Where is that imaginative, creative, energetic, vivacious child lost?

Smita, a teacher from one of the sought after schools in Dwarka, N K Bagrodia public school, has been chasing me for the last couple of months to visit her school. She confessed that, ever since she heard me speak at an education leaders conference conducted by ITIHAAS, she wanted to invite me to her school. She would call me to grace one function or other, as a guest. Most of the times, I was on the move. One thing about Smita I always felt when she spoke to me, is her energy and enthusiasm; that transcended the medium of phone. Last week when she called, I acquiesced to be the guest for their annual festival of creativity – Trishna, wherein about 30+ schools from across Delhi were participating.

The real pleasure being in a school lies in the children’s space.  On arrival, I was ushered into the Principal, Dr. Rajee N, Kumar’s room to meet her and a few more school leaders were called too. Dr. Rajee was sharing her experience of watching the children pushing boundaries since morning, in one creative activity or the other. Here I was, so keen to see the children in action, more than distributing the prizes, I was feeling incarcerated, though the interaction with the leadership was invaluable. The real learning is in experiencing the process, not in seeing the final product. I insisted on watching the children in action. The principal was graceful in facilitating me to watch a couple of activities.

Albeit it was at the fag end of the day, I could experience the theatre / acting performance, wherein the students were given 30 minutes to conjure a scene, write a script, select the performers, prepare and present. The students were from classes 7-9 and it was a delight to watch how they went about presenting. Children observe everything, absorb like a sponge and synthesize making meaning out of every action around them. This activity gave me one more opportunity to watch their thought process; how well they could project their learning. Needless to say, I really enjoyed every presentation, reinforcing my beliefs about children and their infinite capabilities.

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Post the event, I was now keen to interact with the school leadership. Thanks to Dr. Rajee, she too was keen to. I was sharing that the ingenuity of children that we witnessed in the activities of the event can be stoked every day, in every class and home; and who are we to restrict to one event or two in a year.

Very unfortunate that in most of the schools in India, in general, the child comes last. Schools need to exist for the child; she must be the center of all activities that schools plan. It is far from being so, the way we operate – the curriculum designed, the courses offered, the syllabus, the pedagogy, the planning to finish syllabus….. the list is endless. Everything is designed to help the school and the teachers to have peace of mind and to enable ease of execution. An imaginative, creative, energetic, vivacious child, bubbling with ideas ends up being a morose, thoughtless, aimless, fearful youth devoid of confidence and self-belief by the time he or she ends schooling.

If only each one of us, every adult – teachers, parents, schools, universities, educational leaders – can believe in every child, put the child first, acknowledge the needs of the child, really bring the openness to create exciting learning environments at schools, universities and home, I think the world will be a far, far better place to live in. The children and youth will be keen to solve the problems that the society in their neighborhood is facing. Every education institution can be at the fore-front of transformation of the society. Alas!

I am a culprit too. It takes immense effort to be open and facilitating. I am trying and have been on that journey for quite some time. Still short-comings come to the fore. I still need to keep my EGO aside. Working on being humble, pleasant, purposeful is still a huge ask, even with all good intentions and awareness of the outcomes.

My personal endeavour has been to be conscious and work towards making every child’s space an exciting one. To this effect, we, leadership at CL Educate, have been proactive to work with schools, institutions, universities to stoke jigyasa (curiosity, inquisitiveness) among children and youth; create an environment to help them explore, research in areas or subjects of their interest; have belief in their capabilities. Over the years the outcomes have been rewarding as we see the Ananda (joy) among children and youth. This facilitates the institutions and families to also realize where the inclinations of the child is and this has lead to remarkable breakthroughs for the progress of children and youth ahead in their careers and life. Many a child has presented his research and innovations in the global conferences, got her work published in prestigious journals; has had confidence to present oneself for an interview to reach the portals of a world class institution or university. The quest is to enable every child, irrespective of the outcome, gain a great deal of belief in oneself for one’s life. The process makes them so.

I welcome anyone who is keen to facilitate his child or children in schools, and youth in college, to write to me. We will be more than happy to facilitate.

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IWSB Alum Sumit Gunjan, an inspiring changemaker, featured in Indian Express

Delighted to see #IWSB 2010-2012 PGP alum, @SumitGunjan, who anchored the school for children of construction workers in the evenings on campus, being featured in the Indian Express today.

IWSB - SEE : Mull-A-Cause launches library for childrenGUNJAN with friends facilitating children at the IWSB – SEE : Mull-A-Cause launches library for children

Sumit Gunjan has always been an epitome of empathy; a fine human being who always strived to create an impact wherever he was! Blessed to have such purposeful, passionate, persevering human beings who walked into life.

