Librarians Day – Cum – Seminar on ‘Excellence in School Librarianship through Best Practices





Role of Teachers, Parents, Students, Librarians and

Rajashekhar Devarai
Chief Librarian (Shishuvan School)

Celebration of Librarians is one of the Annual Events at Shishuvan. This is the  second successive year of celebration of this event. Shishuvan School Matunga,  Mumbai,  celebrated Librarians Day  on 12th August 2017  in honor of 125th birth anniversary of Dr. S.R. Ranganathan (widely known as Father of Library Science in India). The celebrations  were marked with a Seminar on “Excellence in School Librarianship through Best Practices – role of Teachers, Students, Parents, Librarians and others”.

This time the objective of the Seminar was on  Excellence in School Library Practices Vis a vis Best Practices. Democratic and Open School Philosophy of Shishuvan is maintained in Library Seminar by involving and addressing Parents, Teachers, Students, Librarians and others. Presentations were made, lectures were delivered by Teachers, Parents, Students and Librarians and others. The participants comprised of  students ,teachers, parents, librarians. Seminar stood out to  be unique as it involved major  stakeholders of school library service. The result was an useful gain and share  knowledge from each of the presenters and participants.  Organizers reasserted and re-assured  their approach to involve all stake holders in the forth coming events/activities. It was appreciated by one  and all and specially by the guest speakers and presenters.  Shishuvans commitment to School Library Service was amply visible in the deliberations of its teachers, students, parents and Library Staff.

Soon after the Lighting of the Lamp Ceremony, Mrs Shubadra Shenoy Principal of the School gave her welcome address. She emphasized on the role of Libraries  in Schools. She emphasized that libraries and their services are integral to Shishuvan and its academics from KG to Class X. She advised participants to be proactive and support actively in the Teaching Learning process.

Mr.Rajashekhar Devarai, Chief Librarian, in his introductory remarks emphasized on the importance of celebrating Librarians Day,  briefed the audience on the relevance of the Librarians Day in a School and dealt in  brief about the theme of the Seminar centering around the concepts like : School Libraries, Librarians, Excellence and Best Practices.

Mrs. Heeru Bhojwani (Information Curator and Coach – American School of Bombay), Mrs.Suhas Dave (Head Librarian – Gundecha Education Academy), Mrs Sangeeta Bhansali (Director – Kahani Tree), Mrs.Prashanti Ghadigaonkar / Geetmala S (Faculty Members – Muktangan) were the Core presenters. Mrs. Jamila Merchant, Mrs.Shraddha Tiwarekar, Mrs.Prajakta Bhandare, Shraddha Goyal and Mrs.Archana Balaji , Class VIII students Disha and Mihir presented / deliberated on behalf of Shishuvan. Kabir Class Student activated / energized the group with a timely break.

Highlight of the event was the Question Answer / Discussion Session moderated effectively by Preeti Santosh Malavade, Librarian of Vibgyor High Borivali. Questions were invited for all the presenters one by one. Various issues and concenrns were addressed. During the session Mrs Shamim Padamsee shared her ideas on Indian authors, Indian Books and Reading Events. She also briefed on the ongoing Leading Reading Schools of India Awards. Mrs.Namita Talreja Vice Principal gave presidential remarks. Mrs.Jamila Merchant thanked every one responsible for the success of the Event / Seminar.

Functional and state of art Libraries  are back bones of successful schooling according to IFLA/UNISCO School Library Manifesto (1995), “ School library globally are envisioned as a force for the  enchantment and improvement of Teaching and Learning through out the School Community for Educators as well as Students .”

