MALAYSIANS KINI | Rajini Saudranrajan, 39, spoke in a sombre tone as she recalled the things she heard as a child, having lived in a "rough neighbourhood" in Puchong, Selangor.
Among the conversations between the adults had been about her neighbours, some of them only teenagers, becoming drug addicts and alcoholics. Many of those involved, she noted, were Indian Malaysians.
Some were also involved in crime and it was not uncommon when some boys and girls would suddenly disappear, she said.
Fortunately for Rajini, she did not go the way of those teenagers, having gone on to become a law graduate from the University of London.
Rajini moved out from that neighbourhood at the age of 10. Despite growing up away from her old neighbourhood, Rajini couldn't help remembering the things she had heard there as a child.
As she grew into adulthood, Rajini realised all those talks were not just rumours but were real problems plaguing teenagers, like those in her old neighbourhood.
“Every other day you read stories about how ‘this poor Indian’ is doing time for drug abuse, or ‘this poor Indian’ is doing this and that, and I am quite sick of it.
“I’ve always wanted to change this, recognising that this trend was a problem... I just didn’t know what to do,” she said in an interview with Malaysiakini.
The opportunity came when Rajini heard about the MySkills Foundation, an organisation set up in 2011 under the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism.
The organisation focuses on developing underprivileged Indian youths in the country.
Rajini reached out to MySkills over a year ago and was told she could help out with the girls they mentor and house. She decided to take on the challenge, starting with weekly classes on the Bhagavad Gita.
The Bhagavad Gita is a Hindu scripture that has inspired the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and other notable figures. Rajini is a practitioner of its teachings, having studied it from a young age, and she frequently quoted verses from the book during the interview.
While Rajini went in with an enthusiastic frame of mind about helping underprivileged girls, not all of them who first came into the programme were happy about the idea that they needed help.
She related her experience with 15-year-old Maya (not her real name), who didn't want to be in the programme.
The teenager was sent away by her family after repeatedly coming home drunk in the wee hours after a bout of drinking with her friends, having fallen in with the wrong crowd...