While my father worked as a mason, we lived in a small room on a construction site. Our parents would be at work, and we used to idle the day away playing in sand and roaming around the site. One fine day, a small four-walled school called Door Step School (DSS) started on our site, and that was it. As soon as I heard school, I rushed into my house and curled up into a ball hoping that nobody will find me. I was terrified by the thought of going to school, but somehow – by tempting me with different toys and using a lot of other techniques – Chhaya Ma’am and Sunita Bhosale Ma’am would get me ready and take me to the school.
For a long time, I would sit in the school waiting for their eyes to wander, and as soon as I realized I wasn’t being watched I’d leg it and find a new place to hide. Without complaining even once, they would patiently find me and bring me back to school. This routine had become a part of our everyday life.
After a few weeks, I turned six – and that is when school really started to get fun. Our teachers at DSS started getting us involved in fun games, teaching us to draw, paint, and dance and organized a bunch of other fun activities along with distributing sweets and snacks. We would now be present in the classroom even before school began! Our teachers would hold our tiny hands and teach us Hindi alphabet. I remember I was so fascinated with writing that I took permission to carry a slate and a pencil home and learned the entire alphabet.
Then one day, Bhosale Ma’am – along with a few other teachers – took my father’s permission and enrolled me in Nehru Education Society’s primary school in the first grade. I was seven years old then. The one prominent memory I have is of scoring 98% in the first grade and before telling anyone, I rushed to Bhosale Ma’am to give her the news. I can recall as if it were yesterday the way her eyes moistened and her face lit up as she saw the progress I was making.
Then life took an unfortunate turn. For certain reasons, my father took our entire family back to our village and decided to settle there. I turned my nights into days trying to establish some communication with Bhosale Ma’am, but to no avail. I cannot begin to describe my surprise when I found out that Door Step School had traced me down and my teachers were trying to convince my father to come back and enroll me in the school again. After heavy persuasion, my father agreed – it was one of the happiest days of my life.
I now went to school from 7 to 12 in the morning, and spent my afternoon from 2 to 5 at the Door Step School center. This place was a safe haven – all the things that I hadn’t understood in school or wanted explained again were explained to me here. It was the best of times – my curiosity and ambition were being kindled and I was finding happiness.
When I joined 5th grade, I realized that the curriculum had started getting difficult and I wasn’t able to do well. Math had started giving me nightmares. As soon as I shared this with my teacher, she arranged for me to join Door Step School’s ‘Sandarbha Classes’ (Reference classes) and assigned a teacher who helped me with math. I was a good talker, so Door Step School handed me the opportunity to anchor in one of their annual programs. They were kind enough to appreciate me for having done a good job by giving me small gifts.
After some time, I had to leave my primary school and enroll myself into a secondary school so I joined Shivajinagar in the 8th grade. Right from a very small age I had been interested in drawing and art, so I participated in the elementary exam for drawing and passed with flying colors. Later in 9th grade I also participated in the intermediate art exam and excelled. For this very reason, my photo was printed in the local Pune city newspaper “Sakal”. It was a moment of pride.
Because we used to go on quests in our childhood, I was not affected by a fear of facing people and sharing my experiences. Hence, throughout secondary school I always bagged the first prize for narration and anchoring. We sang so many songs in Door Step School that I had developed a liking for singing. Hence, I was always the first to participate in all my school’s singing performances and competitions. I had a talent for dance, and won numerous trophies and awards in dance competitions in and around my school. I was also a good Hindi speaker, and participated in the national ‘Hindi Rashtrabhasha’ examination. Not only did I win the competition, but I was also felicitated with a gift and the certificate in front of everyone. Everything I learned while performing many science experiments with my Teachers at Door Step School helped me bag the first prize in the Science Experiment Competition held in my school when I was in the 9th grade.
Today I have completed my 10th grade and scored 72.40%. I stood third in my whole school. Although I’m 17 years old now, I am still the same student that I was when I was 6. Everything that I have been fortunate enough to accomplish I owe to Door Step School and their continued inexhaustible support.
For me, Door Step School was that first step on the ladder to success and achievement that lead to a land of limitless possibilities. It has been more than 11 years since Door Step School took that tiny little girl’s hand and taught her the Hindi alphabet, and I have never once looked back from there. Today, my eyes moisten and my heart jumps with elation when my teachers here at Door Step School call me their ‘All-rounder Queen’. I cannot thank them enough for providing me such wonderful opportunities and holding my hand whenever the road got rocky.
Now, I always tell all the small children in my area to go to the Door Step School center here, because I strongly feel like they should also make the most of the opportunities provided here.
I am eternally grateful to Door Step School for everything they have done for me.
Written by Mehraaz. Translated by our volunteer – Kshitij Kothari.