Sunday, June 16, 2013

Takshashila Gurukulam

I have been terrible at updating this blog lately. Work has been crazy busy – this is our high season and we have had 1000+ visa applicants every day for a couple of months now. But it’s also transfer season and many of our colleagues are leaving and new ones are coming on board. I am now one of the seasoned officers (Ha!) and thus doing a lot of training. We also have tons of projects in addition to our regular consular workload, which means that one or both of us have to work late quite often. May and most of June were depressingly hot (read 110+ F/43+ C) so we spent them either cooped up in the house, at the pool or at air-conditioned spaces, which are not all that exciting. But the monsoon season started a couple of days ago and the temperature plunged down to 90s F/30s C, which is a lot more livable though now we have the mosquitoes and the Dengue they bring to worry about. But such is life in India…

This post is actually an update to the one about Nia’s Ninth Birthday, at which we collected donations in lieu of gifts for the birthday girl. The idea was for Paul and I to match the amount Nia collected in donations from her friends and then give the amount to girls in need. We had heard of a girls’ school 4 hours away in Uttar Pradesh but our plans changed a little when we realized that our friend Melanie was working with a different co-ed school in Uttar Pradesh called Takshashila Gurukulam and could put our donation to good use. Melanie was getting ready to leave India and was trying to finish a project she had started at the school – creating a multi-purpose room where the children could eat their breakfast and lunch but also where they could have art and music class and use it for various other purposes. She had started a mural in the room but did not have the money to finish the mural or purchase chairs and tables for the room. Our donation (about $400 in cash as well as clothes, books, toys and a small computer) would help her finish the project. 

We decided that we wanted to visit the school and meet the kids. So one Saturday, we loaded up our in-kind donations in the car and off we went. An hour and a half later we arrived at a couple of mostly-finished buildings.


The school is Dadri, Uttar Pradesh. It has two campuses – one for primary school students (nursery through grade 5), which also includes common areas and a dorm (pictured above) and the other for secondary school students (below).


The school is surrounded by fields in which many of the students work to help their families put food on their tables. We were told that a bunch of wild peacocks live in the fields around the school too, though we didn’t see any while we wee there.


Canadian Fellow, Abbey Marsden, who is teaching at the school, gave us a tour of the school. Our tour started with the dorms. The school is not a boarding school and many of the kids live with their families and commute to school but it does provide some space where underprivileged kids can board. Here are a couple of pictures of one of the dorm rooms, which was in the middle of renovations.



It was very modest and brought tears to my eyes. Another Fellow, Tariq Haq from U.S., who also teaches at the school, was helping brighten up the place by painting a mural of the solar system.

Next, we visited a 5th grade class, who were in the middle of a test but paused long enough to recite a couple of Karadi rhymes for us.


The teachers use these rhymes to teach the children English. I found one of the rhymes, called “I am just like you,” particularly moving. It teaches the children about various parts of India and their respective local languages but also introduces them to the ideas of diversity and tolerance. I wish I had known they were going to recite because I would have loved to take a video of them performing as it was quite charming but their impromptu performance caught me unprepared. I do want to share the rhyme with you though because I think it’s beautiful, so here’s an animated version:

Just like you

We visited every classroom and said hello to all the kids including the littlest ones, some of which were as young as 3. They were all excited to see us and though they were a little shy, most of them were happy to sing a song, tell us a little bit about themselves or ask us questions about where we were from.



In one of the secondary school classrooms the kids were working together on a letter to the editor of  India Times about violence against women. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is! It makes me excited about these kids’ future and so glad we decided to make a donation to the school.

We also visited the school’s library, which was beautifully decorated with a jungle mural.



Last but not least, we visited the canteen/multi-purpose room where our donation would go for purchasing of tables and chairs and finishing the lovely mural which looks like an illustration of the “I am just like you” rhyme mentioned above.



I will leave you with a couple more pictures – one of the children playing Kho Kho (a traditional Indian game) during recess ...


… and one of Nia at the entrance to the school.

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