By Sahil Arora
An amazing ice-breaker experience at State Home, Ameerpet
I started to feel guilty and unwittingly responsible for having done that. As I continued distributing biscuits and chocolates and moved to the row behind her to distribute more of them, someone gently poked my back. I was persistent and willfully neglected that gesture fearing that it might well just be her (Miss X), prodding…
To find out who is Miss ‘X’, please start reading from the next line.
The ride to State Home, Ameerpet
It is hard to notice and admire the beauty and quintessence of nature when you are too excited to encounter something even more interesting and purer than that. This time it was the innocence and an unpredictable bearing of the State Home girls. Thanks to Preetham we managed our way to our destination for the ice breaker session without any trouble.
The experience of meeting the children we were going to interact with and teach this year was something we all looked forward to. As we approached the building, a few girls popped out of the passage to see who we were and why we had come.
While I was pulling up my socks to get ready for breaking the ice with the kids, a cute little girl came up to me and murmured something in her vernacular language that I could not understand. Only when Ratan helped me understand that she had mistaken me for a look-alike she must have met before, I actually offered my hand to shake with hers and introduced myself, clearing her doubt.
And then she said ‘Hi, My name is Shanti Priya’ with such innocence that does not have any accurately described adjective listed in the dictionary.
Thanks to Mounika for being proactive and to all other volunteers for their ideas, we were adequately prepared and knew how we were going to go about the various sessions including, even, the introductions. We took a head count and assigned numbers to all the children to make the activities manageable.
The introductions involved a ball that was thrown and passed to a random student in the circle who would come inside and shout her name and the assigned number.
Keeping the process aside, I figured out there was a bunch of students who were very active and energetic, a bunch who were getting charged up, a few who were a little moody, and a girl ‘X’ (I’m just not good at remembering names) who just won’t utter a word even if a Tsunami struck.
My attention kept shifting toward her; I kept trying to source some enthusiasm out of her, but she would make sure I failed in my attempts every single time.
Games are much easier to invent than some things Graham Bell did. You just have to make sure that the rules are sufficiently restrictive and poised in a manner such as to make the game interesting. We had one wherein we made three teams from the children and made sure that the winners of each round met one another in the finals.
The kids lined up, leaving a one-arm distance between them. Each kid was required to pass the ball to the one standing behind them from either above their head or from between their legs in an alternate sequence. Miss ‘X’ played the game too but it appeared as if she was forced to do that and which is why she got out early.
As I noticed that, even after being a little partial towards her, she did not take the advantage of her second life in the game and got out very shortly.
The train game
The second game was my own variation of a very simple Train game which, after having being played successfully, now deserves to be given an appropriate name to be remembered with in the future. Two trains were formed to run on a designated track (dictated by the position of signals; having the volunteers as signals of ‘STOP’ and ‘GO’).
The children ran together when the signal (the volunteer) gestured ‘GO’ and made the sound of a train rhythmically. As it ran a big lap and came to rest at a station, a few children and volunteers became the chaiwallas andsamosawallas to serve imaginary refreshments.
As I was crossing Mounika while running along with the kids, making train-like sounds (Kooo Chuk Chuk…!) and looked at her smiling at me, I realized that a 24 year old sophisticated software engineer could not look funnier than me at that moment.
I am not sure about how often these children travelled in trains in the past, but they play-actingly travelled a hell lot of it in those 20-25 minutes that the game lasted.
But where was Miss X? As I also became one of the signals on their way, I deliberately halted their journey for a sufficiently long enough time to be able to find out if she was part of the train. Since I did not find her to be part of one group, I thought she might be in the other one.
The two trains passed me but I failed to find her. And as I turned around to see if there existed a third group which was not participating in the game, I found a group of girls sitting together, some playing a game on their own, some just sitting as spectators, and Miss X standing wordlessly in isolation like a statue.
