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Shishu Kishore Vikaas Mela ( Child and Youth development fair)—A unique confidence building experiment with the future citizens

November 3, 2009

This is a week-long annual camp-cum-workshop orgasnised at various rural and semi urban locations of Bengal during the Autumn.

This effort has reached its twelfth year in 2009.

School level children are the main participants and target beneficiaries of the camp. We would like to give the summary of the experience from the perspective of  a child , as published in one of the camp brochures. (The original full text is in Bengali. This is only a synopsis in English):

I study in a free primary school. The school is actually a big shop that accommodates 63 of us and a stick wielding teacher. One day he called the names of a few of us and told that we shall be going for a camp. The place was Jambani, near Shantiniketan.

This was the first time I traveled in a railway train. The breakfast , served during the journey in train, was frugal. From the railway station we were taken to the venue by a bus. It was a big, walled school building with lots of trees and a pond inside. Once out of the bus, we all started running inside the compound. The ground was pebbly and hurting but so what! It was a beautiful feeling to be able to run undisturbed, without having to think about any rushing vehicle. Can anyone run like that in our town? I was really missing my siblings. If they could also come!!

After the initial commotion we settled down in some of the classrooms. A large plastic had been spread on the floor. We were to sleep there. We had carried some rudimentary bedding with us for that.

After a  little time and another frugal snacks we went out to explore the place.  The primary section of the school is housed on the backyard of the main block. It’s mid-day meal kitchen , standing beside a well, has been made into our camp kitchen for next one week. A nice leaning tree stood there. Many of us tried our hands at climbing the tree.  Some went near the pond and sat beside it. Somehow we were forming small groups of hitherto unknown persons. A big girl suddenly approached me and took me to see the cooking going on in the kitchen. Some of our moms and sisters who had accompanied us in the camp were assisting in the cooking. They were chatting among themselves. There was fun and frolic everywhere. Once again I missed my mom and sis. If only they could come!


The next morning we were gathered in a large, well-lit hall. There were some senior persons sitting at the back. Two big boys were in charge of maintaining discipline. However nobody was carrying a cane or any other such disciplining instrument we are so much in the habit of seeing in the schools. Our names were noted down here. This was followed by a session of songs. We all sang and enjoyed.

After that we were divided into a number of groups and assigned different activities. Our group was put under Samit Bandyopadhyay, Kaushik da and Palan da. They would teach us how to act in a play! They were very good, only most of the things they told were difficult to understand. I started feeling sleepy and tried repeatedly to slip away from the session. The symptoms spread quickly and our teachers called for help from another elderly person. We were afraid that this person would chastise us for being inattentive. But the man called me and instead of barking at me he offered me to play the role of a necklace snatcher. Sabita would play the role of your victim and Ruksana would act as police and try to catch you.

Now this was fun. I  snatched the necklace quite professionally and as soon as Ruksana came to catch me I ran outside and a chase ensued, among loud clapping from the elders. This episode took away all the boredom.

The rest of the activities that followed were sheer fun—grab your friends at the call of a number(if the number is three grab three friends and like that), two or more persons collaborate in drawing one picture and so on. We never knew when morning turned into middle of the noon. It was time for a break.

A pump was running in the backyard and water was being sprinkled through a pipe. That was our public bath. It was so great a fun to bathe like that under the open sky! The food was simple but we were very hungry and ate a lot.

By evening the entire camp was in a beautiful harmony. Many of us were willingly participating in the daily chores. If somebody did not want to participate, fine! Let him idle away. Nobody would say anything to him. No punishments would be meted out. But then, who wants to be a loner when all other are working together and having fun!!

A daily wall magazine was also planned during the camping days. We were to write and draw for it. I tried my hand at making a sketch of spiderman. It came out well. The next day I drew Mickey mouse. This time it was accompanied by a small couplet. Then Cinderella followed.

The wall magazine soon had a companion in the form of a daily collaborative poem. Somebody would write a line and others would contribute a line or two in succession. It was fun. The first line was,

“The camp’ll ask you just one thing.”

The next morning someone completed the couplet with this line-

“Together we must learn to sing.”

This was followed by other lines. After some time the meter and the rhythm were all thrown into air and a free for all poetry writing session ensued.

