Summer Camp at a primary school in Kondapur: India Literacy Project

As I had written in an earlier post, I am teaching English at couple of hours a week at a primary school.

The school is now closed for the summer vacation – but turns out the needs of parents are same regardless of rich or poor, so here comes Summer Camp! We also look at this as a chance to interact with the kids a little informally, so that they pick up some spoken English from us while having fun.

I am the self-appointed games teacher – we’ve been playing Kho-Kho, dog’s bones, basketball ( with a bucket instead of a basket), before the heat drives us inside into indoor activities like storytelling and coloring.

I have been taking N to the summer camp – she sometimes participates in the games with the other kids. She calls them “Telugu kids” – thats how she thinks of them I guess. They speak Telugu and she does not, so they are Telugu kids. Other times she is content to sit and watch me being “teacher”. I admit – I get a kick when the kids come running to open the car door eagerly each morning, shouting “good morning teacher”. Makes me look forward to it.

The ILP seems to be making a difference – and that gives me motivation too. There are two schools I’ve been too, one where the ILP program has been going on for a while now and one that has just started. I can see the confidence and ability for interaction among the kids where ILP has been functional. Whether this is purely because of ILP I cannot say – this is one of the problems with such teaching. You don’t know what good you are doing until you have been doing it for a while. Tests your perseverance.

The summer camp is on for the next two weeks – I have some  ideas once in a while of taking the kids to ISB or to our apartment complex, and let them play in a proper play area. Teach them some basketball maybe. But the logistics of transporting them are a little overwhelming right now, and I am not sure how far the other teachers will be eager for this.Nor am I sure whether I will be able to convince ISB or SMR residents.

FOr now, its the dusty school yard where they play. The challenge is to keep the kids engaged and have fun. And these kids are every bit as noisy and unruly as you will find in any playground 🙂

These photographs are from a crafts session at the summer camp – the kids having fun with the balloons and glue and paper.

Yes , it was very messy. Eeks – tomorrow we’re going to paint those paper covered balloons. More mess coming up!

Car chase, cops and Appapappa becomes a Hero

Yesterday a bizarre incident happenned. It made Appapappa a hero, if only for a day ( or a brief hour).

He was on his way back from office, on the Enfield bullet that he is so proud of. Suddenly a cop ( of the khaki clad kind), stops him, hops onto his bike and instructs him to chase a car that is racing away. “Ladki ko jabardasti utha ke le jaa rahe hai” is all the explanation that was given to him.

This was enough to set our man’s adrenalin pumping. Off he goes , snaking his way through the Hyderabad peak traffic.

And, miraculously manages to  stop the bike in front of the car. After what seemed to him like an hour long chase.

The cops pull the offending guys out ( three of them), the girl comes out too, and the cop, very unceremoniously tells appapappa ” You go now. you will have problems if you are around.”

So Appapappa, poor guy, feeling like an uncrowned hero, comes home to get some accolades from friends and family. Which we happily give to him 🙂

Its a good sign when I have not posted for a while.

It means I have been away,  travelling.

While the summer sun is blazing in all its glory and all wisdom says stay indoors, we go to Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan. The temperature here is couple of degrees more than even our home base Hyderabad, which itself is a nice and toasty 42deg.  Furthermore, being close to the desert there is the deadly dry wind called the loo that blows relentlessly the entire afternoon.

Still, I had the itch, so we went! Two brave souls, my friend and I, towing our little daughters along. Persuading my friend and her daughter to come along to see the Ranthambore forest, and maybe a tiger or two, was not difficult, once I convinced myself it was okay – I had a hunch that if we did things the right way the kids would survive without much wear and tear.

It was a hectic trip from the word go. All we did was pack our bags, buy our tickets to Mumbai and get on the bus from Hyd to Mumbai ( a full 15 hours). The rest, we figured, would take care of itself.

And so it did. Jungle Lore, good guys these, had it all planned out for us. Our train tickets from Mumbai to Sawai Madhopur station were done, and the train journey, inspite of the train being overcrowded, was tolerable.

Aaahh… the forest. I could not have enough of it. We went for five safaris in all, and every time I’d look forward to climbing onto the open Gypsy and just going out into the forest. I cannot try to explain the feeling – its somewhere in there, why I don’t know. Tiger or not, I was quite happy to be out and about, in-spite of concerns for N ( who was after all only three, and likely to be exhausted by the heat), and despite having to hold her on one arm while trying to take photographs with the Nikon D40 SLR ( by no means as light as a point and shoot camera).

