“UNV Volunteering: Your volunteering application- Confirmation of receipt” the subject line of her email read. Anvi’s eyes lit up and a wide smile spread across her face. Anvi was born into an ordinary middle class family and had grown up to become a chartered accountant in one of the most successful firms in the city. At 25, Anvi was intelligent, beautiful and as most people would believe, accomplished. But Anvi knew that as perfect as her life seemed to everyone around her, it lacked something.
“I want to make an impact on the world.” She would tell her friends with not even the remotest clue of how she would achieve this feat. That was until her loitering over the internet brought her face to face with the United Nations volunteering program. Now usually, Anvi was the kind who dismissed random advertisements over the internet. She had this hard etched notion that the world wide web is in fact an echo chamber. It only shows you what you wish to see and hides away the ugly truth she believed. But in this case she was willing to hear and even embrace this echo. She jumped feet first into the application process. Of the opportunities listed, teaching the underprivileged children in a government school nearby appealed the most to her.
It had taken ten days and numerous mails to and fro between Anvi and the other people involved to finally begin teaching. She was told that she would be engaging English lessons for kids who lived in slums that surrounded the school. Since the regular students stayed away from school in the summers, an NGO had arranged to make it available during the evenings. This summer session was the closest most of these children would ever get to an education.
The day had finally arrived when she would be teaching her first class ever at this school. The butterflies in her tummy refused to settle even on the bumpy bus ride to the school. When she walked into the classroom, she was met with a “good evening teacher” that threatened to tear down the fragile tile roof. The classroom itself was a tiny confinement void of any furniture sparing a wooden chair. The entrance of the room was a wooden frame, which probably held a door in the ancient past. Just adjacent to it was a wall that was painted matte black which had now turned grey.
Anvi had already been briefed about her responsibilities and she knew exactly where to begin. But she wasn’t prepared for a dozen pair of curious eyes staring at her. The pupils whom she would be attempting to teach a foreign language to were all seated cross legged on the floor of the classroom. She tried to register the faces as she asked them to introduce themselves. They each stood up, telling her their names and how old they were. She could not decide which of them was more poorly dressed. She caught herself thinking if they even followed basic hygiene. She snapped herself back to the class. The last boy to stand up was a lad who was 12 named Hari. Hari seemed to be a shy boy who did not mingle too much with the rest. It was probably owing to the fact that he was the oldest in class. What caught her attention was that Hari introduced himself in English while the others simply stuck to their native tongue.
Day one flew by at the speed of light. The days to follow soon rolled by as well. Anvi managed to get to know most of the kids. She learnt that most of their parents worked for daily wages. The kids helped their parents at work and pretty much earned their own bread. Their stories were each sadder than the previous. The kids had their individual reasons for learning the language. Most of them aspired to become tour guides or serve at cafes.
Much to her surprise, the kids were well behaved and ever eager to learn. They made it a point to make the best of the time they spent at school. Anvi had developed a fondness to the faces and voices that rung of happiness amidst the striking contrast of their miseries. As Anvi taught the kids words and grammar, they continued to teach her how to love and stay happy unconditionally. Days passed and the children seemed to be making great progress. As much as they would’ve loved to stay in school for longer, their current jobs demanded them to do otherwise.
Hari had quickly become her favorite with his dedication. Here was an orphan who worked three jobs to support his little sister’s education, sacrificing his own in the process. Some days, Hari would rush into the classroom a good half hour late. “Sorry teacher.” He would say with his head bowed down. But once in the class, his attention never failed her. He always waited his turn to answer and was considerate and helpful to his peers.
Nearly two months had passed and the class had made great progress. They could now read and write simple words. They were also able to frame sentences that made enough sense to be understood. Soon, the sessions would end and these kids would have to wait for another year unless a mass miracle occurred to rescue each of them of their tragedies.
On the penultimate day, before the class ended, Anvi wanted to leave the kids with something to think about. “Dream” she wrote on the board. The usual drill off late was that she wrote words on the board and the kids would each take turns to read it. She then would explain what it meant. “Tomorrow shall we talk about what our dream is” she asked. “Yes teacher.” came the unanimous reply. The next day began like any other, until reality slowly began to strangle Anvi. She was torn between the sorrow of leaving these kids and the joy of having been of some help to them. “Teacher we want to tell you about our dreams now.” One of them prompted. “Sure, let’s begin with you.” She said. “I dream of sitting in a plane.” “Doll.” “Chocolate.” They all said, one more excited than the other. Their enthusiasm made her smile. “what do you dream of Hari?” Anvi asked when all the chatter had died down. Hari looked at her with sadness in his eyes. With a meek voice he whispered “I dream of not just dreaming of school.” Anvi’s eyes teared up. She hoped that someday she could gift wings to Hari’s dream.