Kutties Carnival

‘Play is the work of childhood’ – Jean Piaget

To give the children a day of play and fun – a Carnival! – with magic and colour and wonder and games… the stuff that is spun in the depths of dreams and longings of every child came from the head of Jyothi. And was backed by every member of Siragugal with heart and soul.

A couple of meetings to discuss what where when who and how put the framework in . A morning of workshops and an afternoon of magic and games at the Thalaiyattumund School was the frame work decided on. A trial run so we could expand later to include more schools and more events.

10th March saw Roopa , Sangeeetha, Jyothi, Desiree, Nivishna and others gather to decorate the school with paper flowers and buntings and balloons. In view of sudden rains it was decided to host the even inside the classroom.

11th March, 2017. Only the 8th standard kids were asked to come and help with preparations. 60 children turned up to add to glorious confusion. But it was their day after all!

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A last minute gap in the morning slot was graciously filled in by Karuna Sendhilnathan with storytelling that held the kids rapt.

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Simultaneously Sapna held another workshop making puppets with socks.Adding eyes and giving names to their puppets engaged another set.

Juniors lined up for some fabulous face painting , while waiting they watched Tom and Jerry. With some of the parents from the Main Bazaar school who were included in the group.

Break at 11 and the kids lined up for cake made by Desiree , biscuits from Jyothi  and an orange drink.

Groups get interchanged for the workshops. All eyes are on the juniors who dazzle as Batman, Superman, Wolf, Bird and a host of other creatures.

Everyone enjoys a heart vegetable biryani made by Roopa’s cook. And ask for more. The ominous look of rain cuts short lunch  break.

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Shahul the magician shifts his show inside one classroom. These kids have not seen a magic show before and watch with open eyes.  Loath for the magic to stop.

Meanwhile volunteers are getting games stalls ready. Go Fish, Darts, Hoopla, carom, 7 more, Pin the tail, Memory game, 2 buckets and a Ball….. the volunteers start making up more games as kids line up again and again. The games become the greatest hit of the day and the children don’t want to stop playing ever.

We finally shoo them home with the help of the teachers at 5.30 p.m. and go home very happy and tired!

With our faces and hands painted !!  The child in each one of us !

The next day saw the painted faces in the HIndu and Thina malar.

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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?

New Shoes! Pretty Shoes!

As a spin off of the Sports Program, we wanted to give all the kids sports shoes so they could feel some pride in them and be encouraged to play.

The idea of collecting used  shoes was discussed and dropped as being too cumbersome. Matching shoes to each child would be difficult and may not happen. New shoes would be easier and much nicer for the children.

We decided to put out a campaign on Facebook. But even before we did that, contributions from friends and family began coming in which covered our costs and even stretched to a pair of socks for each child.

The shoes were sourced from a local shoe shop. They came and measured the kids sizes and delivered them to the school.

Distribution was on 22nd February, 2017 . It was a wonderful day of happiness for all of us, children and adults. Shalini who contributed her first salary, Desiree, Nivishna, Sangeetha, Roopa, Prema, and Kalyani happily distributed the shoes

Using the Sports Field

What started as a wild wish to create a skating rink for the children of the locality tamed down into practical , doable use of the playground next to the school.

The school could not claim exclusive rights to the playground because it is the only open space in the village and hence used for all kinds of games and village festivals.

Deciding to hold games from 4.30 to 5.30 every evening was the first step. Making it alternate days for boys and girls was the next. Balls and nets were bought. The children were enthusiastic and the games began  with volleyball and the more popular , football. The boys knew much more about the rules and taught us which we passed on to the girls.

Claiming the field for the one-hour has been a long and drawn out battle. First it was driving out the cattle which were used to grazing there. Then it was tackling the older boys of the village who had long established rights for cricket, marble and general hanging out. Cajoling, talking, persuasion, threats.. each day was a new trial.

Its taken more than 3 months to establish routines. Running, warm up exercises, and then the games.  The children are now stronger, faster and quick to pick up the ball and reluctant to let go.

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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Harshita joins in wholeheartelyIMG_3647

A group memory of a wonderful day.

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

Proud to be a Volunteer

Children are like blotting paper, wherever they go, they absorb what is around them. Having been associated with children from different walks of life for the past 4 – 5 years as a friend and a mentor at the Nilgiri Library; conducting storytelling sessions and craft classes, I have been able to tap into the imagination and talent of these little geniuses with ease. So it was undoubtedly with great interest that I welcomed the opportunity to work with under privileged children who were from in and around Ooty, through Siragugal.

Well, to be frank, at the onset, I was a little apprehensive about my inability to   IMG_1888communicate in the local language, i.e., Tamil. But as I am a positive thinker, I gave myself this opportunity to learn the language from these kids itself and in return teach them communicative English. Overall this seemed to be a perfect arrangement.

