Sometime back there was a report in the newspaper here saying, parents are backing off from sending their children to school outings and picnics. Also teachers are expressing reluctance to participate due to the increased crime rate at schools in Bangalore.
Just a day after I read this report I got a call from a school teacher requesting VF to help her organize a school picnic.
I always wanted to take children out, especially those with whom I interact in the villages.
Whenever I have asked children where would they like to come out with me. They have asked me to show them the beach, and I would smilingly assure them that we will all go to the beach one day for sure.
Now I had an opportunity to organize a picnic and help the school teachers who so enthusiastically had pitched the idea to me. We decided to go to a near by hill where a perennial source of water keeps trickling down. Kolar district, where I live is an arid zone with very little rains for the past many years and what ever little water used to be there is also depleted after all the lakes have been mined for sand.
I felt this is perhaps a good warm up exercise for me before I take these children to the beach sometime.
We fixed a date and let the children and parents know about the picnic.
There was a great wave of excitement in the school and the village. Preparations for the picnic day started way before the actual date.
Finally the day came and we started early in the morning, we had told the children that they can bring along snacks if they like. All of them had nice little bags stuffed with lots of eatables.
Slowly the picnic mood was setting in, songs, laughter, stories and fun was rolling out.
I asked the girl sitting next to me what is in her bag to munch?
she said with great excitement " lots of things miss, I have Dairymilk chocolates, Kurkure, Lays chips, Bourbon biscuits. My father has got me all the quality and costly items." The girl was feeling very proud.
I displayed a grand surprise and shared the admiration the girl had for her father.
She was still smiling at me and then she said " Miss, my father borrowed money from his friend and got me these things."
Soon there was another boy who pitched in and said " Hey! my mother also took a loan of Rs.20 and has got me two big Dairymilks"
I came to know that many parents have taken loans to buy tidbits for their children.
soon we reached the foothills and we started our trek hiding all the bags of eatables from the monkeys. The trek began with great excitement and energy but soon fatigue was setting in and the monkeys were not letting us open a single bag of eatables.
a silence set in as we reached the top of the hill, everybody fell silent for sometime, even the kids chose to rest under a tree. After a few minutes, all the kids asked me where is the water?
I took all of them to the trickling stream of water and let them connect with the cool water and rejuvenate themselves, they drank from the stream and told me the water is sweet!
I was happy to be with them at their moment of true joy.
We spent some time having fun on top of the hill and then made our way down, again hiding from the monkeys.
Once we were out of the hill we decided to go to a nearby park where the children can eat their snacks safely. They played for sometime in the park and then opened their bags and started to share their treasured snacks and feast on them.
They were very happy.
But once they were done, a few boys from the 5th std came up to us and said
" Miss, we ate our food, it was all very nice but we want to again drink that water up there."
The school teacher said " next time when we come for picnic here you drink it".
It was a polite decline from her. The children were apparently disappointed.
The teacher looked at me and said " For such a moment I have reserved a few more packets of lays, some chocolates and burfis. Let me distribute them and I am sure these kids will be fine"
She fetched the eatables from her bag and told the kids that the fun is still not over and here is more food that she has got for them.
Some children were very excited and ran to her to get their share. But the 5th std children said " we have had enough of this, if you please let us, we will run up the hill and drink some water and come back"
The teacher was about to refuse but then I jumped in to say " Madam, I will escort them and bring them back safe. By then let these kids play a few more minutes in the park."
She did not seem very pleased with the idea but did not refuse me either :)
Now I was with few children and more on a quest or a mission more than a picnic. As the other children noticed that we were going back to the hills, most of them left their snacks, emptied their water bottles and gave it to us, so that we can bring more water from the stream.
I was happy to see this reaction, finally the chocolates and biscuits were left behind for something that truly attracted the children coming from a dusty and dry village.
We had less time and lots of running to do. We did it. We took as many water bottles as we could carry back.
For a few of us the picnic and the trickling water stream was turning out to be a portal to perhaps reach another dimension.