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Prabodhini and Me

This is a story of young me and something that became a part of my life growing up. I remember the evening when I was going back home with my mother like we always did, but that day we took a small detour to meet some kids playing on the ground in shorts. After moments of talking, I found myself playing with then-unknown boys. With precedence of not continuing anything for more than a month, it came as a surprise that I continued to go to play on that ground for the next nine years. That ground was one of many dals known as Kranti veer Chaphekar Dal (KCD) conducted by Jnana Prabodhini (JP). It was not just the place where we all met to play but we did a lot more. We did small businesses, attended lots of workshops and spent most of Saturday nights at JP school supposedly studying but always found ourselves doing everything else but that. One might think that small kids potentially “minors” engaged in business is not a good idea. Doing a business teaches you skills that no school can. For instance, one summer holidays morning, chitchatting we came up with a plan to start a business to sell lemonade. We got the initial investment and then had to learn to distinguish between a good and bad lemon (which took a while) and where can we get sugar. In the end, after running all over the place we found ourselves making lemonade. We would go door to door and sell it for a fairly reasonable price and within the next 48hrs tripled the initial investment. This came to a halt for reasons we couldn’t understand, I think it was because we lost one of our friends in the city. He was found later. At KCD we did a lot of other activities like group studies, reading clubs, treks, learning new games or inventing some of our own etc., but the two that always stood out were during Ganpati and Diwali festivals.

The city’s heart beats to the rhythms of Dhol and Tasha during the months leading up to the Ganpati festival. I remember my first time getting into the beats of Dhol and Tasha when I learnt Barchi, something quite different than many of my friends was doing during those months heading towards the Ganpati festival. Barchi is an organized form of dance choreographed on the escalating rhythm of Dhol and Tasha. I learnt to do Barchi and got better and better at it and have always loved it and kept going it for seven years at KCD and then at Chandrashekhar Azad Dal (CAD) until before the pandemic. Sometimes I have preferred it over Dhol. The ecstasy of escalating rhythm and synchronized choreography of hundreds wearing pink kurta rocking the streets in the heart of the city can only be compared by the rocking chaos at a Pink Floyd concert. The months following Ganpati are always a hard act to follow but I remember getting involved in working at JP firecrackers shop months before the Diwali festival. After the ban on crackers, we shifted to selling lanterns. On both occasions, we have made a business of hundreds of thousands of rupees.

As the pandemic hit everyone was cocooned in their dwellings and for the initial months, there was almost no communication between people. But as the zoom video calls trend kicked in, we at CAD would meet every day on zoom and do exercises to keep ourselves fit and healthy. One of the key values that I have been brought up with is to do something for the community that I am a part of and following that I started to work in a COVID lab with the sole purpose of doing something for the community. It was hard and dangerous but I had to keep going for the community. After I came down with COVID and had to quarantine I still kept in touch with my friends at JP.

Over the years I have learnt and experienced a lot of new things but had never done anything for school students. That opportunity came over a cup of coffee. JP has been actively involved in conducting Vidnyan Dals at JP school but had recently expanded them to different localities. So, when I learnt that one Vidnyan Dal was starting in my locality I immediately volunteered to become a Margadarshak (instructor). I got to explore different avenues of how to deliver workshops and incite curiosity among school students through intellectually stimulating discussions. As I learned it is hard to come up with content and even harder to deliver it to school students. But this skill has helped me in simplifying complex ideas for me to comprehend and to explain to others. I remember asking about my boundaries on the first day and the answer was there are none. This was so true that we even bought a microscope and even had school students dismantle it to see how they work. Now, you don’t get that in schools. The skills I learned at Vidnyan Dal came in handy when handed a massive responsibility of developing a microbiology syllabus for school students at JP Nigdi. We had to design a practical and theoretical syllabus for students from 8th through 12th. I even was asked to conduct a workshop for them where I introduced them to the field of biotechnology and also did some practical hands-on activities with them. It was great fun. Recently, after coming to Manchester, UK, for my masters I got involved in JP Foundation (JPF) an international organization taking JP on a global scale. I am excited to venture into new avenues with JPF. I am often asked what did I learn from all of this. I believe that I not only gained physical strength during my time at Dal but also gained mental strength by constant intellectual stimulus from our Margadarshak. I learnt the importance of working in a team and the most important thing I learnt was imagination which plays a crucial role in my learning and research work. There are values that we learn from our family and there are values that we learn from the world. It is the latter that defines your personality and character and these are the values that can make or mar your life. In my life, I have been through many hard times like my grandfather suffering from cancer and my father passing away when I was 18. Both of these incidences had the potential to digress me from my path and take me down into the dark valley of carnal pleasures. But it was the values and principles that unknowingly were imbibed into me that helped me keep those pleasures at bay. Those principles and that support never made me feel the loss of my loved ones but I always felt their presence through that support. After completing my undergraduate in India, the passion and devotion for science led me to pursue my masters at one of the prestigious universities in the world which couldn’t have happened without my mother and the support, freedom and values of JP that brought me up over the years. I am not a direct student of JP school but have always felt that connection to it that cannot be put in proper words.

Kshitij Deshmukh

Postgraduate in Cell biology at the University of Manchester, UK

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