After my meeting with the kids at Thingaloor village (click here) and my visit to the Moon temple, I boarded the town bus to return to Kumbakonam town. I shared my seat with a couple of school kids (8th graders) in the bus. After some casual talk, the kids began discussing the Japanese tsunami which had happened earlier that day. I was a little shocked to note that kids in these remote parts knew about it. When I inquired them as to how they knew about it, they told me that their school master gives them a piece of world news every day for discussion and thinking. They told me that their village schoolmaster has a television (that’s a luxury in their village) and would share important world happenings with them on a daily basis. They explained to me that the earthquake was very serious and was 8.9 on the Richter scale. They went on explaining what a Richter scale was and how it is related to a field called seismology. Great teachers do know their way of getting the students to go beyond their books and 4 walls and I can only curse my bad luck that I was unable to meet this teacher. I asked them as to what they would do to help them. They got thinking for a moment and replied that the Japanese are welcome to come over to their village and stay with their families until the water recedes there. When I asked them as to whether they would have the space to stay in their houses, they replied that they, along with their fathers can build new huts for them on a vacant patch of land in their village for them and would be glad to share their meal with them. They even offered to take the Japanese kids to their village school to study along with them so that they wouldn’t miss their lessons. The bus reached their village then and they had to get off the bus. That was one amazing Friday evening for me.
During my pilgrimage earlier this month, I happened to visit a village called Thingaloor, in the Thiruvayaru district in Tamilnadu (too small to be recognized by Google maps). It is a village of about 50-60 huts and houses the famous Moon temple. I had to walk for about 4Km from the highway to reach the village temple.
It was a beautiful Friday evening and the children were playing on the streets. As I was walking towards the temple, a group of kids stopped me and wanted me to take a picture of them. I took their picture and we sat down by the fields and the following was our conversation (translated from Tamil, the local language):
Myself: Do you all go to school?
Kids: Yes. We all study at the village school of Thiruvayaru. We are students of class 3 and 4.
Myself: That’s wonderful. So what did you learn at school today?
Kids: We learned to sing some songs, learned the Tamil alphabet and about seasons.
Myself: Very good. What do you do after school?
Kids: We walk back to our village and play in the fields.
Myself: Does your teacher give you any homework?
Kids: What’s that?
Myself (a little shocked): Don’t you have to do some studying after school to revise your lessons?
Kids: Why should we? We learn at school and play at home. Our teacher insists that we should concentrate on our lessons in our class and play after school. He has never asked us to study. We don’t have our own books to study either.
Myself: So, are you able to remember what your teacher taught you?
Kids: Yes we do. We see what we learn around us. Our teacher taught us about the climate of our district today. Our parents are farmers and we can see and feel it around us. Why do we need a book for that?
Myself: Have you seen or used a computer?
Kids: We’ve seen them in movies. Computers are used by rich people who go to office and are busy. How can small children like us in villages use them? We don’t need computers.
I then showed them a video on seasons on YouTube in my phone. They did like it but felt that it was no big deal as they were in physical contact with what they learn.