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My toddler was missing her play school very much. She was on vacation to her grandparent’s house. So, we decided to spend our time in a nearby Anganwadi where my aunt is the coordinator. Anganwadi is run by State Government to provide service to the needy women and children of the village. There are various schemes that government has undertaken; providing free lentils, jaggery, green gram, rice etc to adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating mothers in the village, health checkups to the poor, vaccinations to the children, help to local women associations etc.
The Anganwadi is basically for children aged 3 years to 6 years. Anganwadi in our village has around 25 children. When I escorted my hesitating daughter inside the room, we both could sense all the 25 pairs of eye planted on us! Some of the children were wondering who the new child is, some were not distracted at all and continued the fight for their favorite chair! One or two of them came forward with a warm smile to know us better, to introduce themselves. I felt the room was small for their number. They were given a plastic chair each to sit on. There were many charts hung on the wall that described various things; fruits, vegetables, alphabets, flowers, stories etc. My daughter was fascinated to see all of those colorful paintings on the wall. Soon my aunt brought out a wooden horse for my daughter to play. This attracted all those children and all of them rushed to see the horse. Each child took turn to sit on the horse. There was a 3 year old enthusiast, who had joined the school recently, he started freaking out. His worry was natural, being the youngest of the crowd, he was worried if others will outrun him and his chance to play with the toy may never come.
It was the time for snacks. Helper served sprouts to the children. My darling was still busy with the horse. My aunt brought in some sprouts in the plate for her to eat and tasted few grams. Harsh, a smart kid in the class remarked immediately; “Ahhh! Teacher…sprouts are meant for children and you are eating them!” I wondered if I would have ever made such a comment when I was just three. I admit this generation is really too fast and too smart and human feelings and emotions are of less value for them. By the way, the sprouts were indeed very tasty
Lunch is served in the school every day to all the children as part of Mid Day meal scheme. We both ate the delicious rice and sambar prepared by the cook. Yummy! I was busy chatting with the staff and my daughter was busy with Rohit, an active boy in the class. They both were playing hide and seek and I could not stop admiring my young daughter who was engrossed in her play as if she knows Rohit for many days. Children can so easily blend themselves and knowing one another hardly matters to them.
Soon all the children were lying down on the hand stitched mattress for an afternoon nap. I was surprised to find my little one cuddled among the other kids. She was enjoying it very much. I realized that a child’s mind is very pure. A child is indifferent to social or financial status and does not hesitate to share, play or talk and to quarrel with her friend. I decided to support this nature of my daughter.
It was time to say good bye to all the kids and my little daughter jumped down the stairs saying ‘TATAA…BYE BYE’ to all her new friends licking a piece of ground nut chikki in her hand. Behind me, I heard Harsh demanding chikki for him