November 2013. It was Liz’ first ever trip to India. And like many of the other Grannies a key part of her motivation was to visit at least some of the places the Grannies connected to or where SOLEs (of a kind!) operated. And I was more than happy to travel around with her.
One little ‘stand alone’ lab was located conveniently close by in a Pune slum. Supported for a couple of years by Sumantra and his company, the youngsters who were part of the NGO (Samidha) that had set it up were now struggling to keep it going. Since it had been part of an experiment to see what happened without any eMediation, the children had never had any Granny sessions. So a visitor from a distant land arriving to meet them was always cause for special curiosity and joy.
Liz at Gosavi Vasti in Nov. 2013 [PC: Suneeta]
It was, when we began in early 2012 as it is today, one of the most vulnerable settings we have worked in. Operating in the midst of sprawling slum in Pune, the 30 or so children, typically came from homes of migrant labour and spoke a dialect at home that was different from what they were taught in school, as well as the language (English) we hoped they would pick up on their own in the ‘lab’. A fancy term for what was after all, just two tiny (albeit specially designed) tables and benches jammed into a tiny room (sized not more than 15 feet by 10 feet and already furnished with a paper recycling store and the owner’s cupboard as well as other odds and ends. The owner’s family lived on the mezzanine just above this space. And in the 18 months the lab had functioned, the children had played games and listened to stories and songs. In the process, they had developed a rudimentary vocabulary.
In fact, I was quite impressed. Because, completely on their own, they had gone from a vocabulary of 3 to 4 words to as many as 65 in a few months. But there it seemed to have stuck, and with many of the parents not seeing any value in the children’s play (as opposed to going for some highly structured tuition that involved having their homework dictated to them) the children’s participation and attendance at the lab was irregular.
But to return to Liz’ visit. Liz really does prefer face to face interaction. 9 years down the line she still professes to feeling nervous at the start of any Granny Skype session. But put her physically in the midst of children and she is in her element. Surrounded by eager, animated kids clamouring for her attention all at once, Liz decided to sing a simple little song with them. Just a few recurring words and plenty of actions to go along with it. And that was the children’s first exposure to “Jelly on a Plate”…. They loved it and sang it with gusto even though they didn’t know what “Jelly” was. They had never seen it – never tasted it and could only imagine what it might be…. How they loved the words “Wibble Wobble”… And giggled as they tried to follow Liz and sing along with her.
Jelly was everywhere… knees and hair and nose and shoulders! Nov. 2013 Liz at Gosavi Vasti [PC: Suneeta]
It did not end there… A few short months later, Jerry needed to film a Granny session for his documentary on Sugata’s work regarding the School in the Cloud, and even though the lab at Gosavi Vasti was not a School in the Cloud lab, initial Granny sessions are pretty much the same everywhere; so Liz, the children, and the folks at Samidha obliged. So “Jelly on a Plate” became a little famous as Liz sang it along with the children she had met the previous year. And she was able to go one step further because this was a Granny session from home! She made some jelly and showed it to the children, much to their delight. It almost wobbled off the plate! A moment that has gone down in Granny Cloud history!
Preparing to sing Jelly on a plate with Liz over skype. [PC: Suneeta]
But the children had still not tasted Jelly. And it looked SO delicious – all red and wobbly just as in the song…
Well that moment wasn’t too far away either. As luck (or rather the lack of it) would have it, I had had a rather bad accident in early 2014 and was flat on my back with limited movement for several months. The children were distraught and wanted to come visit. So when I was finally able to hobble around with the aid of a walker, we arranged for them to come visit me. It was too good an opportunity to miss. I had to have a treat for them. Lalita was on hand to help; so snacks apart, we made loads of Red, Wobbly Jelly as a special surprise.
Their faces were a sight to behold as they had their first ever taste of jelly! Not impressed! Not in the least bit! They didn’t care for the jelly at all!!!
Completely unimpressed by the real jelly! May 2014 [PC: Suneeta]
But it was still a learning moment. Looks could be deceptive… A fun filled evening ensued around the realisation that wobbly red jelly only looked attractive, and of course it was still fun to sing about!
Note: We’ll soon upload a video of the children singing ‘Jelly on a plate… they’ve even taught it to the children who joined the centre many years later!
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