Nima looked longingly at the school building, the kids rushing inside with their coloured backpacks. Her feet automaticaly moved in the direction of the school gate. She couldn’t decide between going to school, and to her mistress’s house. She wanted to study, to learn to read the books which told countless stories of great men of the world. However, she needed the work, her father was always ill, and mom couldn’t afford to feed their whole family. Her stomach growled, and the decision was made. Cleaning her mistress’s house might be exhaustive; it was a big house. There were many dishes she had to wash too, but there was leftover there, and she didn’t have to worry about food.
All through the washing, Nima dreamt that she was in her school with Lata playing, and talking about how she would be a Doctor when she would grew up. Then, she would treat people like her papa who didn’t have much money. The crash of the plate broke her reverie. She picked up the pieces, and tried to fix it. The glass cut through her little fingers, but she was worried more about how her mistress would react. She shivered at an earlier memory…
The mid-day meal programme
Earlier, numerous kids were forced into the world of child labour to feed their hunger. Education might built a good life in the long term, but it didn’t help when they had nothing to eat. Mid-day meal programme was planned in 2001 by the Indian government to solve the hunger problem, and implemented by 2004. The state governments started planning for the programme, and involved NGOs to help them in this endeavour. Today India’s mid-day meal programme is one of the largest school lunch programme in the world, and kids like Nima can afford to study without sacrificing their hunger. ‘Akshaya Patra’ is one of the NGOs associated with India’s mid-day meal programme.
The word ‘Akshay Patra’ means an inexhaustible vessel, which derives its origin in the Mahabharata. Shri Krishna gave Akshay Patra to Draupadi so that the Pandavas did not starve during their exile in the forest. It would be great if there indeed was some inexhaustible vessel which would prevent these kids from starvation, let them attend school without worrying about hunger.
The mid-day meal programe could be that boon for the kids. No kid would have to worry about classroom hunger. Education would solve their short-term as well as long-term problem. Little feet pattering towards their school would be eager and care-free like they should be. Every kid like Nima can have the possibility of following their dream. It would be a world free of hunger, a happy world, a place where dreams are fulfilled.
To achieve this happy world, we all need to contribute our bit. Almost every affluent house in India always has some excess food. People throw away the food, while a little kid somewhere in the same country has to go without food. If every one of us fed an extra child, it wouldn’t be any loss to us, save ample resources, and make a child happy. First, we should start with conservation of resources by not wasting any food. Then, you might look out for these starving families. In India, such families are easy to find. There is no sophisticated area which isn’t bordered with the exact opposite poverty stricken area around.
Since, we already cook excess food, you could also pack an extra tiffin box for a hungry child. It could give him a boost to attend school. If communities, approached public schools to provide for extra tiffin boxes, maybe every child would get their lunch.
There is also another option, being part of the mid-day meal programmes, and contribute to it.
Nima was trying to read about ‘Jhansi ki rani’. Their teacher had just narrated the story of Rani Laxmibai, and asked them to read it silently. Her friend, Lata poked her with the pencil. Nima saw that Lata had sketched a cartoon of their teacher. Nima giggled, but went back to her book. She found Jhansi ki rani very interesting. There was also a picture of the Rani on the page. She wondered if Lata could make a good sketch of the Rani. At the ringing of the bell, there was a collective squeal.
It was lunch time. Nima didn’t have to give reasons for her empty tiffin box. Now, they got lunch at school. It was a delicious meal, not leftovers of the previous day…
Here’s Akshaya Patra’s video ‘The possibilities’ which illustrates how much efforts some kids need to put in, for the sake of a meal.
Nima’s Story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any living persons is a coincidence. But, if you find, it resembles any girl you know, then you should help her. Kids shouldn’t have to work, their job is to play and study.
This post is a part of Bloggers Social responsibility. I’m not affiliated or connected in anyway to Akshaya Patra foundation. To know more about them, check their website.