Friday, December 21, 2018

Rajasthan Rhyme : A tribute to our wonderful time

Didi didi, this train is so packed!
Be happy you have at least half a seat, so many others are all stacked!
Actually I’m glad no one has taken our half seat,
In fact, the other passengers protect it even when I’m away to eat.
Speaking of food, just look at all the food Sidh’s uncle and aunt have got,
Yummm! That vada pav is so good and tasty and hot.

Hey why don’t we too sell some stuff on the train ,
Origami! Awesome! Everyone gets excited by the sight of a paper plane.
Come one, come all! There is flowers, purses, cranes and even a ball!
It’s all over; everyone has taken it with so much joy,
So many smiles and laughs all because of a small toy.

Ah! Finally it’s Shivganj! What a lovely little town,
Guys, food is served can you all please come down.
Mancha, Punchi, thank you so much, the food and sweets are so great.
And we ate ... and we ate ... and we ate ... and we ate!
Karuna bhua, we have squeezed the lemon juice but have one doubt,
What to do with the peels just throw them out?
It’s like magic; the peels always get cleaned from outside the house 
Look there are our street cleaners, all those cows.

So tired now, we’re off to bed,
Please don’t  wake us early let us sleep instead.
The blaring loud speakers, what a morning alarm!
The elections are near, the politicians are turning on their charm!

Can we go to those hills, but they are seem far,
Lets go in those autos which take us on mud and tar.
In the auto it’s a little tight fit,
But the drivers are so nice that it will always be a hit.

Who is that man with the sack?
And why is he calling all the monkeys back.
Wow! More and more monkeys are coming dude,
Amazing! He has got them all food.
Where does he get it from, does he have a store,
Come let’s talk to him we will find out some more.
Namaste! Can you please tell us what you just did?
They were hungry I got them food, dear kid.
You did it just today?
No they feel hungry every day.
Every day you come to the jungle with this sack,
Well, I have to . It’s their food not a small snack.
Where does it come from, you have a store there,
No ... people from the villages are quite happy to share.
Do you get paid? Yes, but that doesn’t count ,
Remember there is also the other account.

Hey! There is a board for a jungle safari that I have seen,
There is a guide who wants us to go, he’s very keen.
Oh! To see a leopard it would be fab,
They saw it in the morning they are keeping a tab.
There, there can you see it across  the road its going,
It’s moving too fast why it isn’t slowing.
Some see it and some miss it that is generally the case,
The leopards keep moving they seem to have their own pace.

Thank you  Ramakpur for the temple, and thanks for the safari, guides.
Now we are off to Udaipur to begin on our cycle rides!

What was happening here , all that noise?
Some yatra is happening, they were making a choice.
I can help if they need vehicles.
No need for that they are doing it on the trust Atlas cycles! 
Who was that group that you were talking to there?
There are on a cycle yatra from Bangalore somewhere!
They must be tired and hungry, let’s get them something to eat.
These generous strangers gave us poha and tea, what a treat!

At the next turn we come to the Nursery,
We pay a quick visit, it might be just cursory.

Lalit Paliwal, the officer around,
He knows about every leaf that grows on this ground!
He know what heals with fever, cold and diabetes for sure,
The forest trees offer, every kind of cure!

Often while cycling we would get quite thirsty and dead,
And almost always find a kind soul with pots of water up ahead.
Of course the Ber  trees we can’t forget to thank,
That was one yummy bite upon which we could bank.

"Welcome to our village, you have cycled such a long way,
Come eat some food, you must be hungry, I say.
You can use the school to sleep, it has a large dorm,
We will get you a dari, it will help you stay warm.
Good Morning!Bye  guys! Have a safe trip,
May the slopes be kind to you and you never lose your grip."

