I've always been a fan of kids ever since I was 11. Why? At that age, I would bathe, clean up, feed (with a bottle, dum dum!), dress and put my new born cousin to sleep while my aunt was recovering from child birth. And that baby cousin just passed his Matriculation. Sigh!!!. Aunts would call me over to babysit my infant cousins whenever I have school holidays. In fact I was so booked that my mother would complain about me staying with my aunts to babysit. Then, a day finally came when she wouldn't allow me to go stay over at my aunts. With a firm "No" she added, "You are my only daughter and I will not allow you to look like your aunts' awmpui."
The fascination with caretaking babies and young kids stayed intact through the years. I was usually the cousin sister that my younger cousins would look up to. There was a time when two of my kid cousins were such big fans that they'd come over every single day. When questioned why, they'd answer "U Seni bulah chuan thil kan ei deuh reng a, kan zai deuh reng bawk a". These lovely boys would be my bodyguard when I was preparing for my 12th exams. They'd stand guard at my door for hours and hours with their toy guns lest 'misualhovin an tibuai palh ang'.
My interest with kids grew as I began teaching in Sunday School during my first year in college at Shillong. I loved my first and second batch of 8 year olds and my batch of 14 year olds I taught when I was in Final year.
My favorite and most cherished summer during college was when I and two close friends went to teach at a mission school which a friend of ours headed. This little mission school was situated in a little Bodo village called Patkijuli at the Indo-Bhutan border. In fact, Bhutan was so close that the border gate was just 15 minutes walk from the school. I had a great time teaching primary kids English Grammar, Cursive writing and Social Sciences. It was interesting and also a challenge teaching these kids who would say
"Miss, pencil me no hab"
"Miss, book me no bring"
"Miss, Toilet please to go"
After a month, we had to leave. I cried while doing so. I don't know to what extent or if I've helped them at all, but my summer with the children at that school did help me find my passion... teaching young kids.
After I came to Delhi to pursue a Master's degree, I shamelessly asked a friend who taught in Sunday School if I could also do the same. I was welcomed and it was one shameful thing I've asked which I sure don't regret till today.
If you'd ask me why, my Sunday School kids are those who kept me sane through my M.Phil years. They are my best stress-buster weekends and the reason I keep control of myself. They keep me in check and I make sure I don't let go of myself and am always level headed because I know that I have to be a role model for my 50 kids in Sunday School. Teaching them had me make sure that I don't stray far from the Bible, keep my spirituality intact and tread my everyday with careful steps.
There are times when parents would come up to me and thank me for taking care of their kids. Then I'd be humbled. Because I, in return, learn so much from these kids.
And I tell you teaching in Sunday School comes with its perks. Because of the mouth of babes...
A teacher in Primary Dept. once asked a student who is the most beautiful person in the world. That kid quipped "U Zuali" without batting an eyelid. This same kid always made sure I join his siblings' outing at the zoo or the park. And his kid brother tells his family that U Zuali is his Chhianpa. There is this cute chubby girl in Beginners Dept. who always shares her lipgloss with me 'cause she doesn't like it when my lips are dry. This same kid tells me I look good in white. And nothing in this world would boost your confidence and self esteem more than the compliment of a 6 year old who, with her round eyes and out-of-breath tiny voice, tells you are 'the kindest and prettiest big girl ever'.
It's been four years since I've started teaching in Sunday School here in Delhi. And I've realized, I've watched my kids grow through my FB albums. But I still find joy each time I step foot into the Sunday School Hall after a long hard week, to these kids who waved at me, giving me their toothless smiles or sharing their latest Justin Bieber crush with me. My heart warms each time the 6 year old Ruati thrusts yet another new lipgloss in my hands; each time 3 year old Feli calls me Zuali instead of U Zuali; each time the 12 year old Hlui stands next to me to make sure she's already grown taller than me and each time the 14 year old Benjamin tells me that Barca FC had a late night match and makes him lose sleep.
Being with these kids gives me shelter, a comfort corner and a passion that my heart burns for! I hope I never forget and never let go of this one thing.
And to my wonderful mini-mentors...
I hope I always carry the innocence that you carry in your hearts,
The fascination with which you view the world through,
The zeal you renew each single morning,
The wonder you hold at each new thing learnt,
The grudge you never hold and
The excitement with which you face life every single day.