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Monday, 5 September 2016

The Library Lion in a Narrow Kolkata Lane..

Last week, I paid one more visit to the KMCP Urdu Medium school. I had some other plans in mind this time and decided to do what I do best - tell them a story. It is difficult to choose an English language story of their level and that too, something to suit their palate and understanding of life. Gully boys coming to school with the hope of a midday meal will never find Dick and Jane stories interesting although, these books can do well to hone their English vocabulary. Dick and Jane are two rich kids who have a car and get stuck in snow storms - at the most - snow storms being their most monumental form of hardship.

But for boys who have to wade through hip-deep waters to come to school for days during the rainy season in Kolkata, for boys who have to brave the sweltering heat through the day in little rooms with no proximity from each other, hardships are a totally different story.

I rummaged through the collection of books and finally chose Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen. There are two reasons I chose this book:

a) It is highly imaginative - the children, I was sure, would be fascinated to learn about a Lion visiting the Library.
b) Secondly, the Library Lion spoke about rules or the breaking of them. I had a hope that I would be able to communicate to them effectively, the meta-cognitive thinking process of bending rules rather than breaking them. In other words, I wanted to convey the concept of breaking rules creatively to these children.

I took a few scraps of wasted coloured and bond paper and taught them first to make a Lion paper-craft. Children growing in the underbellies of a city usually have a stronger survival instinct and their ability to learn is much faster and higher more often than children brought up in affluence.

The scheme worked well. As per my expectations, they learnt the craft swiftly and reproduced ones of their own in no time.

During the story-telling session, when I was taking them through the pages and through "gates" of inference, the children pin-pointed some inferences that almost jolted me off my chair. I almost thought that probably they have already heard the story, but as I flipped the pages further, the glee on their faces said that they hadn't read the story before-hand.

Some of the new words they learnt that day were:

1. RECEPTIONIST ( I changed Mr. McBee to this word so that they could relate to it)
2. MANAGER ( Miss Merriweather had to become the manager of the Library-again, a diplomatic transformation of the alien to something familiar)

I think it all worked as I left happy faces behind because, who doesn't want to listen to a story after all!

Friday, 19 August 2016

The Longest Word in the World.....

So what do you do with a group of primary schoolers - all boys - all studying in Urdu medium and everyone from an impoverished background in a hovel of a school in one of the narrowest and liveliest gullies in Kolkata?
The school is a KMC run institution where midday meals are a daily give-away. It is a two-storey building, barely 150 sq foot in floor area. 

 The walls are shabby, the windows - old oriental style painted a bright green and the desks and benches are scant. 
There was a view of the lavatory (without a door), over-used and screaming silently in its partial darkness on that rainy August day, "Clean me! Clean me up!" 

I was a bit clueless but not ill-at-ease to see this boisterous motley of boys ranging from 1st graders to 5th graders.It looked like their teacher-in-charge (or maybe the principal), and they themselves were prepared for a group of "elite" teachers coming in to teach them from time to time, and they quite knew that they would be given "work-sheets". All they wanted to do was complete their "colouring work" in a jiffy and get over with it. 

I have always found stories to be a wonderful way of captivating people of all ages I interact with. After all, who doesn't like stories? We all love stories in various forms and emotions. 
"Lets talk about a rainy day," I tweeted. "So what do you like to do on a rainy day?"
 The replies came in a chorus and often accompanied big smiles - "Play football and watch TV madam!"
"So can we draw a picture of a rainy day?"
"Yes Madam", one of the 20 odd boys agreed.
The rest wanted the worksheets to colour.

I hadn't really made an alternative Lesson Plan and so, this put me in some sudden awkwardness. To keep them engaged while I device a way out of it, I asked one of the boys to come and write HIPPOPOTAMUS on the black board. He came and spelled it perfectly, without a hesitation or doubt. No breaking of syllables, no rolling eyes and no muttering was needed.
 To further extinguish the "I-am-the-teacher-who-knows-all" perception forever, I volunteered, "So who is going to teach me how to write and pronounce rain in Urdu?"
I had three of them volunteer for that. One came up with the word "barsaat"; the second wrote it on the black board in Urdu script; the third one corrected the second one.

Not that I figured out a thing from it, but I proceeded to finish my duty within the assigned time of 40 minutes.
One of the 4th graders came forward and asked me, "Madam, what is the longest word in the world?"

 I am not a denizen of the world that most of my fellow-beings belong to, sadly so. I remain in my own world which consists of very few people of my kind and I remain comfortably ensconced there most of my time. Therefore, under-estimation of anybody is not remotely in my scheme of things. I decided that in order to quench their curiosity of the longest word in the world, I should first teach them the concept of the "Silent Letter" in English language. I therefore persisted, "How do you spell chalk?"

