Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Ultimate Joy

Their eyes look up to you for love and care. Watching their playful giggles and unaffected demeanor brings a smile to your own face. How can you possibly ignore such innocent charm?

I have been associated for the past two years with a Gurukul run by the Arya Samaj, in the Subhash Nagar district of New Delhi. It is a charitable foundation, one of many such gurukuls situated all across India that are a part of Arya Samaj’s initiative to impart education to underprivileged children from across the country.

The gurukul houses 17 boys between the ages of 8 and 15. The kids hail from the north-eastern states of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur as well as from Rajasthan and Maharashtra. They come from underprivileged families, living in places where children are made to do physical labor and education is nothing more than a distant dream. While here, they are sent to an English-medium school and imparted moral education by specially appointed Shastris (teachers) in the form of the teachings of Arya Samaj as passed down by Swami Dayananda Saraswati and the four Vedas. They are even given special training in martial arts (Taekwondo). The kids’ personalities are groomed in such a way as to make them capable of succeeding in today’s highly competitive world.

Two years ago, when my family came in touch with this institution, it felt like a true blessing. We have virtually adopted these children since then. When they arrived, none of them understood a word of Hindi or English. I, along with some friends, used to spend my free time helping them build a base in both languages so as to be able to cope with school. Now they have a tutor to help them with the subjects they are having troubles with at school. My father, who has been my first and my best teacher so far, also teaches them English sometimes. My mother showers them with motherly love and they consider her as their own mother. I visit them as and when I can. We celebrate our birthdays and festivals like Holi and Diwali at the gurukul with the kids. They are also taken on an outstation trip every year, in order to get some recreation during the summer holidays. We accompanied them on such a trip to Dehradun, Mussourie and Rishikesh last year. This year's trip is soon to take off too.

And they are truly gifted kids themselves. They cook their own food. Some of them are national champs in Taekwondo and Kabaddi. Their school teachers tell us how good they are at their studies. Given all the facilities they are getting, no doubt they do not really need us to visit often. Yet, they love it when we do.

They used to call me “ma’am”. I instructed them to call me “didi” (elder sister). In the initial months they were very shy. Coming from totally different surroundings and living away from their families and home, they are bound to feel lonely and insecure. But over the years they have forged a strong bond with us. They look up to us for appreciation and love. They show me their homework, their medals and prizes, their test results. They always ask me when I’ll visit next. I always regretted that I don’t have a brother; now I have seventeen. And I am absolutely loving it. Their innocent smiles touch the heart like nothing else can. The happiness and contentment I see on their faces, gives me a taste of the ultimate joy in the world. It is quite rightly said, you see heaven in a child's smile.

(This post was my entry for the Bucket-a-hope story contest, which got published here)
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