Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sita- Wildflower in Tribal Niche
Monthly Report-November 2007

Dear Narayan dada,

Our first acquaintance was through your letter and so I am writing one in reply. In your first letter you wrote to me about my selection as a Mensan as well as about the Maher Ghar (Mother’s home) that you have been developing for us. You also informed me about the first workshop known as “Kartik Damodar” starting from 24th November to 29th November 2007.It has turned out to be the new beginning in the life of this wildflower from the Tribal Niche.
On the evening of 24th November, I finally arrived at the Maher Ghar. Huddled in the bus for around three hours with students from other schools, we arrived at the Tribal Mensa Nurturing Centre which is the Nishta Kendra, Kamshet tired and cold. You immediately made us sit down comfortably and spoke to us in a friendly manner. As we were all a bit cold, sitting out in the open, you first handed a dark green color monkey cap to all of us. There we sat, under the shed, all similar, all one, wearing a green monkey cap! You made it clear in the first instance that you were not our teacher, that we could call you by your first name cause we are all equal in terms of being Mensans and intelligent. You spoke to me like I was your younger sister and I was sure you would take care of me.
You put us into groups with other children from our school so as to make us feel comfortable. As we were trying to settle into the new places with so many unknown faces around us, you made sure we had comfortable place and things to sleep with. In the morning I was awoken by the sound of ‘Suprabhatam’. As the day unrolled before me I realized that this place had a different system. We were informed about a time table and were not forced to do anything but just reminded of our responsibilities.
How was this different from the school time table? Well, at Maher Ghar I was made aware of the tasks I needed to do everyday but I had the choice to decide when I would do it in the entire day. There was no bell as the one rang in our school but just shlokas to wake you up and mentors to guide us throughout the day.
As our mentors took us for a tour around the house I realized there was a specific arrangement in this Maher Ghar. Everyone had been assigned rooms and each space was identified by a name, by a God’s name with its use specified (Annexure I). I was staying in a room with all girls and it was called Govind Kaksha.
You gave us so many new things which I was free to use but also act responsibly as it belonged to my group and finally my Maher Ghar. The stationary box prepared with the material brought from Abhinav Pustak Mandir and the coloured sheets of paper prepared by Step-in copiers were one of the most new and liked part of the things. Apart from the stationary material, you had taken care of all the items of daily use required by us. Like you had written in the letter, each of the groups had their own toiletries like soap for bathing and washing, talcum powder, as well as a comb and hair-oil. Who would have thought that attention would have been paid to these needs as well? Each group was also given buckets and mugs, mosquito-coil, torch.
When you saw that on the first day as there was no school bell nor clocks, some of my brothers woke up 3.30 in the morning, you brought small clocks for us. These clocks showed the time, as well as you taught us how to set an alarm on it for the next morning. Blankets and carry mats to sleep on, plates, bowls and glass for each family member. There were also sweaters given to some of us who hadn’t brought any and they were given to us by Yusuf dada (Yusuf Jariwala).
The Maher Ghar was our own and thus we played our own part in looking after it. The five groups which were made by you were given five different responsibilities. Each group was assigned a color by which it would be easily recognized (Annexure II).
We were given the yellow color which was for the ‘Food Arrangement Group’. As we were a group of 10 girls we would be responsible for getting the food, serving it, disposing off left over food and putting everything for wash, cleaning before and after food in the Vishwa Kaksha. Slowly I know we will be given more responsibilities like helping in cooking the food as well as giving information to students about the benefits of what they eat.
You also appointed a leader and an assistant leader for all the five groups. I was not the leader this time. But you said that leaders would change every time and hence all of us would get he chance to lead. Thus each family member had a responsibility to fulfill. Similarly my brothers from the White group were in-charge of cleaning the activity rooms, keeping the toilets and bathrooms clean, keeping the centre surrounding area clean, keep shoes and chappals properly. Once these tasks are perfected, other tasks like organizing prayers and puja, taking care of electricity, attendance register and helping in cleaning vessels after meals would be added for them.
The boys from the Blue group had to arrange for Madh Pani (Honey in warm water) in the morning, serving water during meals, purifying water for drinking, arrange drinking water near activity rooms, water arrangements for washing hands and feet.
The boys from the Green group were in-charge of the garden. Their responsibilities consisted of tending to the garden, preparing a nursery and plantation, keeping the outside area of the clean. The Red group had some interesting tasks to do like arranging a notice board, seating arrangement, movie watching, library, board games and other game equipment, welcome and entertainment for guests.
There was so much to do suddenly. Then we were told to do prioritize the tasks and slowly add a task at a time to the group responsibilities. We all made a chart listing our own tasks and put it up in our activity rooms. This helped us remember who was appointed what task and whom we could help in their activity. Thus, this activity helped me in understanding the tasks, its details, how to organize, how to allocate the work between group members and fit it in given time.
Food was served to us with a lot of attention and care. You insisted we ate enough and were always given what we asked for. While eating, stories were being read for us. Our meals included vegetables, pulses, whole grains, rice, biscuits and milk and sweet like rice kheer or jaggery and ghee or sheera (sweet made of Semolina).
We also played many games with you. We competed with groups while playing relay races, then we played the voice modulation games and dog and the bone games.
This time you had done something very new for me. There was a small screen and a computer which played movies! And you showed so many different kinds of them. There were movies of animals and forests, and there was also a movie with people who didn’t talk but only made actions. I have never seen a man with such a small moustache (Charlie Chaplain) be so clumsy or create such chaos. The sound of our laughter together, you and all the children still rings in my ears. You also showed my Marathi movies like Sant Dyaneshwar and Shyamchi aai. I thoroughly enjoyed all the films I saw during my stay. One boy after the movie Syamchi aai cried. And you sat there with him at 11 o’clock at night.
You spoke to us every morning and I can still remember some of the important things you spoke to us about. You told us the importance of washing our hands and feet and keeping clean to avoid the entrance of Kali (disease or illness) in us. You told us the importance of sitting in an upright position, and corrected our postures. That would help the Brahma nadi to become upright thus allowing smooth flow of energy.
In the morning when we all got together soon after the Maun (silence) period, we all would chant ‘Hare ram hare ram’ and ‘Hare krishna hare krishna’ together. we all could feel the rise in energy in all of us as well as in the room.
You spoke about sharing amongst us and feel brotherly towards everyone, as we are all the same in intelligence. I did make some friends and I still have to get to know so many other members of this new family. Sometimes we would sit in our rooms and work on projects given by you and your team like doing a collage or writing a poem or a poster competition for the name of the group. Each activity we did, had its own importance, like you arranged for a competition for reciting shlokas. This not only encouraged us to memorize the shlokas but to learn how to say it together as a group with correct pronunciation. Then you also gave us a song which you had written for us. We also put a tune for it, five groups five different tunes.
I met so many new people; there were other intelligent young people who like us had been your students, like, Harshal dada, Chaitanya dada, Linata tai, Shruti tai and Anuja tai. Then there were also Sameena tai, Sashi tai and Varsha tai who had come to our schools during the Mensa test.
All that you have done to bring us here! Writing letters to each one of us to writing letters to our principals and teachers. And then taking consent from Kapse sahib (Project Officer, Ghodegaon) and school authorities to extend their support and cooperation for the project. Sameena tai and Sachin dada had personally visited each school to talk to the principals and schools about the Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program.
As so many schools were not familiar with Nishta Kendra you made travel arrangements for all the children to be picked up from our schools and dropped back after the program. And as you have taught us, to give blessings instead of just saying thank you, I would like to do the same for so many people. To Sevadham trust, Chang Bhale (Wishing you good) to provide us the bus and jeep to help us get to the centre and then back to school. Chang Bhale to Kiran dada for helping with the travel plan. All the people who helped you in gathering the material for the workshop like Sukumar Beri, Sachin dada, Varsha tai, Amit dada, Chang Bhale for all of them. Chang Bhale to Dixit kaku for preparing such Sattvik (pious) food for all of us and Dixit kaka for taking care of things at the centre.
Chang Bhale for all those people who came from Pune to be with us, to teach us, to play with us. There was Deshpande kaku who looked after all our meals, Anjali tai, Devesena tai, Swapna tai and Neha tai who taught us new things. The four dada’s from Jnana Prabodhini who played games with us, told us stories and taught us new songs. They spoke to us about their school and lessons of respect and love and devotion for parents, our country and guests that they had learnt from their masters and in their lives.
Sashi tai who took care of us as well as worked on making a profile of each child by doing psychological tests and collecting information.
There were guests who cam to visit he center, Dr. Gore and Dr. Vadhokar from Sevadham Trust. As well as Col. Joshi, the Chief Mentor for Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program.
Chang Bhale to Dr. Vadhokar and Sevadham Hospital for providing medical treatment to one of my brothers. He had fever and dada immediately rushed him to the hospital with Amit dada. Then while Narayan dada went to get the teacher from Shaskiya Madhyamik Ashram Shala, Gohe Sachin dada stayed with him. Narayan dada also told me how Surve sir (Teacher) immediately came to the hospital and took care of the boy who was ill. He was present to leave the children to the centre as well as to take hem back to school. Such teachers who extend their support and co-operation to the program are essential and form an important link between the Tribal Mensa Project and the school authorities.
At the end of the four days, you even asked us what we liked or didn’t like at our Maher Ghar or what else would we like to have. I agree that we may have taken time to open up and start talking to you but you took the time to talk to each one of us. We all ate together, watched movies together, played together and had fun together. Remember how we were laughing and enjoying on the last day. We were all sitting in the Anant Kaksha and all the groups were performing plays or one of my friends who sang a song, another who cracked a joke and there were others who told stories. And this togetherness is what we need to build more amongst us. With our groups and group leaders we are to excel at the tasks we do, we need to be creative in what we do and we need to take responsibility for what we do.
Narayan dada you not only taught us new things at our Maher Ghar but you also told us what we are to take back from here to our schools. All the material you gave us was properly packed and returned to you on the understanding that it will be kept for us till we visit our Maher Ghar again. What we can take back to our schools is the things we have learnt here, like reciting prayers in the school, spreading awareness about maintaining personal hygiene, and sharing in school all that happened in the four days at the Maher Ghar. You have also told us to get you information about the Deorai (sacred groves) near our school. I will definitely do that. As you have given us so many gifts at the Maher Ghar, I will get you the gift in the form of the information about the Deorai around my school. I will observe closely everything in the Deorai using all my five senses as I have learnt from you.
And when you come next to visit me in my school, I will show all I have done. And then I shall return again to my Maher Ghar where once I learnt so much to and to learn so much more.
Your sister,

