‘Life is like this – dark and messy but there’s light. You have to believe that.’

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Raju, an Akanksha alumnus, began art when he was just 8 years old through the weekend art classes at Akanksha. He stood out right from the start for his drive to get it right, to be different and to be meticulous in everything he did. He came in class with all his troubles and very often retreated within himself but he knew it was a space he owned. Whatever may be happening elsewhere, in his art class, he was the king.

Raju shares anecdotes from his childhood and journey as a mischievous child to a responsible adult whose career in art today defines his destiny.

“Before I joined Akanksha, I was careless and very naughty. I didn’t listen to anyone and drove my teachers up the wall! So one fine day, I simply decided to stop going to school! My parents were not happy with my decision. My friend Appuraja, who was an Akanksha student, approached my family and got me enrolled into Akanksha. Thanks to the didis and bhaiyas there, the Municipal school that I used to go to, agreed to take me back.”

“Akanksha was my home away from home. I rarely attended school, but I didn’t miss a single day at my Akanksha centre. Even though our centre timing was till 11:30 am, I would hang around till noon. My life at the centre was totally different from my experiences in school. I enjoyed every session, every activity, carefully planned by my didis and bhaiyas and was curious to know more.”

No one in class could surpass Raju’s brilliance and with the support of his teacher, he made it through a diploma in fine art through the Raheja College.

“I was passionate about art from the very beginning. And I was lucky because I was part of art class from the second day that I joined Akanksha! My school would actually misuse my talent to win prizes because I was the only child who stood first or second in all the drawing competitions. It was in Akanksha that my art was truly valued and respected. It pushed me to look at a future in this field and my didis and bhaiyas were the ones who got me into Art College and helped strengthen the foundation of my career in art. Today my work is my world! My work is enjoyment! My work has given me freedom!”

Today, at 27, Raju freelances as an Assistant Set Designer and Art Director, which he loves because it challenges him and keeps him on his toes. Things at a personal level have always been turbulent but he says that his art has kept him stable and sane. “Art has been there for me when I felt all alone and when there was no one else.”

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