Shishu Mandir is a children’s project consisting of a home and a school for children of under- privileged backgrounds. When they wanted to come out with a book about the institution, I took a series of workshops out of which the children’s drawings could be used as illustrations for the book. Since this project involves ‘illustration’, I made an exception to my rule of ‘never teach children’. I needn’t have worried as they were far easier to deal with than the stuffy overbearing aunties who I once made the mistake of teaching long ago.
One visit to Shishu Mandir and I was bowled over by the place. The buildings were clean, airy and beautiful. All the rooms were full of light and filled with a friendly ambience. The teachers smiled readily and seemed a very dedicated lot. Everything here was so different from the excessively eulogized, stodgy, colonial, pressure filled, rule driven atmosphere of a school in which I once studied centuries ago.
The children here smiled easily at me and some of them came up to me confidently and asked me my name. Later at the workshop they were fun, and were eager to experiment and try out things. All the children were neat, clean, well dressed and well mannered. They all spoke perfect English. They seemed relaxed and happy.
It is very very hard to imagine that these children with sparkling eyes and bright faces have known and endured hardships that you or I cannot even fathom.
Apparently this is the first time they got to be ‘creative’ and 'original' and draw subjects other than English winter scenes, Walt Disney cartoons, copied greeting cards and that kind of stuff.
One of the biggest surprises was at the end of the workshop. Every child made it his or her responsibility to clear up her place, scrub her table clean and help the others tidy up the room before leaving.
Some of these pictures here are the results of the first workshop.
I can't wait to see what the results of the next workshop will bring about!