This is how I felt and what happened during the first part of the Nurturing Program. How did such a Nurturing Program come into being?
Once long back I had mentioned that Devasena tai and Anjali tai have been working on a concept for the Nurturing Program. Then Narayan dada, having read the Bhagwatam, Geeta and studying it, designed the Nurturing Program based on the five Koshas. These five Koshas which are:
1. Annamaya Kosha- related to healthy food and exercise
2. Pranamaya Kosha- related to the five Karmendriyas and five Jnanendriyas
3. Manomaya Kosha- related to feelings, and emotions
4. Vidyanamaya Kosha- related to intelligence
5. Anandmaya Kosha- related to spirituality and serving the society
The Nurturing Program is thus based on these five Koshas and we, the Tribal Gifted children will be taken from one level to another level. For such type of nurturing to express, to manifest the nurtured qualities a platform is essential. The platforms in this model are psychological, ecological and social.
The psychological platform will talk about inside composition of the Gifted Tribal students. The ecological platform will deal with relationship between us and the landscape. The social platform will emphasize our role in the community. Each platform at each Kosha is drafted with defined aim, objectives and method. The method includes psychological assessment, ecological action and social awareness. In this way the Nurturing program has been conceptualized by dada.
As has been explained in the nurturing program concept, the five Koshas are manifested not only through activities but also in the atmosphere of the centre, the time-table set for the children, the resources made available for the children and through the living and eating arrangements as well.
One can review the program in terms of the activities done through out the day or how each Kosha has been successfully introduced and implemented throughout the five days of the program.
1. Annamaya Kosha
Food: In the morning children were given Honey and warm water (Madh Pani) to drink. This helps to clear the digestive system and is a more healthy substitute for tea in the morning.
Food prepared at the centre was healthy, nutritious and Sattvik (pious). Food was prepared without using onion and garlic. The atmosphere during eating was created with care given to washing hands before eating, being served with love and care, children eating as much as they want. While we ate, a volunteer read out aloud a story or spoke about the different forms of Ganapati in different kinds of fruits and vegetables. This helped in creating an atmosphere which was calm, quiet as well as informative and interesting while eating. Narayan dada during food asked us to chant God’s name and recite shlokas (prayer). He also explained the meaning of the shlokas to us. As I understand eating and preparing food is a spiritual activity. It is performing ‘Yajna’. In the 15th Chapter of Sri Mad Bhagwat Gita, Lord Krishna said to Arjuna, that he resides in every body, be it animal or plants, in the form of fire (by the name of Viashwa). Eating pious food is like giving an offering to him. Thus, sweet, ghee (butter) and six different rasa’s (juices/tastes) are very much essential in our daily meals. He also explained how many Lord Vishnu’s forms are in the different food items. Thus, in this way he started explaining every action in terms of its principles (like eating food) which we performed daily.

Exercise: Every morning from 7.30 to 8.30 am we exercised. We were taught Surya Namaskar by Anand dada. Posters with each posture in Surya Namaskar were put up around the centre for us to see and learn. The first three postures were performed correctly by all of us.
There were also outdoor games which we played to help us utilize all our physical energy. On the second day we played some games with Narayan dada. We had lots of fun; we made two groups and then had competitions among the two groups in the games. Games were based on team work, mental ability, observation skills, communication skills and concentration. After every game, Narayan dada explained the importance of the game and what skills were nurtured through it.
Volunteers from the Yuvak Vibhag (Youth club) at Jnana Prabodhini took a two hour playing session for us. They taught us slogans and told us to compete with each other. The boys played tug of war whereas we played langdi (skipping on one leg, trying to catch others).

