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17-year old Jyoti Verma is a class XI student of Senior Secondary School, Sarhaul, Gurgaon and the eldest of four children. Living in a one-room tenement with four more families squeezed in on the same floor, they struggle for everything – from the three square meals that her parents rustle up to using the one common toilet, to resisting her father’s constant plea to quit school and work so there is an additional income to feed the family.
Jyoti wants to study and become an “Officer” in a company. She wants to buy a house where she can bring in her parents, especially mother, who has not had time to recover from a recent surgery. She knows she is intelligent, sharp and energetic but also a good “control artiste”, who controls her emotions, anger, frustration and even bladder, putting to shame the best trapeze artists in a circus.
She controls her anger when she sees their landlord pressuring her parents to increase the monthly rent. She controls her frustration seeing her mother go through the daily grind. She controls the fear that grips her when neighbourhood boys indulge in eve teasing. She also controls her bladder since access to an available, clean and functional bathroom is a daily battle. She knows it is unhealthy, but where is the choice?
On a bright summer morning in 2012, a painted board saying “Maruti Suzuki” was put up in school. “With a swiftness, India’s premier car company set about righting all the wrongs in the school environment. Flowers started blooming on grounds that had never seen grass before. The school gate was repaired and boundary walls raised. Desks, chairs, blackboards, lights, fans got fixed and bathrooms repaired with separate toilets for boys and girls that saw running water 24X7.
‘Control’ now has a positive connotation. Her grades have improved. She loves coming to the school where she feels safe and protected. She no longer needs to control her bladder. The school toilet is clean with full-time sweepers. She and other girls can now use the school bathroom to freshen up.
“I suddenly feel more in control of myself and my life. Maruti Suzuki’s efforts to upgrade our school has given us hope, boosting our self confidence in so many different ways.”
Jyoti Verma, Senior Secondary School, Sarhoul, Gurgaon