Shishuvan’s trip to Durshet Forest Lodge

Durshet-961556_1The big day it was – Friday, January 9, 2015. Kavya and her classmates why just classmates the entire Class IV was going on a field trip to Durshet Forest Lodge near Adlabs Imagica. Shishuvan also has this concept of parent volunteers and this time they wanted only Fathers. I was one of the 12 Fathers entrusted with this mammoth task of handling 108 kids. Honestly, they may look like kids but these 10 year olds when they gang up together, are an extra energised combination. We were to report to school at 0630 and believe me waking up at 0800 is a challenge for Kavya on normal days but that day waking up at 0500 was a breeze despite having slept past midnight. She was ready before me at 0600 which is another record! Kids they never cease to impress. All they need is a motive close to their hearts and they are all set – come hell or waters high.

The school ground resembled a crowded bus depot with a melee of parents ensuring the last-minute instructions to their wards. After all it was their first overnight trip and there would be no phone calls, no Whatsapp updates etc. (Volunteers were specifically instructed not to use Whatsapp and the network there was abysmally slow – 2G – so much for Whatsapp)

We left at 0700 in three buses for the 3 divisions. One thing I learnt is that they don’t permit any Bollywood songs so the kids need to be creative and think of songs other than Bollywood. The only song that I could remember (aside of the usual picnic songs we grew up with) was O La Paloma Blanca. I distinctly remember Adil and me singing it on the stage in school. As the kids sang their songs (they have a school song too. Impressive!), we fathers were busy exchanging notes on what each one of us did etc.

Reached there at 0900 and it was a very nice place. Kids swarmed to the ground so it appeared like a sea of yellow and green all over. They divided the children in groups of 9 so each dad had to take care of 9 kids and they had ensured that no father gets to watch over his own kid. I just tried to ensure Kavya had breakfast in the morning. Next thing I am instructed by her is “Treat me like any of the other 108 kids!” I was stunned.

They had different sets of activities such as ladder climbing, team game, map making. Interesting team games and the best thing was when kids would encourage each other to deliver. Wow!! It didn’t matter if they were from the same division or not. Encourage and enjoy! After a sumptuous lunch, there was rest but in the company of the kids, sleep was ruled out for me.

In the afternoon the kids had an enthralling set of activities – rappelling and zip lining. An amazing experience and every child (save and except a solitary case) made it. Absolutely no inhibitions. They didn’t give a damn about fear of falling, failing etc. And this time the support from other students was just deafening. Each one egged on the other to carry on with cries of “Come on, you can do it” echoing in the air all the time.

In the evening, they had to do some entertainment activity so each group was working hard at being creative and they had to ensure participation from the entire team. Some danced (some dance to remember, some dance to forget – Hotel California by The Eagles) while some presented skits. At night a bonfire with the local talent performing some amazing stunts which as a yoga student made me realise that even though they looked like stunts they were well-practiced yogasanas.

The next morning, I was woke up not by the alarm but by the boys! Amazing energy. They were out at the appointed hour and they had to gather some natural waste such as fallen leaves, twigs etc. and make a presentation. Interesting to see kids work on such things. We then went to a village and met the locals there. Understood their way of life. We also visited the local school. Returned to the resort for a game of treasure hunt and then lunch.

Boarded the bus and left at 1600 sharp as per schedule and entered the school gates at 1827 again 3 minutes ahead of schedule.

Takeaways:

  • Children are naughty PERIOD. They may paint a docile picture at home but when with their friends they are something else. (But let us be candid weren’t we the same?) Their collective energy is infectious.
  • The teachers insisted that children eat salads, vegetables during meals and not just the stuff they liked (sweets etc.).
  • Anyone reading this blog for next year, don’t worry. The kids took good care of me. And the school ensured all of us were well fed. And yes I didn’t lose a miligram of weight.
  • Kids love to get away from parents so let them be independent. They learnt how to pack and unpack their bags and lug the heavy luggage (for those who got that) on their own. Parents, please consider how much you load your child with. Be practical. It is only for one night. And when the school has said no food, please don’t give the children food. They as it is stuff you with food.
  • And don’t worry about your child falling sick (Mothers PLEASE note). We had one child who was feverish and he was well cared for.
  • Also safety maybe a concern for parents but the activities were as safe as they could be unless you are paranoid about lightning striking or the roof falling only on your child for which there is no cure.
  • Reminded me of all my school trips. I was so nostalgic that on Sunday our school Whatsapp group more than doubled in a matter of a few hours and yes we are planning a reunion picnic.

