By Anya Daftary

I typically find summers rather boring. Coming from a traditional ICSE school, with 6 weeks full of homework sheets, and the 2 or so, odd weeks of travelling, having two long months of holiday with nothing to do, can really tire you out. There is a way to much Netflix in the world. Unlike my peers, who stereotypically binge it for hours, I get a migraine. In the past, I have done multiple internships, focused mainly on education in India. However, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to make a difference. Ever since I was little, I have loved cop shows or law shows. As I have grown older, I’ve only has time to fester these fascinations, leading me to the summer of 2018. I interned with an organisation or actually, an NGO called “Public Concern for Governance Trust,” PCGT for short. I interned for one month, and a couple more days. By the end of it, I knew what to say to a bored government officer, how to file 30 RTIs (Right to Information, 2005)nin one day, along with first and second appeals and the court paperwork. I learnt that the kind of lives that a normal child in Mumbai lives. I also learnt that how, when we thought that the children in government schools are the minorities, but in fact, we are. I learn how to teach a child two years younger, in a different social class and 2 years, academically older than me, about moral values and ethics.
The organisation gave me a sense of value. I’ve always felt left out and been ostracized or, I guess misunderstood to say in the least. In the process of wanting to, and I quote, “fit in,” I’ve dumbed myself down. My intelligence is my biggest strength and weakness. Coming to PCGT, I was scared of, again, what people would think of me, was I trying too hard, or was I dumb, but actually I’ve found that everyone has been so supporting. I didn’t feel small because of my age or anything else. My ideas were always accepted and appreciated, even if they weren’t good. I really learnt a lot. And perhaps this all sounds like a lot of flowery, fairy-tale talk but, I can promise you it isn’t. I’m being really, really honest, when I say that I have learnt so much from everyone here. I mean, PCGT somehow convinced my mom to let me take the local train. But, of course, the credit goes to Yashasweeta ma’am, who is now my idol.

Yashasweeta Kokate runs the “Kuchh Aur”, which is a program at PCGT that teaches children in municipal schools about moral values and good citizenship. My previous work with
government schools, helped me feel a lot more equipped for the job as well as my current
education stance. I attended 6 sessions, 1 in Marathi and 5 in Hindi. I went for three
community visits. And again met some really amazing kids, 2 of which, last Friday gave me
candy and wished me Happy Guru Purnima, which left me weeping with joy. I also helped
work on developing new values and took personal experiences as things that I think everyone
may go through at some point in time, or things that I think I would have liked to hear at a
darker point in my life. Yashasweeta is the kindest soul you can possibly imagine, and the raw honesty and pureness she has in her is something. I will strive to learn as long as I live. Her fun-loving nature is something and I can never forget. Even when things are going beyond bad, she is still smiling and saying, “it’s fine, it will get better”.

The founding trustee at PCGT, is Mr. Julio Ribeiro. An ex-IPS officer, the ex- police commissioner of Mumbai and a former ambassador to Romania, Mr. Riberio is now 89 years old and continues to come to work every single day and interact and create real change. His stories cannot be rewarded by anyone and his experiences cannot be retold. To understand the power this man has, the influence he has put in this country. I will tell you this; during a briefing, he lifted up the phone and speed dialed the police commissioner of Maharashtra, just to find the exact number of men and women in a certain branch of the police. This man is beyond extraordinary, and I am, for once lost for words. One of the trustees, Rekha Shahai, a teacher She represented India during the Kashmir peace talks with the Ambassadors of Pakistan through the “People to People’ dialogue. She has volunteered with the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation (CDR) and travelled to Pakistan on programmes conducted by the CDR has changed the way I think, in less than a couple of weeks.

Besides these amazing inspirations, were my fellow interns! I predominantly worked with two. The two of them were kind and to this day are some of my closest friends. One of them was a guy, who had moved around, Punjab, Delhi, Nagaland and more. He currently studies in a law school in Chandigarh. We bonded over our fascination over nothing and everything. The inside jokes and the stately taunts. The Mumbai and everywhere else rivalry, of course, and my absolutely phenomenal virtual tours of Mumbai. With the other intern, we argued about South Mumbai, music, amazing bollywood nonsense, that none of my other friends know. Gave our horrible bosses quiet गालीs and gossiped about them. We had way too much coffee and mountain dew (don’t tell my mom). We went to Shobha restaurant (pure veg) and ate amazing Jain biryani (it’s a thing) and wasted far too much time! We had a few meals at the ever, infamous Jai Hind College Canteen, after attending and giving sessions. I have had some of the funniest laughs with them.

My presentation on the last day, ended with this (all the trustees and staff members were in the room), “I think that the one thing that PCGT has, is that, beyond integral in this world, today is the raw passion that everyone who works there has, is the determination to improve this world, and the fact that every single person in this room takes the actual effort to come here every day and has so much love for each other and the work that they do. I really enjoyed this month”

I have seen the work first-hand that this organisation does and the people that are a part of it. To learn more about the organisation, go to www.pcgt.org

Anya Daftary is co-head at The Ascent. Her passions include music, dance, history and writing -- specifically in the Hindustan that was. She believes strongly in the future of India and wants to help be a part of it. She hopes to make The Ascent a platform for young people to be familiar with the events and news around and have a voice

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