Wednesday, December 22, 2010

When I went back to school…

“Remember…bus will leave at 8:30 sharp – be ready in the morning” Captain reminded me like a school headmaster. Any why not, it was ages since I went to school in a school bus. Come next morning, like a good student, guess what I was among the first one in the bus with the first and second grade Gurukulam students. Little did I knew, I was in for a big surprise that morning…

The moment I enter the bus, I see these little angles welcoming me like an old friend – I hear a chorus - “Good Morning Sir. Please come and have a seat next to me…” I was literally taken off guard by the confidence and the boldness of these tiny little kids. I was telling myself I was the most shy kid around at that age, and here are the bunch of kids who were literally assaulting me with their confidence! I took a seat next to Pavithra and asked her about her favorite poem, and guess what; the next opera was the “Boogie Woogie” rhyme. If this was less, Asmitha shouted “I like Cinderella story – do you want to hear it?” Pleasantly surprised, I nodded and next 20 minute ride witnessed a chorus on “Cinderella”, “Snow white” and the “Golden Axe” stories. I just couldn’t believe that these kids are first generation learners speaking so fluently to even take a native speaker by surprise. With such a roller coaster ride, I never realized we had already reached the school.

With an assembly of 143 students from LKG to 6th grade, roared with National Anthem during the weekly National Flag hoisting ceremony. I was pleasantly surprised to see the Vice Principal distributing gifts to the birthday kids during the assembly. In no time, students were back in class and school was buzzing with activity. As I enter the first grade, I’m greeted with “Good Morning Sir!” I couldn’t help noticing the artistic “English” on the blackboard with “E” beautifully morphed as a cute little cat. My curiosity zooms and I ask “Who has drawn this beautiful cat?” Quick comes the reply “It’s our English teacher. I can also draw it.” I gesture Aishwarya and with a confident stoke of hand, she mirrors the exact ‘painting’. Not to mention, I was really surprised to see this from a first grader.

I can go on and on with similar surprises throughout the day, but there is one particular incident which I can never forget my life. Its grade 6 and thought for the day on the blackboard is “Dare to do the right, fear to do the wrong”. Interesting I said and asked “Can anyone explain me the meaning of this thought?” I knew this was tricky for anyone to explain, but given the days experience I’d started to expect the unexpected now. Guess what, Pragadeesh summarizes it all – “When you do the right, you should come forward!”

The comment from Pragadeesh really made my day. I’ve been visiting Gurukulam since its humble beginning in 2004 with 20 students and a handful of volunteers who shared Captain’s vision of “breaking the viscous cycle of poverty-manual labor by empowerment through education to the under privileged”. With 143 students and a dedicated staff of 6 teachers and an academic advisor, Gurukulam has come a long way. What really amazes me is the fluency in English of these children and more importantly, the confidence these kids have developed. Hats off to the dedicated teachers, especially in an environment where the children are first generation learners.

I met Captain later in the say with some awe and he is quick to add ”We have come a long way and still have a long way to go. Lets get back to work!” It is with some sense of pride, I sign off my visit signing up for the next mission – raising $12,000 for the construction of upcoming science laboratory. Looks like an upheaval task, but as they say a thousand mile journey starts with a single step…I hope to catch up Gurukulam students working at the lab during my next visit… :-)