Away to a Match!

” I come to the school everyday at 8 o’clock, ma’am ,” said Ajit.

“Why Ajit, doesn’t school start at 9.30 a.m. only?”

” I want to play, ma’am”

“What games do you play , Ajit?”

” Football, ma’am .”

A way had to be found to encourage these keen footies. Efforts to arrange for  coaching had so far not found the right person. Why not a football match was a brainwave that came floating in. And on that thought came another, Only Blue Mountain School will entertain these boys.

One call to Sophia, Headmistress and things got into motion immediately. Two coaches from the school came the next day to see our football ground ; theirs having some construction going on. Understandably, they were not too impressed. We will find a way they promised. And they did. They roped in students to clear stones and sand from parts of the ground . Students from 6th to 8th standards were ready and excited  to play against our team.

We are not an organised team. We’ve never played anywhere before, we warned them. Our children too are just learning the coaches assured us.

Just getting a team of 12 from the 3 classes was a task. Added to it was the fear that one or two would default , Saturday being a holiday. But the boys were super excited. Do we wear jerseys ma’am they asked. Next time we promised.

A van was arranged. The boys were ready from 11 a.m. , well before the scheduled 1.30 p.m. They had to be shooed home to eat some food before the match. Next time, we will give them lunch too, Sophia said later.  The girls too came, dressed colorfully as a bunch of birds.

We set off, with lots of singing and dancing on the way. At the school, we were led to the playground. It seemed huge. The stands were being built and everyone settled in.

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Coach Girish  followed protocol with both teams getting lined up and being introduced as proper gentlemen.  Kick off.. and the match began.

The audience was screaming , cheering and clapping for both teams.  BMS was more of a team and scored quickly. TMS school put up a great defence and kept the ball in one side of the ground. Half time came and the coach huddled with BMS, giving them plays. The TMS team stood forlorn. Until the van driver came along and got them into a huddle  giving them his views. Girish came later to encourage and give TMS some tips.

Everyone was hoping for a goal from TMS and just before time, they scored !

Sophia, graciously congratulated both teams and presented the TMS team with two balls.

All tired and very happy, we went in for a good tea followed by a tour of the school.

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When is the return match the boys asked?

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Up me Up High!

Up me up, Daddy,
Up me up high!

Up you go and down again,
My little pumpkin pie!

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“It is the child in man that is the source of his uniqueness and creativeness, and the playground is the optimal milieu for the unfolding of his capacities and talents”.

Eric Hoffer

Looking at the desolate concrete of the School at Thalaiyattumund, we decided to create a small play area for the junior children, a swing, a slide and if we could stretch the budget, add a seesaw.

When we consulted the ever-buoyant HM, Radha, she said “Why buy? Use the equipment stored in our shed!” To our horror, she assured us that a couple of swings, a climbing stack, a seesaw, volleyball posts, were all kept in storage for a number of years under lock and key.

Recovering, we got happy, thinking that our budget would be greatly benefited. Little did we realise that resurrecting old equipment would actually stretch the budget. Dealing with masons, smart-ass welders and  ‘mud-guys’  took a toll on patience, time and resources. Work was done, undone and redone.

The slide was the easiest part. Ordered from a manufacturer from Coimbatore, it got majestically installed  in a corner of the play area. As a bonus we bought a rocking seesaw which needs no installation.

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But then, children sliding down got hurt when they hit the rough concrete . The landing area beneath all the play equipment had to be covered with a soft material. Mud contractors quoted ridiculous amounts. Sand prices  had shot up incredibly. The felt like soft landing material seen in the play areas of fancy high rises was too fancily priced.

Research on the Net, consultations with a Professor at IIT, Chennai ; trips to school playgrounds followed. Local play areas had  beaten down grass underneath.  The IIT Proff suggested wood chips or strips of old rubber tyres instead. The new ideas met with resistance from the school staff . Eventually they turned out to be too expensive and we had to go back to haggle with the  the mud contractors.

One fine morning.. ‘ Its done’ he announced. Rushing there we found that he had covered the area with more rubble than mud. Asked him to remove it . While we searched for an alternative. For days after that, he would appear like Hamlet’s Ghost whenever we were in the vicinity, asking to be paid for the ‘work done’.

More consultations, haggling , and several peace talks later, he accepted to get better mud in place and cover with turf. The work is still in progress.

But looking at the happy faces of the children, its all worth it , don’t you think?

The smell of Baking!

What can be more wonderful than making your own cookies in any shape and size you can dream of , watching them being baked and then taking them home proudly to show the neighbourhood?