2. Pranamaya Kosha
Cleanliness: We were told the importance of washing hands and feet after visiting the toilet as well as before eating. We were also told about Kali (disease or illness) and the only way to prevent it was by maintaining personal hygiene. We already had one group appointed for keeping the centre clean as well as the Blue group making arrangements for soap and towel at specific places for washing.
For inner cleanliness we played a game taught by dada, it involved control of breath. This would help us to breathe more deeply and increase the intake of oxygen in our body.

3. Manomaya Kosha
Sharing: We were divided into five groups and each group was given material and daily use items to be shared. This helped us learn group cooperation, sharing with one another and understanding each others needs. Incidents where there were conflicts among us were pointed at and criticized. We were encouraged to do not only our own individual tasks but also help others in their tasks and work as a group together.

Entertainment: We saw a lot of comedy films. We enjoyed the films with the whole group. There were also sessions where we were encouraged to come up and perform songs, plays, jokes in front of the whole group. This helped us gain confidence and the whole group was able to enjoy together.

4. Vidyanamaya Kosha
Creativity: We were encouraged to write poetry. In our stationary boxes we were given varied pens, colors and other stationary to experiment with. Another activity involved making collage out of photographs given to each group. A poster competition with the theme of “Name your group based on a religious place” was also held. Lastly we were also asked to choose an animal to which we had a similarity in nature or personality with. This helped us make associations with different animals.

Observation skill: Observation was introduced to the us through 3 activities. The first activity was to make observations of an object given to each group. The mentor for each group helped us make observations using all five senses and demonstrated the same. My group was the Yellow group and the object given to us was a potato. As we were trying to make observations, Sameena tai helped us by once asking us to close our eyes and just feel the potato in our hands, smell it. Then Narayan dada also came and he made a short poem instantly asking questions to the potato, talking to it. That made us all smile and helped us think more about what we could write about the potato. The second activity involved taking all the five groups out for a walk where we would make observations using our five senses. Then each group was asked to assemble all their information together and represent it using a drawing, a map, a story, a poem etc.
The last activity for Observation involved looking at a picture and writing down all that one can observe. We were also asked to think of what must be the past, present and future of the picture as well as what were our feelings or thoughts on the picture. Each group then presented their observations to the whole group.

5. Anandmaya Kosha
Serving others: We were encouraged to serve others as well as work for the centre, our Maher Ghar. As mentioned above each group was given a task involving working for the centre as a whole and doing things for the other children, like serving food, water, maintaining cleanliness of the centre etc.

Short talks: We were always spoken to with respect. We were also asked to respect all the guests and mentors who came to the centre. While the guests or resource persons left us we were taught to say Chang Bhale (Wishing you Good) as a gesture of gratitude. There was also recitation of prayers and we were told the importance of praying to God.

Story-telling: We were told short stories or personal experiences through which one could bring out values like respect, devotion and love for parents, the feeling of love with which guests are taken care of in our culture.

In this way the four days unrolled with the five koshas intermingled through each activity, action, thought or thing present at the Maher Ghar.
After the 4 days were over, I am sure the Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program team members had to complete other work as well. I know that Sashi tai made an inventory of the material purchased for the workshop. In this accountability would be maintained and they will get a clear picture as to the requirements for the next program.
Then of course there was a meeting at Thane, Mumbai with Disha Foundation Trust. There amongst all the Non Governmental Organization, the Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program was presented to all and so many people got to know about us. Now having completed the report for this first workshop, focus is being given to preparing an expenditure statement for the workshop.
Having done all of this I, Sita hope to have my dreams come true. To have a Maher Ghar where I have the freedom of choice is a dream in itself. I know I will need to work harder. Not only do I have to do my regular school work but now there is added responsibility to do the work for my Maher Ghar. So let me get back to work and I will write to you soon.
Sita (Wildflower in Tribal Niche, Looking for Disha, To experience Santosh in My Life)
(Monthly Report, November 2007)
Written by: Ms. Sameena Manasawala

Annexure I

Ground floor Name Assigned for
Room 1 Keshav Kaksh Women teachers and resource person
Room 2 Madhav Kaksh Women teachers and resource person
Room 3 Govind Kaksh Tribal Mensans Girls (10 Girls)
Room 4 Dhyan Kaksh Prayer, library, movie, activity room
Room 5 Anirudh Kaksh Grocery storage
Room 6 Osari For shoes, brooms, rangoli
Room 7 Padvi Kitchen
Room 8 Anant Kaksh Dixit family
Room 9 Vishwa Kaksh (Shed) Food, activity, exercise, games
Room 10 Nishta Kaksh Exhibition, meetings, activity

Toilets were assigned as one downstairs for Tribal Mensans-Boys, one inside the Tribal Mensan Girls room for their use. One toilet outside for Women resource persons and Dixit family.

First floor Name Assigned for
Room 1 Shri Krishna Kaksh Tribal Mensa- Boys (10 boys)
Room 2 Shri Ram Kaksh Tribal Mensa- Boys (10 boys)
Room 3 Vaman Kaksh Tribal Mensa- Boys (10 boys)
Room 4 Parshuram Kaksh Tribal Mensa- Boys (10 boys)
Room 5 Shri Dhar Kaksh Teachers/Volunteers- Men
Room 6 Damodar Kaksh Activity room, storage room-stationary
Room 7 Anant Kaksh Activity room, Entertainment

Toilets on the first floor were assigned for the teacher and resource persons only.
The Vedvyas Kaksh on the outside was for Narayan dada, guests and government officials.

Annexure II
Group division/Assigned tasks/ Mentors

School Group color Task Mentor
Malegaon, Aasane and Kohinde White Cleanliness in-charge Shruti, Anuja
Vadeshwar and Terungan Blue Water in-charge Sameena, Swapna
Gohe Green Garden in-charge Harshal, Anjali Joshi
Phulawade and Tokawade Red Entertainment in-charge Chaitanya, Sashi Sarvade
Girls only Yellow Food in-charge Linata, Sameena

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sita- Report for August-September 2007

