ANURAAG – the Festival of love

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-By Suchitra Potnis

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shishuvan celebrates Anuraag- the festival of love every year to mark the occasion of the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and remember his philosophy and value. This is also the time, when we connect with our alumni and invite them to organised the inter school competitions.

 

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This year, the festival was celebrated on Friday, 30th September 2016. The inter school competition saw great fervour among the participating teams. Around 200 students from 14 schools participated in this event from all over Mumbai including Children’s Academy (Ashok Nagar), Children’s Academy (Thakur complex), Sri Sri Ravishankar Vidyamadir, Auxilium School, Balmohan Vidyamandir and others.

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The inter-school competitions were held in the fields of Literary arts and Performing arts on the theme of “Tolerance”.

 

Happy Feet (Dance competition), Sur Sangam (Music competition), Artistica  (Art competition), Spin a Yarn (Story telling competition) and Who am I?(Monologue competition) were the competitions conducted during this event.

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The Shishuvan alumni and high school students were actively involved in various aspects of the event right from conceptualization of the theme/competitions, follow up with schools, school registrations, certificate writing, introduction of judges, till the felicitation of winners.

 

Each competition was judged by the experts in the field. Some of our alumni’s were also invited as Judges. The judges gave a valuable feedback, declared the winners and felicitated them towards the end of the competitions.

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Participating students came up with interesting stories, drawings, dance and music pieces. We also witnessed some thought provoking monologue acts in the “Who am I” competitions. The event concluded with felicitations of the winning schools across categories.

We look forward to celebrate the festival every year, as an opportunity to connect with our alumni and fellow participants.

 

 

You will never be forgotten by any of us!

By Eshwar Potnis

(Eshwar is an alumnus of our school, highly sought after for his impressive drawings and sketches. Here is the text of the farewell speech he made on 22nd December 2012  for Rachana Swar, our much-loved Biology teacher who has completed three years of service at Shishuvan and is now moving on to experience the joys of maternity.)

It is not easy for a new member to adapt to a new place. And it is definitely not easy if the new place is Shishuvan, a school with some vague and different ideals. Even tougher for a teacher. But this was not at all the case when Rachana was introduced to us as our new class teacher in the year 2010.

Plus to add to the troubles, she was given a new and a completely shuffled class. But this didn’t matter to her even a little bit. She took only a few days to know her batch and in no time she was one of us! And it was seen that she was a perfect fit for Shishuvan! A brilliant teacher, mentor and even a parent for some of us. She is an all-rounder. You could approach her at any time of the day with whatever problem or doubt you would have and she would leave you only with a perfect solution for it. She also wanted everyone to excel in her subjects and she was successful in doing so.

Rachana (teacher) with Rachna (student) at an outstation field visit

If this situation of Rachana leaving would have come anytime when I were still in school, maybe I would have said No to giving a farewell speech. Only because we bid our farewell and shed our tears a long time ago, I got the courage to come up here and even speak about this wonderful person.

For me personally, Rachana has been a perfect guardian, always supported me in difficult times as a Chief Minister (of my class) though it may have got controversial sometimes. Despite that, she always held our hand and faced every criticism with confidence, steadiness and with her beautiful smile.

Rachana, I feel proud to use the term ‘teacher’s pet’ here and say that I was privileged to be one, and that too for you! It has been an honour for us and for Shishuvan to have you, and as it is always mentioned, you will never be forgotten by any of us.

Au Revoir

By Shubadra Shenoy

(Shubadra is the vibrant High School HOD whose cabin is almost always filled with students and laughter. She wrote this poem for the first batch of tenth graders that passed out of Shishuvan last year. She dug this out of her inbox to revisit some happy memories with the students we fondly call our alumni.)

We animated our life through Flash
Integrated the environment with  all sciences.
I  learned alongside to be a good leader.
Together we made the best readers.

Our walk of Chandni  Chowk and sumptuous parathas
Cannot forget the show at Red Fort and the Sufi dargahs.
Lol to the breathtaking view of the Taj
Singing and dancing in the Jaipur Raj.

