I came to Delhi about 4 years back and it was not until January this year that I finally took up something that I had really been craving for, for a very long time, which was "volunteering" for a cause.

Volunteering!!!..... yes, had done things in the past with my mother, teaching local women knitting, getting the stray dogs around my house vaccinated against rabies, teaching my aaya di's daughters basic Arithmetic and English and similar stuff. Nothing that really involved taking some time out of my schedule and going out to places, which I knew existed courtesy the morning newspapers.

So, finally after all these years of being a spectator I joined AID India, referred by a friend as a good organization for people who really want to volunteer at their ease. And even before I could sip in the fact that I was a part, there I was in Bhajanpura, lost and confused, looking for Mr. Vijay Bajpai or Vijay bhaiyya as everyone else knows him. There he was at the bus-stop clad in Khadi with the trendy Jhola on one side, fervor and diligence personified, to guide me and Sneha to 'Parichay'.

The roads turn into galis which keep getting narrower and the rickshaw stops in front of a huge gray building and the clouds of confusion grow denser. Acting like the ray of enlightenment, Vijay bhaiyya tells us how this building happens to be ‘home’ to a number of families and also the Parichay working grounds. He takes us directly to the office and those 100 mts, from the front gate to the office, greet us with at least a 1000 namaste-s and innumerable smiles.

While Vijay Bhaiyya is briefing us in the office and showing us the products, we get to meet the work force, Moni, Tarannum, Rukhsar, Bulbul, Sona, Radha, Rani, and others, all with the same inquisitive smiles and namaste-s. Getting on to what we were there for, we shift to the other room and all the kids immediately catch hold of us, each with her or his set of questions. Opening our pitaras we ask them what they want to do, and begins the bombardment of ideas.

In the course of those two days spent at Parichay, we did not teach them anything great but did let them explore, taught them techniques to make the already existing things better. Techniques that would help them cut down the cost of purchasing things from the market as they would now be able to make them.

All of us worked with newer mediums, colors, yarns, paints, kinds of paper, scrap, junk and loads more. More them teaching them we were getting back to our roots, back to where we started from, back to the origins of creativity. The first day when the kids asked me to draw a butterfly I was embarrassed because its been 4 years that I have drawn one and I did not remember how to. And it was then that the realization struck me that these 4 years in the best fashion design college in the country has taught me so much but has taken away what I had and what I knew.

I would thank Parichay - Vijay bhaiyya and all the kids to give me "me" back.

Synopsis:

Parichay as an organization is producing several items but the quality has to be worked upon. I have had a chat with Vijay bhaiya in this regard and have taught Rani a few techniques concerning the same. The packaging and presentation is an area of concern and needs more focus.

Some accessory design students are ready to help out with new presentation techniques. Also certain products which are commercially viable and easy to manufacture have to be added on to the existing list of products, like larger backpacks, jholas, decorations for various festivals (since we are lucky enough to have loads of them), hand printed letter pads, mouse (computer) covers, paper lamps (an acquaintance selling at crafts museum is eager enough to help) and other ideas could be added on.