Thursday, 26 July 2018

A Day at Bawana

It all started with simple monthly English conversational classes with a laptop screen between me and “my students” that turned into a deeper relationship that I have trouble defining.  I didn’t realize that these six girls sitting in a room in Bawana, Delhi looking at me sitting in my room in Hong Kong through a laptop screen would make me feel so grateful and blessed at being given this opportunity. Our bond grew stronger as we conversed, laughed, muddled through the bad internet connection and my poor Hindi.

My once or at times twice a month sessions began on my return from Delhi in 2017 summers, I had met Ms. Monica at the India Vision Foundation(IVF) office when we went to donate some stationary items collected in Hong Kong for distribution among the children that the foundation worked with. After some discussions in person, and from Hong Kong, it was suggested that I do English conversational classes on Skype. 

My classes with the girls started off tentatively as we really didn’t have a common language between us.  My Hindi was non-existent and their English was insufficient. Adding to that was my “foreign” accent and the poor internet connection, things were not smooth initially.  However, in a couple of sessions, and with my mother by my side translations became a little easy and we established a fair rhythm and good understanding of each other. 

As my sessions progressed I realized that my classes were more fun than actual studies. I showed them videos of the latest K-pop music I was into and they told me about Bollywood. We even had a session when they had to teach me Hindi and that was so much fun! 

So, when plans were made for me to visit Bawana this summer, I was really excited.  I was actually going to see “my girls” face to face, finally! 

I was told I could spend an hour or two teaching or playing games with them.  So I prepared my activities and materials accordingly.  But honestly, nothing could have prepared me for the experience and the emotions I felt at the end of that lovely day in Bawana, the 7th of July 2018. 

I was so excited with the idea of meeting my girls: Mazia, Noori, Shivani, Deepika, Kavita, and Rashida.  When I reached at the community centre, I saw a beautiful Rangoli that was specially made for welcoming me at the entrance of the room. And then Noori appeared with a thali in her hand with Kavita just behind her.  I wanted to reach out and give them a hug but first I had to go through the formal welcome of having a tikka put on my forehead.  I was so touched by this traditional gesture! 

I think the first 10 minutes of meeting everyone was spent squealing and chattering non-stop as I couldn’t contain my excitement. The girls were very shy initially but later they all were chit chatting with me at ease. We talked about whether we looked different than what we appeared on screen across all those miles.  To me they were smaller than what I imagined them to be and to them I was a lot taller in real life than what they saw of me on the screen.

Apart from decorating the room with balloons and streamers, they had made a card and Shivani had written a poem for me.  She read it out and the others translated it into English line by line and I was overwhelmed with gratitude, love and warmth they had for me.  

After a round of hugs and more giggling, we moved on to some activities that I had prepared. We made friendship bands and tied them on each other’s wrists.  At this point, Imran, the only boy in the group, joined us.  By the time we went through the activities and games, we became close friends, and laughed like toddlers in kindergarten.

The fun continued when we moved to the larger hall where more than 30 children were waiting for me to conduct games and activities with them. It was a great afternoon of laughter, play and bonding. 

Adding to this I would like to mention the role that S&P Global played in this whole experience. We had learnt a few days earlier that employees of S&P Global would be there to participate in our exercise.  It was such a coincidence that exactly a year ago they had donated the laptop that was used for my English conversational classes.  And that day, they were donating three more.

I thanked them profusely for this act as without it I couldn’t have connected and made these special bonds with “my girls”.  Also, they were great volunteers helping me run my activities with over 30 people. It was so special that we were there to witness the impact of our joint efforts. 

My learning from my visit was “Sometimes we don’t realize the impact of our small actions. I had certainly not realized the impact of my efforts that I had on these girls.  To them it meant a lot more and held much more value than I had realized. The gratitude they felt towards me seemed undeserved. I felt that my time with them has created a bit of enthusiasm for learning English and perhaps as an extension to that, break barriers that hold them back. This experience has given meaning to my life especially as I go through a particularly challenging time, I realise that I can make a huge difference. Lastly, I would like to thank IVF from the bottom of my heart for this life-changing opportunity. I promise our association will be long and fruitful. 

Ananya Vishwanath
Hong Kong


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A Day at Bawana

It all started with simple monthly English conversational classes with a laptop screen between me and “my students” that turned into a d...