There are so many stories still left to share,
Do find us and ask for them anywhere.
Like the RAC tickets in the train,
And the cycle chains coming off again and again.
The children at village Surana,
Stories of Pratap Maharana.
All the wonderful strangers we got to meet,
And the delicious food we were lucky to eat.
Keeping time looking at the stars,
Trying to spot the Ambu’s in their fancy cars.
And Panchi maharaj who has an ashram for birds,
Our cycle boards needing Hindi words.
Trying on the local marwadi clothes,
The Udaipur mornings where we nearly froze!
About litter picking after Kambeshwar fair,
And all our memories we remember from there.
Breaking the myth that Rajasthan is flat,
Or which of the Kids is the biggest brat!

Friday, October 19, 2018

Shop Shop

It was shop time at Shibumi on Thursday, Oct 4th and it was the turn of the Malhars and Bihags to set up
shop.  Well laid out plans were showing in the way each stall was put out; painstakingly prepared,
tastefully arranged, ready to be sold. But then, who hasn’t heard that the best-laid plans can go awry.
Rain arrived half-way through. Mid afternoon rain has a mind of its own. It pours, then stops, you step out,
it changes its mind and comes down again. Thankfully, the children were unaffected by it.
All in all it was great fun. We posed a few questions to the shopkeepers and this is what they had to
say about playing ‘shop shop’.

1. How did you get the idea?
  • I got it from my mother.
  • We were inspired by food stalls on the roadside.
2. Were you able to implement your ideas?
  • We couldn’t implement Marvel theme because we felt the youngest children might not understand.
  • We planned to have more items but it didn’t happen.
  • Three shopkeepers didn’t turn up making it difficult for the rest of the team.
  • We had big plans and accomplished all of them.

3. Did everything go according to plan on the day?
  • Even better, we earned eight times the money we invested.
  • No! The juice can got knocked over.
  • Uff!  My friend hurt his finger.
  • Oh no! We forgot to make the lemonade.
  • Umm! The potato wedges were not baked enough.
  • We didn’t expect to sell much, so we priced our items low. But still people rushed to buy them.
  • Not at all! Not everyone knew about the games. Maybe the position of our shop was wrong.
  • Aaahh! Why did it have to rain? No one came to play our games.

4. What surprised you the most?
  • ‘Someone asked ‘Can I bet on all the slots?’ in our roulette game’
  • ‘Many of them ordered chocolate dosa’
  • ‘Our sandwiches were a big hit!’
  • ‘Chip chaat was loved by all’
  • ‘The demand was so high that we started auctioning off items’

5. What aspect of ‘shop’ did you stick to?
  • Kept the appearance appetizing and attractive.
  • Priced it well and didn’t succumb to bargaining.
  • Strictly no return policy (just ask the person who bought the fairy lights!).
  • Took a loan and still made a profit.

6. Anything you want to tell future shopkeepers at Shibumi?
  • Pricing is very important. Take time to do that.
  • Be careful about the quantities.
  • Think about advertising.
  • Right position for the shop is everything.
  • Think out of the box! A bento box!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Ta-ki-ta Ta-ka-dhi-mi

The first week of July started off on a musical note with Ranjani Sivakumar, a Carnatic vocalist, spending four days at Shibumi conducting a music workshop.

The children huddled around Ranjini and enjoyed the sessions with her. She would bring our attention to listening by patiently tuning the tanpura at the start of the session. Asking the children to listen and participate by telling her if the notes of the string sounded lower or higher. This naturally lead to conversations and questions about the instrument, the tension in the string and sounds that are soothing.

For most part of the session we were learning the Sarali varisai, the fundamental sequences. This allowed us to get a feel for the melody and the rhythm. The sequences follow a logical order - ascending and descending, up to the 7th varisai. We learnt with her the first three patterns and sang them at different speeds.