Sita- Wildflower in Tribal Niche
Monthly Report- August and September 2007

Flowers are in full bloom everywhere, they are yellow and orange, white and pink and the leaves on the trees look greener and the grass sways in the breeze. The monsoon has quenched the thirst of The Mother Earth, the trees, the dried river bed, and mine. I got wet in the rain and sat along the flowing, gurgling stream, near my school for long hours. We played in the rains, the boys bathe in the stream, we saw the cattle graze happily on the green grass that covered the ground around the school. It is the time of the year that makes me very happy, because it is this month of September when Ganapati bappa (Lord Ganesh) has stepped into our homes, our lives, and our prayers.
After adequate monsoons, Ganapati bappa, the Sukhkarta (Happiness and prosperity giver) and the Vighnaharta (The remover of obstacles) arrived, as the second phase of the Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program started.
The month of August saw the completion of the first phase of Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program. In this Identification phase 2200 students were screened from 12 Tribal Residential schools in four talukas of Pune district. Jnana Prabodhini Institute of Psychology worked at the scoring and interpretation of the test scores.
Out of the 2200, 64 students were identified as Mensan that is, having high IQ (98 percentile and above). Out of the 64 Gifted children, 50 will be chosen for the second phase of the Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program which is, the Nurturing phase. 50 children from 8 Tribal Residential Schools, in Maval, Khed and Ambegaon talukas of Pune will participate in the nurturing program. As the project has its own administrative, financial and other limitations of resources it will be unable to include all the 64 Gifted children.
Varsha tai who has joined the Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program team from the month of September, is organizing the complete database of the Identification phase. A report has been sent to Kapse sir, Ghodegaon and the funding agencies that have supported the team throughout the first phase. The reports have also been sent to the eight schools, requesting the principals to cooperate and help in bringing the children together for the Nurturing program.
Each of the 64 children will receive a certificate which states that he/she has qualified for Mensa. Kedar dada, is very good with graphics and has been working at designing unique and creative certificates for those who have been identified as Gifted. He has also designed the Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program logo as can be seen on this page.
Ganapati bapa has brought good news this year, for me. I, Sita have been selected for this Nurturing Program. I am grateful to Lord Ganesha for this opportunity. Shri Ganesh has made sure that a new door has opened for me. Now I will make sure that I enrich myself with all that I see, hear, touch and feel once I enter the door. There will be many others like me there, from different schools and villages. They will be my friends, my new family.
The first phase thus, involved identifying the schools for screening, organizing and training Test Administrators for the Mensa test and finally conducting the Mensa test in the 12 Tribal Residential Schools. The Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program proposal included screening of only 1000 children. With support from the funding agencies as well as the team from Jnana Prabodhini Institute of Psychology and Sachin dada and Sashi tai a number like 2200 was achieved. The database has been prepared and the certificates for all the children who qualified for Mensa will be distributed in October which will conclude the first phase of Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program.
Now they have come this far, what is further down the road???? is the question in front of the team. The purpose of screening Tribal children for Mensa was to nurture the Tribal Gifted children to become leaders of their own village and community. When one says nurturing, the questions that come to my mind are, How? Where? When?
The answer to the first question, ‘how’ can be answered by Anjali maushi (Mrs. Joshi), Devasena tai and Sameena tai who are working on the concept for the nurturing module. The nurturing program has been conceptualized keeping in mind the main vision of developing Tribal Gifted Leaders from among the identified Tribal Gifted children. The main tracks which have emerged from the brainstorming sessions are exploration in the physical, social, mental, emotional and spiritual areas for the Gifted children. After going through this basic process of exploring one’s own and others abilities, strengths and areas of improvement in all these areas, the Gifted children will explore leadership and vision building for themselves as well as their family, school, village and society.
Dr. Usha Khire, chief mentor and founder of Jnana Prabodhini Institute of Psychology has been providing constant support and guidance in the process of preparing the module. Having worked in the field of Giftedness for more than 30 years, she has been kind enough to share with the team members her experience of running programs with children and youth. A very young member of the group, Amruta Limaye who is a Mensan herself, currently studying in Mumbai is working on the human development aspect of the nurturing program. Suggestions from all mentors and people working in related fields will be assimilated and synchronized to develop, a, one of its kind Nurturing module for the Tribal Gifted children.
So many questions arise in my mind about the program. Why are they doing this program? People coming from the city, will they understand me and other children from the villages? What do they have to give me and what can I learn from them? I don’t know how they have developed the program for us. I wonder with so many children and so many different interests of each of us, how the program will nurture our potential. Or is it going to be like a school day, where we will have a math period and then science and then history? Or will they give us lectures or make us write all day long?
I am looking forward to an unfolding of all these questions when we meet them starting from November, 2007.
The second question ‘where’ can be answered by putting forth the idea of Nishta Kendra at Mauli nagar in Kamshet which will be used as the Tribal Mensa Nurturing Centre. Narayan dada has conceptualized the centre as:
Nishta wherein-
N stands for Nature, I stands for Intellect, S stands for Synergy, H stands for Habitat, T stands for Tribal and A stands for Ambassador.
Therefore, Nishta is Nature and Intellect Synergy Habitat for Tribal Ambassador.
A Tribal Mensa Nurturing Centre development proposal has been conceptualized for the above centre. It includes the purpose of this centre as well as the infra-structural development required to develop the centre for the nurturing program.
This centre within the next five yeas will be developed as an eco-friendly, scientific, nurturing niche for the Tribal Gifted children. The centre in-charge will be Narayan dada, Principal Investigator of Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program with an assistant in-charge, Devasena tai.
The Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program will run for 18 months where the 50 Tribal Gifted children will come together at the Nishta Kendra once a month for 3 days. They will arrive on Friday evening and will be at the centre until Monday morning.
There have been so many visits to the Nishta Centre, Kamshet in the last two months. Each time the team visits the centre, they think of all the minute details and facilities which will be required during the program. And then, they go about organizing and planning for those facilities. For this Col. Joshi, has been very helpful. He has made visits personally to Kamshet, to check the progress of the work and to visualize the future needs of the program. The team really appreciates his efforts and guidance.
At the Nurturing Centre Dixit kaka and his family are working hard to put things in working order for us. I thank them too.
One interesting thing about the Nishta Kendra is about its name. Nishtha tai, a lady who is from a country called France and has been living in India for the last 40 years. She had donated the Kendra to Sevadham trust, Pune. They have committed the Nishta Kendra to Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program for a period of 5 years. Narayan dada and Sameena tai had gone to meet Nishtha tai last month. She is such an active person and full of ideas and enthusiasm. The team explained to Nishtha tai the concept that has been visualized for the Tribal Mensa Nurturing Centre. Nishtha tai was very happy that the Nishta Kendra will be used for nurturing the Tribal Gifted children and she has promised to be present at the opening ceremony of the Nishta: Tribal Mensa Nurturing Centre on 9th October, 2007.
It will not be long before I visit the centre myself. On 9th October, 2007 for the opening ceremony of the centre, the funding agencies, Kapse sir, mentors as well as other resource people connected with the program will be present. The school principals as well as some of the identified Gifted children will be present on that day. I am waiting eagerly to meet all the other children who have been selected, like me.
Prof. Laak who teaches in the University of Utrecht, which I have been told is far away in a country called The Netherlands has agreed to be present for the opening ceremony. It will be wonderful for the team to be supported by so many people.
Narayan dada seems to be slowly building an army of people. An army, that will take the Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program all the way, an army who will build 50 Tribal Gifted Leaders in different villages of Pune. This Army is the foundation on which the Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program will be built in the coming months.
One of these foundation blocks includes Urban Mensan children who are going to be present at the opening. They are all excited to know their counterparts from the Tribal areas and are reaching out to support the program.
So many people are coming together to help the team develop this centre. Cynthia Ramseur from U.S.A has sent National Geography and Discovery CD’s and DVD’s for us to be able to learn through different mediums. Thank you Cynthia tai (sister) for this wonderful gift! There are others who are looking into other details like collecting books, CD’s, stationery, games and other material to well-equip the Nurturing Centre. Thank you all!
Mr. Rajesh Date has been kind to help the team with infra-structural facilities of the Centre. I am grateful to him too. Abhinav Pustak Mandir is all set to send books for us to set up a unique library to quench our thirst for information and satisfy our souls with inspiration.
Then there is Kiran dada who has been an integral part not only in organizing the Identification phase but also taking care of many of the administrative logistics of the Nurturing phase as well as in the development of the Nurturing centre. I appreciate the interest shown and the contributions made by each of the individuals.
This month, Lord Ganesha also gave an opportunity to the team of Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program to visit ‘Samvad Shala’ for the hearing impaired and mentally retarded children at Lonavala. Mrs. Renuka Kotak was the crucial link in having the team and the school trustees of the Samvad Shala, meet each other. The school is just starting out and they have wonderful dreams of developing it further so as to accommodate more children from the surrounding areas. The teachers, there were full of enthusiasm and dedication could. It must be very difficult to be motivated to mentor these children. And Mr and Mrs. Damle, are two of the most inspired people working for this cause.
Through Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program, Mr. Shrinivas Desai and Mr. Rohit Desai donated clothes and toys for the children at the school. The team is thankful to them for being so generous. Through this army we have been able to reach out to hundreds of other people who have made inquires about the Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program and are standing by to provide support and help.
Mrs. Renuka Kotak has also been helping the team to collaborate with people that may be beneficial for the Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program. She is very touched by the idea and has been constantly extended support and appreciation to the team’s efforts. Through her it was
possible to meet Mr. Tiwari and Dr. Ranjitsigh Bhogal who are from Kaivalyadhama Yoga Institute. They are involved with training teachers in yoga which will aid the mental development of children.
All these people and many more have been generous with their words of appreciation, support as well as their in-kind donation and other contributions. I and of course all the other children are thankful to them all.
I await meeting the other children who like me have been selected for the program. Maybe together one day we can do something to make you all be proud of your investment in our growth and nurturing. And with this desire I pray to Ganapati bappa who will aid us and bring us success and happiness in our journey.