Madam, C-H-O-K-E. Madam, C-H-K-I. Madam, C-H-O-K.

I cannot judge them. They are Urdu-medium students.
I wrote on the black board. 
"Madam, CHA-L-K?" they chorused.
"Nope. CHALK. No "L".
"But why Madam?", they looked intrigued this time. Some of them giggled too.
"Well, true. So what is this "L" doing, sitting shamelessly in between and we do not even want to talk about him?', I asked. They were not quite ready with their wits this time.

"When your teacher walks into the class and all of you are making noise, what does he tell you?"
"He says SILENCE!!!," they yelled in unison.

"And what do you think is 'L' here then?
"Madam, SILENT!"

This is not the first time the intelligence of socially and economically challenged children amazed me. But what totally took me by surprise this time was what followed. I would like to describe this as particularly spectacular as I have to deal with my own 7 year-old on a day-to-day basis at home, teaching him, scaffolding him in his Math, English and EVS homework almost to the extent of spoon-feeding.


I wrote the above on the black board, not forgetting to break and mark the syllables by drawing "boats" beneath each. 
The boys not only pronounced the longest word in the world at one go, they even came up with semeles. 

"Volcano - means jwalamukhi, no Madam?"

 I said yes. But the longest word in the world does not mean volcano. It is the name of a small, puny kitaanu (in Hindi) which can only be seen with a microscope. 
"O, you mean GERM madam?," they grinned. "No problem, wash the germ with Dettol, ho gaya!" (done!) came some subsequent remarks from the back-benchers!

It is not possible to wash off a liver-fluke with Dettol, I know. But what got washed away that day was the perception that we give enough challenges to our own children. 
My class was followed by their lunch-time and what I saw of their midday meal was a high edged steel-plate each filled with podgy grains of rice, topped with one ladle full of golden-yellow potato curry. 

Growing in an insecure environment takes away too many things from a life and I am not going to sit here and write how ennobling the experience of "not-having" is. But what I have been repeatedly assured of in life through experiences such as these is that children carry an iron resilience within themselves which is not visible to us; Bigger the challenge, stronger they emerge and especially at a tender age. 
Perhaps its time to challenge ourselves and prepare some Lesson Plans that challenge our children who come to the more privileged schools. 

Let us bring out the best in them!

Friday, 4 March 2016

Handmade Tags with Bottle Lamps now Available here!

I am sharing two photos of my favourite bottle lamp creations that went out today and yesterday. The tags are also handmade by me and come in personalized designs.

The first one went out with "Best Wishes" and the other one as a house-warming gift.

If you want to buy my bottle lamps, do visit my Etsy Shop here.
The Etsy Shop is for buyers in the US, Europe and other countries.

For Indian buyers, contact me at I courier stuff once the payment is transferred online.

BottleLampsOnline by Etsy

BottleLampsOnline on Etsy

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The History of Greeting Cards - an overview

My Tajpur trip with my son and our huge collection os sea-shells inspired me to make yet another easy craft - a greeting card this time.
I decided to explore a bit about the history of greeting cards - about how they evolved and where they are today. Here's the link to the blog - The History of Greeting Cards

This is a picture of the one I made at home. I hope you will enjoy reading the hub.

Handmade by JayaSanghita

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

DIY Mason Jar/Jam Jar Candle Holder for Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day means different things for different people. For me, Valentine's Day has always been a day I have expressed my gratitude for all the love that is there in my life. My greatest treasure is my son and I love to see him grow up . Off late, he has also developed a taste in crafting and I am really happy about that.
Last week, we went for an overnight trip to a small sea-side town away from Kolkata. The calm waters and the beautiful beach really made the trip worthwhile for both of us. We needed this break.
During our beach adventures, we discovered many sea-shells of different shapes and sizes which we ardently collected with plans of making more crafts back home.

DIY Mason Jar Candle Holder by jayaonline
Mason / Pickle /Jam Jar candle Holder

While he was away at school that day, I made use of some of the teeny-weeney butterfly-shaped shells and made a Candle Holder which I would like to share with you. 
It looks beautiful and can be given away as a gift on Valentine's Day. In case you don't think its worth a gift, you may always make a couple of these and decorate your own table and give your space a romantic, warm and cozy aura.

Do check out the step-by-step process here.
Have a great Valentine's this year!

Friday, 29 January 2016

DIY Wine Bottle Chandelier

Sometimes, an existing reality looks ugly - but only till you decide to do something about it and transform it into something of value! However for that, you need the existing reality.

Up-cycling, for me, has always been like that. It is the process of transforming an existing reality into something of joy, accomplishment and value.