The above photograph is from the occasion of launch of the library for children at the evening school, when Indira and Mallika bought over 200 books for children from CBT and other sources. The evening saw story-telling and book reading sessions. More of the photos can be seen at the album Mull-A-Cause

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Here I am copying the Indian Express Story, as it appears on its website. I humbly thank IE.

In hostel for tribal children near Ranchi, lessons on how to stay close to roots

Two events, two years apart, were to set Sumit Gunjan on a journey that would not only change his life but that of scores of tribal children in ‘Bal Nivas’, a hostel he set up for them in Banta-Hajam, a village in Silli Block, 70 km from Ranchi.

The first was eight years ago, in 2010, when Gunjan, then a 20-year-old pursuing a post-graduate management programme in a Greater Noida institute, came across a group of children of construction workers at a plot near his college. He began engaging with them, holding informal classes for them with the help of his batchmates and a few professors.

The second “turning point” was in early 2012, when Gunjan, still with the Greater Noida institute, undertook a “research yatra” to Jharkhand for the National Innovation Foundation (NIF) in Ahmedabad to study medicinal herbs used by the tribals of Jharkhand.

The first time Gunjan, the youngest of three children of a district court lawyer in Jharkhand’s Giridih, visited Banta-Hajam, he stayed for five days. But he kept coming back to the village, fascinated by the tribal way of life, until he finally decided to stay on for good that April.

“Yahaan ka boli, yahaan ka chaal… hum sab kuchh sikhaya usko (I taught him our language, our practices… everything),” says Bhavani Patar Munda at whose mud house Gunjan began by imparting basic literacy lessons to children.

Gunjan also worked in the fields, did errands and lived like any other member of the Munda household. “From then until today, we have never discussed rent. I live with them, work with them, eat with them,” says Gunjan, who has a Bachelor’s degree in management from Durgapur, West Bengal.

A couple of years ago, Gunjan, with help from villagers, friends and well-wishers, set up Bal Nivas, where 35 tribal children are imparted knowledge of traditional tribal languages, and trained in singing, dancing, classical music, computers and spoken English, besides vocational skills such as bee-keeping and knitting.

The children, all of them from the village, live in Bal Niwas, cooking their own food and cleaning their living quarters. While some children go to the primary school in the village and others to schools in Ranchi, they come back to the hostel, where they are encouraged to stay connected with the tribal way of life.

“At any given point, we teach around 35 children, of whom 25 are girls. They learn music, folk and classical, instruments such as the tabla, harmonium and even the tuila, a traditional tribal instrument on the verge of extinction, the do-tara and the mandolin,” says Gunjan.

When he arrived at Banta-Hajam village, Gunjan realised the children had limited language skills, and were not interested in studying. That’s when he came up with the Bal Nivas concept. “Initially, this was a place to give young children time after formal school where they learned basic things like mathematics and language through activities that were part of their own milieu like local games, which children don’t play these days,” he said.

At present, there are around 15 children, including seven girls, who live at the Bal Nivas. “Most of these children either do not have a father or a mother or are orphans. Also, we take children, who are generally dubbed failures by their own community or those who veer towards alcoholism and other vices at a young age,” he said.

The villagers donate rice every week, while the children have created a fund, donating Rs 2-3 a week. Gunjan also earns by teaching at two teachers’ training institutes in Koderma and Giridih.

Gunjan says he realised that to impart education to tribal children, he would have to first understand them better. “They ate rice three times a day. I started having the same diet and realised it was affecting my stamina. It then became easier for me to explain to them why having a balanced diet, especially for children, was necessary,” he says.

Some of his friends from NIF pushed Gunjan to introduce machines for sowing paddy. “But I decided to sow the saplings myself, along with the women. I then realised how it was also a place and platform for women to socialise. They would sing their traditional songs and come to know about each other’s lives. If we introduce machines, this beautiful thing would be lost. I am not against technology, but it has to be integrated with the milieu in which it is to be introduced,” he says.

Villagers are full of praise for Gunjan’s efforts. “Earlier, the only option for a young boy growing up in these parts was to migrate for work, or fall in bad company and take to liquor and other intoxicants. Gunjan has brought the focus back on all the good practices and traditions that we lived by but have now forgotten,” says Jogendra Gope, a folk singer, on whose land Gunjan set up the hostel. His daughter Sumati now learns classical and folk music at the hostel.