Sita (Wildflower in Tribal Niche, Looking for Disha, to experience Santosh in My Life)
(Monthly Report, August- September 2007)
Written by: Ms. Sameena Manasawala

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Testing in progress at Tribal Residential School

Government Tribal Residential School at Tokawade

Sita- Report for July 2007

Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program
Sita- Report for July 2007

The first phase of the Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program (TMNP), which is identifying Gifted Children from Tribal Residential Schools, begins in the month of July. The test administrators and coordinators of TMNP team have been very busy organizing visits to Tribal Residential Schools for the Mensa test.

While talking to the funding agencies about the needs of the children and the Tribal Schools, Narayan (Principal Investigator) realized an important point. Teachers, who are such an integral part of the growth and development of children here, need to be included in the program as well. For the holistic and continued development of children it is important to have a program for the teachers who are going to be in close contact with children. Hence, the Tribal Teachers Training Program was conceptualized and designed by Manas Tatva for TMNP.
Manas Tatva is a charitable organization who has previously worked extensively with children, parents and teachers. This program will help in improving the quality of education by exposing the teachers to new skills and techniques helpful in classroom situations.

The TMNP team welcomes a new mentor on board, Col. Joshi (or kaka as I will call him). Kaka is helping the TMNP team immensely by being the concrete that keeps things together. His foresight has helped the team to prepare for emergencies and his guiding hand is always there for support and encouragement.

Along with guidance from kaka, Sachin dada and Sashi tai made preparations for the Identification phase of TMNP. Arrangements like travel, accommodation and test material were made by Sachin dada. Sashi tai was incharge of contacting the schools, getting lists of students appearing for the test as well as forming a team of trained Mensa test administrators from Jnana Prabodhini Institute of Psychology.

For travel, Sevadham Trust, Pune was helpful and let the team use their vehicles for the Testing program and the Integrated Tribal Development Project was helpful in providing an idea about the number of children in each school in the age group age 10 to 15 years.

The first phase of TMNP began on the auspicious day of Ekadashi on 10th July, 2007. As the Palakhi with the Warkari’s (pilgrims) entered the city of Pune, a team of psychologists rode out to the Tribal Residential Schools. The first school where Mensa test began was in Government Secondary Tribal Residential School, Vadeshwar in Maval taluka. From there then the team went to Malegaon and then to Khed taluka.

A total number of 10 schools have been visited by the team and 1891 children have been screened in a period of 15 days.

When the TMNP team came to my school, I recognized Sashi tai and Sachin dada instantly. During the morning assembly our Principal told us about Mensa and asked all of us to co-operate with the guests. I helped Sashi tai to organize all the children in one class. All children were given:
• A writing pad
• Pencil
• Eraser
• Shubham Karoti (book)
• Harit Sandesh (book)

I was thrilled at the sight of a new red writing pad. The books had short stories and poems which I was eager to read. The test lasted for 2 hours and I attentively listened to tai and did as she explained. It was a new and interesting test we did.

The Identification phase is still to be completed. Evaluation of the test is going on simultaneously at the Jnana Prabodhini Institute of Psychology.
I am eager t find out how I did on the test. Te reports will be out by September first week.

As the Identification phase was running, the team was simultaneously planning for the Nurturing Program. The Nishta Centre at Kamshet which has been proposed for the Nurturing Program needs to be prepared. Work at the centre has been discussed and a proposal has been prepared for updating the centre.

All these people have been such an integral part of coming so far in the rains in search of us little ones. I would like to thank all the schools for letting the TMNP team to reach out to us, children. Also thanks to Sevadham Trust for generously giving their vehicles and for kaka to have come and be a part of the team.

Sita (Wildflower in Tribal Niche, Looking for Disha, To experience Santosh in My Life)

(Monthly Report, July 2007)
Written by: Ms. Sameena Manasawala

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

5th June 2007 Earth Day

Earth Day Program 5th June 2007

Sita......Waiting for Monsoon

May- June 2007 Report

Do you remember Sashi tai, Sachin dada, Sameena tai and the white car that had come to my school? I met them yet again on a very special occasion. It was a day when one should celebrate Mother Nature’s birthday. The Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program (TMNP) team came to me on that day with Gifts and Blessings from Mother Nature.

Before I begin to tell you about the occasion I would like to tell you about all the work that has been done by the TMNP team last month.

The way I work in the school, the TMNP team works in Pune. They have established their office at B-2 Sulochan Park, Kothrud.

For the project to run smoothly and get support from the government the TMNP team met Project Head, Mr. Kapse of the Integrated Tribal Development Project (3rd May,07). Mr. Kapse extended his support to the project and has authorized the running of this project in the schools of the four talukas of Pune district. The team visited his office (14th May, 2007) at Ghodegaon where they were able to access information about the school. The staff at Ghodegaon was helpful and shared with the team the maps of the four talukas which will help them to find the route easily to my school.

With all the above information and some of which was earlier collected from the schools, the School Profile Formats were thus completed and filed for database.

The team has also been successful in creating a Blogspot of Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program. The blog ( displays my story as well as all information regarding TMNP. With the use of the blogspot my story has reached people across the world. So many people have shown an interest in TMNP and have contacted the team for further information. A lot of people are curious about my story and want to interact with me. They want to talk to me, know more about me, be able to see me, hear me.

