We’d decided that we would take the children who belong to the Nature Club in the school run by Parikrama Foundation, birding in the GKVK (Gandhi Krishi Vikas Kendra, or University of Agricultural Sciences.) campus.
Since, alas, the original two volunteers, Chandu and Guru, who planned the outing, were both unable to come, the rest of us met the bus carrying the children and Madhu of the Foundation, at the gate of GKVK, and went inside…
It was nice to photograph Anupama photographing everyone!
I was most impressed by the schoolchildren, who were mainly from Classes 8 and 9 (with a few from Class 7.) In the first place, I found them fluent in English. Though many schools for underprivileged children insist on the mother tongue (Kannada in this State), the fact of life is that a good command over spoken English gives a youngster a huge economic advanatage in our society.
The second wonderful thing about the children was the complete lack of repression. They were not in the least inhibited, asked a hundred questions, talked to me about a lot of things they had seen and done, and we were laughing and joking together comfortably.
And..the third wonderful thing...was that J N Prasad, one of the very expeienced ornithologists and bird lovers that we have in Bangalore, had come to the school the previous week, and given them a talk about birds, and shown them bird pictures, too. I was amazed to find every child with a book and a pencil or a pen, noting down the attributes and features of the birds they saw, and even sketching them!
My thoughts went instantly to Karthik, who dins this practice into the ears of every one who goes to him for any course in birdwatching. I was wishing that he and his wife Priya, who is also an excellent birder, and is also very good with children, were there to enjoy this!
We did not see too many birds, given the very short time that we had...we spent some time waiting for one more volunteer, who was not able to make it, and started only by 7.45 am, and the children were in their bus by 9am.Also, we had some trouble with one of the security guards, who was objecting to our walking even on the main road in the campus. But the birds that the children did see were meticulously documented.
Madhu had this book (on the fauna of the Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve) to refer to, and I really liked the way it was written:
The children remembered every bit of information that "Prasad Anna" had given them, and made it very clear how much they enjoyed the session with him. And for us, the preparatory spadework had been done by him, and we found a set of keen birders, not a set of newbies, that was waiting for us! It's incredible how well Prasad communicated all the information to the children, and in one session, aroused their interest, taught them the proper techniques of bird-watching, and gave them so much of information, all simultaneously! Today he had taken the children from two other Parikrama schools to Lalbagh, and we were privileged to reap of the fruits of his labour last week.
The children continued to amaze me. One little girl had sketched a bird with a long, thin beak, and said she had tried to sketch the Spotted Dove, and I said, "but the dove doesn't have a long beak"...and she replied, "But Akka, the dove you showed us had a long twig in its mouth, remember? So I drew that, too."
Here's that dove, you'll know exactly what she drew:
At the end of the session, the children folded their palms and said a short, touching prayer, thanking God for sending us to teach them something! I was really humbled by this, and in my turn, gave thanks for being able to meet such wonderful children and caring teachers.
Of course, after the children left, I started getting complaints from my mid-section, and the volunteer group went to the GKVK canteen for IVC (Idli, Vada, Coffee)...here are the others... Anupama, Girish, Krupakar, Harish and Sunil:
Bird-list that the children put together:
Pigeon, Blue Rock
I feel that far more privilged children in the “top” schools do not get the quality of education that these children are getting in Parikrama. It was a delight to be with them, and I experienced afresh the joy of birdwatching and when they spotted a White-browed Bulbul or a Coucal for the very first time, it was as if I was seeing them anew, too.
A delightful morning, and thank you to everyone from Parikrama, and Chandu and Guru, who made it possible!
I am just including this garden ornamental plant because I loved those flowers: