My Work Elsewhere: Story behind this picture

A little intro into the part of my life where I get these kind of gifts every now and then.

Where I work, some passionate employees began an initiative four years back. In a nearby municipal primary school which is over a hundred years old (the teacher claims so), a few volunteers teach English and computer on daily basis without interrupting their job schedules (for free). I became a part of this initiative in January last year.

In the current academic session I look after standard one kids.

Recently, when the kids were not in a mood to be taught, I asked them to take out their notebooks and draw my picture. I will be honest. There are thirty five of them and even after seeing them every week for over six months now, I don’t remember their names. It is just tough. It was natural on my part hence, to believe that they go the same way about me.

Well, among many amusing and imaginative sketches, this one was by far my favorite.

The kid who is behind this piece of art is named Jeevan. I met him on his first day of school and what a scene it was. His grandma was trying to explain to me something in Marathi, which I was pretending to understand and this little chap was busy throwing tantrums (along with his shoes and water bottle) at me.

Unlike we uptight middle class kids who begin at nursery, then via kinder gardens (lower and upper) go to class one as an experienced senior, most children at government schools begin their education from standard one.

So on Jeevan’s first day, his grandma sat throughout my one hour and perhaps throughout the day right outside the school.  As far as Jeevan himself is concerned, he didn’t open his bag, didn’t bother to take out his notebook, slate or whatever else he had in there. Every time I instructed something, he simply shook his head left and right and kept his hands folded. He was in a position of defense with his water bottle in hand, ready to strike me if I moved towards him. His eyes stayed red and big and ready to shed tears at any moment.

I am of course not a trained teacher. I am also not a cute looking ‘Didi’ whose face might pacify an angry hotheaded child. I ignored him in that class after a while.

Next few weeks were no different. Neither did Jeevan speak a word, nor did he open his bag.

Then, monsoons came. Monsoons in Pune are as stubborn as Jeevan. Once they are here, they don’t go away easily. From June to September or October, there was not a single minute when it was not raining except for this one fine morning when the Sun came out and day was all bright and beautiful.

I went to school and on that day we had the following poem to read,

Rain Rain Come Again

We Will Play Another game

Rain Rain Do not Fail

Paper boats we will Sail.

I tried a simple exercise. I asked every child to make paper boats. Much like me, many of them didn’t know how to make one (don’t judge me). Jeevan was not one of us though. He was an expert and that was the first time he truly took interest in my class. Then, once everyone had a paper boat each in their hands, we began to act and dance and sang the poem.

During our third recital, suddenly it began to shower heavily. All the kids clapped. To them, this poem was some sacred mantra to call the rain.

That is where the boat in the picture found its place. Till this day, every time I enter the class, Jeevan and others start singing ‘Rain Rain’. Their teacher just giggles, sitting at her desk.

When I asked Jeevan about the use of colors in his sketch of ‘Anurag Dada’, he just laughed and said,

‘G for Joker. J for Joker. Z for Joker. Tumhi Joker Aaahat’

Actually, we have been revising Alphabets with spellings for a few months now and Jeevan intentionally says ‘G for Joker.’ and also ‘Z for Joker’ along with ‘J for Joker’.

It began with genuine mistakes on part of children and then they realised it was too much fun. When they are in mood, they simply come near me and start dancing and singing

‘G for Joker. J for Joker. Z for Joker’. In reply, I pick the kid up and put them in their place.

Jeevan loves this entire process. He puts his right hand on his hip like Amitabh Bachhan and sings

‘G for Joker. J for Joker. Z for Joker.’

Compared to my own versions of myself, I like this one way more. It is too good, isn’t it?

(First published on Youth Ki Awaaz)

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