A story of a hope
Sandeep Rai traces individual stories of transformation, leadership and struggle inextricably woven with that of the organisation in his book ‘Grey Sunshine’…
It is far too easy to look at those suffering and cast an eye of judgement – to ascribe their condition to lack of hard work or fate that's not in their control. But it's much harder to accept, to remember that we are no more deserving than them. Brothers and sisters – all of us including you and I are in desperate need of grace that is unequivocally unmerited. We would do ourselves a lot of good in remembering that we are recipients of that sunshine every single day." These beautiful words imbued with compassion by a man of religion Keith Tonkel inspired the author to change his career goals from medicine to teaching. From teaching underprivileged children in America his destiny led him to India, the country his parents left way back in the seventies. Joining Shaheen Mistri's 'Teach for India' and journeying through the lives of the country's poor led him to the heart and soul of issues that make the country's poverty 'evocatively powerful'. Mistri's vision to create a level playing field for the children of India and her firm belief that the 32 crore children of the country are not the problem of the country but its hope led to the spectacular growth of 'Teach for India' into an organisation with 4,000 leaders, 275 staff members, 3,000 alumni and 38,000 students in the last 25 years. Sandeep Rai traces individual stories of transformation, leadership and struggle inextricably woven with that of the organisation in his book 'Grey Sunshine'.
Brilliant, successful and privileged individuals who gave up the benefits of a luxurious life choosing to walk down dark alleys where the sunshine is tinged with grey and children whose dreams were smothered by the reality of their poverty-stricken homes led gently by mentors to see the light at the end of the tunnel, pop out of the pages compelling your attention and disturbing you with the starkness of detail. ''Embedded in every story is the story of truth, a story of struggle and hardship reminding us that for India's poor, sunshine is always chequered with greyness," says the author. 'Grey Sunshine' traces the story of one woman's dream and life-long endeavour to build an organisation that believes that systemic injustice that underpins the very foundations of India's education system needs to be fixed as it threatens the livelihood and future of hundreds of millions of powerless citizens of the country. We have the story of Nandini who hails from the slums of Pune and currently studying at the prestigious Franklin & Marshall College in Philadelphia who stuns panellists at a conference on education. "No one asks us what we would like to learn, how we like to be taught, how much homework is helpful and how much is too much. We're just thinking about adults. But the problem is we're not educating adults, are we? We are educating children,'' she states to thunderous applause.
Stories from the poorest settlements of the country from Delhi's biggest slum Jahangirpuri to Mumbai's Deonar Landfill are replete with the horror of indignity and inequality. Working on children from these areas 'Teach for India' has brought about a remarkable transformation and scripted success by getting their students admitted to some of the best institutions of the world. Shocking statistics that reveal that 60 per cent of India's children don't get to attend school or drop out before they reach the 11th standard, that the country's grade 5 students cannot read grade two textbooks, 76 per cent don't have a college education and that girls from the country's marginalised communities have a 2 per cent chance of getting an education make 'Teach for India's efforts stupendous. The book is a critique of our education system, but it is also a book about hope for a better tomorrow where the sun shines brilliantly without a trace of grey.