She looked confused, not more than I was, after I saw her. I wondered if she didn’t like to play with a group and might like playing with only one or two friends. So, I went up to her and invited her to play with me. But she just stood there and did not bother to reply. And I can bet now that I can somehow manage to impress even Katrina Kaif, but I didn’t have any idea about what to do for Miss X.
I was running around, as were other volunteers. Everybody was perspiring but we were all enjoying that experience. Personally, I was very happy with the way I spent the Sunday. We together had managed to give the kids some quality time.
I understood how important it was that everybody enjoyed and nobody felt left out and which is why I had a regret. Even the most shy in the beginning had begun shouting by then.
But Miss X was the lone constant in a bunch of variables. Even the value of pi is written optionally as 3.14 or 22/7, but she had left me undecided.
Ratan and Payal turned on the music on their phones. And I knew that it was time for me to rest for some time, giving an indication of how well I danced. But only to figure out that we were all sailing in the same boat, Mounika prodded me to show some moves to the children so that they could copy.
‘Well, a teacher cannot back out’, I said to myself. But by dancing I was surely going to make the children do so. While we were trying to invent some steps, we suddenly encountered Shanti Priya and a few other girls dancing beautifully. I felt a little stupid and foolish and had three words repeating in my head – ‘Shame on me’. But,well, we enjoyed the embarrassment.
Suddenly out of nowhere, Shanti Priya came up to me and gave me a beautiful bunch of ferns. I was stumped. It felt as if Avril Lavigne had come to me and asked me if she could be my date. I didn’t know how to react but all she expected me to do was very simple – accept it.
I just bent on my knees to make sure she didn’t have to look up and to suggest her that she was bigger than me, not in terms of height but more importantly heart. It was an honour to have embraced such a gesture.
She said to me a few things whilst I keenly listened to her voice. I gave her no impression about the fact that I did not know her vernacular language and only wished I knew so that I could say a few things back to her.
It started drizzling and it felt as if our feelings of contentment and joy had condensed into droplets and were reflected by the light rain. We had finished all our planned activities and it was time we distributed some biscuits and chocolates to them.
While I distributed the chocolates in the first row, I shook hands with each of the children wishing them a happy friendship day. Too excited to receive a chocolate, most of them didn’t bother to wish back or say thank you and started right away with their business of removing the wrappers to enjoy the chocolates.
I saw her (Miss X) sitting in the second row as I spared a covert glance at her. I thought I had one more chance to finally break the ice with her. But I knew that I had to be smart and more importantly different in my approach towards her this time.
I thought all this time I had paid too much heed to her and that it was all reasonably unnecessary. So, here I go. I deliberately skipped giving her the chocolate, moving on to the girl who was sitting right next to her. And I continued repeating the process – shook hands, wished a happy friendship day, and then gave a chocolate.
Skipping her was harsh by every means. I started feeling guilty and unwittingly responsible of having done that. As I continued distributing biscuits and chocolates and moved to the row behind her to distribute more of them, someone gently poked my back.
I was persistent and willfully neglected that gesture fearing that it might well just be her prodding. I feared to face her thinking that she would be furious at me. I just prayed that it should be somebody else poking from behind. But when somebody nudged again from behind, I had to respond.
So I thought to myself that if it is her, then I would just politely apologize to her and give her one extra chocolate to make up, or may be two extra chocolates as I had been unfair and lost my patience in dealing with her.
As I turned around, not to my surprise, it was her (Miss X). But to my surprise, she was not furious at all but was rather smiling. I felt as if I had been pardoned by the judge of the court even after committing a murder. As she was lifted her hand, I took out some chocolates.
More astonishing still, I found that she offered her hand to shake mine and wished me Happy Friendship day. I felt very relieved and then happiness took over. When I offered her the chocolates, she told me that she did not want them as she did not like chocolates.
Oh my God! For a few moments, I stood my ground after being clean bowled. In cricket, you can be fined for that but I was playing a far better game there. So, this is how I finally broke the ice with her, with Miss ‘X’.