Take a look at the pictures here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsk6YnS55

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Shishuvan’s Project Day 2014

2014-07-26 10.27.15Kavya’s school, Shishuvan held their Project Day 2014 on July 25th and 26th. As has been the norm every child participates in the event (will not wax eloquent on that lest I stray from my thoughts) The theme for Kavya and her class IV was India and her neighbours. Kavya had sung the Bangladeshi song (she said it was written by Rabindranath Tagore), the Pakistani song (which was more like a nice prayer) and the Chinese song not to forget a song in different languages including French and German words considering my little knowledge of all the languages. She was to introduce the Chinese song so as a Toastmaster in the making, it was my duty to coach her which I did and she carried it off with aplomb during the rehearsals at home.

Friday being a working day, I could not attend but Saturday made it with her by 0850 which was her reporting time. There was so much knowledge to imbibe from children. I went to her class first and was greeted by a huge map of India showing mountains, plains etc. and children would ask questions. It can be embarrassing believe me to tell a 10 year old that you don’t know something. They would then explain it all to me. Kavya and her friend were talking about National Symbols and would pose questions on that. There were a lot of other things including a word search in Hindi which for me was very tough. Then they had capitals of states and I was wronged when I said that the capital of Assam is Guwahati – It is Dispur for those who think like me:-) Learn from me!!! I learnt it from them. The children even wore the traditional attire for states and had the delicacies of that state on the table. The vada paavs and other items were sure tempting and I would joke with the kids if they were meant for me. The musical event then started and so I witnessed that as will be seen from the video links below. Kavya spoke well so yes she can be a Toastmaster if groomed well. Potential member in the making for Bombay Toastmasters 🙂

After that I strayed into the Class V rooms just to see what was in store for Kavya next year. It was impressive to see children at that age discussing solar photovoltaic and solar water heating systems. They even had a complete chart on the Solar Park in Gujarat which was worth reading. Sometimes you skim through news paper or magazine articles but these posters are short and the copy is crisp so you can gain the gyaan you want. Try it if you haven’t.

Came back to Kavya’s class ie Standard IV and saw the Indian monuments made by them. Well, don’t expect models to be replicas of what you actually see but these were children’s ways of portraying. Kavya had chewed my head over some words on Howrah Bridge which I gave to her thanks to Google & Wikipedia. Lo and behold, I see those words there along with their model of Howrah Bridge. Children maintain that veil of secrecy honestly. She wouldn’t divulge what to expect and it sure came as a surprise to see so many models made by the children.

The revelation for me was that they had actually contacted a school in Bangladesh and exchanged Powerpoint presentations with each other showing them their school, the country etc. And they received similar presentations from there as well. Wow. That was impressive indeed. I always wondered that pen friendship was all but over with the advent of Social media, e-mail etc. but no it is there in some other form. How I wish Kavya takes to pen friendship like my Dad (her Grandfather) and me. We have both enjoyed and continue to enjoy writing to friends over the years and they are now more than family to us.

Then heard this rhythmic loud drumming which was quite impressive so went up to the 4th floor and saw these two boys from VII standard playing drums (sorry but for a layman anything would be a drum even if it were a tabla or mridangam). They showed great dexterity and the crowds were equally enthusiastic in cheering them. Worth a dekko any day.

Enthusiastic parents and grandparents thronged the school but honestly it was the enthusiasm of the students and teachers which could be sensed in the air and that made the whole event a memorable learning experience. Keep it up Shishuvan and keep it up Kavya and all students. Proud of you all.

Photographs available here

The beginning of the musical event with the children saying Hello available here

The Bangladeshi Song is here

The Pakistani Song is here

Kavya’s video introducing the Chinese song available here. Coincidentally I ran out of memory just when she finished speaking so couldn’t get the Chinese song.

Kavya’s entry into the next grade

4th gradeToday Kavya entered Grade 4. A new chapter in her life even if her school friends, the class teacher all remain the same. She has a new classroom on a floor above the previous one which means some more physical exercise (for her:-)

What was new about today? For starters, no cars allowed for drops at the school gate and they enforced it very well too. Their former principal and now executive director of the school was standing there on the road and ensured the rules weren’t broken.

This was a good opportunity for me as I have always enjoyed walking with Kavya and talking along the way. Today I told her how I was cycling up on a particular bridge and found the going tough. How it could hear her say “Come on papa you can do it” mentally and that helped me get over the hurdle. In a way this is good for us as Kavya gets ready early and reaches on time. I have a set time to return home from cycling which means I must leave on time too. All in all talk of the domino effect and we are experiencing it.

