Lucknow: When Aayushi
Rastogi undertook it as a regular university assignment -- just
for scoring good marks in exams -- little did she know that her
project will end up in spreading the light of literacy in the
dingy lanes of a slum.
The field work the assignment entailed took Rastogi to several
slums. She was so moved by the poor living conditions there that
she made up her mind to serve them. The key lay in bringing the
dwellers into the mainstream.
And illiteracy was a major hurdle.
It is around four months now since Rastogi, pursuing the Master of
Social Work (MSW) programme at the Chaudhary Charan Singh
University, Meerut, finished her project - time long enough to
forget her resolve.
But her slum visits continue.
"When you score good marks, it feels great. But if you get a
chance to serve the downtrodden or poor through your regular
assignment work, there is nothing like it!" Rastogi (23) told IANS
on telephone from Meerut.
"Honestly speaking, when I took the assignment I had no idea I
would experience such a transformation within, a transformation
that would prompt me to work for a cause," she added.
When Rastogi was instructed by her teachers to come up with a
random survey on slum dwellers, she hurriedly approached her
teachers to permit her carry out the exercise in the Durga Bhabi
slum, situated near the university.
"I did it just for getting an edge over my batch mates. As the
slum was not far from my hostel, I thought I would not have to
spend much time on field visits," recalled Rastogi. "I only
thought of completing the project without taking much pain."
Rastogi's visits to the Durga Bhabhi slum, mainly inhabited by
blacksmiths and rickshaw-pullers, changed her approach in handling
"Visiting the slum was like stepping into a totally different
world that had sorrow, suffering and pathetic living conditions,"
"I particularly felt sorry for the children of the slum dwellers
when I realised they too will have to take up menial jobs like
their parents for earning a livelihood," she added.
While continuing with her survey work, Rastogi started by teaching
a few children in the slum itself.
"I personally used to visit the shanties, urging the slum dwellers
to send their children to me. It was not at all that easy. In
order to convince the slum dwellers, I even started playing with
their children that helped me a lot in mingling with them," said
At present, Rastogi teaches over 50 children of the slums.
Recognition of Hindi, English alphabets, mathematical
calculations, all these form the course content for the poor
children, aged 6-16 years.
Interestingly, adults too are now approaching Rastogi to become
"It's the best thing I am experiencing now. I have now asked the
slum dwellers to make arrangements in a shanty so that I can hold
a separate class for adults there," said Rastogi, who performs all
the teaching activities single-handedly, without receiving any
kind of financial assistance from any organisation.
Local people laud Rastogi's efforts. "It's really commendable. At
a time when students of her age think of their career only, she is
shaping up future of other people," Rajdeep Kannaujia, who owns a
stationery shop in the Sadarbazar area, told IANS.
Arpit Agnihotri, another local, said, "We definitely need to come
forward and support the young girl in her noble mission of
spreading literacy among the poor."
(Asit Srivastava can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)