A surge of mixed emotions washes over me as I reflect on my childhood experiences.
I vividly recall the feelings of being lost and alone during those painful years of harassment and bullying.
My grandfather was originally from Saharanpur, but being a government bank employee, he was frequently transferred to different cities.
This meant that my father had to attend school in various places. However, when my grandfather was posted in Kanpur, he settled there. My father completed his education at Christ Church College in Kanpur. Additionally, he had an older brother who helped him open a small factory.
Since I was a child, I have always been a below-average student. So, my family enrolled me in Swaraj India Public School.
I distinctly remember my major problems starting in 4th grade when I faced harassment from teachers for not studying properly.
From the 5th grade, I was constantly bullied by the kids around me. I used to complain to my parents, but they couldn't understand as they believed it was just an excuse to avoid school.
Those three years, from grades 5 to 7, were the most difficult years of my childhood. Both my classmates and teachers severely bullied me. It was in 7th grade that my father realised that my health was deteriorating mentally and emotionally. My uncle remained bedridden for about three years. I was constantly compared unfavourably to my high-achieving cousins. However, I endured the suffering until the 7th grade, when my father finally understood the extent of what I faced at school and transferred me.
I enrolled in KDMA World School, starting fresh. Recognising my need for attention, my parents arranged for home tutoring. Eventually, we had to sell the house my grandfather built and move into a small rental place. It was in 9th grade that I began to open up more.
Our physics and math teachers used to offer tuition, but the physics teacher often harassed me because I didn't study from him. Despite the financial difficulties, I sincerely asked my parents to enrol me, but they refused.
It was tragic when my uncle died from kidney failure. Despite all the efforts and medical assistance, my family was unable to save him. Unaware of my school struggles, my parents now faced an additional burden. I failed a class in 9th grade. I remember the anger from my mother and grandfather, but my father remained silent, perhaps realising that I needed his support the most.
In 10th grade, I met Sarthak, who was also academically weak. Our stories had many similarities, as he had also been bullied throughout his school life. We connected, and we became great friends. Ultimately, I passed 10th grade with 80 percent. I decided to take commerce subjects for a fresh start.
Towards the end of 11th grade, I became acquainted with Vaishnavi Saxena. In 12th grade, we became good friends. This was a crucial academic year for me, as I had to pass my 12th grade with good marks.
Fortunately, I had the privilege of having new, amazing teachers who motivated me to excel. I was well aware of the financial difficulties my family faced, but my father was determined and motivated to send me to a good college after I achieved decent grades in 12th grade. My 12th board exams went well.
However, on April 4, 2019, we experienced the sudden death of my grandfather. The entire family was in shock, as he was in perfect health. He passed away due to a cardiac arrest. Within a short period of time, my father had lost both his brother and his father.
After my board exam results, it became clear that my parents wanted me to stay in Kanpur with them. I decided to stay in Kanpur and enrol in Christ Church College. However, as I started attending classes, I quickly realised that the college did not meet my expectations. Gradually, I stopped going to college altogether and stayed at home.
It was a challenging period for me, as I felt helpless and believed that my career had stopped. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and we were all placed under lockdown during the first wave for over three months.
This period was challenging for people all around the world. During the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, my friends Vaishnavi, Sarthak, and I took the initiative to gather funds from our schoolmates, relatives, and neighbours. Our unwavering objective was to provide ration kits to those who were less fortunate and, in doing so, extend a helping hand to those in need.
We created a WhatsApp group called Asha Ki Kiran to ensure everyone is well-informed about our donation efforts.
I realised the significance of primary education for underprivileged children in combating poverty, leading me to embark on social work focused on educating kids in slum areas. While educating children at home and offering our services as volunteers, my friends and I decided to establish our non-governmental organisation (NGO) officially.
While running our NGO, by the end of 2022, I began offering free classes to 15 children at my house. After discussion with family and apartment residents, we decided to utilise the parking area to teach community children.
We ventured into slum areas to spread awareness about our free classes. Needing more volunteers to provide proper education, Tanu Mishra and Priyanshi joined. We are now a team of five running these classes for about 80 children. Vaishnavi Saxena and Sarthak Sharma, my friends, hold the positions of General Secretary and Vice President at Asha Ki Kiran.
Our organisation offers complimentary education, school supplies, and a range of activities such as dance, art, and karate.
We also provide life skills education to children and conduct awareness programmes on sanitary napkins, personal safety, natural disasters, and fire safety. Moreover, we place great importance on the mental well-being of children and strive to build their confidence.
It is my sincere desire that no child should ever experience harassment or mental bullying in their school life.
I want children to feel comfortable speaking openly about their problems and never to view studying as a source of pressure. Ultimately, I hope to empower them to succeed in all aspects of their lives.
As I impart academic knowledge and life skills to these children, my heart overflows with pride and optimism to see them flourish. The joy on their faces rescues me from the trauma of my past, giving me a profound purpose. It fills me with hope that, through guidance and compassion, their difficult childhoods can blossom into bright futures ahead.