The theme of the Seminar was well appreciated by every one. The major take away of the Seminar :

  1. Libraries can and should play important role in the Teaching / Learning Process.
  2. Librarians need to adopt professional approach and be professional in works and activities.
  3. Teachers, Students, Parents and others can contribute and impact effectively and appropriately to achieve excellence in school library service.
  1. It was truly a day filled with learning and ideas. – Nirupama Kaushik
  2. The Seminar which was organised was wonderful and it was helpful to gather innovative ideas.  There was a  good interactive session. Good knowledge to gain. – Amol Sonawane
  3. In Seminar I enjoyed and learned many new things such as “students can also be Librarians” and came to know about new activities that can be created and will help me during my classes. – Anon.
  4. The workshop / seminar was encouraging and I came across many new activiries that will help me in developing reading habits in children of my school – Anon.
  5. The Presentations were wonderful. I liked them.  – Hiya, Class V Student, Mahapragya Public School.
  6. Excellent Seminar.  I like all activities and discussions held during the Seminar.  I would like to attend such seminars again and again. Thank You. – Ms.Kamini Katkar, Librarian, PIS – CBSE, Powai
  7. Got very good information on Library functions. I could hear to Librarians with experience. Seminar was arranged in a very good way by Shishuvan. Thanks for celebrating our day i.e Librarians Day.  – Hemangini G Shah, Librarian, Sion.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Preparing Kids for a Digital Future


Rushabh Mehtarushabh meha python workshop

-founder, erpnext | the best code is the one that is not written


Last week, I was asked by the Principal of Shishuvan, the school my 6-yo daughter goes to, to talk with fellow parents on how to prepare for a digital future. What she had in mind was to talk to parents on how can we withstand the onslaught of social media, attack on our privacy, automation, malicious hacking and other such things we keep hearing of. The ferocious pace at which technology is creeping into our lives and mutating our relationships and our own sense of perception, and has instilled a fear in all of us. The fear of missing out (FOMO) generated by social media leaves us feeling empty and out of control.

In my view, whether we like it or not, the information revolution will most probably not be turned back. I am sure people living at the dawn of the industrial era would have had similar feelings. Instead of resisting and rolling back the industrial revolution, those who embraced it, went on to create unseen prosperity and wealth for themselves.

Even though the jury is not yet out on the industrial revolution, it has helped push the world population beyond seven billion, is the reason most of us are alive today, brought material comfort, healthcare, safety, equality, human rights, education and democracy to dark corners of the world, while at the same time destroyed native cultures, created a more unequal world and pushed the fragile planet on its edge.

The information revolution comes with its own promises and dark secrets.Instead of resisting it, I believe we must harness its power for our own good. At the same time, I do not naively believe that it will be a cure-all for the problems that face today.

“Software is eating the world”

We started the discussion with this often quoted 2011 phrase from Marc Andreessen, the co-creator of the world first web browser. Marc Andreessen was an undergraduate student when he helped create the web browser, and later went on to found Netscape and is now a famous technology investor. His embrace of technology at a very young age is behind his phenomenal impact and influence in the world.

Today the evidence is clear that software is eating the world. The world’s largest bookseller is Amazon, the largest Taxi company is Uber, the largest television network is Netflix, the world’s most valuable companies are AppleGoogle and Microsoft, the world’s most exciting car company is Tesla, the fastest growing entertainment segment is gaming. Image recognition and deep learning technologies are helping detect cancer and most of the scientific experiments are now conducted by computer simulations at a scale that is not possible physically.

Our kids too, are growing up in an online first age. The moment I tell my 6-yo that I do not know the answer of something, she will ask me to Google it. The leaps recently made in speech recognition and conversational technologies are just beginning to reach us. I think there is no doubt that we need to equip our children to navigate in this world.


There are three opportunities we discussed that the digital age brings to us.

1. Be a maker and not just a consumer

In this age it is very easy to be a maker. We have lots of tools available to us to build things for our selves, rather than just using something that is readily available. Any number of YouTube videos will show us how to learn to break down or build anything we want. When we make things we push our creative abilities and this gives us a deeper understanding of the world.

Maker Faire, UK

2. Learn to Code

Many leaders and thinkers believe that learning to program computers should be a life skill taught in school just like math. Since computers are already everywhere, including in your pocket, learning how to make these machines do work for you will give people a lot of advantage in whatever field they choose to pursue. Not learning to program computers, will leave us vulnerable to those who will learn to harness its power.

