CRC, the community hangout

Mr. Bhimasha (65) is a farmer who settled in Dommasandra about 35 years ago from Yadgir. He steps out of the home to drop or pick up his grandchildren who study at the Government Higher Primary School in Dommasandra and often waits for the entire day around the school to catch up with his friends. 

As conversations unfurled in the daily gathering of friends, Mr. Bhimasha found himself engaged in topics like farming, politics, education, community and more. “We would sit outside the school and see these children walking in with their school bags, wearing uniforms and ponder aloud about these children grow up to serve the society like we did and have a bright future,” he said. 

There were times when the group had nothing to talk about. They would all just sit as a group, lost in their own thoughts. Doing something to spend the time and kill the silence was important. Mr. Bhimasha saw a little van pass by and stop near the school. Intrigued by the child-friendly paintings on the van, he decided to investigate further. “Yen appa idu? (What is this man?)”, he asked the van driver. He was introduced to our Mobile Library! 

In the next few minutes, he learned as much as he could about the NGO (Mantra) that has been working in Dommasandra since 2017. Humbly, he sought permission to enter the “van of books” – as he calls it. He spent the next few hours flipping through as many books as he could. When the van didn’t show up the next day, Mr. Bhimasha learned to his dismay that it would visit the school just once a week so that the other days it could go around to other schools as well. 

Our field team, who had by now acquainted themselves with Mr. Bhimasha and his gang of friends, took him to the Cluster Resource Center a few steps from their daily hangout spot. “When I went in there, I saw a library, double the size of the one in the van. He (pointing to Maruti, Mantra’s field associate) told me that teachers use this library a lot. I didn’t really understand what a CRC is but I was happy to know that this place can be used by us community members as well,” he said. 

Looking at Mr. Bhimasha scanning each book with the curiosity of a child was the highlight of that day. It was the first time that a member from the community had stepped into the CRC, not on the day of a meeting. Scouring through news magazines, encyclopedias, and fictional novels are how he spends most of his days at the CRC now. 

It doesn’t stop there. Mr. Bhimasha has turned the CRC into a reading club for his friends! While they used to engage in discussions outside the Dommasandra Government School; now, the discussions have moved to the CRC coupled with some quality reading time as well. 

“Time is a luxury that I have. I love spending time with my grandchildren and talking to them about their school and their studies. I didn’t realize that I could educate myself too while they were in school. I would much rather spend my time here near the school and at the CRC than at home alone,” Mr. Bhimasha said. 

When we decided to revive CRCs to encourage schools to share and grow together, it was always at the back of our minds to bring the community to these CRCs as well. The approach, however, was unclear. 

In our pursuit of change, we often come across stories such as Mr. Bhimasha’s remind us that change is often organic too. We strive to change the mindsets of diverse groups of stakeholders we work with to place importance on education and its issues. But there are individuals who are brimming with motivation and all they need is a chance to show that change is of course possible! 

Contributed by Maruti Talawar, Cluster Community Lead, Mantra4Change

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