A Shishuvan parent writes about Project Day 2012

By Manish Kamdar

(Manish is the proud father of Kavya, a student of Std. II at Shishuvan. She joined the school last year. This piece first appeared on http://manishkamdar.wordpress.com/ and is being republished here with the author’s permission.)

I was wanting to post about this for sometime now but did not find the time / inclination to put down my thoughts. This was the first project day that Kavya attended and I knew that the theme was Matunga but did not quite know what to expect. Having been born and brought up and lived in this area for 44 years I thought I knew Matunga like the back of my palm. How mistaken I was!

Kavya was narrating to us her part of the speech at home. She spoke about Hindustan Petrol Pump which is the HP Pump behind Aurora Cinema. I did not even know the name of the pump till then. So much for my back of the palm gyaan! Kavya was to report at 9 am on the 3rd for her Project Day duty which sounded intriguing to me.

At the appointed hour we reached the class and she was with some other student. I heard her narrate to some parent (she was all giggles when she would narrate to me) and then went around the class listening to other children who told me about trams and horse carriages being in Matunga.

What impressed me was that they had put up their curriculum outside on the pin board in different shapes so you had rockets, helicopters and the likes of that. Added to that they had children’s work sheets displayed on the board too. Interesting to know that children were very creative in their imagination. They literally thought out of the box and not the conventional manner that we adults would think of.

I went around to some of the other rooms to see what they had. One of them was named Post Office. Intrigued me as I was expecting stuff on philately, my hobby. But it was something else. It was a mock Post office complete with a Post Master. They had different counters explaining different products that the post office sold such as Registered Letters etc. Learnt that you could open a savings account at a post office (at the young age of 44 from a child several years younger to me:-) Thanks to the project day!) Took pictures of some of the charts to show other children and also share with my dear friend, Marina in Venice (Kavya’s Marinafai) who works at the Post office in Venice.

One of the rooms spoke of charitable institutions in Matunga. Again me being me (a typical Scorpio), I thought I knew all the institutions. How wrong I was yet again. Found out that there is an institution called Pragati Kendra barely a kilometre from home (straight down that too) which I was unaware. Thanks to the camera on the phone, I could capture these posters.

I was scheduled to be one of the panelists on career counselling for the students of Class X. It was my first time doing such a thing but it was fun meeting different people like this doctor who happened to be a year junior to me from Ruia College. After that they took us around to some of the rooms. One of which was on Educational Institutions so heard them speak on Podar College, UICT (erstwhile UDCT) and then finally had to go hear about dear VJTI, my college! Honestly Matunga is an educational hub and I was lucky never to have missed Mom’s home-made lunch which also explains my Size 0 figure:-)))

 

Saw some science projects of which one was on Water Harvesting by the children of Class VII. The report itself was meticulously made and I was amazed at the depth these children went into these days even if it were thanks to the internet. Honestly at that age, I doubt if I knew even 10% of what they all knew. Saw this amazing robotic vehicle using Lego. And the children were using a PC to control the whole thing. Children this age know far too many things than we knew at their age! Took pictures for Siddharth, Hitesh’s son who is a Lego freak.

Just a few classes I could visit due to paucity of time but honestly even if would have spent 2 days there, I would still not be able to get to all the rooms. Came away impressed that Kavya was in good hands and she was learning a lot more than the rote learning that we had (not that I am complaining…. Things have changed for the better. That was then and this is now). But yes I must admit that by living in Matunga for 44 years did not make me the gyaani baba of Matunga. I learnt this for children much much younger to me:-) Look forward to the next Project Day and this time I will be going there sans my knowledge, just a clean slate.

Pictures that I took are here.

