Location: Aaganwadi, Asalpha, Ghatkopar (West)
Date : 24.2.2019
I was hardly prepared for the change from the progressive luxury of the Mumbai Metro to the depressive garbage piles that welcomed me to Asalpha. Spread around in all directions, it seemed as if the entire locality was drowning in the water seeping through the open gutters.
We started our climb through the dangerous territory that got higher and steeper with the ground growing more uneven. Having to squeeze through narrow passes and bend down at the lows,somehow the feeling of this whole journey being a trek couldn’t escape me.
However, If I were to continue writing with that feeling,it would simply not be true. Because all thoughts of vacationing in the mountains vanish the moment I look down around me. Clothes lines are fighting for space much like the houses in which they hang, vessels being washed at the door and in dirty whose water we almost slip, heavy rocks pressing down the roofs of homes that would otherwise fly away; loud volumes from the TV clashing with the whistling of the pressure cooker. We pass large groups of men sitting as if in a line, making the most of the Sunday morning; elder sisters bullying their little brothers and women working away the morning.
Looking at the sheer activity of life bustling around me side by side with everything that would have made it so difficult to live it, I was reminded of the reason why we were here.
Under its most far reaching and challenging project ‘Angaanwadi’, Muskurahat has adopted the entire slum area of Asalpha. As the name suggests, our Smile Army goes to their angaans (home) and carries the entire world with them for these kids. Every Sunday, we gather our kids at two places: Body Vihar and Police Chowki- both inside the slum.
The day starts with meditation that helps create the energy to disconnect the kids from outside distractions and helps them concentrate on the learning which is to follow.
The Reading Hour is what took place next. However it wasn’t restricted just to English, but also includes taking up Math and teaching basic scientific concepts. One of our sixth graders recently studied about the Solar System and when quizzed about the same, she proudly answered almost all correct! But, as she said, coming to us she had helped her gain a better grasp on the topic and knew facts about them which no one in school would. How happy that made her!
The learning session ended with a drawing exercise that was initiated by our Project Manager Pooja and Aakash and undertaken by all our volunteers: Nisha, Jigyasa, Pallavi, Sumedh, Gitali, Owais and many others. This involved them drawing 3-D shapes from a YouTube tutorial .
Next, it was time for some physical exercise. These games aimed at oiling their coordination skills and which they all really enjoyed running around playing!
While all this was happening at the Bodh Vihar, our kids at the Police Chowki location were being shown some other interesting things. Here our Project Managers Ninad and Vipul had prepared a demonstration of the Endothermic reaction. Titled Elephant’s Tooth, it simplified for our kids some sophisticated concepts involved.
Soon it was time at both the places to say the closing prayer following which the kids ran back home, down and around the same mountainous road, armed with new found knowledge and an unmatched level of hope.Like us they were thinking: “If mountains can be overcome, why not destiny?”