deepanshi-educate-the-girl-child- new

on October 6, 2016 | Features

It was a mundane day for me. First sight of my office was of frantic people robotically chasing news like it’s a secret to life. But today I had to shoot my story very differently, no piece to cameras, no piecing bites together, perhaps no interviews at all. I was told I would be going to shoot a story of a little girl who studies under a street lamp. The first thought which came to me was of famous leaders of the world who studied under street lamps, despite all odds. Then my attention came to this girl whom I was yet to meet. I wondered what would she be like – shy, unwilling to talk? Or would she have extraordinary spark? Or would she be one of the many who succumb to their circumstances, not looking at their own problems through our myopic eyes?

I went inside her school, tucked away in an unassuming gali. A girls school of four floors, run by an NGO, Shikhar NGO. The Principal, Roobina Khan, invited our crew to sit in her office decorated with drawings, posters and pictures of the girls’ achievements. After we finished sipping water, down came this girl, almost running, like a blaze of energy. Deepanshi contained herself the moment she saw us sitting in her principal’s office. She wished us all and smiled. I sat with her and spoke with her about herself, her problems. She is a friendly kid, very spunky. And the naughty tinkle in her eyes cannot evade anybody. I went around the school shooting with this child, taking other interviews. The school was different from other NGO run schools – girls were disciplined, neat and seemed to be interested in their class lessons, which is a rarity in most schools anyway.

We then drove till near her house. She had sat in a car for the first time. She didn’t say it but I could tell that the 14-year-old was in awe. She told me about her suspicious neighbours who want to claim their little house, how they don’t allow them to build a roof, or have an electricity connection. She told me how her father died of excessive alcohol consumption two years ago. Her mother is uneducated, but stresses on her children’s education every day. I was surprised and taken aback by this girl’s innocence and naivety.

I walked a short distance with her to her house. A crumbling damp structure, perhaps surviving just by the grit of this family, Deepanshi’s home was decorated with posters of Hindu Gods pasted on cracked tiles next to a small rectangular mirror. It had two folded charpoys, a stove, and termite infested walls. The toilet was outside; their drainage pipe’s broken. There were cameras outside the neighbour’s house pointing towards theirs. They keep a close watch on us, she said. There was nobody at home except her 17-year-old elder sister who was studying for her board examinations, and an adorable stray dog named Sweety.


Since we had to profile the entire family, shoot sequences in the night and speak with the mother, we had to return the next day. We sat their shooting with the girls, the family of 4 children out of which 3 were daughters, before the mother arrived. And as we continued to shoot on that particularly dark night, their neighbour suddenly came and started shouting at us. One of the men said, “That’s our house, you can’t shoot it, it’s a disputed property”. The girls sat there visibly distracted, and perhaps slightly scared. I gave my own set of replies to these them and continued with the shoot. In some time the police arrived, the neighbor was clearly agitated. The mother had not arrived yet. The same bout of argument started again. The police understood our point and back went the neighbours into their home, still disturbed.

The mother came home after a while. The 33-year-old had very sad eyes. She sat with me and told me of the kind of trouble they face day after day, but survive. Condom wrappers and love letters are thrown into their homes from the terraces of people’s homes on an everyday basis, Uma said.

She brings home Rs. 9000 a month working as a security guard from wee hours in the morning to late at night. The court case with the neighbour has been going on for some time now. She told me how sewage water is thrown at the back wall of their house so that it crumbles. She said on many occasions the police did nothing after which they stopped calling them for help.

Then they offered us food to eat, chappatis and achaar, which the eldest daughter had prepared in the morning between her studies.

Deepanshi beamed despite all the trouble which took place that day, and that is what moved me the most. This girl is a fighter, a survivor, unfazed and moving forward with so many dreams up her sleeves. She wants to become a civil servant, she says, maybe this dream would change in sometime into something else. But what’s important is that she dreams; that she wants to spread her inner light to the darkness she faces every day. I went back to office with this thought, which would inspire me for a very long time.