On a blistering, June afternoon, this year, I received the eagerly anticipated news. All six Lotus Petal aspirants for the Class 10th Board examinations had passed and performed exceedingly well too! Initially I could not believe my ears when my colleague called up and I asked immediately to see the scorecard. Within a few seconds the scores arrived on my phone via the modern miracle we call ‘whatsapp’ and there they were...magic translated into reality. The numbers were not scores. They were individual stories of battles fought and won with grit and determination.
I was transported back to the summer of 2014 when I stepped into Lotus Petal to teach English and Social Studies. Kushal- founder of Lotus Petal and visionary extraordinaire told me on my first day of work, “When you think positive, the outcome is invariably positive.” The scorecard of the students, the evolution of Lotus Petal and the flourishing institution that I see now, is a tangible validation of those words.
As a teacher, mentor and guide I had to wear multiple hats...of a counsellor, a singing teacher and it’s difficult to believe but yes, the director of an English play! Each event was a learning experience and I have grown along with my students. Their milestones have been my milestones. In fact the entire team has evolved with the children.
While the senior children of Pratishthan Learning Centre prepared for the ‘battle of the boards’ Vidyananda students were emerging from the chrysalis. I was privileged to mentor Vidyananda for a while and it was an adventure every step of the way. The exact time of a special moment is always difficult to pinpoint and it so happened that one day we looked out and saw neat well-groomed students studying maths, carving intricate clay models, standing in a queue- perfect models of decorum and grace. The butterflies were out! Vidyananda evolved as only children can with their infinite capacity of hope, joy and energy.
Challenges are a part of the lives of each Lotus Petal student and individual anecdotes would fill a book. Often in our country, circumstances and not heredity is what hinders the growth and development of a child. What makes Lotus Petal unique is that, children are given tools to chip away at the obstacles around them. There are organisations which take care of children...plenty of them. But how many extend support to the entire family of that child, consequently guaranteeing an ambience at home where the student can study and pursue his or her career plans in peace? Nutrition, health, confidence building skills and exposure to the current corporate system are just a few of these tools. I like to think of them as hammers and chisels chipping away at invisible barriers empowering a child to dream big, go forward.
I wrote of ‘magic’ at the start. Magic does not happen without hard work and when it yields a moment of wonder, we define it as magical. A perfectly formed answer, a confident morning assembly pledge, an intelligent and thoughtful discussion, Vidyananda students outdoing their seniors in multiplication tables...just a few instances of hours of hard work transformed into ‘magic’-the intangible rewards of every teacher.
The ever evolving story of Lotus Petal can be summed up in the words of a beloved poet, Maya Angelou: “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
Haimanti Mitra is a teacher at the Pratishthan Learning Center, the secondary school of Lotus Petal Foundation. She teaches English and Social Studies.