Sunday, April 12, 2009

Excursion to Kodai...

Seeing Kodai with Nath Uncle (Nanaji as the children fondly called him) was perfect! Nath Uncle did a lot of wonderful activities with us.... showed and shared with us his carpentry tools and passion.... taught us how to make maida glue.....reuse envelopes.... make sturdy boxes....recited urdu poetry for us... made meal time a jolly time ... often broke into a song (which the children enjoyed!)...took us boating..It turned out that he had planned many more things to do with us, but the six days was not enough :) We also walked a lot in and around Kodai with him... he's been there for more than 25 years now and knows almost every other person who crossed our paths....

We also met a lot of other wonderful people....friends of Nanaji......Harry Uncle who owns a restaurant called Tava treated all of us to a wonderful meal,where we ate as much paneer and srikhand as we could! :) ... Prasanna Uncle and Meenakshi aunty who run a little bakery called Daily Bread.....invited us for breakfast and stuffed us with cream rolls,sandwiches,pastry,pizza and hot chocolate...they also gave a tour of there small bakery where all the goodies were made !! We also visited a school run by Padmini Aunty and participated in the art class there and all the children played football together... Subramaniyam Uncle did pottery with us ....

On our walks, the the clouds opened up to magnificent views, we saw flowers in so many colours ,we walked through many farms and we ate radish flowers while we went through them. On these walks in and around Kodai Nanaji would talk about terrace farming and explain what a valley is ! :)

Apart from all these activities...the children did stitching with Roopa aunty....played mikado, carom, trees, collected wood, plucked brambles,sang songs, saw snakes and listened to stories before we went to bed!

We stayed with N in his beautiful house on the side of a hill.It is in the middle of a farm with pear and plum and peach trees. The plums were just ripening as we walked through.....In N's house Elsy akka cooked simple but yummy food for us and John anna took us around the garden and plucked fruits with us.

We also have to introduce another friend we made during our stay at Kodai.... Whitey.... the
pampered and hugely loved dog! :)

Roopa's sharing

It felt great to be able to share home and birth family with the Shibumi family, and the responses of the children were a delight to watch. When my father first saw them , he wondered aloud" They look very young, will they be able to stay away from home for so long?"

On the last day, the children were sorry the excursion was over so quickly.

Some of the learning was for us, seeing them in new situations.....when to intervene, when to just watch , and often Tanu and myself would exchange notes on our responses to a situation.

For the children I think it was a long time away from the familiarity of family and home....and it was amazing how easily they adjusted. On our return , as we sat on the Kodai road railway station eating our curd rice off banana leaves, co passengers curiously asked about our 'family'!

And personally, for me it was wonderful to have the house filled with laughter and mother who was one of the most amazing teachers I knew was surely part of the celebration from wherever she has gone to!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Baking, Music, Buses, Astronomy

By Sangeetha, Student (16)

While the junior and middle school children were off to kodaikanal and Sahyadri, we, the senior school we given 10 days of ‘freedom to explore whatever enthused us’


So, we made a list of things we wanted to do which included fantasies (like archery, setting up a photochemical lab, a day-trip to keystone etc).


 But here are the things I did end up doing:


Baking – Though it was something I had never tried, the thought had always fascinated me. Gayathri, Shreesha and I attended two wonderful classes by Shruti- Ved’s aunt. Shruti was extremely sweet and warm. We started off with chocolate chip cookies .In half-hour’s time we were busy measuring, sieving, kneading, cracking eggs and happily chattering away! (I made a point to taste everything I came across). The hard part was, having to wait for the cookies to bake, as their fragrance teasingly trailed across the room. Finally, they were done. Although they were abnormally large and irregular in shape, I couldn’t wait to bite in. I bit into the crunchy golden-brown cookie with soft chocolate chunks buried here and there. It was just heavenly.