Talking of  up-cycling, bottles have excited me! I have tried many things with wine bottles, my lamps being the most popular and loved among my friends...
Click here to know more about it....

This time, I was inspired to create a chandelier with empty wine bottles. Christmas has been very blessed with friends and family and also a lot of great food and wine!

DIY Wine Bottle Chandelier by Jaya Sanghita

As usual, I never gave any bottle away - I got them cleaned and created this chandelier that hangs above my dining table now.

For those of you who want to try this out, this is a common idea - yes. There are a lot of similar pictures on Pinterest and other forums. However, what makes mine special is the Boho look that I have given to it. It took a bit more time, but the results were wonderful!

Do try out  the step-by-step instructions from the link to my Hubpages blog here ....

Saturday, 7 November 2015

A Visit to The Samaritan Help Mission (

A very important person sent me this message today morning -

" Just remember, there is someone out there that is more than happy with less than what you have."

My son's away in Mumbai to visit his father for Diwali holidays. While that is a happy visit, I knew I would miss him badly. But I did not want a lack-lustre Diwali and so, I decided to go visit a few friends of mine at the Samaritan Help Mission, Tikiapara, Howrah, and do something which would add meaning to my life.

I am a very bad photographer and none of my photographer friends were available on that day. So I decided to do whatever I can for this post which is going to be in pictures.

I entered....

I met my happy lot of friends, divided them into Groups A, B, C and D and then handed them an old cardboard corn-flakes box, some oldnewspapers, ribbon, coloured papers, sello-tape, glue, chart-paper and a string of multi-coloured LED lights ...............

Group A set to work, rolling the newspapers neatly with the help of pencils. They made 40 of these tubes in no time!

Group B got the corn-flakes box and wrapped it neatly with coloured papers....

Group C was helped by their Art Teacher, Shri Mohan Gupta, in making a cone out of the white chart paper....

While Group D had a ball of a time, making "laddoos" out of newspaper scraps!

And while the seniors worked, we also played Chinese Whispers....

Then we carefully fixed the cone on top of the corn-flakes box with sello-tape...

And we wrapped the LED string of lights around the cone and secured it with more sello-tape...

Groups A and D joined hands in a great display of leadership and responsibility and glued together all these newspaper tubes. I was amazed with their precision, neatness and above all, a sense of great team-work!!

And then......

And Finally!!!!!!!

Oh, we did it !!!!! :-) :-)

How can I not think of preserving this memory by being in the frame with the Champions!!!

And then I met the Champion who is behind all the little Champions .... Mr. Mamoon Akhtar. 

The Rebecca Belilious English Institution is 100 years old. It died during the beginning of this century and the entire building became a place full of over-growth that came to be haunted by criminals, drug dealers, escaped convicts, under-world and all kinds of dealers belonging to the Dark World. Mamoon got the children of his entire locality together and submitted a memorandum to the authorities on 14th Nov, 2014. The authorities were moved by the appeal and drove out all the miscreants from the building, cleaned it up and then began a journey that is only to be reckoned with reverence and will be recorded in letters of gold in history...

Mamoon told me with a big smile on his face, pointing to the sky, " Madam, please have absolute  trust on that one person who lives up there. Everything is possible. Life is short and full of uncertainties. So no time is to be wasted in living for the happiness of others." 
He also told me, "It is easy to love people who love you back. But Madam, it is really difficult to love people who hate you. I do that and this is my driving force."

Mamoon could not study beyond the 12th standard as his father could not afford his school fees. But what he instead resolved after completing his 12th standard is that, he will not let any child in his locality remain uneducated. He began giving tuitions and with that money, he started to give free lessons to children in his locality. "I started off with 3 children in that dilapidated and deserted building Madam, where they would sit on the floor on plastic sheets and take lessons in English from me," he told me, pointing towards a small concrete structure across the other side, outside the school premises.

Mamoon then bought 2 sewing machines and installed them in that same dilapidated building and set up a sewing centre for the young girls in his area to save them from becoming domestic helps. Today, there are some 200 odd women in the locality who sew shirts and trousers on contract with garment manufacturers and earn Rs. 600 per week along with a monthly ration of rice, dal, cooking fuel and edible oil.

It is difficult for me to put it all together in one blog or even ten such blogs as to what this man has achieved. As I left the place, I was speechless with the overwhelming reality I saw in front of my eyes and I remembered what Mamoon told me as he walked me out to the gates - "I have now handed down this revolution I started, to the kids of my locality. They are going to take this ahead, Madam, my role is just behind the scenes now. I want every child to be educated in my area and I want to give the girls wings so that they can fly!" 
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