A Journey Within: A Story by Aaradhana Agarwal

She is an educated lady, a teacher by profession. She teaches children that we should never discriminate among people based on caste, creed, or work. We should treat well the poor and the sick people. Does she, too, follow her preaching? No, though she speaks well with the sanitation workers of her residential society and donates them old articles, but never allows them to enter her house. If any of them ask for water while collecting garbage from her home, she offers them water not in a steel glass but in a plastic water bottle and doesn’t take it back. She keeps separately a cup and a glass used by her house help.

At the age of fifty, she takes early retirement from her teaching service to start her new venture- she is keen to open an academic class for the students of classes one to ten. In search of a calm locality to meet her purpose, she lands where the locals belong to mixed-income groups. Some reside in skyscrapers, some are in slum rehabilitation buildings, and some are shanty dwellers. On the opening day, a few young children enroll without filling out the admission forms because of their unavailability.

She has a special place in her heart for the first batch of her students. A year passes satisfactorily. She starts her class at 2 pm and closes at 9 pm. She happily teaches all the children with utmost care and love. She holds their hands while drawing complex geometric figures, mathematical graphs, and biological drawings. She shares her fruits, crackers, and sometimes water with them. While praising their performances, she shakes hands with them, rolls her fingers on their hair, and pats their cheeks with admiration. Her class strength reaches to hundred units.

One day, one of her favorite students from the first batch doesn’t turn up. She enquires and comes to know that the child’s father is seriously ill because of the hazardous nature of his occupation. She decides to visit his home. She gets one of the biggest shocks of her life when she finds that his father is a sewage cleaner. She can’t believe that she has shared the same space with a child of a drainage cleaner. During admission, the child’s parents fill out the admission form and write government service in the occupation column. The child’s neatness and mannerism never create any doubt regarding his lifestyle.

She feels ashamed of her prejudiced thinking. The importance of sanitation workers is proved during Covid years. Unfortunately, people like her have divided people because of their narrow-mindedness. Since that day, she has been on her inward journey. She is no more a rigid and conservative lady. She has transformed herself completely. Now, she, too, follows what she preaches. Her journey within has led her to spiritual enlightenment.