and could have handled it because she had always doubted the story about the spilling of tea but the woman whom she had grown up referring to as ‘mother’, was actually her father’s partner in crime. They had together killed Ziya’s real mother because she had refused to kill Ziya, as her father wanted a boy rather than a girl. To show his rage and fury, he had killed Ziya’s real mother.

And reading all this through a well hidden diary in the attic made matters worse. Her brutal father had written it as though he had done a good deed which deserved a reward. The brutal man had made her suffer so much that being dead would have been a better option especially sitting there alive in the creepy darkness of the attic with a single ray of light coming from the torch in her hand.

Ziya had lost all hope, she had lost faith, her life turned into a joke, a very cruel one. Emotions engulfed her and she started weeping, weeping for herself, weeping for her dead mother whom she had never known, weeping at the cruelty of her father, and more than anything else she wept as she was struck by the fact that she did not have a place called home, but just a house.

Then the thought of Aayan, with a perfect family, who loved him and would do anything for him came into her mind and she felt not a pinch of jealousy but remorse. And that was the point of time when she decided that she had lost the little that she had. Ziya then and there made up her mind that she would never return to misery. And then without another thought, she picked up a backpack , stuffed her bag with a few things including her teddy bear. And then she put on her jacket’s hood to face the harsh weather outside. Ziya stepped outside the house, looked up to see the stars twinkling and wondered which one of them her other was, then she ran, ran from life, ran to relive life…. ran… ran… ran never looking back.