Forgot your password?

We just sent you an email, containing instructions for how to reset your password.

Sign in

  • (Paath = lesson) + (shala = sacred space) = Paathshala

    A friend was looking for a new space to work out of, in Mumbai.
    He was shown an office with a backyard, a jasmine tree hanging over the empty space. He couldn't get his eyes off the tree. It would be wonderful to have little children studying under the crepe jasmine tree, he thought.

    He rented out the space for his studio immediately. He got a blackboard built into the boundary wall, got slate plastered on. At the end of one of his shoots (he’s an advertising filmmaker), he got his set designers to make 15 little desks. He got them painted in matted primary colours.

    One day when his life got a little ordered, when he could possibly manage to predict his days or weeks better, maybe he’d start a school here.

    Classes were scheduled to start two weeks back. We weren’t sure the kids would actually come. He’d written out the permission letters himself in Hindi. He had his accountant make out a version in Marathi*. He had his assistants (young people only used to working on film shooting floors) go around to the slums nearby and find out if the kids went to school. They had the parents fill out permission letters.

    We later found out that some of them had never been to school, as was suspected. Some of the children had been kicked out of regular schools for unruly behavior and indiscipline. Others went for afternoon classes to the free government centre close by but still chose to turn up, could make these kids out easily from the lot, they were the only two who could write out their names on their worksheets, out of the set of 25 children who filed in by school time.

    Art, math, and English for two hours in the morning, that’s our current timetable. Part of the drill involves drinking a glass of milk and eating an apple in front of the teacher before leaving.

    The picture up there is of Ravi, one of the youngest students. This was when school time was almost over, and he spread himself out on the floor for some more time, just before leaving.
    I’m glad he felt this way here, that there was a place which could make him feel this way. Maybe the little kid on his side, will uncurl from his foetal stance to spread his arms out too in some time.

    I lay down on the floor beside Ravi and his little friend and closed my eyes too, after taking this picture. And I had visions of hope. And I was glad my friend had that vision under that tree when he first stepped into the space.

    *Children in slums in the city are more linguistically attached to their mother tongue since they rarely go to school, and so, are not trained to receive instruction in a single, generic language. They come from families which have just moved from villages to the cities in search of employment,.. education for the child, takes a back seat in the face of the parents' daily struggle to find work.

    (a connected thought)
    In the older times in my country, the musicians, the actors, mime performers, artists were an irrefutable part of the community. They were welcomed into being a part of all celebrations, called in for all the religious festivities, given a place to stay, and food to eat. They were given sanctuary.
    Some of the artists in the India of today, have taken on the new world's challenges of making creatives to sell, and it is not surprising for them to end up building undercover sanctuaries for others, like in the case of this little school. Isn't it wonderful? Makes me smile to think of the possibilities.
    • Share

    Connected stories:


Collections let you gather your favorite stories into shareable groups.

To collect stories, please become a Citizen.

    Copy and paste this embed code into your web page:

    px wide
    px tall
    Send this story to a friend:
    Would you like to send another?

      To retell stories, please .

        Sprouting stories lets you respond with a story of your own — like telling stories ’round a campfire.

        To sprout stories, please .

            Better browser, please.

            To view Cowbird, please use the latest version of Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, or Internet Explorer.