The Telegraph
Thursday , June 19 , 2014
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Life lessons learnt in summer session with special children

A group of 16 teenaged friends has learnt not to fret about the summer heat to share knowledge with a gregarious bunch of underprivileged children and occasionally dance to Aaj blue hai pani pani with them.

These students, transitioning from school to college, had conducted art and craft, dance and writing workshops thrice a week at St. Stephen’s School, Bowbazar, for about 50 children from the economically weaker sections of society.

Come high heat or humidity, they reached the Phears Lane address sharp at 9am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the three-hour workshops.

Till a month ago, they were complaining about travelling in the heat even in their air-conditioned cars. After a few days with the kids, they started walking in the sun or taking public transport to reach the school.

Rhea Arora, the brain behind the month-long workshop, said they were now looking at life from a fresh perspective. “I have learnt a lot about hard work from these children. They know how to make use of limited opportunities, unlike most of us who take everything for granted. With just five crayon pencils they would make an effort to get the best picture possible.”

Rhea said she didn’t need to prod her friends to join her in this introspective journey, a sharing experience that goes beyond “post shares” on Facebook. All she did was share the idea over WhatsApp and explain how they could make the most of their transition time from Class XII to college in a constructive way, rather than idling away the vacation in malls and multiplexes.

“I initially hated the distance I had to travel in the heat. But not anymore… the children make you so happy. A lot of positive energy enters your system during interactions with these kids,” said Siya Mukerji of Tollygunge, who wrote this year’s ISC from La Martiniere for Girls.

“I had no work other than filling in and submitting college application forms. So I volunteered to spend time with the kids and teach them contemporary dance,” she said.

The team comprises friends from La Martiniere for girls and boys, Modern High, Loreto House, St. James’ and Calcutta International School.

They taught the kids various creative things like making envelopes, colourful vases from simple bottles, painting, creative writing and dancing to Yo Yo Honey Singh tunes and other popular numbers.

The children is now set to host an art and craft exhibition and bring out a school magazine for the first time ever.

“The children are very particular about what they are doing, besides being highly dedicated to their work. To make a paper chandelier, they would pick one sequin at a time and place it meticulously instead of dabbing it all at once,” said Devika Himatsingka of Loreto House, who had baked a cake for her young learners. “You can’t get annoyed with them. And they are so naturally well-disciplined,” she added.

Siya nodded in agreement. “They ask for my phone to play games and take turns… never fighting over it. A game on the phone makes them so excited. For us, it is just another game. Then you realise how lucky but indifferent we are. You respect these kids for being happy with their life, with whatever they have. They teach you to be happy,” she said.

Imran Zaki, the honorary secretary of the school in Bowbazar, praised the effort. “The students were committed and it was their idea. They devised the plan and executed it too. They are designing and editing the school magazine now.”

Rhea, Siya and the gang couldn’t be happier as some of the kids were so impressed with the workshop that they had brought their neighbourhood friends.

This was a reward worth more than a million smileys!