Saturday, November 13, 2010


I noticed Madan soon after he joined Koseli. What set him apart from the other students of his class was that Madan didn’t smile. I thought it was some thing that I was assuming and I wanted to prove myself wrong, so I started observing him more closely. To my disappointment, I was right.

Even before I realized, it had become my mission to make him smile. And so everytime I went to the class I made it a point to ask the children to smile. In the beginning it was difficult, however after 2 weeks or so, I saw Madan breaking into a lovely, shy smile. The smile only got bigger and better after that, so much so that on Teacher’s Day, class six had scribbled on their white board, “Renu Ma’am SMILE”. It was a “SMILEY” day.

With the scarred backgrounds that Koseli children have, smiling definitely is not an easy job, which I realized in the days that followed. A lot of children did not smile. They talked, they fought, they cried but they didn’t smile. Probably while trying to survive in this ugly world they never learnt how to smile.

“What was even more painful that they never complained of any pain too”. Madan is 14 years old and stays in a slum nearby. He is a very quiet and shy child. He is also a very sincere, hardworking child. In addition to academics, he takes keen interest in his theatre, computer and "after school" activities. With a “smile on his lips” now he was perfect.

But,when the school re-opened after Dashain holidays, Madan was one of the many students who did not return to school. After waiting for 2-3 days, we went searching for him. To my surprise Mukesh found him gambling on the street with other street teenagers. Mukesh asked him to return to school the following, day but Madan didn’t show up. So I went to look for him. Even though I had heard of his gambling streak, it actually broke my heart when I saw him playing cards with my own eyes. He too was a little embarrassed and promised me that he would return to school the following day, and this time he actually did.

Something had changed in him again. For two days Madan did not eat a morsel of food at school. Finally, on the third day I made him sit with me, mixed his rice-dal and made him finish his lunch in front of me. The routine has been normal since. Madan’s mother is a compulsive alcoholic and his father does wood work with which he manages an income of Rs 3500-5000 ($50-70) per month. Madan has come back to school but he has once again left his smile behind. I wonder what goes on in that little head of his. Hoping to see him smile sooooon.

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