After musing recently about the changes going on at Hunar Ghar it was very heartening, when speaking with Deepak yesterday, to hear him tell me about a couple of activities that are going on at Hunar Ghar at the moment.
Republic Day is coming up, and the children are preparing some performances to celebrate. A groups of students (and remember here that our kids only go up to 3rd standard, although some are a bit older, around 10 – 12 years old) approached Deepak with an idea for a performance. They are doing a role-play about a person that gets ill and goes to the Bowsi temple to try and get better. They give the usual offerings of oil, incense sticks, dried coconut and of course money, but they don’t get any better. The person perseveres but remains ill. Another person gets ill and instead goes to a reputable doctor. The doctor examines them, gives them medicine which is cheaper than all the offerings of the first person and the person gets better.
It’s an important message – often when people get sick they go off the the temple, thinking they are unwell because of something they have done which displeases god. In this situation Deepak, Ash and I tend to say it is fine to go the temple, but why not go the doctor too, and let god work that way? It can be frustrating for us to see people cart ill children off to the temple, sometimes leaving them there for extended periods, when what they really need is medical attention. That our children have understood this idea and are keen on doing a play about it which the community can see is quite exciting, and perhaps an early indicator of how a school founded as a fulcrum for community self-development can enable exciting possibilities of how that development can go ahead – in the ideas and enthusiasm of young minds.
It’s not only the kids who are at it. Our teacher Bhuvanesh is going to tell a hypothetical story about the lives of two children, one whose parents allow her to go to school and one whose parents pay little attention to school. The one that goes to school grows up and, because she can read and do arithmetic, buys the right medicines when sick and pays the right about for things in the market. The other unschooled child grows up to be continually cheated. It is interesting to see how both stories come back to money, but not that surprising considering how poor the community is. What is great though is seeing how the children and the teacher are taking an issue that is important to them and translating the thing they value into something that other people value, then using the school as a medium to spread an idea that is important to them.