With Grace

“It’s been a lovely experience for me – a learning experience. This is a beautiful family here and I enjoyed my time with the children. It’s been therapeutic.” Said Mrs. Sujatha Ramachandran regarding her time spent at The Peepal Grove School. Mrs Ramachandran is an expert Mohiniyattam dancer who spent two days exploring the difference in school atmosphere in this alternative residential school as she informed the school’s dancers about the theoretical aspects of the dance and its history, how it is different from other Indian classical dance forms.

She also narrated a great many mythological stories with dance as the nerve centre.

(Sujatha Ramachandran is an entrepreneur based in Chennai, who is also very passionate and dedicated towards dance)

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Mr. Nandan Bal (Former India Player and Davis Cup Coach) was with us for 4 days working with students at our alternative school in india and training them in the basic techniques, motor skills, co-ordination, tactical situations on court.

In his words, “Was highly impressed with the friendliness and self confidence shown by all the kids. The co-operative manner in which they worked with each other was an eye-opener for me. I do not see it in the other cities & camps that I work in.”

(Nandan Bal is former National Champion and Davis Cup player for India. He was also the coach of the Indian Davis Cup Team until last year)

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It's A Mans World

I’ve heard all the arguments a gazillion times. Yes, women do have more freedom than before but at what price? At whose mercy? The world was created for both men and women to live beside each other at par with each other. Just take a second to think about it and be honest:

 Are We At Par?

 A boy of my age can leave his house for whatever reasons without being asked too many questions or worse being stopped from leaving. A girl simply cannot. A boy hardly ever gets questioned about anything and even if they are questioned or caught doing something ‘wrong’ they are excused with the infuriating phrase ‘they’re boys.’

They are boys. They can bend the rules or break them even.

 So, boys can break rules, do whatever they want and lie through their teeth but hey! Girls can too. Except-if girls behave that way we are given hell for it. And this is what I don’t get, this is what I cannot understand and don’t think I will ever- Why?

Who set the rules for different ways of behavior for males and females?

I’ve also heard the age old argument (like all my fellow girls) that women need to be protected, to be kept safe. Well then, create a world which is safe for us and not at the price of our freedom. Ideally the world should be a haven for every single person regardless of gender, caste, creed, color etc.

But I’m not trying to change the world. I want the equality scale to be balanced first in our school.

We’re a small group of people but it’ll be tough to change this fact and make the scales equal because it’s been a man’s world since the beginning of time but it won’t be forever.

Gowri Rekha – ( A Class XII student of The Peepal Grove School, an alternative residential school in India)

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It Has Begun, Board's

Despite everything, that one word is enough to make me instantly wary.

It’s just an exam (like any other), just examiners (like any other), and just results (like any other…?). Right? The only difference is that I am in an alternative school in India

But somehow when I hear the word ‘Boards’ I think of a room with a really high ceiling and my classmates and I scratching answers as quickly as we can, stopping only to recollect information from our (probably) frenzied brains and maybe to daydream just a wee bit for a break you know. I can already see myself staring at some wall with a frown, trying to remember that one word, that one line that is infinitely important to me at this point. Hitler was a tyrannical dictator but his policies were popular amongst the people…now what was that policy’s name? Darn it just on the tip of my tongue…

It’s a turbulent time. The smallest things can break you down just as they can bring you joy. All of us are trying to keep it together, all of us know how the other feels, and all of us…are going through the same thing. Sometimes you feel really relaxed and you tell yourself ‘it’s just an exam like any other…’
But is it really?

I think…and I’m pretty sure some of us at least who are Board classes will agree that the exams are just terribly hyped up so much by everyone that you too find yourself caught in the whirlwind of solving innumerable old papers, timing your study hours, slowly turning into an insomniac…or having dreams of the exams and examiners in black robes breathing down upon you….

Madness, that’s what it is.

But the undeniable truth is that it is just an exam. In an ideal world exams would not be the method used to test our learning and understanding capacity. But our world isn’t ideal just as the Board members aren’t interested in causing us suffering (well that’s what they say at least). And that is what we are thought in our alternative school in india.