Today there are lots of online resources that help you learn computer programming, from to Khan Academy

Kids learning to code. Image:

3. Learn for Mastery

Like all fields, education itself is undergoing a huge revolution. The growth of online courses and platforms like Khan Academy are resulting in better quality of understanding in children. In his second TED Talk, Sal Khan, the founder of Khan Academy talks about mastery based learning. In the traditional system, even if you have gaps in your understanding, you are pushed along with the rest of the class to more and more advanced concepts. This results in loss of confidence and can derail the brightest of students, and even instills a fear of the subject itself. All of us who have done the traditional schooling have experienced this. Using online platforms, children can learn at their own pace and move to more advanced concepts only when the understand the more fundamental ones.

This opens up an opportunity where a large portion of a class can become masters at what they are learning, and not only a small gifted minority.

Sal Khan of Khan Academy

What can be done at School?

The first step is awareness. We need to have more conversations as teachers and parents on how we want to prepare for the information age. Some specific proposals include:

  1. Having a formal Computer Club
  2. Working through the computing curriculum to include programming at a younger age
  3. Involving children in IT activities at school, by understand how a school uses technology for its administration etc.
  4. Learning about and experimenting with using online tools to “flip the classroom” and move towards mastery based learning.


We had 50–60 parents in this session and the response was pretty overwhelming. I was expecting more skepticism, but most of the parents were probably experiencing the same as what I was. The computers are here, how can we help our kids handle them.

Few parents narrated their own experiences about their children losing confidence due to a concept they did not understand or how they were already using Khan Academy for their kids (surprisingly though, most parents did not know about Khan Academy). One parent who is working with a private tutorial also shared her experience that they saw engagement and quality of understanding go up after they tried flip the classroom strategy.

I think it was a great first step to start the conversation, now our challenge is to probably have more such conversations with parents and teachers and come up with concrete steps to implement.

The core philosophy of Shishuvan is based on Gandhian thought and anti-colonialism. The new age of colonialism is being brought upon us by the growing power of companies like Google, Amazon and Apple, which is based on their ability to harness the power of computing. The way we can resist is by being masters of our own tools. We need to equip our children at a young age to lead the way so that at least a handful can become leaders of the information age!

Online Conference on “Library as Classroom”

– A Brief Report


It was indeed a unique and first of its kind experience for me to participate in the Online Conference on “LIBRARY AS CLASSROOM” held on 16th June 2016.  The event was Organized by The Learning Revolution Project, sponsored and supported by School of Information (San Jose State University) and Follet. The whole exercise of registering for the conference to attending of the conference (12.30 am to 3.30 am) was educative and useful.  This format of Online Conference was hosted on the platform Blackboard Collaborate.  And now that the session and PPTs are accessible by any one at

I attended the sessions of M Elena Lopez, Jessamyn West, Briyan Kennedy, Patricia Sohmer, Sally Pweharangi and Sean Casserly.  As the Conference progressed questions by participants were answered by presenters and others.  Library As Classroom is going to bring in / invite whole new set of guidelines, thinking and practices.  It is going to impact on the way libraries look like and conduct their day today businesses.

library as classroom

Details of the Conference:

  • Title : Library as Classroom
  • Date : 16th June 2016
  • Venue : United States
  • Time : 12.30 am to 3.30 am
  • Conference Platform : Blackboard Collaborate
  • Organizer : The Learning Revolution Project

It is time for Teachers and Librarians to attend such online Conferences to update their knowledge and skills on a regular basis, without ever reaching the conference venue (physical). What else could be more satisfying than attending an international conference by being at your home. Future seems to be unimaginable and unpredictable as to how contemporary Education would be conceived and delivered to the desired stake holders.

Rajashekhar Devarai

Chief Librarian, Shishuvan



Hello Mr.Shakespeare – An Evening in Nehru Centre

-Rajashekhar, Chief Librarian, Shishuvan School.


Hello Mr.Shakespeare 1

Even after 400 years of his death this mans influence doe not seem to be diminishing by any count.  Was he an elitist, school, well read, highly educated or a genius? How is it that the mankind continues to relish his thoughts and writings.  What is the secret.?  This is the legacy of this great man who could not  live over 52 years. It was altogether a different break for me to listen to Dr.Coomi S . Vevaina yesterday evening at Nehru Centre Worli.

