‘Only School that values Children more than the Books and Marks’- screamed a quote

IWS Raipur Launch – Building an institution with passion

Enchanting evening with children – The SCENE – Hariji in one of his exhalted moods with Bansuri (bamboo flute); while accompanists Sunil Avachat along with Vijay Ghate on Tabla were completely taken in by Hariji’s patience and interactivity with children, even while a few children were dancing on stage, and the audience was in a trance…. Kindly find the pictorial journey at http://www.flickr.com/photos/sreenivasan/sets/72157605950739257/detail/

Hariji with Future of India
Hariji with Future of India

I have been trying to facilitate Harpreet Dhody, who has been anchoring the Raipur school initiative for some time now, to take a call at the earliest, on the launch event of the new campus of Indus World School. This event would announce to the city of Raipur, that we are really thinking seriously and in a big way, to help parents facilitate their children have meaningful education. The season at Raipur for schools to create awareness and attract students starts in Novemeber. Finally, after a lot of interactions between the two of us, Dhody announced that Feb 01, 2009 was the D-day of the event. He had his plans and execution ready! In every interaction over the phone, Dhody reassured me. Yet, I could sense those butterflies in his stomach, that nervous energy.

The D-day arrived and I landed on the morning of Feb 01, 2009 at Raipur airport and directly drove to the school guest house (part of the school) by taxi at 7:30 am. In a few minutes Dhody arrived to brief me about the day. By the time I got ready and reached the welcoming area of the school (BD rooms), it was full of action – the spirit was like an army getting ready for the final assault, the attire was like baratis getting ready for the wedding. The six young interns – all of them engineers or doctors – were working shoulder to shoulder with the established – Sushma, Rani, Kuldeep, Akash and Shiv along with the mentors team headed by Hashmita under the able guidance of Dhody. Someone has stitched a movie together to show at the event, some one was confirming participations over the phone, someone was on his way with bouquets, someone loading daris, books, banners and tables on to the van. All were very excited of the evening. I could sense the confidence and the nervous energy too in the environment. I was thrilled to see the charged space.

The D-day was big. ‘Chote Sikandar’, the ‘celebrating talent’ event that has moved across the city, from colony to colony, over the last four weeks wherein children from over 2000 households have participated, was to culminate with finals scheduled between 3pm – 4:30pm. After an hour of break for hi-tea, the evening performances commence with children from the underprivileged, followed by felicitating parents of achievers by the achievers themselves, and finally the much awaited performance by Padma Vibhushan Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, fondly called Hariji in the music circles.

Incidentally Hariji, who has been a mentor and well wisher for the last 12 years in the journey of Career Launcher, was launching the third IWS campus at Raipur after Hyderabad and Indore. Dhody and I rushed to airport to receive Hariji, who was accompanied by other two friends of IWS [they have performed at one or other of our inaugural events], performers Vijay Ghate (on tabla) and Sunil Avachat (bansuri accompanist). Hariji was very delighted to see our schools moving to hinterland of the country, as he himself is very fond of interacting with children. [In another blog, I will talk about my intense interactions and experiences with Hariji].

By 2:30pm, the crowd started assembling at the venue of chote sikandar event, with Dhody in full flow. Mesmerized children eager to participate and enamoured parents handy to help the children and organization. The arena for the evening – an open lush green ground surrounded with large trees creating a natural ambience, getting ready with a posse of workers taking care of stage, speakers, lights and chairs for the expected 800+ crowd. By four, there emerged two Chote Sikandars who were to be felicitated by Hariji and scores of them who will be there to take their participation certificates.

At 5pm, the arena was buzzing with parents and children. All invitations had a mention that parents are welcome only with children! Dhody kept the audience on their toes with his brand of quizzing, all related to music and culture, trying to bond the audience with the event. The participation by the crowd was immense. Finally at 5:45pm, the performances by talented children from not so privileged families began – magic show by two kids, 10 and 12 year olds; and a dance by 8 member troupe – to showcase that ‘every child is unique and we celebrate this uniqueness.’ All the children assembled were uncontrollable. They were surrounding the performing children. It was a great start. We even had to announce that there will be a full performance of these talented children at our school on Feb 21!!

We felicitated the parents of the young education and culture minister of the state, Mr. Brijmohan Agarwal, as the minister himself was not able to make it on time to the arena because he was traveling with the chief minister on some cause.

