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Published: June 10th 2017
Geo: 27.8167, 76.7167
It took many hours' driving to get from Udaipur to Kishangahr; we arrived around 5PM, dropped our gear in yet another beautiful old palace hotel; this time it was the Phool Mahal Palace. We are told that Kishangahr used to be named Krishnagahr, after Lord Krishna, but that over time the name morphed to its present one of Kishangahr. We had time enough to wash hands and get oriented, then we went with Singhji and the hotel manager to the large market nearby. Our task was to buy 1000 rupees' worth of school supplies (about $20 US) for a local government school; we would give out these gifts when we visited the school.
My roommate and I quickly calculated that for the two classes we were to visit, to be on the safe side we'd need to buy 70 of each item instead of the 60 Singhji suggested. The first shop had fixed prices, but they still gave a small discount as we bought 70 pencils, 70 pens, 70 erasers, and 70 pencil sharpeners; that total came to 665 rupees, a fair price, we thought. We then bought two large bags of individually wrapped candies, and still had 220 rupees left, so wondered if we could find something else for 70 children at 3 rupees each. Singhji had also suggested combs for the children, but most shops sold individual combs for 10 rupees each (about 20c apiece), but we could only pay three rupees for each comb. The third shop we tried also said 10 R per comb, but quickly came down to 5/comb, but we didn't have even that much money left. So we started walking away and the shopkeeper called after us, "Okay. 70 combs? 3 R each for 70 combs." What a deal! Our arms were now full of gifts for the school children and we still had 10R left to give back to Singhji as change.
This morning we visited the local government school. Everyone was gathered in a large courtyard for prayers, and singing the Indian national anthem. The girls wore dark blue dresses with white sashes on top; they reminded me of the Girl Scout sashes my daughters used to wear in Brownies. The boys just wore clean shirts and long pants. The classes that weren't being given gifts this time left for their rooms, but many faces peered out of classroom doorways, and many hands waved to us. Of the two classes that remained, one was of very young children, maybe 5 years old, and the other was kids maybe 12 or 13; we forgot to ask and no one offered that information. So my roommate and I began giving out pencils and pens, erasers and sharpeners, combs and candy. An aide appeared with a tray to help distribute the gifts. Most of the children stood up to receive their presents. "Thank you." "You're welcome." "Thank you." "You're very welcome." "Thank you." "You are welcome." Over and over again for 62 times for each gift; it was a lucky decision on our part to purchase 70 of each item rather than 60! A few children, after saying thank you, asked "What is your name?" But when I told them and asked for theirs, their English extended no further so they just sat down. Some said to me, "You are very beautiful." I smiled at them and replied that they were beautiful too, wondering why a teacher had thought to teach them that phrase.
After everything was distributed (the extras were given to the headmistress) we also handed out candies to a 9th grade classroom and answered their questions about us. (Singhji interpreted for both sides.) I took more photos, trying to capture each one of the children's faces, and then they all wanted individual photos taken of themselves. This we couldn't do, but Singhji took group photos of all of us, and then the extended good-byes and thank yous started. Everyone was smiling and waving, even the children in classrooms we had not visited. How easy it is to please so many people! And I was also pleased, very happy with our morning's work.
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