Since the Mumbai terror attacks, there have been numerous stories about how children and their parents have reacted to the situation, the growing fear and threat of more such strikes. But wherever there is fear, there is hope.
And this initiative is one of the many attempts being made to heal the wounds, question stereotypes and bolster pluralism.
Children from as many as 83 schools in Delhi are part of an initiative to learn about the “real” Delhi. Students from the schools like Delhi Public School and Vasant Valley, as well as those from Kendriya Kala Vidyalaya in Paharganj are together undertaking these trips to rediscover a city with an urban history of thousands of years, a city where different religions and cultures have coexisted, a city where the narrow lanes are reminiscent of a rich past.
ITIHAAS, an NGO, takes the students on these trips. Educating happens during walks through the lanes of Chandni Chowk — a visit to legendary poet Mirza Ghalib’s haveli in Ballimaran, interaction with the Imam of Fatehpuri Masjid, a tour of Gurudwara Sisganj Sahib, Gauri Shankar Temple and a Jain temple. The talk is on anything between the traditions of qawwali and ayurveda.
On their first such trip on December 4, the students were taken to Chandni Chowk. This Thursday, it was a visit to Red Fort, and there would be another trip to Chandni Chowk on Friday.
Smita Vats, an alumnus of Jamia Millia Islamia and a former journalist, is behind the endeavour. She runs ITIHAAS with the hope that she would be able to make a difference to the society that has been ripped apart by terror. She says understanding the plurality of the culture will makes us better Indians and promote the kind of harmony that is required to defeat terrorism.
“The living, pluralistic heritage of India is important for us. Our history resides in our diverse people and not just in old monuments. Children should not remain tourists in their own city and foreigners in their own country, cut off from the rich traditions. From the Gauri Shankar temple to the Imam of Fatehpuri mosque, our living heritage has to be shown to the young minds,” Vats told HT.
But the battle between terror and hope is not without hurdles. Though the trips are continuing, as many as 800 children have pulled out of the initiative this month.