This Friday, however, I was happy I made amends. I was happy I made the time. With the rest of my team, we visited a school....a very different school. This school is called "Masti ka Patshaala" which roughly translates to "learning center of fun". This is an after school resource center for under privileged children that teaches them through art, craft, music and dance. This is the only way to keep these children engaged, keep them interested in going to school and away from other negative influences. This is the initiative of an NGO called Search Years (www.searchyears.org) whose objective is to reduce drop-outs from schools. I was surprised to know that only about 20% of students who enroll into government schools in India finish their schooling!!
We reached this school and we had an activity to work with the children. Each of us worked with a group of 3-4 children to build our own terracotta birdhouses. The children knew this very well and took the lead in showing me how to make a birdhouse. There was a very enthusiastic small child called Tilak and he was the leader. He told me the details of how to work with the clay, what the size of the opening should be for the bird to be able to build a nest in the birdhouse, what designs and motifs to carve on the exteriors and so on. There was a quiet boy called Vinod who was busy making dummy bird figures and designs to beautify the birdhouse. He worked very hard at it. The third boy in our group was Krishna, he seemed an accomplished consultant when it came to building the birdhouse. He gave good advice to the rest of us, was resourceful in arranging water and clay as we needed and he did make beautiful flower-like designs on terracotta to provide our birdhouse a good finish. The boys told me that they were good friends. They were all in the same age-group, between 8 and 10 years. They were enthusiastic children and you could see that they carried a passion in life.....a passion and confidence to make something out of life.
It was a truly humbling afternoon learning to build a birdhouse from three children. Their palpable passion and enthusiasm was infectious. The simple joy and gratitude that these children showed asks you to stop and evaluate your priorities. It reminds you to be grateful for everything you have. It nudges you to reflect on whether you are spending enough time doing what gives you happiness. It makes you wonder if you are giving enough back?
Later in the evening as I left for the airport, I realized it is not only the birds that need their birdhouses to be strong, it is also these children......they need their hearts to be strong......their spirit to be strong. Life has been and is tough for these children. These children already know what tough circumstances are, but they have the courage and ambition to overcome the circumstances. They have clearly taken the first step. I pray they have the courage to continue. I pray they have the courage to take the leap, but not stop in mid air. I pray they have the courage to take a fall but not break their spirit. I pray for their success.....and I hope they learn to fly and reach their own beautiful birdhouses!!!