While my friends would be out on exotic vacations, here I was waking up at 6:00 a.m. to beat Bangalore traffic

I’d always grow envious following my friends’ social media accounts during the holiday season – I could never comprehend why our college wasn’t as generous as theirs while drafting the semesters’ calendars. While my friends would be out on exotic vacations, here I was waking up at 6:00 a.m. to beat Bangalore traffic and teach a bunch of uncooperative 4th graders. Who, by the way, despised school.

It only very recently hit me that I found a story there; maybe not in the best possible circumstances, but it helped me grow in terms of my thinking and reasoning. I was interning with Teach for India at a school in Bangalore. Up until then, I had only possessed superficial knowledge about concepts like sexual and emotional abuse, the impoverished state of communities and child abuse.

Once I joined as an intern, I was given the task to handle the ‘difficult’ students of the class. These four boys were unruly, abusive and were clueless about what had been going on in lessons. It was a Herculean task that I didn’t think I was prepared for. They’d run around and enact obscenities on their female classmates, referring to them as ‘Hole.’ Initially I would be embarrassed, as I didn’t know how I’d talk to my students about sexuality and sex.

Soon enough I had become their ‘lenient didi’ who couldn’t scold them for their misbehaviour. Deciding this needed to change, I wanted to know their stories and where each of them came from. Over the course of the internship, I learnt that all they needed was love, acceptance and a little patience.

These students were exposed to a lot of vulgarity in their community. They’d live in single bedroom houses with seven other siblings and their parents, everything transparent. Their neighbourhood offered pornographic films for just 10 rupees, access to cigarettes, and some were even dependent on alcohol. They’d been subjected to sexual abuse, child labour and corporal punishment. One of my students wanted to be a police officer so he could earn bags and bags of money just for letting someone off the hook.

They hadn’t ever been taught to differentiate right from wrong.

So, when I think about a positive aspect of my journey through the first three semesters at college, I think about how I couldn’t go for a long Christmas holiday because of my internship. Little did I know that I could become a better human being by just devoting my time to these children, by reading stories of Horton, the Elephant and teaching the Alphabet.

Now, when I think about a Christmas break, it is in a different light, because long and idle breaks didn’t make SCMC the best mass communication college in India; productive ones with internships  did.

Article by: Rushali Rastogi (Batch of 2019)

Visual by: Ankita Chawla (Batch of 2019)