“Happiness Depends Upon Ourselves”

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Written by: Anoushka Agrawal

Story: Tanisha Nalavadi

Anoushka and Tanisha are young Art for Akanksha volunteers who’ve been with the organisation since they were 12 years old and have practically grown up with the Akanksha Art Lab students. Their love for art and their want and willingness to do something more keeps them connected to Akanksha in different ways.

Tanisha with the kids at Chidiyatapu

Aristotle once said, “Happiness depends upon ourselves.”

What do the children coming from the low- income areas of Mumbai that are a part of Akanksha have in common with the children living in the little hamlet of Chidiyatapu in the Andaman’s? It’s simple – they both share an immense understanding of Aristotle’s quote.

This is something that leaves 16 year old Tanisha Nalavadi in awe. She wonders how children who don’t share even a quarter of the privileges and luxuries she lives with and who live in conditions far worse than those that she lives in would ever be, are always so happy, so enthusiastic, so excited.

Sitting on the warm sand of Chidiyatapu, next to the clear, blue ocean, gazing at the endless sky that bled wonderful shades of red during sunset, she finally understood. She finally realised how the children of Akanksha always bore an immensely positive, contagiously happy attitude. It was because they had everything that they wanted, desired nothing more. And to them, that was more than enough.

During her one month internship in Chidiyatapu, Tanisha met people she described as the kindest she had ever come across, much like the children she worked with during her experience at Akanksha. These were the children of the tiny village of Chidiyatapu.

She was to put up a play with those children, concerning the theme of litter and its effect on marine organisms. Since Chidiyatapu was an insignificant, minuscule area, no garbage trucks were sent to it by the government, which was the reason for the major build-up of litter. With Tanisha’s help, the children were able to put up a fabulous performance in their community hall, which had an impact not only on Tanisha and the entire community, but on the government officials as well. After watching the play, the government finally agreed to send garbage trucks to Chidiyatapu.

Working with each youth of Chidiyatapu, Tanisha realised that she was able to understand them and connect with them. She knew exactly how to get their attention and how to guide them, solely because of her experience at Akanksha. Because she had previously worked with the children of Akanksha, she found that working with the children of Chidiyatapu was so much easier. They were always so eager to help, and wanted to do rehearsal after rehearsal while preparing for the play even before Tanisha asked them to. Their enthusiasm and joy made her want to continue spending time with them and working on the play with them, even on the days she was the most tired, even in the sweltering heat of the scorching sun that always covered the beautiful Andaman Islands.

Just like the children of Akanksha, the children of Chidiyatapu were always smiling and were never seen to be even the least bit unhappy. Being around them, Tanisha couldn’t help but grin.

When I asked her what she felt was the biggest similarity between the two sets of children, she said two things – their eagerness and energy, and their enormous love for art. Both of them taught her much more than she could ever teach them, they inspired her far more than anyone else has. Along with them, she found that she could actually make a difference to the people around her, and, eventually, to the world.

Tanisha claims that the reason her experience at Chidiyatapu was the best one she had ever had was because of her experience at Akanksha, since she learned so much from the children there and was able to implement that learning while doing what she loved to do. Most of all, she learnt that, to be happy, all you had to do was love yourself and do what you love to do, and believe that that is enough.


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