We arrived at Powai’s Gopal Vihar school around 3pm – that’s a little before classes begin for Udaan India Foundation’s (UIF) kids. As the children were trailing into their classes, they greeted us strangers with a “Good Afternoon Ma’am” but soon started playing amongst themselves, waiting for class to start. UIF classes are conducted between 3.15 and 6 15 pm daily, after regular school hours, in accordance with the SSC curriculum.
So while UIF is an after-school programme, it is, as their founder and chairperson, Mamta Tangan put it, “run like a school.” From a timetable, to meetings with parents, to annual sports day, to an academic calendar that is followed, you’ll find it all at UIF. But you don’t find any of this displayed prominently at the Gopal Vihar school. Infact, there’s no indication of grades/standards outside classrooms either. That’s because UIF classes are held at the Gopal Vihar premises in the afternoons, once Gopal Vihar children are done using the same in the morning.
Mamta Rangan is the founder and chairperson of Udaan India Foundation. Her foray into the social sector started as a result of her desire to give back to society. Taking a sabbatical from the corporate sector, she moved base to Mumbai when her husband’s job brought the whole family here. They moved into the then upcoming suburb of Powai. Powai was still developing then and Mamta recalls, there was construction happening everywhere! With construction, come workers, and in most cases, their families too. Mamta was thus brought face to face with the stark inequities that we so often fail to notice in our busy lives – children out of school, bare clothed, just running around on the streets, living in houses that were nothing more than shanties.
As she was anyway on a sabbatical, she decided to help these children – a simple desire to help them have somewhat of a childhood. So she, and even some of her friends and neighbours from time to time, started spending time with the children in parks, quiet street corners etc. From singing and dancing with them to teaching them numbers and the alphabets, many a afternoon were spent giving these children some memories of a “child”hood.