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She leads them selflessly from darkness to light

Friday October 07, 2011 11:15:26 AM, Asit Srivastava, IANS

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 the project.

"Visiting the slum was like stepping into a totally different world that had sorrow, suffering and pathetic living conditions," said Rastogi.

"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 Rastogi.

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 literate.

"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







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