Thank you Shishuvan. Thanks to this simple rule, Kavya and me get to spend quality time together.

Kavya’s Annual Sports Day – 2014

Sports DayThe Annual Sports Day at Shishuvan – Kavya had to report at 0640 so the entire household was working in tandem to wake her up and then ensure she is pushed out of the house on time:-) I too was challenged today as went to bed quite late but was categorically informed by her last night that I had to be present as I had never attended her previous sports days (Why? Search me – Maybe traveling – a very convenient excuse to feign)

I reached at 0705 when they had just begun. Nice weather and the setup looked nice. Reminded me of the Sports days we had at DPYA at St. Xavier’s ground in Parel all these years. Checked in on the phone and as expected got a response from Prasanna about memories of those days. And another friend, Atul confirmed that he attended his son’s sports day last year at St. Xavier’s. Good old DPYA…. Nothing has changed except that the gang of 1983 is out in the open world now:-)

Coming back to the day today – what struck me is the march past. Kavya was one of the two flag bearers for her class. I spoke to one of the teachers there on how every class has a different design. She informed me that they had divided every class into different groups and each group came up with their own design after which the entire class voted for the best design. The selected one became the flag for the class on the Sports Day and the kids then all got together and made the flag in the Art Class. Impressive! Democratic process plus a chance for the group to express their rationale on designing what they did and why. So the children learnt (hard) selling their ideas too. Gearing up to pitch to potential investors in the future? Who knows…..

Another concept that I loved about the school is the chance for all to participate on the Annual Day (something that I had conveniently forgotten when at DPYA and bragged on stage always – apologies to my batchmates yet again). For the Sports Day also, they had the same principle and all the children participated. When I asked Kavya why some other person was not chosen as the flag bearer, she told me that he had done that role earlier. Impressive. Inculcate the leadership instinct in every child and make him / her feel special.

The games weren’t the usual 4*100 metres or such but consisted of fun games but which needed concentration and skill and they performed as a team. Honestly the games reminded me of Tele match that we had on TV during the black and white days. Fun yes but surely needed skills.

The announcements made by the Emcee/s pertained to the skills needed to perform in the respective game. Another notable thing was that children from the different classes read out parts of the speech which contained something that they had learnt. As a toastmaster (who has just given his first speech), realised that every child was playing a different role and was trying to excel in whatever they did however big or small, however visible or not.

I never knew the school had a band of their own (I thought that DPYA was the only one honestly and had then found the idea ridiculous). Having been for R D Burman’s events recently, realised that their band had a lot of focus on the brass section a la Kishore Soda and the children played it with aplomb. Of course they were from the senior section but kudos to them for doing so well.

Different themes they had like Kavya’s class did the Dandi March, the 4th standard children had lezim depicting the monsoons etc. Towards the end, some 50 parents also participated. After which the teachers participated.

All in all had a great time there and learnt first hand that every child is a leader – whether an R D Burman or an extempore speaker or an Olympic sprinter, only time will tell.

Photos uploaded here

Bomb Scare in school

school_bomb_threat

Yesterday, June 18, 2013 was eventful in some way. At about 1230 in the afternoon, I received an SMS from Kavya’s school, Shishuvan that they were closing down due to unavoidable circumstances and that we should collect the child from the school ground which is about 500 metres or so away from the school. I took it as one the usual messages but was surprised that the rains weren’t so bad as to warrant a closure. Called up wifey who was on her way to the school to give the lunch box (some devoted Mom she is honestly). She was kind of panicky as she said they weren’t allowed to drop the lunch box inside and were told instead to proceed to the ground to pick up the child. Knowing wifey and how easily she hits the panic button I just let it pass. Finally she called me when she was on her way to the ground that there was talk of a bomb in the school or such. Wow that was some news but I took it as a rumour. Checked twitter, Facebook and other online sites but there was no such mention. Kavya came home safely with wifey at about 1315. Then we got to know what had happened. Kavya was all excited as if some celebrity had visited school and said that there was a bomb in school and so they were all taken to the ground. Since there were fewer teachers to handle such a catastrophe, students of the 9th and 10th volunteered (who knows it might be part of the school’s Disaster Management plan) and led them all out of the class and to the ground. Slowly news began trickling in that it was a hoax but in the evening the school promptly SMSed that it was business as usual from the next day. Also served an advisory not to believe / spread rumours. So this morning it was back to normalcy thankfully.

But key takeaways – Exemplary handling of the situation by the school management honestly. Evacuation of 1200 or 1300 children safely calls for some deftness of sorts which the management more than demonstrated. Kudos to all the teachers, volunteers of class 9, 10 and all the support staff too who helped pull this off. It sure called for maintaining your calm. As a friend, Arvind remarked on Facebook, Hats off to disaster management of school. I am glad Kavya is in good hands honestly.

