It was a lazy Sunday morning by the beach when UK volunteers had assembled to do a quick head-count before we left for St George’s School, Egmore. Sixteen heads, including the volunteers. When Meera had called for a fun and productive way to spend a Sunday the previous day (when UK classes were held), she certainly didn’t expect such a large turnout.
We soon marched off to the Besant Nagar bus terminus (the only means to transport such a large contingent) and after an hour long rickety ride through Usman Road which all but broke our backs. A short walk later, the sixteen of us strode into the gargantuan complex after reaching a consensus on disciplinary issues (all kids were to line up and stay with us at all times and were not to visit any shops without our approval). Surprisingly, there were no defaulters- it was more difficult to convince the kids to put books back on the shelves and move on!
We decided on a few stalls to visit- notably the Sura Books stall that the kids loved for the pocket-friendly quiz material and the eponymous Indian Book House (that publishes the Amar Chitra Katha series). A couple of kids made a few purchases after seeking anna’s or akka’s approval. We were amazed at their enthusiasm and wished we could play Santa, if only we had the resources.
At two, we dispersed for a lunch break and discovered the only hygienic food options available were fresh fruits and corn!. After our ‘snack’, we decided to head home, anticipating another hour-long journey, deciding to skip window-shopping. This time, we skipped the Panagal Park area altogether and were back in less than an hour, surprisingly.
Back home, binging to break the day-long fast and napping to put sore muscles to rest, I realized that the backpacking experience was one adrenaline-charged day that I will never forget! Not to mention, putting smiles on a dozen young faces!
PS: Next time, a bit more planning will make it more comfortable for everyone. Nonetheless, we’re a learning organization and this is yet another learning experience- for volunteers and children alike.