Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Trip to Earth Mela ( Nature Park)

“Earth Mela” two words that sound so boring for someone who is just not that into environment, especially for the bachhas who had enjoyed a circus on their last trip and the thought of spending a beautiful Sunday at some place like this...blaaaaaa...well who would know that even such a boring serious event would turn out to be very interesting and fun filled one. But let’s not just yet jump to the Earth Mela. Let’s start from the start....

We always plan but most of the time end up facing something totally unexpected. Same was the beginning for this perfectly planned Sunday. As we knew that the bachhas would be on time (as told to us by “Rupesh sir “& “Chaitra teacher”), we thought for a change even we should reach by the given time. However we were glad that we were not the last one’s to reach the class. The Idli and chutni did manage to come even after us (thank god!!).

While some volunteers - Chaitra, Rupesh, Dhvani, Ritika, Ramesh, Harsha and his bro Kartik - guided the children on the way while others -- Arun & Kailash -- had managed to get our tickets booked for the 8.50 am local by then. Thus began our journey for the day...I-card in the neck, food n water bag in one hand and the partners hand in the other. The next task was to get 37 students, 9 volunteers and a few dozen bags onto the local within 40 sec (Phew!!!! quite a task). Our good luck was good and the local was pretty khaali... Our Volunteer Sneha joined us at Thane station. After changing locals, we finally reached Sion. The walk of about 1 km from the station to the park added to the suspense and the children grew impatient with every step. By the time we reached the park, everyone was already exhausted and disappointed (for the lack of circus like colours). To create enthusiasm and get the glucose level to normal, pet- pooja was the need of the hour. The LATE idlis were our saviours once again. However they were so many that we had to pack some of them along with chatni and put them away for use whenever the bachhas feel hungry again.

After the energy booster (for kids and volunteers) it was time for some Masti.. The children were divided into 3 groups and each group went for one of the three activities – Face painting, Photo gallery and Adventure Sports. Our group started with the picture exhibition. The enthusiastic SPROUTS volunteer, started explaining each n every picture in Marathi to our little ones. In the beginning, all 12 curious pairs of eyes n ears followed every word Sir said, though by the time we reached the last picture it was only 3 pairs of eyes now glaring at the pictures. ;-)

The fun was yet to begin. When the bored little angels reached the garden the actual fun started. A set of creative people were waiting to paint a variety of animals on the faces and hands of our kids. The children's excitement knew no bound. Each child ensured that “Chaitra teacher” captured their tattoos at least twice. The more dangerous the animal the happier the kids were. “Anand Sir” had arranged for Frisbee session too. After a quick round of Frisbee training we headed for the adventure sports. (Yoo-hoo!!!! )

The brave hearts did not shy away from trying any of the Adventures right from Burma Bridge to the Rock climbing, from Rapping to Aerial rope-way. Everyone from the kids to the volunteers tried their hand at these sports. The most happening part was when their “sirs and teachers” were up on the ropes. Adding to the curiosity of the children were small tents in the garden. The volunteers had a very difficult time controlling the kids from tearing apart the tents. After this tiring episode was dabbaa time. The kids gobbled up all the food while sitting in a nice shady area in the garden. However this was not all.

The children watched in amazement as the SPROUTS volunteers made fascinating objects with paper pulp in the garden. They were also given a free hand to try out any shape they liked which actually got out the best of their imagination. The “chuha and sher “and “sassa and kasav” ki puppet story told by “Vinita ma'am” brought out the child within each of us also (volunteers). We had never known that Story-telling can also include so many other messages like English grammar, days of the week, cheering, even small life lessons (never give up and always work hard) etc could be taught to the children. Our belief that Story-telling is an art definitely did strengthen.

Now was the happening part for bachhas and relaxation time for LEAD volunteers. The SPROUTS volunteers took charge of the children and all of them headed for Nature Trail while we (the volunteers) heard an “interesting” 'lecture' on environment. ;- ) On their return the little ones could not stop telling stories about all the creatures (animals and plants) they saw. As always, after the tiring time too the hunger pangs started. This time it was the biscuits, cookies and chips served in a make shift newspaper plate served to them while being entertained by “Finding Nemo” (in Hindi). By this time most of them had started falling asleep. This was an indicator to start packing our bags to head back home. After an elaborate photo session with the SPROUTS volunteers, we began our “long” journey back home.

At the evening rush hour climbing into the train was a challenge, so groups were again made for ladies and gents compartments but “Rupesh sir“ actually got freaked by some random rumour that some kids were left behind. Once aboard, there being no place to sit, the children actually started falling asleep while still standing (Volunteers being their only support to cling onto). The journey from Thane to Airoli was not so difficult as all of us managed to get into the same train ka dabba (something that had not happened in the entire train journey for d day) But as it had to be, the trip could not end without a kissa to remember....
Our long forgotten Idlis and CHUTNEY came back to picture again. The volunteer carrying this bag ,Dhwani, suddenly realised that it was leaking and the chutney was dripping. So she had a brain wave and for some reason decided to take out the chutney. The resulting panic was a sight to see and even better was what happened after that. Somehow, all the chutney splattered on the floor, covering our volunteer’s jeans and feet in white. We all had a great laugh and our dear Rupesh sir cleaned the entire floor with a news paper saying that it was our responsibility (hats off to you Rupesh sir). This volunteer was, by the end of it rightly tagged as the ‘Chutney girl’. We reached Airoli station and thus came to end a superb Sunday outing. After all the good byes from the kids we headed back home.

An important thing we got to know on this day was that kindness in this world still exists. People are still ready to help others either directly or indirectly. This was demonstrated quite a number of times during our trip.
----A gentleman very graciously paid for the kids as well as the volunteers to have a glass of juice from a stall at the park ---One of the stall owners packed free cookies for the kids, ---A lady very kind-heartedly helped the volunteers by making sure that all the kids climbed into the crowded local during the return trip and in the ladies compartment many women made place for the children by getting up and the children thanked these people before taking their place. We take this opportunity to thank all these people.

We were humbled by these unexpected acts of kindness. Thanks to this opportunity given to us by LEAD, our belief in humanity strengthened and we had one of the best Sundays of our lives.

Here is the link to the article that appeared in Mumbai Mirror the next day

Dhwani and Ritika

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