Every dark cloud has a silver lining

It was a friday morning in the month of February 2019. Madhu and I were scheduled to visit a partner in Bengaluru. We had, just the day before visited the school of Hippocampus foundation – DKS Hippocampus school in Halasahalli, Karnataka. It was a hectic two day trip. The second day started at 7:30 am, with me desperately trying to book an Uber to reach the partner in the other part of Bengaluru from where I was staying. After several minutes of waiting and cancellations I finally got on the cab. The next pain started with the crazy traffic in Bengaluru. In my mind I was cursing the traffic and the busy city of Bengaluru. To keep myself busy, I started reading news and the news of 40 jawans killed in  a terrorist bomb attack in Pulwama, Kashmir (the day before) greeted me. The news once more reminded me of the fact that there are so many who face actual adverse conditions in life. 

Madhu and her niece Apurva joined me at the Hippocampus office in the morning. With the news still playing in my mind, all three of us reached Madiwala, Bengaluru  to visit the Government Observation Home for Boys. It was a nondescript building completely secured.

 An Observation Home is the first stop for troubled children who get into  conflict with the law. 

We went inside and were greeted by Ms Kalpana Purushothaman, who had invited us to visit the facility, as we had supplied books to them to start a reading center / library for the youth present in the building( in 2018). A brief background on Ms Kalpana Purushothaman -> She is a member of the Juvenile Justice Board and is part of the Judicial bench, a three member panel, who adjudicate cases of children in conflict with the law (both boys and girls) brought from all across Bangalore (Urban) district. She is someone  with a passion to bring in some positive changes to the home and brighten the lives of the boys housed in there. She believes in bringing a positive atmosphere and light in the lives of the boys, even though it’s a facility that reminds one of darkness. We were also introduced to Dr. Kamalavva, Superintendent of the Observation Home who is with these boys day in and day out handling the very many issues. A young mother herself, with a PhD in Human Development, she works tirelessly to bring hope and cheer to the lives of the children in her care.

Harini, Madhu, Kalpana & Kamalavva

Ms. Kalpana, Dr Kamalavva and the staff keep looking for ways to bring a positive atmosphere, cheer and hope amongst the boys housed in there.

After our discussion we were led on a tour of the facility. Indeed it was out of the box thinking of the team to provide for the boys with some space to play a sport they enjoy, within the constraints present (that prohibit them from going outside the facility to play). An indoor basketball court in a room inside the facility.

Then we were led to the reading room. Our eyes brightened to see the books from Joy of Reading lined up in the shelves neatly. The reading room had chairs and tables and looked like any other library.

The boys had decorated the walls with their paintings. The room resembled just any other regular library outside and the feeling that it was inside a secured campus was not there. The Open Learning Space created with the help of Headstreams along with the boys looked warm and inviting.  

We did get a chance to meet the boys present in the facility, who were participating in a workshop that involved expressing their thoughts through painting. The session was led by a dance and movement facilitator Lakshmi . The theme that day was “What made them feel safe?”

  • One boy had expressed that he felt most safe with his parents and had drawn a beautiful picture with a child holding the hands of 2 elders.
  • Another boy had drawn a picture where he expressed that he felt safe with his elder brother and told us, that had his brother been there he would have never ended up here.
  • Another boy had drawn his house and implied that his safe environment was his house.

We couldn’t take pictures in this room due to privacy reasons – but I remember these paintings even though its close to 6 months since I visited. These were boys who were 15 or 16 or 17 years but these paintings made us realize that they were just children. Their paintings depicting the safe environment stirred up too many emotions. These were children who committed mistakes due to not receiving proper guidance/education or by just being in the wrong environment or company. Yet amongst all these, we were glad that they had some light in the dark tunnel they were navigating – thanks to Kalpana, Dr Kamalavva and the staff there, who encourage these interactions..

Lakshmi was close to ending the session, and she played a song and asked the boys to dance. Some of them were shy, but some were very enthusiastic and gave us some good bollywood dance moves. They cheered Kalpana to join them, who shook a leg enthusiastically.

Lakshmi mentioned that the boys had told her that they loved the library and it was a refuge for them during their down times.  We silently high fived in our minds, for making a small impact in the lives of these children.

We had given a book on Clifford and one of the boys had drawn Clifford so beautifully from the book which we had donated. It struck a chord and touched us that these books helped in some way – thanks to countless donors who had given the books to us.

Two hours had flown past just like that. It was time to take leave. Kalpana requested us to see if anyone could volunteer to do reading sessions with the children there during the library hours.

If you are in Bengaluru and can spare an hour once a week or once every 2 weeks, please get in touch with us. We will guide you on what needs to be done at the Government Observation Home for Boys, Madiwala. 

Email: joyofreadingus@gmail.com

With a myriad of emotions running in our minds we took leave. Our hearts felt heavy but there was a silver lining – there are so many people working in making life much better on this earth. We have miles to go but so glad that we embarked on this journey. The day started in one way and ended up giving us a real time view of those really facing tough situations and reinforcing us on our mission to make a difference however small it maybe. Thanks to everyone who is supporting us on making this journey possible.

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