A Tale Of Two Anganwadis 

It was 6:30 a.m. when the alarm went off. He woke up and rolled out of his bed. A soft moan managed to escape his pursed lips as he glanced outside the window. Grey clouds still covered the morning sky; it had been days since he’d seen the sun. The past week had been a bit rough on the poor soul as he visited one anganwadi after another; those dimly lit rooms in shabbily built structures.But the centre he visited yesterday made him feel miserable. Located in some downtrodden area of the state capital, the centre was the day”care” shelter for about 15 children and 5 cows, as it was being run out of a cowshed. The roof leaked every time it rained, making it impossible for any productive learning to take place during the season. In a dark corner of the room, the children sat quietly on a tattered rug, much like their clothes, and probably their future. It was the lack of proper lighting maybe, that had  prevented the officials from seeing their pale faces, brimming with questions that they were never taught to ask.

An hour later, he was standing in front of the mirror, neatly dressed for another visit. Just as he was about to turn around, a speck of dirt on his right shoulder caught his eye. Hastily, he tried to brush it off; but couldn’t. A few  unsuccessful attempts later, he gave up. He got angsty easily these days; a feeling of guilt had overpowered his previously clear conscience. “Am I being too hard on myself?” he questioned himself, or “Have I been too lenient my entire life?” “It’s not your fault that your family was well off. There’s nothing you could have done.” argued a voice. “Yeah, right! like all that money spent on overeating at overpriced restaurants could not have been used to feed a few poor souls” argued another. These never ending arguments left him wearied. He sighed. Mustering whatever little enthusiasm was left, he stepped out of the door, hoping to see a changed reality.

He was in luck today, you would have thought, if you saw the centre. Situated about a kilometer from the CM’s villa, this anganwadi centre looked nothing like the others. As he walked inside with a fellow colleague, the brightly painted walls and happily running kids caught him by surprise. “Namaste bhaiyya! wo kal Independence day function tha na, to mantri ji ne saare bacchon ko yeh laal rang ki uniform di hai!” informed an overzealous karyakarti as soon as she saw his colleague. “Harr saal ki tarah sabhi bacchon ke liye gift bags bhi diye.” “Aur wo dekho Kishan” she pointed towards a young lad in his mid twenties, who was measuring the wall area, “Isko bhi  bheja hai, centre ki repainting ke liye”. Once all the information was out of her system, she finally breathed. While his colleague and she started talking about the various proceedings of the gala event that was organized the previous day, he decided to look around. There was a classroom full of colorful chairs and desks, a separate playroom with toys and puzzles, an office for the karyakarti, a kitchen larger than my humble accommodation, a water cooler, and a clean washroom. He was quick to assume that this must be where all the higher ups were taken to, when they wished to see an anganwadi, and rightly so. On inquiring, the colleague also told that there are a few others like this within the city. He didn’t know how to react; Should he be happy for these kids who were getting more than their fair share or feel miserable for those who sat unaware in dark rooms with empty hands?

On his way back, a thought came to his mind – “A city can be considered an organ, if a country were a living organism; functioning and thriving because of its component units working synergistic-ally. The children would then represent the newly formed cells, which require appropriate care and resources to develop fully for keeping the organ vital. What would happen to an organ if only a few cells were nurtured, while the majority were left to deteriorate and fend for themselves?”

Today, he saw what he wished to see, but unfortunately, didn’t feel how he thought he would.

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*Harsh likes children. He writes about them, clicks photos with them and doesn’t miss a chance to be around them. But he writes about grown-ups things, isn’t it?

 

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