I’ve always said that Mumbai is one of my favorite cities. I love the hustle and bustle/constant buzz that surrounds life here and I honestly can’t get enough of the food and shopping…it is to die for!! But now, I have yet another reason to love this city: my kiddos.
This week, I began teaching at Dilkhush Special School in Juhu, Mumbai. From the moment I learned I would be working at Dilkhush, I started counting down the days until my ‘first day of school’ because I was so excited, and honestly…it was well worth the wait. Dilkhush is a school for children with mental handicaps – so that means everything from Down Syndrome to autism to mental retardation. My class (called the “Junior” class) has 9 kids, all of whom are 9-10 years old. They are a rowdy little bunch (the only 9 kids in the entire school who will not nap during nap time) but I love them to pieces!! Their names are Karen, Priyank, Anas, Suraj, Soheib, Zeba, Clavita, Nikhil, and Deep. Nikhil is the naughtiest of the bunch and has become extremely fond of me in only 3 days. I’m sure my dad would read that and say “birds of a feather flock together.” Hahaha. All of my kiddos call me ‘maam’ or ‘aunty’ which I am still not used to…it makes me feel so old! I tried to get them to call me ‘Miss Pavika’ but that failed. For them, everything is black and white. So if I am a teacher, I have to be either maam or aunty; there’s simply no other option.
This week ended up being a 3-day school week. Monday (Aug 15) was Independence Day and Friday (Aug 19) was Parsi New Year. So Tuesday was my first day on the job and on the whole it was pretty mellow. Don’t get me wrong…I spent the entire day on my toes running after these kids, but since they were still getting used to a new face, they were a little guarded around me. But all of that changed on day 2!! I walked into school and was greeted by a chorus of “Good morning maam” along with a sea of smiles. That day, a large business firm decided to sponsor the school for charity and so the entire day was a celebration complete with food, gifts, balloons, special dance performances, and a DJ. The kids took to the dance floor instantly and it wasn’t long before they were pulling me onto the floor with them! Not only are all of them super energetic, but boy can they dance!!!! I’m pretty sure I spent more time staring at them than dancing myself!
By the end of the day, I had received my very first gift. One boy (not in my class) came to me very excited with something in his hand and said “Maam this is for you!” with a huge smile on his face. He just couldn’t wait to give it to me, and by his mannerisms you would have thought he had a diamond or something. He placed it on my shoulder and waited for me to look. It was a booger. I couldn’t help but laugh (and neither could my family when I told them!) Just a few minutes later Nikhil came to me with his mouth all puffed up with air. He inched his face closer and closer to mine, and seconds later he let out a “pppppppphhhhhhhhh” and covered half my face in a shower of spit. Not quite what I had expected, but now I’m ready for the next time he pulls the stunt.
Thursday was Priyank’s birthday so we spent a good portion of the day celebrating that. His parents sent samosas, chocolate cake, and loads of candy for all the students! To make his day a little more special, we threw him a little dance party which the kids absolutely loved!! After that we got down to business and worked on numbers, colors, the alphabet, and parts of the face. With all the sugar and energy the kids had in their system, the transition to schoolwork wasn’t that smooth, but I made it happen.
Now the kiddos are off for a 4 day weekend and so am I. Monday (Aug 22) is Janmashtami, which is an Indian religious holiday celebrating the birth of Lord Krishna. It should be a fun day so I’ll tell y’all about it soon!