Pravin came to Pestalozzi from rural India in 2009. He graduated in 2011 and is now studying Aeronautical Engineering at Brighton University. You can read a recent blog post from him here.
A street full of thoroughfares, vendors shouting for a sale, people bargaining and quarrelling even for a rupee or two and rain taking its pleasure in watching people get wet. As rain changed from a light sprinkle at first, then gradually harder everyone around got busy to protect their belongings and themselves from getting soaked, including me. I rushed to the nearest bus stop and watched people around while waiting for the bus that would get me home. Across the road, I spotted an old woman dressed in rags, begging for a rupee or bread. Because she was polio-stricken, she could move only with the help of her hands. People around were so busy that they did not even have a single moment to glance at that woman, helping her was far from a cry. To be honest, as much as I sympathized her situation I did not feel I could help her with the little money I had just enough to pay for my bus fare.
At that moment, I thought of my grandfather’s word so I moved forward to help her. My grandfather always told me when I was a kid that a little drop of water means nothing to an ocean but the same drop shines like a pearl on a lotus. Similarly, though the little money I had in my pocket would mean nothing to rich people, it could buy food to feed the hungry belly of the poor. I went to that woman, took her to a dry place and bought her some bread. Later, from the man in the bakery I learnt why people would not help her, she was untouchable. This single word encapsulated all the things I suffered from as a little Pravin. It reminded me of times when my mother and I used to go to buy groceries and the shopkeeper would not even take money from our hand or place the bag of groceries in ours. If I mistakenly touch the tube well or any water sources, no one would use the water, considering it to be impure. We would go to the restaurant but were not allowed to eat inside the restaurant, but instead had to take our food away. We then had to wash utensils on our own because they would not touch the utensils used by us, despite the fact we pay equal amount to purchase the food. I could not hide my misery, nothing has changed from then, to now. Despite the 64 years of celebration of independence in India, Indian people are still imprisoned in the concepts solely derived from old age tradition and culture.
In my village people’s attitude towards my family and me has changed, but for the poor it’s just the same. I was the first learner from my community to break the handcuffs of caste system and fly to The United Kingdom to pursue further education. Pestalozzi International Village Trust recognized my hard work and dedication towards my studies. As a result, I was offered two years of scholarship to study International Baccalaureate at Sussex Coast College in Hastings. In my two years of stay at Pestalozzi, I have learned things that the homogenous environment I was brought up in could not offer. I was respected for my abilities not discriminated as poor or untouchable anymore.
Pestalozzi's ethos of educating the head, heart and hands has turned me to an individual who can take responsibility. My foremost responsibility is towards my country and my community. In my summer break, I did what I could to spread awareness about the orthodox that still prevails in India, to the kids in my community. Setting myself as an example, I aspired them to study harder and spread the word to make changes in society. Though my attempt was not spectacular, I know I did make a small change. You cannot travel miles without starting with a few steps. I am sure that there are lots of untouchable woman crying and begging for help. Nevertheless, wherever I see them I will be there to help them. I do not know what future has in store for me but I have the will to make that small change, then gradually make it bigger.
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