Ruchika, is the Director of Art for Akanksha. She spends all her Saturdays making sunshine and filling these little lives with a world of color. She took the time to tell MissMalini.com what it takes and why she does it, and now I mostly want to give her a big fat hug! xoxo
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Friends ask me why I work on my Saturdays off – work for 3 hours right in the middle of the day, missing Saturday lunches, my monthly book club meeting and other fun gatherings.
I can’t help it – it’s the best 3 hours of the week.
I eagerly wait for 1pm every Saturday, reaching King George Memorial near Mahalaxmi Station, at least 30 minutes early. The minute I’m close to the Akanksha barrack, I can see waving hands and broad smiles. The Akanksha kids rush to carry my bags (and I usually have at least two heavy ones on me!) and hold my hand as we catch up on the week that was. It’s the most genuine welcome I can get. I enter the Akanksha Design class to see a flurry of activity.
Sali, my assistant teacher and an Akanksha alumni, is busy taking out art material for our session, Sindhu didi, the helper, is ensuring that the space is in order, Suraj has taken the mats out and is laying them out neatly. Preeti and Mansi are writing the class rules on the black board, fighting over a few spelling errors. Close to half the class is early, because they know I reach early!
I feel at home and happy. The Akanksha children have tough and busy lives – school, extra classes, homework, exams but they also do a lot more at home. They fill water, help with cooking and cleaning, look after younger siblings, come to the Akanksha after-school centre every day. With all of this, they also try to fit in all the fun stuff that they love –
– like art class, dance classes and cricket matches. I know that they leave important things to be in my design class and so it’s a two way deal to ensure that we make the time we spend together, really worth it.
As I wait for the clock to hit 1pm, I catch up on all the major action in the lives of my students – Ashish got interviewed at an IPL match, Vaibhav did really well in his exams, Sandeep has a new dance move that he simply has to show us, Rohit’s mom had to rush back to the village, Kajal’s feeling sleeping, Mansi played a fairy in her class play but the real big question is – what are we going to learn today!!??
The design class consists of 100 Akankshachildren who are passionate about art. Last year we studied 14 great artists while this year we began a journey of studying Indian art forms. We’ve already learnt 5 and created our own versions of Warli, Madhubani, Gond, Tanjore.
We studied mehendi last Saturday, learnt about its origin, discussed how we felt about it, learnt how to make it, poured over books of designs and then got to create our own. The next Saturday, each kid gets to invite someone special to class for whom they will make a mehendi design with a cone. The girls have no trouble deciding, it’s the boys who are struggling and a little unsure of who will allow them to mess up their hands!
I would not give up this time for anything else in the world. This is my ‘me’ time. It’s the time I learn and appreciate the realities that my children face. It’s the time I re-commit to doing something to change what bothers me – a poor education system. It’s the time I see how much potential there is and how each of us needs to be doing something. It’s the time I appreciate art through a child’s eyes. It’s my time to grow as a teacher and to see what happens when a child’s mind grasps a new idea.
It’s an enormous sense of achievement – to see that something you did or said has made the cogs in a child’s mind move! It’s that moment when they ‘get it’. I love how they ask me tough questions that make me uncomfortable. It’s my time to connect and be myself with my favorite people in the world. They love me for who I am and I love them as much right back.
The Akanksha children make me feel alive. They make me feel alive through their colours, their zest for life and their ability to see that they are more privileged than many. Mansi, 13 years old once said to me ‘Didi I do not think that we are less privileged. We have so much. Its people who can’t hear, can’t see or don’t have hands or legs, who are less privileged.’
There is nothing else in the world that I’d rather be doing and nowhere else I’d rather be than right here and right now with my children.