Ranthambore national park has five zones, and on day two, in zone two, a tiger was skillfully tracked down. While she lay basking in the morning sun near the water, we waited for her to move; this she did, though at her own pace, getting up, walking across the small dam, and laying down in the ruins of some old monument to escape the increasing heat. She was beautiful, even from far. After all, she is Machchli’s daughter – the famous Machchli, who is singly responsible for half the tiger population of the park. This grande-dame of Ranthambore national park has a reputation for survival – bringing up her cubs even when she was injured, and without the help of her mate ( as the male is apt to move onto other things besides kid rearing).

The afternoon of day two in contrast was all about the waiting and the anticipation – and the eventual swallowing of disappointment. We waited in silence ( you can imagine how difficult that was with two kids in the Gypsy) close to a tiger kill, expecting the tigers would come back. But they did not.

On our last morning there was a near miss. We didn’t even know how close were were until we were told. We had only planned to go to the fort and back. This time the tiger crossed the road right after our vehicle passed.

Some folks were more lucky then us, they had close encounters that make for great evening conversation. Some were less lucky – they did not even get a glimpse of the animal they had travelled so far to see. They are the ones who will ruefully talk about the pugmarks and scratches on trees.

In the whole scheme of things, we were perhaps medium lucky, having seen a tiger clearly but not at close range.

To me, though, the tracking and information sharing and all the goings-on were equally exciting, as much as the final spotting. A few more of these, and I knew I would have become an addict of this game of tracking, which I think retains some of the thrill of the old hunting days. I could see the gleam in the eyes of the guides as they went about their work passionately – trying to find those tigers for us tourists. It is likely their grandfathers may have done a similar kind of tracking for the Maharaja, who used to hunt in these forests much before it became a National Park. The impenetrable looking fortress inside the park reminds us that once there used to be kings ruling in these parts.

For the sake of completeness, I should mention everything else we saw, but that I am leaving for my more factual and practical blog, http://closetonature.wordpress.com/2010/04/24/the-tigers-of-ranthambore-national-park/

For this time, I’d like to remember the golden rays on the backs of the spotted deer and the beauty of the peacocks. The grey-blue of the nilgais and the scarlet patches of flame of the forest lighting up the dry trees. And the baby crocs in the little puddle of water that hopefully would last them till the rains come.

They said the rains make the whole place look so different – waterfalls on the creeks, greenery springing from the leaves. But that is another day. For now, the forests are dry, the greenery only in patches – the dryness of the foliage enhancing the vivid colors and beauty of the animals in it.

N’s third Birthday: what a party!

As I mentioned in my earlier post on this, we planned to have N’s Birthday party on a Sunday, so AppaPappa could be here .

With 8 kids running around the house, balloons bursting everywhere, and the adults chatting away, we had one blast of a party.

The day started tame , with us dressing up Nika in a Pattu-Pavadai as intructed by Tata-Paathi, and all of us going to the nearby temple dutifully.

It rapidly started going more wild as the day progressed, even as the Pattu-Pavadais stayed on.

After the usual afternoon nap, we all woke up to find it was already four thirty, and the guests would be arriving at 6. We’d invited 4 close friends ( couples with their little ones), and a few kids from our apartment complex that N is friendly with. We were also ambitious – we were going to make pasta with tomato and mushroom sauce, bruschetta, french fries and a dip, lots and lots of fruits and then there was the cake.

I made a nice cup of tea and sent appa off to get the cake, while R and her daughter Z ( close friends of ours) were put in charge of the decorations. After about an house R comes up to me and says : decoration is not my forte! let me make the pasta 🙂

They did a nice job anyway, a tent was up and balloons were blown and streamers were hung. Appa came back with the heart shaped strawberry cake ( yummy).

The guests started arriving, the little ones were so cute all decked up and all. The party was under full swing. Kids having a blast in N’s room with the music, Dads and bachelor friends and moms drinking Sangria and chatting.

Meanwhile I’m trying to keep the guests supplied with plates of tid-bits. As planned earlier, we had tried to make as much healthy food as possible. So we had pasta ( farfalles) sprinkled with olive oil, brown bread drizzled with olive oil and butter and baked, lots of fruits, and finally the pasta, all washed down with juice or Sangria ( most of which I think I had). Though I confess, when I ran out of stuff, I had to send the maid running down for packets of chips, which clearly the kids were craving for!

The cake cutting was fun, with N strugling to blow the candles out. There was much anticipation for the cake, as you can see.

All in all, a great party. You always know its good when there is tons of cleaning up to do afterwards. Pity I didn’t take a photo!