Updated: Oct 28, 2020
“A strong woman stands up for herself. A stronger woman stands up for everybody else.” – Unknown
She was waiting for me under a railway bridge in a silent part of Central Delhi, an area only passed by speeding vehicles once daylight was gone. As I sat inside her car, I realised she was listening to someone intently, the way I listen to her whenever she talks. After 20 minutes she finished the call and paused for a moment. And that is all it took, one moment, for her to come back to our task at hand- planning a giveaway purchase.
“I want to keep the children warm. Most of them don’t have a jacket in this weather. Let’s take our time and arrange sports uniforms for them, even if it’s after Christmas” I had never heard anyone lobby needs and want of underprivileged children to me in such a decisive manner.
The reality of Indian urban and rural poor wasn’t lost on me, but somehow knowing that I now have the power to make even a dismal of change made my heart sigh happily.
Conversations with Mrs. Rakhi Gibrani (or Rakhi ma’am as I call her) are always filled with ideas and solutions. That evening, as we talked about experiential learning and digital literacy while racing down to the destination- we lost track of time. By the time we reached, shops were closed. I was disappointed. What a waste of time, I thought. Somehow she was unaffected. Like she had practiced this moment a hundred times, like she had made enough failed trips while discussing revolutionary reforms. Like they say- Failure brings strength of character. Her strength can be seen in these moments of invincible optimism.
Rakhi ma’am is an educator, coder and social worker. She has 20 years of experience in the world of education. She is also the founder and director of an exceptional NGO- Navyug. Navyug translates to “new era”. The organization has four centers in and around Delhi. Children studying here are of economically and socially overlooked backgrounds. Each child is examined for possibilities and skills. They get admitted into programs that suit them best.
“My aim is to raise the chance my children have at having a better life. I want to make them employable in the most efficient way, by teaching them something they love to learn.”
Our upcoming project with Navuyg will be of Digital Literacy. She wants to create a wave of digital awareness and knowledge in the lives of children from rural Haryana, giving them a window to the endless world of opportunities. Traditionally rural children end up applying for government jobs that more often than not, aren’t suitable for their skills.
Every time I meet her, she treats me to tea and food, introduces me to new children and colleagues in a different part of her wonderfully shapeless world.
She talks about the influence of a saint her family follows, on her ideology about life and work. Dharam Dev ji, respectfully called Guruji - is one of those saints who believe in reaching god through work. Rakhi ma’am believes she is merely implementing his teaching in her own life, having grown up watching his selfless work for hundreds of underprivileged people around India.
Being a woman entrepreneur with a full time job and a traditional motherly role in India is as courageous as waiting for someone under a railway bridge after daylight. She has been strong enough to ace it all.
Did it take sacrifices? “Of course” “Is she willing to stop?” “Never”