- by Aditi Narain
It was a one day trip, to get a basic overview of how the center was run, meet the students and staff, figure out the finances; pretty much learn a little about everything. However, while setting out to do just that, I came across a classroom with the new batch of 40 students, mainly from Gadchiroli, Maharashtra. The teacher was kind enough to let me spend an hour talking to them, and asking them about their experiences, lives, reasons for pursuing hospitality and what they expected from the experience. At first they were hesitant, but slowly as they got more comfortable they stared sharing their stories.
I have never considered myself naïve, and though I was fortunate enough to have had a privileged life I had worked with people from all walks of life and so I thought that their stories, though terribly sad, would be ones I’ve heard before. I was wrong. I’m not sure what it was exactly. Maybe it was the story of Soniya, a young girl kidnapped on her way back from school at the age of six. They kept her for a year, during which she was given no food or water for the first few days and then just enough to keep her alive for the rest of the year. Her parents managed to get her back after a year, during which they’d broken her legs and nearly starved her. She spent 3 years in the hospital, recovering physically. Whether she recovered mentally is a whole other story. It could be the story of Mantai, being insulted by her parents for not being good enough, or Vimal who came from a very poor background and being the eldest of four sisters, had the sole responsibility of taking care of them. Or maybe it was none of these. Maybe it was the fact that whatever the story, whatever the catalyst, they were all here for the same reason – the dream of something better.
- Aditi, who is a Program Associate, describes her first field visit to Aurangabad