Maami is back… and hopefully shall be strong for another few episodes 😀

The story so far

Maami is the formidable matriarch of the story, having migrated all the way from a small village in Tamil Nadu to a Nagpur chawl. She has three daughters, Shubha, Nitya and Ramya and a son Siva. Shubha is happily married and settled with her husband Krishnamurthy and her two children. Ramya is an activist in the making while maama, maami’s husband is turning out to be the strong, silent type. Sivakumar has made it to the Indian cricket team and is just back after a successful tour of England. The last few episodes saw Maami and the Nagpur gang escaping a terrible bomb blast in the TN Express while travelling from Nagpur to Madras for Nitya, her second daughter’s wedding. Now back on home turf, the women of the chawl want to put their grand plans of starting a small enterprise to fruition and also teach at the slum nearby. It is as they say many new beginnings! Read on…

Read Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16

It was a medium-sized slum with no name. But it was Nagpur’s largest, situated right beside the railway tracks. Small dirty shanties, some made of mud, others bound by tarpaulin… make-shift tents that looked like they would blow off in the heavy wind but thankfully Nagpur did not have too much of those, even during the monsoons.  

Right next to the slum was a construction site where five apartment blocks would soon tower over the city’s skyline. Most of the men worked at the site, fully knowing that the city’s richest who would come to occupy these apartments would soon campaign to throw them out of the prime piece of land that would fetch crores, if sold to an enterprising bidder.

Some of the men at the slum worked as coolies at the bustling Nagpur Central Railway Station while the women slogged as domestic help in homes in and around the area. Most of their children too took up odd jobs and hardly went to school. It was a typical Indian slum in its physical appearance and character. Broken pipes, stagnant water, instant fights and a nasty smell running through it. They were migrants from neighbouring Madhya Pradesh who felt no sense of belonging.  

Maami and her group knew that it was not going to be easy to do what they wanted to. But a local social worker promised to help. Antara Devi was impressed by the group’s enthusiasm but what really bowled over was their simplicity. These were women she felt who were genuine and willing to spend time away from their families. And they wanted nothing in return!

Maami, Jayati, Archana and Rakhee moved towards the slum, wary of what they were getting to. What would be the reception? Would the children be hostile,” they wondered as they made their way towards the centre where a few benches and tables had been arranged by Antara.

There were hardly any children. Maami could count only about seven of them. “Never mind,” she thought. “What’s most important is that we begin.”

Jayati was to be the teacher. Being proficient in Hindi, Marathi and English, she would be able to communicate with the children effectively or so they thought. She flashed a big smile and said, “We are not going to learn anything today,” she began. Maami looked at her quizzically. Jayati smiled in return and continued, “Let us play a game. Let us all pretend to be someone we want to be. But first let me know all your names.”

With great reluctance, the seven children introduced themselves and on prodding revealed what they wanted to be. A doctor, actress, actor (the most popular) singer and an engine driver!

“That’s nice,” said Jayati and then effortlessly slipped into the various roles the children desired to be. She was a superb mimic. Amitabh Bachchan (mere paas maa hai) one minute, a stern and stoic doctor the next and so they went on, a medley of people and images that filled a sense of awe and ambition in the young ones.

The applause was encouraging and at the end of two hours, Jayati had managed to attract the children to the huge blackboard.

Yes, it was not just about the three Rs. It was the beginning of many of life’s lessons. And a new chapter in Nagpur’s biggest chawl.

 

 

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