This is a story I have been wanting to write for a really long time. Specially since I had already written about the incident in a guest post for Edna a long, long time ago. (https://whatedsaid.wordpress.com/2010/11/27/opening-new-vistas/ ). Edna, by the way, is among our long standing, distinguished Grannies.
But what finally got me going was coming across one of the ‘START SOLE’ FB posts last week, in which the concept of ‘wants and needs’ had been posed as a ‘Big Question’ to a group of young children. (You can check out their many interesting questions on their website http://www.startsole.org).
I was reminded yet again of an interaction between the children at Khelghar and the children at Edna’s school in Melbourne. Whenever possible we have, in the Granny Cloud, encouraged children to interact with other children. And through the years Edna has often created these opportunities. Whether it was with the children in Shirgaon back in 2010, or more recently the children at Phaltan (in 2017) or Diksha (in 2018) we have always been amazed at the richness of these interactions and the children’s response to the opportunity of interacting with children from vastly different socio-cultural, even economic settings.
Khelghar in Pune was among the earliest independent Granny Cloud centres having joined the initiative in early 2011. The interaction that today’s story is based on took place in November 2010 as part of our exploratory efforts. As an after school community centre, Khelghar had among its top priorities supporting the recreational as well as academic needs of the youngsters in the Laxmi Nagar slum. And though the children in the group that chose to interact with Edna & Rubi’s children had no English competencies at that time, we decided to go ahead and see what would happen with Rubi in Melbourne and I in Pune, standing by to support the interaction. The children in Melbourne had been investigating the concept of water and its use across different places in the world as one of their projects and so they had lots of questions they wanted to ask the children at Khelghar. And the children at Khelghar, gratified to find themselves in the position of being ‘resource persons’, quickly responded to each question in Marathi with a few English words thrown in where possible. Standing by the side lines and observing not just the verbal interaction but also the body language, re-emphasized for us just how important these interactions were in the process of understanding each other and the lives we lead.
And excerpt (edited to show the connection between the question and answer) from the tail end of the interaction showed the children trying to grasp the context of the need for water.
A view from a home in the slum [Photo: Suneeta]
Q: Where do you get your water from, is it fresh and clean? Do you ever get sick from the water? Do you get water 24 hours in a day?
A: No (in response to availability of water)
Q: When do you get your water?
A: 2 hours in the morning, 2 hours in the evening
Q: Do you store water? How? Where do you wash your clothes, Do you use the tap water?
A: yes… in barrels, cans, and tanks in the house and big kitchen utensils….
(wash clothes) at home from the stored water
Q: Does the government help you in any way?
A: at election time, (some parties) make sure we get water for 2 days at a stretch (Other children added) The Govt puts liquid chlorine in the barrels to purify the water, also potassium permanganate
Each new question added yet another dimension, and as time for the session ran out, there was one final question –
Q: Do you a have a family? Is the water enough for your family?
A: Yes it is enough…
A shrug of the shoulders and a quiet “yes” was the response given by the children at Khelghar. It was the start of a discussion that lasted several days at Edna’s and Rubi’s end – What is a ‘want’? What is a ‘need’? And when do needs become wants? It remains one of the biggest questions ever….
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