It was an evening which filled my heart with excitement, and I ended up penning down my thoughts. Slowly, walking towards the main gate, a little nervous, and slightly reluctant – reluctance perhaps, because I was unable to participate in the process of organizing Bal Chaupal
and reached when all the preparations were almost done. Just trying to realize a thought, convert a concept to reality; being part of this was a dream come true.
Before, I take you through the day, let me share with you the thought behind organizing Bal Chaupal.
We believe that children are being brought up in an environment where there is no scope for them to do things creatively and on their own; new techniques have somehow impaired imagination to a great extent. Each moment someone or the other is keeping a track of what they are doing at school or software is being used to analyze their abilities. There is no freedom of thought, resulting in no freedom of action, and this is the reality. This is a deep-rooted mindset that perceives teachers as givers and students as takers and, the thoughts of children as no thoughts. They do not have the liberty to question and apply their minds to create something new. Teaching has been confined to the textbooks and learning is based on the fear mechanism of bondage which still runs in our culture. Though it is sad, I cannot deny the fact that I am also a product of this system, have had this struggle with myself and found it really tough. After nurturing something for years, one suddenly realizes that things don’t work like this. Therefore, one has to change, and change though difficult is inevitable.
We thought it time to break conventional thinking and open our world to the thoughts of National Curriculum Framework, 2005 which talks about meaningful learning and a fearless environment for children; through Bal Chaupal
we tried to actualize this thought. Children were invited and exposed to thought-provoking activities. The day was designed and planned in such a manner that the children had all the freedom to enjoy, touch, feel, create and appreciate. One could see the efforts put in as the whole place spoke for itself. Happiness, passion and enthusiasm defined the day. One could see the constant sparkle in the children’s eyes. They engaged themselves with mud at the potter’s wheel could not believe the things they could make with their own hands. After some initial hesitation, the creativity began to flow and it was amazing to see what all they created – beautiful diyas, flower pots and gullak
s (piggy banks) which they were allowed to take back with themselves and show it to their friends and parents. It was amazing to witness each child excited, happy and immersed in their own thoughts! Children excitedly whispered to each other that they had never done something like this before and they didn’t know they could make so much with clay.
Children were quite amazed to see how the mud forms a shape; their eyes were filled with curiosity as they watched the potter with admiration. It was remarkable to see so much patience in them; they waited patiently for their turn, respected others’ attempts and showed no competition or rivalry.
The puppetry stall was even more interesting and teachers also engaged themselves in learning this art. They watched the entire process closely, absorbing it. The children were given the freedom to make pictures and live in abstraction which provided them, albeit for a short while, a window to think and contemplate. Some children were absorbed in singing, forming new tunes and creating new music. The theatre stall was full of movement, with children laughing and playing; they were given the opportunity to express themselves through body gestures.
The artists who were invited were really warm and all of them gave a lot of space and respect to the children, which made all the difference; the children were not afraid and were comfortable in sharing their imagination and thoughts with them. The artists played a very important role in making the day so very vibrant and meaningful.
Amidst the gaiety there were some skillful hands trying to repair and assemble a bicycle in shape. The students and I learn to put the parts of the bicycle together and repair a deflated tyre; it wasn’t an easy job at all! The whole process required good judgment of skills, speed and assessment, and to my surprise the children grasped it effortlessly.
The science section was also very intriguing as it explained through simple experiments the concepts of magnetism, polarity, refraction of light through a prism; I confess that I was now able to understand quite simply some scientific facts that I had learnt the hard way. Interestingly, I could not see any girl in this stall, perhaps it simply reflected the mindset of disparity that we create between boys and girls.
The entire day was charged with a lively and vibrant atmosphere. The feeling of oneness, which got reflected, is a beautiful memory; I could feel the noise getting transformed into music and different shades blending into a unique colour. The hands-on experience made the day. Children were happily lost in this world of fun-filled learning and engaging activities.
ended with a presentation by children from a small village in the interiors of Mussoorie which jammed the roads and forced onlookers and media persons to question the co-relation of their existence with such vibrancy in really meek circumstances. The children stole the evening with their dance, each one soaked in the rhythm!
, indeed has been the most memorable day!