On our last day in Turtuk we were taking classes for just half the day. Since the children of the fifth grade had been begging me to teach them as well, I decided I would work with them after I had finished painting faces for the sixth grade.

Galdan and I paint faces for the Solar System play
Galdan and I try our hand at face painting.

I took down a book called ‘The Greedy Mouse’, and received an overwhelming welcome from the children almost as soon as I had walked into their classroom. I was surprised to see that this was one of the few classes where the girls outnumbered the boys, and by a lot.

We sat in a not-exactly-circular circle and I began reading out loud. Most of the sentences were finished for me by the children themselves, and I didn’t have to explain too many word meanings to them either. After we had written the difficult words on the white board, I taught them how to make a word search. After dividing them into two teams, I had them make their own word searches with the difficult words allotted to them, and then give it to the other team to solve. Since this involved competing with each other, the children took far more interest and participated more enthusiastically than they may have otherwise. A little bit of help from me here and there, and voila! We had two brilliant word searches prepared by the end of the hour.

Our class was then interrupted by the presentations given by the kids of the sixth grade, and our cozy group broke up to run outside and watch it.

A bashful Venus
Bashful Venus
A smiling Jupiter
Smiling Jupiter

The children of grade 6 put up a play on the planets of the Solar System, and also gave a presentation on the Human Body.

Both the play and the presentation went off very smoothly, with a lot of interest and appreciation from both the students and the teachers in the audience.

Once that was over, we headed back to the classroom, where the children made ‘Who Am I?’ charts just like the students of the fourth grade had a day earlier. After completing this, they all wanted us to make them ducks out of the colourful modelling clay we had gifted them, and this proved to be a harder task than it seems. I wasn’t very good at it, yet the children came rushing to me one by one asking me to make them ‘bataks’1. After creating a large number of clay ducks of assorted colours, which left my hands red and blue with the pigment, the lunch bell rang. I washed my hands outside in the cold water that ran 24/7 from a pipe, then headed to the principal’s room for my last lunch in Turtuk.

I wasn’t in the mood to eat as much as I was in the mood to play with the kids. I rushed through eating my Rajma Chaaval2 (which is quite a task when you’re eating with your hands), then headed up to where all the girls were eating. I sat patiently and waited for them to finish eating, worrying incessantly that I would have to leave without even saying a proper goodbye.

The minute they were done, they gestured for me to come and play ‘Our Game’, and I happily complied. Back in the same room as where we were the day before, we played our game again and I couldn’t contain my joy.

Friends in Turtuk
Lunch break with friends.

When I won, all the kids came rushing up to me saying “Ma’am ji, gaana gao na!” I had to, unfortunately, depart, and the last thing I could give them was not a song but a hug each. I watched in glee as there was flood of hugs coming my way, and I wished to myself that I didn’t have to leave. I turned back countless times to shout goodbye to the crowd of girls tirelessly waving their hands. Their high pitched “Bye ma’am ji! Thank you so much!” echoed in my ears the entire journey to Diskit.

  1. Bataks – Hindi word for ducks.
  2. Rajma Chaaval – A dish of kidney beans and rice

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 three 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.

3 comments

  1. It’s amazing to see so much compassion & maturity in you. I’m sure the children loved the time you spent with them and are already looking forward to your next trip.

    Liked by 1 person

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