As  an united force we explored the beauty of Ranchi
How sad, we left behind Prachi!
The spectacular aerial view of the mine can never leave our hearts
And the homes of those girls – we loved every part.

Innovation to the highest saw every Project Day
Fun and frolic did not miss any Fair day
From Ekanki to Shakespeare at its best
Every Annual Day, You were better than the rest.

Find me if you can: Shubadra

You stood by me in all ups and downs.
Smiling and shining after every knockdown.
Encroaching on my room whenever you may
I will miss the noise and your voice everyday.

As we come together to the final test of this journey
I only pray god to bless you with the 3 Rs
This is to you, our first class X,
Success, belief and support every hour.

All the very best to each of you here. God bless!

Sammy – the play that made me look within

By Gerish Khemani

(Gerish describes himself as a hungry theatre practitioner who is in quest of self-fulfillment through stage, which to him is a familiar parallel universe. He has directed some magnificent and memorable plays for Shishuvan — Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Charandas Chor and The Wizard of Oz. The latest in the series was Sammy! The word that broke an empire, a play woven around Gandhi and other key historical personalities of the Indian freedom struggle. Here he recounts his process.)

Sammy! The word that broke an empire. It was a lengthy play by Partap Sharma that I had studied during my post-graduation. It seemed unlike any of my readings on Gandhi. I had to read it twice, if my memory serves me right, to understand what made this text so special. It was largely a conversation between Gandhi and the embodiment of his conscience, interspersed with historical episodes. It was beautiful. A narrative of over 50 years of life compressed in the span of 3 hours. The public and the internal life of Gandhi.  Action and Reaction between Gandhi and the world outside, action and reaction between Gandhi and his inner self. The process from becoming Mohan to Mahatma.

The main drama lay within. Like it lies within all of us. The perpetual battle between us and our conscience. The more conscientious the individual, the more intense the dramatic tension.

What makes Gandhi and perhaps all the great people so distinct from the rest of mankind perhaps is their self-reflexivity, this tendency to ceaselessly self-examine, to probe into the innermost recesses of their own consciousness, to perpetually wrestle with their own conscience. And doing Sammy would be a perfect way to get to know Gandhi, less verbose than the autobiography, and yet so true to the essence of that confessional narrative and connected to the larger narrative of political independence.


Class 10 brainstorming session

So how come Sammy and the Shishuvan Class 10 Annual day? How do the two fit together? Well, only a Shishuvan student could connect the two. Reflecting on the many possibilities for the Annual Day in the High School H.O.D room, Vardhan, the Shishuvan alumnus suggested a topic from the history curriculum. Nothing could be more pragmatic we thought. And instantly Gandhi came to mind. More because Gandhi seems to be ever-present in the Shishuvan consciousness and his practical ideas of self-sustenance, community, dialogue, and inter-religious tolerance find manifestation in the varied events and regular forums of the school. So what better way to bid farewell to this outgoing batch than to do a play on this most revered and debated national icon?  Moreover, this batch was special to me, as it was through them that I had begun my journey in education three years ago. The first bunch of students I had ever interacted with. And this could be just the perfect gift. A provocative one, no doubt!


Screen printed invitations for parents

They were 12 then. I was less certain of things then. And now they were a healthy, mentally vigorous 15.  I was less uncertain now. They were on the brink of an important transition. I was on the threshold of embarking on an epic narrative. It was a risk, both personal and artistic.

And so the process began. Readings and reflections on the abridged autobiography, discussion on celibacy and Gandhi’s overarching principle of self-restraint, his fundamental principal of internal swaraj connected to external swaraj, viewing the masterful cinematic biopic, Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi, simultaneous history lessons in class, auditions, segregation into direction, music, costume, lights departments and finally rehearsals.