By the midst of the camping period our group was  ready with a play, to be enacted on the last day. The work was based on a comedy by Tagore but it was enlarged considerably to accommodate all the members of the group. Different groups were creating their own plays. Once I saw a boy being  asked to play the role of a dog. The boy denied. The proposal  must have been a disgusting one for him! Then one of our trainers took up the role. The story was beautiful—the  pet dog of a lonely boy saving him from drowning by calling out for help. With the beautiful acting of the trainer, the dog’s role became so attractive that once the demonstration was over, the boy forgot his reservations and jumped for the role.

Evenings were fun too. Listening to stories used to be a main attraction. One day it was proposed to organize lots of programs  in the evening in various rooms—recitation, go as you like, dancing, ghost room, movie room and so on. Every such room was the responsibility of a group of campers. They had to plan the entire program of  that room. Arranging for the logistics was the responsibility of the seniors.

We all got very busy from that afternoon with our respective charges. The fun started after Sunset. A boy called Ujan from Santipur was performing in the magic room. He is a good showman but the funniest element in the show was his father–a big tall fellow, working as a meek assistant to this puny magician. I myself was in the dance group. I love to dance.

But, of all the groups,  the best was the ghost room. As soon as I entered that room, someone slapped on my head. I turned around to find only a pair of floating eyes and a set of white teeth!! Then came a procession of skeletons! That was enough for me. I shouted for help, wanting to get out of the room and immediately somebody pushed me outside. The room became the most popular among all the rooms that evening. Everybody wanted to get in. Even all the seniors! There was a long queue in front of it.

Thus our week was spent. All through the week each of the groups has created a play almost from scratch. The dialogues, the acting, the plan—- everything! That was the main goal. Side by side we have lived and worked and had fun together in a big group like a big family.

On the last day the programme started in the afternoon. There were some songs and then the plays started one after another. But then those were not simply another set of plays! They were created by us during last few days. So many memories associated with each scene. Remember that dog I mentioned earlier? In  the play,  the dog was killed at the end by a rude man. We cried when the scene was acted.

After all the plays were acted, we lit a lot of candles and walked around the entire place, singing all the time. There was no declaration of end of a festival, because, it was not an end; just a beginning of the next festival.

In the present time of endangered childhood in every strata or class of the society, this effort can be summarized as a venture to touch the sleeping creativity in a child and give it the confidence that it can also deliver of its own. The camps are designed to gently guide a child to learn to think of its own and to dare to come up with new ideas and try and implement them too.

The journal of the young participant above shows the gradual evolution of a mind over the week long camping period during which it is taught to shed its fear and lack of confidence, learns to look for his own capabilities and then to come out with its contribution without any hesitation.

A group of dedicated and capable individuals are behind this novel effort. They also publish a very standard booklet on the occasion of this camp.

Interested individuals may contact at this blog site for contact details of the organisers. Feel free to send in your queries in comment mode to this post.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Sujoy Roy. permalink
    November 5, 2009 08:24

    The child leaves an account of how his mates, and age cohorts kept themselves galvanised amongst themselves with sheer fun of life . Education without tears. How many adults bitterly regret that they never enjoyed their childhood, never even had the cirumstances and opportunity to receive childhood indulgences. Take only one example. Michael Jonson had his memorable song” has anybody seen my childhood?”

  2. Sujoy Roy. permalink
    November 5, 2009 08:27

    I meant Michael Jackson had his memorable song “has anybody seen my chilhood?’

  3. Mrs. A. Banerjee permalink
    March 27, 2010 16:07

    If I want to take part in such workshops where should I contact ? I have a continuous experience of teaching in formal schools for 16 years and also worked for a long period of time with the underprivileged children in Calcutta,Mumbai,Chennai and abroad.

    • March 27, 2010 23:10

      This is a common reply to your common query in respect of the two posts. These two posts relate to workshops which take place at intervals. However a number of regular experiments are going on in the area of education of downtrodden children in various corners of rural Bengal. You can think of contacting them.

      I shall like to refer you to the following post in this matter.

      After going thru this post, you feel you can contribute with your experince, at the end of the post you will find the contact address. In addition I am also providing the telephone number of the main individual behind this referred effort o that if you feel like you may get in touch with this individual.

      Sri Subroto Biswas (09733735078)

      Lets all try to help. Each effort counts. Thanks for your jesture.

      Debjyoti Bhattacharyya

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