Be Different – At Dharavi

On Tuesday 30 January 2018, Grade 8 students at BD Somani were visited, during an assembly on the 7th floor, by an ex-BD student, Malvika Agarwal, who decided to begin community service after her graduation. This interesting route she chose led her to the ‘Teach for India’ organization with which she has been working for two years on a project at Gurunanak National School, a government school in Sion. Malvika brought along six Grade 8 students from Gurunanak National School who spoke about the various industries based in Dharavi, the talents of the people there, and outside perceptions of their community. Malvika’s contribution to improving their lives, and ultimately, futures, could be clearly seen in the way they carried themselves and interacted with the audience.
A talk with Malvika led us to realising two things. One was her passion for community service, rooted deep in her personality, and the other was her enchanting story that led her to choose this career. As a student in Grade 8, her favourite part of school was the Community Service activities we continue to do. Malvika and her best friends grew increasingly fond of these CAS activities. Over the years, it has become a strong culture, interwoven with the community, making it easy for us, at BD, to give back to the community. During their schooling years, however, Malvika’s best friend was diagnosed with cancer and, unfortunately, passed away. In remembrance of her best friend, Malvika strived to carry forward their passion and joined Teach for India.
While talking to Malvika about her experience with the students at Dharavi, it was apparent that she had put in a lot of effort to ensure that she had an impact on their lives. Further interactions with the students proved this. We had a long talk with the students, enquiring about their lives before and after Malvika started to teach them. When we asked them about it, they said “Before Teach for India joined our school, we didn’t behave very well – we used to get into fights and hit other kids. When these teachers came, we were told not to hit other kids and behave properly.” Malvika is also a positive influence and inspiration to the kids.
When we inquired into which their favourite subjects were, we were surprised to hear subjects like Math and English. When we further inquired into why they liked these subjects, they said “Malvika didi made it very easy for us to learn. She teaches very well.”
We also asked them about what they wanted to become when they grew up. A few children said “I want to become a teacher.” When we asked them why, they said that Malvika inspired them and they desired to better the lives of other students just like she did theirs.
Ria talked fervently about the positive aspects of their community: their talents, the industries (leather, bakery and pottery industries), and their productive lifestyle. There were different industries in each family household. This widened our perspective of how varied Dharavi is and how resourceful the families living there are.
Preceding this discussion, the children displayed their wide range of talents. We heard spectacular beat boxing, saw kids of our age do acrobatic tricks, and heard Ria sing. Even in a community thought to be secluded and backward, there are extremely talented people who are self taught, proving what a little guidance from a resourceful teacher could bring to the younger generation of this community.
For us, this was a truly inspiring and educational experience which altered the way we perceive Dharavi. Every individual who is a part of the Dharavi community has ability, if not talent. When nurtured, they can become people capable of demonstrating the wide range of benefits they obtain from living in such a close knit society with so much talent and hard work.
These Grade 8 students conduct tours of the industries there on Sundays for anyone interested in a day of adventure and social interaction with a new community. If you are interested in these tours, please contact Malavika at +91 9833734566. Showing support to these aspiring youngsters of our age is a way of giving back to the society.

Post written by Anaya Jaffer and Malini Rajesh, Grade 8

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