The Niteingale Charitable Trust has extended their support for the project as well as other individuals (Mr. Shroff) who have sent material for the program (CD’s, books). The Abhinav Pustak Mandir, Pune has also given material like pencils, erasers and books in discounted prices for children like me.

When I spoke to Narayan (Principal Investigator for TMNP) he told me that what has given him so much clarity about TMNP is the detailed Project Proposal conceptualized by his team. The proposal contains detailed steps with time lines as well as a list of requirements for the program, thus making its execution very clear.

The upcoming phase of the project is Identification which involves identifying children who are Gifted. This involves playing games and puzzles that Sashi tai had told me about. For this she is preparing testing material and packing it. Also other friends of Sashi tai (Test Administrator) who will come to our school with her are getting trained. Like we prepare for our exams they are preparing for visits to our schools. For this Dr. Usha Khire (National Supervisory Psychologist) and Dr. Sujala Watve (Head, Jnana Prabodhini Institute of Psychology) have been utmost helpful.

The TMNP team has simultaneously been preparing for the second phase of the project which is the Nurturing Program. For this several meetings with Dr. Gore (Sevadham trust) have been held and gathering of material and building infra structural facilities for the Nurturing program have set in motion. Visits to the Nishta Arogya Kendra at Kamshet (14th May/ 11th June, 07) which will be the centre for Nurturing program have been made and work like cleaning, fencing and roofing of the centre is in progress.

Let me come back to the day when I once again met those people who had come to my school. The special occasion was on 5th June at Ghodegaon. I had come there with my Aba (father) for some work and was surprised and excited when I saw some familiar faces there.

There was an unusual hustle bustle at the office. There was a huge banner with ‘TRIBAL MENSA NURTURING PROGRAM’ written in English in blue color as well as names of people who are supporting this project (Integrated Tribal Development Program and Sevadham trust) and those who are sponsoring the event and the project (Disha Foundation and Niteingale Charitable Trust).

There were some unfamiliar people as well. I got to know about Anand dada who has recently joined the TMNP team. Narayan was saying that Anand dada has stood first in his class (M. A. Psychology) in the University. Everyone clapped for him and looked at him with admiration. This really inspired me. Even I would like to stand first and get the recognition from so many big people.

Then I also met Amruta tai. She said she was doing her Ph.D. like Anand dada and Sameena tai. I didn’t understand what it is but I think it’s a very high degree especially for a girl, I suppose. She said she was working on Traditional Ecological Knowledge. She said it was concerned with the importance of traditional values and how they can be made a part of the educational syllabus and be taught to us in school. This is one of the most important gifts that has been passed onto us by our ancestors and through our culture and it is important that we not lose it, rather keep it alive and active and make it a part of our lives.

Then they all gathered in the hall upstairs where principals from all the schools run by the government were present. Mr. Kapse spoke to the principals and informed them about TMNP. He mentioned in his speech that the TMNP team would not only work directly with children but also try and work with the teachers for their own growth. So I guess, my teacher would also be going to classes (Teacher Training Program) like me and everyone would learn different things and share it with each other, how wonderful!

Everyone seemed interested and waiting to know more from Narayan. Narayan firstly presented a set of books and CD’s to Mr. Kapse and all the principals belonging to the four talukas where the project will be running. I am from one of those schools so my principal also got one set. It contained:
Prabodhan Geete containing 60 motivating songs for children
Chatra Prabodhan- 11 volumes
CD of Prabodhan Geete with 17 songs
Parichi Shala (Fairy’s School) containing 4 VCD’s of 36 songs to help children learn alphabets, 1 booklet and 1 slate.

The principals were also given a Certificate for their ‘involvement and innovative outlook in the field of education’ as a token of appreciation from the TMNP team.

Before beginning his talk Narayan said a shloka. Always begin to do anything with a prayer, my aaji (grandmother) tells me. It seems Narayan dada like me, listens to his aaji. And so I have also begun writing my story by the same shloka.

He then spoke about the importance of 5th June, Vasundhara Diwas (Earth Day). Well, who or what is this Vasundhara, I wondered. It seemed to me like Vasundhara is a beautiful devi (Goddess) like Laxmi devi. Like we pray to Laxmiji who is the Goddess of wealth, Vasundhara is Mother Nature.
If I imagine Vasundhara she would be draped in brown and green with roots growing out of her feet and beautiful flowers on her body. With birds sitting on her shoulder and soil in her hand, she would be the devi to whom people offer their gratitude for the gifts of Nature. Her hair would be like the flowing water of Ganga, and people would be praying to her for the deep blue water of the river and the fertile soil for the crops. Like Laxmi-ma is adorned with jewels and has power to bring wealth and prosperity to us, Vasundhara would have the power to purify the air, to revive dead forest land, to bring back the endangered animals and birds to bring back the harmony with which we used to stay in nature. She has the gifts of the immense potential of our natural resources but if not taken care of she will have no gifts to give us but the degrading land, the depleting forests and the polluted waters.

Anand dada said he would be working with something concerning the environment as well. He would be working on Naturalistic Intelligence which people as well as children especially like me who stay closer to nature than people in the cities, have a gift of understanding, adapting and recognizing features in the natural surroundings. He is going to emphasize on such kind of Intelligence and enhance it to prepare leaders of the future who know the importance and the ways in which to achieve the objective of natural resource management and conservation.

In this way there have been new additions to the team of TMNP. There is going to be so much to learn from so many people and about so many things.

I am thankful to God for giving me such satiating gifts in the dry summer. Certainly the dancing monsoon will bring with it the rhythm of Shiva, the chanting of Brahma and the love of Vasundhara (Mother Nature).

I, Sita (cultivable land) am waiting for an opportunity to blossom once again in the wilderness.
Should I thank the school, the government, the funders, the TMNP team or the opportunity given to me by Almighty God through them?
It is this question that I carry over with me………….

Sita (Wildflower in Tribal Niche, Looking for Disha, To experience Santosh in My Life)

(Monthly Report, May 2007)
Written by: Ms. Sameena Manasawala

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Date: 15th May 2007

Let me introduce myself. My name is Narayan R. Desai. For 8 years I have been working voluntarily for Mensa India as executive council member, Gifted Child Program. By Profession I am a restoration Ecologist and heading Society for Ecological Restoration-India chapter for 10 years.
Mensa India Pune Chapter is working in Tribal area of Pune district (Maharashtra State, India) for last five years. During that period, Mensa International recognized tests were conducted in Sevadham Tribal Residential School in year 2003. Surprisingly 4 girls scored 98 and 99 percentile score. That means there are qualified as Mensans. Mensa India Pune Chapter which is charitable organization based in Jnana Prabodhini is thinking of conducting Mensa tests for 2000 tribal students from Pune District (Khed, Rajgurnagar, Andra Maval and Junner). Identification of tribal Mensans will be pilot study which will in turn help in nurturing this intelligence in societal benefits.
The mission of the project entitled “Tribal Intelligence & Aptitude: Identification and Nurturing” is to identify talent among tribal children & youth with help of standard testing methods and nurture their talent for their own and community development.

