The Way Forward with Shaheen Mistri and The Good Crusaders

They are people, like me, who hope to write and instill courage and compassion, and there are some of us who actually do something about it.

When I started this blog, I wanted to be able to write about things that didn’t fit in a magazine format. Things that had touched me or that I felt for. With our tagline “all things beautiful”, both Pragati and I feel that education has a huge role to play in the kind of person you become, or choose to become.

Today we’re going to talk about one such person, Shaheen Mistri and her initiative to bring in reforms in education, opportunity, and personality.

About Shaheen Mistri

Ms. Mistri has studied in 10 different schools and in 5 countries. Her summer holidays were spent at her grandmother’s home in Mumbai. And visits to Mumbai’s slums made it very apparent that there was a huge gap between the rich and the poor. She kept going back there and soon befriended someone who spoke in Hindi. The idea was to pique interest amongst the lesser privileged and that’s what happened: Shaheen started teaching in the evenings. She gave up her life in the US, studied in Mumbai and started an afterschool program.

She is the founder of Akanksha Foundation and the current CEO of Teach for India campaign.

Teach For India struck a chord with me a few years ago and I’m happy to say I know a few people who have given up their life-as-they-knew-it and taught full-time for two years. Their answer is always the same. We’ve gotten more than we were able to give.

In an initiative powered by 100 Pipers, Shaheen Mistry spoke about how big a role does kindness and compassion play to become a well-rounded individual.

Watch The Good Crusaders

She starts the extempore by talking about her friend Hoolio who is robbed on a cold evening by a teenager. Not only does her friend gives the kid his wallet but offers his coat and later invites him to dinner. When the teenager is taken aback by it, he replies…My parents taught me to be nice. Didn’t your parents ever teach you that?

The kid says yes but says he’s never seen it.

A bid to cultivate compassion

We have all our journeys, our baggage that stops us from trusting others or even hesitate to being kind to the homeless on the street but to cultivate it something that takes years. Shaheen Mistri gives us such an example of one of her students, Priyanka. Brought up in one of the slums Ms. Mistri taught in, Priyanka was raised by a single mother and had to face her own demons. Yet, on a trip to an old-age home that housed amputees from different walks of life, she managed to make a special connection with a lady called Krishna Aunty without speaking the same language. Three months later, Priyanka goes back to the old-age home with a chocolate for her new friend, holding her old friend, a teddy bear in her other hand. A moment later, Priyanka ends up giving away her security blanket to Krishna Aunty too.

Priyanka continued to study in Mumbai. She later got a full scholarship to study in Italy. After being there for a year, Priyanka came back with 11 of her friends from college who lived in Mumbai for 15 days and ran a community project.

Giving this example of how Priyanka transformed and later took the initiative forward, Shaheen makes us realize that children are not the future, they are the present.

To read more about the education crisis in India, click here.

To hear other Good Crusaders, click here.

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