We’ve been talking about a place of our own at Indira Nagar for a long time now. Where once there was a beautiful tamarind tree, right by the stage where we conducted our sessions, there was now a big block of concrete. The children used to sit at the session sneaking in a little bit of tamarind in their mouth from time to time but they knew the man who was building the house and thought he might rent out to us once he finished.
At the end of a few sessions we went religiously to the owner to negotiate a price to rent out the room. But, we were doing things for free which looked like we have lots of money. Unfortunately for us, we don’t. We imagined we could scrape together a certain amount but the owner, suspicious as to what our agenda was and utterly disappointed with the money we were offering, after little hopeful signs from time to time, refused to interact or negotiate with us anymore.
With the weather gods peeking through the clouds from time to time, one rainy day we were unable to conduct the session and decided to walk through the lanes of Indira Nagar to look for a place to rent for the season.
Twelve children in tow, umbrella in hand we set off into the small by lanes, asking everybody where we could find a place. Even with children calling upon their relatives, bargaining and enquiring, we hit a dead end. Our back up, was to go back to the Balwadi in Indira Nagar, again, strategically placing buckets to capture the rains.
Alas, the teacher at the Balwadi refused, muttering something under her breath about a scandal involving the Balwadi.
As luck would have it, the teacher’s brother had a few rooms on rent and seemed very keen to give it out to us. But, it was not to be.
Disgruntled, annoyed and angry at the world, Sheena and I walked away from the man.
But we couldn’t just give up. We needed the space, we needed the children, we HAD to find a covered space for the monsoons or we wouldn’t be able to meet them for months.
One last try. We walked down the street and saw a house on the first floor on the main road and walked in and asked if we could get it on rent. To our surprise he said wait, let me ask and we finally had a 10 square metres space neat and clean with electricity and space to display the children’s work!
The first session in the room was a wonderful experience for me. The children checked out the room, said ‘Oh look we have a fan, look at our windows, we have such a nice room!’, pranced about, read their books sprawled across the mats that day and reminded me to turn the corridor light off before I left and I went back with a warm feeling in my heart.
Indira Nagar is where Bookworm’s first Community Library is situated. A strong, independent, permanent space for children from the basti to come to.
Yesterday, I heard the boys talking about a young man getting slashed with a knife in a petty fight and subsequent stories about the younger boys getting caught up in the mob of a fight. These children put up a fight each day, with their environment, with the education system. For once, they need someone fighting on their side.