However, the journey wasn’t always smooth. “Last year, some people, upset with what Gunjan was doing, approached the panchayat. They wanted to know why so many girls were in the hostel and why they were being trained in music and dance. But, we stood our ground and, finally, they relented,” says Ramesh Chandra Kumhar, a lac businessman who lives opposite the hostel and who trains the children in vocational skills.

Kumhar says the reason why almost all villagers backed Gunjan was that the change he had brought about was for everyone to see.

Suraj Patar Munda, one of the students at Bal Nivas, says, “I had fallen into bad company and would take marijuana and never attend school. Now, I have left all that and I’m getting trained in music, besides English and computer,” says the teenager who is enrolled at the Ramakrishna Mission School in Ranchi.

Gunjan says he could win the trust of parents, especially of girl students at Bal Nivas, because he kept things transparent. “We would invite parents to live with us at Bal Nivas. When they saw for themselves how things were, they felt good about it and believed me,” he says.

The biggest certificate of their trust came in 2015 when he travelled with some of the children to Ahmedabad for the annual Satvik Food Festival of NIF. “For a village where girls are not supposed to go beyond Ranchi without men escorting them, it was a big thing,” says Gunjan.

One of those who made that trip to Ahmedabad was Ashtami Patar Munda, the 15-year-old daughter of Munda, at whose house Gunjan stayed when he first came to the village in 2012. “For the first time, I saw a world outside our village. Had it not been for Gunjan bhaiyya, it would have been unthinkable. I want to follow his footsteps,” she says.

Jharkhand’s Commission for Protection of Child Rights chairperson, Arti Kujur, who has attended a couple of cultural programmes organised by Gunjan’s students, says, “He got the artistes to perform to themes such as child marriages and human trafficking, which is a problem in these areas. Also, he has gained the confidence of the tribals. It’s not easy.”

But what really matters for Gunjan are lines like these, delivered with a warm smile. “For us, he is one of our own. He has changed our lives for the better,” says Alam Khan, a resident of Banta-Hajam.

Inculcating the passion for reading, stoking imagination, building linguistic excellence

Our daughter, Svwara, yesterday came to me at night, when I came back home and said that she had a surprise for me. The games of surprise keep happening at our home, all the time. It is a way of enthusing one another.

Svwara said that she would read four books to me that night before she went to bed. “Wow!,” was my response. As this is the reverse of the usual exercise. Every night before she hits the bed she wants either Indira or me read four to five books, that she would select.

Here are a couple of books that she read to me that night. I wanted to record for this article.

Yes, she is able to recognize the letters of language, at times she may even write the letters that is a mirror image of the letter. This may happen till the age of six.

But, she reads every book verbatim, without knowing the words!! Its just like any other rhyme that she learnt. The entire book is a rhyme. She remembers every word and sentence there in. Simply because these books have been read umpteen number of times, as part of her ritual every night.

For a four-year-old, Svwara’s vocabulary and expression in the English is way beyond her years. Many an elder is startled at her ability to construct complex sentences with vocabulary that even I may not use. Her ability to imagine and draw a visual in a context of a story, is fascinating.

All these have happened because of one and only one activity since her childhood – reading that Indira has imbibed in her since Svwara’s infancy, more than me.

Our elder daughter, Mallika (12) who is a voracious reader herself, who finishes big tomes every week, is surprised at Svwara’s ability to articulate such complex thoughts with great felicity. Mallika has been a precocious child herself and now she is enamoured of Svwara’s.

The greatest gift each one of us can really bestow to any child is reading. Hope this journey is just a beginning of an exciting journey of discovering the world through books and much much more.

Education Institutions at and as HEART of the developmental endeavours for INDIA of the future

One of my dreams has been to settle in the hinterland of India (either in the mountains or by the sea side) amidst a verdant, ever green forest, running a school (preferably) that makes a huge difference to community in a small way, at the same time being the model school for the entire nation.

One of my dear friends from Career Launcher, Nishant Pant, has taken such a leap and we have been interacting on what such a school be like. This morning I got an email from Nishant and I just responded.. The kind of work he intends to do is so inspiring, I thought of blogging this interaction….. just to keep inspiring myself, and perhaps a few others too..

Dear Sir,

I am writing a bit late to you as I was in process of moving houses. However, if you remember the conversation we had the other day over telephone…sir I require a bit of your help in making the school here a ‘hot-bed’ for lively and lovely activities- in this context, if you could work your contacts through some celebrities (artists, dancers, writers, theater people) to visit and conduct some good workshops here…..
Sir, Haldwani is a typical moufussil town like many other towns in India, where the thing which sells is really an electrifying personality or a well-established name. To quote an example, people here might become very happy on meeting a Chetan Bhagat or a Virat Kohli. Someone, like an Amartya Sen or a Harsha Bhogle may not work, at least as a large ‘crowd-puller’.
In fact, I have for now put the idea of SPIC MACAY on the back-burner.
Looking forward to your reply.

