A morning in an orphanage, Government Residential School, Rajpur Road, Dehradun

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Feb 15: having arrived early at 4am in dehradoon by the AC express, we checked into a hotel. Because it was going to be a long day, I crashed in the train the moment I entered and had my six hours of sound sleep. So when I entered the hotel with avneesh, I thought of taking my customary morning walk along with the camera. These early morning walks have always been a blessing for me in capturing the beautiful character of any city. Dehradun has given me those magical moments on my previous visits too when I captured the flurry of morning activities at the subash park on rajpur road.

The hotel that we checked in is a new one in every respect. Hotel is new built and this was the first time I am staying there. I moved out of the hotel at about 5:45 am and got onto the rajpur road. For a change, I started walking towards the clock tower, the other side of the road that I had never walked by. I crossed a shopping complex and a couple of crossings and was moving past a bus stand, and suddenly my eyes fell on a handful of kids who were playing an unusual game of dragging one of them on a broken y-shaped tree branch. It was rather unusual to see at 6am, young kids so active. I paused for a moment and noticed that it looked like a dilapidated bungalow in a large compound bereft of anything. I was impatient to be part of the action and quickly sneaked into the compound through the barbed-wire fence. I did not even bother to know what this building all about and where was I sneaking into.

The transport game with the y-twig

The transport game with the y-twig

As the children were taking turns to give one another the ride on their innovative vehicle made of a tree-branch, I started quickly capturing those precious moments. My action attracted a couple of more kids who from nowhere surrounded me to see what was I doing crawling on the ground. My camera caught their fascination. I noticed that these kids look like they stay here as they all looked groggy and just about out of their beds. They got to see me through the window of their rooms, capturing the boisterous threesome who were immersed in their transport activity and rushed out. In no time there were about fifteen kids, ages ranging between five to fifteen, asking me to click them too. I clicked a couple of snaps and started interacting with them.

I got to know that, the place is a government residential school, and most of the occupants are orphans from various places around Dehradun. By then about 30 kids surrounded me and that attracted a young matron too, who came to introduce the place. All this happening on the sprawling compound with a few trees and the environment was charged with energy. One of the students rushed in there with a long note pad and looked very purposeful. I asked him what is it about. In unison, every one said, ‘aaj ki khabarein’. It was his turn to share the news today and he had painstakingly scribbled on his notepad. I was taken in, and asked the boy ‘sunao’. He started reading, with some struggle to pronounce, today’s news that he had written for the morning assembly.

“Bus khayi mein giri, do ki maut, pandrah ghayal”
“Uttar Pradesh mein chunav ki doosri Khadi shanti poorvakh Samapth ..”

The news of today

The News of today

He went on to share a few more headlines and then I started asking them a little more details about each of the khabars, trying to probe how much interest do they take beyond the headlines. They looked at each other and laughed, and said “itnahi’. I thought, one thing is for sure, these young kids are better than our well-to-do college kids, who hardly bother to open any newspaper!!

Then I puzzled them with a few riddles based on “Mallika’s story about milkman and his two measures, 5 litre and 3 Litre.” They were mesmerized by the questions and slowly in 15-20 minutes they caught on to the puzzles and they opened up. They were saying, “Ganith itna badhiya ho sakta hai. Humko aisa kyon nahin padhathe!!”

Meanwhile an elderly gentleman, their yoga teacher, arrived on his two-wheeler. Quickly all of them formed five lines, standing spaced out, one behind the other, for their morning exercise and yoga. They followed it up with a few songs, initiated by the elderly gentleman.. It was a wonderful forty-five minutes observing, participating and listening to their activities. I went on goading them to sing one song after another, while recording their renditions.. Here they are …

The Musical morning

The Musical morning

Once their music session got over, they were asked to quickly freshen up and assemble for their breakfast. The cook took me to the kitchen and I was surprised to see a couple of young students at the gas stove making parathas. I joined them to make a few parathas. I am very good at making them. I shared with them how I learnt it when I was twenty. My parathas and rotis automatically become circular as I keep rotating and spreading the dough with the ‘belan’. They were surprised at the felicity with which I made those parathas. I was told that the parathas are for elderly kids, class 9 and beyond who go to attend another school and return only by late evening. In this school, the classes go upto class 8.