The second class was on my aunt’s birthday. So we decided to make pineapple-n-vanilla flavored soda cake (egg less) for her. It was a 1 kg cake, about 4 inches high. The icing bit was great fun. We sprayed sugar syrup on the cake, and covered it with pineapple chunks. Finally we smothered the whole cake in fresh cream and perfected it with a few decorative pineapple pieces and cream. We also made tart-sized cherry pies, and covered them with strips of the crispy base- making it look quite grand. I was quite disappointed I couldn’t taste them immediately as I had a tooth ache. The delicacies were neatly packed in brown boxes making it look very professional. Later that day I surprised my aunt with the cake. The whole evening was wondrous.


Music – As I have an exam coming up in May I had to practice quite a bit. I listened to some professional singers, learnt new songs, did some akaarasaadhana , tried raagam-swaram.


Violin – It had been long since I last practiced the violin, about 4 years. I tried practicing for a while. Spend some time dusting, tuning, tightening the bow, fixing the bridge. My fingers started aching and whatever I played was out of tune and upsetting and for while I realized how much I missed playing it. Memories of my classes, my teacher, friends, times I practiced at my old home, came flooding back. I hope I start again someday soon!


Traveling- Originally, it was planned that I take a bus pass and just hop in and out of buses to explore the city. But I guess commuting to my classes itself was quite hectic.

For example-

Jakkur (yelahanka-home – 6:30 am)à Majestic bus stand à Banashankari à avalahalli ( 10:00 – 12:30 Math and English classes at nandi gardens) àBanashankari à Basavanagudi (baking classes 1:30 -5:00) à Jayanagar (deliver cake to aunts house) à Majestic (got stuck in the 2 hr JC road traffic jam) à jakkur (10:00 pm- ah…home sweet home)

It was the first time I was traveling alone in a bus – a bittersweet taste of independence and responsibility.



Astronomy – I had hoped to star gaze on the last three days, but the overcast sky clouded my view (pun intended). I read a few books lent to me by Lakshmi aunty. I also used the net and studied constellations, heavenly bodies – planets, comets, asteroids, stars (kinds of stars, birth- death, size, temperature, etc). I also spent hours watching the moon under a friend’s home-made telescope – a magnificent sight!


And of course……..some studying!!


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ten days...

By Vasudev, Student (14)


When the teachers in school said that we had ten days off when the juniors were away, to explore things we enjoy, I really could think of nothing. I knew I had to study a lot, because of my exams this November, but other than that I had nothing much. I decided to continue my normal routine of studying, cycling, listening to music etc. Just that I would study a lot more.


Usha aunty had suggested that I should learn to play Table Tennis as it’s a game that can be played alone without a team, as there aren't any other boys my age in Shibumi. She knew of a class in Jayanagar (4th Block). As a result of this I found myself playing TT every day for an hour and a half. I wasn't too enthusiastic about it on the first day but after a bit I found myself enjoying it quite a lot. The classes were at 5:30 and went on till 7:00. This used up most of my evenings (as I had to leave at 4:00 and was only back at round 8:00) and I suddenly found myself struggling to find time, when I originally thought that I'd have too much.


I also thought I'd do some roller blading since I hadn't done it for a few years. Angie said she had a pair of roller blades at home (as mine were now way too small) and she got them. During the ten days I didn't actually do as much as I'd liked, but I did manage to skate for an hour every day or two. Another activity that I didn't do as much as I'd thought I'd do was cycling. I did do a bit here and there but I'd hoped to do a couple of long trips that never materialized.


During the weekends I had Spanish classes. I had two hours of private one on one classes and three hours of a group session. So this meant that I couldn't do anything else on the weekends. But overall between Spanish, TT and my studies, my ten days were quite packed, but very enjoyable. Moreover if I hadn't had any one of these activities I'm sure I'd have been very bored.   

My Trip to Gudalur

By Gayathri, Student (17)

 [This is a very summarized passage on some of my experiences in Gudalur. If I wrote about everything I would be writing forever!]

