Last week I had the opportunity to visit a school for children of migrant workers in a suburb in Bangalore. The experience of spending a few hours at the school made me reflect on a lot of different things. Let me first describe to you what I saw.
Located next to a slum and a huge construction site, the school comprises two airy classrooms separated by a courtyard and some open space around it. Although neat and tidy, facilities in the school are minimal. The walls are sparse, children sit on the bare floor and are exposed to rain or shine at all times of the day. Mid-day meals, basic health facilities and day care are provided to about a hundred children from six months to about 10 years of age. Parents of all these children have migrated from different parts of the State to find work at the construction site nearby.
As we entered the premises, I was surprised at the welcome we got. Bright, beautiful and cheerful faces greeted us with extended hands and a “Hello, what is your name?” With an amazing display of enthused energy and confidence, the children went around learning, participating in activities and showing their skills in writing, reading and recitation. All this while, the babies lay asleep in their makeshift cribs made out of sarees slung over a rod, oblivious to the din around them.
As we learnt more about the school, we were informed that a majority of the children attending the programme had never been to school before and were likely to remain at this site for no longer than a few months to about a year.
As we said our goodbyes and prepared to return to the comfort of our homes, I was left with mixed feelings.
While the happy faces of the children gave me joy, I was discomforted by the realisation of my own inadequacy to find happiness in small things. I was reminded of the many occasions when I had complained about not having so many mundane things in my life.
As we go about the business of our daily lives, we spend so much time and energy counting the things that we do not have, completely forgetting to appreciate what we do have. Spend a few seconds to look around and see all the pleasures we enjoy and tend to take for granted. Hygienic living conditions, safe and comfortable living spaces, multiple means of entertainment, access to quality education, friends and family that form a safe, secure haven around us….
Despite all this, we consider ourselves deprived and unfortunate when we are denied little pleasures once a while.
While it is human nature to want, and desire is essential to progress in life, it is also important to pause and think about how much is enough. If those little children could thrive and find happiness in paucity, why can’t we learn to appreciate what we have and be grateful to those who provide for us?