Kasturba playfully taunts Mohan

8 to 10 assistants took care of the actor’s lines, their meanings, objectives; some helped me block the scenes; some helped the actors understand the nuanced feelings of the character and the relationship with the other characters; some took care of my conscience.


Std 10 crew prepping the lights

Being a play on Gandhi, the stage design was kept minimal. Three wooden platforms defined three spaces. Transactions between Gandhi and his friends and family largely took place on stage right; the centre one largely looked to emphasize the conscience, the heated and at times comforting interactions between Mohan and Mahatma; and the platform on the side of the audience right was inhabited by the mighty representatives of the Empire, a space which could not be violated, without personal risk.


Class rehearsals

Four Gandhis representing different phases of Gandhi’s life were chosen, each lending his own unique self to Gandhi’s maturing ideas and temperament at that evolutionary phase. The actors had to learn so much, internalize so much and then convincingly play it off against each other, which they did with rehearsed ease and dignity. The other departments constantly inspired by the teachers at hand successfully delivered the goods, adding a nostalgic charm, spiritual feel and musical vitality to the unfolding narrative.


Music team are a go!

Kudos to the students who managed the props at such a short notice. Kudos to the musicians who remembered to come in at the right moments in the play with their many songs and complicated and intense background score. Kudos to the students’ lights team who designed and operated the lights, creating the perfect atmosphere for the play. Kudos to the actors who accomplished so much in such a short time. Kudos to the assistants without whose creative inputs, work with the individual actors and on individual scenes the play wouldn’t have been what it turned out to be. Kudos to the costumes team for getting the wardrobe of historical characters perfectly right or in some cases, perfectly approximate. Kudos to the students whose contribution was minimal but a sense of teamwork commendable. Kudos to the teachers for making it all happen and making it all come together. Kudos to Shishuvan and Shubadra for permitting this violation of performance time. At 2 hours, this was unprecedented in the history of Shishuvan Annual Day plays.


A solemn Brit officer

In the post-annual day reflection, one of the student-actors shared how he had to come to understand Gandhi better, and had shed his initial discomfort regarding this controversial public figure; this indeed among other reflections was one of the most successful takeaways for me. Engaging discussions with teachers on the impossibly high ideals of Gandhi and its ramifications on his dear ones, his treatment of his wife initially which evolved into a more mutually-respectable one was what made the process so internally enriching. Sammy was just the most suitable text in making some of us transcend our often simplistic notions on Gandhi, which usually oscillate between blind reverence on one extreme and unthinking dislike for his ‘effeminate’ non-violence on the other. This play showed Mohan struggling through all human frailties, philosophical confusion, to attain truth, which made him more relatable and surely would inspire us in our own quests for truth.


A clichéd image, yet poignant

It’s been a truly fulfilling journey for me as an artist, educator and a human being. It was a special gift to this outgoing batch. Also a homage of a kind to a school that has profoundly altered me and many others.


Mohan and Mahatma

P.S.: ‘Sammy’ was what the indentured south Indian labourers (swamis) were derisively addressed as by the imperialists or the local white population. In the play, Gandhi was also slapped at and referred to as a Sammy, which means swami, which means a teacher, a teacher who lived up to the ideal of non-violent resistance through love.

(Photographs courtesy Harshil Vora and Jai Sonwalkar)

What I miss in college

By Vardhan Chheda

(Vardhan is one of our dear alumni. He keeps coming back to Shishuvan to soak in the energy, teach a few classes, and participate in our celebrations. He is now helping the school organize ‘Anuraag—The Festival of Love’ on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti.)

16th July was a Monday and the start of a new chapter in my life. It was the start of my college, marking the end of school and I was really excited about the journey ahead. As I started to learn what college is like and what I was going to get ahead, deep in my heart I felt something was missing.

