Given a choice, I would love to pick up my little girl from school daily but I am mostly unable to eke out time from my overloaded schedule. When I do, I try to make the most of it. I try surprises like getting colored slush for her as she loves it and finds it amusing how it changes the color of her tongue. Yesterday as I got some time, I went to pick up Aliya from school and was gazing eagerly at the school’s gate, as the slush I had brought had started to liquefy. As the gates were opened and I saw children rushing out and looking for their parents. I too was looking for my princess. In that hubbub, I saw some relatively untidy children, wearing the same uniform, also coming out of the school. And then I spotted Aliya talking and laughing merrily with those children. I was puzzled, as affording this school (being one of the best in town) was not easy. She too spotted me and started walking towards the car, waving back at those children. She opened the car’s door and was elated to get the multicolored slush. On our way back home, I asked ‘Baby, who were those children you were waving at?’
“My friends Papa!” she replied in a who-else tone.
“Not a single normal friend?” I regretted my words as soon as I uttered them. It was hard to conceal the turbulence within.
I enquired about their muddled attire and was surprised to know that from this new session, around twenty percent of every class was occupied by these necessitous children. I figured out that this school, unlike the others in its league, must have followed the newly passed law under “right to education”, wherein all schools are supposed to give a small portion of their total seats to children from underprivileged families.
“Such fancy things sound good on television channel debates, but I am sure I would like my princess to keep better company,” I thought. “They come from a totally different world. One of abusive language and unhygienic habits, far from the class we expect our children to imbibe in one of the best paid schools in town.”
The traffic light turned red. Aliya opened the window and threw out the half finished slush, in a hurry to free her hands to reach out to my mobile. The cat Jerry she had domesticated on my mobile, was purring for food. She immediately fed some milk and biscuits to the hungry virtual cat. It made me wonder at the futility of such apps.
I was about to scold her, when I heard the tak-tak on my window being knocked by a child selling novels. He was sweating in the scorching heat of the sun outside, holding a heavy stack of books in his left hand and trying to show me some bestseller covers with the other.
The traffic light went green and I had to move on, though I felt pity at this child. What had happened in the last 10 seconds had totally changed my perception. Maybe my little princess really needed to step out from the hollow world of gadgets, computers and television. Maybe she needed to develop some value for money and the hardships one has to go through in the real world to earn a living. What better way than giving her company of these children who lived in this unprotected real world. Her school had done just that! Not only would the deprived children get better education, and learn the etiquettes of the higher class in majority, they would give these children from affluent families a flavor of the real world. What a wonderful way to teach children to co-exist, develop mutual respect and bridge the widening gap between the rich and the poor in our country !