Stories of change

Reflections by Children and Young People
How being in Ankur Collectives makes a difference in their lives

Finding the time to play

I have been associated with the Learning Collective since the last two years. Before joining the centre, I used to make belts at home after coming from school. I hardly got any time to play. Playing at night in the lanes after work is risky for your  legs could get stuck in sewage drains. There is hardly any light.  Playing on the terrace is risky too. The park is also not available to us, for it is occupied by adults.When I joined the learning collective, we got many opportunities to play and learn new games. I also participate in the sports competitions at school. I played in the inter-school kabbadi match.

At the centre I make stories on my own and also narrate them to the group. We help each other in making stories. Then we share our stories in the community. Now I can read and write on my own. I have begun to like going to school and take fewer leaves than before.

Tanishka, 9 years

My routine has changed

I had joined the learning collective when I was 9 years old. At that time I was in the 4th class. I used to help my father at the shop. Father has a small general store. I would spend 2-3 hours in the shop in daytime. I had to sit in the shop when papa would go to offer Namaazhile mother would cook or do stitching, I took care of my younger sister. The pressure of studies increased in the 5th class. I would wake up at 6 in the morning and take care of my younger sister. Mother would make breakfast. After having breakfast, I would go to the school. School used to be off by 12.30 pm. After coming back from school, I would first change my clothes, then wash up and then sit down for a meal. After that I would go to the shop. Papa would go home to have lunch and then offer namaaz. After papa returned from namaz, I would go home and then to the learning Collective.

I learnt how to make and tell stories because of the centre. I began to study and also started getting good marks in school. Whenever mother came to the school, my teacher would say that your daughter is doing well in studies.

Gradually my responsibility towards other works decreased. I started going to the school regularly. Earlier I wasn’t able to get time for playing but now I do. I am in class VI now.

My father and mother send me to the centre on time. Now I have begun to focus on the centre and on making stories. I go to play in the park. We have planted saplings in the park. I also write stories there. Once we arranged chairs in the park and all sat there. We recited poems one by one. We enjoyed a lot. Back home I told my mother everything.


Why should I miss school?

Piece rate work was done in my house. I would work on the pieces from 2 pm to 6 p.m, with my mother. We would get stones, sequins and beads to embellish the pieces. Once an urgent order came. me and my mother together worked on it . When we went to return it, he gave us two more pieces but I told him we don’t need any more pieces because I have to go to the school and to the madarsa. He said these are smaller pieces, it will get done at night. Agreeing with him we brought the pieces home. After finishing household work, we started working on the pieces.

While making them we fell asleep and could not complete the piece. Early in the morning the man came to our house. He said complete it by 8 a.m. I had to take leave from school. After taking the piece he said, ‘more pieces will come in the evening, come and take them.’ I put my head down and started thinking, today also I had to take off from school and tomorrow also I will have to take leave. I brought the things in the evening but told my mother that I am not going to take leave from school tomorrow. She did not say anything. I went to sleep after dinner and went to school the next morning. Mother came to the school during recess. I came back with mother and started making the pieces. In the evening when I went to the park, I saw several children telling stories, I also recited a poem. I liked it a lot. Without telling my mother I got my name enrolled in the Ankur learning collective. I started coming to the group. I would make stories, narrate them and also write them.

In the beginning I wrote about myself. When I read out my writings to my friends, it felt very nice. After coming back from school, I would go to the group. One day, I narrated my story to mother. She was happy. Then onwards, she did not prevent me from going to the centre. Now I do not think of making pieces. , I sit for half an hour or so. Mother makes all the pieces.

I have started telling stories outside. I narrated a story in the Kissagoi program in the locality. I felt very good. Everyone was listening to my story.


 Stories have been born inside me

One day, I followed my cousin sister Ishrat and brother Shahrukh to a place where children were sitting in a group and writing. I asked my mother to get me enrolled in that place. The first day that I went, I met a friend from my class. We sat together. I picked up a story book and began to read ‘ghayal kabootar’ (injured pigeon). Didi said that I could make my story on an ‘injured pigeon”. I wrote one and and showed it to my mother who liked it. I started going to the center daily, I would read and make stories. Gradually I started creating longer stories and sharing them with other children.

After coming to the Ankur centre, a lot of stories were born inside me. I became very confident. Earlier in school when I used to read out from a book, and the teacher would ask me questions, I was unable to respond, because I was not able to learn them properly. Now when the teacher asks questions in class, I raise my hand and answer.

From the centre, I got a chance to go to Dehradun for a workshop which was about rights of children and environment. There I met children from Panipat and other place. I was the youngest amongst the children. I got a chance to create a play and a story. It is our right to read, to play, to speak and to write. On the last day of the workshop, we planted a tree each and boarded the train for Delhi. On our return we planted trees in the park in our locality and wrote about environment.


