Another round of surveys, in yet another school. I really look forward to them. I’m never sure what I’ll find. Never sure how the children will do the surveys. I’m never even sure how they’ll react to my introductory spiel.
This time it was Shashi, a boy in class 9 (fairly small-built, unlike his somewhat bigger classmates), who caught my attention. The expression on his face while I was talking, the way he was poring over the questionnaire had anyway caught my eye. Then, he called me over to explain a question: In the last seven days had they read, heard or seen any news item that they thought was significant? I’d barely finished my sentence, when he piped up, “The Assam blasts.” I repeated “In the last seven days… Were those blasts in the last seven days?” “Yes,” he said, firmly. I thought back to the newspaper front pages of the last one week - yes, the blasts were current news. When I admitted he was right, he said, almost proudly, “Mein kabhi galat nahin likhta.” (I never write something wrong.)
By the time Shashi finished his questionnaire, the principal walked in. She’s a very determined woman who has really turned this school around. She’s enthusiastic, energetic and seems to manage her way around the state’s educational bureaucracy. Shashi got up, gave me his questionnaire, and asked me, “Iska result kab aayega?” (When will the result come?” Perhaps he thought this was some sort of selection process for the radio station. Just as I was about to start answering him, the principal sushed him and said, a little harshly I thought, “What result are you expecting? Go away and don’t ask silly questions.”
Shashi went out, looking a bit unhappy that the questions jostling inside his head were not being answered. I was unhappy too - but I didn’t want to talk to him in front of his school principal. It seems he had had a round of scolding in the morning because he had come to school in slippers.
Five minutes later, the principal left, after her courtesy call. Within a minute, I saw Shashi hovering around the doorway. I beckoned to him, and immediately he started throwing questions at me. “Who would get training for the radio station?” “How would we select the children?” “When would the training start?” “When would broadcast start?” Completely natural questions, that I was so delighted had been articulated in this child.
Once he got his answers, Shashi was happy as a lark. With a cheery “Good afternoon Ma’am” he took off.
I was happy too! I had found one more gem for our radio station.