A story of transformation through art and empathy

– By Bindu, Teacher at Tejasvita Trust

It was a usual day when we teachers went to school, bags loaded with materials and our minds full of ideas for the session that day.  As we entered the school gate, we could see children eating their snacks and playing around.  There were always a few of them who would spot us from far and come running to hug us.   This greeting would be enough for us, to forget the weight of the baggage that we carry, the physical and the mental one.

That day, as I hugged them all, I was surprised to see Vishu’s (name changed) face in that group.  He usually belonged to the indifferent few.  Vishu had a broad smile and looked at me as if he wanted to tell me something.  He then held my hand and took me to the class room.  I decided to follow him.  

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When we reached the class room, he pointed upwards to the peg, where we regularly hung the Children’s art work.  He pointed out to one sheet, which was his and said, ‘tree’.  I took the sheet and decided to sit with him for a moment, as he excitedly tried to tell me what he had painted on the sheet, while the other teachers were setting up the class.  When I looked up, I could see Poornima’s (name changed) eyes welled up with tears. Poornima was Vishu’s mother, who worked as the teacher’s help in the same class. Poornima would have sure realised what I did just then, that Vishi had come a long way in these couple of months.

I could not forget the sense of pride on Vishu’s face the rest of the session that day.  Never knew that a small act of exhibiting the children’s work, can do so much to their sense of self-worth.

I was reminded of the initial few days of our session, when it was difficult to get Vishu to sit in one place.  There was a lot of aggression on his petite face, too much for a face that is only four years old.  He would always be walking around, pulling and pushing his peers.  I could never get him to make eye contact, while I spoke to him.   Whenever he was given a choice to select a toy or an activity, he would always choose to snatch what someone else had taken.  His span of attention was barely a few seconds.  His mother’s continuous lamenting and yelling at him in his mother tongue, only made matters worse. Though I could understand her insecurity as a mother, I donned the teacher’s hat and told her not to hover around the son or admonish him while we are around.  Thankfully, she withdrew.

IMG_8291.jpgI was confident when I expected a gradual change in him and we three class teachers worked towards the unsaid agenda.  The first time we took paint to the class, was when I noticed Vishu spending a few uninterrupted minutes on his work.  I still remember the look of glee on his face when he dabbed his hands in paint and looked at me.  Gradually I could see a sense of anticipation in him, as we took something novel to class, every day.  He would eagerly peer into our bag as we did the initial circle time. He must have realised that he enjoyed the colour pencils, the play dough, the sticking, the cutting and the colouring also, because I could now see him engaged for most of the time during our session.  I was rest assured, that art was giving him the much-needed ventilation.

The day we took the play dough, he came and asked me for the star mould, which was used by another kid.  I told him that I was very happy that he asked me for it, instead of snatching it from the other kid and that he had to wait for some time.  He went away after a while, since the other kid did not show any sign of returning the mould.  I got busy with the other children, when Vishu came running to me again and said ‘star’.  I was about to tell him once more that he had to wait, when I happened to look at the writing pad that he held up to show me.  He had made a star without the mould and was smiling from ear-to-ear.  I held him close and both of us looked at the star for some time. Other than making a star without a mould, he had also learnt the skill of patiently waiting for his turn, I told myself.

The sound of the school bell brought me back to the present.  I just could not stop smiling that day.  I realized, once again, that our small gestures for these small lives, is making a big impact, most of the time.  Thankfully, we are being given these opportunities every day.

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