Jyothi of Ooty’s Goodies gave the children of Thalaiyattumund Municipal School this delicious opportunity. On 28th January, 2017, Nivishna and Kalyani ferried 12 kids of standard VIII to Jyothi’s cookie factory on Peytons Road, Ooty.

Dough in two colours was kept ready on the kneading table for them to cut shape and create to their hearts content. The kids used all the cutters of different shapes and sizes, competing to produce the most different cookies. Even the adults were drawn into the fun. Jyothi had to cry halt and push the trays into the oven. Meanwhile they were given a tour of the process . Questions flowed on and on.

They went home happy with their cookies in special bags. And of course, all of them want to become bakers when they grow up!

 

 

 

 

Willie Wonkah, can we meet?

Every child’s dream. A trip to a chocolate factory. And where else but at Ooty, the town of home made chocolates. We finally were able to make this dream happen on the 25th of January, although we knew Ooty would be crazily crowded on holidays. The hopes of the children were more important than  minor nuisances.

Girls from Thalaiyattumund Municipal School and boys from CMM HIgher Secondary School gathered at the library by 9 a.m. Several young and pretty young women gave up a precious holiday to make these children happy. The Mehtas -Jyothi, NIkita, Harshita were joined by more Mehtas from out-of-town-  and her friend, Garima. Aditi Devason  joined us at the Chocolate Musuem on HPF road.

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After a tour of the Musuem, with lots of oohs and aahs and of course, samples. we left to have some fun. Reaching Kamaraj Sagar, we hopped off the van to explore the small dam. Like any dam, it was a picturesque scene. Our spiel on power generation was cut short by the boys climbing up a steep wall, to either slide down or jump off in heart stopping leaps.

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Gharima teaches the girls how to whistle

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The girls triumphant, after they climb up too!

Further along the Mysore road, we found an empty spot to have lunch. Finally the children from both schools bonded, sharing food and jokes. Post lunch, we set off to explore the area. A tiny pond, flowers, meadows, sheep, cows… this perfect spot had it all.

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What can be more pleasing than to receive a flower?

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Nikita becomes one of them as she organises the girls in games. Aditi watches , bemused.

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A group memory of a wonderful day.

Its time for the Races

A friend of a friend, Ananthakrishnan , software engineer and  serious biker, introduced us to  Anil, of Apex Racing Academy  who promptly invited our children to come and spend a day watching a group of bikers train and prepare for  bike racing.

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Bikes, cars and speed seem to be part of the genetic buildup of boys. They wanted to go. More and more boys started appearing at the library in the evenings. We had a hard time restricting the list. We  chose not to take the girls, interest being the selective criterion.

On 20th December, we gathered at the library at 7 am. 20 boys from the 8th and 9th standards of CMM CSI School and Thalaiyattumund Municipal School and three volunteers- Kalyani, Nivishna and Harshita. After the initial confusion of waiting for one boy who finally turned up, frozen and unable to speak, having run 2 km to catch up with us, we finally left Ooty at 7.45 a.m. in a Swaraj Mazda.

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At 9 .30 we drove into Mettupalayam and were treated to a royal breakfast of dosai and pooris by Nivishna’s Aunt and Uncle . Then we proceeded to Chettipalayam, near Coimbatore, to the Kari Race Course.

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We were given a warm welcome by Anil of Apex Racing Training Academy and his team. The boys were allowed to ask all their questions about bikes and racing to the assembled group of bikers. Fastest bike. How they become bikers. Pitfalls. Fuel. Special tyres. Then the boys presented a play in mime about road safety which they had been practicing all week.  Pedestrian safety, safety for cyclists and bikers. They enjoyed the drama of accidents and carrying out the injured a great deal.

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Then we were led to a viewing gallery on top of a building from which there was a great view of the entire 2.5km racecourse . Bikers in training lined up below us and were cheered lustily by the boys as they revved up and moved out on to the tracks. As they sped around the curves and bends, the boys got very excited and there was a lot of adrenaline in the air.

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Bharath came and showed the boys his special helmet with a little video attached to the side. He had specially decorated it with plumes in bright yellow. The boys thronged around him to try on the helmet and ask questions about how they could race too. Study hard, get a good job and then spend your money on bikes and racing he told them.

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All too soon, it was lunch time. Boys were given biryani packets and a dessert of ice cream.  Post lunch , a theory class was given to the bikers with great detail about posture and the instructors showed them their mistakes. Meanwhile we watched other people race. The boys longed to go out on the track but without helmets and special suits, it wasn’t possible. As a sop, Anil got them to go around in the van.