Shakespeare seems to be her life breath through her thoughts, writings and deliberations.  Let us see how popular Shakespeare remains 400 years after his death.  A simple Google search was done and the results are interesting and as follows ;

Keywords Number of results

13 00 00 000

Shakespeare (book search)

24 90 000

Shakespeare (video search)

11 00 000

Shakespeare (News Search)

1 94 000

Shakespeare in India (general search)

2 56 00 000


1 31 00 00 000


It is just amazing! The popularity of this man never seem to diminish.  Did he ever realise and imagine that is and his writings would turn out into several libraries, a phenomenon, a wave, an ever expanding school of thought, after 400 years after his death? Perhaps no.  He was a simple unassuming scholar, down to earth, wrote and played for common man of his times. What if he did not know he was a genius, a rare genius! Dr.Coomi’s stock on Shakespeare titled, ‘Hello Shakespeare was rich in contents, thought provoking and sensitising. She was emphatic on Shakespeare’s deep understanding of human psyche and                        social / divine affairs.

Hello Mr.Shakespeare   Ms Coomi

At the outset Dr.Coomi seemed to be excited to talk and interact. She was full of life and enthusiasm.  She was so proud to pronounce that Shakespeare continues to be more popular in Mexico and India than in his home land UK.  So engrossing was her engagement that I could not stop remembering best of my English teachers at my schools and colleges where I studied (Prof Mumbai, MB Biradar, Shalini Edith and Hanmanth Rao Masther). I wish and hope to listen to her talks often in future.

Thank you Ms.Donna Reen and Ms.Arati Desai for the kind invite to attend the event.

Event detail :

  • Interactive talk on Shakespeare titled, “Hello Mr.Shakespeare’ by Coomi S Venaina
  • Time : 4.30pm
  • Date : 21st April 2016
  • Venue : Nehru Centre (Discovery of India Building)

References :


We asked them to give it a try….now they keep asking for more!!


- by Mala Balamurugan 

Mala Balamurugan is a former Corporate Banker ,currently a mother of two  and a homemaker. Mala realized that the field of education is where she wanted to be and has completed her B.ed and She is a Parent Representative and an active  member of  the Discipline Committee. Her daughter Anaghaa Balamurugan is currently studying in class 4, and her son Shlok joins Shishuvan in the coming academic year. She joined Shishuvan two years and thoroughly enjoys coming to school, even when she is unwell.


You must be wondering what this title means!! Maybe try a new food, a new hobby, a new sport…??

How about getting your grey cells ask questions to your children, don’t you?..Now here’s your chance to answer!!

■        Sitting down with __________ provides children with a time for quiet and calmness in their busy lives.

■        ________ can stimulate  imagination and play.

■        _________ provoke curiosity and discussion.

■        ________ provides inspiration, thought and reflection

■        _________exposes children to a wide range of language features and vocabulary.

■        _________ fill a child’s mind with knowledge.

The answer to all this is just one word….did you guess it right? I am glad.

As a generation we are struggling with getting our children to hold a book in their hand, read, explore, think and walk on less travelled paths. We have been looking at ways to get them to leave that notepad, the mobile, the TV aside; even if it was for a little while. Many of us don’t know how to keep them gainfully occupied with something that does not harm them.

Most of us were looking for an opportunity that could help us do this. We had stopped believing that our children could have fun by just sitting calm – without a gadget or technology.

On 15th Oct 2015, World Reading Day, a day being celebrated in the memory of Dr. A P J Kalam; Shishuvan launched its maiden initiative of a Reading Challenge with the help of the British Council. The school’s Learning Resources Committee ( formerly known as the Discipline Committee ) was given full freedom and responsibility to run the challenge with the support of the Leadership and the Library team.

When we launched the programme we were not that hopeful of getting many registrations though we really wanted the parents to give this programme a try. But to our surprise we were able to convince over 200 parents and children from Sr.Kg to Std 7 ….and what a journey it has been!!