The missing element was the atmosphere and learning of Shishuvan, the conversations I had with Neha (our Principal) and Kavita (our Executive Director), the “You are always welcome” attitude of Shubadra (our Head of Department in High School), the constant debates and arguments with the teachers, the fun I had with my friends and a lot more that I can’t describe. But in college everything is different. It seems that the heads and authorities focus more on momentary discipline than bringing the discipline within. The other day I was moving down the stairs and two of them were standing there, sending everyone to their classrooms. I didn’t understand why they had taken up menial responsibilities. I later realized that our Principal was in college and the governing Board meeting was going on that day. I got to understand all this was to impress the board and our dear Principal. But in Shishuvan we had nothing like this. We never put up a pretentious image. We were always ourselves even around visitors. We didn’t have to hide who we were.

The other vast difference was with the teachers I have in college and what I had in school. I have yet not found a Sneha who will solve all my doubts in class and even entertain me after school hours for extra help. I am still searching for a Prachi who would not proceed further with a concept till everyone would have understood it. I once asked my English teacher the difference between two figures of speech which I hadn’t understood well but instead of explaining the difference, she began to shout at me and left my doubt unsolved. But if I had Lalita there, then she would have made it a point to answer my query, and that would have given her the satisfaction of teaching that day. There are many more stories of many more teachers who I have not mentioned here but I am really thankful to them for being there with me during my life.

By this, I do not mean that I hate my college. It’s the best college I could have got into but I miss everything about Shishuvan. But this is not the end of it.

The boy who stopped looking like his face

By Snehal Vadher

(Snehal taught English at Shishuvan. He now works with The Pomegranate Workshop and teaches Creative Writing at St Xavier’s College.)

There once lived a little boy in The Land of No Mirrors who wandered day and night, from the dense coniferous forest in the north to the icy riverbed in the south, and if you chanced on meeting him while you were passing that region by, but never entering, you would want to ask, “What are you looking for, friend?” or “Have you lost something, son?” And as soon as you asked the question the boy would disappear—you would hear clearly the gurgling of the river, which in the outskirts becomes a slick stream of silvery fluid sucked by the sea—you would see the swaying of the pine tops in the wind (they would look like a giant, invisible hand caressing dog’s fur) and some tiny creature—a fox or a beaver—would come out of the forest, appearing to you nothing more than a black spot in the distance. But the boy would have gone. You continue your journey northwards, to The Town of Voices, where you search for a place to spend the night and with that heavy rucksack you lugged all the way, almost without stopping to take rest, you hardly realise it is night until a kind lady has offered you bed and warm onion soup by the fire, which is now and then showing vestiges of its former life in the coals. You tell this woman—whose age you cannot fathom: it could be anywhere between twenty five to fifty years—about the boy you met on your way and she would listen with her large glistening eyes and believe every word you utter until your spoon clinked with the china bowl, when she would politely excuse herself and wish you goodnight. You would toss and turn inside the blankets—their freshly-laundered smell too strong in the quiet of the room—where the light from the half moon, streaming through a window just above your head, would let you keep your eyes open and fall in and out of your thoughts until they became part of a dream. In the dream, you meet the boy once more, but this time you have journeyed into The Land of So Many Mirrors and this time, it is the boy who asks you a question, “Why have you come back?” he asks, in a manner that conveys his indifference to your answer, which you try to formulate in different ways, beginning sentences and letting them trail off into incomprehensible phrases like ‘o deer rain’ or ‘running off…the blue’s stone.’ You would soon awake to the meowing of cat inside your room and outside there would be bright sunshine and a clear sky, making you want start on your journey soon, a feeling that the delightful breakfast the kind lady would serve you would only strengthen, especially the raspberry compote which she made herself using wild berries. A song or a tune that went with the rhythm of your walking would quicken your pace and birds of various kinds, none of which you would have seen before, would keep drawing your sight further into the trees, sky or rooftops, as you approached The Town of Celebrations, where you would be surrounded by people awaiting your arrival and laughter and kisses would make you forget to give one or two gifts, which would lie at the bottom of your rucksack, and someone would have made your favourite curry.