And well it won’t be as bad as we anticipate. Are we really scared of a piece of paper and a group of people who sit far, far away from us and will never even know our names? Are we really going to waste our energy and expend our peace of mind thinking about these unchangeable facts and brooding?

I’d say we should all just enjoy our last few weeks together, do as much as we can and leave the rest to fate. Tough it may be but not impossible.

To everyone who’s going to write the Boards, Who’s not in an alternative school in india.

They’ve already forgotten my 10th grade results or the fact that I did write 10th Boards. It’s just a few months of hype and insanity, you’ll live.

And the same goes for the 12th grade (me as well), we’ll live. And maybe…in the future, years and years from now people will see sense and scrap exams and devise better ways to test a person’s knowledge.
Let’s Hope.

By Gowri Rekha – A Class XII student of The Peepal Grove School – One of the alternative schools in india

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Man and Woman

You and I. We live together,
In the same place, with the same people.
But we do not lead the same lives.

Yours is a world of perpetual victory-
Of constant laughter as you play the game.
I neither lose nor cry. Not because
I win the game with you,
But because I’m not in it
At all.

At every step you take,
You are encouraged, applauded.
Mistakes you make are pardoned
After you’re reproached (if ever,)
Just for the sake of it.

At every step I am asked
To prove myself-
Prove my passion, my cause.
And the mistakes I make?
They are used to prove
My absolute incompetence.

When I ask why my life is so,
I am told that
It’s because they can change me. Not you.
I understand, and you don’t.

I believed that once.

But today, I Declare.
I would rather be a rogue-
a name they have given you
As an excuse for your freedom.
I would rather be called callous
Than be a scapegoat for your mistakes.

Then, I would truly be me
For my own sake
And not because someone
Had high expectations that they thought
I could live up to.

I don’t blame the people that live in your world.
I don’t blame the people that live in mine.
The tragedy is that one day
You and I will do the same
To another
Boy and girl.

-Gauri Kashyap (A class 12 student of The Peepal Grove School (PGS) – Alternative residential school in India)

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A Few Random Thoughts That Formed A Word, A Sentence, And Soon A Whole Essay!

I realized, well I keep realizing, that it’s been more than a year since I’ve joined PGS. And out of the not-so-many students we have, there are a lot of people who I don’t know at all except by name and class. Sure we all say hi to each other, and smile, and probably have sat with everyone at least a few times during meals. But how well do we know the other?

 Not well at all, I’d say. Even those who I sit with and talk to regularly can surprise me still. And now I realize, well I keep realizing this too, that the next term here will be my last term here. And I won’t see most of these familiar faces probably ever again. And then I start to think: Hey I’ve been here only for a few months. What about those who’ve been here for almost their whole life (like a few of my classmates who’ve been here for 7-8 years- phew, that’s a lot!)?

 Now with all those exams coming up, we’ll all be on our toes next term (or so I hope). Though we probably will, as we always do, chat and have fun. But it will be moderately less as our teachers and house-parents will make sure that we don’t waste our time. But is it really a waste? Getting to know another amazing, probably bugging and probably totally crazy person? I wouldn’t agree (though of course I don’t mean we should ignore our studies and just socialize and have fun). I mean think of the bonds we’ve made here at PGS, I’m sure some of us have made bonds that will last beyond school life. And isn’t that great? Imagine talking to that friend you’ve known for oh so many years and reliving all your young misdemeanors and laughing when you’re older.

 Imagine being invited to one of the weddings of your friend’s who’d said they’d never get married, ah, that satisfied feeling of being able to say “I told you so,” to them. Imagine seeing one of your friends faces on the newspaper for winning a Nobel prize for, oh I don’t know, Peace or Physics or something! And so many more things…One of my friends recently asked me “would you give up these two years in PGS for anything?”

 And even though sometimes, when I’m in a really bad mood, I’d probably say yes; honestly, I don’t think I’d give up even a year out of these two.

