“A Qua Qua Dela Oh My Qua Qua, Qua Qua Qua Qua De Simo Fiko…”. This song has been stuck in my mind from the day it was taught to me. But wait a moment, let me not get ahead of myself. On our second day in Turtuk, unable to resist the pleading from the younger children, I shifted to teaching the students of grade 4.

All ears and eyes
All Eyes and Ears

The enthusiasm of the two girls and 3 boys bowled me over, and within no time I was more enamoured by them than they were by me. We went through the human body, then moved on to rhymes and a story called ‘Goloo The Circle’.

Time for a Game
Time for a break

Soon after, I took grades 1 and 2, and the cute little kids followed all my actions so patiently until they had mastered Head, Shoulder, Knees and Toes.

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

After my time with them was over, their voices were heard echoing the song outside the classroom through the corridors (which served as their permanent class venue as they didn’t have a proper room assigned to them). As lunch time rolled around, I took my rajma chaaval1 in my plate and proceeded to eat with my hands (a skill I had mastered only after my arrival in Turtuk). I ate at the speed of lightning and rushed out to wash my plate with the rest of the little ones who did the same every day. After I had finished this, I strolled around the grounds before deciding to teach the girls the game ‘Monkey in the Middle’.

Since it was Friday, they had a longer break, and after spending a fair amount of time tossing a deflated ball over each other’s heads, we began the game of ‘A Qua Qua Dela Oh My Qua Qua’. Listen to it here

I knew the girls were devising some scheme, but for the first half of the game I was oblivious to what it was. Only when they informed me in their high pitched adorable voices that the winner would have to sing a song did I realize that I was being made to win on purpose. I chuckled, as I informed them that I had guessed what they were strategizing, but they were determined to force a song or two or even three out of me.

We continued the game, and at long last when, as expected, I did win, I was swarmed by a crowd of girls saying “Ma’am ji, ma’am ji, gaana gao na!”2 I refused to sing in the open grounds, and hence I was herded by girls of assorted ages into one of the classrooms upstairs, where they sat in a tight circle around me and almost begged me to sing a song. On asking them what I should sing, they requested a song by Honey Singh, but I refused to do that and decided an English song was better any day. The minute I opened my mouth in way of a melody, they were in fits of laughter, stuffing their headdresses into their mouths to prevent the giggles, some of them even running out of the room. My song proved to be very shaky as I couldn’t help but join in on their laughter.

turtuk8

I persuaded a few of them to perform a dance for me as well. Despite being reluctant at first, they sang and danced to a Nepali song, beautifully. As they slowly overcame their shyness, I became more of a sister than a teacher, and this acceptance left me with a warm feeling. I grew more and more attached to them with each passing minute which I spent in that room. Whether it was the way they would come up to me and ask in sad tones “Ma’am ji, aap humein nahi padhaoge? Aap hamare class ao na!”3, or the way we would play ‘Our Game’ the whole lunch break, or the way they would dance and I would sing despite all the giggling; it all brought us even closer and I knew it was going to be harder for me to leave than it would have been before that day . Every time they would thank me, I would want to tell them that the person who should have really been thanking someone should have been me – I don’t think I can ever thank them enough for changing my life the way they have, and I think I know for a fact that they have done more for me than I have for them.

  1. Rajma chaaval – A dish of kidney beans and rice.
  2. Ma’am ji, ma’am ji, gaana gao na! – Miss, miss, please sing us a song!
  3. Ma’am ji, aap humein nahi padhaoge? Aap hamare class ao na! – Miss, won’t you teach us? Please come to our class as well!

P.S. – Only on my return from Ladakh and after having Googled the lyrics of the song did I finally find out that they were lyrics to an Israeli song. The girls must have picked it up from a tourist, as Turtuk is a spot much visited by Israelis. Till then I had absolutely no idea what any of the words meant, but like them I had sung it enthusiastically!

Written by Ananya Saluja

I’m your average seventeen-year old girl from New Delhi studying in the 12th grade at The Shri Ram School, Moulsari. I volunteered during my last two summer vacations in Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, teaching children in the schools of remote villages through the 17000 ft Foundation. It was the most life changing experience, and the childrens’ amazing reactions and responses made even the occasional accompanying altitude sickness worth it.

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