“What goes on behind those red bricks?…”

What goes on behind those red bricks?“…wonder the eyes of the small ones who are going to spend most of their childhood on the peripheries of this Mecca of learning. Some think it’s a hotel, others think it’s a hospital, but definitely not a school…..they never see kids running out at the end of the day with bags hung over their backs.

The answer to this question was the theme of the project done by Geeta- a PGP-I student and her study group as part of the curriculum requirements of the course-ISPE(Indian Social and Political Environment) conducted by Prof. Anil Gupta in 2003. What started off as a curriculum project took the form of an endeavor to make a difference to the lives of these small ones, to give them hope and support to one day live their dream of running out at the end of the day at the strike of the bell, and return the next day to learn, have fun and more importantly to have a childhood that would give them a chance at having a better future.

What stands as the spick-and-span new campus of IIM Ahmedabad, was at that time a shanty neighborhood and the odds were, that the children of this locality would have a future no better than their present. But fortunately for these children this project did not just end with a report that would gather dust in some corner, it evoked in the participants a feeling that they must do something meaningful for these kids. A health camp with the Ramakrishna foundation was followed by a search for a place where classes for these kids could be held. The compound of a temple in front of the blind people’s association school presented itself as a bestowment from the deity of the temple himself.

The journey thus began which continues to this day. Some inspiring anecdotes make the story of this endeavor called Prayaas, a story worth telling. Once, in a class of Prof. Anil Kr. Gupta, the Prayaas kids were invited to participate. The class was asked to come up with uses of used matchsticks. The kids came up with some forty odd uses such as making kites, applying sindoor , padding them with nails for better strength and many more. Prof. Gupta wondered “Will these kids ever be able to make it to this side of the red bricks?”

On one occasion a PGP-I student, while teaching these children faced an embarrassing problem, he could not help a child write 6, no matter how hard he tried. Help came from unexpected quarters- a kid asked for his permission to help this child and lo!- the child was able to write 6, the very next moment. A little in-depth analysis of the incident threw up the fact that some people’s brains are wired clock-wise as opposed to the majority whose brains are wired anti-clockwise. This little minority prefers to write digits such as 6 clockwise. Stories of their wits can run upto hundreds of pages.

Along the seven years of its journey, Prayaas has touched lives of many such kids. It has opened a whole new world of opportunities for these kids. The eyes of these kids light up when they dance to the numbers of ‘Wake up sid’ and ‘Taare Zameen Par’ .Their joys know no bounds when they celebrate festivals such as Diwali, Rakshabandhan, Independence Day and many more. They now sport a uniform, attend a vernacular medium school and are on their way to have formal education which will enable them to become a part of the vitals of this democracy of ours ,instead of being just a vestige. In the words of Prof. Gupta “Prayaas is a success for me, even if it has touched the life of even one child positively, because this touch would carry on for generations, it would help these families get that one push required for a better future of their generations”.

In the golden jubilee year of this institute’s esteemed existence, we celebrate the success of this truly golden endeavor called ‘Prayaas’. Prayaas looks forward ambitiously to create a larger impact and to become a bigger movement. According to Prof. Ankur Sarin “Prayaas provides an opportunity to the student community of IIM-A, to learn management of initiatives with benefits for the society. Prayaas can help them widen their perspectives of management and at the same time their involvement can benefit Prayaas to increase its ambit and create greater social good.” Prayaas is a sapling, which aspires to grow and given proper care and attention, it can soon take the form of a perennial fruit bearing tree. For supporting its activities, Prayaas looks forward to contributions from the community to nourish this sapling in to well grown flourishing tree. Prayaas can be reached by e-mail at prayaas@iimahd.ernet.in

— Abhishek Ranjan (PGP’10) and Saurabh Katiyar (PGP’10)

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