“Pagdandi”, literally a narrow path, is probably the best way to widen your own range of ideas. Having just been a spectator to two Pagdandi workshops was enough to convince me that there was much more to educational reform than I had previously thought. It was pretty startling to see 12-14 years old adolescent kids from an underprivileged background discussing patriarchy with each other, with no distinction between the girls and the boys in the room.
Even the most high-end private schools in India have not really picked up the idea of teaching kids about reproductive health and taking care of themselves during adolescence (at max, we had a chapter in Biology in 8th and 9th grade about reproduction and adolescence, which we all merely chuckled through). It wasn’t so here. The taboo wasn’t present, or rather had been broken by discussions. There are many things that society doesn’t talk about, or does so in hushed tones, because it is believed to be ‘uncouth’ or ‘immoral’ to talk about such issues. And so, taboos are created, and reinforced through generations of elders telling us not to talk about it. And I realized, through discussions initiated by someone you believe to be mature and sensible, these artificial walls can be torn down pretty effortlessly.
“All it takes is an initiative”, they said. It requires immense willpower and courage to take up the initiative, nobody said. And I realized at the end of it how big it is what Pagdandi stands for. Then upcoming was the Pagdandi festival, where all the learning the kids had gathered throughout their one year in Pagdandi was to be displayed. Through the rush of preparations, and the song practice that was held in the same room, I was excited for it. So were the other volunteers working alongside me. After all, hundreds of kids would be there, it would be huge!
And came Saturday, and the night-long downpours that thankfully stopped to allow us to put the décor around the tent. The kids helped actively too, and soon kicked off a host of activities ranging from pot and face-painting to a reading club and a potter’s wheel. My personal favorite was the dance workshop, and I won’t go on bragging about my superb dancing skills now.
I was to handle the crowds lining up for the cotton candy stall, and trust me, the experience was one that I’m going to keep alive for a long time as my first managerial success. I also met some new people, who were either volunteers for the festival or were there as representatives of other NGOs, and I also discovered some new facets of people I had already known. All in all, I enjoyed my heart out on the first day itself. Pagdandi doesn’t just teach kids from a certain camp community, it teaches everyone involved in it something or the other. For me, however, the highlight of the day was Rajma-Chawal as lunch.
– Shubham Jain (Intern at Swechha)