There is no way you can be truly happy, no way you can be fully satisfied until you have travelled, and met enough people to understand that being happy is not your discounted purchase during a sale, nor is it giving a child on the road one glass of juice one day. Sincerely happy and satisfied is Sanjna Achayya, because she is making a real difference. She has quietly and steadily been working and teaching in orphanages, low income schools, and centres for special education and rehabilitation.
We need to start questioning why things are done the way they are and ruthlessly amend the ones that make no sense.”
Sanjna’s social consciousness and awareness was awakened when she was quite young. A curious and sensitive child she noticed the obvious social difference between the estate workers and her family in Coorg, Karnataka, where she lived during her summer breaks. Her mother’s teaching to not see any segregation contributed to Sanjna’s life as it is today. Commenting on the differences we allow in our society, she says, “We need to start questioning why things are done the way they are and ruthlessly amend the ones that make no sense.”
This social volunteer doesn’t preach or tell people how to make a change, but she speaks her heart when she says, “It’s never too late to change and I’m hoping our succeeding generation will be the change this world needs.” A former U&I Trust (voluntary teaching organisation) volunteer, it was Sanjna’s first small step towards bringing positive change in the world. What she calls a small step, was in reality a hectic daily schedule causing mental and physical exhaustion. “I used to leave home at 7 AM, finish my college classes, then go teach the children and make it back home by 9:00 PM. When I signed myself up for it I knew it would be challenging, but the extent of the challenge was something I realised only once I started that routine.” Along with U&I Trust, Sanjna has worked with Swastha (Centre for Special Education & Rehabilitation) in Coorg, and Haji Public School in the Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir.
It’s never too late to change and I’m hoping our succeeding generation will be the change this world needs.”
Social work is not for the faint-hearted, Sanjna warns. She speaks of some of the basic ideas we are oblivious to in our city-cultured life, “One needs to be prepared when interacting with children/people who don’t come from privileged backgrounds. There is a sense of helplessness because no matter how much you help them you know that they’ll still be faced with innumerable financial, gender, caste, and mindset related issues for a long time to come.”
Her most recent work was with Haji Public School in the Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir, which she describes as enriching. Putting her experience into words, she says, “I love working with children – their success brings you joy, their happiness takes you over the moon, their exams gives you sleepless nights, their illness makes you hope beyond hope and their injuries hurt you more than them.” But teaching 23 naughty children of kindergarten and classes 2 and 5 was no easy task. She says, “They’re full of life and so keen and so naughty. I’ve laughed with them, cried with and because of them, I’ve been terrified of them, I’ve terrified them, I’ve played with them, learnt games from them, been fooled by them and been so mad at them I wanted to pull my hair out. It’s been one insane rollercoaster ride, but it’s been worth it every step of the way.”
Sanjna is currently pursuing her education further and is yet to decide if she’ll be going back to the school in March this year. When she took a break from her teaching job, this back-packer found her second calling in travelling. She back-packed through Kishtwar (a town in J&K), and followed the scenic route via Daksum and Sinthan Pass to Srinagar, Jammu, Amritsar, Rishikesh and finally Delhi, before finding her way back home in Bangalore.
Like Sanjna Achayya there are plenty of other volunteers whose stories are equally inspiring, but unheard. Let’s get inspired and act to save our drowning society.