“We are the 99%”

This is the most powerful slogan from the Occupy Wall Street movement. This was a protest in 2011 addressing to tackle the hardcore capitalistic agenda of decades which created the social and economic divide in the Amercian society. This was not a leader led movement but people led in its true sense. “the 99%” says it all. It captures the emotions of the general population that has been victimised under the hands of a few “1%”. People felt they were cheated of their fare share of opportunities.

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From moment to movement

I went through a similar feeling last week. A few like minded parents of the Shishuvan school, where my children go, met under the King’s Circle bridge in Matunga. The agenda was to discuss the mass resignations happening in school. The Principal, Vice Principal had resigned in protest along with four other staff members. The school is managed by a Trust that belongs to a minority community. The protest was against this Trust that has set in motion a divide in ideology and the founding principles of the School. “From an open and inclusive culture it has started to become stifling”, said one of the staff members who resigned. The trust component was missing now. Rumours said that many more resignations were in pipeline.

When the school reopened this academic year, it seemed not ready yet. Small things like diaries and ID cards were missing. Children from primary section were asked to bring cash for their books, which was unheard of before. Some may argue these are smaller issues, but I have heard its where the rot begins.

School’s ERP system was up in toss. The teacher retention is poor, despite 80% increase in fees in the past three years. Parents were all anxious and shaken by the current upheaval and decided to write an open letter. The idea of an open letter turned to an online petition addressing the Trust and the Shishuvan staff. Soon a whatsapp group was created, “Save Shishuvan”. The title so apt, must have struck a chord with the larger community of parents. From a group of 7-8, we were 150 parents in a matter of few hours. A well defined and curated petition was floated. Very efficiently the petition found its way in all the groups of all grades. Many called their fellow parents hoping to wake them up from slumber. The expectation was only 200 signatories but it snowballed to 900+ signatures in 4 days. Our petition demanded a parents sabha, an open forum where the members of the Trust, Shishuvan staff and Parent body come together to discuss the resignations. We were 900 hopeful parents. We had the voice and we had spoken!

A group of 60+ parents got together to submit the petition in person to the Trust’s office but found a “closed door”. Later during the day the management announced that they accepted the resignations and the handover was to be done in two days. The chitter-chatter and the notification dings in the groups stopped. Though only for a few seconds, but the silence was killing. Then phone calls to each other began and frantic typing on groups started again. One of the parent said, “they nuked us”.

We were idealists and maybe even romantics. Seeking the change like its our right. We misinterpreted the strength of the 1%. We were so hopeful, that it made us dream again for the future of our children. I am disappointed and now doubting if I was also delusional. Didn’t I see it coming? But hope is infectious. Like one of the other poster in the OWS movement says, “You may say I am a dreamer, but I am the only one awake”.

Feeling proud to have been part of this journey.

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