Happy Children’s Day!

“I like being with children and talking to them and, even more, playing with them. For the moment I forget that I am terribly old and it is very long ago since I was a child.” – Jawaharlal Nehru, 1949

I was happy to see Children’s Day featured on the front page of the Hindustan Times this morning. Maybe the landmark 125th anniversary of Jawaharlal’s Nehru’s birth got it the attention.

Children's Day 2014

My earliest memory of Children’s Day goes back to 1977. My school, Baldwin Girls’ had been given the privilege of hosting the Children’s Programme on All India Radio Bangalore and we were going to be on air for the Children’s Day Special!

Back in those days, every Sunday morning, one school would get a chance to feature in the radio programme. I guess that each school that wanted to participate would have to put in an application and would get a chance once every other year or so. I wonder if this is still the case. We must have been lucky to get the Children’s Day slot. Even luckier was that our class, Std 2, was chosen to recite a poem about Children’s Day. Five or six of us were picked by our class teacher Ms Dianne Hunter and each had one line to say separately, and some lines all together. We’d all learnt the poem quite well, that I still recall some of the lines.

Children’s Day
“What is Children’s Day?” we hear some people say.
It is Chacha Nehru’s birthday.
“Who’s he?” you say.
He was India’s first Prime Minister.
To all children, he was a very good listener.
He loved them and they loved him,
Till he was old and his eyes were dim.
Nehru was loved by one and all,
Adults, children, big and small.
And it continued but I can’t get further than this.

There were other items too, performed by other classes. All of us spent several days rehearsing in school and then came the appointed day. The programme was going to be recorded and broadcast on the Sunday before Children’s Day. Snack/ lunch packed, we all went by a van, along with our teachers to the All India Radio studio. A first visit to a recording would always be exciting. At age seven, it was mysterious too. This is where all the sounds we heard on the radio came from! This, it turned out, was my only trip to a recording studio, till a few years ago when I was interviewed on Radio Indigo, about lakes.

It was indeed an exciting trip. The studio had sound proof rooms and lots of mikes and headphones. Ours was one of the first items, as it introduced Children’s Day, so we did not wait long for our turn. We rehearsed a bit and then in one shot the recording was done! Then we had to wait for everyone else to finish.

My parents had told all our neighbours to listen in on the day of the broadcast. We had set the radio to the MW frequency a day in advance. Mom used to listen to Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, Radio Nederland and the BBC on SW, so the AIR frequency was often not set. We couldn’t take a chance searching for the frequency at the last minute. On the Sunday morning, I remember all of us at home leaning over the radio to hear the broadcast. Our item was over in a matter of less than a minute! It turned out well. And at the end of the entire programme, all the names of the participants were read out. Thinking back, as we had a recorder at home, it is possible that we may have recorded the broadcast. Will need to dig out the old tapes sometime to see if they still work.

Children’s Day was always a fun day at school. It was a book-free day and there would be no classes. Sweets were distributed to us by the teachers. And after that the teachers would vanish and the class monitors would take charge. If one snooped around, one would find the teachers in the toilets and make-up rooms backstage, dressing up and getting ready to entertain us in the big hall. They would sing and dance and put up plays. We would have fun trying to identify the faces behind the not so familiar attire. One usual item that used to get us in splits was with the teachers dressed in our school uniforms and replaying classroom scenes. Our school magazines often carried pictures of this which I will need to dig out the next time I am home in Bangalore.

I wonder how my boys will be spending Children’s Day at school today. They told me it was going to be a normal day, with all lessons. Hope they are in for a surprise!

“Children are like buds in a garden and should be carefully and lovingly nurtured, as they are the future of the nation and the citizens of tomorrow.” – Jawaharlal Nehru

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