Visit to Nehru Science Centre

2012-12-29 11.39.21Saturday, December 29, 2012 had the privilege of visiting Nehru Science Centre in Worli. I had been there as a teen when my Dad took me there thanks to the novelty factor then but this time the reasons were different. As part of her EVS school homework at Shishuvan, she had to visit one of the places from the list provided and collect information about that place and write about it. I felt it was a good opportunity to take her to Nehru Science Centre rather than the usual (and easy) Gateway of India or Siddhivinayak Temple. Set out in the morning at 0945 with her and my nephew, Kshitij. The place opens by 10 am and is quite an obscure entrance opposite 4 Seasons Hotel in Worli. After parking the car (they have parking there so don’t you worry), the first thing that you see is a small garden with swings etc. The natural reaction of children is to jump on to the swings but I put my foot down and headed to the next garden which was a treasure trove of an introduction to principles of Physics and how things work. There was an introduction to gears which made it very playful and interesting. A 20 kg weight naturally kids wouldn’t be able to carry but with the gears in place they could lift it with ease (The picture was taken at that exhibit). Had to do some explaining of gears and what it did. There were many other experiments in that garden.

They had the sound pipe (I think that was the name) which was nothing but a long pipe and kids could actually shout into it and it would echo back. Most enjoyable. Of course not much was mentioned about with the science behind it but still worth experiencing.

Showed them the sundial (no need to go to Jantar Mantar in Delhi for showing that atleast:-)) Then they had a demo of the pin hole camera too and it was quite huge, made of wood and it could rotate too so made interesting viewing.

We headed for the movie show which was an IMAX dome screen and we watched a movie on Amazon River. I thought Mumbai had only the IMAX dome at Bhakti Park which was shut down but then here I find the IMAX dome. It was the first time for Kavya. After that we went for the 3D movie on dinosaurs which was good even if brief followed by an audio-visual on parts of the human body. Even I got to know the location of many of the parts of our body:-)

Then went through some of the thematic halls especially on computers and technology and light. Had a great time. Instead of planning for Kavya’s visit to Epcot Centre, why not spend a couple of days here in our own backyard? As an aside a few exhibits weren’t operational thanks to maybe the over zealous pressing of buttons by the visitors. Guys get a life. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t. Leave it and move on. Strongly feel that we need to maintain the place and market it solidly so that there is more to learn for all from these exhibits. And believe me the concept is awesome. Take your children there and believe me you too will enjoy.

Pictures from the visit can be viewed here.

Gandhi Jayanti 2012 – Let’s make a difference this time

Thanks to Google, I found the picture along side of the lyrics of Vaishnav Jan to. This used to be a bhajan that my late Grandmother (Ba as we used to call her) used to sing every night and she would insist on us sitting with our hands folded. Some of the lines I do remember even now but not the whole bhajan as a whole. Googled up on the meaning etc. and found that it is written by Narsinh Mehta. I also found out that it was Gandhiji’s favourite bhajan. Don’t know if Ba recited it every night out of reverence to the Lord or was it something to do with Gandhiji.

Yesterday at the Parents’ Sabha at Shishuvan, the children made a specific presentation of how they planned to spread awareness of Gandhiji’s ideologies on Gandhi Jayanti which is on October 2 every year and this year it happens to be a Tuesday. BTW Gandhi Jayanti is one of the 3 National holidays in India the other two being Republic Day and Independence Day. All these years Gandhi Jayanti for me (and hence Kavya too) has been a day to relax and enjoy sleeping in late but this time we are doing something different.

Students and teachers of Shishuvan are building on Shishuvan’s strong community of students and parents and the support of over 50 institutions located in the Matunga-Sion-Dadar-Wadala region. They plan to hold a peace march on Tuesday which will begin at 7 am sharp and is expected to cover 4.5 km in a span of about 2 hours.

The march will start from Shishuvan opposite Shradhanand Mahilashram in Matunga and will pass through Maheshwari Udyan, Adenwala Road, Five Gardens, turn right from Ruia College Signal on Dr. Ambedkar Road, then turn onto Deodhar Road to head towards Matunga Market, finally to turn at the Matunga Post Office, Bhandarkar Road, Maheshwari Udyan and end at Shishuvan School.

Kavya dressed in her school uniform and me in a white T shirt are surely going there and I would wish more and more people take part in this. If anyone wants to join, please contact me or visit http://www.shishuvan.com