This is not a story of just one a specific incident. But of a realisation born of and perceived many times over through many related memories.
It is still that time of year. November to March are the most popular months for Grannies to visit some of the centres in India. The cool, but not terribly cold, temperatures in many locations have a big part to play in that choice of visit times. And as I eagerly await the arrival of several Grannies in a few weeks from now, I am caught up in memories of other visits and other Granny sessions.
Almost 2 years ago (in February 2016) a relatively large group of Grannies and educators arrived in India for an extended visit to several locations and to soak in a bit of the Indian environment elsewhere too. We began referring to it as ‘Convention Week’ and the climax was the Conference on 18th February 2016 at Phaltan. Though the SOLE lab here was one of the SinC TED project ones, it had come on board the Granny Cloud well before that [and has continued to flourish even after the end of the SinC project]. It is certainly the biggest Granny Cloud Centres with Grannies reaching out to preschool children through to the children now in High School. I have written about Convention Week at length http://thegrannycloud.org/the-convention-diary-2016/ but as a new year (2018) begins there is a special part of it that I remember.
Grannies in the audience – Conference at Phaltan [18th Feb 2016]
The children at Phaltan were an integral part of the organisation of the conference and they had done their homework. They knew that conferences involved ‘speeches’ and addressing the audience. And they weren’t about to be left out! So different children, from different grades, came up in between the various other talks to share their experiences of the Granny sessions and the lab.
The little ones address the audience [18th Feb. 2016]
From my vantage point facing the audience, I could see a tear or two welling up in several Grannies eyes as almost each little speech ended with the refrain ” I love my Granny”….
More speeches from the little ones 18th Feb. 2016
It was hard and unnecessary to dismiss the emotion on both sides. Embedded in that one little sentence was the essence of many hours of interaction. An interaction that was warm and encouraging and human. Perhaps robots will ‘take over’ many different tasks. But for the foreseeable future of these children’s lives it is this human interaction that makes all the difference.
There are other times when these little tots access and listen to a story or a song on the computers. But that experience is not a patch on reading a story along with Granny Angele or Vidya or Lakshmi or Prerna or Louise and watch her eyes grow as big as theirs as they discover together the animal that lies hidden on the next page or what happened later in a story.
Sessions at Phaltan with “Louise Granny” 2015 to 2016 [Photos: Suneeta]
And it isn’t a patch on the chat that they have with Steve Grandpa as he shares pictures of the new lambs on his farm, or the laugh they share over the many different names across India for variations of the same sweet.
with “Steve Grandpa” Nov. 2014 [Photo: Suneeta]
Each time I watch an interaction like that I ask again – “Couldn’t the children have figured that out for themselves?” I am sure they can – certainly a substantial part of it, given adequate time and access. And just as quickly my thoughts turn to the children at Gosavi Vasti who for several years had access to computers and the internet in their ‘stand alone’ lab, but not the Grannies.
Some of the girls at Gosavi Vasti in 2012 [Photo: Suneeta]
Towards the end of 2017 all that changed, and the children at Gosavi Vasti became part of The Granny Cloud community on a regular basis. And within a couple of months the impact was palpable! The children now chatter away more easily, keen to share their own thoughts and to ask about Grannies lives and chat about an idea that has caught their fancy.
A trial session at Gosavi Vasti – April 2017 [Photo: Suneeta]
Yet again it is the interaction that is the key. Despite the way we have evolved over the centuries (and will, undoubtedly continue to evolve) the need for that human interaction and all that it encompasses is still very strong. Our need to ‘show off’ to a loved one, to have them think the world of us is still largely intact.
A little one shares with Vidhya [Photo Courtesy: Madhura Rajvanshi]
But it doesn’t end there. How do children even begin to explore, specially when what could be out there is also an unknown. Just as a baby gets their first experience and develops a taste for the sweet and the salty and the sour as each new food is gradually introduced and then becomes open to trying out many other tastes in later life, so it is with the children and the Grannies. It is the warmth and the caring, yes. But it is also there first introduction to the world beyond – the first little nudge that says “Go on, check it out” and “I’m around – come back and tell me what you found”.
Edna introduces Grade 4 to the Platypus! [Photo Courtesy: Madhura Rajvanshi]
It is being able to return to base that often makes the exploration worthwhile. It is the ‘wondering together’ that allows them to go further afield. These are the bonds that grow.