The third semester of MBBS infamously dubbed the ‘honeymoon semester’ saw us religiously forced by friends, family and faculty to take a ‘breather’ (also apparently the ‘only’ breather in a medico’s life) to explore the amazing opportunities that this world had to present. So I was on a spree to find something that’d help me live up to their first world expectations and also have some fun along the way. I started with being more active in VSO, volunteering in at least one project every week.
13th November 2017; back from another monotonous day. I was pointlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed when a message popped up on the VSO WhatsApp Group, asking for volunteers who could help foreign exchange students with some English-Kannada translation. Well, to be honest, it is a boon to be able to speak the local language in Manipal, and that can make you the MVP for many reasons. Long story short, my friend Ashwin and I signed up for it. We were told to report in front of the Syndicate Bank at 12:30 PM on a few select dates. The first day, I actually went with an impression of having to probably deal with a lot of people and paperwork!
But when we reached there, Amy and Meghan (the exchange students) took us to the school hiding in the shadows of the huge Syndicate Building and the hustle of Tiger Circle – ‘The Academy Primary School’
It is a government aided Kannada medium school, where the exchange students were doing their volunteer work prescribed by their program. The children made bookmarks that day. And I fall short of words to explain the energy that filled the that classroom that day. They’d shame the atomic bomb! I wondered how that thatched roof could handle such an explosion on a daily basis! It was the first time I beheld the beautiful personification of ‘chaos’. And in subsequent visits, I realized that whatever quality I’m imparting to their life was near insignificant to the value being added to mine. To the extent that I silently mourned my loss of school/childhood experience having gone through pompous private school education.
There is no time for impertinent introduction at the Academy School. Your entire past and future becomes irrelevant. As long as you’re there, you are ‘Anna/Akka’ to 100 students and you’re there to entertain and have fun with them. For those who don’t consider themselves funny, they’ll find something to poke fun at and entertain themselves! They are a package of an absolute and inexhaustible bliss.
Once the exchange students left for the US, we were asked to submit a project report in which we pitched the idea of making the school visit a regular project. We wanted the whole of Manipal to see the powerhouse we had in our backyard and help us contribute to its cause. Our enthusiasm elicited a positive response and Voila! Here we are today.
Winter really adds charm to our lives. Although the seasonal variation in Manipal is restricted to long and monotonous summers followed by cold and exhausting ‘exams’, winter still found its way into my heart and with it brought the spirit of Christmas! We named the project ‘Akshara’ (Letter in Kannada) and our first ‘official’ project was Christmas celebrations with the kids. We taught them jingles, had them make reindeer noses and greeting cards, and of course, there was a sweet-treat for everyone in the end. It is said that the true joy of Christmas lies in giving. And this Christmas we start on a journey of giving. Giving in time and heart, to the ever charming and gleeful elves on the sandy, coastal town of Manipal!
Merry Christmas everyone!
Vinay Reddy KS | KMC Manipal (2016-2021)