SHIKSHAMITRA is a process for learning to live better. It is a space where one

learns to keep well and to help others keep well too. Shikshamitra has an address.

However, it goes beyond this – permeating into the lives of many, influencing

one’s choices in life and ways of life. To be associated with Shikshamitra is to assume

the responsibility of trying to live better. It is a continuous attempt to search for

activities that inspire life and build trust, or, it is an attempt to keep away from

anything to the contrary. Shikshamitra is a means toward becoming aware of

how much one can be and knowing exactly what one’s limitations are.

October 15, 2012

Cards & Connections

Matisse inspired cut-out card
Shikshmitra was approached by Indienhilfe, a long-time supporter of our work, to take part in a project that had various aspects to it: an income-generation activity for children over 14 years of age, a fundraising activity for various Kolkata NGOs working in education, and creation of a product that can be sold in Germany during the year-end holiday season.  Each NGO received 200 blank cards prepared with information on back, along with a space for each child to write their name and school.  Since we don’t meet on a regular basis these days, we thank our friends at Indienhilfe for this opportunity to bring us all together in the name of art and creativity.  All the children involved took the work very seriously and worked eagerly to understand the project and create their work.  The results were beautiful.

We called several former students who we felt would both enjoy this project and be able to efficiently complete the task at hand in time for the deadline.  As some of the older students, many who are now working, came in to confirm they would work on the project … yet another story unveiled itself.


Raja Das came to Shikshamitra right in the beginning of 2005. He was 10 years old at the time and he stayed with us until 2011 – trying hard to overcome his learning difficulties while discovering his talents and polishing them. 

While Raja struggled with his Bengali, he could draw beautifully in the same class. He awaited the moments for drawing in every class – and thankfully there were plenty at Shikshamitra.  In his drawing, use of colour, and painting, Raja always shined.  He dazzled in crafts too!  Doing measurements and Maths were also some of his favourite areas.

His mother, with her congenital heart problems, gradually found it difficult to work.  Even the household work was too much for her. Raja’s father, a very irresponsible man, lived in the same house.  Soon Raja replaced his mother; looking after his little sister and mother, buying provisions for the house, cooking, washing – doing all that must be done to keep a house running.

Raja lost his mother in 2009, which meant that he now had to look after the house round the clock. His interests in studies waned. We were in touch with Tomorrow’s Foundation and in 2011, we arranged a year-long apprenticeship for Raja in their Craft and Printing Unit. He took it up, loved it and completed the year. They offered him a job in 2011. Family responsibilities and feuds pushed Raja into oblivion and he was also managing a meat shop for a relative who had loaned them a big amount of money. He stayed away from us and from Tomorrow’s Foundation.

Display of Raja's products at Shikshamitra's Growing with Art Exhibition 2010
The printing unit of Tomorrow’s Foundation became partly independent as they set up their own business as Punjali. They needed another person, so they searched for Raja this year and cajoled him to join them again in this new endeavor.  Raja made up his mind to pursue his calling for the arts. He has become an important member of the Punjali unit of Tomorrow’s Foundation. Along with this very important comeback he is also trying to pursue the Class X Open School exam. 

Recently, Indienhilfe asked us if our older students would like to create 200 greetings cards out of a total of 1000, which they got specially printed for Christmas/New Years. We happily agreed to the project. Along with other students, Raja was contacted to know if he would like to work on a few of these cards. He came by Shikshamitra to explain that he was too busy with orders at the new craft unit but as he talked, he asked if he could take a look at one of the cards.  One look from afar set him enquiring, “Does it have an image of Durga and some writing in blue at the back?" He was right!  He proudly beamed, telling us, “I printed them all – the entire order – at Tomorrow’s Foundation.”

 Thank you Indienhilfe, Tomorrow’s Foundation (Punjali) and all who stood by Raja to grow since 2005‼

Painting done by Raja on the wall of our school 2008