I soon realised that these children were much wealthier than we were; as they are street smart, aware and alert about their surroundings, have views about many  things and have loving natures with no inhibitions and with no strings attached unlike the other affluent people around.

I also came to understand from the other members of Siragugal that in order for the children to comprehend and start using English as their language of communication, their interest needed to be piqued through games and activities.

That is how it all started – a beautiful relationship of teaching and learning. It has been a very rewarding, entertaining and satisfactory journey so far. The small  positive changes in the way they talk, the way they behave and the way they interact with others brought about by the understanding of the etiquette  of this world makes us proud of the way we have been able to reach out to these children one step at a time.

For me, Siragugal has become a way of life which I look forward to everyday. I’m really grateful to my friends, Dr. Sheila and Sapna for introducing me to this wonderful platform and of course, to Kalyani aunty for welcoming me into her fold with open arms.

I just hope and wish that the children are as happy to be part of what I teach as I’m in learning from them.

 Roopa is one of those wonderful people who will be there if she says she will be there. One doesn’t have to cross check. Although she joined us fairly recently, she has fitted in perfectly. But  then anything executed by Roopa is always perfect. We are so proud and happy to have this committed member of Siragugal with us. 

 

 

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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Beautiful Thalaiyattumund!

IMG_1896This was the backdrop to our play. Painted by Kalyani in 24 hours. It specified the spirit of the play – a clean and beautiful environment.

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The Team: or most of it.

Daisy Paul came all the way from Coonoor to help it get staged. She was the originator of the idea of staging a play. Poor Daisy used to send the screenplay by mail and then turn up in a couple of days to find it all turned inside out.

Susan was the Theatre person. She started off by giving the children miming exercises, teaching them exaggerated movements; teaching them to let go and express, be free. In 6 days with an hour’s practice everyday, it was a wonderful effort.

Geetha turned up everyday to help the children practice their lines and make them go through it day after day.

Sapna turned up one day inspite of a lot of commitments and taught them a sizzling dance in one evening! The kids latched on and didn’t have to be taught again.They managed with little practice.

Jothi, Sumathi, turned up when they could to help.

Harshitha and Sangeetha helped a great deal with the props.

Sheela Nambiar helped with all the last minute props and masks of the tigers and bunny rabbits who were a great hit.

Kalyani, in whose home the practices where held had to supply tea and biscuits and generally driving people back and forth and getting them together.

The children were enthusiastic and energetic. So energetic and nonstop in their chatter and bickering that a great deal of the adult’s energy was spent in settling problems, wiping tears and getting them to make up. Another huge part was spent in discussing clothes and costumes. The need to apply ‘litick’ was discussed in great depth.

The play had 5 scenes with a great many comic elements which were enjoyed immensely. The theme was an old man talking to a young tourist and telling her of the days past when Thalaiyattumund was beautiful. Flashback to a scene of flowers and butterflies and gambolling tigers and rabbits and fresh water.

Cut to current day TM with a road that crooned and swayed. And silently moaned as housewives poured water and rubbish allover it. Greatly appreciated were the rowdies drinking and flinging bottles and cigarettes.

Interlude of a comic doctor who cures patients on his magic stool.

Then came the clean up brigade singing bits of paper and finally a sizzling dance.

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lots of thank yous and we made a graceful exit.

All pics on facebook. please look us up there.

Radio-D-DAy

April 4th, 2012

Excitement bounds from the early hours. Some of the children report at Sheela’s house as early as 7.30 a.m. We are supposed to gather early to do one more rehearsal, but that doesn’t quite work.

12 children, 4 adults, on driver and one large keyboard, we set off for the radio station in 2 cars , packed with just enough breathing space. The kids are in their Sunday best. We are earlier than most of the employees of the station.

Agreements signed, recording starts. Some of the children are nervous. There are a few retakes. But for the most part, it goes off very well.

But then, he says, you’ve used only half of your alloted 30 minutes. So there is a lot of improvision and a lot of poems, songs, Tirukkural recitations and we re done. Its lunch time and the kids are worn out with the excitement and hunger. They are a subdued lot when we get back to the library.

We’ve arranged for lunch and they perk up once more..

since photographs are not allowed inside the radio station.. not even with backs towards the building, we take a few pictures in the garden.

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L to R:

(front row) Abishek, Praveen, Shalom, Harish, Rebecca, Deepika, Sindhu, Jeevitha

(back row) Geetha, Asha, Sowmya, Haripriya, Bhuvaneswari, Kalyani

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With Sumathi this time

 

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With Madhavi, Station Director, AIR  Ootacamund and Sheela