It may not be as thrilling as `Slumdog Millionaire’ but this real life saga is far more inspiring than Danny Boyale’s Oscar winning flick. It’s about a slum girl who dreams it big, not for herself alone but for all the ``rag picker’’ children of the town she lives in. And she is zealously trying to realise that dream by spreading education among them.
Meet Nazma, a resident of Haldwani’s Gafur Basti, a ``much- demolished’’ slum colony that sprang up on the railways’ land over the years. All of 17, the girl is not only educating herself despite her parent’s ``abject poverty’’ but also facilitates education for rag picker children in Haldwani’s slum colonies, besides being a dancer to boot.
Nazma’s father is a part-time hawker. Fifty-three years old Bahar Ali Sah who has got a family of five to feed, runs his home by selling parched peanuts. ``And in the lean season he earns his living by working as a daily wage labourer’’ says.
Father Pius Menezes of Suchetna, a non-governmental organisation based at Haldwani, runs a primary school for rag-picker children at Gafur Basti and has also sponsored Nazma’s education right from Class 8 to 12.
The education proved to be quite useful for the poor family. Nazma has become an earning member of her family other than her father. Currently in her second year of graduation, which she is doing privately from Bareilly’s Mahatma Jyotibaba Phule Ruhelkhand University, she earns a living by presenting dance programmes along with the Bareilly based dance troupe `Nritya Arpan.’
``The girl who will finish her graduation in the next two years’ time also completed her secondary education privately’’, says Father Pius.
The exposure to education, admits Nazma, made her realise that the people of the slum colony, in which she was born and brought up, ``are forced to live in the dehumanizing conditions because of poverty which is a direct consequence of lack of education.’’ ``I now started realising that the land where our makeshift houses stood surrounded by grime and filth doesn’t belong to us and we can’t afford to buy another place and build our own houses because we are poor’’, recalls Nazma. And the only panacea for ``our miserable existence’’, she now realized, was education. No wonder, at a tender age of 16 as the girl was studying privately in the school run by Suchetna, she had ``started spending all my sparing time in teaching the rag picker children of Dholak, a slum colony near Gafoor Basti.’’ ``We also distributed among the children of that school all the necessary teaching aids as well as primers, for which all expenses were borne by Suchetna’’, recalls Nazma. She adds most of the children of that colony still remain deprived of education because of their parents who keep putting pressure on the former to supplement the family income.
Maintaining that the condition of Gafur Basti is no better than Dharavi, Asia’s biggest slum colony in Mumbai shown in Slumdog Millionaire Nazma says she plans to return to home (Gafur Basti) after completing her graduation to restart her mission to educate the rag-picker children of that colony. ``It is a mission’’, she says, ``I cherish the most and will continue to work on so that education could help bring those less privileged children out of the morass of poverty in which they would otherwise remain caught for generations.’’ Nazma says she ``liked the film `Slumdog Millionaire’ as much as I liked the performance of its adolescent hero (Dev Patel).’