Readers of Daily (w)rite, if you’re here, please welcome Anouradha Bakshi, my friend, philosopher and touchstone for more than a decade.
She runs Project WHY, a little non-profit with a large heart, in New Delhi.
For this whole week, she’s taking over Daily (w)rite.
Please give her all the love and attention you usually give me, because she merits it far more than I ever will.
Nurture means to care and protect, help and encourage someone while they are growing. This is often the role of the parent or caretaker.
But there are instances when this role is taken on by other entities and we at Project Why feel privileged to have been given the opportunity of nurturing young minds and watching them grow and bloom for the past two decades.
Today I would like to share the story of Anita. Anita came to us when she was a little girl as she joined us in Class I. I remember her lovely face and her large dark eyes filled with hope and trust. She was a quiet child who never gave trouble and a was a very good student.
Our team of teachers steered her on class after class, from primary to secondary helping and encouraging her at every step. She sat for her class XII Board exams and passed them with ease. Most of our students leave Project Why and though they keep in touch, our role often ends there. But not with Anita. There was more nurturing to come.
A few months after graduating from school, Anita came to us. She looked a little hesitant and somewhat worried. We gently coaxed her and soon she shared her problem with us. She wanted to continue her studies and do a B Com but her parents were unable to support her financially. Moreover as they were very traditional they were not willing for her to take a job on the market. The only place they would allow her to work at was Project Why as it was a place they felt their child would be safe. She wanted a job!
We gave it to her as we realised that our role as caregiver was not over. Anita joined as a primary teacher and continued studying for her B Com which she again cleared without issues.
We encouraged her to start taking secondary classes, building her confidence and motivation. She also registered for a Masters in Commerce. Everything seemed smooth sailing.
One day she came to us in tears telling us that her parents had fixed her marriage and she was to leave for the village the same evening. We were heartbroken as that also meant she would have to stop her studies. There was nothing we could do. Her family had left us no time to intervene: perhaps they knew we would have done so.
But what they did not know was that Anita was no more a child you could bully but a young woman who had found her voice. A few weeks later she walked back into the office, a huge smile on her face and told us that the marriage was off and that she was back as a teacher. The groom’s family had made unreasonable demands and Anita had put her foot down and refused the marriage offer. We realised that it was Project Why that had given her the confidence to take charge of her life and live it on her terms. We had truly nurtured her.
Today Anita Verma is finishing her Masters and is teaching the senior secondary classes at Project Why’s Govindpuri centre. She also takes care of the documentation at Project WHY. She is now a mature and confident young woman who will make all the right decisions in her life. At every step of her life, not only did the team of teachers help her with her studies, but they also instilled life long values and built her confidence and belief in herself. That is what nurturing is all about.
At Project Why we do not only educate children, we nurture them with love and patience.
Who has nurtured you? Who do you nurture in your daily life? What do you think of Anita’s journey of being nurtured at Project WHY?
Anouradha Bakshi is the descendant of an indentured labour and a freedom fighter, and the daughter of a senior diplomat. She travelled the world before settling in India.
A professor in French, an interpreter and a conference organiser, she found her true calling when she set up Project WHY in the year 2000.
She is a wife, and a mother not only to her two girls, but also to the scores of children whose dreams she holds in custody.
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