Government Residential School, Rajpur Road, Dehradun, a set on Flickr.
Feb 15: having arrived early at 4am in dehradoon by the AC express, we checked into a hotel. Because it was going to be a long day, I crashed in the train the moment I entered and had my six hours of sound sleep. So when I entered the hotel with avneesh, I thought of taking my customary morning walk along with the camera. These early morning walks have always been a blessing for me in capturing the beautiful character of any city. Dehradun has given me those magical moments on my previous visits too when I captured the flurry of morning activities at the subash park on rajpur road.
The hotel that we checked in is a new one in every respect. Hotel is new built and this was the first time I am staying there. I moved out of the hotel at about 5:45 am and got onto the rajpur road. For a change, I started walking towards the clock tower, the other side of the road that I had never walked by. I crossed a shopping complex and a couple of crossings and was moving past a bus stand, and suddenly my eyes fell on a handful of kids who were playing an unusual game of dragging one of them on a broken y-shaped tree branch. It was rather unusual to see at 6am, young kids so active. I paused for a moment and noticed that it looked like a dilapidated bungalow in a large compound bereft of anything. I was impatient to be part of the action and quickly sneaked into the compound through the barbed-wire fence. I did not even bother to know what this building all about and where was I sneaking into.
As the children were taking turns to give one another the ride on their innovative vehicle made of a tree-branch, I started quickly capturing those precious moments. My action attracted a couple of more kids who from nowhere surrounded me to see what was I doing crawling on the ground. My camera caught their fascination. I noticed that these kids look like they stay here as they all looked groggy and just about out of their beds. They got to see me through the window of their rooms, capturing the boisterous threesome who were immersed in their transport activity and rushed out. In no time there were about fifteen kids, ages ranging between five to fifteen, asking me to click them too. I clicked a couple of snaps and started interacting with them.
I got to know that, the place is a government residential school, and most of the occupants are orphans from various places around Dehradun. By then about 30 kids surrounded me and that attracted a young matron too, who came to introduce the place. All this happening on the sprawling compound with a few trees and the environment was charged with energy. One of the students rushed in there with a long note pad and looked very purposeful. I asked him what is it about. In unison, every one said, ‘aaj ki khabarein’. It was his turn to share the news today and he had painstakingly scribbled on his notepad. I was taken in, and asked the boy ‘sunao’. He started reading, with some struggle to pronounce, today’s news that he had written for the morning assembly.
“Bus khayi mein giri, do ki maut, pandrah ghayal”
“Uttar Pradesh mein chunav ki doosri Khadi shanti poorvakh Samapth ..”
He went on to share a few more headlines and then I started asking them a little more details about each of the khabars, trying to probe how much interest do they take beyond the headlines. They looked at each other and laughed, and said “itnahi’. I thought, one thing is for sure, these young kids are better than our well-to-do college kids, who hardly bother to open any newspaper!!
Then I puzzled them with a few riddles based on “Mallika’s story about milkman and his two measures, 5 litre and 3 Litre.” They were mesmerized by the questions and slowly in 15-20 minutes they caught on to the puzzles and they opened up. They were saying, “Ganith itna badhiya ho sakta hai. Humko aisa kyon nahin padhathe!!”
Meanwhile an elderly gentleman, their yoga teacher, arrived on his two-wheeler. Quickly all of them formed five lines, standing spaced out, one behind the other, for their morning exercise and yoga. They followed it up with a few songs, initiated by the elderly gentleman.. It was a wonderful forty-five minutes observing, participating and listening to their activities. I went on goading them to sing one song after another, while recording their renditions.. Here they are …
Once their music session got over, they were asked to quickly freshen up and assemble for their breakfast. The cook took me to the kitchen and I was surprised to see a couple of young students at the gas stove making parathas. I joined them to make a few parathas. I am very good at making them. I shared with them how I learnt it when I was twenty. My parathas and rotis automatically become circular as I keep rotating and spreading the dough with the ‘belan’. They were surprised at the felicity with which I made those parathas. I was told that the parathas are for elderly kids, class 9 and beyond who go to attend another school and return only by late evening. In this school, the classes go upto class 8.
As I went out, I saw the children washing their hands and getting their plates ready. A couple of the children are already in their positions to distribute the rotis and kichdi, their usual breakfast. It is amazing to see how each one takes care of himself and also the younger ones who are sitting next to them. Each one is respected and facilitated. As the distribution of the food got over, every one folded their hands to offer prayers in multiple languages including in English. It was very touching to hear them sing. Then they went on to finish their breakfast.
After their breakfast, each one carried his plate and glass, washed them and placed them back in their respective location. They took responsibility of every thing that was expected of them. They all behaved beyond their age!
Quickly they all vanished into their locker rooms to open their trunks and pull out their uniforms to wear. The next fifteen minutes were frenzied with everyone trying to look his best. Also they helped one another. I went about capturing their activities with my camera, oblivious to them. They were inured as they expected me to be clicking.
By the time I came out of their locker rooms, their makeshift classrooms were getting reconfigured. Their dining hall got converted into three classrooms facing different directions. I could witness more classrooms emerging with more boards appearing from nowhere, all arranged by the young kids themselves. They were discussing, debating and placing them and replacing them. It was a great way to devolve responsibilities. No adult was around and everything looked automated.
Once they all were ready with their classrooms, bags to attend the school, all of them insisted on taking a group photo. Quite a few were fighting grab the camera to click the snaps with me in the frame.
In those three hours, I experienced the world of these lovely youngsters who owned the place, belonged to one another and made their world as beautiful as it can be. I walked away immensely satisfied about my morning, making friends out of every one in that ‘lively’ old mansion!