Today, India celebrated 60 years of Independence from the British Raj. We still have a long way to go on various measures on socio-economic development, but we will leave that discussion for another day.
I wanted to share a few pictures I clicked this morning of children from the the Anjuman Islam High School in Mumbai celebrating Independence Day.
The school is housed in a row of slum-dwellings just off the main highway that connects Mumbai to Pune. As I sped along toward the high-way I noticed school children (their pink uniforms dirty by the muck propelled by fleeting cars) standing in clean rows and singing a song celebrating the Himalayas. They were perilously close to the cars speeding by but seem unfazed by either the guttural engine sounds or the possibility that they might be hit by an errant vehicle.
I jumped at the opportunity to get out and take a few photographs and speak to the children who were all bright and excited to participate in this demonstration of national pride and solidarity.
Have a look!
Above: Parents and the community members of the School participate in hoisting of the flag. In the background you can see boards that show affiliation to a quasi-political organisation (that funds the school) and a board (in Urdu and English) displaying the name of the school. The classrooms are housed behind the grill door in the picture.
Above: Reward for the patient wait. A Cadbury’s Eclair for every child.
Above: The students (drenched in sweat from the 1 hour wait before the proceedings got underway) respond to my slogan of Jai Hind (Hail, India the Victorious). You can see the speeding truck and car on the far side.
Above: The boy in the foreground, Mazhar, is the son of the teacher distributing the eclairs. He was thrilled by the prospect of modelling for my camera-phone and offered me his precious eclair when I showed him the image after clicking it.
I had a fantastic few minutes in the company of these children, none of whom, unfortunately spoke English (They don’t teach it in their school till Class 5). Many educators in India differ with me in this view bit I am convinced about the need to make every child learn English. I don’t decry the vernacular languages, indeed there is a wealth of literature and learning in regional texts; I only propose that they be taught alongwith English- probably the key to the path with the greatest opportunities for self-advancement and an improvement in quality of life.
I hope that in the next few decades of Independent India we can get many boys like Mazhar into schools that are safe and provide a relevant education.