Of Bollywood, and Education

Monday: Our office whiteboard has a countdown to Baar Baar Dekho — 5 days to go! Our six-person team comprises of two devoted “Sid” fans, trying to compete for his affections. The one running the countdown is winning in my mind, especially since she is ensuring that we diligently continue with it despite the fact that she will be on leave, but this competition will remain unresolved until, if ever, Siddharth Malhotra decides to grace the ConnectFor Team with his presence.

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Tuesday: (4 days to go!) It is the first day of Ganpati Visarjan, and the evening is full of blaring dhols and the latest songs — needless to say, Kala Chashma is on repeat. Maybe I should say something about appropriating Bollywood music for religious purposes, but I honestly don’t feel too strongly about it, and am content to let the blaring beats drown out the usual sounds of traffic and Bombay.

Wednesday: Being the first one in to office this morning, I feel compelled to update the countdown (3 days to go!). I feel inordinately satisfied that we have successfully tracked every day of this countdown, which started at 12 days to go, as if it is an indicator of our team’s diligence. A much less satisfactory feeling immediately follows this, when I read an NDTV report titled “India Could Be Late By 50 Years in Achieving Education Goals.”

I tend to write off a lot of India, and Mumbai’s, problems, with the usually dismissive attitude of: it’s not in my hands, it’s the government’s problem, these things will never change etc., but this issue hits too close to home. I did my Masters dissertation on the ineffectiveness of the Right To Education Act in India, which tried to give simplistic and shallow solutions to the very real education challenges confronting India including the access and quality of education, and teacher shortages.

I work in the non-profit space to enable volunteering, so I know based on the last 6 months of ConnectFor’s operations, that close to 48% of our volunteers want to spend time working for the cause of Education. This means close to half our volunteers give their time and skills to this cause, and the remaining half are spread across the other eight cause verticals that we serve. ConnectFor works closely with Akanksha, Udaan, Hamara Footpath, Teach for India, Door Step School, and a number of other NGOs trying to solve these problems in a more sustainable and lasting way, making real and tangible impact in the communities they serve. Despite this, to read that according to UNESCO, “India is expected to achieve universal primary education in 2050, universal lower secondary in 2060, and universal upper secondary education in 2085” is maybe the most disappointed I have felt in a while.

Sunday: I have a deja-vu feeling of great disappointment after watching the much-anticipated Baar Baar Dekho. I feel let down by what could have been a great concept and story that gave way to poor execution and acting. And I think about this disappointment and I think about 2050 and wonder whether the story of achieving Education goals in India will mirror this pattern, of a great potential lost due to poor execution, and whether even in 2050, 30 years after the Sustainable Development Goals are meant to be completed, there will be anything to be proud of. Warned by this sense of impending doom, I’ve come to the conclusion that the future success of actually achieving any real impact on this cause, or any other really, depends largely on individual or private intervention, and not waiting around to watch this story unfold. Chances are if we take control of the story now, we will be less disappointed when it ends!

Shloka Mehta is one of the Co-founders of ConnectFor.

To stay optimistic and contribute towards a better India, sign up now to www.connectfor.org.

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