This is to request you that please provide support, guidance and advice to the project. I am looking for help in following areas; (Age Group: 10-15 years, tribals)
1. Children story books and activity books
2. DVD, VCD’s on Nature & Science
3. Educational DVD’s, VCD’s
4. Back issues of National Geography
5. Intelligence Games & Puzzles

Soliciting your cooperation,

Yours truly,
Dr. Narayan R. Desai
Executive Council Member, Gifted Child Program,
Principle Investigator, Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program
Mensa India, Jnana Prabodhini Bhavan,
510 Sadashiv Peth, Pune 411030 India
Ph. No. 091-20-24477691, 24478095

“The Journey with ASMAE”

New Chemical Reaction is taking place

Introduction with ASMAE -: People always say that there is a network of good people existing in the space. It is a matter of opening your receivers and trying to catch those signals from that network. This network does not have boundaries and limitations, it is the fastest network than any existing network which began in 2000, and two modes of this network got directly connected by different servers. The servers were placed distinctly apart from each other, sometimes I wonder how this works! Anjali from Chennai, Devasena from Pune, Pauline from ASMAE France, Dr. Narayan from Mensa India, Dr. S. V. Gore Sevadham Trust made this journey happen.
Here onwards the journey begins ---

Concept formation- Three organizations, ASMAE France, Sevadham Trust, Pune and Mensa India, Pune have one commonality that is care, comparison and concern about human beings and holy Mother Nature.
This common factor has played a role in conceptualizing, crystallizing and compiling the idea of workshop for the tribals. Brainstorming, creativeness and communication skills of representations of their organization formulated the workshop structure and functions.
Innovative and creative ideas of ASMAE volunteers, expression ability of a MENSAN and enthusiasm of Sevadham Trust are the three main points of the triangle. The sides of this triangle are health, education and environment. Keeping this triangular concept, the unique consortium started its journey.

The Consortium -: Responsibility sharing, respect towards each other and recognizing the abilities of each other forms one more triangle which holds three points, that is Mensa, ASMAE, and Sevadham Trust.
The Chemistry -: For effective execution of the concept, the consortium comes up with a chemistry of work. In this chemistry there were two components, reacting with each other with a help of catalyst on a substrate that is TRIBALS and the end product was nurturing their capabilities. This chemical reaction is additive and ever lasting. This reaction started its journey in the year 2001.

First step of the journey-: With triangular concept in mind, the consortium with the help of its chemistry started journey and took its just step not on moon, but in the world of tribal. I think this step carries same significance as the first step on moon. In both this worlds one has to have three C’s Concept, Consortium and Chemistry.

In year 2002 a group of seven ASMAE volunteers more than so Mensans and 80 tribal along with their teachers tool part in this journey. The journey started to know each other, to share with each other and develop with each other. So there was no hierarchy. Singing French and local songs, sharing stories, exchanging ideas, puppet shows, enjoying Indian food, playing on ground, made this journey memorable. In this chemistry of consortium life time bonds were created, which are very difficult to express. I think experiencing and being a part of this bond one can explain to himself how it works. This bond will strengthen the network in some in future and trigger off some other consortium, some other concept and some other chemistry of some other journey.

Second step of the journey -: If only once something is done we call it luck or coincidence. But if we repeat that then surely we can call it a journey. If the concept, consortium and chemistry are accepted then the journey can progress with other travelers. In the year 2003 different French volunteers, more than 25 Mensans of different age groups and new tribal group of 100 students took part in this journey. Repeating earlier year’s activities, religious procession and overnight stay of ASMAE volunteers in the school campus tightened the bond more strongly.

The achievements -: It is said that when Lion starts its journey after covering a distance it turns back and looks behind to evaluate the mileage. When this consortium will turn back and evaluate not mileage but the achievements [mile and stone] surely it will see that it has covered much longer distance than expected.

Concept of teacher training program and execution of the program for one year regularly is one of the outcome of this journey. Tribal teachers from different schools were nurtured and helped to explore their own capabilities. To make them more effective in their teaching this journey is with different concept. Different consortium, and different chemistry, but off shoot of the main journey.

Concept of tribal intelligence, identification and nurturing of the tribal intelligence is the outcome of the main journey. First ever four tribal intelligence girls [Mensans] were identified from Sevadham Tribal School.

I am thinking of a new journey, with a concept that identifying such Tribal intelligence, nurturing them and fostering them for their own community development. For this journey I am requesting ASMAE to be a fellow companion.

Looking forward-:
In a journey one has to look forward and decide milestones and put full efforts to achieve those.
Tribal intelligence nurturing program
Teacher training program for other schools.

ASMAE workshops, are three milestones that one should look for .The journey has just begun like an eagle let’s spread the wings in this beautiful horizon, let’s have the birds’ perspective, and let’s concentrate on the target and dive with help of gravity to achieve the target like a bird. But all these things for tribal, with tribal.

Sacred March

We Started Restoring the Degraded Sacred Groves by Restoring Ancient Rituals & Festivals.
The Students organized Tree March from one Sacred Grove to unother one, taking gift from deity (in form of tree) to unother deity...........Exchange of indigenous plant species from same landscape......

Lets Draw Our Colourful Dreams on Paper

Tribal Students Nurturing Activity with ASMAE, France

Collect Indigenous Plant Seeds

We are Growing in Numbers

Lets Pray for Knowledge

Lets Pray for Good Monsoon Rain

Lets Go For Swim

Tribal Mensa Girls & Narayan Desai

I am Sita: Wildflower in Tribal Niche

I am Sita: Wildflower in Tribal Niche
Sita is a religious and mythological name, very common but very much appropriate as far as I am concerned. Well you know Sita as the wife of Rama but another meaning of Sita is a land which is suitable for tilling that is, a cultivable land.

This is my journey, from potential cultivable land to productive, cultivated land. I am going to narrate my experiences to you, how I was identified and nurtured for my capabilities by mentors and psychologists.

I live in the village, Jambhure. I am 10 years old and have a younger sister, Shilpa and brother Harish who study in the village school, which is up to class 4.

There is a river that flows near my village. Even in the hot summer the water is cool and I like to go and sit on the banks of the river with the other girls. There are lots of fields in my village. My Aba’s (father’s) field is right next to the river, so we have enough water. This year I have become as tall as the bajra crop in my father’s field. My field is surrounded by four Peppal (Ficus spp.) trees and one Mango tree. I climb the mango tree in the afternoon and sit there. I like to sit alone and listen to the koyal, (bird) or see the squirrels running up and down the trees.

Last year in the rains, the river overflowed. The buses couldn’t reach up to my village. A lot of work needed to be done on the fields. I went to school a month late. This year they are building a new dam there, so maybe the fields will not have excess water and the bus will come and I will reach school on time.

At home, my aaji (grandmother) tells me a lot of stories. At night I sleep next to her with Harish and Shilpa. Ajoba (grandfather) sits with the other elders all day near the huge banyan tree outside the village. He is always telling us to do ‘the right thing’ and ‘to be a good person’.

