Age is just a number

Angel in disguise: Vimla Kaul teaching her students at Guldasta Photo: guldasta

A number of senior citizens don’t believe that retirement is an option. And keep working tirelessly to give back to society

Vimla Kaul, 83, has been tirelessly working towards educating under-privileged children. Her school-cum-learning centre Guldasta at Madanpur Khadar is where she is providing education, free of cost, for 23 years. She shares with us her life’s journey, her views on present education system and many more.

Please tell us a little about your childhood.
I was born in Shimla in a family of bureaucrats. I am the youngest of my three siblings. I did my schooling from Convent of Jesus and Mary New Delhi, and my graduation in History from Miranda House, University of Delhi. Between July 1956 and January 1961, I worked as office secretary in Delhi Social Welfare Board and All India Women’s Conference.
In 1961 I got married to Mr HM Kaul, an engineer working in the Geological Survey of India. Around that time, I moved from place to place and took up teaching assignments wherever possible. The last teaching opportunity I got was in Carmel School, Dhanbad, where my husband was working as Professor of Drilling Engineering. We moved to Sarita Vihar, Delhi, after retirement in 1993 and I started Guldasta, my school-cum-learning centre, here in Madanpur Khadar in 1995.

How has the journey been for all these 23 years? Please share with us some of the best moments from your journey.
To a great extent this journey has been a lonely walk because I had to manage all the responsibilities of the school and faced all traumas or setbacks by myself. However, it would be fair to mention that my husband was a pillar of strength, who was always beside me. Also, many of my family members and friends also contributed to support the cause. Throughout the journey these people have provided financial support, as well as encouraged me.
And the best moments are when I see my students doing well in life. Many of them have completed graduation and are working. And by God’s grace our little project got a lot of recognition and support.

What were the challenges you had to face while working towards this great cause?
The challenges I faced in the process of my activities were indeed many. Challenges were to be able to communicate rightly, to be understood, and above all to develop a trust.
During my work, there were hurdles at each step. Many times, I felt frustrated by them and thought I can’t take it anymore. Some of the most pertinent problems we faced were lack of space, lack of helping hands and last but not the least lack of finances.
However, I overcame all challenges head on with all the confidence because I had determination and was focused. Even today, many hurdles crop up, but I manage to steer through them without losing hope. And I believe almighty is there, who is watching us and will surely help us.

What do you think about the present education system in our country? Do want to suggest any changes to it?
Nowadays, our schools and colleges are producing children who are not respecting their teachers and are even using aggressive means to deal with them. In our society, an individual with a degree is considered educated. But, I feel true education is what prepares an individual to steer through the challenges and hardships of life. This requires building of a holistic education system. I believe this is missing from our education system. In today’s world, the young people are full of knowledge but is incapable of facing the brickbats and blows of life. It is this incoherent education that has made this generation more vulnerable to defeats, as they aren’t prepared fully to face them. Thus, we should introduce ethics, manners, honesty and relationships – which will teach the children to overcome hardships.

What should be done to create a conducive and positive atmosphere between teachers and students?
Firstly, I believe the ratio of teacher student should be 1:20. In a large class, some of the students feel left out, while some are pampered. Also, this will ensure that the teachers are knowing their students personally, which will help them develop a bond. Also, I feel there should be a considerable age gap between a teacher and a student. Moreover, a teacher should treat each student as their own. This will make the students confide in their teachers, and their relation will be much better – with no reservations, no inhibitions.

What motivates you to tirelessly work towards the betterment of these children even after retirement?
What drives me to work after retirement even at this age is simply the passion to be of some use. I feel that age is simply a number, not a signal to stop activity. It has never come in the way of my aspirations. Age, after all, has nothing to do with passion. Rather, the more a person ages, the more they realise how less time they have. Thus, the desire to achieve increases. But the only thing I dread is health hazards. My only motivation is my desire to keep going in the sphere of my interest till health permits.

What message do you want to give to all the teachers out there?
I would like to say that the teachers should realise that they are a pillar of strength to the children they educate. Thus, they should always give their best and should remember that spreading education is like a safe deposit. If they deposit wisely, with love, then it will never be a waste. n

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