Children surrounded us, wide-eyed as if we were from another planet. “Namaste” I bowed and greeted them with a smile. “Namaste!” they cheered, happy to see our foreign faces. Their day began, but they were wildly distracted, stealing glances at the group of American students observing their summer camp activities.
My second week in India is off to a truly inspirational and exciting start! A group of us visited the S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research (in Andheri West, Mumbai) to get aquatinted with their Abhyudaya mentoring program, about which we will soon be producing a documentary short.
I didn’t expect to be able to combine my two interests and fields of study (film and education policy) while in India for these three weeks this summer, but I’m so happy that I am able to work with this non-profit org, that is actively helping underprivileged students go to school and achieve fulfilling lives. Some of these students have lost their parents and others often carry the weight of supporting them. This isn’t shocking to me, but it’s so much different when you hear about the conditions and problems that go on versus when you have no choice but to see them in front of you.
I had the chance to meet a few of the student mentees (know as sitaras, the Hindi word for “star”), who were incredibly tiny for being 15 and 16. We talked about their favorite Bollywood actors, where they’re from, what they like to do… it’s so funny how nervous each of us were! The two girls I spoke to, Dipali and Bhagyashree, were a little shy but completely sweet and adorable. Being in an Indian school has planted the seed of possibly returning to India to teach English when I graduate. This is a little premature, but I can completely see myself in this environment. The students in the mentoring program take classes in addition to their regular school on weekends and holidays, including origami for two hours, yoga for an hour, English, computer classes, something they call a “scholarship” class, and an option of dance, football (soccer), or drawing.
Craziness, but I also met one of the coolest people I’ve ever encountered! Manavji Sahaj led the children that morning in a fun exercise and a song. He’s also a nomad, planning to go where the wind takes him once the camp ends this Saturday by simply walking there. He’s previously walked hundreds of miles from major city to major city. I totally dig his peace of mind. Just look at him!
Overall, Tuesday was great! Tomorrow, we’re going back to meet more sitaras and film part of our documentary. I am looking forward to sharing our film (out of the 12 of us, we’ve split up to make three separate films for two different non profit organizations)!
On a side note…
All of us here are thoroughly obsessed with the Indian head shake. You really just won’t get it unless you’re Indian, have Indian friends or have been to India. Please watch the video below for a delightful explanation. I’m personally trying to master it before my time here is up. 😛