Fyodor Dostoyevsky, a Russian novelist and philosopher once said, “The soul is healed by being with children”, and when you go on to try and figure out why it could be so, we may end up with different conclusions falling in the same gradient. For me the meaning behind this would best be expressed if I tell you an anecdote.
I started volunteering with U&I in the November of 2016. It was my first semester of college, everything was so new, I was scared if I would fit in; life was slow, I was bored, I was looking for something to do and then this one evening I get a call asking me if I’d want to start teaching children. I was exhilarated, and immediately said yes. So, in the beginning, U&I was the place I would go to, to feel like I was doing something more with my life, but gradually that started to change.
It was Sunday, I was supposed to go teach children at 10 in the morning, I had had one of the longest nights of my life because it was my friends’ birthday and we’d gone out; it was exhausting and before falling off to sleep I was scared I would not be able to wake up on time the next day, but I did. After getting ready and eating breakfast, instead of feeling energised I just felt extremely low. I wasn’t in a very good place, with trying to manage sports, extra-curriculars, grades, and friends, I was tired, and I hadn’t slept. In the cab, I was actually dreading those 2.5 hours and hating myself for dreading those 2.5 hours, in this cycle of gloom, I couldn’t catch any sleep on my way there either.
When we reached class, everyone looked at me and knew I wasn’t in a good place, all the volunteers came and gave me a hug and said, “You’ll get through this” and I really hoped I would. We were all just sitting and discussing Holi plans, which was the next day, when the children came rushing into class with their squeaky voices and uplifting laughter. They came with talcum powder in their hands and put it all on our faces and screamed, “Happy Holi!” I was so surprised and happy when I was this, because here were a bunch of children who didn’t have the Holi colours but they did not want to miss a chance to celebrate the festival with their teachers who were so much more like their friends. I remember the rest of the 2.5 hours just speeding by as we ran behind each other to smear faces with talcum powder and chalk dust (yes, some of the children are extremely resourceful), played games where the children had to make groups and figure out numbers, alphabets and shapes, because learning should be fun after all, and then saw us volunteers get beat pathetically at Antakshri (a singing game) because the children knew almost every Hindi and Marathi song there was, along with the dance steps.
When it was time to leave, I didn’t want to, the children made me feel so alive, all the exhaustion I was harbouring just seemed to slip away somewhere. I was feeling elated. After class that day, a few of us even got together and went to eat out. By the time we got back it was already evening and that night I went to an Indie music concert which I thoroughly enjoyed, and to think that I was so excessively glum when the day began.
There have been so innumerable instances when I’ve just felt so much better after Sunday morning because I learnt that one of the kids was great at football, or because the children I was teaching were able to hold a minute-long conversation in English, or just because a child came up to me and hugged me when it was time to leave, that’s why I do truly believe that the soul is healed by being with children.
U&I has given me some beautiful memories and some great friends, and also a chance to help another out, while the entire time also helping myself. Every child deserves a childhood filled with love and laughter, and being able to provide that is something that U&I manages to do alongside providing them with reading and writing abilities, and that’s what I think makes it such a wonderful organisation to work with.
So, here’s to creating a box full of wonderfully soulful memories.