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The grand finale was the photo shoot. All the bikes were arranged in a perfect semicircle. Each boy was hoisted on to the back of a bike as a pillion rider. And their day was made. With terrific poses, a lot of photos were shot and then we left , to start the journey back.

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Bonus was a generous donation by Apex Racing Academy to Siragugal . And this inspired the caterer of the race course Jayakumar, to donate his earning of the weekend to to us!

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With a short stop for tea and snacks at sivananda colony, we made it back to Ooty by 8 p.m., tired and very happy.

A Journey Through The History Of The Nilgiris

On the 14th of June, a Saturday, the children of the Thalaiyattumund  Municipal School andIMG_2324 C.M.M School along with Nakul (Roopa’s son) and his friend Sonaal were all geared up for a trip to Kotagiri accompanied by Kalyani, Nivishna and Roopa from Siragugal. The trip was planned as a fun filled learning experience, wherein, the children were taken on a nostalgic trip through the history of the Nilgiris.

The trip commenced at 10.30 A.M. armed with a lot of snacks, packed lunch and an enthusiastic bunch of kids. As soon as the van started, Nivishna encouraged the girls to sing and dance and it was indeed a feast to the eyes as they danced in sync to the tunes of many Tamil songs.

IMG_2329After an hour’s drive, they reached the Sullivan’s Memorial which is being run by Mr.Dharmalingam Venugopal who has been in pursuit of the history of Nilgiris for many years. It was indeed a very informative and learning experience for both the children and the adults as Mr.Venugopal took them through the painstaking journey of compiling and documenting the discovery of the Nilgiris by John Sullivan and the consequent changes and developments brought about by him.

 

After a tour of the whole library cum museum, theIMG_3234 boys started drifting off to the lawn to play some games whereas the more studious girls were interested in taking notes of the history.

Mr.Venugopal being the very gracious host invited the teachers for a cup of tea at his house which was a welcome relief to them after the herculean task of entertaining a bunch of hyper active kids!!

Lunch was served soon after, on the lawn and the children enjoyed a tasty spread. After lunch Roopa emphasised the need to avoid littering and made sure that all the disposable plates and glasses were properly stowed in garbage bags and put in the bins nearby.

IMG_3241After a couple of minutes of rest, the trip resumed to a nearby water fall. All the children enjoyed trekking down to the water fall and splashing water at each other under the watchful eyes of the teachers. After a short trek along the road, the view of the cascading water was revealed to them which had them mesmerised. Nivishna explained to the children how a water fall is formed and how the flowing water shapes the rocks into terraces. She also explained to them that no two leaves nor flowers will be exactly the same as nature has made them all unique. She then asked the children to draw ten different leaves and ten different flowers as home work. The inquisitive children had a lot of doubts to clear which Nivishna did very patiently. All this while, the kids did not miss posing for the photographs; especially the girls!

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After the trek, the children as well as the teachers were ready for a little bit of relaxation. So they decided to drop in at the Nehru Park in Kotagiri on their way back. The children welcomed the time to enjoy their snacks and to play in the park area.

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After an eventful day they all started their journey back. It was indeed a trip filled with fun and learning that left the kids asking for more.

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The Siragugal team hopes to take these underprivileged children on more such trips which will give them more exposure at the same time enhancing their knowledge about Nilgiris and the environment around them.

Contributed by Roopa

Education for a Caring Society – Vidyavanam1

Vidya vanam, school for tribal children at Anaikatty near Coimbatore conducted a National vidyavanam1Conference on Education for a Caring Society on May 29th -30th, 2014. Nivishna and Kalyani attended . It was a mind opening   experience. Supported by  polite, caring staff, impeccable arrangements and great food 🙂

Vidya Vanam is a wonderous place, set in the verdant hills of the Western ghats. It is a school run on alternate lines run by the wonderful, indomitable Mrs.Prema Rangachari,  supported by the Bhuvana Foundation, for the tribal children of the area.The success of the school is seen by the confidence with which the children speak, behave, sing and dance.

The two day conference brought together a number of intellectual,  questioning minds and a host of people working with children, many of them, school teachers. Interacting with like minded people was a real high.

‘ True education cannot stop with oneself;  it should diffuse into society.  We must understand that we are interdependent. Well being has a ripple effect . The concept of caring and sharing plays a crucial role.’ This was the underlying concept of the conference.

One heartwarming happening was hearing ‘ Siragugal? Yes, I ‘ve heard about it’  fairly often.

