"Iski lagan, uski shaadi!"

I started today's lesson by telling the class about our upcoming Pen Pal Project with students of The Newton School, founded by the family of my teacher and friend Rick Abraham.

I then took a set of siblings -- Vrinder (6th grade), Vinay (4th grade), and Shivani (3rd grade) outside for a chat. The three of them are exceptional students, and I just wanted to hear a bit about how they do it. After they told me about their daily routine, study habits, and dream careers, I asked the boys to go inside as I chatted with Shivani. She told me about how her brothers work at a corner shop and she is expected to help her mom with chores at home, but sometimes really doesn't feel like it. I can't say I'm the best role model for the situation, but we discussed a few options for how she could be more helpful while still being able to study and play plenty of the time.

By this time, it was 4:30 and the other students had been let out. After I told them how to play Telephone, I asked them to teach me some of their favorite games. Now this was fun.

The two games they taught me centered around somewhat real-life situations -- the names of the games translate roughly to "Who is getting married?" and "Old Lady" -- and require a lot of imagination. The paradigms/formulae around which their play is centered was really peculiar to me, a different sensibility. They are weird to describe, and I am pictured quite perplexed below.

For example, "Who is getting married?" first involved standing in a circle, and reciting a sort of chant until each kid, one at a time, had turned around to face outward (she was then "married"). Once we had turned around, we kneeled and closed our eyes. Then, two children would walk around the circle: one would pinch each person and one would punch him/her. We each had to guess who had done what. Those who were correct sat on one side of lawn, those who were wrong on the other. Then, the two leaders would come around and ask each of us questions: "How much milk did you drink?" "How many chillies did you eat?" "Where do you want to go?" We would name a city and they would take us to a part of the yard that represented that place. And then the game was over!

They all laughed a lot at how I had no idea what I was doing (or why), and I was touched when a few of them noticed I was having a lot of fun. Santosh turned to me during the game and asked, "Didi, you are really enjoying today, right?" and then started pouring out stories about a squabble he had had at school today (behold -- play therapy works!). I also overheard the last few girls who left today saying, "We made Didi so happy today!"

Well yes, kids, you did make Didi very happy today, and I look forward to class tomorrow!