Engaging With The Sitaras
I was on my way to my Sitara, Rinky’s place, and my mind was full of thoughts and ideas. I wondered how her family was doing, if I could mentor her effectively, and how challenging it must be to live in those settlements. As a former tutor, I was confident in my ability to understand her perspective and goals. Rinky lived with her parents and two sisters in a single room. Her father drove an auto-rickshaw, and her mother was a homemaker. She had 2 sisters – the elder one was in the twelfth grade and the younger one was a two-year-old.
A special programme that promotes learning through experience, Abhyudaya’s non-profit division of SPJIMR, offered to students of its Post Graduate Diploma in Management programme, has been dedicated to addressing UN SDG 4, which focuses on providing quality education. Through Abhyudaya, I not only contributed to the education and well-being of these bright young stars “Sitara”, but also gained invaluable experiences and perspectives that enhanced my own learning and growth.
When I arrived, it turned out to be quite different from what I had imagined. Even the smallest details of that room captured my attention. Surprisingly, there was no fan, which stood out to me since I had been complaining about the heat in Mumbai. The room was dimly lit with just one tube light. Another observation was how minimal their possessions were for a family of five. They had only a few clothes, utensils, three bags, basic cosmetics, and some food. However, Rinky had a dongle for internet access, which was intriguing to me as it was my first firsthand experience of lower-income families using the internet. I felt a sense of joy knowing her parents were making great efforts to ensure she received a good education.
While teaching her, I noticed her immense enthusiasm and curiosity regarding various subjects like technology advancements, trading, investments, and even politics. To address her questions and interests, I realised that I was going to have to cover all these subjects during our visits effectively.
During my second visit after two weeks, as we were about to begin an exercise on MS-Excel, someone knocked on the door, and we turned to see. It was one of her neighbors, followed by a few more who arrived and then left. Not a single room in the neighborhood had closed doors. This situation sparked two thoughts in my mind simultaneously. Firstly, I wondered about the safety of living in such an area.
Secondly, I was curious about how she managed to stay focused on her studies amidst the constant distractions. I had no choice but to ask her about it. She acknowledged that the interruptions affected her studies, but she considered them an inevitable part of their life. Surprisingly, she found reassurance in the open doors, knowing she could easily reach out to someone in case of an emergency. Her parents were often away, and seeing people outside gave her a sense of approachability and comfort. It was a whole new perspective for me.
Throughout the mentoring session, I noticed Rinky’s mother looking at her with a smile, reflecting contentment and confidence in her daughter’s future success. This happened quite frequently, so I decided to talk to her. When I asked how Rinky truly felt, her mother revealed that she had a strong desire to bring about positive change in the world. Despite the difficult times she faced and the awareness that her path wouldn’t be easy, Rinky remained highly motivated. While I knew her aspiration was to become a Civil Servant, it was through this conversation with her mother that I grasped the depth of her commitment to achieving that goal. My only desire was to support her to the best of my abilities in achieving her ambitions. Her dedication and sincerity deserved a chance.
Rinky and I had an insightful discussion about her long-term goals. During our chat, it became evident that she lacked awareness of the various professional options available to her. Even the other children in her neighborhood didn’t fully understand the reasons behind their learning subjects. This wasn’t entirely surprising, considering the low standard of education in their schools, despite Rinky’s consistent attendance. However, the positive side was that Rinky displayed immense dedication towards her professional growth and had a thirst.
It’s worth noting that more than half of the Sitaras are girls, highlighting Abhyudaya’s commitment to gender equality and empowering young girls. The Programme enables its participants such as myself to mentor school children from disadvantaged backgrounds. It exemplifies the power of mentorship and its positive impact on the lives of underprivileged children, creating opportunities for a better future. These immersive experiences challenged me to reflect, understand, and act mindfully in unfamiliar situations.
Leadership becomes more effective when knowledge is transformed into wise decisions and actions. By embracing these constructive disruptions, I developed the confidence and the ability to become a wise leader, equipped to drive innovation for the benefit of both businesses and society.