My Eight Days of Infinity
Updated: Feb 26, 2019
"Much more than excited, I felt rather fortunate to be a part of this Program. At a time when a growing proportion wishes to bring about a change in society and is looking for opportunities to do so, my friends were initiating their own NGO, commendable in its own right. "
By Sakshi Bansal, Summer 2014 Volunteer and Founding Member
As I boarded an early morning train to Jaipur with Kavya, I realised I would not be allowed a nap by an inquisitive (and quite loud) little fellow passenger. I started reflecting on the journey we had set to begin and the destination we aimed to reach, Soda. I remember being excited about this journey as soon as I knew that I was part of the Asmat Summer Program in Soda. The excitement grew with each passing day until it reached a level where giving Delhi University Semester Examinations could not come across as a slower process. Thus there I was, just 4-5 hours away from Soda, anticipating meeting children as inquisitive as the little one behind me and hoped I would be as witty in my replies as his mother was.
Much more than excited, I felt rather fortunate to be a part of this Program. At a time when a growing proportion wishes to bring about a change in society and is looking for opportunities to do so, my friends were initiating their own NGO, commendable in its own right. By sitting in our comfortable urban spaces we cannot even identify the real challenges faced by rural India, let alone trying to devise solutions to them. Asmat, by aiming to engage at the grassroots level in its pilot summer program, enabled me to take a small yet significant step forward in the path of bringing about impending developments.
I must admit that amidst the excitement and anticipation, I also felt certain pangs of anxiety and fear. This would be my first experience away from home for this long a duration. Adding to it was the fact that we were going to an equally hot place and the temperature was only to soar in the coming days.
However, this anxiety was shortlived. As soon as we reached Soda, the heat was subsided by the warmth with which we were welcomed by the Soda-vaasis. All the children, women and men greeted us with great affection whenever they met us. Maasaa, Bauji (Sarpanch’s parents) and Sarpanch Rajawat herself remained immensely caring and thoughtful of all our needs throughout our stay at their place.
Our mornings began with teaching the children, who used to come running towards the Sarpanch’s house with their lit-up faces. The number of children, who came to study early in the morning, specially in their summer vacations, was an overwhelming one. Some of them were in Soda on a trip to their cousins’ home, some had to walk a distance to get there- yet nothing could beat their punctuality and enthusiasm which they beamed with everyday. While teaching the primary school students, nothing seems tougher in the world than making a child learn alphabets. And after days of repeating and re-repeating (yes, this word existed in practice) alphabets, when they finally get it, there seems no greater accomplishment. Teaching truly is a noble profession.
Evenings brought with them a different (or the true) face of these apparent disciplined and keen-on-learning children. As soon as they were divided into teams to play Hangman, Dog in the Bone or ANY other game, the tension, heat and mood of our young players escalated quickly, enough to match that of Indian and Pakistani cricketers in the Eighties (even today? Yes!). After some sessions, we were concerned about the girls being easily subdued and spoken to in a condescending tone by the boys. With simultaneous gender sessions, extra teaching sessions for the girls, encouraging girls’ to speak during classes and other planned and unplanned activities, we were able to instil some sense of self-worth and confidence among the young girls of Soda. It gave us a sense of satisfaction to see these girls open up day after day as they turned from being meek and passive to being vocal of their career goals, coaxing us to teach them a dance form and subsequently displaying all their competitiveness in the evening activity sessions.
As I left Soda, I realised I had been there for eight days only. Yet, these numbered days, each one of them, stretched into infinity. Such was the effect of the peaceful surroundings, vast outstretched fields and breathtaking sunsets of Soda that I was actually dumbfounded at the sight of several moving cars on the roads of Jaipur.
As I bid farewell to the rest of the team, hugged a few good wishes and cried a few tears of separation, I never felt so complete and incomplete at the same time. Complete because I had experienced the most incredible eight days of my life at Soda: I had learnt more than I had taught, caught sight of the majestic peacock dancing in its full glory, gazed at the fault-less stars endlessly, slept under them and had been a part of this rising that Asmat stands for. However it felt incomplete, because my eight-day-infinity had come to an end.