By Trina Chakrabarti, Regional Director (East), CRY – Child Rights and You
While it’s extremely difficult to define happiness, here’s presenting three small children who have the answers writ large on their smiling faces
Happiness depends upon our own selves, they say!
Ask 11-year-old Tekcham Bikash Singh from Manipur, what makes him happy. Lessons in school, comes the confident reply, the nightmare of a forced ‘drop-out’ well and truly behind him.
May be, 17-year-old Renu Kumari from Bihar can tell us better. She hasn’t stopped smiling ever since she cleared her board exams with first division, the first in her family to do so.
For 15-year-old kick-boxer Riya Mallick from West Bengal, happiness is the gleam of her first silver medal in her life, which lights up the dark corner of her one-roomed shanty.
Three children from CRY projects, their journey and an underlying sense of joy, contentment and fulfillment – a journey that epitomizes hope and reinstates the belief that happiness is every individual’s fundamental right, more so of children.
Bikash is happy, just to be back to school
When Bikash was forced to drop out from school after completing 5th grade, he had thought he would never be happy again. He was studying in a primary school, in Atom Khuman, in a remote corner of Manipur. The nearest secondary school, where the young student could start Class VI, was a quite a mile away, and his parents were too poor to send him there every day.
So, despite being a good student and nurturing big dreams, Bikash had to stop going to school. When the CRY-RILM team visited his village in April, as part of their intervention work, the young boy, sitting on the verandah of his home, literally begged them to enroll him in the Atom Khuman Child Friendly centre, run by the project. He also sought their help in getting admitted in Maklang High School in Class VI. Such was the yearning in his young eyes that the volunteers took up his cause. They met his parents, both casual laborers, and explained to them that it was necessary to put this bright boy back in school environs, however so difficult the proposition may seem. Next, the volunteers met up with the headmaster of Makland High School. They showed him the boy’s testimonials from his previous school and explained to him that the boy deserved an opportunity to prove himself.
The headmaster agreed, and in May last year, Bikash found himself back in class at Maklang High School, among new classmates and doing the thing that he loved most – studies.
Renu is happy, that she is not a child bride.
We meet a smiling Renu Kumari in a remote village in Sarairanjan, Bihar. She cleared her Class X board exams last year with flying colours. Her parents and siblings are overjoyed at her academic success, and also rub their eyes in disbelief at how much the girl has molded herself.
It seems just like yesterday when Renu, a Class VIII student then, used to look for excuses to miss school. Her parents, daily wage labourers, were much too immersed in their daily grind to take note. When Renu was enrolled in the Bridge School classes about 18 months ago, run by CRY and JJBVK, teachers found her to be lagging behind in Maths and English. She was hesitant, insecure and never bothered to complete her homework. Her teacher was quick to realize that she had a mental block. Extensive counseling sessions and talks followed. In class, the teacher adapted new teaching tools and methodology to explain concepts of Maths and started conversing with Renu in English. Change was starting to happen.
Days rolled into months, and months into a year. Gone was the girl who struggled with calculations and was scared of conversing in English. Maths is her strength now, and she can speak English, fluently and with confidence. Having cleared her boards successfully, a happy Renu has her eyes firmly set on her next goal – getting into college. Marriage will have to wait, she has told her parents.
Riya has found happiness, by beating the demons within!
If someone had told Riya Mallick two years ago that she would bag a silver medal on a public stage at an international karate event, she would have probably turned back and left, without a word. That was 14-year-old Riya, before she started taking sessions with CRY. The girl used to speak only when she was spoken to, and it was a struggle to get a word or a smile out of her.
Change happened after Riya joined the support classes with CRY. To begin with, she was introvert, shy and afraid to look anyone in the eye. With her eyes lowered down and confidence at rock-bottom, she watched, and observed. She saw some girls in her class take karate-kickboxing lessons at a separate venue. One afternoon, she went with them, just to stand on the sidelines and watch. “Tui ki parbi (Do you think you will be able to do this?)” the trainer asked her. Her reply was a tentative, nervous nod. She just started attending practice sessions, day in and day out, putting in whatever she could, silently.
In the following days, her mentors made her take part in several events, just to boost her confidence. And, then dawned the big opportunity – a national level kick-boxing event in Siliguri, a town in North Bengal. On the eve of a tournament, Riya was nervous and unsure. She had never ventured out of house without her parents before. But she did take stage eventually, fought hard and bagged a silver medal. Even after the event, all she said was: “I was scared and nervous before my bout. I am surprised and happy that I won.” Would she take part in more such events? Lo and behold! The nervous nod had given way to a “firm yes” and a bright gleam in the eyes. “I want to take part in more such events. I want to try.”
If Riya, Renu and Bikash can do it, so can us all!
So, what exactly is happiness? How easy or elusive is it? As philosophers, psychologists and even scientists try to decipher debate and decode the complexities and theories, Riya, Renu and Bikash show us how simple it is to be happy.
The UN celebrates March 20 as International Day of Happiness, which speaks of the importance of happiness and well-being in our lives, and encourages people to work towards creating happier and healthier societies. This can include policies that support mental health, education and social inclusion. It’s a day to remind us that happiness is not just a personal goal, but a global one and to be celebrated every day of the year.
Let the spirit of happiness percolate in every realm of society, especially in our children. Without trying to quantify or measure happiness, let us appreciate the things that bring us joy, help a person in need, remain true to our principles and always stay positive. Problems may come, and problems will go, but let our undaunted spirits never drop or falter.
Trina Chakrabarti, Regional Director (East) – Child Rights and You (CRY). A Chevening Scholar from the University of Essex, Trina joined CRY in 2002 as a part of the Development Support team and went on to lead Volunteer Action before taking on Director role for the East. Trina believes that children can change the world and hopes to make a difference in children’s lives through her work with CRY.