Rashmika Das – When ASER happened to me…

“Travelling wasn’t just a hobby, it was the way I wanted to live life”

rashmika-das6 months back when I should have put in all my concentration on writing my end semesters well, I wondered about what I would do next. With absolutely no plans whatsoever in my brain, I packed my bags and moved to Delhi. And before I could even breathe, ASER happened. 1 random mail followed by a call in the next 3 hours, I was on a train to Lucknow. Before ASER happened my ideal weekend routine was to laze around, meet friends or sit in a parlour and get my hair done. But here I was, somewhere in Bihar walking around a village, going from house to house, sitting next to a heap of cow-dung while surveying a 9 year old.

No matter how stressful life at ASER is, there is something about this place. It isn’t like any other organisation. What I found here was beyond what I had initially anticipated.  My office is my second home, where I am actually making a difference at a large scale. I meet people from every corner of the country (I actually know people from every part of India now) and I get to travel for absolutely free. This was all too much to take in the beginning; to be trusted with the responsibility of 130 Districts wasn’t a joke. For someone from Assam who has a hard time managing in Hindi, here I was looking after 3 Hindi speaking states. God must actually be really crazy.

Ever since ASER happened, everything in my life has changed completely to the point where going back to where I started from seems like an alien concept. I now go through emotions I didn’t know I could feel, I no more crib about the weather and I have started valuing all the luxuries that I am gifted with.

The one thing that touched home was when I was leaving, a 13 year old boy who had followed me throughout the entire survey, told me that I inspired him to be like me, that he wanted everyone in the village to have access to education. I have always been inspired by a great number of people but never in my wildest dreams did I ever see myself as an inspiration to someone. And I have no one but ASER to thank for this.

Every time I have to go to any village, I feel at peace; the unity there is empowering, makes me want to be a better human being. In the cities we don’t care if somebody is dying or is alive in the next house, but life in the village is like one big family; people care about others more than they do for themselves. And they are all so content and happy with life, unlike us; we are never satisfied. It doesn’t matter how much we get, we will always want more. But then, there were these people, who had absolutely nothing and yet they are all very much satisfied with their simple lifestyle.

It’s appalling how much we take education for granted and how much it has become solely about money. And then there are those who would give anything to study. We have a lot to learn from them, to imbibe that same enthusiasm onto a generation that has access to education, who can in turn, turn this world around for the better.

ASER has, personally, taught me a lot of things about life. More so, it has given me a new outlook to life. I perceive things way more differently now. I have matured far greatly than I had previously imagined. And I will forever be grateful to ASER for turning me into the person I am right now.

– Rashmika is Research Associate, ASER Centre