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A girl who quit her engineering job to teach underprivileged kids
As a kid, I wanted to be a quirky astronomer, a free-spirited traveler, a professional dancer, a famous scientist among various other things. I ended up being all these, when I became an educator/teacher. It's funny how underrated this profession is, it wasn't on my childhood to-do list.

It all started to make sense, when I left my software engineering job at TCS. My parents thought either this was a mid-life crisis happening at 21 years, or I was on drugs. This was followed by one year of volunteering at three different places, Umang, a rehabilitation center for the disabled in Jaipur; SESOL, a Montessory school in Ladakh and Jan Ugahi, a Childline Foundation collaborative in Goa.

I was looking for experiences that could teach me better than any degree would. I knew, I was doing the right thing, even though, I couldn’t explain it well to my family or friends. Every place, every organization, and every kid I met left an impression on me. And of course, I grew up as a person. All my agitation, my yearnings, my foolish passion, my immature ideas grew up with me.

“Ummeed Aman Ghar”, which housed a number of street children near Qutb Minar, even the mention of it, brings back many memories. Teaching those students in Ummeed was my first job after the volunteering break. The roughness of streets sometimes leaves an everlasting bitterness on young minds. I was aware of that; I just never knew it would be so difficult to make them regain the lost innocence and trust. They were hooligans at one moment, sweethearts the next and disinterested before you could even begin the class.

I never thought I would feel the brunt of students leaving the class or not showing up. I mean, I was so confident, I could make any kid fall in love with a subject. ‘Ummeed’ broke my over-confidence! In my very first class, some started fighting, screaming, many of them just left the class. I realized that their stubbornness, their aggression, their indifference, their impulsiveness were the various defenses they used to combat people like us, the privileged ones.

Did I manage to win their hearts? I still don’t know, but I did reach them and I did manage to make them see beauty in language. How I managed to do that? I became like them – stubborn (in demanding attendance), aggressive (in stopping the violent behavior), indifferent (to their excuses), impulsive (in seizing every light, lovey-dovey moment & capturing it). I am not sure how experts would deal with a situation like that, but I told myself, “I won’t give up on them, and I won’t let them give up on me” And after that, there wasn’t any looking back.

It was because of ‘Ummeed’ that I came in contact with sign language. There were three deaf kids with whom I desperately wanted to communicate but found myself handicapped. So, I joined the Indian Sign Language course from Noida Deaf Society. One thing led to another, and I found myself in this beautiful campus of Montfort Center for Education, Tura, Meghalaya learning the nuances of special education for the deaf.

As of now, I am an extremely happy person who wakes up in the morning, feeling excited about the day, about what to teach and how to teach my students of various age groups. When I look far ahead from here, there’s a lot that I intend to do; but I also keep looking back to the memories and lessons that kids in all those different places taught me (and still continue to do so!).

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