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Day 2: The No Strategy Strategy!

Day 2 started with a shocker: our kids saying they did not wish to go all the way to the shelter! I had assumed the responsibility of walking them down to the shelter and I did not want to fail at that. So I said please, I was stern, I even tried the well-tried emotional blackmail that usually works so well with kids but all to no avail. They were stubborn and they pointedly ignored everything that I said to them.

That was until  Shaila  & Neelu came in. Three people are so much better than one and after deciding to sit and start with painting right there at Astley Hall’s parking area, we suddenly and without so much as a “we’re off”, walked away from the kids. They being kids, were naturally jolted with this sudden change in us from “please come with us to the shelter” to… well nothing at all!

So they chase after us and call out to us for a few meters then fall back and observe us as we continue to pretend there is nobody in the world for us except each-other. We go to one of the shops and purchase some colours and a drawing sheet. Next we walk across the road to a dhaba where we eat some kadi-chawal and get seven samosas packed. We then head back to Astley Hall’s parking space happily eating our delicious samosas, offer one each to a few adults who beg there, set our art studio on the low boundary wall and set about painting.

The lesson for that day is: if you want their attention, ignore them! Soon they came around us, asking what we were doing and we told them we were drawing. Shaila decided to sketch a bit of Rajpur Road and I decided to sketch Sunita, one of our adorable little kids who sells balloons there. Soon they all wanted to colour too and joined in for what became a few blurred hours of laughing, chatting, teasing and of course drawing!

Strangers passing by stopped- some to chat, others to stare and a few others to help! I have to say kudos to the gentleman who volunteered to hold Sunita’s balloons so she could draw. In addition to this nice deed, he managed to sell 6 balloons, which is quite commendable!


Another brilliant development during the day was an elderly lady (who begs there at Astley Hall) joining us to try her hand at drawing! Shaila taught her क and the numbers 1-4 and the dear woman kept her sheet of paper on Shaila’s back while writing, when she could not find anything to put under it!

What we learnt on day 2 is to go with the flow. There can be no set strategy when one is working with street kids- it has to flow and shift shapes with each passing moment but in a way that is aligned to the original idea of teaching the children. This learning then implies that we go beyond trying to change the way the children think and begin with changing the way we think. A rigid and structured mindset will take none of us anywhere and it is amazing how much we are learning through these children!

So what started out on a despairing note turned into a brilliant day !  To sign off, here are a few photos of the artwork. Enjoy!

Rajkumar copied the names of shops and businesses at Astley Hall! Very creative, I have to say!

Sunita sat with one of our friends, Gudakesh and instructed him while he drew what they together decided.

Naina’s drawings mostly revolved around heart creatures (I think?) She would draw for a while then get irritated and say she cannot do it, then return to it again only to quit again and then… you get the drill! Her attention span is very little but that may also be because she is among the brightest in this group.

My rendition of Sunita with her balloons!


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