It was the middle of August. The monsoon in India was about to end in a month, and soon it was to be succeeded by winters. Despite that, the clouds were pouring in enormous amounts of water in most of the states of India. The city of Nathdwara was no exception. Almost every day, the city saw a heavy shower in the evenings which continued till the dawn of the next day. But this rainfall made the atmosphere in the morning quite cold and soothing.
On one such afternoon, the sky was covered with clouds, overshadowing the sun. The cold breeze brought little sprinkles of water making the weather cold. In such a pleasant climate, the students of the Mahatma Gandhi Government School, Mohi, were standing in the ground and reciting prayers before leaving for their homes. Located 25 km away from the city of Nathdwara, Rajasthan, the school was well-maintained by the staff and students. It was painted in blue, with a big playground in the front. On the one end, the staff had planted local vegetables and flowers. The boundaries of the school were surrounded by trees which provide clean air and shade during the scorching summers.
Soon, the prayer ended. And as the bell rang, all the children rushed towards the porch to collect their shoes. It was a ritual that students practised in this school. Before entering the corridor, children had to remove their shoes and align them horizontally next to each other. It was an indication that school is a respected place and children should keep it clean like they would do at their home. As everyone left, there was a girl hopping around barefoot, looking for her shoes. The girl was Tanushree Rathore from 8th grade.
“What happened Tanushree?”, asked one of her teachers from the far corner of the school. “I am looking for my shoes, sir. It seems someone wore my shoes and went away. There is only one pair left here, and it is small.” “I think I need to go home barefoot,” she said with a disappointment in her tone. “Don’t worry, we will find your pair of shoes tomorrow during assembly. For now, see if you can wear this. Else, you’ll get hurt while walking barefoot home.” Tanushree somehow managed to get her feet inside those misfit shoes and hopped along her way to home.
Tanushree lives around 5 km away from school with her aunt. Her parents sent her to the city to attain a better education and follow her dreams. Speaking about her family, she says, “My parents stay in a village which is around 16 km from here. Since doing up-down every day is not feasible for me, I shifted here with my aunt. Back at my home, I have my parents and a younger sister. My father, Ratan Singh, runs a Kirana store (Grocery shop). And my mother, Devi, is a homemaker. My sister is a 5th standard student in the village’s government school. The aunt I’m staying here with is a nurse in a government hospital.”
Dancing and singing are Tanushree’s favourite hobbies. She wants to convert these hobbies into her career. She says, “I love dancing. When I grow up, I want to become a dancer.” Shedding light on her dance journey, she says, “I am participating in a dance competition next month. This will help in taking a step towards my ambition. And for this, one of my primary school teachers is taking care of the formalities. In fact, she is the one who recognised my skills and motivated me to keep up my dance practices. She called me the other day and informed me that there is a competition happening in our neighbourhood. And for that, she needed a small dance audition tape. She guided me on how to create one and submitted the same for further processes. I am just waiting now for the competition night. I wish she was also there to witness it. Unfortunately, she has her exams in that week so she won’t be able to join me there.”
In order to accomplish her dream, Tanushree ensures that she practises her dance daily. Speaking of her routine, she says, “After school, I go home and practice dancing for at least two hours. Post that, I complete my homework and revise the chapters taught in the class. In the evening, I go out to play with my friends. Once I am back, I help my aunt with food preparation. After dinner, I study for a while and then go to bed by 10pm.” When asked where she learns dance from, Tanushree says, “I want to enrol for dance classes. But that is not possible due to ongoing financial constraints. So, I watch and learn Kathak (a famous regional dance form in India) with the help of YouTube on my aunt’s phone.”
Though Tanushree is enthusiastic about her dance related career, she is torn between choosing between her and her father’s dream. Speaking of it, she says, “My father wants me to be an IAS or IPS officer. On the other hand, my mother said I should pursue what I love, and she supports me in my dream. Moreover, she is the one who teaches me Kathak. I haven’t talked about my dream ambitions to my father. But I’ll surely do it one day.” “The plan is to pursue my dream ambition first. I’ll try to become a dancer and make a sustainable career in it. In case it fails, I’ll start preparation for IAS and IPS. But one thing I am sure of is that I won’t quit dancing anytime soon.”
While Tanushree keeps on practising hard to perfect her dance steps, she needs to be energetic all the time. And Akshaya Patra refuels her energy by providing her with hot and nutritious meals on a daily basis as an implementation of PM Poshan Abhiyaan. It helps Tanushree and 2 million children like her study with focus and work hard towards accomplishing their ambition.