 It’s fun to tell stories

I have been associated with Ankur Collective since the last two years. Here, I learnt to read and write stories. I have developed an interest in narrating stories. It is fun to tell stories. Earlier I used to find it useless. Earlier I would spend more time in doing piece work. Mother also would tell me that the work order has to be completed, so don’t go to play. Earlier I used to paint watches, when that stopped, I started doing bead work. After coming to the center, my work on piece rate piece rate orders has come to an end. I play every day. My family also gives me time, earlier they were more concerned about getting the work done.

Now they pay attention to sending me to school and to the center. Now I don’t take leave from school. Earlier I was apprehensive as to how my voice would appear, when I narrate or read a story, but when I started writing and telling stories regularly, my confidence increased. Now I am able to express all my thoughts. I share my stories with my peers in the group. Whatever happens around me, I talk to them about it. We also learn about others.

Earlier, I used to speak less and was not interested in listening. I narrated my story, ’My favorite muskmelon’ at the Kissagoi programme. I also wrote, ‘Til Ke Ladoo’ (a kind of sweetmeat), which I liked and others also liked.


My Voice at Home

The Ankur club has been a friend in my long journey. Over a period of time it changed the way I think. The time before the club was spent in work and studies. The weekly off day would be spent in doing household chores. My existence, which was lost in all this work is the story of my childhood journey. I did piece rate work. I used to take my grandmother to the doctor’s clinic. I was not able to join the club regularly because of all the work, I was also missing out on my studies. I would feel disturbed, that because of all this work I should not lose myself. Gradually the growing interest in the Ankur club organized my time on its own.

The journey of Ankur club lasted 9 years, but I didn’t realize how time flew and how it changed us. It used to bother me that, I was unable to give enough time because of the increasing difficulty of studies in the higher classes but I would somehow take time out and join the group for the activities. Participation in the discussions and writing enhanced my thinking and understanding. The skills that I acquired here and the associations I formed, broadened the way I worked and my achievements – be it my role in the college elections, or be it anchoring the college festival in front of 3500 students.

The achievement even bigger than all this was the role I found in family discussions. Earlier there were restrictions on speaking at home, but as my thinking evolved, I was involved in family discussion. Gradually the maturing of my thinking and my accomplishments changed the way my family thought about the Ankur Club. Now whenever I have a holiday, they ask me: “Aren’t you going to the centre?”

Sujit Kumar 

Steps forward

It was about 7-8 years ago. The place that we started to go to, was called the Ankur club. Interestingly, at that time we didn’t know that children, who worked at home, were also considered workers, that is child

workers. Slowly time passed and we didn’t realize when the word worker slipped away from us. We started paying attention to studies. The engagement with studies increased so much that we almost stopped

working. Mornings were spent at, and the afternoons at the club, I began to gain confidence after coming here, I learnt how to speak. I learnt what it means to be part of a a group, and how to work collaboratively.

I knew how to write, but here I learnt to write beautifully. I would participate in debate competitions at school. In the Hindi exam, I could easily write two page long essays. Friends would ask, how did you do it so quickly! Then I would tell them about here and the way to write. I started teaching young children in the social work program of St. Stephen’s dispensary, along with my friend. From here children were taken to competitions at such as drawing, speech and debate held at different places. I encouraged the children to participate in them. For one such competition at a higher level, my friend my name to Sir. I secured first position in it. Sir called me to his office the next day and asked how I managed to do it. I told him about my practice at the Ankur club. He then made me a youth volunteer, even though only those who have teaching experience of 2-3 years are selected as youth volunteers. I have taken part and won several competitions. The confidence that I got from my association at Ankur club, has never failed me.

Durga Bhargav

A surprise for them

I got an invitation to join the Ankur club from my friend. In those days at our house, we used to make flower garlands. I would somehow reach the club and participate in the gathering there, and in half an hour or so, a call would come from my house. Sometimes mother would come to call, at other times my sister would come. I would quietly leave. At home my mother would ask me to make garlands and add, if you go to centre then you would have to work on the garlands all night. At the club, I made new friends. They would tell me their thoughts and I would tell them about mine. I began to get interested. Every night I would write a story for one page or so. With time I got faster at writing.

Gradually I began spending more time at the centre and participating in the gatherings than in making garlands. By writing stories of my locality, I learnt about life itself. I can understand and write on any theme without any hesitation..

Earlier my family and neighbours would call me a wanderer, but gradually they began to understand. When my story got published in Sabla and Hans magazine, I read it out first to my father. After hearing the story, my father was astonished and said, ‘did you write it? How did you write it?’ When I said that ‘yes these stories are written by me’, then he told my sisters, ‘see how well she writes’.


