“Nobody’s going to take that name seriously,” I laughed when Shikhar and Abhimanyu (Hulk) told me they planned to create a website (as I understood it back then) called Chalopadho. Yet here I am, three years later, sitting in a room that overlooks a beautiful sunset with two of the three co-founders while they concentrate on something extremely important, which I, as usual, am not paying attention to.
What I can’t ignore, though, is the energy in the room as everyone is staring diligently at their monitors – a complete paradox to their surroundings. The room is a combination of what you’d expect from a 14-year-old’s bedroom and a tech office. Tables and swivel chairs litter the room fighting for space with beanbags and empty chips packets. There’s a white board in the corner with frantic writing in different colours, and a dedicated space for the programmers at the other end of the room with extra monitors and laptop cooling pads. All of this comes with a steady stream of new pop or Punjabi music playing in the background.
Disclaimer time: Two of the three co-founders, Shikhar and Karan, are childhood friends of mine and the third, Hulk, is close enough to me to have been a childhood friend.
But, they’re not the only friends of mine who put their hearts and souls into a start-up. They’re just the ones whose idea I loved the most. So much so, they occasionally have to remind me that this isn’t my day job and I should probably go concentrate on something else.
To quote the website, Chalopadho is an online learning platform. It’s trying to introduce the flipped classroom model to Indian schools.
On paper, this means that the children will learn at their own pace on the online platform through a variety of interactive and engaging material like simulations, videos, games and images – all created with the sole purpose of holding the attention of a child while making them want to learn more without being pushed to do so.
In practical terms, this means the children get everything we wanted when we were their age. There’s not a single adult, to whom I’ve explained the concept, who hasn’t immediately remarked, “I wish I’d had this when I was in school.”
Getting Chalopadho means the children get to spend time playing games and accessing the internet, which is an immense virtual playground for all practical purposes. There’s a lack of enforced linearity, which means they learn everything they’re supposed to, but at the same time get to explore whatever parts of those subjects catch their fancy. Their interests could be logical, mathematical, artistic, environmental, or anything at all and Chalopadho along with the internet will help them explore to their heart’s content.
Teachers will get to do what they joined the profession to do – nurture and help mould individuals – instead of being pressured by the time constraints of drilling the same subjects year after year into the minds of every child in a classroom.
Sounds idealistic, you say? It is. That’s why I love it.
The words ‘passion’, ‘drive’, ‘ambition’ and ‘revolution’ are thrown around easily in an age when start-ups are in vogue. But, it says a lot when I travel across the city to an office that isn’t my own, to write about an energy that I can only find here.
It took ten minutes to write this and that’s probably a good thing because in this office, that’s all the time I can spare, lest I miss a painfully bad joke cracked by Karan, or an over-enthusiastic idea suddenly announced by Shikhar, who will immediately be brought back to reality by Hulk.
(Taruni Kumar does, in fact, have a day job. She works at The Quint and dreams of one day convincing Hogwarts to take both Chalopadho and herself on board.)