Mission Delhi – Om Kumar Yadav, Sector 14, Gurgaon
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
That grownups shall feel nostalgic about their school days is nothing out of the ordinary. But it sure is bizarre when this happens to be the sentiment of a 12-year-old boy.
Such is the extent of the upside-down state of the world, during the coronavirus pandemic it is currently struggling with.
“I’m missing my school, I’m missing my friends,” says Om Kumar Yadav, a fifth standard student in a primary school. He is surprised that he never realised before that he could ever miss going to school. Talking on WhatsApp video from his home in Gurgaon’s Sector 14 in the Greater Delhi Region, Mr Yadav excitedly shows—through the phone screen that connects him to The Delhi Walla—his textbooks and the basta (book bag) that he would carry daily to his classes.
But that was another time.
He hasn’t been to school since it was closed in late April, as part of the national lockdown plan.
“I so much want to wear my uniform of sky blue shirt, dark blue pants and black shoes and walk to the school again.” Mr Yadav now studies alone at home, but in the school he used to sit in a crowded room of 40 classmates. “Three of them are very close friends,” he says. “Atul’s papa is a policeman, Sadab’s papa is a salesman in a shop, and Manish’s papa is a worker who builds houses.”
Mr Yadav’s father is a tea seller. They live together, along with young Mr Yadav’s younger brother. The mother lives in their native village in Bihar.
The young man hasn’t met his “best friends” since the start of the lockdown. “But I keep in touch with them on WhatsApp.” He uses his father’s phone for the purpose.
WhatsApp has more solemn uses, too. School teachers send him lesson works through WhatsApp.
Sitting by his study desk, placed just beside the TV, Mr Yadav logs on to his desktop computer and talks about missing his beloved teacher. “Neelam ma’am is very serious but very nice… and when we are being naughty, she tells us stories from her own childhood, when she also used to be naughty — but within limits.”
Mr Yadav describes himself to be a very obedient school student, who likes to sit on the front bench. A moment later, he confesses “sometimes I also sit on the back benches, when my friends urge me to.” And then, far from the teacher’s eye, they would whisper about the movies they had watched the previous night on TV.
“I also miss my school desk… my table is covered with drawings and messages that I would sometimes make with pencil and sometimes with the compass.”
But now there is no knowing when the school will open. Apart from the work given by the teachers, Mr Yadav also has downloaded an app on his “tablet” that helps him with assignments in Maths and English.
“I’ve now gotten used to online studies.”
And yet, “I still want to return to the school. Right now I’m seeing everything in apps and videos, but in school I see all of that in reality.”
[This is the 326th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
His good old school days