Breaking the fast

Breaking the fast

As I went out, I saw the children washing their hands and getting their plates ready. A couple of the children are already in their positions to distribute the rotis and kichdi, their usual breakfast. It is amazing to see how each one takes care of himself and also the younger ones who are sitting next to them. Each one is respected and facilitated. As the distribution of the food got over, every one folded their hands to offer prayers in multiple languages including in English. It was very touching to hear them sing. Then they went on to finish their breakfast.

After their breakfast, each one carried his plate and glass, washed them and placed them back in their respective location. They took responsibility of every thing that was expected of them. They all behaved beyond their age!

cleaning their plates

cleaning their plates

Quickly they all vanished into their locker rooms to open their trunks and pull out their uniforms to wear. The next fifteen minutes were frenzied with everyone trying to look his best. Also they helped one another. I went about capturing their activities with my camera, oblivious to them. They were inured as they expected me to be clicking.

By the time I came out of their locker rooms, their makeshift classrooms were getting reconfigured. Their dining hall got converted into three classrooms facing different directions. I could witness more classrooms emerging with more boards appearing from nowhere, all arranged by the young kids themselves. They were discussing, debating and placing them and replacing them. It was a great way to devolve responsibilities. No adult was around and everything looked automated.

Once they all were ready with their classrooms, bags to attend the school, all of them insisted on taking a group photo. Quite a few were fighting grab the camera to click the snaps with me in the frame.

The group photo

The group photo

In those three hours, I experienced the world of these lovely youngsters who owned the place, belonged to one another and made their world as beautiful as it can be. I walked away immensely satisfied about my morning, making friends out of every one in that ‘lively’ old mansion!


Twenty-six / eleven or three / three – all due to apathy of citizens like you and me.

Whether it was Mumbai or Lahore, an incident of this magnitude cannot happen but for the small contributions from each one of us. Yes, indeed, each one of us is a culprit, just a shade lesser than Kasab and Osama.

How, you may say? Do we really behave the way a responsible citizen need to? Do we really care for another fellow being or the environment? I am not excluding myself from this introspective journey, and for that matter not any ‘educated’ person –

  1. How many of us drive in lanes? Usually, if there are three lanes on a road, we will see at least five vehicles squeezing shoulder to shoulder, giving warmth to each other. In a while ‘real heat’ emanates. I can never make out which lane is which.
  2. Crisscrossing the lanes with utter disregard to basic traffic rules is our basic etiquette. Honking is my birth right. Don’t look at my face, I am very angry and am about to scowl at the other, as he is not giving me my way. If I am on a two wheeler, then I have every license to find the smallest of the holes to manouvre through. With an engaging cell-phone in hand, it gives me a great thrill to do all these.
  3. The slowest moving vehicle will be in the fastest lane, will not budge, and will make sure that faster moving one overtakes from wrong side. The heavy vehicle cannot fathom that a puny vehicle comparatively, can overtake him, so he would always occupy the faster lane to satisfy his ego. 
  4. Waiting at the traffic signal or giving way to a pedestrian is ‘shaan ke khilaf’
  5. At every round about, I will try to squeeze into, oblivious of the traffic already in the circle, adding to their immobility. I will enter a thorough fare from a by-lane, without bothering to look at the moving traffic, forget about stopping for a moment. Right of way, I am not aware of.
  6. Park, we would, at all places that are not meant for parking. Thanks to our innovative ways of parking, a three lane road most times ends up being a single lane, rendering the already chaotic traffic to move at snail’s pace.
  7. Often, I discover that the whole traffic is moving slow, only because there are two motorists fighting in the middle of the road after their motor-vehicles have made love to each other. The fight is about which kissed the other first and who is responsible for it! Maintaining a responsible distance from the vehicle in front of me is degrading to me. I am not aware that I should have at least 20 meters of clearing if I am at a speed of 60km/hr.
  8. Even more surprising will be, a huge vehicle plonked with a flat tyre or a broken axle, in the middle of the road on a blind curve of an express way that has traffic moving at 100Km/hour!

