• Harshada Desai

What Role Models for Indian Youth Look Like

On that dull, mist-covered Monday morning I rose from the underground metro station to find groups of rickshawalas yelling at Jaya(QA staff) and I. “Bhaiya Sarvodaya School jana hai” we said to which one old rickshawala replied, “Haan wo ladkiowali school na?”

As he peddled the rickshaw along the small lanes of Delhi’s Hari Nagar, I passed by many Maruti minivans transporting girls to schools, putting a smile on my face. As I arrived at the gates of Sarvodaya Kanya Vidhyalaya, an all-girls government school, I met Sunita. She took us through long yellow corridors that were not devoid of the usual commotion of a school. Girls running down corridors with books in their hands, teachers narrating tasks and chatters of young girls filling the air.

On the first floor we entered an unusual looking classroom. Table and chairs had been replaced with shelves that replicated supermarket aisles. The shelves were stocked with displays of shoes, clothes, food packets just like a mini-market and moreover, mannequins stood witness to the vocational training that students of this class will go through. Practical learning begins here.

Girls in the school were immaculately dressed yet eager to talk; curiosity abounds to understand what I was doing here. From a similar group of girls in crisps clean uniforms I got the opportunity to talk to Prakshi and Sonia.

Prakshi and Sonia are best friends, in the same class and like many others in the school, their lives are full of socio-economic struggles. Yet these girls are motivated and inspired.

Prakshi, a 11th grader, is a confident young girl. When I ask her to tell me a bit about herself she starts by describing herself as a helpful person who is always laughing and making others laugh. She says she gets nervous sometimes but it isn’t anything she can’t handle. Upon asking what she wants to do after graduating from high school, with what seems like certainty says, “I want to become an IAS officer.”

She then pauses for a slight second as I ask her “How come?”

Her eyes tear up and it was not long before the tears fell freely “Because it is my father’s wish”. She is overwhelmed at the prospects of this difficult task she pulls herself together and says “No matter what it takes or how long it takes, I will become an IAS officer”.

What will you do when you become an IAS officer?”

“I wish to help the poor.” she says, smiles.

I wish her all the best in her endeavours.

It is heartening to see how someone as young as Prakshi, while battling with expectations, has learnt to take whatever challenges that come her way with stride.

Sonia, is not any less ambitious. Retail Management is her favourite class! She believes herself to be lucky that she has the opportunity to attend a class where she can learn all about the ‘outside world’ (a world not so accessible to girls in some communities in India). She tells me how once at Big Bazaar she noticed a woman manager. Sonia describes this woman as her ‘role model’ and ever since she has been enamoured by her and aims to be a manager at a mall.

I was so delighted to meet these young girls who in the face of adversity had nothing but positivity, hope and have found role models in their own surroundings. People look up to and aspire to be like one day.

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