During my O levels I was really fascinated by and interested in the “pregnancy and birth” section of Biology. Thereafter I understandably became more interested in the subject “Child Development”.

My parents suggested that I visit the Adivasi Hospital in Gudalur, Tamil Nadu. They had started the hospital years back and for them, it was like sending me to a second home.

Five weeks away from school, during one’s A levels would be unheard of in any other school, well thanks to the understanding teachers in Shibumi and all the very kind and tolerant people in Gudalur, this amazing trip was made possible!

Excitement was added by the fact that this would be my very first trip alone, even without my brother!

When I reached at 4 30pm I was warmly welcomed by a very worried Shyla Aunty. (One, of the 3 doctors in the hospital now) She thereafter introduced me to “Patti Aunty” , a midwife trainer from the UK. It took me quite a while to get used to Shyla Aunty’s very embarrassing way of introducing me as “The new midwife”.

Soon I was introduced to my room mate, who eventually became an amazing friend.

The very first delivery I saw took place the day after I reached. The mother’s name was Ammini and this was her fifth baby! Her contractions began early in the morning.

Throughout my stay in Gudalur, even if there weren’t any deliveries, my day was made by the 8-9am and 3-4 30p m classes that Patti Aunty took on midwifery.

Ammini Chechi was indeed quite a calm and funny mother. She wanted the warmth and comfort from the sun so spent quite a bit of her time during contractions outside the labour room. When her pain increased with the frequency of her contractions she surprised me by saying “I’ve given birth to so many children but the pain doesn’t get any less!”.

Until she finally delivered, for each of those hours before, I felt it wasn’t worth it. I wondered why, and continue to wonder, how so many mothers give birth to so many babies! The pain that they go through must be unimaginable. In the span of time I spent in Gudalur, seeing so many people in so much pain made me wonder why I ever complain.

When she finally gave the green signal that she wanted to push, the nurses transferred her onto the labour bed. She finally, actually, started expressing the pain she was in.

However clichéd this may sound-I’ll never forget the moment her baby was born. The first thing that surprised me was that her baby’s head came out facing downwards! The moment when its head turned was the most miraculous thing I had ever seen. Before it turned all the nurses patiently waited. It was like time really stood still. Nature had complete control, and man not interfering was so beautiful!

 He was so new and so soft when he came out. I tried hard to clear the tears that began to obstruct my vision. I didn’t want to miss a fraction of those moments.

I thought hard as I looked at Ammini Chechi and wondered how she was so brave to bring so many babies into this world. It scared me as I thought of how vulnerable her baby was. It amazed me when I thought about how innumerable babies are born every day and all so sensitive. It fascinated me to think about how prepared they must be to survive.

For a long time I thought the most beautiful sight was a baby when it’s born, however, now, what can never fail to bring a smile on my face and tears to my eyes is a mother’s smile when she sees her newborn!

Once a baby was born without arms in the hospital. The family wanted to kill her and refused to take her home in the beginning. They asked the doctors if they could kill her and thankfully the doctor condemned the idea. Shyla Aunty even spent a long time talking to the family. The situation raised so many unanswerable ethical questions in my mind. First came the rush of emotion. How can they not want their own child, especially after waiting for 9 whole months? Then came the sympathy towards the mother who was only seventeen, my age! Then again how could they possibly wash their hands off this child? How is she to cope, especially considering her disability. Maybe the baby would be better off if they killed her; at least she would come into the world so unwanted and wouldn’t have to struggle with her disability. But killing is surely such an awful and cruel alternative!

During my time in Gudalur I also visited another hospital. Things were quite different there and it was an interesting experience. All the nurses were dressed in uniforms, unlike in the Adivasi hospital where one can’t distinguish a nurse from a patient and vice versa. The nurses in the Adivasi hospital tell the patients why and how they are going to do things before doing them, unlike in the other hospital. Then again I was in the other hospital only for a day and it would be inaccurate and unfair to make generalised statements.

