Sonu is one the 30 or so girls who study at a taleemshala in the small village of Bondipura in Alwar district in North Eastern Rajasthan.They all huddle around in a circle as Jagdish their teacher, a lanky young man who sits in the centre of this room, moves from child to child checking on their progress.
The girls are wary of the stranger (namely me) in their midst as they are not as chirpy as they usually are, hiding behind their colourful chunnis. But as the time ticks by their curiosity gets the better of them and they slowly come out of their shell and before the session is over 'Jagdish Sir' has got them to sing a song or two.
The Mewat block of Alwar District, Rajasthan is not a poor region. No one really starves in Alwar district (its only 2-2 Â½ hours from the boom town that is Gurgaon) - the poverty that exists here is not necessarily financial but in the mind. Sonu and her fellow classmates are some of the victims of this poverty of the mind in a region where the female literacy rate officially in some of the villages is as low as 9% but in actual fact is much lower.
For the next 10 days or so I'm going to be spending my time volunteering with NGOs- IIMPACT and IBTADA, which run 26 taleemshalas for girls in this region. The taleemshalas provide primary education(upto class 5) to girls in rural areas. The situation is grim but thanks NGOs like IIMPACT and IBTATA progress is being made.
Expect more dispatches and some pictures (if I can put the infrastructure in order) from Alwar.