 Gowri. (A class XII Student of The Peepal Grove School (PGS) – An alternative boarding school in india)

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A Coach And A Friend

Mr. Ashwath Aiyappa, a professional cricketer, comes to The Peepal Grove School, an alternative residential school in india, to coach our boys cricket. He takes up the responsibility of igniting the spark of talent within them and bringing them as close to playing like professionals as possible. After having interviewed the captain of the school team, we found that Ashwath not only trained the boys physically, but psychologically as well. He acted as a counselor for them and helped them with more than just cricket.

Ashwath Aiyappa at Peepal GroveThe team felt much at ease with him as a coach and this could be attributed to two things – his professionalism and his friendly nature. Of course, he kept his relations with the team even off-field, having his meals with the boys, being ‘one of them’ and this helped them see Ashwath as more than just a coach – a friend.

 Instead of training the team as a whole, he trained each one individually, according to their personal strengths and weaknesses. In fact, since there were only four batsmen in the school, he helped improve their batting skills such that even four could be enough.

 The results of his training were seen in some recent cricket matches – two against school staff and one against Rishi Valley, another alternative residential school in india. Though the team did not emerge victorious in the matches, they had made the opponents work harder than usual. Ashwath was proud of his team with one of the batsmen scoring a half-century for the first time in his life. He stated that though they lost, they lost with pride.

 Ashwath Aiyappa at Peepal Grove Ashwath Aiyappa at Peepal Grove

 The Peepal Grove School is an alternative residential school in India, where students live in tune with nature and are provided spaces and opportunities to express themselves individually while learning to live in a community.

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On The Right Track

If you visit this alternative boarding school in India on a Sunday evening expecting to find a lot of weekend sloppiness around, you will be in for a surprise. What you will find are students in sportswear, running towards the gate to get cycles for the cycling expedition.

 These expeditions can last from two to four hours, depending on the stamina of the cyclists. The cyclists usually go around the hills, into the unexplored areas. And although sometimes small accidents happen, like punctures or breaking of the mud guards which slow down the cyclists massively, the other students show solidarity and help them get back on the road.

 And whatever their purpose for cycling , to check their physical endurance, to bask in the natural surroundings or to have a nice outing, they all come back to P.G.S. with a smile on their face… and a bucketful of sweat.

 The Peepal Grove School is a leading ICSE alternative boarding school in india. Apart from excellence in academics the students have ample opportunities to explore other dimensions of their personalities.

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Simply Spanish

Sergio Bhaiyya who hails from Spain and his wife Marina Akka, a native of Italy, joined The Peepal Grove School, alternative residential school in india as Yoga instructors this year. In addition to yoga, interested students and teachers undertake basic lessons in Spanish from Sergio Bhaiyya. The last word that would come to one’s mind while describing Spanish classes would be “boring”. While we have gone through the basics of Spanish like the alphabet, numbers, verbs, measures of time and greetings, most of our classes have been unconventional.

 To cite an instance, on entering the class one day, we found ourselves in Restaurant “Sergio” ( Sergio’s restaurant). We were introduced to the names of some Spanish delicacies and what more; Bhaiyya even took orders from us and issued us the bill. The only thing missing was real food.

 Perhaps the most unforgettable of all was the Spanish assembly where we rendered a simple, yet magical song on the Elements as taught in class. After about a dozen fun-filled Spanish classes, some of us are dreaming of the day we could be found on the streets of Madrid or Buenos Aires, happily conversing with the locals.

 And the worst part about Spanish classes? Its only once a week!!

 Eso es todo, amigos (That’s all, folks).

 The Peepal Grove School is run by The Satsang Foundation, alternative residential school in india. It aims to fulfil the vision of Sri M, who founded the school in 2006 to provide schooling in an environment of friendliness and positivity.

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Be Cool, Pretend Earth's Not Dying

If you think about it, it’s actually very sad.

Learn from an alternative residential school in india

All of us are wrapped in our own lives; we don’t even stop to think that- hey, if the earth finally does end…then we’re going to end too. We’re going to die along with it too.

Wouldn’t it be better if we paid a bit more attention to earth now? Than worry and panic when we’re dying along with it?

