For the last few days, when we were working with Rahul and Amit, Rahul’s sister Radhi would sit inside the bhonga (shelter) doing some sundry work. If I asked Rahul a question, she would respond from inside the bhonga. But she was not ready to join us. Two days ago, Kishor invited her, and she joined us. She started calculating how much ash was required for how many pits. When Radhi calculates using her fingers, her concentration is worth watching! She is not fazed by anything going on around her. Radhi began learning the alphabet last year, when she started attending Kishor’s school. Kishor informed me that she has made considerable progress over the last year.
When we reached the brick kiln today, we saw that Radhi had cleaned up the floor outside her bhonga. When she saw us, she ran into the bhonga and emerged with two mats. Yesterday, we were discussing that the children did not have a proper place to sit and read. Radhi, the responsible 12-year-old, had solved our problem without anyone asking her to do so. The hardships of life on the brick kiln teach these children to solve their problems on their own. They have to shoulder a lot more responsibility than what is normally expected at their age. They develop a sense of maturity quite early in life. I am still undecided whether it is good or bad that these young children behave like responsible adults.
All of us gathered outside Radhi’s bhonga and started working on our regular math problems – if you have to put 15 ghamelas (small metal tubs) of raabit (powder of unused bricks) in one pit, how much raabit would be required for 6 pits? Radhi answered the question after much careful thought. Here is a video clip captured by Kishor:
Radhi was calculating in multiples of 15. When she reached 70, I thought she would go wrong in further calculation. But she did not. She solved the problem by ‘keeping aside’ 5 ghamelas. Unfortunately, the school exams do not assess this type of problem solving strategies, and that’s where the problem lies. When I asked her how she had calculated the answer, she explained it systematically. It is usually difficult for children to explain the steps they use for calculation. Because they have to think about their own thought process, and verbalize it while explaining. Many children coming from literate homes would also find this considerably challenging. Radhi is able to do this quite well.
One day, when I was chatting with the children, Radhi and I had this amusing conversation:
“Your parents work on the brick kiln. Kishor guruji teaches in the school. Do you know what work I do?” I asked them casually.
Radhi said, “You must be writing in the computer.”
“What for ?” I asked curiously.
“Because you love it!”I smiled at Radhi appreciating her reply.
“Is that so? But what must I be writing?” I persisted.
“What you teach us.” Radhi said.
“ Why should I write that?” I asked purposely, to probe further.
“There must be so many kids in other places … their teachers will read it… and they will teach those kids. You are Kishor guruji’s teacher, aren’t you?” Radhi’s reply left me speechless.
When Kishor had introduced me to these children, he had said, “I am your teacher, and he is my teacher.” Combining this information with her experience Radhi had imagined my profession quite accurately ! Radhi is not only smart, she is also a born leader. She likes to assume responsibility. One day when Umesh and Devram were fighting, she intervened and made them stop. When she is in Kishor’s school, she is always doing advocacy on behalf of her classmates. Will the unstable life on the brick kiln nurture her inherent qualities?