After days of yearning and preparing for it, it was finally here! Ram was thrilled to bits. It was his special day, the day he gets to be “the important person” in his class. In this project, every child from the class gets a turn being the star on a certain week and shares a “suitcase” containing selected things that are important to him. The goal is to learn more about the child, his family, and his culture.
Ram has been counting down to this day ever since the announcement came in January. He worked diligently on it, the hardest part being goading his mom to roll up her sleeves and help him out. So what did he take to school?
- Four of his important objects were – his jumbo pokemon card that he has been dreaming of taking to his class and showing off to his friends, his baseball trophy that was special not only because it was his first trophy but also because his dad was the coach for his team, his collection of ironing beads that he had spent hours making with his brother and dad, and a foam peacock that he had built out of a kit that his athai bought for him. “We can tell it’s India’s national bird amma”
- 10 Apples Up on Top, which he read by himself to his friends in class.
- A collage of pictures from his last India trip along with photographs of him doing his favorite things – dressed as a superman at the park, plonking himself on the bench in the library, “I love my mom and dad” henna on his hands, pretending to ride an auto with his cousin on the back, rolling chappathi, slicing tofu, playing with snow and so on. To my surprise, he explained, “There are cars in India but there are more scooters. They can be bumpy”
- A questionnaire that had details around where we live, his b’day, what are some ways in which he is like others, what are ways in which he is not like others, what does he like doing inside the house, and what does he like doing outside the house.
- A form asking him to say how to say Hello in our native language. After explaining how to say vanakkam, we practiced it with folded hands, bowing to each other. The kids followed our demo, hands folded and saying vanakkam as they giggled endearingly.
Ram was reluctant to take anything or talk about anything that was related to Indian culture when we were brainstorming about this project at home. It made him feel like he was not like everyone else. But in class he surprised us by sharing stories of Ganesha, mooshika, and Krishna. I was pleasantly surprised and mildly shocked and worried that they may be taken out of context. But that was just my adult mind overthinking, the children just listened, with their open and curious mind.
Ram generally doesn’t like being in the spotlight. He doesn’t like it when attention is lavished on him. He prefers intrinsic fulfillment over extrinsic recognition. Today, I saw that side of him that reveled in being in the limelight. Glowing like a bright star, with confidence and enthusiasm.
The icing on the cake today was that his special day coincided with Dr. Seuss’ b’day. Happy B’day Dr. Seuss. Thank you for showing us how much fun can be had playing with words, for stretching our imagination and daring us to think all the things we can think and for nudging us to go conquer mountains. Why worry, we have shoes in our feet and brain in our heads..!