The India Behind The Smiling Faces

‘O My God! I cannot eat this food’, ‘O My God! I cannot go to college everyday’, ‘O My God! How can I live without the AC?’ Sounds familiar? Surely does to many of us because we grew up taking things for granted and why not when we have seen only a very small part of the world and chose to neglect the not so happy realities. Hallelujah! It is time we start appreciating.

Maybe I could not have got the opportunity to get closer to reality than what CRY gave me. When I joined CRY I did expect to see some beautiful happy faces at every session but as time progressed I actually could see what’s behind those smiling faces. Yes there is innocence, there is naughtiness, and there is love and a world of unconquered territories in their eyes which more than often dwindles and vanishes in thin air.

Now ever since I became fortunate enough to be the leader I make sure to go into their lanes and by lanes to knock the doors of the children or call them when I see them fooling around. But, I remember the first day when I had accompanied some volunteer to call the kids and the lanes, the houses, the living conditions all gave me a reality check about our society, our country and a sense of gratitude for whatever I had.

IMG_20180801_145844_324A family of four or five fitting into a room which is almost the size of the bed, but still they are smiling. Standing in the queue to get water every day, standing in queue for the loo everyday and still they are bursting with energy. Standing on the road and taking bath because building a bathroom is luxury and we expect them to perform like any other ‘normal kid’ going to some high profile English or Bengali medium school but that is not how it can be. It took me time but I realised that somewhere many of the kids feel studying is a luxury and can be done away with it because at the end of the day it will add up to nothing. I do not blame them at all because now after all these days with them i can see myself in their place and I can think like them.

It is really difficult for dreams and aspirations to walk through those slippery dingy by lanes of the slums but slowly it is. We see hope every time a new child comes down and sits through the hours with us. We see hope when a brother gets his sister to the session because he liked the session.

It is extremely satisfying to see so many girls coming up for sessions every weekend when we keep reading about how girls are still oppressed and banished from studies in Northern parts of the nation. There are parents who are welcoming, there are parents who are reluctant but what we take as our happy pill, energy pill are the acceptance and then try to change the reluctance to acceptance. Nothing happens overnight and if the change remains progressively constant it is bound to stay on.

Happiness is a goal and these kids achieve it every other day despite all the hardships and not so pleasant circumstances.  I remember when the preparations were going on for the Annual PAG event ‘Think Free,’ it was such a delight seeing these enthusiastic kids memorise songs and steps and speeches like pro. Yes they stumbled but never gave up. I think that is the spirit that their lifestyle teaches them because every day is a fight. Little efforts from our side can bring in huge change in their lives because it is all about the mindset and only that can bring in permanent changes in life which CRY aims at. We think we are giving but at the end of every session we take back the boost up for the rest of the week, the fuel to go on and the courage to face life.

Saptarshi Roy, CRY Volunteer, Kolkata


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