When I first decided to go on a school trip to Goa, it was just a 'trip' for me. Little did I realize that I was embarking on a journey that was to be motley of experiences for me.
The flurry of activities triggered off when we first congregated at the station. There were the other teachers as well and we were ready with our 'lists', waiting to tick off names of our wards as and when they made their appearances. But I was just not prepared for the effervescent excitement on the faces of the students, as they bubbled with joy in anticipation of the fun the expected to have in Goa.
As the train chugged off, their excitement, their laughter, their thrill seemed to rub off on us and began to engulf us as well. We began feeling like we ourselves were on a holiday with our kids and not just part of a school exercise. Throughout the journey, all we could hear was their non-stop chatter and I was amazed at their capacity to talk and talk. I couldn't help but smile as I reminisced about how would do the same when we were young. "Ah, those were the days," I sighed.
When we reached Goa, our first priority was to get everyone settled in their respective rooms and see that the children had something to eat after they freshened up. But I was amazed to see that they couldn't wait to head for the beach. Being a sea-lover myself, I backed them as well and we set off for the Wagah beach as soon as we could. Once we reached there, it was pure bliss - the pristine blue sky, the infinite stretch of water, the beach where we sat and witnessed the pure beauty of nature. The children jumped into the water and reveled in the embrace of the waves with shrieks and joyous abandon. What a pleasure it was to watch them enjoying themselves.
After that, it was one roller-coaster ride. We went to three other beaches and then to Donna Paula church amongst others. I was amazed to see that each church was more beautiful than the other. And when we went to what is known as the Old Goa, it was like walking through history. The Portuguese influence was everywhere. One could almost imagine being part of the era when the Portuguese constructed those houses, those churches and those roads. It was such a different and new world that I was mesmerized as were the children. It was a pleasant discovery to see that they were very interested in the architecture, the history, the nuances and more than that, the experience of being part of the past as well.
Interspersed with all the sight-seeing, were the swimming sessions in the pool, the birthday celebrations in the banquet hall, the late night gossip sessions and of course the dancing sessions on the cruise ship. As I watched the youngsters dancing away, with their faces lit up in excitement, I couldn't help but feel a fondness for them that during the daily duties of our school, we often fail to recognize. And as they asked us to join in their singing and dancing, I realized that for all their pranks and unbridled energy, they were good children and the exposure had done them good.
As we headed back to Delhi, I asked some of them if they enjoyed. "Oh yes Ma'm, we are just sad that it's over so soon," they smiled. "Yes I know. But never mind. There will be many more such trips to come," I said. "Oh yes, Ma'm, we would love to go again like this," they bubbled in excitement again.
It was then that I felt that I had made a good decision to go on this trip after all. These kids had taught me that life is not about waking up, working and sleeping at all. It was much more. Life is an experience to be savoured and relished. It's about keeping your mind - and your heart - open to the joys that life offers at unexpected times and forms. It's about embracing life and being alive amidst routine and mundane existence.
As we got off at Delhi station, I hugged all my students as they bid me goodbye and I thanked them and my school for the wonderful opportunity. Our small trip had come to an end but my inward journey to rediscovering life, had just begun.
(Dr Shyama Sharma is with Laxman Public School, New Delhi)