Nostalgia is a strange thing. It suddenly engulfs you from nowhere when you least expect it and distant memories that were hitherto buried in your past come calling out to you. I too was left reminiscing about those misty memories when I thought of writing this particular post.
I meant to write about a small change that I brought about. As I wondered if I was ever instrumental in bringing about a change that was selfless (Phoebe’s dilemma about a selfless good deed did cross my mind –Yes I am a Friends fanatic and keep going back to it- pardon me). So, did I ever do something selfless that infused a change however paltry?
It was then, the memories come flashing back.
It was the time when I was an emaciated young girl on the verge of being a teenager. I lived in a sleepy small town somewhere in Rajasthan. Those were the nineties, when our evenings were not spent browsing through our phone and the majestic forces of whatsapp and facebook had not taken over our lives. During those days, we had a middle aged Punjabi woman who worked as a part time maid at our house. She had a daughter who was my age. Though, at age eleven, I was well aware of the class demarcation that existed in the society at large, my naïve young heart did not let it overpower the basic sentiment of brotherhood or in this case, sisterhood.
The girl’s name was Geeta and she used to often accompany her mother to work. We would spend the time playing ‘make believe games’ and would enjoy to the hilt. I used to eagerly wait for her mom to arrive so that I could get those precious moments of joy.
Geeta was not like my other friends. She was mostly fascinated by my toys and looked at me like a star-struck teenager. I on the other hand, reveled in the attention.
It was a sultry afternoon. We decided to play the most famous ‘make believe’ games of our times. Yes, it was called ‘teacher-teacher’. Geeta said she would like to become the teacher. I acquiesced and sat with a notebook in my hand. Geeta took the chalk in her hand and headed towards the little blackboard that my dad had bought for me a few days ago. It was my prized possession. As she prepared to write, I saw her expression alter and the radiant smile gave way to a crestfallen look of dismay. She stood there transfixed for a few minutes only to say, “Didi, I do not know how to write. I cannot be a teacher in this game.”
I looked at her stunned as I never had an inkling that she was illiterate. Just then her mother called out and she rambled towards her mother with weary steps. She was gone. But, something in me had stirred. I could not bring myself to believe that my dear friend was bereft of the basic right to education. I made a decision.
Next day, as Geeta came home, I made her sit next to me. I gave her a notebook and a new set of pencils and erasers. She looked at me questioningly. “I will teach you how to read and write”. This time it was her turn to be shocked.
From then on, whenever she came in, we would disappear in my room where I would wear the teacher’s hat and she would be the diligent student. Within no time, Geeta could write her name with ease and read a bit.
I was ecstatic. The joy I experienced was unparalleled. But, most importantly, it was unadulterated. I was merely happy that my friend could read and write. There were no hidden agendas and no vested interests. We went on to play ‘teacher-teacher’ many times after that and Geeta proudly proclaimed, “Now, I can be a teacher”. The sparkle in her eyes was hard to miss when she held the chalk in her hand.
After a few months, we shifted to a different city.
Today, as I look back, I marvel at my deed. I do not know if Geeta went on to achieve something later in her life. But, it makes me really question that if an eleven year old child can bring about a change, why does a woman in her thirties merely sit and make a commentary of sorts on all that is wrong in the world. This memory has been an eye- opener for me and has put things into perspective like never before. I hope I can learn something from my eleven year old self who was unscathed by the vagaries of the world. She did not just know the meaning of a ‘selfless deed’ but actually practiced it.
Every change begins with a small step, whether it’s a change within your family, or the whole country! India’s hero, Padman, had its digital premiere on ZEE5, on 11th May. Don’t miss this inspiring true-life story, only on ZEE5. Download the app and subscribe now. For every subscription, ZEE5 will donate Rs. 5 towards the personal hygiene needs of underprivileged women.