Dhruv Rampuria (24th Batch: 2019-20)
Between the period when our fellow mate from Dublin pays us visit and when we are given the opportunity to visit Dublin, the students who are a part of this enriching cultural exchange program are taken to a village within the State of West Bengal where they stay for 2 days, eat and live like the natives of the village and garner experience of how people live in a village.
Our batch was taken to the village of Pandua, some 70-75 km from the state’s capital, where we resided at Jisu Ashram, a school whose helm of affairs is taken care of by the Jesuit Community.
A brief overview about the school, this school provides education to those children whose parents are daily wage earners and cannot afford education for their children. The institution even has residential facilities for students who are deprived of parents, parental affection and the comfort of a home.
28th February 2020, the first day when we arrived at Pandua and were very warmly welcomed by the principal of Jisu Ashram. I was fortunate, as when we arrived, there were quite a handful of students ranging from the age groups 4-9 playing in the school premises and I had the golden opportunity to have a very dear and close, one-to-one interaction with them. However, it was no ordinary interaction. I was carrying a few packets of chocolates and on seeing these cute little munchkins, I thought of sharing it with them and after reaching the room where we were provided accommodation, I hastily unpacked myself and went to these children with the intention of sharing the chocolates. As I reached the playground and called one of the many little children to offer him chocolate, on seeing me a packet of chocolate, these students were so elated that in a fraction of a second I was surrounded by all of them playing, leaving no room for me to even take the smallest possible step. I was not let off unless the packet was complete. Those moments, I still visualise when I close my eyes to just ponder upon the many memories I have garnered, with this one occupying a very special place in my heart. The way those children were just jumping, pushing each other and displaying their overenthusiasm through various other acts was just so heartwarming that it duressed me to ponder that happiness differs from one individual to another. Maybe that one chocolate may not have made a difference to me, but for those underprivileged children, it was a big deal, receiving a piece of chocolate.
After this overwhelming event had concluded, I had a brief interactive session with them asking their names, their favourites, their passions and also introduced myself to them. After we had concluded our “unofficial meeting”, we clicked a selfie and parted ways. The entire day was exploring the village and getting prepared for an active next day which was going to another village.
The agenda for our next day was to visit and explore Kannur, a village inhabited by the “Santhali tribe”. But before we set out for our exploration, my inquisitive and adventurous nature gave me the impetus to explore the school in which we were staying, so I woke up before the decided time and began my personal exploration which resulted in witnessing a small kitchen garden, surprisingly a few goats and even more astonishingly a pigsty with a litter of pigs being taken care of by the very students I met the previous day. For a person who has a fondness towards nature and affection towards animals, indeed it was a delightful experience especially seeing pigs for the first time.
After witnessing nature’s delight, we started out for Kannur and reached the village in no time. This village was a befitting example of what villages are illustrated in textbooks and drawings. Kutcha houses (houses built with clay and thatch), typical brick wells, green never ending paddy fields, cattle, stoves made out of clay and all those articles which one would find in textbooks defining a village, we were witnessing it.
While we were exploring the Santhali dominated village, I had the opportunity of speaking with a few native villagers who willingly shared their experience on how normal life is as a villager. Continuing our exploration, we came across a family native to the village, who invited us over to their residence to pay them a visit. It was a typical joint family who was celebrating the birth of a baby girl to their family and it was then when we were acquainted with a ritual which they followed of serving a traditional delicacy which is prepared with rice and neem leaves. On asking them, we were told that it was the tradition of the Santhalis to serve their delicacy at the time of birth in the family.
After an overwhelming and insightful excursion of Kannur, we headed back to Jisu Ashram. After rejuvenating ourselves with our afternoon meal and some much-needed sleep, we were asked to conjugate and witness a program organized by the students of Jisu Ashram to showcase their talent in dance, singing and various other arts and also to entertain us. The scintillating show which was put up by the students cannot be merely described in words. The enthusiasm, perfection and joy with which they performed left all of us in awe of the talent the kids possessed. After the conclusion of the program, we for the last time met the very talented and energetic kids and since they were fascinated with selfies, captured some wonderful memories in our mobile phones, for the next day was the departure day from Pandua.
To conclude, as I share one of my wonderful and memorable memories, it makes me drive into nostalgia and brings smiles to my face as I recollect the wonderful 2 days spent with our teachers and fellow peers. To succinctly describe the experience of this unprecedented village trip, it taught me in galore the art of sharing, propinquity towards independence and the most intrinsic teaching, being thankful and appreciative of what has been bestowed and not demanding for what you don't have.
Ayush Das (21st Batch: 2016-17)
We, the fifteen boys of the 21st batch of the Dublin Exchange Programme, along with Ms. Beverly Fernandes, Mr. Santanu Jana, Rev. Fr. Sebastian Nallail and Rev. Fr. Benny Thomas, left for our village trip to Pandua on the 3rd of February, 2017. This was the last test for our batch, and then we would be ready to leave for Dublin with our teachers in May.
We reached Pandua after a two hour journey and found out that we would be staying for two days in ‘Jisu Ashram’, which was a boarding school for the village children, without wifi or junk food. We were a little tense at first because we had never had this sort of experience before, but we were surprised when we saw that the people there had cooked gas food for us, which they themselves could hardly afford to eat.
On that day, we were assigned to different classrooms to teach the young village children, whatever we were taught when we were young, we thought that this was going to be a tough job for us, as it was a Bengali medium school. But we were totally dumbfounded, when we saw that they knew everything that we were taught in our childhood. From this we understood that the village children took whatever they did seriously and that they were totally disciplined even when a stranger was in the classroom, while if this happened in a school like ours, there would be a total pandemonium in the class. They treated us like their class teachers.
That evening we went to one of the fairs in the locality. We roamed around in the fair, checking out stuff that was being sold and then rode on one of the rides. It was really fun as none of us had ever experienced something of the sort before.
The next day, we went for a cart ride around the village, to experience it like a local. We went to the ‘Holy cross sisters’, a Jesuit school, where we were greeted with tea and refreshments. After that, we continued our cart ride, roaming around the village and singing on the streets.
But the main thing that we learnt from the cart ride was about the daily life of the villagers. We saw some people working in the fields under the harsh sun, carrying heavy loads with their bare hands, having to walk across the village, all this which would, at the end of the day, be a source of income for them.
After coming back that evening, we performed for the village children and so did they. But , we were absolutely amazed to see how disciplined those young children were, more disciplined than any of us could dream to be, even though they were about 6 to 7 years younger than us. It was clear that the children had put in a lot of effort for us, with utmost diligence and seriousness.
I felt really bad when we wasted the food that the villagers had prepared for us that night, as we became victims to our own greed and opted rather to eat the cup noodles one of us had bought.
On the last day, Ms. Fernandes led each one of us into a prayer of our own and then allowed us to play a friendly match with the village children. I was very sad to be leaving the place but was also looking forward to the next task at hand - Dublin.