She had a playful way with the younger children (Lalit and Todi groups), when understanding the ' ta ki da' rhythm , we went into the TT room bounced the ball in that rhythm, walked in the rhythm, while one group was keeping the beat another group made movements to the rhythm. The sessions were highly participatory as the children started to identify rhythm in music and everyday things around them; the Ta-ki-ta of the bouncing ball, the Ta-ka-dhi-mi of a slowly walking cow, the Ta-ki-ta of the hammering in the carpentry shed, the rhythm hidden in words, names and more. 'Shi-bu-mi' , ‘Na-chi-ket’. The songs she taught them were 'Shakti Sahita’, 'Rama Janardhan'.

Together with the older children (Malhar and Bihag groups) Ranjani probed into the many aspects of music through pitch, rhythm, tune and lyrics. She also helped them find the same in many of their favourite tunes. How thrilled they were to discover, for instance, a Ta-ka-dhi-mi in a 'Ajab tera kanoon dekha Khudaya’ or even a 'Why this Kolaveri di’, just as easily evident as it was in a song she taught; 'Aananda kandha Gopala, Govinda’! They learnt another song in the Ta-ki-ta rhythm 'Santatam paahimam’

They also explored how the design of each string instrument can make one so different from another. She showed how a tanpura could be tuned to play only two notes, unlike other string instruments with 'frets' would allow for exploration of multiple other notes. One observed that even those children who usually hesitated to sing along, joined in almost immediately during these sessions.

This was the first in a series of music workshops that she will be conducting at Shibumi. The next one will be in August. In the interim, we are keeping music alive by practicing the songs that were learnt. The younger ones are also engaged in their major assignment before the next session: to design their own simple musical instruments using things around them. 

Music and rain have become a part of the daily rhythm at Shibumi these days!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Seeds for an interaction

Ramavatar ji, an avid cyclist and self-made naturalist, visited Shibumi last week. He hails from a farming family in Rajasthan. He conducts cycling trips for people who are interested in immersing themselves into the daily life of rural India. On these trips, people cycle around from place to place carrying a limited amount of resources, interacting with local communities, doing small jobs for them, in exchange for meals and stay.

Over the years, Ramavatar ji, has also used jewellery making using seeds as a way of interacting with the communities. It was only natural then, to invite him to do a session in seed jewellery making as a way of fostering an interaction between him and the Bihags (the oldest group at school).
The art of seed jewellery making, in its essence, is very simplistic, as are the tools used. An instinctive minimalist, Ramavtarji, is economical in his words and expressions, even while instructing a group on a new activity. In his introduction he made a pointed reference to the fact that seed jewellery making was not an end in itself but rather a way of bringing people together. And the seeds were all picked up from the ground, thereby not disturbing the natural order of things.

They began drilling holes in the seeds, cutting wires, turning and twisting them into shapes (real and imagined) all the while wondering how it will look; as an earring, nose ring, finger ring or a bracelet ring. With a quip here and a touch there, Ramavtarji helped the activity along.

The 'Bihag' group was so glad to be with each other in this interaction and enjoyed using their hands  during the workshop that was facilitated so gently by Ramavatar.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Geodesic Dome Project

Over the past few months the words ‘Geodesic Dome’ have gone around Shibumi quite a lot. It’s unlikely there’s anyone who hasn’t heard the words. And in recent times we have had a strange structure sitting outside Bijitsu. Often you would find some of the youngest children climbing and playing on it. But what is a geodesic dome? And why has it become so popular at Shibumi? The Reporters club at Shibumi got together the group of students working on it to answer their questions...

Who all are involved in this project? 
Geodesic Group (GG): Srishti, Asba, Gautam, Varun, Yashwant, Das and Kumaran uncle. 

How did you get started on it? 
GG: We had a choice between puzzles, triangulation and the geodesic dome. We chose this one because it was more hands-on. 

What is a geodesic dome? 
GG: A geodesic dome is any dome made only out of straight lines. (on the dome surface) The Geodesic Dome is the strongest structure for any curved surface. 

What are some difficulties you have faced in assembling it? 
GG: Pounding so many pipes and cutting them hurts after some time. It can become really tiring and repetitive. 