You Helped Me Find Myself

 

By Harshil  Vora (Std X, 2011-12)

My ten years of school just got over with a BANG! The farewell was quite amazing and memorable. For this special occasion, I wished to write a poem (Thanks to the girl who encouraged me beautifully!) about my love, Shishuvan School. Here it goes:

The School That Grew Up With Me

It was your very first run,
As I walked into your hall
I was six and you were one,
I was tiny, you were small.

There were so many like me,
Yet just one like you,
How lonely you’d be,
I wish I knew.

When I was ten and you were four,
I understood you a little more.
You bought me a freedom store,
And let my curiosity soar.

When I was thirteen and you were seven,
I’d be moody and you’d be heaven.
I’d love and hate you together,
You’d treat me much much better.

When I was fifteen and you were nine,
You made sure that I felt fine.
Studying, sports and studying in line,
You kept me busy all the time.

When I turned sixteen, you ten,
I’d miss you every now and then.
I was busy and you were too.
We’d be so close, who knew?

I can shout your name anywhere.
And write you many rhymes,
I can flaunt your colours everywhere
And praise you a billion times.

I can say we are connected,
More than we were before.
You have left me very indebted.
I cannot ask you any more.

I am still sixteen and you are ten,
But I feel six and you feel one again.
It feels just a second ago when,
Our memorable journey had begun.

This is my lovely Story Of Us,
We are two in one, you see?.
I’ll love you, Forever and Always.
The School That Grew Up With Me.

There is a certain beauty in school life, apart from academics and schoolmates. It is the way it completely unintentionally, yet always, makes you find your true self. There is this inevitable journey in which you initially depend on everyone for your identity, but as time passes by, you grow up and find yourself in you. This Finding sets you apart from the world, gives you an identity more unique than your full name and creates a space for just you in this world.

There are these special and lovely people too, though very very rare and few. They help you change in the most subtle manner possible. They give you priceless opportunities. They are proud and glad when you grow. They are selfless and modest to its extremities, and love you for who you are. They are the reason you never want to leave school. They are people for whom every word of praise falls so short of their true worth, that it seems disrespectful. They are true friends that give you all they have, and very happily too. They are inspiration by being just themselves. They make Shishuvan worth every life. They are people I will never forget. They helped me find myself. Thank You Shishuvan! You really mean the world to me! <3

 

Princeton, here we come..

~ By Ruchi Chheda

Ruchi and 2 others attended a summer camp on Theoretical Computer Science in the Princeton University last year and she shares her experience in this article. She topped Shishuvan school in the Std Xth (ICSE Board Examination 2012).

“How will you prove this statement?” asked Professor Rajiv, drawing a graph on the board. And for the next hour, 16 of us, high school students, proposed ways to solve it, applying concepts from mathematics and computer science that he had just taught us.

This was a summer program, on Theoretical Computer Science, held in the Princeton University. Six of us from Shishuvan were selected after attending extra classes on Saturday after school. Unfortunately, 3 of them couldn’t make it due to visa problems. Anusha, Shagun and I decided to go for it; and we landed in a room full of students working, doing math. Some were drawing graphs on the board, testing out algorithms. Others were staring intently at a piece of paper, thinking. The students were working, but also having fun, and the room was bursting with excitement of discovery. This was where we were going to spend the next two months, learning and experiencing.

Studying at a university had a different feel to it altogether. The atmosphere was that of enthusiasm, exhilaration and friendliness, as we tried our hand at computer programming, solving undergraduate level problems and slowly mixing with the other students.

We also gained an insight into the field of computer science, and realized that it is not only about sitting on computers the entire day, but also mainly about designing fundamental algorithms on paper.

Making new friends and interacting with them was an enjoyable experience along with being an enlightening one. It was fun getting a peek into the lives of high school going American kids, who were very bright and brilliant at their work.

We were also in constant touch with our friends and teachers here at school, getting updates on what was being covered in class. This way we were able to study and stay at par with the rest of the class.

