Tears of Joy

I walked into my first classroom about three years ago. As I entered the door, 30 expectant eyes turned to me and I felt a lurch in my stomach. While I was feeling nervous, those innocent hearts were sizing me up…and knowing that didn’t help. Over the next few months, they tested me and judged me to see if this didi would stick around.

As I continued to hold my ground, try different techniques, get to know each child – what makes him tick, what makes her laugh, what makes him excited, what bores her – I slowly gained their confidence and I was accepted. And that made it all the more challenging because now I knew they trusted me with their future.

Along with colors, games, fun and play in the classrooms, there were tears, frustration and doubt back at home on days when I felt I hadn’t made an iota of difference in the class. On my train ride back home on one of such days, I broke down. Rahul, one of the 10 year olds, with whom I had been working especially hard the last couple of months, wasn’t showing any progress. I had tried various techniques with him but he couldn’t even write a few words, couldn’t do any math problem, couldn’t read a single sentence.

Along with the tears, however, came the determination and belief that every child in my class will learn. Yet, as I worked with him over the next few months I didn’t see any results. And then it was April – almost the end of the term. We were revising the concepts done through the year and I asked the class to do an assignment. As the children started doing the work, I glanced over at Rahul and saw him fiddling with his pencil. Fifteen minutes later, I could not believe when he came up to me, showed me his completed work, got it corrected and came back with his mistakes corrected!! All those months of frustration vanished away just like that – in a moment.

End of the term however, the slum community that my kids lived in was razed out and they were shifted to a community in Mankhurd. A new center was opened up and a new teacher joined in. I missed them terribly but work and life caught up. 3 years later, I went into that class for assessments. Words cannot express what I felt when I saw Rahul’s essay on ‘if I had wings’:

“Birds have wings. I dreamed yesterday that I had wings and I am also flying with the birds in the sky with colourful wings. If I had wings I would fly in the sky with birds. Birds will get a surprise to see a man flying in the sky with them. I will wake up in the morning and go to school by flying in the sky. I will help old people by flying while crossing the road. I will race with birds in the sky and when I will win I will become the king of the sky and of the birds. I will enjoy with my wings. I pray to God asking him to give me wings for flying in the sky. I would love to fly in the sky.”

Rahul – I am so proud of you.

Akanksha Career Fair

“Oh, the Akanksha Career fair is coming up in Dec. There are just so many things to be done! Kids are in 10th std.! December is not a good month!” These were the initial thoughts I had.

But then I realized that there is never a good time. I also realized the value of doing a career project for the kids. At least now we had specific careers and time frame. All I needed to do was provide a structure and give guidance to students and they had to do all the legwork. I believed that it would definitely benefit them. Continue reading

It’s 5 days to the launch of The Akanksha Shop!!!

It’s about children

To me this shop is about the hundreds of talented Rajus and Sirajuls who are just waiting to get the chance to touch brush to paper. But more than for the talented and gifted ones, the shop and the art project, stand for the thousands of Vaishalis and Sanas – those children for whom a love for art is now a means of livelihood and with it a sense of independence and freedom which they otherwise may not have found.

It’s about a dream

Almost 8 years ago when I was a part of the first X’mas exhibition at Srila’s, I heard us talk about how it was not enough. We dreamt about a shop of our own filled with bright coloured wild products crafted with spontaneity and available through the year! Because of the lack of space, we dream of an Akanksha art bus which moved around the city selling products. Because of the lack of a bus, we dreamt of a large Akanksha Box which could be carried from store to store. Continue reading

The Akanksha Art Shop-Opening Nov 14, 2010

‘Society may say that we are street kids, we can do nothing.

But how the lotus grows beautifully in the mud, like that we’ll rise

We’ll rise. We’ll rise. We’ll rise.’

Jyoti R, Anand, Kavita, Akanksha Students, 14-16year olds

The Akanksha Shop brings together art with what children have to say about various topics, themes that are both personal as well as those that impact our world at large. The result is one small example of what is possible if the poorest children in our country are given access to opportunities – the opportunity to study, to build skills, to have choices and to be able to dream of a different world for themselves.  Continue reading

The first man on the sun!

Its 9.30 and we start the day with a revision of the solar system. Komal, Nandini, Jagruti, Roshan and Siddhant seem very excited about the new lesson for the day- ‘The first man on the moon’. Some of us are still trying to rub the sleep out of our eyes. Gaurav and Aishwarya are still trying very hard to crack their daily math pyramid.

Valerie didi and I pass around the reading sheets and wait for everyone to settle down. We begin the lesson and read about Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, and Michael Collins’ adventure as astronauts.

The kids seem confused when they hear a new word-‘astronaut’. After explaining to them what astronauts do, the kids ask me where astronauts can travel to. So, we discuss how astronauts travel to the moon, and the stars. At the end of the discussion, I notice that Siddhant still has a perplexed look on his face. He raises his hand to get his doubt cleared. “Didi, What about the sun?” Before I can begin to answer Jagruti says, “It is very hot on the sun! How can we go to the sun?” I add, “It is like a ball of fire! We’ll probably get burnt if we try and get close to it.” Siddhant, with a victorious look on his face, “Didi I will pour lots of water on it and then we will be able to go to the Sun also!”

