Have you watched the movie ‘Queen of Katwe’? Do you know the story of Phiona Mutesi? Here is the one line for you: “10-year-old Phiona, a young girl living in Katwe, a slum in Uganda, whose life changes significantly upon being taught to play chess.”
Queen of Katwe is the biographical film about the Ugandan Chess player Phiona Mutesi. What is so special about her story? How it is related to a girl in India named Shalu? The latter is not a chess player.
Shalu’s story is synonymous with Phiona Mutesi’s early life. The Venn circles of Shalu and Phiona have childhood poverty and hardships in common. Phiona has tasted some success as a champ, while Shalu is walking her path to success. Let us take a look at the journey of Shalu…
Shalu’s native is a small village near Lucknow, India. They lived in a small one room home. Her father was a washerman in Lucknow, the sole bread winner of the family. He passed away when she was about six or seven years old. After his demise, Shalu’s mother, Neelam with her four children shifted to the city as there was no means of livelihood for her family in the village. Now, her family lives in one of the several tin-thatched rooms built on a plot , that drips heavily during rainy days.
Neelam started working as a maid in a colony. Shalu studies seventh grade and her elder sister (Shivani) is studying tenth in the government higher secondary school. She also has a younger brother and a sister. The elder sister also works in two or three houses besides her schooling. Shalu does most of the household work like cooking, cleaning, and takes care of younger siblings at her home.
Life is no cosy for the family and the routine is always a tug of war to meet the daily needs. In the mid of this uncertainness, Shalu found solace in her craft works.
The interest was drawn from her mother, who used to weave baskets from ‘Kans’, a kind of grass, when they were in the countryside. Shalu, like every child observed her mother with wandering attention, but when she completed the making, she admired the fine finishing of the basket. Upon her interest, the mother taught the process of weaving and sewing. Shalu made her first craft, a basket. Though it was not as good as her mother’s, the little girl treasured it.
“My mother taught me to make hand fans using plastic bags. After shifting to Lucknow, once on the occasion of Deepawali, I saw a neighbourhood aunt making rangoli. She perhaps guessed that I was interested in it and she gave me some colours to draw rangoli at my home. I didn’t start crafting with expensive materials, but from scraps and wastage”, says Shalu.
In the film, Phiona’s world changes one day when she meets Robert Katende at a missionary program. Katende coaches soccer and teaches children to play chess at a local center. Curious Phiona approaches and learns the game. She becomes fascinated with it and soon becomes a top player in the group under Katende’s guidance.
In Shalu’s story, she attends a free tuition centre for children in Lucknow. There, she met Mrs.Namita Sunder, who is playing a major role bringing up her talents.
“Shalu came to our free tuition centre about four years back. She is a very disciplined and studious child. At her school, be it studies or cultural activities or quizzes or competitions Shalu ensures winning. She is good at painting and singing too. “Shalu makes beautiful cards and presents to guests who visit tuition centre during festive time”, elates Mrs.Namita Sunder.
“I mostly make the crafts during holidays. If any craft has to be made on urgent basis, I would do it after 9 pm post completing my tuition classes and home works.”
Shalu encourages other children to learn crafting. She says, “It’s more than a hobby and a special way to express our affection. Making and presenting gifts on our own gives a special feel for our beloved ones.”
As the girl has no space at her home to keep all these wonderful items, Mrs. Namita has allocated an almirah at her home.
She wishes to create an appropriate platform for Shalu to nurture her creativity.
Speaking further about the crafts Mrs. Namita said, “I have shared her skills on Facebook. One of my friends got impressed by her works and inquired whether Shalu can teach her young son to make pop-up paper flowers. Shalu taught the boy effectively.”
Shalu has started with small steps in her art career. She wants to enhance her skills, complete her formal education and build a career to uplift her family as well as her artistic dreams.
We wish her all the best and hope right people would help Shalu to reach greater heights in her life. From the bottom of our hearts, we wish Shalu win like Phiona Mutesi and alike many other kids who have broken the chains of poverty.
Kudos Shalu! Keep going!
Photo Credits : Mr.Sunder Iyer, Article Source Credits: Mrs.Namita Sunder.