Dear Apni Shala…

As I congratulate this generation of fellows from 2018-19, I am taken back to a poem that Kushal Pahuja, a fellow from 2016-17, had written about his journey:

आओ मिलकर बैठे नीचे,

ना कोई आगे, ना कोई पीछे|

साथी चल बनायें गोल,

मैं कुछ बोलूँ, तू कुछ बोल|

जो मैं बोलूँ सुने तू,

मैं भी सुनूँ, जब बोले तू|

साथी चल बनायें गोल,

मैं कुछ बोलूँ, तू कुछ बोल|

( Come, lets all sit down; Nobody is in the front and nobody is behind; Buddy, let’s make a circle; I’ll say something, you say something too; What i say you shall hear ; And what you say shall be heard by me; Buddy, let’s make a circle; I’ll say something, you say something too.)

पिछले ६ सालों में इस गोले का मतलब और महत्व बढ़ता चला गया है | चाहे वह सुबह में खोज का टीम हडल हो या हमारे पार्टनर स्कूल में या संस्था के क्लास में हमारे क्लास का शुरुवाती गोला हो या ईयर एंड शोकेस में – पेरेंट्स , टीचर्स, बच्चों का इक्कठा होना हो | (In the last 6 years, the meaning and importance of this “circle” has been ever-increasing. Whether it is a team huddle at Khoj in the morning or starting our sessions at our partner schools and other organizations with circle time, or in the year-end showcase with – Parents Teachers children coming together.)

For all the learning that came out of these circles I would like to read a letter of gratitude to the space Apni Shala has created and held for others.

Dear Apni Shala,

आज और पिछले ६ सालों में हर दिन  पर तुमने बनाए हुए हर यादगार पल के लिए – शुक्रिया! (Today and everyday for the past 6 years, you have created memorable moments for us – Thank you)

The day that you came into being, was a day of joy but more than anything it was proof that dreams do come true. You showed me what is possible when a group of people believe in an idea. तुझे याद है वह कॉलेज के दिन जब हम जल्दी से लेक्चर्स खत्म करके भागा करते थे | जैसी ही टाइम मिले गोवंडी में स्कूलों की खोज में निकलते थे | (Do you remember those college days when we would quickly finish our lectures and run. As soon as we would get time, we would start finding for schools in Govandi.) वैसे (Like that) you were really little but you would definitely know that a lot of energies in the universe came together for your existence. The meeting with our first partner school or the first donor we ever convinced was among the most memorable. 3 of us 20 something year olds speaking to a principal with sweaty palms and racing heartbeats hoping against all odds की एक स्कूल तो मान जाए ( that at least one school agrees) and meeting the first donor hoping that they believe in our idea as much as we did.

From that first school where you held space for 60 children, witnessing the amazing stories sometimes from the books we read, sometimes stories of our lives, and sometimes just stories that we made up, from that time of your confusion about your identity to growing up to be confident in your values and your vision, You have allowed 1000s of children to be themselves and discover themselves without fear of judgement. तुमने हर मोड़ पे हमे यह याद दिलाया की हर चीज़ अकेले नहीं की जा सकती और सहयोग के ताकत को हमारे सामने खड़ा किया (You have reminded us at every turn that everything cannot be done alone and brought us at the footstep of collaboration.) हमेशा यह बताया के अपने संकल्प की तरफ दृढ़ता और विनम्रता से काम तो करना है पर अपने जड़ों और मूल्यों को ना भूलते हुए | ( You always told us to work towards our oath with perseverance and humility without forgetting our roots and  values.)

You stood strong in times of struggle, when others had lost hope. You showed me that you are more than just one, two or three persons dreams, you are made of the dreams of every child, principal, volunteer, caregiver, donor, organization that ever built a relationship with you. You welcomed everyone and made them feel at home.

On the completion of 6 years today I feel so happy with all that you have achieved- working with over 6000 young people, 400 teachers, 1000 caregivers and so many others that you have touched in ways that I wouldn’t  know.

For all this and so much more thank you! And finally Happy Birthday!

With love,

Amrita.

About the author: Amrita is one the co-founders of Apni Shala.  She now heads the R&D department along with advocacy at Apni Shala. She enjoys bird- watching and playing the guitar when she is not at work.

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