Tuesday, May 04, 2010

A Trip To The Planetarium - True Story - Teach India Campaign

A Trip To The Planetarium - True Story - Teach India Campaign

I reached early, about 15 minutes before schedule. Nervousness and a certain amount of apprehension gripped me. What, I asked myself, was I doing here? I was at a planetarium, waiting for a bus full of children to arrive. Children whom I have never seen, never interacted with, and more importantly had no clue how to deal with.

I joined the Teach India campaign and they mapped me to Dream A Dream. And I decided to test the waters by volunteering for the trip to the planetarium. What was I expected to do? Was it like babysitting? Just be a watchful eye? I had no clue. And there was only one way to find out.

So, on that fateful Sunday I set out to the planetarium, eagerly awaiting the experience that was to follow. A bus rolled in, and children were scrambling out, aged 6 years old to 17. I spotted someone doing a headcount and approached her gingerly, not sure whether these were the children that I was supposed to “watch” over. That’s when I met Pavithra. A volunteer with Dream A Dream for over a year. She informed me, to my dismay, that none of these kids could interact in English or Hindi.

Okaaaay.. Not only did I not know how to interact with the children, now I couldn’t, because I didn’t understand the language.  For a moment, I considered getting out of there. I would only be excess baggage for Pavithra, she would have had to double up as a translator.

Before I could act upon that thought, a rough circle was formed and after introductions, Pavithra gave some general instructions. Before she could finish the children ran off in all directions, their playful squeals and laughter enriching the otherwise planetarium’s empty playground.

As the outsider, I watched warily, wondering what I should do next, when a little girl put her hand in mine and pulled me towards the see-saw. Oh no, I thought, it’s too small, too undignified for me to be caught playing on it. But, the next thing I knew, I was on that see-saw, laughing with her. The ice broken, she held my hand and dragged me from one place to the other. The so called language barrier which I had put up disappeared without a trace. Soon thereafter, the other kids joined in. The older ones, all smiles, enquired about where I was from, what I did, so on and so forth.

After the show at the planetarium, there was a break for snacks. The same little girl, refused to eat anything given to her. The reason? She’d rather save it for her sisters. All this from a child who was barely 6 years old.

A round of  photographs, and the trip was over. Maybe for the children. For me, it was a revelation of sorts. I realized that language can never be a barrier between two people who wish to communicate. That, when you volunteer you don’t help anyone, you just rediscover yourself. That, things like laughter and joy are highly underrated. That, the most important lessons in life don’t always come from textbooks.

Guest Post By: Aditi Garde is passionate about writing.  

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