By Mannan Gupta & Ulrike Reinhard from Janwaar Castle:
In Hindi, we have a saying, “Khali dimag shaitan ka ghar hota hai (an idle brain is the devil’s home).” This – at least I believe – holds true for Ajay. Ajay is a 13-year-old Yadav boy in Janwaar. He is pretty good at school, although he doesn’t show up regularly. He is one of our best skateboarders. He is good in other sports, too. And he has a lot of time. What to do? Having no choices and options inside the village it’s very tempting for him to explore what he doesn’t know. And this he very often does with the wrong people, mostly a few years older than him. It’s then when he gambles, chews tobacco, fights, teases, and what not. He’s always wearing a slightly naughty smile. And he is certainly always ready to jump!
In one line – it would be a pity to see him fall to the wrong side. So we try as much as we can and include him in our activities, especially those at the skate park. Lucky for us that he loves to travel – so we take him along with others as often as we can. But this is sometimes quite a challenge. During our last train journey, he was teasing Saraswati so much that she started crying. And it seemed the more she was crying the more he was teasing her. After a few discussions, Ajay decided not to talk to Saraswati at all – but even this didn’t last long. It was a tough ride.
Just recently we gave him another chance. He is currently with six other children on a two week journey from Janwaar via Varanasi to Assam. And… surprisingly enough, Ajay is not teasing anyone more than usual. Instead, he is involving everyone in having much more fun. Since he is not shy to speak up and doesn’t care if he is making a fool of himself, others follow his lead. The result: all of them are having fun to the fullest.
Ajay learns from everyone he meets. Here in Assam at Parijat Academy, he has shown a completely new side of his. He is funny, sharing, and caring. He talks with everyone, let it be a 10-year-old going to school, a 20-year-old pursuing a bachelor’s in commerce, or the elders at Parijat Academy. He is learning from everyone and teaching his skills to everyone else.
Being inspired by the new learning environment at Parijat Academy, Ajay has now started to write. Unexpectedly, he came to me and showed me a page he had written about Janwaar. I gave him a notebook. He said he would write more of his stories and experiences. Below is an excerpt of what he has written. The rest, he said, he’ll show only when he has written a lot more. Fair enough. And honestly, I can’t wait to read more.
Here’s the translation of the first page:
“A madam came from Germany and built a skate park in our village. But no one came to skate initially. Then Roshan uncle (a villager from Janwaar) told us not to worry, nothing will happen. One day Ulrike asked if the kids wanted to visit Khajuraho and the kids said yes. The next day we went to Khajuraho. We travelled to Khajuraho, ate in a restaurant and stayed at Mamaji’s place. We also saw an aeroplane for the very first time. Then we came back to Janwaar. My parents asked me if there was any trouble and I said no trouble at all.
Next, when I went to the skatepark, a summer camp was going on. I went there and practised dance, skateboarding, and singing. I chose to go to the dance classes. The sir asked my name and I told him that my name is Ajay Singh Yadav. And then I started dancing. I started studying. I started to skate.”
Little Humans of Janwaar Castle are photo stories in Collaboration with Leher, a child rights organisation working to make child protection a shared responsibility. You can contact the authors here, and here.