What materials are you using and why?
GG: We are using metal, aluminium alloy and steel pipes because it is strong, comparatively light weight and cheap. For example wood would break too easily.

Did you make any mistakes? 
GG: We made a lot of mistakes while hammering!

What did you learn?

GG: We learnt that Kumaran uncle is very patient. (laughs) We didn’t even know there something like this could be done before this project. 

What is the future of this project? 
GG: We are planning to assemble it in the new school. We have not yet decided for what yet.

The complete project report can be found here

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Clubs come alive

This summer term different clubs were formed by the teachers and children of the three younger groups (Tulsi, Ketaki and Palash). The clubs then came together three times a week for the whole of the term. 

Here are some snippets from all the fun and learning. 

Stitching club

The stitching group was a delightful threesome, Mahiti ,Vibha and I; joined in the last few sessions by Nikhit. They came, all excited about using the sewing machine; but after the first two sessions of exploration decided on projects 
and determinedly dived into cross stitch embroidery. While finishing the pattern seemed to take "forever" they soldiered on, enjoying creating patterns with colours. Finally on the last day the zip pouch and little sling bag were machine stitched. And Nikith had a decorated elastic hairband to create his ‘puff’.
- Roopa

Toys from Trash club

The group (Dia, Dhatri and I) came together to make simple toys with junk materials such as balloons, straws, ice-cream sticks and plastic bottles. Toys made included balloon powered boats, paddle boat with ice-cream sticks, trumpets with Bisleri bottles, plastic straw flutes, climbing toy just to mention a few. It was super fun! 
- Soumya

Tinkering club

As part of the tinkering club, we opened up  many things. Displayed here are the circuit boards of the telephone, cordless phone and a smartphone. I found it interesting that the circuit board got smaller from the telephone to the smartphone but there are so many more things that we can do with a smartphone!
- Sarayu (12)

The first thing I saw was the binocular and I decided to open it. I Kept trying to find screws to open, but I couldn't see any!

Then I played around with the focus ring and soon it went loose and I could unscrew it! Slowly I saw one was a star screw.One by one, and with some sawing we finally managed to open it up to see what was inside. We found lenses and mirrors.The lens and mirrors were so well protected, it took me 10 hours of working on it to get inside it!
I enjoyed it a lot. Every session I would feel it is going to be impossible to open this up but by the end of the session something would show itself!
- Lia (10)

Here's what Suhaan and Nikhil did...

We took all our projects to meet Tushar - an electric engineer at Shrenik uncles factory. It was amazing - Tinkering group.

Reporters club

The gang minus Medha
The young reporters (Bhavya, Mauliki, Medha, Nachiket, Zain) spent the first few days trying to figure out what it is that reporters do and then we got to doing what reporters do! 
We sat together and brainstormed for story ideas - What were some interesting things happening at Shibumi and around us? What were some interesting places we could visit? Who were the people we wanted to speak to? Etc. Then we visited places, interviewed people, took photographs and put it all together in the form of a hand made magazine. 

Carving club 
The children figured out what they wanted to work on. Then together we found the appropriate wood pieces and got to work on making them look the way they wanted. This mostly involved chiselling and sandpapering.
- Das

Look I made a door handle for new school! - Siddhu
I made one too. It was fun! - Om

Math Games

Sometimes we make up our own games using materials we have at school but we also play a lot of good old games that uses math skills.

Children playing Kai mele Kashi, a simple hand game requires the use of fine motor skills to pick up or move shells, actions that take both eye-hand coordination, attention and dexterity. It is a fast game that blends counting, luck and strategy. It is useful to give students an intuition for probability before they grapple with the mathematics. All that is needed for the game are four Kavades, cowrie shells and enthusiastic players.
- Ganga 

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Turtle Walk in Chennai

When news that the olive ridley turtles had started to nest in the beaches of Chennai reached us, at the beginning of last week, we quickly put together a plan for our visit. Tickets were booked and calls were made to our friends at The School for a place to rest, Tholkappia Poonga for a visit and to our friends at SSTCN (Chennai Students’ Sea Turtle Conservation Network) for the overnight walk to watch the nesting. We set off on a Friday morning reaching Chennai by noon. After a quick lunch, we visited the Tholkappia Poonga.