After passing class 4 in my village school I came to the Tribal Ashram Shala at Aasane. The teachers from the tribal residential school had come to my village and convinced my parents to send me there. My parents agreed as I would get to stay here free, free food would be given; clothes and books would be free too.

The Ashram school is very far away from my house and any human settlement. So we all go home only during long holidays. My school is surrounded by mountains called Western Ghats which is one of the major biodiversity hotspot of the world, with rare and endemic flora and fauna.
We have an open ground in the centre which is surrounded by classrooms. Unlike in my village, there is only empty land around my school. It looks all green after rains but in summers it is all brown and the ground becomes very hot. When it rains the water makes a rhythmic sound on the tin roofs and sometimes it leaks too.

We sit on mats in the classroom and all the girls sleep in that same room at night. In winters it gets very cold and the wind from the mountains is chilly. The roads here are like the ones in my village bumpy and with stones. Our school has toilets only for girls as they must not go out in the open.
Our Maushi (residential school lady cook) makes good food and when there is something sweet to eat, we know that it is a festival that day. Recently, we have got some computers in school; I have seen them in our office. I don’t know what they are as only children in the 8th, 9th or 10th Std. can use it. Those children also have benches in their classroom. I wonder how it would feel to sit on the bench. It would be easier to write, and especially in the winters it would keep us away from the cold ground.

Only two government buses pass my school everyday Once when the school starts and the other at sun set and of course few vehicles such as Milk collecting van, jeeps where people are sitting on each others lap and private landlord vehicles. My Aba sometimes comes in the jeep to meet me on Sundays. He always brings me some god khau (sweets). I share these sweets with my friends who are in class 7. We sleep together in the same class. Sushma is from my village but Amruta is from Kolewadi and Manisha from Ushire. I have not been to their house as it is too far away.

Sometimes I play with the girls in my class, though they don’t talk about things that interest me. They don’t listen to what I say. I don’t know why? Am I different? Why do my interests differ from others? Aai says I always say things too old for my age and I shouldn’t ask so many questions.
It was April 2007, my examinations were over, and I was eager to go home. I would go home and teach my brother and sister what I had learnt in school that year. I hope Aba would send them to my Ashram Shala after they finished their 4th class like me.

While I was sitting out on the playground of the school, waiting for my Aba to come and take me home, I was looking at the deciduous Palash (Butea monosperma) tree, and suddenly my eyes saw a moving object at a far distance. I saw a white car come winding up the road to the tribal school.
The car approached towards my school and stopped at the place where I was sitting. Three people climbed down the car. I had never seen them before, they looked like government officials, and they had some papers in their hands. They seemed to be coming from the city. I was able to figure it out from their dress and their language. One tai had worn a red color band in her hair. My hair is long and I also like to tie them with a red ribbon.

The visitors appeared tired and thirsty. They could have been traveling a long distance and really appeared cooked up in the hot April summer. They asked me about the principal’s cabin and went straight into the office. Why were they here? School was already over now. I was curious so, I followed them.

They told the principal that they had come from Pune; they were working on a project for Mensa India Pune Chapter. Hmm, so I was right about that. They asked the principal a lot of questions about the number of classes in the school, the number of children in each class, the facilities the school had for us like free textbooks, uniforms, when our exams were, etc.

After they came out they looked around the school and kept writing on their papers.
I asked one of the tai’s, “What are you writing?”
She turned around and asked my name. I told her “Sita” then I asked her who she was.
She said “My name is Sashi and I am a Psychologist”. I am just filling this form, we are noting down some information about your school”.

The form had different blocks and lots of blank space to write. Tai had already written down the name of my school, the address, the name of the principal, information about teachers, transportation available to reach my school and much more.

She then pointed to the other tai and said, “She is Sameena and she is also a Psychologist.”
I also got to know that the third person in their team was Sachin dada and he was the Coordinator for their project. Then I asked them if they work for the school inspector.

They told me, “No, we don’t work for the government. But we work with the government. Like you must know Mr. Kapse, (Project Officer, Ghodegaon) he is giving us guidance for our project.
She said that all three of them were working on a project for children like me who study in Ashram schools around Pune.
“Which other schools?” I asked.
Sameena tai said, “We have been to 15 Tribal Schools like in Malegaon, the school run by Sevadham Trust, Phulwade, Rajpur and have met many children like you. Would you like to do some interesting new things, Sita?”

I smiled and nodded my head. She said that they would be coming back to the school in June after the school had started and would bring with them some interesting games. And if I wanted I could play with them.

Then Sashi tai said, “Sita if you play those games thoughtfully there will be special teachers and special classes for you.”

“How will that be?” I asked.
She said, “We have completed four visits to Tribal schools in Maval, Ambegaon, Khed and Junnar talukas of Pune covering 1,500 Kilometers. From 2000 children who are between 10 to 15 years of age, some would be selected. If you are selected, Sita, you will get to meet all the other children.”
“Would you like that Sita?” asked Sameena tai.
“That would be fun!” I said.

I asked them if they had some new books for us. They said they would get some the next time. I wondered who would give them the books.

They said, “There are a lot of people in the cities who want to provide more resources to children studying at Ashram schools. A person (Mr. Santosh Naik) in Mumbai from Disha Foundation has provided us help to come here and meet you. There are others like Kartik dada who is working in the U.S.A and Viren dada in Muscat. They are working outside the country but are eager to give funds for our project so that we can come here the next time and bring those games for you.”
Sachin dada said, “There are going to be others who want to come and talk to you and teach you new things. And you could meet them once a month.”
“So many people are waiting to meet me! I hope you come in June, I will wait for you. And I will prepare myself for those games”, I exclaimed.

Sachin dada said, “You know the best part about those games is that you don’t have to prepare yourself or study for it like exams (Mensa Testing Requirements). You just need to be attentive and thoughtful to do it.”
Sashi tai was telling Sachin dada how difficult it was to find this school. They kept looking for boards or signs but there weren’t any. I told Sashi tai, “It’s simple to remember my school, you should look for the “S” shaped Neem (Melia spp.) tree, and 10 minutes in the bus after that one can see the Tribal school gate. Did you see it on the way?” She said she hadn’t but she will remember it the next time she comes to my school.

They said they would come back later with a lot of different new things. I wonder what they would bring. Just another set of books that we keep locked in the cupboard or more benches? These people seemed different. They wanted to look inside me, to know me. Shall I let them take a glimpse inside? Even I will have to look inside to see what there is. They seemed to know and understand the thirst inside me.
“The thirst of curiosity, the thirst to know, the desire to free myself, to get out of my own mind!”
Will these people take me there, a journey to tread, a path to be led.
Well if you want to talk to me, please write to me at

Sita (Wildflower in Tribal Niche, Looking for Disha, to experience Santosh in My Life)

(Monthly Report, April 2007)
Written by: Sameena Manasawala
The format for Monthly Reports for this project is drawn on the Concept of Sita, a girl from the Tribal school who will experience the nurturing program and narrate it to us as her story. Hope this creative endeavor keeps up your interest in our venture.