Children were to read atleast 6 books in 6 weeks, but many of them surprised us by reading so much more. As we were wrapping up the programme we glanced through many reviews written by the children and were so proud of the growth and enthusiasm in children. The best part was that they were themselves amazed at how they were able to read so much – so quickly.

The bookworm had bit them!! They had realised what we as parents and a school were trying to teach them for years…

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go. 

The British Council conducted various workshops where we saw craetive young minds at their best. The session where they had to write their own limericks brought out the writing skills in so many. Our children surprised the facilitators by their talent, wit and humour. One of the facilitators commented that I never expected a child to know and use the word “douse fire” when asked what will be another term you use to say put off the fire!! The magic of books had started rubbing off on them:))

The titles and the variety of BCL books, caught their interests and they realised that there can be so many different genres of books out there. By the end of the challenge many were so charged up that they wanted to read as much as possible and push their own limits.

The library staff shared:

Children wanted to keep exchanging new books and read different genres. Wherever they would see the library staff they would say…”Can we take another BCL book?”

The parents shared:

“Our children have learnt so many new words and are able to comprehend so much better. And the best part is they were gadget free!!”

I spent so much more time with my child during these 2 months, watching her read, reading some books by myself, reliving my childhood!!

 The children shared:

I didn’t know I could read fat books and complete them too!! The books were different – some stories scared me, some made me laugh, some were magical- but all were wonderful!! Can we keep reading more?

What else could we have asked for?

Even if we were able to ignite the minds of few children this year, we are hopeful this will inspire and motivate others to join the world of books and reap benefits of this silent friend for life!!

Thank you Shishuvan for this wonderful opportunity and experience!!

A peek into the Reading Challenge……


Teacher’s kick off anti-bullying campaign

While many of us were enjoying our summer vacations, our teachers were hard at work attending training sessions, workshops and planning the academic year ahead.

The leadership and teachers discussed areas that they would like to focus on this year and decided that three needed priority attention. The first area the school will be addressing is bullying and discipline.

Bullying is a form of aggressive behaviour in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. Bullying can take the form of physical contact, words or more subtle actions.

There are many different kinds of bullying and it’s important we say no and take a stand against all of them.

Teasing Groupism Physical
Spreading rumours Intentional exclusion Games like pen fight, catapulting (rubberband), red hands
Name calling Not sharing belongings Taking others’ possessions without permission/ extortion
Pairing Discrimination on the basis of food habits Throwing objects at others
Teasing on the basis of performance (academic/ extra-curricular Discrimination on the basis of economic status Physical fight
Teasing on the basis of economic status Discrimination on the basis of class/division
Cyberbullying Discrimination on the basis of religion

Neha Chheda, Director Shishuvan spoke about why bullying and discipline was one of the areas chosen.

“We’ve noticed how bullying and discipline issues have been on the rise in school. Students as young as pre-primary are getting physical in the corridors, while there are many cases of groupism and isolation in Middle School. We need to start addressing these issues now, understand why children are bullying and isolating classmates and see how we can help those at the receiving end. We need to take a strong stand against this now.”

The campaign has so far involved a skit starring Principal Shubadra Shenoy about bullies that was staged during Assembly. Standard III students have made posters for the campaign and teachers are raising the issue during circle time and PD sessions.

A series of workshops for parents  are being planned for the month of July on how to discipline children effectively. Do sign up when the circular is sent out.

It’s time we take a stand and say NO TO BULLYING in all it’s forms!



What happens to an idea

by Jai Sonwalkar

(What an idea Sirjee! Here Jai takes a sneak peek at what happens to an idea without going too much detail into this vast topic:)

A seed’s fate is a chance – 50/50. It might germinate into a seedling, manage to grow into a sapling and fight for resources like water and sunlight to emerge as a plant/tree. On the other hand, it might die at any of the above stages.

An idea is like this seed – it might germinate from the brain to the mindmap/drawing board, manage to convince the decision makers and become a blueprint and actually evolve into an action, a product/service, a practise, why even commercial success. On the other hand, it might die at any of the above stages.

