Updated: Apr 18, 2018
Muthathi village Learning Space was a good 30 minutes drive from Hyakanuru. My mind switched between the images from the opening ceremony at Hyakanuru, and preparation at Muthathi, as we drove through the picturesque countryside. There were two villages in Mysore district by the same name. Our Learning Space was not in the touristy Muthathi famous for Anjaneya Swamy temple. Our village is a quiet little dwelling with a meager population of 1000. Villagers mostly depend on farming or day labor jobs.
To reach the Learning Space, one had to walk a lane with village houses on both sides, and ended up interacting with the village folks. A brook with drain water coursed in front of the houses and gave a stench peculiar to villages. There was animal waste smudged on the floor, and continuous observation was needed to avoid stepping on the remains. At the end of this road stood the Ambedkar community Hall, housing the Learning Space. As I write this, it dawns on me that there could not have been a better place, and a better time to open the Learning Space. Baba Saheb showed how education was the only means to uplift the status of all classes, and here we were 70 years later at a place named after him, opening a space that had the potential to positively influence, and raise learning for hundreds of children.
That afternoon villagers swarmed the street to welcome us. I could hear flashy music at a distance. Indian celebrations are definitely incomplete without music. I was surprised to see girls in ethnic clothes standing on both sides of the road holding a platter of marigold petals. As we walked, the flowers were hurled on us. It felt like an Indian wedding where we represented the groom’s side. The hall was packed with enthusiastic parents and children. The energy of this place was unbeatable, surpassing the energy we encountered earlier in the day. Every face beamed with joy and expectation. And my shoulders sensed the weight of delivering on those hopes.
I was delighted to see a woman Panchayat Head. Though she did not speak much, command oozed from her body language. I was bowled over to see the numerous performances by children as young as 4 years old. Usha, a Pratham volunteer even made them prepare dance on a Hindi song, and children shook their legs with equal ease. Gangadhar, our facilitator for this Learning Center had made boys prepare a dance. Little boys with painted moustaches, wearing lungis , and holding gamchas shaking on a peppy number was a delightful sight. Midway some lungis started coming off, and added to the laughter. Gangadhar did his best to fix them and the spirited lot kept dancing without a frown. I once again wished we adults had the same disposition to take things easy in life.
As the event proceeded, I looked at the mothers, and saw that smiles never left their faces. They were so joyous. I see the same joy when we get Ganpati home. They welcomed the Learning Spaces like we welcome Ganpati, knowing that this space is there to stay, and would help them in overcoming their problems just like Ganpati.
People started bidding goodbye, and I saw a man leave with teary eyes. I wondered at the depth of human emotions, and my shoulders wilted with the weight once again. I also left with a heavy heart as I had other roles to perform, and promised to return soon.