The first time I entered Sharanam, I was struck by how the girls welcome guests and visitors into their lives with open arms. During my first time at their home, I was immediately invited to partake in a riveting game of Duck Duck Goose (their favorite activity) and by the end of the day, Prachi and I had created a secret handshake cementing our friendship.
During the next two weeks, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to get to know the girls at Sharanam better. Each of them is so unique and special. Namrita is sociable and the first to engage in conversation with new visitors. Rebecca was especially drawn to our robotics unit which focused on experimentation/critical thinking and dreams of becoming an engineer. Shiny leads the girls in creating and performing dancing. Nikita is reserved, yet works hard to make sure that all of her sisters are well taken care of.
Throughout my time at Sharanam, I got a peek into their everyday lives. Their days are incredibly busy, as Sharda, Karen, and Nirmal, the center’s facilitators, work hard to provide the girls with the resources they will need to lead successful, balanced lives. The girls attend a nearby K-12 Catholic school from morning until afternoon, and then head to tuition classes at night. Once a week, they have basketball class at the local YMCA,
and in the past, their extra-curriculars have also included various different dance classes. Since Sharanam is fairly well connected with the expat community in Mumbai, the girls celebrate birthdays at the U.S. Embassy, attend swimming classes at The American School, and have a regular flow of volunteers to help with English and homework. It is important that the girls’ medical needs are met as well. Each week, a therapist comes to work with girls who request an appointment. Additionally, there are regular dentist, doctor, and orthodontist appointments throughout the year.
These girls are fortunate in so many ways, but their lives are still hard. They have challenging family situations. One room of their flat serves as a bedroom, dining room, play room, and office for all 30 of them. They are responsible for taking care of themselves, as well as of each other. Bhakti, the youngest of the 30, is constantly being showered with hugs and bossy older-sister instructions. The place in which they live is constantly filled with noise, making study difficult. And one day, these girls will have the responsibility of paving their own path when they graduate and independently creating a life of their own.
Regardless of the hurdles the girls at Sharanam have faced and will face, they are strong. They are resilient. They are curious. They are loving. Gita’s role models are women who have completed their university studies, created their own success, and are fiercely independent. Jhoti and Mayu pepper me with questions about my life and opinions. Simran dedicates herself to her studies and works hard to remain at the top of her class. The sisters poke fun of each other and share a complex web of inside jokes, bringing laughter into the room. Conversing with them and watching them interact with the world around them gives me immense hope for their futures.
One day soon, I hope to return to Sharanam. The girls that I befriended there inspire me. While many people in their lives come and go, they still felt compelled to welcome me into their homes, their lives, and their sisterhood. They reminded me how unique and special each individual is, and what they can contribute to the community as a whole. And they taught me that while we are all born into our lives with different and unfair amounts of privilege, we all have the potential for success given hard work and the appropriate resources. As I embark into my first year of teaching, I hope to carry these lessons that the Sharanam girls have taught me and continue to work towards creating a more equitable world to live in.
Haiku by Trisha
Girls play, laugh, study, and dream
Beep beep boop bop boom.