We don’t all have to be big eco-friendly people, we could do small things. After all- small things make a difference too. We could start at home, avoid using plastic bags; don’t leave the lights, fans, AC’s, TV and electronic devices switched on unless you really need them; to make sure you close the taps properly…haven’t we all learned this in the best boarding schools in India? Don’t we see it in magazines and websites under “how to not kill your planet?” section? And yet, why don’t we do it?Earth Not Dyimg - Peepal Grove BlogSimple: we don’t care.

What’s the point? We’re all going to die anyways. Why should I do it? One person won’t make a difference. It’s not cool (believe me I know people who think that way). So what? Let it die, it’ll only die in a few decades and I won’t be here to see it (Seriously?). I’m too busy.

So let me get this straight, we don’t want to do anything to save the land we live on…because….of the above reasons? Let the planet die because we’re too busy thinking about only ourselves? Well here’s an interesting fact: this planet is your home! Earth dies, you die.

50 years from now, I’m sure most of us will be alive and things are going to be very different.

There won’t be parks, no trees, and no lakes- you know why?

Because they’re not going to last that long with these conditions! We may plant trees, hundreds of them BUT if the weather’s too hot- say a 105 degrees and we all have to wear these crazy suits just to step outside our houses, the trees will not survive! Neither will lakes, ponds, oceans and any other water bodies. Already towards the ‘polar’ regions, the ice is melting- big time! Because of the heat. Global warming.

We’re not going to have enough water to even brush our teeth in the future! You can forget about bathing for sure!

Oh I forgot we probably won’t have food either. Yep. You see we live in a world where everything and everyone is inter-dependent on something else. So the plants, meat, grains, everything we consume will also be dead. See the livestock won’t survive long because we won’t be able to feed them let alone ourselves. So all your KFC, Barbecue wings etc are gone. No more of that. Then plants need water to grow and various other factors of course. But if we don’t have water to drink, how can we spare water for plants? And if plants don’t have water they can’t grow, and so-no plants. No food. We’ll be living on calcium, vitamin A B C D tablets. Sound tasty? I don’t think so.

Is that what you want?

To live in a place where you don’t have enough water to even drink? Where you have to wear suits to go out and walk around with oxygen masks just to step outside? Where the land is barren and brown? Where there is no food?

Trust me, this is what’s going to happen in fifty years or so IF we don’t stop our own lives just for a minute, and look around the place where we’re living:

It’s Dying.

Author: Gowri Rekha,

Student of Class 12, Batch of 2014

The Peepal Grove School,

Alternative residential school in India

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An Alternative School in India

This school has given me everythingI have learnt that a teacher can be a friend have experienced teaching which you cant describe in words.

It is the best residential school Ive ever been to. At PGS, the syllabus is tough, but because of the way they teach, one doesnt feel its tough.I love PGS.

This school changed me a lotit made me a better person.

This is the place where I have more friends than at home: they are the ones who encouraged me when I couldnt speak English; they are the people who console me when I am sad; they are the people closest to me after my family.

How children learn at The Peepal Grove School?

New children enter their first class looking like a toad blinded in torchlight: scared to ask a question and scared to answer one. In most cases, it only takes a few months for this residential school to work its magic. Slowly their confidence grows – at first, their hand might rise to offer a response that they are sure of, and then later, as they discover how to enjoy learning, their hand is up all the time, with questions, answers, thoughts, deductions. Possibly the most important change of all is a willingness to tackle the unknown head-on, to give an answer that is their own and not one that they have been told to give. It is this ability that we believe singles out PGS from the crowd of private schools across India, all claiming to offer ‘personalised learning and a focus on ‘critical thinking.

A sense of belonging to the Peepal Grove School family

Students at this alternative school in India bond across the years. It is not unusual to see members of Class 4 chatting with Class 10, or mixed teams straddling the entire student body playing sport together. These friendships promote a strong sense of unity and belonging, as new students are quickly enveloped into the PGS family.

Is it this network of connections that has created the foundation of what makes PGS so special? Or is it the peaceful environment, or the open green space, or the equal relationships between staff and pupils? Happily, there seems to be not one, single factor but a blend of many that has produced an environment which challenges yet nurtures, which sets a childs mind free yet gently guides.
By Oliver & Elenor Lockhart, teachers at The Peepal Grove School (2011-13), an alternative school in India.

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