I couldn’t help but smile.  Amrita (teacher)

Speech by Tauqeer Shaikh at the CitiBank investors conference

Oh the places I’ll go!


I’ll start my life with icy morning,
Splendid communication, with lots of fun and jumpy joys
But together with a strive to move from
Stinking gutters to the fragrance of flowers.
Decision making will be done through my four formulas
i.e. physical + mental + moral + spiritual = Success
You have to become an I.P.S officer
You have to become an I.P.S officer
Definite and determined
Yes Sir……
I’ll have family, Akanksha and financial support
I’ll top I twelth
I’ll make my best place in M.A
At last I’ll crack U.P.S.C exams
I’ll have many options and can
Maneuver myself any direction I choose.
But life is not very lenient
Peer pressure, family problems, financial problem,
Lack of guidance, cheat, frauds
I may come across all these to make myself at ease.
I may have to wait 100 minutes or 100 years
Waiting for the fees to pay, waiting for the game to play,
Waiting for paper to go, waiting for the results to come,
Waiting for a good health or waiting for a good job.
But again it boils down to my power
Power of mind, heart and soul
If I do it I’ll be the only and lonely
Sometime I may feel as the one who is left out.
But there is some great quality in me which stands out.
In the next four years many hurdles will hold me back
Resilience is the only thing which will help me to fight back.
Yes I can’t enjoy happiness
If I can’t taste sorrows
I have to be ready with sword and shield
To fight with the ups-downs on the battle field.

-Tauqeer Shaikh LTL 1

Hi everyone I am Tauqeer Shaikh I have been in Akanksha for the last six years and I am pursuing my B.A. from Wilson college. The poem I just recited was written by me two years ago when Continue reading

The French Revolution

Once upon a time in Akanksha…
KGM 2 awaited the arrival of some guests from Sodexho International..The fundraiser said quite a few of them would be French nationals… A few mock presentations and a quick  French crash course later,  the children were all geared up  for the audience ..
3 Innovas   with 12 people in crisp business suits, entered the premises..
The children looked at me and said ..” Didi so many foreigners??”..I gave my regular ” just chill” signal and we settled in the class room..
They looked at our children and enquired..” In which language should we converse with the kids? Would English be fine with them??” I told them English would do just  fine..
On this ,one of the elderly men from the party asked in slow English..” WHAT- IS -YOUR- NAME?”..not sure if the kids could decipher the heavy accent and still more unsure if they  could respond ..
Rekha ,14, gracefully stepped foward and said ” Bonjour Monsieur, Je m’appele Rekha..Comment allez-vous?” ( good day sir, My name is Rekha , How are you today?)
A moment of awestruck silence and  everyone broke into a roaring applause..
Being able to change the perception of a French national about the ability of the impoverished children in India..This I consider as achievement… Giving a shy girl like Rekha  the encouragement  to stand in front of a dozen foreigners and talk in  a foreign language ..This i consider achievement..Making each child in my class feel that  “yes we can” ..This i consider achievement..

 – Sampada Nayak (teacher)

A helping hand.

My center is a place where kids come to get knowledge. They leave their house, give their time and believe in us. I am not just a teacher but also a helping hand in various ways. A helping hand to build their self esteem, a helping hand to go ahead a million miles, a helping hand to wipe their sorrows and a helping hand to grow them independently at their work.

It is a great challenge for me and I am here to fulfill them. I am here to fulfill their wishes and mine to see beautiful smiles on a hundred faces. – Yasmeen (teacher)


When I started as a teacher in July 2008 I remember doing these things:

  • Picking up broken pencils and erasers from the floor.
  • Separating 2 children from boxing each other.
  • Trying to teach for not more than 30 minutes.
  • Thinking of quitting after two weeks every time.

But now in March 2010 the scene is very different :

  • My center starts at 3 pm  everyday and  at least 6-7 kids come in at 2.30 pm
  • Kids have started ringing up to say “Didi, I will not come today”.
  • Aarti even got me a chocolate saying “Sorry Didi I did not come for 4 days.
  • Ever since IPL has started Rakesh writes on the board giving match schedules and the winning teams name.
  • If I ring a parent he/she immediately says, “Didi, I know Abdul did not come yesterday, I am sorry’.

These are some of the countless things which are happening at the center which has given me a new high. I enjoy and look forward to each day and I am sure it will be not always  be this rosy but that will motivate me to do better tomorrow than what I did today. – Ushma HN2  (teacher)

The beauty I see

Beautiful bulletin boards, adorned with various stuff like value based articles from the newspaper, children’s resolutions, their views and observations etc. Enthusiastic Reshmeen and Kunal, chattering Mehrumissa, to the shy Priyankas, the boisterous boys, inquisitive Ismail, naughty kids, cheeky kids being defiant and arrogant at times, football loving and cricket crazy kids is what my center is all about. It is also a center where happiness and joy reside. Petty quarrels keep happening due to clash of egos, quirky behavior by misguided kids, enthusiastic learners ready to show off their skills around the class. It is also a place where ‘quiz time’ is greeted with enthusiasm and math with dread.

Strugglers and high achievers sit side by side, sometimes being helpful and caring and sometimes laughing and sneering at others. – Geeta Haribal. (teacher)