Flying away

Fun in an English class with some of the 10th graders at Udaan.

In Hindi, udaan means flight. Like a bird flying off. Free to explore the world.

In my hometown of Kolkata, the Udaan Society is trying to help underpriveleged youth find that freedom through knowledge.

My childhood friend Vijay recently started a new weekend program at Udaan for students of all ages.

In a donated flat in Kolkata’s Alipur neighborhood, boys and girls and young men and women who live lives under India’s crushing poverty, find solace from the misery of their own homes within brightly lit rooms.

They are served lunch and encouraged to paint, dance, sing — activities they might not otherwise engage in their gloomy homes. Many don’t have both parents. Or their fathers are drug addicts. They come from uneducated families who are unable to teach them the importance of school.

The idea is to take them away from their environments to help provide a boost in their education. Teachers volunteer their time to help the students with math, English, business education.

With Saddam Hussein. I teased him about his name.

Vijay asked me to teach a few English classes there this time. Some were 5th and 6th graders. Others were high school students. All were eager to learn English, a vital language for good jobs in India.

I had found it extremely rewarding to teach last spring at the University of Georgia. Teaching at Udaan was something else.
I am posting a few photographs of some of the older students.

One told me he wanted to be an astronaut; another, an engineer.

The idea is to get the kids away from gloomy home environments.

I wish you well. And if any of you are reading this, remember always that you only get one chance in life to go to school in India. Please stick with it. So you, too, can take flight.

Fly away from that which you cannot control. Fly away from empty bellies and sickness. Fly way from the pain of poverty.
But most of all, never stop dreaming.

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