If You’re Happy and You Know it Clap Your Hands…

So we clap our hands and stomp our feet and yell Hooray!

That’s the song that is often in my head, and then I found it on one of the Barney VCDs that Poomina loves, and sometimes we play it over and over again.  The big girls are learning it now in one of their classes, so sometimes we sing it on our way to school.  Other days they sing Bengali songs from their dance class and I hum along as I try to put the words in my head.  In voice class they are learning scales but with Bengali words.  I got a copy of The Sound of Music, so they heard the scales there too — as I try to teach them about universality… different parts of the world, same and different at the same time.  A popular song in the nursery school set here is We Shall Overcome, in Bengali.  Our mime teacher took us through the song in English, Bengali and then Hindi.  Same and different everywhere.

Yesterday i went to my favorite bookstore, Crosswords, a smaller version of Borders or B&N.  I found a collection of 500 Bengali poems for children.  I know enough to see if words are simple or not, and this looked like something our children could read now or soon, and others can read to them.  I want them to know poetry, in Bengali, and then one day in English.  I want them to be able to write poetry in Bengali, to say what their hearts say about their pasts, and their lives altogether.  I brought the book back and the Bengali staff loved it, they were thrilled.

Last evening we were filling out their applications for dance examinations, and talking about names.  They all understand about need at school to say, "My mother’s name is Dr. Michelle Harrison" because I have to sign for everything, and that’s what their papers now say.  But for dance, they only wanted fathers listed so we practiced, "My father’s name is Dr. Michelle Harrison."  But these occasions always start discussions about their families, siblings, parents, violence, who has died, who was murdered, who was taken away by police, who went hungry.  Two days ago all the kids got MMR injections.  So last evening one the girls informed me that living on trains you didn’t get injections.  She still isn’t sure she wants to be here — is constantly assessing her situation.  She makes me laugh a lot.

Anyway, I want them to keep alive their memories through poetry, words in their mother tongue — just an image in my mind — trying to find a way for them to express themselves and make themselves known.  They think a lot.

I also picked up a really nice illustrated encyclopedia of history for children.  They love looking at pictures, asking questions… they are interested in everything they see.  They have a history class for a half hour six days a week.  It’s not in their school curriculum, but in ours here.  And i bought a small book about railways of the world, since they love trains… (the place you don’t get injections) and several of them grew up on tracks and in stations.

It’s Sunday morning at ten.  The mime teacher didn’t show.  Some of the girls are watching Lagaan, some are helping in the kitchen, laundry has already been done, and it hanging on the lines on the roof.  One of the massis and I just cleaned out one of the storage closets… just a Happy Day at Shishur Sevay.  So I clap my hands, stomp my feet and yell, Hooray!

December 2007
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