Dear Nishant,

Glad to receive your mail. I am really excited about your vision. I am seriously planning to be there with family soon (whenever we get a 3 day weekend break), in oct/nov.

I suggest you look at making the school a hot bed of activities that no one else can imagine…A few random thoughts, visualizing what I will do when I head to mountains and establish a centre for development in the school.

Instead of getting heroes from outside (we will to enable to broaden our vision), we need to create heroes from within, especially those with a vision and also skill sets, unmatched. We will find them.
I am sure you can do these regular workshops yourself –

a. Workshops for parents and teachers – I can send you ppts on Multiple-Intelligence and how parents and families can help the children really blossom.

b. Workshops on science and maths, kabaadSeJugaad etc – pour through www.arvindguptatoys.com; you can see his other videos also

c. SPIC MACAY is a big hit in all rural areas with dancers doing lecdem, become a member of the SPICMACAY groups on FB you will get to know what all happening and you can seek. You can be the anchor to the entire Kumaon area and organize one in a quarter. It is a big puller.

d. Also you keep an eye on artists in the remote areas of Kumaon who are very good and create their workshops and even once in a month/quarter mela for them to come and share as well as sell their wares..
We can implement the idea of creating our school as a community centre for development, HEART (ref Prof. Srivathsan’s idea) of the real India –

H – Healthcare : At our school or nearby villages…co-opting a few doctors; a net-enabled centre…
E – Education : of course this will be the starting point for everything..
A – Agriculture : how tech can facilitate farmers; taking initiatives to help farmers produce better
R – Rural Development – igniting a few initiatives

T – Tourism and Artist – centre for enabling and facilitating

look at http://www.vigyanashram.com pabal creating a school to promote entrepreneurial mindset, transforming the whole district

Agastya foundation (http://www.agastya.org) doing remarkable work to promote sciences and maths among children and communities
There are many many more videos of these and also of many such initiatives, I think all these can come together in your vision of excellence and enablement.
You can create a model school for the whole of UTTARAKHAND.
Just think BIG. With the kind of focus Modi is bringing in, we can do a lot.
looking forward to more interactions..

Love and wishes.

I am blogging this interaction… very exciting and I am sure it will inspire many..

Creating the Magic in humans – Investing time with children, enabling them excel

The first fourteen years of a child’s journey is very significant. The intellectual growth of a child happens during this phase. Only when critical thinking and problem solving dimension gains a critical mass, the physiological body matures.

If I have to be more specific, by the age of three, a child’s ability to observe and analyze a particular situation, i.e. mental faculties, match 80% of an adult; by the time she is eight the match is 90% adult, by fourteen 98% adult.

The question is, as an adult or a parent, how many of us do anything during this critical phase? What is the role of a parent during this critical phase of first fourteen years?

Sorry to say, most of the childhood is neglected, as they count for nothing in a society. Not to offend any, but in the current context, working mother’s want to get back to work immediately after the child’s birth. Without office, they feel like fish out of water. Since I have been in the education space and early childhood space is one of my passions, I invest a lot of time counseling a young mother about the significance of their presence in the first 4-5 years of the child’s life. The nuclear families have house-maids and nannies. Need to really think how this would really impact a child. Yes, crèches take care of the kids! But what impact does the crowded crèche leave on the child.

I do many a workshops on parenting and facilitating a child. My sessions on ‘Multiple intelligence’ and ‘Enabling the leader in your child’ are most sought-after among the parents of school-going children. Will upload a couple of sessions online… But I just thought of sharing a couple of thoughts here….

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Books are the best friends parents can ever help their children befriend with. Nothing can match books in igniting the imagination and creativity in a child. It needs a lot of investment initially – book reading, story telling, selecting and flooding home with books, oneself indulging in it regularly … Once you set them on that path, rest assured you have made their lives…

Creativity is a casualty in our school education system. Performance in the exams, marks take such an importance, that everything else is left behind. So even critical thinking and analytical skills take a beating. It is all about rote-learning and vomiting in the examination hall.

So parents and families really need to invest more time on building the ‘right brain’ – creativity and emotional intelligence. Only thing that we can give a child to really enable her excel, is time. Coming to time, any amount of time that we can give to a child is less …..

Will talk about other activities soon, that you could engage the child to excel…. till them invest time with books.

