Saturday at Indu’s Excellent Tuition Centre is reserved for making a beautiful mess using coloured paper, sparkles, crayons, glue, staples, scissors and imagination. This is the day most kids show up for tuition on time. Some days are organised, meaning Indu and I decide on one thing we can all make, thus keeping the chaos created by 50 plus kids sitting in a 12 x 12 foot room, to a minimum. Other days we just put the crayons and paper in the middle of the room, drop the bucket of scissors, glue and sparkles into the mix and stand back. Of the two scenarios, the kids like it best when we have a plan. They love to start and finish a project. These are the days when it’s imperative to have enough supplies for everyone to make a mask, a picture frame or a lantern. Stragglers who don’t attend tuition class are always at the door on Saturday and are welcomed in to dip into the paint or cut up paper. After two or three hours of paper flying, sequins lost in the folds of frilly dresses, dried up glue sticks, fingers stuck together from using Fevi-quick (super glue) without supervision, scissors gently pried from toddler’s fingers just before they cut their hair, their clothing or their sibling, and the many squeals of “look what I made”, they escape to the laneways in packs wearing masks that transform them into super heroes, clutching drawings for their parents and nibbling at the dried glue on their fingers, leaving Indu and me to make sense of the confetti-bombed room.
Krishna, Sohel and Mubeen use paint and their imagination
Farhana leaned against the wall opposite the tuition hut, cupped her hands around her chin and grinned into the camera. Next was Faqriallam. He fidgeted, pulling stuff out of his pockets, until we begged him to just look at the camera and finally he offered his sly smile. Sneha, as beautiful as any child can be, begged her sister Nikita to leave her to her posing. They checked their photo on the camera and some kids asked to pose again and again.
Of all the crafts we make, the picture frame has been the most personal for the kids. Indu came up with the idea of making picture frames and for that we needed a photo of each child. I took photos of 53 kids against the dusty white wall that day, waiting for breaks in the pedestrian traffic; hawkers selling parts for kerosene burners, sari sellers, candy floss vendors, the barber, kids heading to school, parents hanging washing, rickshaw drivers coming and going from their home next door, a few policemen checking out new hut construction, toddlers picking up garbage and other kids photo-bombing friend’s photos. Then the kids made frames from craft sticks, decorating them with sequins, glitter and paint and carefully signing their name to their own masterpiece.
Raj makes a frame for his photo.
The next Saturday, when the photos were back from the printer and the frames were dry, the older kids carefully glued each child’s image to the back of the frame and attached them with decorated clothes pegs to string hung from wall to wall. This is point of pride wall. The kids change the order of their photos for better viewing, sometimes take them down and add a few more sequins, ask to take them to school to show the teacher and bring their parents to see their image. It’s the first thing you see when entering the tuition hut; a photo wall of smiling kids, their images grinning through a thin layer of Mumbai dust.
Merry Mask Making
Alter egos, Maharaja and Maharani fantasies and super-heroes are the inspiration for the paper masks the kids love to slip on, hands on hips, and go forth to conquer the lane ways. Indu and I become a mask-making factory; we use scissors to manipulate coloured paper into fierce warriors or delicate butterflies. The kids refuse to cut their own masks preferring the same mask the last kid just received from Indu or me, but they add personality with staples, crayons and glitter.
Saniya, Pratigya, Arnime, Ashukali, Amankhan and Tannu.
The kids hanging out in the laneway after making masks.
The Gallery Wall
The plastic tarp that covers the corrugated tin walls of the tuition centre couldn’t be more beautiful. The kids hang their art-work on this wall using reams of tape to stick their colourful creations to the dust-tinged plastic creating a colourful gallery of innocent inspiration. Hand-drawn pictures of their homes, the Indian flag, butterflies and hearts, families, and trees filled with mangoes find a place beside vegetable print abstracts and tracings of their hands mounted on coloured paper adorned with sparkle jewellery.
The kids put their creations on the Gallery Wall at Indu's Tuition Centre.
I bought some yarn and more coloured paper. They love coloured paper. Indu and I thought it might be fun for the kids to make stick dolls in their own image. Without benefit of mirrors in most of their homes, or at best, tiny hand-held mirrors this project became less about cutting fancy paper and more about what they think they look like. It was both hilarious and confounding to the kids, but in the end they all managed to make a caricature of someone even if it wasn’t necessarily themselves.
Sandeep, Tannu, Noorsaba, Ashukali, Sachin and Raj with their self-portraits.
Noorsaba with her self-portrait stick girl.
The kids in the community find endless inspiration in the laneways, hunting through garbage for bright objects chucked out by their neighbour, picking out pieces of wood or lengths of rope or string to make toys with. They don’t need fancy paper or supplies to make dolls out of old fabric or games out of sticks and old tires but their excitement about new crayons, fresh sheets of paper, reams of yarn and pots of sequins or buttons is worth the few rupees it costs DWP. Thanks to the donors who make these creations possible.
Kushmama and her brother with the dolls they made from scraps of fabric.
Cost of encouraging the imagination of over 50 kids every Saturday:
$20 CAD average per month (1000 rupees)
-art and craft supplies (crayons, paper, sparkles, sequins, glue, staples, hole punch, scissors, glue, felt, craft sticks, yarn etc)