Sometimes the idea dies even after it comes into action. The action readjusts, realigns and changes so much that the original idea is lost. Often the new action is better than the old idea it outgrew. Many times, it is not.

An idea in itself is not perpetual even if it may be long-lived. The idea of using a wheel seems perpetual enough, but wheels might serve a different purpose in the future.

So how does one protect an idea from being smothered, killed or dying naturally? Does one want to protect an idea at all? What about ideas that change with changing times and the ones that adamantly don’t?

Ideas on the whole never die – they are constantly replaced by others. So as long as brains are working, ideas will make their presence felt.

Getting back to my original question, the title of the post – What happens to an idea? It is not enough to just have an idea and gloat over it. What really counts is – transforming those ideas to something real. It’s not always easy nor always difficult.

There was a time when I’d sleep with a tiny notepad and a pencil under my pillow – ready for any idea that sprouts in my sub-conscious mind. It would keep me awake long enough to scribble it down. When I wrote it down, the idea would grow. It would either lead to a sleepless night, where the idea was twisting and turning to grow into a full-fledged plan. Or it would make me sleep with satisfaction – acknowledging that it was a good idea which can wait till morning for any action. I sleep over most my problems as the ideas to solve them visit me only at night.

(click to enlarge)

What do you do with your idea?

 (All images courtesy: Google) 


Monsters’ Valentine

~ Jai Sonwalkar

(Jai often tries to understand the other side…like the monsters under the bed and behind the closet door. After years of studying them she has found out that Monsters have a heart too….and a big appetite! Here’s a little love story she once witnessed involving two monsters…)

(image courtesy: google images)

“I’d get under the darkest bed, scare the oldest kid, if you’d only be mine!
I have the biggest closet waiting for you my love, be my valentine!”
wooed Gooey-green Glob as Snotella snorted coyly.

Snotella batted her only eyelid as Gooey-green’s tentacle wrapped around her.
But boo! What’s this? She unhinged her jaw
The Glob disappeared, inside her ravenous maw!

Sorry that I couldn’t flirt,
you see you were just what I wanted – a jelly dessert!”

No wonder they say,
for monstrosity’s sake –
the way to a monster’s heart is through her tummy,
Snotella found her true love, in green gummy!

Two days of ‘real’ fun

By Sahir D’souza

(Eighth grader Sahir has just finished writing his first collaborative novel with friend and fellow bibliophile Yashvi Gada. He serves as Minister of Human Resource Development, and his job includes mediating between fighting parties and helping them sit down and listen to each other. Noting down minutes of meetings is something he enjoys doing, especially when he can pack in some time to doodle around the notes. This article was first published in the February 2013 issue of Teacher Plus magazine:

My school, Shishuvan, hosts either a project-day or a fair every year. They are times of anticipation and fun for all of us.

Last year, which was my first year at the school, we had the fair. The topic was ‘fun’. In previous fairs, the topics had been ‘harmony’, ‘democracy’ and so on. This year, however, the topic was fun. Why fun? Well, the school noticed that quite a few children were indulging in activities that were supposed to be ‘fun’, but were really inhuman: there was a lot of physical fighting and rudeness. For this fair, we explored the safe activities that we put under the umbrella term, ‘fun’.

I was in the seventh grade then. We came up with a lot of games to put up and eventually shortlisted our favourites. Then, we were divided into groups to work on the various games. I worked with the ‘Kaun Banega Minutepati?’ stall. This was where the visitors would need to complete the games in a minute. In all, there were six games. There was the game called ‘Oolta Fulta’, which consisted of having to recite the alphabet backwards in a minute; we had ‘The Water Rusher’, where people needed to transfer water from one bowl to another, with a straw, in a minute; we also had ‘One-Minute Talkies’, consisting of three bowls, with age-appropriate topics (such as ‘house for young children, ‘Harry Potter’ for the teens and ‘newspapers’ for the adults), about which people had to speak for a minute. The teacher in charge of my stall, Vahbiz, was very supportive and helped us a lot. We assisted each other, worked with one another and became a firm team. We made posters advertising our stall and our games, and we put them up all over the school.

