December 2nd, 2016
Once planted in mind, a notion can be resilient and highly contagious. After an idea has taken hold of in the brain, it’s almost impossible to eradicate it from our subconscious. An idea that is fully formed fully understood sticks in there somewhere. We all have such thoughts stirring in our wits, waiting for the time to get revealed. Udbodh is a corporeal form of such thoughts which was in my mind for many years.
The Inspiration for Udbodh
To describe the array of such ideas which took birth as Udbodh, I introduce you to a guy named Rohit. Tall, long bouffant hair, witty, brisk, a loudmouth with a smile that could melt the toughest of hearts. If I could recall one situation which portrays his company and wit, it would be the one when we were on a pursuit of finding “Bhindo”, my grandmother’s beloved buffalo. We used to leave the cattle in an open field named “oljha” in Masauli, allow them to gaze and come back after a while to take them home. But that day we were unable to find Bhindo. Fear of her getting lost or hit by a train engulfed me.
We all were around 12-14 years of age and were nervous, but Rohit came up with a tracking plan. He immediately climbed the tallest tree and looked around for her. We already did that and thought it’s a futile attempt, but he was looking for something else. He came down and said with a beaming smile “Bhindo is in Chanda ka Purwa “, which is a neighbouring village about 3 km from us.
We were puzzled about how he managed to comprehend that. He then explained that he observed the orientation of the sugarcane fields. There were tracks of an animal passing through the fields as we navigated through them following his lead. After a quest of about 3 hours, we located Bhindo caught by a farmer whose fields she damaged. Again, with Rohit’s wit and persuasion we were able to bring Bhindo back without paying for the cost of the damages.
This is just one of the many incidents from our time growing up that illustrates Rohit’s presence of mind, persuasive skills, charm. He was a problem solver and a born leader, and that in a way became his undoing. I used to visit Masauli for summer vacation every year, and Rohit was my go to guy. On one such visit to Masauli, I found out that he took a decision that changed his life. He dropped out of school in class 8.
His teachers in primary school didn’t teach him well, and as he was naughty, so they used to shun him out. I could see an obvious pain and helplessness in him. He migrated to Mumbai and did some odd jobs, but his inner streak for power and leadership forced him to erase the line of morality. And he crossed boundaries from where he couldn’t turn back. Today, I feel sorry for his life choices. Last I know from two years ago, he was in a Jail and the village had disowned him.
Thoughts of Rohit gave me sleepless nights. I wonder how his path would have been if he had the same education as me. To get answers to such questions, I left my job at TCS and joined Teach For India, an organisation that envisions excellent education for all children in India. I taught 45 underprivileged girls in Sangam Vihar, Delhi. This experience was profound and gave me the confidence that I could do something similar on my own. I believed that if positive people come together, things can be done. After long conversations with people in Masauli, friends and family we were able to form a team that believed in the uplifting rural areas through education.
We named our initiative “Udbodh” which means realising one’s true potential. Behind this is a belief that if Rohit had realised his true potential, as a society, we would have gone further. Today elementary education has a bad shape in Uttar Pradesh. Nearly 60% of children in fifth grade can’t read a text from grade two, according to Annual Status of Education Report. 80% of elementary education is in rural areas in UP. Therefore, rural education upliftment needs serious attention.
– Author : Anadi Shukla, founder of Udbodh. As a Teach For India fellow, he taught 55 girls for two years. He also ran a life skills center for women, called Gubbare.
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