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My first friend

Often in reports filled with numbers, it is easy to forget that every child has a story and a universe inside of him. A teacher builds a better world by being a safe space for her students.

Amrita was a new teacher and didn’t carry a water bottle with her. Like many government schools, there was no drinking water available at the school and Arvind was her savior. He sensed that his new teacher needed water and ran to fetch some from his home nearby. This was how Amrita made a little, chubby friend full of naughty energy on her first day.

Amrita was placed at this school as an Ashvattha teacher. She taught subject classes, organized no bag day activities every Saturday and visited parents to understand her students and their lives better. On one such visit, Amrita found out that Arvind’s father is an alcoholic, a common reality in the parent community around this school. Arvind’s family struggled financially and was dependent on help from neighbors, most of whom rely on informal wage work for their livelihoods. 

When Amrita first met Arvind, he was a carefree child in grade 2 known amongst his classmates for his quirky comments. He would often made the entire class and Amrita laugh with a sudden “o teri ki”. Over a period of a year and a half, Amrita saw him grow up, much faster than psychology books expect a child to grow. She observed that once unaware of his family’s economic reality, Arvind is now often anxious. At 9 years, his tiny shoulders carry the burden of responsibility with his school books everyday.

Arvind shares his burdens with his Amrita didi just like he shares anything he gets to eat with her. He finds a friend in her to cry and play. In one class, Amrita notices that his notebooks are much better kept than before and his writing has improved. She thinks that the sense of responsibility has made him serious about learning. And if she forgets to look at him during class, he sneaks behind her knowing that he is safe exclaims “didi aap mujhe dekh nahi rahe the”. By the time Amrita moved out of the school, Arvind became regular to school, participated actively in class and completed his homework. Amrita wonders if her friend now has someone to talk to.

*Name of the student has been changed to protect their identity


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