Time flew rapidly and we were back home soon. But we still talk about the course day in and day out. It was truly a great experience. We learnt everything from solving complicated math problems and writing elaborate codes to managing our time well. It definitely was hectic, having to do homework of the course as well as of school. But it was worth it and we all enjoyed a lot.


Only Rajiv and campus


Ruchi, Neha Chheda, Shagun Chheda, Anusha Chheda – well, not all of us are related :)


Our Computer Lab


Computer Science Building-the one in which we worked.

Journey of a decade in Shishuvan

Suman has been a part of Shishuvan’s journey right from day 1. She was amongst the first few members who were part of the Shishuvan team. Suman has been extremely resourceful in many areas in school. She has been an efficient and loving helper in the true sense. She has helped in regular day to day activities, supported teachers in planning, resource person for the high school SUPW classes and a mentor and guide for the support staff. She worked with the same energy and rigour right from day 1 till the day of her retirement. Her humour, creativity and straight forwardness have left a lasting impact on Shishuvan. Here are her words from her heart:

My journey in Shishuvan started on 10th October 2001. Initially we were only about 10 staff members and no students. The school was inaugurated on 15th October 2001. It was for the first time we met the students.


Kavita talking about Suman on her farewell.

The decade I spent in Shishuvan was very eventful. I had an opportunity to interact with other teachers and members of the management. I am happy to say that Shishuvan also brought out the hidden talent in me, enhancing my abilities. The open and free atmosphere of Shishuvan encouraged exchange of ideas.

I realised with great intensity the love children had for me while leaving the school, and I regret the fact that I have become a senior citizen. I also regret that I will miss the happy years I spent at Shishuvan. However I have many happy memories for company in days to come.

SUPW with Karan

By Karan Thakkar
(Karan took on the challenging task of leading the Campaigning class for Socially Useful Productive Work (SUPW) for the Middle School (Std V to VII). As a farewell gift, he gave us the EcoFest which sought to, and did, spread awareness about wildlife and its conservation.)

I had just quit my job when Gerish Khemani (one of the teachers at Shishuvan) invited me to visit Shishuvan. It was a regular day and I thought rather than sitting idle at home I would take this opportunity. So I went to Shishuvan. The first thing that struck me was the school uniform. It was bright in colour and more comfortable compared to most of the other school uniforms that I had seen. Although I didn’t have any preconceived notions about the school, I thought Shishuvan would be like any other school.

Gerish took me to Shubadra, the Head of Department, High School. I was surprised to see the warmth with which she accepted students in the cabin. Then I accompanied Gerish for his lecture. On my way to the classroom I noticed the respect with which students addressed the helping staff. I was pleasantly surprised until I reached the classroom. Working in a company makes you accustomed to discipline and professionalism. So here I was in the middle of students yelling and screaming and running around. I just couldn’t bear it. I wanted to leave the classroom as soon as possible. I was happy with the visit but was sure that I couldn’t teach.


Karan with his Campaigning team:(first row L-R) Shaily, Bhakti, Anushka, Riddhi and Maitri. (second row L-R) Tanay, Dhruvin, Karan, Raj, Niral.

While I was leaving, I met Kavita Anand, the Director of the school. What she said is something that I will never forget. “Students have immense potential. How you treat them is upto you.” That was my first and most important lesson as a teacher. So I took up the role of a SUPW teacher.

The reason I quit my job was to start my venture. One of the key skills of management is handling your team. Here I had a bunch of students with extreme potential and I had to channelize it. My role was to make them sensitive towards the environment. The initial few months were very difficult. I used get disappointed as we couldn’t achieve our goals. Then I realised that you have to be one of them and then take them slowly and steadily towards the goal. Over a period of 15 months, the students kept surprising me. We participated in skits, workshops, fairs etc.

I have quit the school now, but the school and students will always remain dear to me. Teaching has been one of the most unplanned decisions that I have taken so far. But something I am extremely happy about. Just like a child gives birth to a mother, a student gives birth to a teacher. I have learnt more than what I could teach, received more than what I could give.