My final weeks at the school flashed by. A final spurt of academic activity leading to exam week was followed by Sports Day, and then suddenly it was all over.
Sports Day was a real event. Somewhere between a military parade and the Olympics. I was delighted to be chosen as the Guest of Honour, along with Erin. Our duties included opening the games by raising the school flag, inspecting the teams and scoring a choreographed march past. A unique and wonderful experience. The games were varied, and included shirt buttoning races, slow bicycle races, formation cycling, lime ‘n’ spoon races, as well as all of the usual athletic events. Prize giving was a delight. A truckload of fluffy toys were handed out to the winners. In true Indian style I was put on the spot to make a speech.
After an emotional farewell from the staff and children I enjoyed a final supper with the kids, and waited for my 3am pick-up. After long, blurred journey I arrived in the Andaman Islands for a few weeks of diving and relaxation. Wonderful, but in light of my experiences at the school, time spent snoozing in hammocks felt very self indulgent.
I’ve been in the UK for a month and already my days at the school seem long ago and far away. How can I hold onto my memories more tightly so that they don’t fade?
My time at Shanti Bhavan was full of love, laughter and learning. My only regret is that I didn’t give more. Something that I hope to address in time.
If you’re a prospective donor or volunteer, my only advice would be: do not hesitate, dive in headfirst.