Migration Narratives: The SHRAM Blog

Agrasar Bachpan: Stories on the Go

It was 12:30 pm; students were leaving from their school. Two children were still sitting in their classroom, with their eyes staring at the wall. The teacher was trying to “investigate” into the “case”, to find out the “facts” to give a “punishment” to the “guilty”. Every time a question was being asked, there seemed to be a different answer from both the sides. One stated- the other started the fight, and the other claimed- he had being provoked. After several minutes of this question-answer round, the reason behind their fight was vaguely visible.
In the morning, before the assembly started, two children were found fighting with each other outside the school; a fight which could have led to severe injuries to someone. It became hard even for the teachers to separate them from each other. As per the culture of the school, they were not scolded, but were taken to a side, and were asked to express themselves.
The school routine separated them into separate classrooms, and their interaction was restricted, physically. As soon as the school got over, a message from a third child came to the teacher- Ajay (one of the children in the fight) had called his “Gang” to KILL the other child. This infuriated their teacher; the freshly formed lines on her forehead expressed her fear and concern for the students.
“Why would you do that?” She asked out of concern. “I won’t allow you into my class if you would hurt him”, said she, expecting him to feel guilty.
“Don’t let me come. I don’t mind even dying, but I would surely kill him.” Said he, softly, expressing his controlled anger.
The teacher felt helpless, she didn’t want any of the two to get hurt. She calmly told him how wrong it is to say such things, and worse, to do. On finding the reason behind his anger she tried to convince him that he shouldn’t feel angry about such things.
“Yesterday, he had abused me.”
“What did he say?”
“He said- Bihari.”
(Please note, he isn’t from Bihar, and no one from that area is)
“You know what Bihari means?”
“Then? What made you angry?”
“He abused me. He called me Bihari.”
“Bihari are people who are from Bihar. Like, people from Haryana are Haryanavi. From Punjab are Punjabi. From Bengal are Bengali.”
The child still with anger in his eyes looked down on the floor, not changing his mind to KILL the other child.
“Would you still hurt him?”
“Even if teacher says that you shouldn’t.”
“Even if I won’t let you go outside?”
“Then my gang will”
His “gang”, consisting of 2 children of his age, 2 elder to him, and 1 seeming 5 years old child, was waiting for him outside the school. On being caught red-handed by the teachers they refused to be associate with this child. They refused that they were present there to KILL someone. The teacher thought, he might have exaggerated his anger; hence, set him free, after a bit of more “counselling”

New Alliance
“Ma’am, Ajay and his gang are beating Rahul”; shouted a child, swiftly running towards the school.
Two of the teachers ran outside hearing that, and found the gang disappearing leaving Ajay behind. The teacher caught Ajay by his hand and asked him what is happening. “Leave my hand, I would kill Rahul.” They were relieved when they got to know, Rahul managed to go back home somehow.
Bringing Ajay inside, the teachers took him to a room, and made him put whatever he wished to on a piece of white paper. He made a few shapes and objects, the ones he must have learnt in the class. He felt bored after sometime and pushed it aside.
“Would you still hurt him?”
The teacher felt helpless. They couldn’t even call his parents, who wouldn’t be available till the end of the day.
“Do you want to listen to a story?”
“Come let’s find a book from the library for you. It would be fun”, said the teacher excitedly.
Kabootar aur chinti, was the name of the book. It was a sweet little story of a pigeon that had once saved an ant from drowning, and was in return saved by the ant while a hunter came to capture the pigeon. It was a nice story, which made him happy.
He asked the teacher to recite it again, and read the book by himself when the teacher left the room.
After a while, she came back, discussed the story with him, and told him that’s how you behave with your fellow beings; that’s how you make friends. She played a few games and asked him to be her friend from now on. He laughed at this idea, and accepted the proposal by shaking hands with her. She requested him, as a friend, not to hurt his fellow beings; and share it with her whenever someone would bother him. Affirmatively, he nodded. With another shake of hands, he announced, he won’t hurt Rahul.
Those words of him brought a relief to her ears. She believed him on that. There was sense of truth she could feel.

Mirror Image
“Ma’am, where is the book you gave me yesterday? I can’t find it in the library.” Ajay asked, being concerned if someone else might have taken it.
“Come I will find it with you”, said she, taking him to the library.
She turned back from the bookshelf towards him, for handing over the book, and found him sitting with three more children from his “Gang”.
He happily took the book from her, and started reading out the story to them, along with asking similar questions as she did yesterday.
They, being absorbed in the story, nodded their heads, the way he did yesterday.

Chetna Pant

Head, Education Programme at Agrasar

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4 Responses to “Agrasar Bachpan: Stories on the Go”

  1. Prerit Rana says:

    Chetna, this is an inspiring story! Beautifully written. It made me think of the following

    1. How “Bihari” has become an abuse to kill for? What’s the role of parents? What can Agrasar Bachpan do to break this and other such stereotypes/ misconceptions – let’s assimilate those and work on them.

    2. We as teachers/ parents generally counsel by saying – “Don’t do this..” It didn’t work with Ajay and the teacher gave him a better alternative – Friendship over animosity. It worked! We as teachers often forget this. It’s a reminder for me as well 🙂

    3. The teacher kept at it. In the sector, I often hear people saying “bachche aisee hi hein”. Aise nahi hein. Change is possible. We must own it.

    4. The end was beautiful when Ajay became a messenger of friendship! Unlike most of the adults, children love to share! I could see our efforts having a potential of “multiplier effect” – one term which I had always been apprehensive of so far..

    5. I am wondering if Rahul and Ajay can go back in same class and work in same group. Slowly, no hurry!

  2. Suraj kashyap says:

    Beautifully written story. So many perspectives, so many learnings. Would love to read more such experiences. 🙂

  3. VIlas Nanda says:

    Great Written…Amazing Story…

  4. Ashik Pasumarthi says:

    Really beautiful…

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