The Anand Vatika Green Gurukulam school is like those rare breed of flowers that are so hard to find and so magical when finally encountered. The last 10 days I spent at AVGG working with students in the quaint little village of Bhouniyada were amongst the best days of my life. There's a tremendous amount of learning that happens in places like these. During my interactions with the students, it wasn't just them that learnt something new, but me as well. Coming from a technology background, I not only learnt how to teach but also, how to capture the attention of young kids who're fascinated and pretty much distracted by almost everything. I learnt how to make learning fun. The attention span of these kids is like any of us, so expecting them to learn by idly looking at their books and notebooks the whole day is a little too much. In fact, such methods bore them and make simple things seem so complicated. The fact that most of our modern Indian schools follow the same rote principles is a tragedy in itself. I'm hopeful that there's a better, a more fun way of learning and teaching and if not today, someday they will be used. Perhaps, these schools could take a leaf from AVGG's methods itself.
Other than the primary benefit of learning with students, there were several other positive aspects to volunteering with AVGG that were life changing. Spending 10 days in a small village with weak phone signal and away from the hustle and bustle of a big city had a calming effect of its own. Bhouniyada is surrounded by thick forest cover and some interesting wildlife that makes it feel like an adventure land in itself. The view of Tehri lake and other villages in the vicinity makes it even more beautiful. Sometimes, I'd spend hours at end just admiring the serenity and beauty of the place. I also realised that a peaceful mind makes for a more creative and happy mind. To be honest, I can see its effect on my work already.
One of the most important highlights of the trip was the host family that I stayed with. I'd heard of the hospitality of people in the villages of Uttarakhand and Himachal, but having experienced it first hand, I'd implore everyone on the edge to experience it at least once. All the family members - Laxmi sir, his wife, mother, children and Anita ma'am- all come together to make you feel at home sometimes even at the cost of their own convenience. That's yet another thing I've learned from there- how to treat people better especially when they're outsiders.
Overall the homestay, the wildlife, the environment, the students together formed an amazing package and gave me an experience of a lifetime. It's a place that I'll always associate with no matter how far I am.