We spent more time trying to work on his phonetics, and at the end of an hour, I felt like he was more confident spelling some of the words at least. Generally, he had a very strong aversion to writing or reading. “Nahi bhiaya, I do not want to write! Let’s do something else no please. Anything but writing. My writing is not good, I cannot write properly.” – this was a typical response he’d give me whenever I’d ask him to do some writing.
Since today was one of my last days at Asha, I clicked some pictures with some of the students I had gotten to know well over the last month, and asked them to tell me something about themselves. Not surprisingly, everyone got excited when I told them I wanted to take a picture with them, and almost all of them said something along the lines of “Bhaiya, click a selfie – it will be so awesome and cool!”.
“I study in Marathi medium Tirandaj school. I love to play Kabaddi but I when I grow up I want to become engineer. Because my mother always tells me that her beta will become an engineer. I haven’t thought so much about becoming an engineer, but I think I like it. I don’t know what they do, but I want to become one anyway because mummy likes it! She never scolds or hits me, and I love her very much! My elder brother wants to become a doctor – not because mummy wants him to, but he himself wants to become a doctor. My elder sister wants to become a teacher, again she really likes to teach – she has told me this many times.”
“We want to learn English very badly. Remember we had that short conversation with you last time? Whenever I get a job in the future, everything is in English there – we have to talk, communicate, write, use laptop in English only. There is no Marathi that exists there, but we study everything in Marathi in our school. When we go to work, we will only suffer with not learning English. Our boss will tell us something and we wont even know what he says. Which is why we are searching for better ways to learn english now itself. They don’t teach it well at all in school.”
“I [Anil] have a grandfather – he graduated from college in his time, which is great. He has a full education and is a graduate. But he didn’t do English and Maths in school. So he struggles with filling out forms every time, whatever the form is. He is so many years elder to me, and is a full graduate, and still he has to ask me or my father to fill out forms or read something in English. I do not want to end up like that – it is not nice at all. And see this is despite being a full college graduate! After studying so so much, he still goes and asks other people. He wants to become a panchayat sarpanch in the future. He studies Science, Geography and all that and he is too too good in all that. He’ll write in Marathi excellently. But when it comes to English, he cannot even talk in the language. And if you want to become a leader like that, you need to know how to speak in English. I am ready to work very hard to get English knowledge.”
“My [Karan] chacha is BA pass, and he too doesn’t know English. Once I went outside with him, and he told me that he cannot fill this form, and I filled the form for him with whatever English I knew. When I did that, he got very emotional and told me – See Karan, I am a BA pass and I still cannot read or write English. Look at my state now. Do not ever let that happen to you. – This was when I was in class 6, and since then I have been trying to find ways to learn English better and faster. I came to Asha actually to learn better English.”
“Sometimes when I am part of a conversation and people are talking in English, I too feel like participating in the conversation and adding my thoughts and inputs, but I cannot do it because I can’t frame my thoughts in English. And I do not like that at all. I too want to contribute to the conversation. Some of our friends talk a bit. But I want to talk the way you talk, or the way Sameera Ma’am and Dr. Smita talk.”
“We are best friends, so whenever we’re together, we always try to talk to each other in English – “See this painting”, “you complain her”, “Today I eat food” – we talk with each other, or at least we try to, for practice.”
“Both of us want to join the army. Karan wants to become a foot soldier, but I [Anil] want to become a general. You know – how they have a map, and they send troops and make strategies and plans. I want to do that. Karan wants to become the general and lead the army into battle. But both of us really want to join the army. And again, if we want to both achieve and reach such high posts, we need to definitely know English! Like I want to be able to say things like “I kill you!”, which I usually say when we are casually fighting/playing with friends. Also, all the maps are in English only. When have you seen a Marathi map other than our school Marathi Geography textbook?”
[Ashwini is Aditya’s elder sister. She is one of the sharpest and sweetest students I’ve met at Asha.]
“Oh my God Aditya Bhaiya we are late for school – it’s 12:45 and the prarthana [prayer] would be going on now! We need to run! Let’s answer your questions very fast and then run to school. You are coming tomorrow na? WHAT! You are leaving in a few days? No no no no, we will not let this happen. Anyway, to answer you – I love to study and come to school and Asha. We learn a lot here. But to be honest, I don’t want to do science or maths all my life and become a boring person. All of us want to become dancers first, and then teachers. Dancers because dancing is just so much fun! We like to dance to any music! And teaching because it seems very nice to be able to spread knowledge and learning to other students in the world. I want all students to have a good and happy future. It is a nice thing to do. Still haven’t decided – dancer or teacher. Sometimes there is this thought I have in my mind and I think about what I want to become when I grow up – yes I do that many times. And I always see myself as either a dancer or a teacher. Or, best of all, a dance teacher!“
“I want to become a doctor after I finish school – do you know why? Because when anyone falls sick, I can give them ONE medicine and they’ll become healthy and start running immediately! Also then I don’t have to do too much writing! Hahahaha I am late for school now bye!”
“I [Simran] think coming to Asha is better use of my time because I get some real knowledge here. And with my knowledge, I can use it when I become big to become someone in life. We need knowledge to become someone in life, and to go somewhere. I want to become an IPS officer when I grow up. There are too many corrupt people and thieves in India, and I want to put all of them in their place. Parents also support me with this, and they really like this.”
“I [Kareena] want to become a computer engineer, not any other engineer! I really like computers, and always look forward to my turn on the computer here. I want to learn to work with it better, and what is inside the CPU. Love coming here because there is more studies that happens here than at school. We currently don’t have an English teacher only in school, and our class children do not even like to speak in English, so no one speaks in English at all. But we want to learn, and so we come here and we learn a lot here!”
[We always hi-five each other whenever we cross paths. It’s a pact we made with each other on day 1: Whenever you see me or I see you, we have to give each other a quick hi-five. And act all cool about.]
“I get so bored sitting at home, so I come to tuitions here at Asha and learn something. I want to become a big person with learning, and not waste my time at home. I don’t mean becoming famous, but by big person, I mean – like a politician. I don’t want to become a politician – no way!!! But like them. I think engineering sounds interesting to me right now. Problem is that I love to do everything – study, run, play, sleep, eat – everything is fun.”
“You want to know what makes me different from everyone else? If I tell you, you’ll laugh. Promise me you won’t laugh at me? Ok. Here it is – I can whistle like nobody’s business. I can whistle without my fingers, with any finger, and with all fingers too. In different tones, pitches and volumes. I can make that shrill loud whistle too beautifully. Do you want to hear me? [Whistles.]”
Interesting observation: I did not ask one of them what they wanted to be when they grow up; yet, most of them gave me an answer that was along the lines of what they wanted to do in life in the future.