I grew up in the 'lower class section' of a little township. I was the first one in my family and 'my part of the town' to dream of University of Delhi!When I moved to Delhi University to pursue Economics, I realized that the economics of inequity outside the classroom intrigued me more than the Economics inside the classroom. There it was, abject poverty and inequity staring into my eyes.For the first time in my life,I gathered the courage to do something about it and hence started my journey towards designing a Theory of change for myself where I could play a role in making this world a more equitable place. Over the three long college years,all I did was try to understand the problem statement of inequity through various experiences,evolve myself to fit into this movement & develop my Theory of Change.
One morning,I landed up in Tehri,to explore the magnificent Tehri Dam that the NCERT geography books have been talking about all my school years.Believe me, when I say it-that place was the most isolated place ever.All I could see was an infinite stretch of trees and the damn dam!I couldn't fathom how I could be the only tourist there.Next, I had to reach Haridwar & there was no transport in my sight.After a few km of walk,a God awful lift on a bike,and a marriage proposal (yeah right) I reached the "jeep stand" of Tehri!
- Picturise this -A wooden bench,a cow taking a dump,a tree (surprise) and zero jeeps.Yeah-that's the "Jeep stand"!I had to wave at every jeep passing by asking for a lift.Fortunately,all 6 jeeps that passed by were full already.After a good half an hour came by this truck. I waved for a lift.The driver gave me the coldest look ever with a silent head movement of -"Kahan jaana hai?".There began the ride that I would always want to go back to.This guy was one tough nut.I blabbered on & on to break the ice and all he would do was one or two occasional nods.After 20 mins, I cracked the lamest joke on myself and he bursted into laughter.He not only drove me to Haridwar which was 93kms from Tehri,but also took a detour to show me a tourist spot,made me try the best chai in the town-all without charging a single penny!We shared many misty moments and hysterical laughs.Unlike many people who were pretty critical about me travelling alone and without a "mard", he was so happy for me.He told me which all places should I travel to next,shared his craziest travel stories with me,some of his life changing lessons,told me how impressed he was with me and how beautiful was the moment that we were sharing.
This was a huge hitting moment for me.This guy here,had an education till the 5th grade.My social circle at that point had people who have been educated in the most premier institutions of India. However, this guy was the most evolved person I had met in my life till then & may be till date.He made me question everything that we associate with excellent education & excellent educational institutions.That was a milestone that made me define the kind of education I would want to see in our country.
Journey towards equity
In 2016,I walked into a little slum located in South West Delhi,as a Teach For India fellow.A group of first generational learners whose families had migrated from all across India to Delhi in the hopes of a better life,were my 'kids' now !
Many of them belonged to broken homes and abusive households. Many of them were the sole support system of their huge families .All of them were living in houses,the size of a conventional ATM .A community ,where basic amenities that I had taken for granted all my life,were termed as luxuries.In simple words,their reality was so far from mine that every time they shared their problems with me and I said that I understood,I knew deep inside that I was lying !