They sent be back

From childhood it became a routine to manage the shop along with my studies and household tasks. Studies became just for namesake as the entire burden of running the shop fell on my shoulders. My elder brother also used to manage the shop, but as he was lost in his own fun he would push it down all on me. He wouldn’t allow me to do anything.

I was told to follow the family’s instructions, restricted from moving around, going to the park and asked to pay attention to the shop. When I joined the Ankur club, our neighbors told my parents that I was wasting my time. I was asked to discontinue going to the centre, by my family.

Through my association with the Ankur center, I had learnt how to write stories When my family members learnt that they encouraged to rejoin the centre. Here, apart from writing stories, I have learnt many other things, for example putting up my views without hesitation. I have participated in many competitions at the school and in the colony competitions and won many of them. This has boosted my confidence.

Tarun Kumar

Learning to listen, learning to tell

I did not like listening to others at the collective; I only liked to express my own thoughts as I started visiting the centre daily, my capacity to listen increased. And with this started my writing. I would discuss with friends, talk to them and also outside. I would write stories. In the beginning I wrote up to three pages, and gradually reached up to 15-20 pages. I began to enjoy listening. I told my stories to friends, family, locality and school and my confidence to tell stories increased. After this I got a chance to tell my story at a big programme called Kissagoi. I was supported by friends, group, family, school and locality. I told the story ‘Kum Maal’, in front of 250-300 children and adults and the clapping which followed increased my confidence.

Zeba Khatoon

Finding stories in my neighborhood

My life was confined to making garlands at home. At the club we have learnt how to write stories about our neighborhood. I got to know the different blocks in our locality and the different types of work that people living here do.. We would talk to them, take their interviews to write their stories and narrate it to them. I wrote about the L Block biscuit bakery. Whenever I would go by that shop, I would always find a crowd. I would be compelled by the smell coming from the from the bakery to buy them from the shop. In the

process of researching and writing, I got to know L block very well. It has been five years since I joined the club. By joining the club, I have got a new identity in the colony – that of a writer.

Lakshmi Rani

The fear of writing has gone

In the beginning I would be able to stay only for a little while at the centre because I had to go back home and do the work of putting caps and seals. Slowly I started enjoying the atmosphere at the club. I reduced my work of putting caps and started spending more time at the center. Here friends would tell stories and they increased my capacity to listen. It motivated me to write and narrate. One day I took a diary and wrote a story in it. It was not so good, but I got started writing. While writing I used to worry about making mistakes, but then my friends supported and helped me get rid of this fear. I got enthusiastic about writing. Now I am always in a hurry to come to the club. I have almost stopped doing the piece work I used to do at home.


Nurtured by Companions

Amongst friends I was known as being naughty. I was one of those who couldn’t sit still. It was for this reason that, in this gathering of friends, I would not be able to sit for more than half an hour to forty five minutes and would run away as soon as I got a chance. It was part of my nature. When my friends would search me out and bring me back to the club my naughtiness would not cease. I would also do the income generating work at home if I felt like it, because of which I would get scolded. During festivals, whenever a big order would come for bindi-sticking or rakhi-making, which had to be completed, it would feel like I was being forced. In the house in front of our house, steel wool would be packed. I would work there for 1-2 hours. I would get pocket money from it. Slowly I began to understand the gathering of friends at the club.

However, it was as if I just couldn’t write. But I would participate in the interesting discussions there. I liked to decorate my place and to share the activities of the club in the locality. I didn’t realize how three years passed away with friends in this gathering. Increasing pressure of studies had anyway led to my abandoning the

income- generating work done at home. In the meantime, an event changed my life which took my life backwards. The quarrels in schools among friends assumed the shape of a big fight. As a result of it, I stopped going to the school. After 6 months or so when a friend informed at my house, I also got a beating and my mother took me by my ears to school next day. After much pleading my name was again enrolled in the school. But in this period Ii was left behind by 6 months compared to my friends. In this period my friends in the club raised my confidence and by helping me they became closer to me. Now friends in the club and school have become part of my routine. By the time I was in 12th class, I was trying to realize my dreams when father’s health started getting worse.. Looking after him became my responsibility. With economic difficulties I began to take up small odd jobs. Thinking of a career, and in order to take it forward, I joined Yoga classes. But after father’s death, problems at home increased and I began to look around for a good job.

I was supported by the discussions I had with friends. I am now working in the file department. Here I fulfill my role of talking to people and supporting people because of the practice I gained at the club.