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Elegance is a Way of Life

It is a balmy, sunny  evening. Evening tea has been set up on the lawns. There are a couple of waiters in green blazers embroidered with ‘Fortunate to Serve you’ and bright smiles, standing behind a table covered with starched white linen. There are stacks of clean white plates, crisp napkins. There is a tray of orange cake cut in  thick slices. There is a generous heap of dainty  cookies. There is a choice of delicious coffee and aromatic tea to be served in large white cups.

And there are the children of Siragugal. Awed, excited and a little subdued by the elegance, they sit delicately on the wrought iron benches on the lawn, sipping tea and enjoying every moment of the experience.

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There is Chef Nataraj of Sullivan Court  with his tall cap of crisp white corrugated paper, playing host to children of Siragugal. He has just given them a tour of the lovely Hotel Sullivan Court from the kitchens to the Reception.

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The part they enjoyed immensely !

 

 

 

 

 

We gather around the circle of tree trunks to drink coffee and revel in the happiness of the excursion. We are happy that there are people like Nataraj and the GM, Murali of Sullivan Court who have  welcomed these children and allowed them a glimpse into a more elegant world.  We are happy to be in the sunshine, happy to have got this little cluster here today, happy in the harmony of this group, happy to be together, happy in the moment.

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Sensitising thro the Radio

On Saturday, 22nd of March, 2014, we set off for another round of recording for the local FM channel.

The concept is to record a series of programs where a teacher interacts with students on a variety of topics in English. The programs are to be broadcast during the lunch break and  every government school will be listening in.

It is a collaborative scheme between the CEO (Chief Educational Officer), Nilgiris and Madhavi, Station Director, AIR, Ooty. And Siragugal has been chosen to implement the program.

The students speak in English, make mistakes, are corrected on the air and carry on.  The idea is that children who are listening will connect more when children just like them are making mistakes and persevering, to speak correctly.

In this session, the topics were chosen to sensitize children about some of the issues that confront them. Each of our volunteers worked with the children on one topic, drawing out their thoughts about it. Only because we have been working with these children over a period of time, did they open up to us.

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Roopa interacted with the children about children with special needs and their reactions to them. The second topic was about  grandparents and older people whose needs too are a little special.

Sapna brought a little heartache to everyone discussing alcoholism and the scenes that happen everyday at home, as a result of this. The discussion went on to abandonment. Two of our children told their own stories.

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Kalyani discussed what they would do and need to do when they meet foreigners and other strange looking people. While Nivishna brought up pollution in various forms.

Jyothi managed a very lively discussion on computers . Sapna finished with the all consuming passion of TV watching and their favorite programs.

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Career Counselling -1

Come May, the children who have just passed Plus Two have little idea what to do next . Clutching their marksheets, they go to a college they have just heard of from a friend of a friend and enrol.  They have little idea what to do with their lives or where this course is going to take them. Their peers are their counsellors. Their parents have little option but to scrape the money together and acquiesce to their more educated, demanding children.

We thought we would give the children some idea of the courses and option available to them ahead of time. We would  take the people from various fields to the schools .

First on the list is Thalaiyattumund Municipal School. It is a middle school but children do tend to drop out after the eighth so it seems a good thing to put some ideas into their heads while they are still in school.

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We had 10 speakers. Radiga did a good job talking about a career in teaching. She really communicated and interacted with the children. Sheela Powell, one of our own members spoke of Self Employment , and how important education is to run a business. Kanmani spoke of life as a lab technician. Nivishna , again one of our members, of a career in Science. Surprisingly, some of the girls do want to continue into research. A surprise visit was by two women policewomen who told the children how difficult the life of a policeman/woman is.  Still they wanted to become police men. Inspector Hemalatha said how superior she feels even in a crowd of 1000. The morning finished with the popular and glamorous Sangeetha talking of the life of a beautician. Even the policewomen were enthralled and want lessons.

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Lunch break with a sponsored lunch for the children . They really enjoyed it.The teachers planned and cooked the lunch to cut costs.

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After lunch two nurses from Parvathi Nursing Home spoke about nursing. Roopa livened up the children throughout with little physical exercises. Geetha took notes. Jyothi turned up to enthuse the children. Vasanth from Vijaya Bank gave them a grounding in banking and general motivation. Then came Rotarians Krishnaraj and Dr. Nivesh, a dentist. Krishanraj donated small gifts to the children.

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The school was very cooperative. It depends on the Headmistress. Radha is a forward thinking and enthusiastic Headmistress , cooperative and happy when events take place in her school.

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A wonderful day. Some of the parents had been coerced into attending. But, most of them were barely interested in what was being said. I is either beyond their comprehension or they cannot focus on long term plans when day to day problems are so pressing.   That makes it all the more worthwhile  even if we have reached the minds of only  a dozen children and given them some direction .

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