My name is Bheem!
Spreading smiles this Ambedkar Jayanti
April 14th is an important day in India, the birth anniversary of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar who was the first law minister of India and the principal architect of the Constitution of India. This year marks his 127th birth anniversary. Many political parties and people from the Dalit communities are coming out for the celebration this great day in the form of rallies, cultural programs, and huge processions. We have been doing the same since last few years. We did that this year also.
But we also thought of doing something different and more close to my heart. The trigger for this decision is a small incident that I experienced during one of my regular visits to the Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Community Resource Centre at Barrackpore, Kolkata.
Two days before 14th April, I visited the Centre at Barrackpore. As usual, I interacted with our teachers who have volunteered to teach the children from the basti (hamlet). It was a rainy evening with the thunderstorm. All of a sudden, one child started shouting and ran out from the class to play in the rain. I reprimanded him and said that he will be allowed in class only if he comes with his parents tomorrow. I told him to go back to his class and behave properly.
I continued on my way to attend some meetings but because of the rain I got drenched and had to come back to the Centre. I decided that I would spend this rainy evening with the children at the Centre. As I entered the Centre, the children welcomed me with bright smiles and whispered delight. One girl shouted, “Sir, change your clothes otherwise you will fall sick!”
I saw that since there is leakage in the roof at some places, all the children were sitting in one corner for the class. All children were happy and engaged in the class except one who was sitting behind and looked sad. I asked him, “Why are you so silent?” He did not reply. Other children answered, “Sir, you only scolded him and told him to come with his parents to the Centre, that’s why he is sad.” I asked him to join back and participate in the class, at which he started crying. With great efforts from Rupa and Reshma (our teachers), he finally stopped crying. All the children in the class also looked solemn and were looking at me to do something.
I spoke to the child and asked about his family and location. He told that he along with his elder brother and father live in the vegetable market and sleep there in the night after the market. His mother left them and he lost two of his brothers in a road accident. I looked at this child standing there with his torn school bag looking at me with his big teary eyes. The teardrops from his eyes at that moment seemed heavier than the thunderstorm outside. I could not find ways to respond and stood there in silence for some time. Finally, I asked him his name. He said, “Bheem.”
This was like a jolt of lightning for me. I asked him when is his birthday. He replied that he doesn’t know and that he has never celebrated his birthday. That was when it hit me. There couldn’t be a better way to celebrate a day dedicated to Ambedkar. I told him, we would celebrate his birthday on 14th April.
So this 14th April, we celebrated Ambedkar Jayanti, hosting a small birthday party for Bheem along with all the children of our Centre, well-wishers, and supporters. Bheem was also gifted a bag by one of our supporters, Ms. Seema. I hope we can continue supporting Bheem and many more Bheems in our centers through our movement.