Peter Messey 

The flowing conversations

I got a chance to talk to people outside. Earlier when I used to go for interviewing people in the locality, I would just stand there and stare at people. Would people say something about what all I am asking? Would people shoo me away before they told me anything? Thinking of all this I would get very scared and keep hesitating. I would talk to all people, irrespective of their age. Be it a small child or an elder person. Earlier I would be scared of talking to both children and adults. But after I wrote the story of the grandfather after speaking to them, I realized that older people are also nice. After writing this story, without fearing I would ask questions from people. I would also go to new places and talk to people, wherever be that place. Now I talk to people even while I am walking around. After joining the Ankur club, I would go to the locality and speak to several people such as shop keepers, vegetable sellers, rickshaw pullers, people sitting on the road, or street vendors. Now whenever I sit down to talk to them, I would first listen to them and then they would be ready to tell me about themselves.

Earlier my family would ask me what do you gain from going there? It is better that you sit at home and study. Pay attention to your exams. You will get nothing by going there, it is a waste of time. Instead of the time that you spend there, if you make garlands you will get some money that could take care of your expenses. Not only this, others would also stop me and ask what do you do in other streets? Whenever we see you, you are always outside on the streets.

But when I started sitting with my friends in the groups and listening to stories and understanding them, I got the confidence to write stories. I also started writing stories. It is for this reason that my story got published in the magazine ‘Hans’. Since then my family members have understood what I do and who I am.


My creative flights

I got a chance to live freely and take creative flight. Besides my studies in school, I began to understand the meaning of letters that filled my blank pages. New friends and new experiences, everything felt new. At the same time, along with club activities the levels of education was also increasing. Family members and those living around also began to understand the importance of the club. It led to neighbours sending their children to the club. I used to be very quiet and silent in the initial days at the club. Because of this no one liked to be my friend. Along with my studies I also needed to do something that was interesting and involving. The club was such a place. With time, I began to meet people, talk to them and make new friends. In the group, by entering into dialogues, I got rid of my hesitation. I began to dislike keeping quiet now. By then it became part of my habit to meet people, listening to them and getting into conversations. By the time I was in class 12, I was substantially changed. I was at a stage when I had to think of my future, weave my dreams and select a career.

During this time, I also had to live in fear of my brother. I had to tell him that I could do other things. He did not like that I wrote. But even then I would hide from him and write. Once in a writing competition, I got the first place. I was happy because now my brother would not stop me from writing. Now I also tell him my stories. In Sundar Nagri several seasonal works were there. In our house also earrings and chains were

made. I also had a big role in this work and a lot of time had to be given for this purpose. But gradually because of being attracted to the club, this work reduced and all my time would be spent studying or in the club.

My position in studies also improved. Brother became happy. Every year, we used to go to our village in Nagpur to spend summer vacations. Usually it would be me and my father I was in class 10th at that time. The train journey would take the whole night, hence I would keep several books with me, and my diary and if I felt like it I would also write. In the coach there were several boys and an uncle in it, I was reading a Hindi book. I saw a bhaiya, who was sitting close by, watching me. After a while he pulled the diary towards himself. When

I saw him, he was reading my diary. When he asked, what is this, I told him about the club and that I liked writing stories. He read my stories and told my father that I should become a writer. It was only 4 days after having joined college that I saw a notice that on 15 August college was going to have a programme on women’s issues and a debate competition was going to take place. I was already ready. I went and registered myself. On 14 August there was a lot of preparation in college. I got scared whether in this new environment I would be able to correctly put forth my views. I was also not ready, and thought I should go and withdraw my name, and then thought let us see what happens. The programme started and slowly everyone started

giving their speeches in English, I got scared what if I speak in Hindi and people make fun of me. It was my turn, I fearfully began my speech and speaking in Hindi was frightening me more because teacher and the principal were looking at each other and saying something. I gathered my courage and without hesitation started speaking on ‘Security of Indian women’ and presented all my thoughts around it, which I heard in the club and in the locality. By the time I finished, claps filled the hall, this was the first time that it was happening to me. I was very happy and even happier that what I had learnt over the last 5-6 years became useful today on this stage. Even now I get to learn new things from the club.

In a little while the results of the competition was going to be declared and I was just out the echoes of the clapping, when sir announced my name for second prize. I couldn’t believe it and began to look around and wondered how the unimaginable had happened. There were no friends around me to wish me. Within minutes, I also met my friends.

The Hindi department teachers gave me encouragement and told me you must participate in all college events like this. And in a new place, this new face got an identity. Even now I do several things, such as writing a personal diary, imaginary stories and about the personalities of people. I want to grow in this line itself. I enjoy doing all this a lot, but to think of the environment that I have grown up in is a challenge. Now it doesn’t bother what people think about me. Whenever I meet a new person, I am able to explore untouched aspects of their lives.

Sunita Meshram