  1. I will open a biscuit packet or a ‘paan ka beeda’ while driving on the road, and in a jiffy the wrapper will be flying out of my window, while I munch the biscuit or paan. I cannot carry a small disposal in my vehicle.
  2. I have tea at a dhaba or a kiosk, at the roadside, bus stop or railway platform, but I will definitely throw the PLASTIC cup into the Nala (culvert) or on the railway track. I do not notice the waste bin.
  3. While on the sports field, a zoo or a park, I care no hoot to the surroundings, I will drop my emptied plastic water bottle or the plastic glass to see it floating into the arenas! I do not care to look for the ‘monkey bins’ around!
  4. I will demand the hawker or the stores to give my purchase in a plastic bag as I never carry a cloth bag from home. I keep doing this every time, despite noticing thousands of these soiled plastic carry bags littered around open spaces, by the side of the roads, railway tracks, clogging water bodies.
  5. I will keep the tap flowing while brushing, shaving, bathing, washing etc, not realizing that the overflowing water is a result of vast amount of money that is spent on bringing it into my home. I do hear that future wars will be for water!!
  6. I do not even think for a moment about switching off the illuminating bulb in the empty room, as I have never experienced what it is to live in an un-electrified village.
  7. I did fell a couple of trees while constructing, but I hardly realize that they were protecting the soil and mother earth for over a hundred years!!

Queues and Security –

  1. Standing in a queue is beyond our dignity. We shall find every way to beat the system. Pushing and shoving to get in is my first priority (into the bus, into a train, into a film theatre, into the traffic..)
  2. Getting frisked by a security guy is even more demeaning to me. “Mujhe nahin jaante..” (You do not know who I am..).
  3. If I am caught violating any rule, at the traffic signal, or with an overweight luggage, or even taking an over-aged child in a train, I will try my level best to ‘payoff.’
  4. If I were the security guy at the gate in a railway station or a bus stand, I am least bothered about whether the screening gate is functional, I continue yapping with my fellow colleague. I am not concerned about who has sneaked in, a taxi guy soliciting passengers, a smart kingpin forcing a few kids to beg or even a ‘liberator’ with an AK in his knapsack to carry out the orders of the ‘almighty’

At home –

  1. I do not have time to sit and facilitate the child. Neither I have time to read a book to, play a game with, nor take a child to a museum, an art gallery or a performance.
  2. The annual visit to zoo for me is a promise that I have to fulfill. It is just a ritual.
  3. If some one calls for me, I would ask my child to say “papa ghar par nahin hai, baad mein phone kijiye.”
  4. Most of the time, as a father I may even fumble when some one asks which class my child is in.

I continue to turn a blind eye to many ills happening around me, instead of responding, as  ‘chalta hai, hame kya karna’, is the usual refrain!! I can go on and on and on. But I shall stop here.

Most of the above mentioned ‘innocuous’ acts are experienced by silent yet sharp co-travellers, our children. I fail to imagine the gravity of  influence these will have on my children’s thought process and behaviour.

If I am conscientious about my own existence, that of my fellow beings and environment, if I execute my responsibilities in the society – if I play by the rules, facilitate my driver to abide by them, my maid to be more conscious, if I bring up my child with all honesty and involvement – the world certainly would be a better place to be. I am also relatively sure that many of these ‘man-mad-and-made’ disasters can be averted to a great extent. So, till then, I am no less culprit than a Osama or a Kasab.

Looking forward to your feedback here or on my mail id – sreeni@careerlauncher.com

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