Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Fashionably Late Home Term Report

Lakshmi Nilakantan

Tuesday, September 23

Leo, Jaidip, and I accompanied the children to Agara Lake. There, the children were introduced to the lake ecosystem through observation. We walked around the lake attempting to identify the various types of birds and to understand how and why the birds clustered together in certain areas; we noticed the inflow and ouflow systems of the lake; and we surveyed the general upkeep of the lake and its surroundings. The children were fascinated by a few fishermen catching fish with nets or homemade fishing reels.

We sat down in the tower and discussed the history and the importance of lakes in Karnataka, the traditional methods of harvesting rainwater for agriculture and drinking, the interconnectedness of water bodies, the responsibility of maintaining tanks, and the idea of public resources and spaces. We examined what has changed in government policy with regard to water bodies in India, and in Bangalore in particular, and saw its severe repercussions in everyday life. We talked about the consequences of massive scale ‘development’, as in the tragic outcome of the 3 Gorges dam.

As it was the autumn equinox, the children learnt how to calculate their exact latitude.
After lunch, the children walked down busy streets trying to understand traffic patterns. They immediately noticed the immense difficulties faced by all pedestrians, and even more so by the disabled, elderly, and school-going children. They also observed the types of vehicles on the streets and their passenger loads.


Wednesday, September 24

The next morning, Latha and I took the children first to Nanda Road, where we met Vinay, a software engineer and member of Hasiru Usiru, a group concerned about how developmental decisions are being taken in Bangalore. Vinay summarized for us some of the key issues related to Bangalore’s Metro, its colossal cost, its environmental and social impacts, its projected ridership, the corruption involved, as well as some of the laws that have been violated from its inception. The children readily comprehended the monstrosity of the Metro when Vinay succinctly compared the cost of the Metro to what the central government has given the farmers who have practically been driven to suicide because of their poverty and debts. After Vinay left, the children spent some fun time in the doomed park squeezing Tulip Tree pods at each other.

Next, we went to the Avenue Road area to meet up with Srinivas. The children were taken for a tour of his workshop, and they observed the intricacies involved in making silver crafts. The children were especially delighted by the flattening out of silver bars, and by the blowtorch. We also saw his sari making factory, and learnt about warp, woof, and weft, and the painstaking ways of the loom. Srinivas had organized a scrumptious lunch for us catered from a local Avenue Road shop. We discussed the history of the road, and later saw the place where, as legend has it, Kempe Gowda released four bullocks in order to demarcate the boundaries of Bangalore. We talked about the heritage value of the road, the variety of shops there, and the government’s plan to widen the road. We walked through the busy alleys teeming with people, and the children interacted with several shopkeepers.

We ended our energetic two days with a walk up Turahalli hill. The children, as promised, had lots of fun trying their hand at rock climbing. They went home, I think, with their minds opened up to the complexities, challenges, and fun of city life.

It would be nice to hear the children’s comments on their experiences.