It is a little Foundation with big dreams, BY Iqra Raza for OT.
This Johri Farm activist is giving wings to dreams of underprivileged youth in Okhla.
The Aseem Asha Foundation, situated in a small corner of a small locality in south east Delhi is not one to be bound by its restrictive boundaries and it proved it once again when its students, Mohammad Aqil and Mohammad Shakir, two young boys from the nearby Okhla basti, a slum colony won a scholarship and accompanied the founder of the Educational Trust Aseem Asha Usman on an ambitious journey to Kolkata for ten days.
Usman, a man inspired by Tagore is now inspiring his students and local residents of the Okhla area with his little initiatives that go far in carving out dreams of a thousand young boys and girls who could not even afford to dream. The Aseem Asha Foundation has been celebrating Tagore and his message of peace in various forms that includes, but is not restricted to Painting, Film Making, Embroidery, Peace marches, etc. The year 2017 saw the foundation achieving big by hosting a grand ‘Tagore Utsav’ for the sixth time in Jamia Millia Islamia in collaboration with Raza Foundation. With participation of more than 400 students from across Delhi in various competitions, the festival was a huge hit. And the journey of the two students with their mentor marked its closure.
The highlight of their visit was the Jorasanko Thakur Bari, the ancestral home of Rabindranath Tagore. The big gates leading up to Jorasanko made the boys’ jaws drop. Staircases leading up to wide verandas skirting rooms with high ceilings and arched doorways immediately struck the young men who were careful to take hundreds of shots of the architecture of the place “which will be exhibited during the next Tagore Utsav” says Usman.
The big rooms were once filled with men in their crisp dhotis and kurtas who discussed art, literature and politics, unlike the men back in the boys’ home who struggles day and night to make a living, leaving no time for such debates. Both the boys come from humble backgrounds. Thus it is no surprise that it was the first time they flew or even went out of town for that matter.
The young boys not only reveled in the excitement of visiting Kolkata, they participated in film making workshops conducted by Kolkata based NGO Apne Aap in collaboration with Aseem Asha Foundation. These students after learning film making, editing, etc assisted Mr. Usman in making more than ten films on the women trafficked from Bangladesh and neighboring areas, struggling to live in the Red Light areas of Kolkata.
The students were deeply affected by the stories of the young girls of the place that served to make them aware of the darker side of women in Kolkata that for them, up until that time, was confined to the women of Jorasanko, a striking contrast.
Apart from all this, they visited several landmarks on the city and even took to street food and Bengali cuisine. The thriving culture of this slow paced metropolis excited them. Although the scorching sun challenged these young men, it couldn’t do to dampen their spirits as they worked and explored, seemingly unaffected by it. The story of their visit has inspired a whole generation of young men and women from the disadvantaged locality of Okhla Basti and will go a long way in encouraging more and more students to step out of the limited boundaries of their four walls, cultural and gender expectations, stereotypes and various stigmas attached to exploration.
(Iqra Raza is a Delhi-based writer and a student at the University of Delhi)
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