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A heartfelt letter by Rohini Mukherjee
on her visit to Project Nanhi Kali ASCs in Gurgaon

I am in the midst of 30 Nanhi Kalis all between Class 7 and 9. They are sitting in 3 groups, with 1 group working on tablets. I "disturb" them - asking their names, what their parents do, what languages they know, have their mothers studied till Class 10, what would they like to be when they grow up, did they like the Nanhi Kali kit contents last year, who will be the happiest as and when they grow up and  study more and do well in their studies.  

visit to Project Nanhi Kali ASCs in Gurgaon

Then I go to another ASC - this time it has little girls - Class 2 to 4. So thrilled to have visitors, they are barely able to sit still. I can almost feel them bouncing up and down like light, colourful balloons. I ask them similar questions. Everyone wants to answer - all at the same time - "Ma'am, Ma-am - main, main main"... more bouncing!

We visit a third ASC, Class 7, 8 and 9 girls. Again similar questions from me... .

The answers I get in all these 3 ASCs brings home to me the huge diversity we have here under the Nanhi Kali roof. They are all in our Gurgaon project location. But there is a Somaiya, a Rabiya, an Ishrat and then there is an Aanchal, a Mamta, a Geeta. Some know Nepali, others know Bhojpuri, some others know Haryanvi.

But there is another thing I realise. And that is - there are so many things that are similar. All of them have mothers who never completed Class 10, all have fathers who earn their livelihood from being at the lowest rung of the huge booming construction industry of Gurgaon - painters, masons, metal workers, unskilled labour. All the families have come here from elsewhere (many don't have voter cards here, and this makes the local leaders, corporators and even the school Headmasters wonder why Project Nanhi Kali bothers so much about them.). All the girls say that it is their parents who will be the happiest if they study a lot and study well.

I feel a warm glow spread inside me... Project Nanhi Kali is bringing together the poor families of our country - whose cultures are different, but whose poverty is the same, whose aspiration to change the quality of their children's lives is the same.

These Nanhi Kalis are growing up being close friends of each other, being fond of each other, admiring and respecting each other ("Ma'am - Afreen's mother can write her name in Urdu" - said little Priyanka to me today - her voice filled with awe.)

I will go to bed tonight with this warm glow inside me. While we may worry about attendance and assessment scores and kit despatches at a day to day operations level, we are actually doing something far beyond that...

Thank you Project Nanhi Kali. I love being here.

I will be back again. And again. For sure.

Written by
Rohini Mukherjee,
Head of Operations & Chief Policy Officer, Naandi Foundation

K.C.Mahindra Education Trust

Kc Mahindra educational trust The K. C. Mahindra Education Trust was founded by the late Mr. K. C. Mahindra in the year 1953, with an objective of promoting literacy and higher learning in the country.

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Naandi Foundation

Nandi Foundation Naandi, in Sanskrit, means 'a new beginning'. It is one of the largest social sector organisations in India working to make poverty a thing of the past.

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