A motley bunch of children surrounded Shabnam in a balwadi (kindergarten), but few had any interest for the song she sang. The scene outside the window held more promise. But as the song went on, they became engrossed despite themselves and the class ended up singing and dancing to her tunes, literally.
For Shabnam (she just writes her first name), the balwadi at Kanakdurga basti, in Delhi’s RK Puram, is second home. Life has come full circle for the 20-year-old, who began her education there at the age of four."I had other options after I passed my plus-two boards, but I love being with children," she said, beaming.
Still, the balwadi is not the ultimate destination of Shabnam. She is pursuing a BCom degree on correspondence course from Delhi university. “My parents were poor and illiterate. But they wanted me to get a proper education so I could have a better life.”
Sadly, the “better life” is still a long way into the future. After the death of her father last year, the family has been in for a difficult time.
A peon with Delhi Public School, Shabnam’s father Shabbir Ali had not been able to leave much for his wife and seven children. The family still shares a two-roomed house in Kanakdurga basti. Shabnam, the eldest, is the only earning member, which also explains her decision not to attend regular classes in a college and focus on her work instead.
What Shabnam’s father, however, did was to inculcate a value for education among his children. And he admitted his first child to DPS under the quota for economically weaker sections. When she was transferred to DPS Dwarka for the secondary section, Shabnam chose shift to the nearby government school in RK Puram. But she returned to DPS for her higher secondary studies. A bright student, she never needed tuitions.
“It was my father’s dream that his daughters be educated,” Shabnam said. “I wish to fulfil his dream.”
“Shabnam is the brightest example we can boast of. We are confident she will achieve her career dreams,” said Rupa Mahajan, coordinator of Swati, a project under which the balwadi is run by Rajiv and Nilu Kachchwaha Public Charitable Trust.