Do you remember Rajesh Kumar Singh? I first introduced him to you four Sundays ago. Most people know him as a young 26-year-old barber at The Taj Mahal Hotel in New Delhi. It’s a job at which he’s both efficient and courteous.
The real Rajesh, however, is a very different person. Born in Jamui, in the bad lands of Bihar, his own poverty has propelled him to establish ‘an NGO’ — as he calls it — to teach dance to children of similarly deprived backgrounds. Rajesh offers them a chance to nurture a talent and fulfil a dream. Dance gives them a glimmer of hope amidst the adversity and penury that is otherwise their life.
From his salary, and without any support from another person, Rajesh contributes `30,000 a month to fully fund the dance school. It’s now seven months old and has 14 students. Half of them are regular and come every day. The others when circumstances permit. But all of them you could say are children of a lesser God.
Last week I learnt that Rajesh’s school has achieved its first remarkable and heart-warming success. Sushil, a 17-year-old, has found a job as a dance instructor at a school in Ghitorni. To appreciate what that means you need to know more about Sushil’s background.
Rajesh first met Sushil at a public park. He was doing acrobatic stunts. But Sushil wasn’t exercising. It was a desperate way to earn money. It was his last resort.
Sushil’s father is a casual labourer who is often unemployed. The family depends on his mother, who is an ironing lady. Sushil has two brothers: An elder one who is unable to find a job and a younger one who should be at school but is not. The family can’t afford it.
At Rajesh’s school Sushil’s talent blossomed. His self-taught skill at acrobatics transformed into a talent for dance. As Rajesh explains, Sushil has a great sense of timing and a very flexible body. I guess he’s probably a natural.
Now, a teacher himself, Sushil can help his mother feed and clothe the family. And, yes, his younger brother can go to school. In fact, he’s also going to start learning dance at Rajesh’s ‘NGO’.
In just seven months, Rajesh’s school has transformed one young man’s life. Undoubtedly it will achieve many more successes in the months and years to come. This is why I am writing about it once again today.
Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi government can learn a valuable lesson from Rajesh’s vision. They’ve promised to create 800,000 jobs. I hope they do but it won’t be easy. Rajesh’s ‘NGO’, however, offers a simple and more immediate way of taking poor children off the streets, teaching them a skill and giving their life meaning.
Dance may not conform with what politicians and economists call employment but if it comes more easily to the poor and unemployed it could be the opening to the new life they’ve been searching for in vain. Whilst he strives to create the jobs he’s promised, Arvind Kejriwal could usefully start with small but more direct ventures like Rajesh’s school that offer an initial answer to a problem that otherwise may take years to solve.
Actually, it’s even possible that sometimes the aam aadmi could have the best answers to his own problems. This might just be one such instance. Now, will the Aam Aadmi government listen and, more importantly, is it willing to learn?
The views expressed by the author are personal