We are 8 siblings, I am the 3rd child in my family. My parents used to work as construction workers. They used to earn 60 rupees a day. But my test began when my father’s recurring asthma attacks kept him out of the job. With mom in hospital after my brother was born and dad out of work, I had to work to sustain the family quite early in my life. I started working as a housemaid. However, since both my parents were illiterate and they didn’t want us to be in the same situation as they were my father used to tell us, ‘no matter what don’t leave your education, along with work just make it happen’.
I used to go to school from 7 am to 1pm. Then to work after lunch. After working at a house till late in the night I used to come home at 6.30 am to go to school. This continued till I was in the 7th grade.
However, studying at construction sites was not easy. No lights or fans, little money for books, surviving on chutney and rice, studying after a hard day’s work… life was a squeeze. It was very difficult to study in the kerosene lamp in the house so I started to study under the street light.
When I was in the 8th standard, I started working at a construction site, just like my parents… besides that, I also washed cars with one of my sisters and two brothers. I could never enjoy my childhood. I would watch other kids play with their toys while I was busy washing cars. But somehow I managed to continue with my schooling.
In 2006, Udaan entered my life. It’s a Mumbai-based NGO working with children from low-income communities in the field of education. I was in my 10th grade then. When I joined Udaan I left my housemaid job and started focussing on my studies. But I failed that year. I was totally broken and felt demotivated but my mentors didn’t allow me to give up. I was just fortunate to have them in my life when I needed them the most.
My mentors always told me, ‘Life will give you many chances. It’s like a game, if you fall down, you need to get up and continue the game.’ And today I am using the same philosophy to guide others. Whether we pass or fail we must continue the journey. With the help of my mentors, today I am a successful teacher. I always intended to become an English teacher. People who have studied in English medium cannot relate to our difficulties, that’s why I teach English.
But I was missing something… the thing I wanted to do the most was to be a mentor for other children like me. So, I got connected with MMI ‘Mentor Me India.’ This was the best thing to happen to me in 2016.
MMI currently runs an after-school mentoring programme for over 250 children from low-income communities across the city. Five of which belong to a shelter home in Thane.
I have a gentle request to all of you who is reading this – be a mentor. You never know how many people you might be inspiring. How many lives you could be changing for better. You may be making a difference to one child now but that child, when he or she becomes a mentor is surely going to inspire many. Thus, we can, together, build a great nation.
My father… who passed away 3 years ago, always used to say, ‘Whatever you have, always remember to share it with others as well.’ I am glad that I am just doing that.