Thanks to Indira Ganesh, Mallika Nethra Sreenivasan is a book worm (;)) and Svwara imitates Mallika ….A Bookshop is the safest bet to keep both of them gainfully for the whole day, calmly and peacefully…

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

Government residential school, Rajpur road, DehradunGovernment residential school, Rajpur road, DehradunGovernment residential school, Rajpur road, DehradunGovernment residential school, Rajpur road, DehradunGovernment residential school, Rajpur road, DehradunGovernment residential school, Rajpur road, Dehradun
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Government residential school, Rajpur road, DehradunGovernment residential school, Rajpur road, DehradunGovernment residential school, Rajpur road, DehradunGovernment residential school, Rajpur road, DehradunGovernment residential school, Rajpur road, DehradunGovernment residential school, Rajpur road, Dehradun
Government residential school, Rajpur road, DehradunGovernment residential school, Rajpur road, DehradunGovernment residential school, Rajpur road, DehradunGovernment residential school, Rajpur road, DehradunGovernment residential school, Rajpur road, DehradunGovernment residential school, Rajpur road, Dehradun

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!

Wonderful Mentor’s day

Starting with waking up at 4:30am and rushing to the station pillion riding on a 2-wheeler early morning at 5am, it was a great beginning for an exciting day that was in store for me. It started pouring mid-way to station. Drenched, entered the station, bought the ticket from Durg to Raipur, an hour away. By the time train left at 6:25, I was reasonably dry and noticed young boys and girls entering the train. In a while, four of them joined my cubicle and started discussing about their subjects. Realized that they were engineering grads discussion digital electronics. On inquiring, found out that they were second year students from NIT Raipur. I borrowed the book and browsed through, as I was not able to really figure out Karnaugh Map etc that I studied way back in 1986, a good quarter century ago! It was fun interacting with the youngsters. I realized that half of the train was heading to NIT Raipur from Bhilai!!

After an adventurous ride, got to Indus World School, Raipur and was delighted to see the excitement among the young students who are waiting to treat their mentors on the occasion of Teacher’s day. The whole day then on was full of surprises with children and mentors singing songs together, the mentors dancing to the music selected by the children, an audio visual of all the mentors with an interesting backgournd music, all the way cheered by students and mentors alike.

In the afternoon, all mentors were treated to a surprise lunch at Magneto mall and it was a gala affair worth witnessing with groups of mentors running around the food joints around the court to get their favourite dishes, but eventually every one grabbing from every other plate. They almost tasted all that the food court had to offer! They were no better than kids!

The final stretch of one hour in the electronic games arena witnessed a complete pell-mell with every mentor trying to play every game and a few hard fought competitions too. Children if were around would have chuckled all the way and may even shared that ‘we are better’!

Raj, the principal, acknowledged every one by giving away token appreciation to one and all for contributing to the journey of the school. Finally Raj took pains to see me off at the airport.

To my utter surprise, I watched Kiranji, founder of SPICMACAY and a couple of more elderly volunteers entering the security area ahead of me. They too were surprised by my arrival. I admire this gentleman, Kiranji, who has given his precious life for the cause of spreading culture among the youth along with the band of dedicated volunteers. They were heading back from Chattisgarh state convention, that I missed by a couple of hours. Kiranji shared with me the developments and how the whole state – Governor, CM and ministers all laid red carpet for SPICMACAY and the promise that the future holds.. I loved the interaction, as Kiranji emphasised that we will have to grow 10 folds this year and only way to do it is to push state governments to work towards reaching out at least 5000 government schools this year. I was taken in by the enthusiasm and the passion of this 60 year young gentleman.

While standing in the queue to get out of the waiting lounge to board the flight, I noticed a very familiar face being checked by the security. I smiled at him and he too acknowledged. Once he collected his hand baggage, he walked towards me and I confessed to him that he was very familiar and wanted to know whether he is Mr. Binayak Sen, the civil liberty activist. He said ‘yes’. I was humbled by this gentleman walking all the way and asking me who I was and what I was in Raipur for, just because I smiled at him from a good fifteen feet. We had a short chat as he was heading to Kolkata and my flight to Delhi was boarding. He shared his contact details with a promise that we will be in touch with.

On reaching Delhi, I paid my humble tribute to my gurus, Kiranji and other elders by dropping them at their respective stations and homes and felt very good about my small contribution to the cause of mentors this day.

I want to say a big thanks to all mentors in my life, gurus, teachers in various schools and mentors, young and old, each one has contributed to what I am today. Love you all. mmmmch..

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