Siddharth threw the school bag inside the cupboard with a sigh of relief. The much-awaited holidays had finally begun. “And I ‘m going to visit Dadu”, he sang to himself. Every year, during the summer vacations Siddharth visited his grandparents in a small town in Orissa. He looked forward to it the entire year. Because time spent with his ‘Dadu’ only got better, more full of fun every year. Dadu never let him down…
“Not until you finish your holiday homework”, came a stern reminder from his Mother, who was at the door, holding with his school diary, which clearly mentioned that ‘Sid’ (that’s what his friends called him) had to finish a project on environment during the break. And Sid loathed working on projects.
Ma was firm. He had to complete his work before they left for Orissa, which was exactly three days later. “Oh no! Mom. We’ll be here a week before the schools re-open. I’ll do it then. Promise!”. As Ma began to reply, the phone rang and Sid quickly grabbed it, knowing who it was. “Hi Dadu. I am coming. But Mom is unnnn...” began Sid. But Ma’s mind was made up. She took the phone away and spoke to Dadu herself.
“Akka! Please don’t indulge Sid. Every year he submits an incomplete project and we receive a scathing note from his teacher.” Sid stood there looking at the roof; pretty sure that Dadu would bail him out. “Maltiii… be a bit easy on the child. He will do the project.” came the soothing voice of Dadu. “But Akka…” Even before Mom could complete Dadu stopped her,
“This time you will not be disappointed. I promise. Let me speak to him. I will tell him myself.” Ma, still with a frown on her face, gave the phone to Sid. “Promise your Mom that you will do the homework once you are back” said Dadu. The words were promptly repeated by Sid to his Ma. As usual Ma shook her head in exasperation and walked away.
Once in ‘Dadu-land’, there were no worries. It was fun all the way and who cared about things like holiday homework? Every year the set routine was to climb trees in Dadu’s mango orchard, play with the kids in the neighbourhood and Dadu’s pet dog Moti. Rest of the time was spent listening to the fascinating stories that Dadu came up with every summer, watching cartoons on television and waiting for gifts from Dadu.
This time it was a digital camera. Then one morning Dadu asked him if he would like to see a lake that was close by. “Sounds exciting” said Sid and out they went riding Dadu’s cycle. It was larger than Sid expected it to be, with clear, rippling water. At one side of the lake stood a cluster of ancient looking stone structures. “How deep is this lake? Are there fish in it?
Crocodiles?” Sid started firing questions at his old Dadu. “ It was six humans deep when it was built by the Raja of Kolma and of course he bred fish in it. But don’t worry, there aren’t any crocodiles.” laughed Dadu. “Oh! It was made by a king” said an excited Sid. “Yes, many years ago there was a drought in this area and all the wells dried up. The Raja asked his ministers to find a permanent solution. One of the wiser ones asked him to build a lake.
The rainwater, which fell on the lands around and dried up instantly, could then flow into it. And people would have enough water to survive. New channels were also built from the hillocks to the lake, so that streams that flooded during the monsoons would bring in their water in the lake as well. And it worked! People have never lacked water here. Their wells are always full of water too.” Sid was by now in a dream world imagining the king boating in the lake.
They spent the day at the lake – fishing, throwing stones in the water and clicking photographs with his new camera. While returning, Sid saw a small pond with old stones on one end. Dadu parked the cycle by the pond and they went to take a look. “The king had built such small ponds at strategic places, which also collected rainwater flow from the area. And you know what? All such ponds are connected to the big lake by channels.”
At night, Sid dreamt of the king running from enemies through hidden water channels flowing with water – clicking photographs! The remaining holidays were spent along with fellow kids from the village. They roamed around the entire area and found many ponds with old stones. They clicked more photographs and once even discovered a long alley with pathways branching off, which someone said was a water channel. But it was all fun.
Aarushi Khanna, a student of St. Mark’s Girls School, Meera Bagh, New Delhi is working on a summer project on Natural Disasters- their causes and effects. Just like Sid, her main source of information is the internet. But she isn’t complaining and finds it a good way of being in touch with her studies during the holidays, although she maintains that it could be made more interesting. Her younger brother Raghav has to collect leaves of at least 10 different plants and make a crapbook for his holiday homework.
Nikita Ramachandran from Springdales, Dhaula Kuan too sounded politically correct about holiday homework. However, on being probed about the opinion of her friends, she said “98 percent don’t like it. Oh ho kitna saara de diya (Oh! They have given lots of it”. In a group on Yahoo!- On the subject of
Holiday homework- boring or fun?’, one of the replies says “Boring!! I usually do it one week before the school reopens” Another reply says “it's boring. But i will complete it in 2 days and enjoy my holidays” Check out http://in.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080526012843AA61b1s But there are some good suggestions coming up: Ms Kusum Jain, convener of Parents for Meaningful Education, Chandigarh says: "Holiday homework should be more ‘open ended’, let children do whatever they want to do — studies, hobbies, etc. — and then they can make a report, which can be submitted in the class." That seems more in line with what Sid did. http://www.tribuneindia.com/2004/20040608/edu.htm
Check out: Guess what is selling like hot cakes today? Summer vacation homework! http://www.tribuneindia.com/2007/20070702/cth2.htm
Boring project work
Soon, holidays were over and Sid was back in town. After several stern reminders from Ma, he finally opened his diary. ‘Make a project on water conservation and traditional water management using photographs” it read. “Now what on earth is that?” wondered Sid. The words ‘ traditional’ and ‘management’ made him feel sick. But, he knew what the quick way of doing it was. He typed it in ‘google’ in his computer and looked at the results. Nothing of what came on screen made sense to Sid.
But he copy -pasted it and made an essay. He knew it that a project without photographs would fetch him a ‘C’. So, all he did the next day was to find photographs on the web. Looking at the photographs on the internet, he was amazed. All the photographs were of old lakes, ponds, wells and water channels, similar to what he had seen in Dadu-land He quickly referred to the text he had copy-pasted and within no time, the words ‘traditional’ and ‘management’ started making sense to him. That was what he had been looking at while he explored the water bodies in Orissa!
In no time he had downloaded all the photographs from his digicam. They looked much better than the ones he got from the internet. He knew much more than what was given there anyway. He had first-hand experience, after all! He jotted down all he knew-the stories he had heard about the Raja and put photographs in his report.
He typed ‘Raja of Kolma’ on the internet got more information on it. With these inputs his project was now ready, and for once he felt happy when he handed it over to his teacher.
Later that week, during the assembly, the teacher asked all the students to come up on the dais to make a brief presentation on their projects. Most of their projects looked and sounded familiar, because they were repetitions. You see, almost all of them had ‘downloaded’ information from the internet and used the ‘same’ photographs. But Sid’s presentation stood out.
He spiced it up more by telling little stories of how he had gone fishing in the lake and had frolicked around the ponds. Everyone clapped heartily when he finished… and believe it or not - He got an ‘A’ for the project. Ma was happy. So was Sid. Only he kept wondering… was Dadu’s idea of visiting the lake this summer merely a coincidence, or did he know about his assignment already? Was it a clever ploy to get him excited about his schoolwork? Hmmm…