Being born into a family of teachers, I was always taught the importance of education in the process of gaining a ‘quality life’ and not a mere ‘life of survival’. I was privileged enough to get my schooling at a very decent place with a crowd of people sharing the same background as me. Being unaware of the outside impediments, I was engrossed in myself and my surroundings.
It was in the 11th standard when my bubble of privilege was burst by an NSS camp, where we were supposed to stay in a village for a week. We came face to face with incidents such as the lack of water and electricity, poor infrastructure, schooling on the floor on a mat, cracked blackboards, etc., which was routine when it comes to life in the village. The need and importance of education was not so much a priority. My foremost goal was to help in enabling the importance of literacy. Some of the village residents were on the same page with me, however, some were not. The days went by and I was able to accomplish my goal to a certain extent, which gave me immense satisfaction. This was the moment I knew I was made for teaching and working for society.
After stepping into college, I knew for a fact that I can’t simply sit and forget what I saw during my camp because the lack of education wasn’t restricted to a particular village, but it was pervasive. In my first year, we were given orientations for all the cells and committees that the college has. Among them, one was P.U.L.E.R. (People United for Law, Education and Rehabilitation) that worked towards free education, basic law lessons and enhancement of skills like art, computer, etc., for the underprivileged children of a nearby village – Mendori (Bhopal, MP).
Being a mentor demands patience and is not everyone’s cup of tea.
This is an informal cell that has students from the 1st to 5th year who would provide on-campus and off-campus classes to the students of Mendori Govt. School. The cell is headed by a convenor (who is generally a 5th-year student) and a co-convener. The core committee also has a secretary and a treasurer. They receive funds from the finance department of the University, which they use for stationary and conveyance. At the beginning of an academic year, a schedule is prepared whereby classes and mentees are allotted time slots. After the induction of members, the mentor is given responsibilities according to their preference. To become a member of this cell, a Statement of Purpose is supposed to be mailed during the induction period followed by an interview.
I applied for it and was shortlisted whereby I was asked about my past experiences and my skills. Accordingly, I was allotted an 11th standard girl for on-campus tuitions. My subject was Hindi but soon I realised that she had no problem in Hindi as it was her mother tongue, but it was English and Business Studies that bothered her. We were not allowed to take each other’s subjects because this was done considering various matters so I asked her to give me half an hour and I would help her in this regard.
Days passed by and we became friends. She would ask me all sorts of questions and I was happy answering them. The smile on her face after my explanations and examples was worth putting in the effort. I took her on treats, made her study in open surroundings and gave her little breaks wherein she would discuss her day with me. The camaraderie we shared was beyond words. After spending around nine months with her, it was time to say adieu because the cell reconstitutes every year and new mentors and mentees are allotted. Her exams were close so she stopped coming and eventually there was zero conversation between us.
The only way to achieve an ideal society is to make one.
I tried framing my learnings from this experience, wherein such experiences snap the silver spoon that you’ve been born with. It will make you realise how lucky you are to have parents that turn the world upside down to get you something that you desired and how silly it is of us to draw parallels between our petty problems and the life-challenging tasks of each day.
It also taught me that being a mentor demands patience and is not everyone’s cup of tea. Also, some things are better done without any expectation of return. There is a colourful joy in giving something that you have. Working for a larger cause or something on these lines is better than sitting at home dreaming about an ideal society you want to live in. The only way to achieve an ideal society is to make one. Ultimately, it helps you in making a difference.
After the vacations, my day was brightest when I saw a familiar face outside the hostel and to my surprise, it was Monika, my mentee. I immediately rushed to hug her and catch up with everything that had happened in this span of time. She asked me to join the cell again and insisted on helping her prepare for the 12th standard. On her demand, I have sent an application mail to P.U.L.E.R. and am hoping for the best results!