03 August, 2021

India Was Just A Holiday, Till She Saw The Slums, And Stayed On

India Was Just A Holiday, Till She Saw The Slums, And Stayed On
Yes, this is Akanksha, Mumbai," says Shaheen Mistri into the phone. Shaheen, the 29-year-old 'top didi' of this organisation that educates slum children, then turns around rather amusedly and asks, "Do we have any other Akankshas?" Well, not until recently. But Shaheen's brainchild has certainly been growing at a remarkable rate. Starting out in 1991 with only 10 children, Akanksha now has 17 centres, with 40 teachers and 300 volunteers geared to teaching about 1,000 kids in Mumbai alone. As it turns out, the call is from their two newly-opened Pune centres that educate some 120 kids from the nearby shanties.

It all began with a dream and a determined 18-year-old girl. The big change in Shaheen's life came when, after living abroad all her life, she came to Mumbai on a holiday. And stayed, giving up an education in Boston in exchange for a desire to try and educate others. Perhaps it was the incongruity between her life and those of slum-dwellers and their children that made her break ties with her past life. "I was curious about life in a slum," says Shaheen who signed up for...

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