3 days, 70 acres, a Rs 200,000 budget, 9 trainers, a 35 foot rock, 12 litres of fuel, 8 snakes, 8 lakes, 2 swimming pools, 45 degree Celsius room temperature, 1 genuine true-blue celebrity, 2 professional dancers, 2 DJs, 1 maa-beta reunion, 15 volunteers, 40 kids, a 720 hour delay in blogging about it :) …and numbers don’t tell 1/100th the story!!!
Karthik…I know its your word ( ie you came up with it) and all that.. But Hyderabad just (actually more than a month back :) ) set the new bench-mark in AWESOMENESS…
Sorry about the overdose of superlatives, but then super events are described in superlatives I guess :) … The Hyderabad camp(or the Dream Camp as we call it) was so cool, the effects so profound, that… a month after, when I’m blogging about it, I still get goose bumps…it was definitely the biggest “kick” I’ve gotten from a non-teaching activity in MAD ever!! Now I guess I should stop bragging and get on with the reporting… :)
Here we go…on the 29th we started from Thara, a home for street kids, Secunderabad at 5:00 in the morn. The kids were all ready and excited about their first MAD camp and hence buzzing like a swarm of bees on Red-bull!!…With a great deal of difficulty, they were “loaded” on to the bus by a sleepy yet “determined” :) bunch of MADsters. We took couple o’ hours to get to Divya Resorts (our venue) by 7 am. The day started with an energizing Art of Living session by Mrs.Latha, after which we went on to have a fantastic break-fast.
This was followed by 2 hours of volunteer activities which involved team division, setting ground rules, picking team chants and other team insignia. This was followed by a Creative Movements by Ms. Vanita which was super-cool because it was seemingly a ‘goof-around-to-music’ session (with music being played accompanied by a lot of weird movements) but at the end of it, it actually helped the children with their body language, and posture…besides leaving them a lot less fidgety :) …hats off to Madame Vanita for that…
Come lunch time and we were treated to the culinary expertise of the Divya Resort chefs in the form of sumptuous Biriyani-and-mutton-curry combo. The first session after lunch was a Personality Development session by Dr. Nagesh stressing on personal organization. After this we had a Magic workshop by Arjun who was way too cool (except that he disappointed Ankesh who kept demanding that he pull Sienna Miller out of some hat :) ). This was followed by a super volunteer activity session where the children & volunteers bonded over a lot of simple yet fun games.
The kids, crazy as they are about dance, were super-excited about the next session, a dance session by Mr. Sriram, a professional choreographer & dancer par excellence. To put it simply, Shreeram would have won any election unanimously had the campers been voting-THAT cool he was!!!
Grimy, sweaty and dirty as they were after all movement-intensive sessions, our kids needed to be washed and wash them we did!!!. It was pool time for the kids and the volunteers & all said and done, it was the most fun session in the entire camp with every child, man, woman, and Kola being dunked in the water and then… being dunked again!!! The kids freshened up after the pool and by 8 pm, were ready for a sumptuous dinner & quality time with the volunteers. With the day leaving them exhausted, a lot of them had to be carried away to bed by the barely-standing volunteers.
We were woken up by the camp coordinator’s loud, screechy (refer Jeffy’s poem) and urgent sounding voice informing us that there was only half an hour left for the camp to start. We brushed while showering and shaved on the pot (the guys), and somehow got ready and there by 6.30. The Art of Living session was over by 8:00 am which was followed by another awesome breakfast (veg… but awesome).
After this, we had volunteer activities from 8:30-9:30 which was followed by a Personality Development session by Mr. Sanjay. This was followed by an interesting Science Workshop (I know its almost an oxymoron, but this guy actually pulled it off!) by Mr. Vijay at 11:00 am during which the kids made models of the hydraulic shooter, pull back car and an air propelled car. After the science workshop, came lunch (chicken with rumali rotis :)).
From 3:30pm – 6:30 pm, we had two Personality Development sessions by Dr. Bharat Singh & Prof. Maheshwar who shared techniques on memory, concentration, confidence building and positive attitude with the kids.
From 6:30 – 7:30pm, the kids had another pool session. After the kids freshened up, the dance rehearsal session started at 8:30 pm, followed by games and dinner.
The last and the most exciting day of the camp, started with Art of Living which was the only sedate session during the entire day and probably, the only time anybody sat down!!! Following breakfast at 8 am, the kids were ready for the highlight of the camp – the Adventure Session. From rappelling off a 35 foot rock to crossing a 50 metre water body(dangling head down on a rope!!!) to the commando net to zorbing, we did it all… The adventure session was exciting, exhilarating and all that blah! but more than all that, it was a huge confidence booster for the kids as they were doing things they had only seen Tom Cruise doing… on TV!!!
The afternoon sessions started with an empowering communication and public speaking session by Dr. Sreekanth Acharya. And then came in the snakes… literally!!!. At 3:30pm, The Friends of Snakes society, an NGO involved in creating awareness about snakes, came down with some of their star members – the Green Vine, the Rat snake, the Russel’s Viper, a HUGE Rock Python, the Sand Boa & the king of them all…The King Cobra.(Boy! did he make an entrance…check the pics out!!!) The session was awe-inspiring to say the least, with even our volunteers reduced to giggly teenagers when it came to posing with a 20 kilo Python around our necks!!!
And like icing on cake (or in this case, snake), came Mr. Varun Sandesh, the star of the blockbuster telugu movie – “Happy Days” (and the first real celebrity at a MAD event) who threw the crowd into raptures with his mere presence and his had all and sundry eating out of his hands with his pleasing demeanor and surprising humility. There’s no better mark of his popularity than him being left like a very weirdly adorned Christmas tree with kids & volunteers clinging to every available part of him.
The kids, then, rushed off to freshen up and rehearse for the Grand Finale`. By 8, we started the closing ceremony with speeches by the camp coordinator Swetha Kola and Fr Jose Mathew, Founder of Thara. Then goodies (shoes and t-shirts!) were distributed to all the kids.
This was followed by mind-blowing music & dance performances by the children and volunteers (all the kids & Sriram, Shameem, Vishu and Rebecca deserve special mention here). With the excitement getting to a crescendo, we then took the opportunity to literally set the stage on fire with our 7 foot tall 12 foot in diameter…CAMP FIRE (this is where the 7 trees and the 12 litres of fuel went :) )…the lighting of which was quite a spectacle with Beepin performing some breathtaking stunts with the car to distract the audience before zooming away to reveal the blazing campfire.
Then came in DJ Sreekanth with some pulsating Telugu numbers with which the kids went wild. And WILD it was for the next 2 hours…some MADsters like Fook and Kshitij surprised us with their wholly unsuspected and totally awesome dancing prowess… and some like Ankesh and Eohan brought the house down with their fire blowing act… By 10.30 Sister Elizabeth’s glares finally subdued us into calling a time-out. We rounded off the ammaaazingg night with another delicious dinner and one word on every lip that moved…AWESOMENESS!!!
P.S: Now for the real AWESOMENESS…Nandu, one of the brightest students in Thara, had run away from home 2 years ago…he spend about a year on the street before being brought to Thara. His parents had resigned to having lost him for ever…and they would have too, but…on th 3rd day of the camp…Nandu borrowed a mobile from someone and decided to ring up his mom…and 2 days later, the emotional mother and son were united again!!!