At 6:45, Hariji along with Vijay and Sunil arrived on the stage to a thunderous applause. As I had already briefed Hariji, we invited children to come on stage and occupy the space surrounding the artistes platform on the main stage. Over fifty children were accommodated on the stage. Hariji started interacting with children, asking them to identify the tune he was playing – ‘Vaishnava janato’, the aarati – ‘om jai jagadisha hare’.. . It was a unique experience for every one. Never ever any one had seen such an environment in Raipur. Hariji then started his performance with Alap followed by jhod, jhala….all along interacting with children and the audience, talking about learning, childhood, narrating his own life experiences with his patented humour. The crowd was enthralled. Occasionally a child on the stage will stand up and dance spontaneously and there would be an eye-to-eye interaction with panditji smiling and playing bansuri looking at the dancing child. It was a rare evening, once in a life time for many.

The evening ended with the minister, who had arrived in between, felicitating Hariji and his team. The stage was populated by children and a few parents, making the movement difficult for the minister. Hariji also felicited the minister with a shawl. Hariji, Brijmohanji and Padmasri Dr. Thapke, a noted physician who is also the vice-chancellor of the university of medicine, unveiled the Model of the IWS Raipur. The crowd was uncontrollable, Hariji was surrounded for autographs. Finally he had to be ushered in to a safe place.

The minister was so taken in by the entire evening that he announced that he would extend all help to the education movement of IWS and Career Launcher to reach out to children of Chattisgarh in every way. He said he would like to meet us. We are eagerly looking forward to impact in a much greater way.

After the evening ended, I had an opportunity to spend a couple of hours with Hariji, Vijay and Sunil. This was one more occasion for interaction about children and learning. (look for details in another blog).

I had to head to Dubai the very next afternoon, so I rushed early in the morning back to airport. I was very disappointed for not being able to spend more time with such a fantastic team at Raipur. I promised myself and Dhody that I will be back very soon for 3-4 days at Raipur.

While sitting on the flight, I was recalling the last one year journey of Indus World School in Raipur. As usual, to create awareness well in advance of launching the full fledged school at our own campus, we started last year by taking on lease a bungalow for housing the school – classes, Nursery to grade 2. Though we entered the city a little late, (only in February while all other schools were advertising since November of the previous year), by virtue of workshops for teachers of various play schools and schools in our campus, regular outreach workshops at colonies for parents and children, we created awareness. I am just picking a couple of impacting instances to relate our journey of few months..

‘The school fair of an FM channel’ in May 08, was one event of significance. We tried to convince the FM channel of how they could really approach the fair and even with all the services we wanted to offer, they somehow did not jump at it. The first day of the fair came. We had a 9X6 sq ft stall. We created counseling kits for every mentor, took a whole rack with books and play material for children. Wherever there were spaces for sitting in the arena, we had our mentors for counseling parents; in front of our stall we had arrangements for children to sit and read, telling stories, to scribble and paint. Our approach of interacting with parents by having individual counseling session on facilitating child’s learning, while taking care of children with story reading/telling and creative corners in the fair really took the fair by storm. It could be gauged by the fact that our stall and the space in front was milling with crowds while most of the stalls around, even that of well known brands that were established or launching schools were empty. One of the biggest schools that had a stall next to us threatened the organizers and vacated the stall completely by bargaining a space at the entrance of the fair!! By the end of the day, the CEO of the organizing FM channel came to us and asked us to anchor the second day of the fair!!

Another FM channel immediately gave us a whole of four hours on-air time to interact with parents and children. It created greater awareness. This channel went on to give a couple of more slots for our school during the year, when Col Gopal visited Raipur etc. They are keen to have a weekly slot for parental interaction!! Dhody and members of his team may soon become some of the most sought after RJs and Columnists of Raipur.

The impact of the activities that we have been doing through the year at residential colonies and at our school at Raipur, has created a great deal of enthusiasm in the community. We shall continue to reach out to the community, and I am sure the community will respond by making our school the most sought after school this very year and for years to come.

I see endeavours of Career Launcher as a movement in transforming education and facilitating the children of our vast nation. If we continue to be risk-takers; take ownership of what each one of us is expected of; be open to learn, interact and facilitate; be honest and committed to every child and the society around our existence, and keep innovating along the way, the future looks bright, as we will be able to continue to challenge the challenges in building this great nation.

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