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Arshi - 2009 and beyond

Emotional stripping …. 

17 December . Book mark it ,save it , jolted back once again to reality check . Wonder how many times I will be jolted like this . Gut wrenching . Cold ,bare facts of life. Haves and have nots. Divide widening to chasms. Not really a "good " time of year to talk about serious matters- ( I guess) But more than anything else its reflection time for all of us ....? 

Conducted yet another “ emotional stripping “ session …its usually an ice breaker session done by development workers to ease bonding in participants . For them to feel that they are not the only ones with food,shelter,education and health issues. Takes us hours to do this exercise with mature adults . This time it was mainly with school drop outs –girls aged 17 onwards. 

(We draw a river and ask them to liken one bank to good experiences in life and the other to bad /sad experiences in life. And then talk about their individual rivers of life. ) 

After a lot of cajoling ,Arshi ,stood up. Have known her as a tall ,lanky teenager who is quiet and composed most of the times when she comes to our work center for learning and working. This was what I saw and knew of her. What I did not know was that she was forced out of school at 9 years . Father unemployed . Family of six hungry most of the time . Yes …she did have a few good experiences – most related to a full stomach and family eating together! Do we dare to ask Arshi more on her river or no ….? I ,for one did not want to…but Arshi did not let her experiences bother her as she faced the chart she had drawn on , showed her back to us and speaking softly ,then louder and louder ,started sobbing as her river weaved through the experiences in her life. I wanted her to stop as each experience of hunger and wanting an education had another person sobbing in class. Three minutes into the exercise and her sobs got muffled ,taken over by other girls sobs. I did not have the courage to look around and tried to shrink further in the corner that I was sitting in as my tears were now flowing unabatedly. When I did look around I found other girls looking at Arshi with admiration and a lot of camaraderie. She finally sat down and did not look up for a long time. 

Another river ,yet another river …20 participants in class. Where does it stop I wonder. Each river creates a flood . Innocent young bravehearts - all .Shall I get up and leave …am I ready for more of it. Am I as brave as these young girls who have the same hormones raging in their bodies as any other mall hunting teenager . Stories of wanting a school bag on their backs ,friends at school , lots of coloring pencils , a uniform with shoes ,the joy of going to a new class, two good meals a day ,a family eating together, a home with no abuses and more and more. 

Where do we start /culminate our work…? A thousand questions with no answers . 
Time and again I get jolted . My heart fills up and many questions shoot up yet again into injustices in the society . Caste / creed etc are all man made but how does one explain economic injustices in our society . 

As I go to sleep that night and pause to reflect on my day I wonder how would I talk about my River of life. And was this experience the” good river bank”(as it made me more aware of my responsibilities towards these young girls or was it the “bad river bank’ which jolts me back to reality every now and then…..? 


Safa - We work with many Arshi's and many in the making Arshi's ..... 

Educate a child , Empower a family

20th June 2018