13 year old Vijay Kumar is the eldest of four siblings. The son of a migrant laborer, Vijay moved to Bangalore with his family two years ago for better opportunities. Vijay’s father, Ashish Mahato made a choice. He decided to stay on in the city and provide a better life for his family than move back to his hometown Samastipur, in Bihar, when his first painting contract in the city was over.
Samastipur is one of the districts in India with a high male-out migration.
And that perhaps decision is what changed the fortunes for his son Vijay. That and Gubbachi who took him under their fold. You will be quite taken aback with the fluency with which he speaks the English language and the sincerity with which he does his school work- whether it is arithmetic, languages or environmental science. He his well-behaved mannered and his smile- a complete winner!
One of the founder members of Gubbachi says, “Vijay is a natural learner, we are there only to facilitate his learning. He absorbs a lot on his own and goes deeper questioning ideas at various levels, and their relevance to society and impact on the environment”. She goes on to explain that in a lesson on water, Vijay questioned the relevance of the burden city life creates on natural resources like water, and how if more people found contentment and livelihoods in rural areas, the cities would be less burdened.
A typical day for Vijay begins with waking up, filing up water for the day, getting ready for school, then getting all his younger siblings ready and finally trotting the 10 minute walk to the nearby government school where Gubbachi runs a centre. In the evening, he completes his homework and then helps his siblings with theirs and is in time to catch his favourite serial on the telly, Balbir and Rani Pari. He likes life here better than his hometown, but is nostalgic. “We have a TV at the rented place we stay at and better food too, but I miss my cousins and uncles at the village. But when summer holidays come, it’s such fun right from the time we board the train to when we reach home and meet all our family. Sometimes there is no place to sit but the excitement of going back home makes all that an adventure”.
He’s sure he wants to study “lots” - just doesn’t know how much that is. But is sure he does not want a hard life as his painter father. His mother Rohini is a cook in the nearby apartment. He wants to be able to give his parents and his siblings a better life someday and he believes that his education is going to take him there.
She’s got a winsome smile and her neat little pigtails outline her face where the eyes take in everything about you. That’s Prema for you, an exuberant and bright fifth standard kid that Gubbachi has taken under their fold.
Every little child here at Gubbachi has an incredible story waiting to be told.
Orphaned at a very young age, the youngest of four siblings, Prema lived with her maternal grandmother at Yadgiri, one of the most backward districts of Karnataka, till six months ago. When her grandmother passed away, homeless and hungry her elder brother decided to move to Bengaluru with her elder sister hoping to find a job as a construction laborer in the ever-booming construction city. One of the sisters remained at Yadgiri working as a flower girl and fending for herself.
“I used to go to a government school in Yadgiri; but I had to stop when my brother couldn’t afford to even buy my books or uniform. We had a small shop at Yadgiri where we sold biscuits, chocolates and such stuff. When my schooling stopped I used to keep practicing my reading by reading the wrappers of biscuits and chocolates. However, we had to shut shop as it was not sustainable and moved to Bengaluru”.
Prema joined Gubbachi six months ago and has been bridged into the adjoining government school successfully. Her fears remain that one day when the construction site is completed she will be moved again. Her elder sister works with the maintenance team of a completed building and she even gets to stay in a shed close to the school.
At the moment, the security of a roof above her head, however temporary it may be, a school to come to where the world is a journey in discovery for her; friends she plays with forgetting all her insecurities; and the Gubbachi team who encourage and instill confidence in her, allows her to dream big. “I want to be able to study forever, go to college and then someday become a doctor” says she.
The incredible thirst for knowledge and the understanding that education is a game changer, has perhaps allowed children like Prema to nurse dreams. Adity Roy. Writer Volunteer.
A Friday Nature Walk at Gubbachi Learning Community :)
There was some confusion whether we should go to the area behind the school or towards the village. After voting it was decided we'd go to the village. We started at 11.30 am. Deepanjali and I accompanied the children. 22 of us walked along the side of the road towards St. Anthony's church - just 200 meters away from the school. I felt like exploring the church premises thinking that children may not be familiar with the idea of a church and there also are some trees to climb onto.
So we entered the small compound and peeped into the church. There was a statue of crucified Christ who was bleeding all over. Anita was quite sure that her uncle had donated blood to this bleeding man some months ago. :D Vikas thought it was a school, seeing all the benches, and asked where the children are and when does the class happen? Some of the children said that it is Jesu Appa's place and it is equivalent to a temple. But the benches arranged in rows were still a mystery to Vikas.
We explored the area around the church and saw a small garden. We decided to create a small garden like this in front of our center. (Hope the idea will grow into some action.) :) There was a spruce tree in front of the church. We collected the secretion from its stem and burned it. It had an amazing fragrance - (thanks to the candles and match box at the church). Breaking the 'badam' seeds and eating them was fun too. Malli was concentrating on breaking and eating them with no distraction at all!
By this time many of them started climbing the other trees around. There were badam trees, jackfruit trees and teak wood trees. None of them had branches lower than 12 feet high. Vikas tried to teach me how to climb these trees using the strength of my upper body, which I terribly failed at. I even tried hugging the tree and just held to it; then, I would slowly slip down to touch the ground. They advised me to put sand on my feet so that I would have more grip to hold the tree. Everything went in vain. Anyhow, I've decided that I would learn how to climb this type of tree soon. :)
It was 12.20 pm and time for lunch, so we walked back to the school and some of the children sketched out the church building, trees and flowers before going for lunch. In one of the sketches you can see crucified Jesu Appa happily floating in the air. :)
Climbing is fun. Happiness matters. :) Have a happy weekend.