The setting was a dream; green hills against an evening sky, a placid pond, a group of happy children in front of me, the tall trees swaying overhead, and a scary thrill of coming face to face with possible wildlife in the untamed shrubbery all around. Naturally, the best story to share with the children of Kalkeri Sangeet Vidyalaya was Anupam Misra's Dai ka Talaab (The Ponds of Darbhanga). As I narrated the story about a selfless pandit, and an even more magnanimous midwife, I tried not to get dumb-struck by all the sparks of creativity visible around me. A child in the first row appeared to be listening attentively to the story even as he wove a beautiful anklet of grass around his ankle. A child in the last row couldn't stop twirling. Some children were playing with their fancy headgear...crowns and caps made from leaves for their drama practice in the earlier hour. And it was clear from their energetic responses that they were taking in the story quite well.
Learning happens at various levels. I don't have research material to quote from but am convinced that children learn best when they are in a pleasant environment. And they definitely don't need to be sitting ramrod straight in a chair to be imbibing. This is evident when one spends some time at Kalkeri Sangeet Vidyalaya, a free school of performing arts and academics for children from socially and economically disadvantaged families. Children spend hours practising and learning the nuances of Hindustani classical music in this remote school in a dusty corner of Dharwad.
They learn Kannada, maths, science, history and how to wash their plates effectively with ash. They also learn English through a special syllabus put together by volunteers and the team at KSV. I wondered why they had copied Where is my bat? and My Friends in their copybook, no pun intended...a lesson in handwriting or word recognition, maybe. The child in Dai ka Talaab is a genius. The children in KSV are not far behind! And I am awe-stuck at how every child has the potential to shine if only we are able to give them the right facilities.