It’s another day in K.D. Colony, New Delhi and a girl sits outside the parapet walls on late evenings, listless, swatting the mosquitoes that irritate the miserable compound. The walls are high. In her heart are countless questions, a quiet dejection eats at her. Motivation is lacking, and the sighs repeat themselves over and over. When you have big dreams, and yet no sense of direction, what do you do?
Some girls go to Arpan.
It’s not lavish with its blue walls of painted plaster, charts scattered here and there. A varied array of teaching equipment, a white board greets. But the humble simplicity that welcomes you is their temple of sacred motivation, where dreams are envisioned, understood and realized. It is where the cocooned pupa of hope, confidence and a love for life starts to break a shell and struggles to grow it's wings and fly,… to flutter about the imaginative minds, to reach greater heights. It is the blossoming of the most remarkable of stories. For six such girls of K.D Colony, this is home. Why is it important to go to college? they ask themselves, Why should I learn? And here, they find their answers, together. Here’s where their aspirations are sheltered. The feeling of sisterhood, a bonding, of shared experiences makes this a place of purpose, value and high regard.
This house was built with vision, too. A vision to help. “We aren’t short of philanthropists but we want to work as catalysts.” the founder had once quipped. When a bunch of students from the University of Delhi started Bodhi Tree, they were curious and excited about the project. It was something that seemed a big challenge to them: to sensitize the community to understand the importance of the financial independence of the girl child. They also wanted to help people lead a more fulfilling life. And Arpan was the early brainchild of that project. They’d achieve this no matter what, the students thought; they’d bring a change, one person at a time. It was the sort of decision changed everything for them.
Arpan today has become more than a home for Sneha and Zeba who came up with the project. Education here is free, and is supported by only a strong web of student volunteers from nearby universities and colleges. When it’s time for the people to light the lanterns, the girls huddle around in groups to relearn English, to be counseled in career development, to be educated about scholarship opportunities that might be available to them. They practice their writing in the traditional way, sitting cross-legged on the floor. They’re introduced to art, dance and theatre. Interests take shape, and creativity is unleashed. They participate; they find talents and exhibit them. No wonder the girls must think this little place as sacred. It’s becoming a part of who they are, ingrained in their identities.
For the founders, this is their fond achievement, but they believe in not slacking when their project is budding beautifully. “We intend to broaden the opportunities available to our girls as well as train them to use the available resources to the best of their advantage.” they tell me, “Our first step is to enable them to obtain improved social standing as well as acquire better employment opportunities in the future.”
The girls look back and reflect on the year 2003—the year when the project was founded, and changed it all. It’s been a life-altering experience, a dream that brings them closer to achieving a better, more independent world. The sustenance of the project is critical for the education and empowerment of women. If you live in Delhi and have some time on your hands, pay a visit. Teach the girls English. Talk to them and socialize. And you’ll see what dreams are made of. You’ll be of much help.
"It is such joy to empower people, to help them to help themselves." is the message that Arpan sends. And the smile in the eyes of these six girls speaks of the same joy, the same sense of purpose, the same aspiration…and dreams crafted of a sincerely strong resolute will.
(*Many thanks to friends and founders Sneha Thakur and Zeba Rizvi for the pictures. And tons of thanks to Bharathwaj Narasimhan for introducing me to the Arpan Community. I'll always be indebted. Tons of love to you guys!!!
Link to Arpan's Facebook page is here