Tholkappia Poonga is an ecological park in the Adyar estuary area. It is an amazing example of restoration of freshwater eco-systems in the heart of a city! We were introduced to the history, the restoration process and the flora and fauna found in the park by Mrs.Gomati. Her energy, passion for ecological restoration, and determination to carry forward the good work shone through in her interactions with us. We recommend it as a must see place for people visiting Chennai.

Our next stop was The School. The intention was to play a little, rest, eat dinner and be ready for the turtle walk at 10.00 PM. The sight of the empty grounds at the school was a shot in the arm and the children played football and Frisbee with an energy that belied the tiredness brought about by the long day. We were then treated to an excellent dinner. The affection and care of our lovely hosts gave us a fresh lease of life. We would need it for the night walk.

We received news that an olive ridley turtle was spotted nesting in the Besant Nagar beach. We rushed towards the beach and reached just in time to watch the turtle finish her nesting. She did a little dance to cover up the nest with sand before heading off into the sea. That would be our only sighting of a live nesting for the night. 

The turtle walk starts at the Neelankarai beach and we reached there by 11.30PM. There was a live Q&A session on everything around turtles with Akila and Harish, volunteers at SSTCN. Once again, their dedication and passion towards the conservation of these lovely creatures shone through in their conversations with us. Finally, we set off on the walk, along the beach, mostly on the water’s edge at about 1.00AM. For the next few hours, we were witness to:  the bright lights that dot the city landscape causing untold misery to the turtles, dead olive ridley turtles and large fishes (they get caught in fishing trawlers) washed ashore and the untiring efforts of the SSTCN volunteers in finding nests and recovering the eggs to be relocated to safe havens, i.e., hatcheries. Around 10,000 eggs were recovered that night. Happy at having been a part of a movement that is fighting a battle for these fragile beings’ survival, we completed our walk and headed out to the Chennai railway station.

You can read about SSTCN and their work here:

Friday, March 2, 2018

Celebrating Holi at an Art Museum

Some of us spent Holi at National Gallery of Modern Art yesterday. We had gone to see the exhibition by Balan Nambiar. The exhibition had drawings in Indian ink, charcoal, pastels and paintings in watercolour and oils. On display were also his indoor and outdoor sculptures in bronze, mild steel and stainless steel.

Being welcomed by the magnificent trees at NGMA, one was immediately touched by to a sense of quiet and beauty. Everything seemed like 'art' in this atmosphere.

Enthusiastically we wandered into the large mansion that housed the works of Balan Nambiar. The works created a pause and questions. A game started between the children to see how quickly they could find his name on the work. Then there was also reading the little label to his work and placing it in the timeline that makes most sense to them. 

'He did this before I was born!'
'I was 1 year old when he made this'
'Hey! I was born when he made this!'
'My mother was born, when he made this!'

After initially wandering through the museum and getting a feel of the work, the children scattered in the space to draw some of the work by the artist in their journals.

Looking at his art work closely, we noticed new things we hadn't noticed in our first looking.

We had had our fill and decided to go upstairs to see the regular collection. Just then, the artist walked into the space.... and there was a buzz of excitement and wonder that filled us. The artist was a real person! 

Balan Nambiar, met each of the children, autographed their journals and even looked into their journals and was delighted by their interpretations of his work.

After this unplanned and beautiful interaction we had some delicious lunch at the Cafe. Rohit, a friend arranged a most delicious meal for us. 

After lunch we made our way itno the Museum shop and a new learning moment opened up for us!
We helped the 'uncle' at the counter segregate 'visitor-buttons' and had our data on the kind of visitors that came in the month of February for the exhibition by Balan Nambiar.