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Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for. – Joseph Addison

About ten years ago, the first time I stepped into my office for my internship, I felt amazed. ‘Cos until then, I had only heard about stories of a half and one pass percentage in the CA exams. What would be the total number of CAs in this city, I would often think and come up with a random hundred, five hundred or thousand and leave it at that. Never ever had my estimate crossed a thousand; until the day I stepped into my office for the first time. Hundreds of CAs under one roof gave me goosebumps; goosebumps of hope. Hope, that I can one day be one among them too.

Yesterday, I had a feeling beyond that. This was a feeling of hope too. I say beyond that ‘cos I witnessed hoards and hoards of people willing to help underprivileged children to perform and do well in what they choose. There is hope, even if there is nothing else.

This was at Chiguru, a cultural event organized by Youth for Seva for the Government school students. Events ranging from dance, quiz, spelling bee, memory games, singing, drama, painting, rangoli and so on and on were organized for these students. Thanks to Swaram and her team, I was fortunate enough to train a few children from a nearby school. Without any hint of knowledge of Telugu and only with gestures and butchered English and Hindi, I have to say I did manage communicating withe the kids. 

My rendezvous with the kids was for about a little more than two weeks wherein I would meet them at a nearby school and train them for quiz every morning for an hour or so. I used to look forward to meeting the chirpy little ones and have fun talking about how the British looted us, who is the father of railways and also, which subject they hated the most. My mornings, for the last two weeks, were filled with laughter, fun, learning and the sounds of Akka. I am missing it already!

Yesterday, was a jewel in that crown of wonderment. Yesterday, was the event itself. Chiguru. Initially, I didn’t want to go this mega event. Just preparing the kids alone gave me enough satisfaction. Not really, but the husband was about to run a 10K on Sunday which meant I couldn’t have attended this event. ‘Cos with who else would I leave the children? Then, his 10K got shifted to Saturday and he insisted that I go for this event. I am so thankful I did make it.

The fun began at about 7 in the morning when I reached my usual school to wait for the bus to take us to the place where the event was organized. Children came in one by one and by quarter to eight, we had a group of excited twenty kids. Just being in the midst of them gave me such a start to the day. We reached the venue by eight thirty and the first person I met there was Swaram. Okay.. Naan onnu solliye aagum. Swaram athana azhugu! No, I didn’t borrow Suriya’s dialogue. She really is beautiful. Only a handful of people are completely beautiful. You know, from both the inside and the outside. She is one of them. For all those reading her blog know what a goodhearted person she is. To see it from about yards away, I have to say she is awesome; at least a hundred times more that what she comes across as in her blog. With a walkie talkie in her hand, she was up and about throughout the day (not even having her lunch/breakfast) all the while not failing to stop by and smile and talk to the kids everytime they came calling her. Hats off to you, lady. It is only because of people like you (and your team!) that it still rains in this country.

The event itself was so well organized. Every bus which carried about fifty to seventy children were marked and allotted separate places to sit so that the kids don’t get lost. Every event that was held in various classrooms were marked clearly with labels outside. Also, there were volunteers seated outside to guide the students to their respective events. The food was served with such care and kindness to the children first and then, the rest.

The talent these children had was just amazing. A rangoli with two peacocks on both sides with an India in the middle was coloured in such a beautiful way that the image still stands before my eyes. A dance performance with the national integration theme was done with so much grace and precision by these kids. When the kids that I’d trained came down running to inform me that they were selected for the next round of quiz, I was so happy that I had tears in my eyes. ‘So, when is the final round?’ ‘In two minutes, Akka!’ They screamed and ran back to their classrooms. So what if they came third in the final, I am glad they enjoyed this process. A group of kids from my school who performed in the group singing category had tears in their eyes that they lost. ‘In a competition earlier, we had come first competing with 28 schools, Akka!’ Their disappointment was justified, I thought. There was one girl who kept insisting that we volunteers eat too. ‘Aap bhi subaha se kuch nahin khaya. Aap bhukh mahasusa nahin hoga?’, she kept asking. I didn’t know what to respond.

One day, while I was on the way to the school, there was a scene I saw; which is etched in my memory. An AC school bus is passing by. Scores of children dressed in neatly ironed clothes look out of the glassed windows. What they see outside is a wrinkled uniformed government school boy running in the midst of dust and smoke to catch the government bus. I can still see that image in my mind. These are the two Indias that we see everyday. Why is the government showing such apathy? Why aren’t the public schools not as good as the US or other developed countries? Why does education have to come with a cost here? Is there any hope at all? So many questions haunted me that day.

Now, after this Chiguru event, I think I can say there is hope, thanks to people like Swaram. They are doing what the Government has failed to do. Yesterday, after the event, I felt tired of running up and down in the sun. My feet went numb. My head was aching. My eyes were droopy. Yet, my heart was full, brimming with hope. J.Krishnamoorthi says even when we do something for others, there is a selfish motive behind it. That being, our own happiness. That way I am selfish. But, I am proud to be selfish. And, this happiness I’ve never experienced till now in my life. The greatest joy is the joy of giving.

Thank you, Swaram and the entire YFS team. You guys rock!