A Day of Firsts, School Olympics and a Night on the Town


Today there is to be the beginning of the Olympics at the school. It will go on for several days.  All the children are involved and to kickoff the games there is to be a cricket match!  This will start after classes have finished and my art classes are over as well. I pull out the camera ready to take photos of everything.  There are 4 teams: England, for Father Stevens’ native country, India, France , in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Dominique Lapierre, major supporters of Udayan School and Australia, for another major patron, cricketeer Steve Waugh and for Taniele who hails from Australia and is an Olympic bronze water polo champion.

The cricket match begins

All smiles for the camera; she's one of the reasons I'm here

All smiles for the camera, I love these children

Everyone is at the field when I arrive with the camera, I sit with Taniele so she can explain the game to me, which I must say is very confusing to a Yankees fan. I am excited as well, this is the first cricket match I have watched, and since it is an Indian passion, all the kids are revved up.  I see that many of my very talented boys are also great cricket players and they are very serious.   The first match is India vs. Australia and I watch in awe, snapping pictures the entire time. Australia wins, the crowd erupts jumping, hugging and screaming.  The children charge towards Taniele and we are crushed by their embraces; they have decided that since I’m from America, Australia is to be my team as well.

girls team, France vs. Australia play a traditional Indian game

Taniele, Happy , and cricket fans

After the game, we have planned to go to Barrackpore center to shop and have dinner.  As we walk to the main road, we are greeted by throngs of villagers who know Taniele and now wish to meet me. Everyone waves and stops us – I then learn my first sentence in Bengali – Ap kaise hai, “how are you”.  We reach the main road, filled with buses, cars, pedestrians, rickshaws bicycles and motorcycles – it is a rude awakening, since the roads I have traveled to and from the school are very quiet. Hailing a motor rickshaw (another first) we squeeze in with 3 other people, not an easy task as she is 6 feet tall, and I’m no shrimp .  After an exciting ride ( and I am laughing the whole way, it’s like a ride at a carnival) we disembark and then walk a bit to the railroad tracks. We wait as a train passes through, crowds of people waiting in front of the crossing gate. Then Taniele announces that we must walk across the tracks – on the rails, I follow tentatively, haven’t I always warned my own kids never to walk on railroad tracks?   We arrive in Barrackpore center. there are small shops, tiny streets where the impossible happens – all these different modes of travel converge on a 6 foot wide 2 way street.  It is not a small village, rather a mini Kolkata.  Loudspeakers blaring on all corners with different political announcements vying for airtime, it is deafening. It seems that anyone with access to a loudspeaker can make any announcement they wish. I want to grab a mike and say “shup karo” (shut up!)

"we won!"

Sikandra and my boys bring auntie their new pet...SNAKE!!!!!!

We amble along, people are staring a little, I guess we seem quite a pair – westerners wearing traditional dress- and find a music store. We’ve been looking for some movies to watch on my laptop and find a few at a reduced rate, then I buy 2 CD’s to play in the art classes, they are Bengali musicians.

Leaving the shop we find a very cool street with food, clothing, saris and bindis for the face to wear with our saris. I choose magenta and Taniele finds a nice black one. We buy the matching petticoats and blouz (blouses) to wear under the saris. Next week it is Saraswati puja and every woman and girl where saris for the celebration, so now we are prepared. Then we are off to V Cafe, recommended by the staff at Udayan. From the outside we are a little doubtful, but once entering we are happily surprised. It is lovely and the food is terrific.  I’d give it 3 stars. We’ve chosen a lot of food, the waiters are staring at us as we finish everything in sight.  We sit for a while and chat away, she is great company, then head back , this time via bicycle rickshaw (I am hanging on for dear life) amazed that this one very thin man can haul us all the way to the gate of the school. We check out our new purchases and then say goodnight.  Another big day tomorrow – I will start the 30 talented students I have identified on their collages – we will mount them and create the work to be exhibited.

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3 Comments

Filed under commuity, food, the children

3 responses to “A Day of Firsts, School Olympics and a Night on the Town

  1. Elinor Toberoff

    I could never understand cricket. You’ll have to explain it to me when you get home.
    When you wear a sari, do you wear a red dot at your hairline to show that you are a married woman?

    • I haven’t a clue, it was explained to me in Bengali, so there’s the rub. As for the sari, it is not required to wear a red dot as a married woman, though many choose to. That tradition is old and isn’t followed as much by the younger generation anymore. I do wear a “bindi” which is a decorative ornament worn on the forehead between the eyes. If you look closely I am wearing one that the girls chose for me. I have more subtle ones for more casual wear.

  2. Well spoken. I have to research more on this as it is really vital info

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