Dear friends of mine Apra and Kunal Kuchhal and their family have been the chief patrons of a wonderful home for HIV children called Rays. Both Anuja and I have been huge admirers of this family, and the wonderful work they are doing through their two homes, for a number of years. We have visited the children in the past at their annual gala when the students at these homes display a variety of stalls and games. However, it wasn’t until a few days back when I had the opportunity of interacting alone, one on one, with a large group of kids at Rays, that I realized just how incredible these children are!
As an educator, I try to give my best to my students. I’ve been fortunate to be able to balance teaching and interacting with people of all ages and from varying strata of society. I take immense pride that whenever an opportunity presents itself for me to make even a modest impact socially, I grab it. Having conducted various workshops in the past, be it for converting Text Books into Audiobooks for the Visually Impaired, or creating awareness about Organ Donation among the young; I try to make teaching fun, and take the preaching and boredom out of it.
However, when I visited Rays the other day, I had the most amazing, the most humbling, and the most educational experience myself. Like I usually do, I began the evening interaction with a fun ice-breaking game that I had seen being conducted at an Education Conference I’d been invited to last year. This, if I might say so myself, immediately did the trick and put the kids and I, at ease with each other.
Then, the agenda was simple. To screen a bunch of varied Short Films that I often use in various classes. These were fun, witty, sweet, emotional (but not depressing) films that centered on themes such as Gender Equality, Good Deeds, Freedom and Family. I was extremely conscious of course while curating the selection, given the trauma, both familial and psychological, that most of the kids who live and learn at Rays, have gone through.
The evening was really enjoyable. The 40 odd kids who were present seemed to have loved each film, they were laughing, enjoying, and had a great time. After the screenings, I had a little casual chat with them about the films. And that’s when it hit me. Not only were these beautiful children full of wisdom beyond their years, interpreting the central message of each film correctly and voicing it in unison; more importantly, they made me realize that they are, despite facing in most cases, an uncertain future, so so full of zest, zeal, enthusiasm, happiness, talent, vivaciousness, vitality, exuberance of youth, and a genuine hunger to learn that seems insatiable. It made me reassess my own priorities, made me look inward and suddenly feel so shallow for all the insignificant things we ‘fortunate’ people tend to keep cribbing about.
The kids at Rays are indeed, Rays of hope for our entire society. When I was leaving, I was asked to sign the Guest Book. I was so moved by then that I couldn’t articulate my feelings. In any case, the paltry ‘comments’ column in the Guest Book was entirely inadequate for me to express what I felt, what that visit had done to me, for me.
They say that teaching is a good deed. I have said this in the past, and I’ll say it again. It is a terribly selfish deed. Because what these enlightened kids did for me at Rays, will stay with me as life’s greatest lesson forever. That I shared an hour of my time with them, and that they were so thankful, is just embarrassing for me. Because really speaking, it is we who ought to thank and learn from these gentle souls. These pure, untarnished beings who take life so happily in their stride, and so unassumingly, spread joy and light!