One of the highlights of my time in the hospital was actually assisting the deliveries! The very first time that I had to wear gloves was both exciting and scary. I was allowed to support the perineum when the baby’s head was coming out and cut the umbilical cord! The sterility involved made me rather nervous but things I had learned in Patti Aunty’s class helped me understand why it was important. On another occasion I rather unsuccessfully and shabbily did the cord dressing for the baby in my 2-sizes-too-big gloves! With a lot of persuasion I finally did a PV in my last week there. My fingers were too short to reach the uterus but it was still quite an experience!

Finally, came the rather awaited day when I nearly fainted! There were two deliveries going on simultaneously and I was assisting one in which the placenta had yet to come out. I had been in the labour room for a long time and hadn’t eaten anything since morning. The smell began to get to me and I felt nausea and faint. When I normally feel this way I’m cured instantly with a glass of water. However this time I had a pair of gloves on! When I couldn’t take it any more I moved towards the tap and motioned to Ambika Chechi (the head nurse) that I was feeling dizzy. Before I knew it she had removed my apron and gloves and plonked me onto a chair. Patti aunty came rushing from the other labour bed and pushed my head down onto my knees. (Mind you, I was very much conscious through all this!)  Then they put me on a bed and Ambika Chechi checked my pulse for 8(approx.) whole minutes!!! Soon Thangu Chechi got me a very appreciated glass of water. It wasn't long before the news that “I had fainted” spread all over like wild fire.

How to Make Deepika's Beds

By Anu, Student (15)

During the ten-day break senior school had, due to the fact that our teachers were out on excursion, I went to a farm for six days, to learn about organic farming.

I've been interested in organic farming for a while, having visited a few organic farms when I was very much younger. I wanted to learn about farming methods---mulching,organic pesticides---that consumed few resources,and did not use chemicals.

The farm I went to was recently set up, around four months ago, by a couple---Swetha and John---who live on the farm itself.

Among some of the many things I learned, was how to make Deepika's beds; Deepika being the organic farmer who showed Swetha and John this method for improving soil. The idea is to convert dry soil lacking in nutrients to fertile soil. The seeds are sown only to fix nitrogen,which is good for plants,and are uprooted in a month. After you uproot your seeds,you can grow the plants of your choice in these beds.

How to make Deepika's Beds

What You Need:

-katti/sickle/cutting implement
-hammer/rock used as hammer

For The Fence
-sturdy sticks around one foot in height
-thinner sticks to be used for wall (coconut leaf stem,sunhemp,any thin, straightish,longish,stick)

For Soil
-ordinary mud
-stone dust
-mulch leaves
-any nitrgen fixing seeds,horsegram, mung dal,toovar dal

How To
Mark out the perimeter of the bed you want to make. It is usually a good idea to consrtuct beds against a wall. Make a raised line of soil on top of the marking and fill in the area with water (the raised soil keeps the water from leaking)

Once the water has soaked and the ground is soft, hammer in the sturdy sticks at half-foot intervals---make sure the sticks are well in and very well fixed, as they hold the entire structure together. When this is done, place the twigs/coconut sticks along the inside of the hammered in sticks to form a wall, stacking them one on top of the other. It doesn't matter if the "wall" looks messy, so long as it is fairly sturdy, and seems like it will hold under pressure. After this is done, it is time to prepare your soil. You could start with a thin layer of soil, followed by a thin layer of dry leaves (mulch), followed by a thin layer of rock dust and so on. You will need a lot of leaves.Continue until the bed is filled to the top. If the wall is too low, build it up by stacking more sticks. Water the bed, but do not overdo it, as you don't want the contents of your bed to spew all over the place. Take your seeds and scatter them quite densely over the beds.Cover with a layer of soil, followed by a final layer of leaves, to retain water. Water every alternate day, unless the weather is very hot, or the soil is drying. Sprouts should be up within a week.