Her heart leapt with joy on hearing the news. Saki started dancing and would have even done a somersault or two if it were not for her mother’s disapproving look.She'd always wanted to help father with his field work like her brothers and bring home all those colorful goodies. She failed to understand why father kept saying that his workplace was not a territory for girls.
But that day!!! Saki was finally going to pick garbage with her rag-picker father! Kumar didn’t want to disappoint his stubborn child and secretly hoped she would get disgusted by the trash. She was meant to learn household chores like her sister and other slum girls.
Saki’s eyes widened as she scanned huge heaps of glittering waste. To her father’s dismay, the child fell in love with the place and found second home amongst the green bottles and shiny metal plates. For a week she continued to visit her new workplace and wondered why anyone wouldn't want all those wonderful objects! Anyway, she didn’t care as long as she could take some home!
One day, just as her eye caught some shiny object and she dug in to savor it, she was interrupted by another girl of her age and an older woman. The kid was from a new school that had opened up for girls and wanted Saki to come down and study with her. Now Saki was already upset about losing sight of the object she’d spotted and this talk about school annoyed her even more? With rage in her eyes, she ran away from them to find her father. She never went to school anyways. Her cousin Sweccha had left school because she thought it was easier to earn money for her family working in a household. Her father too never understood why girls had to go to school, when they would get married someday. His son of course was getting trained to be an electrician.
The teacher’s convincing notwithstanding, Saki and Kumar blatantly refused to entertain discussions about school. The teacher smiled and gave Saki a little card. Saki was stunned by it. It was so colorful and beautiful that she couldn’t take her eyes off the woman in the card. However, she went back to scooping the shiny object that had her attention minutes back only to end up with a deep wound in her hand! She yelped in pain and returned home.
That’s when Sweccha came to her rescue. She got Saki some fresh bandage, antiseptic to wash off the blood. She called it “First Aid”, something she’d learnt at the new school. Slowly, rag picking started turning monotonous and she acknowledged that it was only trash. Also, the shiny attractive objects always got her into trouble. Household chores also never interested her! That was when she decided to give school a chance!
Saki was nervous and sweaty on her first day to school. She went numb upon meeting so many people in a room full of colorful things. Her classmates greeted her and pulled her towards their desks. She was stunned to hold a colored pencil for the time in her life. Upon scribbling with the pencil, she was exhilarated! She could now create whatever she wanted to see instead of letting the heaps of rags control her! “The new classroom isn’t that bad”, she thought as she started to color her first picture.
In a week’s time she even got a hang of Madhubani art. The best part was that could get her paintings back home and show her mother.
Kumar wondered what kept his little angel so animated. When her mother proudly said that she was going to join government school that summer, he was furious. They had agreed that Saki would help earn her dowry by working at households. Saki joined in the argument now, by chance. Kumar had never seen his daughter calm and composed. He paused to hear what the changed child had to say. Saki promised that she would earn for herself, not working in a household but as a teacher! Even though Kumar was poor, he was a good man and wanted the best for his children. He saw in Saki’s eyes, conviction; the conviction to change, to challenge all status-quo and become something better in life. Her spirit and conviction was so strong that it inspired him to put on his entrepreneur cap to start his own venture.
Subsequently, Kumar opened his own Pani-puri outlet and started making money for his family. Saki on the other hand made the entire family and community proud by topping in the government school!
Kumar’s pride and excitement knew no bounds seeing the laurels his daughter brought on to the family. He was curious to know the name of the school that brought around this paradigm shift in their lives.
That’s when Saki chuckled and said: “Protsahan pa, it’s called Protsahan”
COO Protsahan India Foundation