Finally, after a few weeks of preparing, the two big days of the fair arrived. A humungous poster, proclaiming ‘FUN!’ in larger-than-life letters, was strung up at the main gate. In the centre of the ground, a stage was erected, on which there were performances ever so often. We were given time-slots: two hours each, per day. We arrived early and put up the posters, made sure the items that we were going to use were in place and waited for the visitors.

At 4 or 4.30, people arrived. By 5, the ground was full of noisy, interested people. They visited the stalls; soon, some came to our ‘One-Minute Talkies’ stall. We told them the rules and had them speak. I remember that there was one lady who spoke with great force, about newspapers. People were generally ready and eager to talk. Those who were successful, or close, in speaking for a minute, were given badges saying things like ‘CHATTERBOX’ and so on. Quite a few people succeeded in saying the alphabet backwards. And by the end of the day, the table used for the water rusher stall was dripping wet. Every half-hour, there was a performance of some sort on the stage: there was a ‘Shivaji Dance’ by the eighth standard; a ‘soylattum’ dance by the sixth; while my class, the seventh, put up a qawwali, which we’d seen when we went to Delhi from school. The qawwali was a big hit; the group sang ‘Dum-a-dum mast kalander’ and ‘Chhaap tilak’. On the second day, during the last qawwali performance, all the teachers and our principal joined in. Our science teacher, Meera, even sang the aalaap, much to our delight.

The soylattum, which was performed by the sixth grade, was a combination of two South-Indian dances, which they (the sixth) had learnt when they had gone to Chennai. The Shivaji dance was also one the eighth had learnt on their visit to the Konkan. A stall from our class dealt with fortune telling: there was handwriting-analysis, zodiac signs and so on. It was rather fun, but not very believable. Another stall from our class had a laughter challenge. This consisted of the person who’d come to the stall trying to make one of the stall-members laugh, without touching them. I failed miserably to make my friend, Sushil, laugh. One also had to combine snippets from proverbs to create one’s own proverb. For example, birds of a feather make Jack a dull boy. The fifth grade had a stall that included a cardboard clown with two long pieces of string coming out of his mouth. We had to balance a ball between the strings and then try to get the ball through the clown’s mouth via the strings. Great fun! There was a food stall, too that served juice and also paani-poori, with pomegranate. Not bad.

The fair was a great success. We had lots and lots of visitors. With this fair, the school hoped that the students discovered various ways to have fun; ways in which both the parties enjoy themselves. ‘Real’ fun. In the end, we all went home, tired, spent, but extremely happy.

Speak up, be fearless!


By Chintan Girish Modi and Sini Santosh Nair

(Chintan and Sini facilitate Personal Development and English sessions with eighth graders at Shishuvan. Here they write about their interactions with students about freedom, sexuality, rape, fear and much else in the aftermath of the brutal rape and murder of the young woman in Delhi who has inspired many to speak up and be fearless. This article was first published in the February 2013 issue of Teacher Plus magazine: 

On the first day of school after our Christmas vacation, we sat down for Circle Time with one class of eighth graders. Welcoming them after the break, we asked what they would like to talk about. Amidst whispers and murmurs, Hriday spoke. “I want to ask a question. We have been hearing about all these protests in Delhi. I don’t understand why these people are blaming the government,” he said.

That was a powerful moment in our classroom. We did not have to work on setting the stage for a conversation we had been waiting to have with our students. That question brought us straight to the heart of what had been troubling us during that Christmas break – the gang rape and murder of the 23-year-old woman in Delhi. Newspapers and television channels were full of it, so were homes, streets and Facebook status updates. The students knew about what had happened. Some were able to recount details of what happened to the young woman and her male friend on the bus ride. Others knew about the protests happening in various cities, including some of the slogans; one of them: “Don’t tell me what to wear. Teach him not to stare.” Others were acquainted with the police investigations, the medical condition of the woman before and after she was flown to a hospital in Singapore, and also the Honey Singh concert in Gurgaon that got cancelled after strong public outrage against the lyrics of his songs. Sahir had also managed to watch the video of Kavitha Krishnan (National Secretary of All India Progressive Women’s Association) that had gone viral on YouTube and social networking websites owing to its powerful appeal for ‘bekhauf azaadi’.

