Children’s Flowery Perceptions of Onam
Onam fell on a Friday (Sept 9th 2011) which was SSE day at the Seremban centre. Instead of merely having the usual class culminating in Onam dinner, the gurus of the centre decided to celebrate Onam a little differently.
In Kerala, one of the activities of Onam is to decorate the porch with concentric circles of flowers called pookalam. Keeping in mind Einstein’s quote that was found in the magazine Sathya Sai Bal Vikas, that the teacher is responsible “to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge,” the gurus decided to modify this activity of arranging flowers..
The children were given the task of looking up the internet, a week earlier to find out about Onam and its significance. The group 3 children who led teams which consisted of younger children had to come up with a poo kolam which would best reflect the group’s perception of Onam. Only flowers were allowed in the kolam which was drawn on mahjong paper. . At the end of the activity, the significance of their kolam in relation to Onam, needed to be explained.
The children came up with interesting interpretations of their respective kolams. One group even had a kola that resembled a steering wheel! The group leader, Raj explained that Mahabali helped to steer Mankind onto the right path. A group of girls led by Gayathri used yellow flowers in their kolam for to them Onam signified prosperity as well as the harvest season. There were other groups led by Mano and Charath who used multi-coloured flowers to show that Onam was celebrated by a diverse group of people of various religions. .
The task was challenging for the group 3 students because they had to work with very young children from groups 1 and 2. It taught them to accommodate and interact . There was excellent team work at the end of the day with a lot of acceptance and tolerance among the students. The children from the Nandeeshwar Home also participated and formed part of the teams. . Prizes were given to the best 3 teams that produced poo kolams that best depicted Onam. Both Bro Karuman, the Chairman of the centre and Bro Ramana the State Coordinator who was invited, found the whole activity intriguing.
Finally, the students cleaned up the centre and were served dinner brought by the Malayalee gurus and parents. It must be mentioned here that the non- Malayalee gurus were very sporting and were dressed in Mundum neriyathum , (the traditional clothing of women in Kerala) which was lent and tied for them by their Malayalee friends.
Learning took place for having had their young minds kindled , the children now had better understanding of the festival. The gurus in turn had succeeded in enabling the children to “ think out of the box ‘. At the end of the day, everyone had a lot of fun and there was a sense of camaraderie among the gurus, children and parents.