It was a balmy day. The kind that sets you in a mellow mood and makes you feel benign. It was also PTM day, something I always look forward to and that for more reasons than one! First of all it is always lovely to meet the children, but there is more. The few hours spent in the little boarding school are always an escape to an island of hope and allow me to forget the trials and tribulations of my everyday existence and simply relax for a few hours be it by imbibing myself into a kid's world, or even getting a lesson in life! One thing is sure each PTM is unique and special.
So we set out for this one in a happy mood. I was accompanied by Cat and Lukas two young volunteers. We reached early and were told that the children were in their respective classes. We set out to find them and lie all parents dreaded the outcome of the meeting with the teachers. But we were in for a surprise. All our stars had once again performed extremely well and three of them were first in their class with Babli and Vicky getting certificate of merit for best handwriting and scholar of the month! Wow we were stunned. These were little slumkids, the kind no one expects anything from, the kind you write off without even giving them a chance to prove the contrary.
My heart swelled with pride and I felt absolved of all the criticism and cynicism I had faced when I had dared think of sending such children to a upmarket boarding school. Maybe I had read it all wrong: the reticence of privileged people to open the portals of quality learning to kids from slums and poor homes stemmed from the fear or the conviction of knowing that they would outshine their privileged peers! Food for thought.
As we had planned to stay for a short time, we had brought some goodies to share with the kids as there was to be no trip to the pizza parlour. We sat on the grass and opened the boxes and I must confess we had as good a time as the kids as we gobbled cookies and cakes washed with warm cups of syrupy tea generously provided by the school. It was a perfect moment, one we knew was not to last but that we enjoyed to the fullest.
It was time to go and we bade farewell to the kids. Our driver seemed to have vanished to we stood next to the car and waited for him to reappear. In one corner of the patch of grass where we stood sat a little family. An elderly man with the kindest face you could imagine in spite of his forbidding moustache, and five boys aged between 15 and 9. The man had a picnic basket from which he fished out little glasses, bowls and plates. He had two large packets of food and I looked at him and smiled. He immediately invited us all to share the meal he had brought for his children and would not take no for an answer. There were divine millet rotis and homemade butter, the kind that comes straight from a farm. We shared this simple meal with a little guilt as this was what he had brought for his children, but refusing it would have been anathema and gone against all what real India stands for. It was an incredibly moving moment, particularly for young Cat and Lukas: a glimpse of India they would never forget.
The driver was there and it was time to go. Lukas wanted to know when the next PTM would be as he wanted to invite the proud and generous man! I smiled. I did not know if you would ever see him again, but we all knew that we would carry this moment in our hearts forever.
Here are some snapshots of this very special day