Illustration by Manava Savla, student of Std. VIII

One of us had participated in a silent protest march in Mumbai and came back very moved and charged with the desire to do something substantial. One of us had written a blog post seething with rage at deep-seated patriarchal mindsets that valorize males and oppress females, often justifying inequalities, discrimination, and violence. This Circle Time session gave us a lovely opportunity to show our students what makes us sad, what inspires us, what makes us want to stand up and make a difference. The students in our class heard us speak passionately about sexual violence and about the sea of solidarity that emerged all over the country in response to a crime that was not one woman’s tragedy but a symbol of the hurt, pain and anger of multitudes of women who decided to stand up for themselves and of men who found the courage to stand alongside.

As teachers of young people, we believe that it is important to bring the world outside the classroom right inside. We were utterly convinced that we needed to discuss these things with the students, instead of trying to foolishly shield them from these uncomfortable, disturbing realities. In fact, ‘rape’ is a very important ‘event’ and ‘theme’ in To Kill a Mockingbird, the novel they are studying this year. This made our discussion even more topical and immediate.

A few days later, while planning a three-hour Integrated Learning session weaving in History, Hindi, and English, we decided to use the Kavitha Krishnan video as a starter. It drew a resounding applause from the students. It had clearly made an impact on them. They looked inspired and eager to share. They were able to understand and summarize the key arguments made by the speaker, and also offer their own insights on gender discrimination in our society.

They were also able to connect the video to Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Where the Mind is Without Fear’, a poem that is part of their curriculum and also their school diary, and spells out with remarkable intensity the same theme of living without fear, and breaking away from narrow societal frameworks to create a future that carries the promise of hope. In his notebook, Sahir wrote, “Tagore’s poem asks for equality and the eradication of social evils like divisions of caste and religions. Kavitha Krishnan is asking for the freedom of women to wear what they want, go where they want, when they want. The poem asks for the freedom to hold one’s head high, to search for knowledge without fear, to find reason in the darkness of thought. Kavitha Krishnan asks for fearless freedom, for stereotypical social norms to be pushed aside, for a world that ‘has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls.”

Fear is something that we rarely talk about though it is at the very root of the conflicts we are part of and surrounded by. Fear is a very tangible thing for children, as it is for adults. In their case, fear of asking a question that might invite a teacher’s ire, fear of giving a ‘wrong’ answer that might make their classmates laugh at them, fear of failing a test, fear of being punished by adults for not meeting up to their expectations, fear of not knowing how to communicate that one is being abused, etc. Big and small fears conspire to keep us away from realizing our full potential.

To take forward this theme, we decided to introduce the students to ‘Bol Ke Lab Azaad Hain Tere’ (Speak, for your tongue is free) a celebrated nazm by Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. We chose this not only for the meaning it carries but also because this was the poem recited by actor-activist Shabana Azmi at the silent protest march in Mumbai, and also because the young woman from Delhi was referred to as ‘Nirbhaya’ or the fearless one in several news reports.

The lyrics and metaphors were a bit difficult for them to understand but the English translation helped, and the meaning was effectively conveyed. We realized that when Hriday raised his hand and said, “The poet is saying that you have very little time, so use it well and speak what’s on your mind.” It is in this spirit that we wrote this piece. Students never fail to surprise and inspire us.

1. Kavitha Krishnan’s video on ‘Bekhauf Azaadi’

2. Video of Tina Sani singing ‘Bol Ke Lab Azaad Hain Tere’

3. Lyrics and translation of ‘Bol Ke Lab Azaad Hain Tere’

Note: Special thanks to Jaya Dayal and Vahbiz Dhalla who teach Hindi and History respectively, for helping with the Integrated Learning session mentioned above