PS (September 28, 2012): One thing I forgot to make a mention of (and I wonder how I missed it) was the brilliant song on Matunga which was written by the students and enacted as well by them. It was truly a brilliant song and anyone familiar with Matunga and surrounding areas will love it. The video is taken with the phone so pardon me if you hear me laughing or commenting but thank your stars that I am not performing the song else you would have run away:-)))

Crossing borders, challenging stereotypes

By Anam Zakaria

(Anam works with the Citizens Archive of Pakistan, and lives in the beautiful city of Lahore. She became a friend of Shishuvan in February 2012, when three of our students and two of our teachers visited Lahore as part of the Exchange for Change programme facilitated by Routes 2 Roots and CAP. She visited Shishuvan in the last week of August during her trip to Mumbai.)

The morning before I was supposed to reach Shishuvan was spent finding the famous Babulnath Temple. The taxi driver, Anil, told me its history; the deity had risen from beneath the ground hundreds of years ago. Since then it was one of the most famous temples in Mumbai.

As we made our way to Matunga, Anil asked for directions from passersby and we found ourselves in a quiet narrow lane, surrounded by residential buildings. On one of the crossings, a parent who had just dropped off their child to school pointed straight. There I saw a row of yellow and green uniforms making their way forward. I got out of the taxi and followed them inside school and was welcomed by two friendly security guards. Armed with my visitor’s card I walked over to the reception. Behind the smiling lady (Vaishali) ran a slideshow of pictures of students involved in different activities. I could already feel a different energy about the school.

Anam with the External Affairs Ministers of our School Parliament

Growing up, most of the schools I was accustomed to had white or grey uniforms and a student council that was limited to senior school. Here, two young External Affairs Ministers (Yashvi, Dhvaneel) clad in yellow and green received me to tour me around the school. Students of high school, they walked me through the six floors at Shishuvan, allowing me to interact with students, visit the library and engage with the artwork and assignments displayed on the soft boards.

Swapping notes with Prachi on History Teaching across the border

I also had a chance to sit amongst the teachers during a Reflection Meeting, listening to the kind of holistic teaching and training Shishuvan was striving towards. The teachers too had a remarkable energy to them; they were always smiling and friendly. I even got a delicious lunch offer from one of them (Mini)!

Interacting with students of Std 10

The highlight of the day for me was the hour-long sessions I had with students of Grade 10 in two batches. At first the students had trouble believing I was from Pakistan. Every face had a question plastered across it- How can she be wearing her dress? Where is her dupatta¸or even her burqa? Nonetheless, soon the students opened up to me, thanks to the constant assurances from Chintan that they could ask me any questions that crossed their minds. And once they started, there was no stopping.

Hands shot up in the air and we had detailed and healthy discussions about issues ranging from women and minority rights to democracy, terrorism, visa policies, geography and lifestyles across the border. I was in awe of these students. At such a young age, they were so well informed, so inquisitive of their surroundings. I was amazed at how quickly they allowed their stereotypes to be challenged, at their pure quest of knowledge.

Lots of food for thought

Later, students of grade 10 made me a card. It said the following:

Dear Anam,

We the students of Standard 10th thank you for coming over and sharing valuable information about Pakistan, which changed our perspective about it.

We thoroughly enjoyed this session and look forward to many more. Thank you so much.

Hope you have a lovely stay in Mumbai! :-)

Shishuvan

The rest of my stay in Mumbai was indeed wonderful. I visited old temples, Hajji Ali, Prithvi Café, bookstores and several restaurants. But my visit to Shishuvan and speaking with these students is something that will continue to stick with me- these students showed me hope, they showed me tolerance and a window into what peaceful Indo-Pak relations can look like. A big thank you to all of you for making my visit so memorable.

 

The Naughtiest girl series

By Aman Dharod

(Aman, a student of Std IV, loves to read books and has contributed this review for the blog)

‘Naughtiest girl’ is the first in a series. It is written by Enid Blyton. The main character, Elizabeth Allen, is going to a boarding because she is a spoilt girl. The school’s name is Whyteleafe school. Every week the school has a meeting taken by the students. They share their problems there. They collect whatever money they have and get 2 pounds. Elizabeth decides to be very naughty and be sent home back from school. But what a surprise for her, she likes the school. To find out more, read the interesting series. My favourite character is Elizabeth as she is naughty and then turns out to be good.

Here are all the ten titles from the series:

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.