-Ahana Samat 12 ISC
This summer I encountered a peculiar flower, whose name, no matter how hard I try, I cannot seem to find. The flower is strange but surprisingly inconspicuous. Embellished with violet petals that curl outwards from a pale yellow center, it carries a kind of déjà-vous that all flowers of common occurrence leave. But despite its apparent mundanity, the flower carries this fragrance – a scent that even the world’s best perfumers would find difficult to emulate. It now holds a distinctly special place in my heart.
Nestled in a small corner of a rapidly expanding city, Cholanayakahalli is a little-known network of roads in Bangalore that nonetheless bustles with the undying life of New York, central London or Downtown Toronto. As you walk down the dwindling streets of the slum, too small for cars to fit through, you see crowds of people walking in a multitude of directions. Trying to merge with the crowd as they find their way to school are students in blue and yellow uniform. “Good Morning Akka,” they say as they pass me by, acknowledging my presence for a split second before they rush in front- eager to continue their conversation with their friend before they reach school and are chided for talking in class.
It is not often that one comes across an old, run-down building with yellow paint peeling off its sides and a gate that creaks helplessly every time it opens, and say that this is where their perception on life was changed. You see, I’m one of the lucky few.
This summer, I volunteered with Sukrupa- an NGO aimed at providing basic education to children living in the slum- and helped conduct a summer program for the students there. As part of an activity we planned, a group of students were taken on what we termed a ‘nature walk, where they encountered the flower. It was a regular in most of their pooja rooms, but they were still so enamored by the scent that they felt compelled to pluck a flower each and bring it back with them to school. Later, as they were leaving for home that day, a group of five girls came up to me. “Ahana Akka,” they said, “We have something for you”.
As a gesture of thanks, they had plucked some flowers on their walk to give to me. At that moment, these simple violet flowers became the best gift I had ever received. Because it was then that I knew that no matter what career path I chose, the epitome of my success would be determined by the number of lives I would positively impact.
Although I had just begun writing my own story in a world full of words, it was the difference I made in the lives of the children I met at the NGO and more significantly, the difference they made in mine that stood out most prominently. While my teaching was limited to basic arithmetic, grammar and occasionally Scrabble, each of them imparted to me a kind of wisdom that I find impossible to forget.
Stella taught me that life, dreary as it may seem sometimes, is easier to get through with a smile. Sowmya showed me what the embodiment of fortitude looks like. It was through Bharath that I learn the importance of sticking up for what is right. Sagarika taught me the value of being. It was after seeing Achal’s enthusiasm to learn that my love for knowledge was reignited, and Sindhu embodied the fact that with unrelenting hard work, nothing is impossible.
Together, they all showed me, by example, the same thing – that growing up, more often than not, means benefitting the world around you. Even if it is in the smallest of ways.
They taught me that life, like the flower, comprises two distinct components- the petals and the fragrance. The petals are symbolic of the individual successes that we are all striving to achieve, and though strikingly beautiful, will remain incomplete without the very essence of the flower- its scent that represents the difference I hope to make along the way. After all, that is what makes it so unique.