DAY 1 & 2: Delhi, Corbett and Agra
by Riad Mahmood
Our Sixth Grade children have been talking about this excursion for a while now. They have been delving into the details of what they will be carrying on the trip and what they will be doing and seeing. It's their first big, long trip to a far off place with their friends and teachers. I'm sure this will be a week they will remember for a good part of their lives.
These school excursions provide some wonderful learning opportunities. Children learn how to live with others, put up with the flow of things with no individual choice, and many more realisations that are internal and external. I think every school going child should experience these journeys. It can be hard for teachers as they are expected to set aside their personal lives and dedicate themselves to the well-being of our children.
The Air Indigo flight was full of excitement. A good part of the plane was occupied with HSEA teachers and students and yes, the chattering and noise levels were higher than normal. The good thing was that other passengers could see this and decided to soak in the spirit and enjoy it with our group.
The Capital surely has its significance. It can be impressive as you drive through the city, with remembrances of the past. Its political power stares you in the face; its eclectic culture is very much there to see. There’s so much diversity. These children have not yet been introduced to our nation’s freedom struggle and its partition, but will be able to connect this visit to the discussions that will come their way over time.
From the airport, the group was taken to the hotel to check in. Lunch was waiting and everyone ate well. It's going to be a long week ahead and we are going to see a lot. We Bangaloreans live far, far, away from this part of the country; we live in the IT capital and one of the most modern cities in India. But we will now see parts of India that have remained the same for a while now, with no tech parks, international schools and big malls. We are going to experience a different life and eat food we don't normally do.
After a nice lunch at our hotel we visited the Lal Quila and India gate. The majestic fort was buzzing with people and lots of activity as usual. The crowds can be really large and you need to hold onto the children. They were excited and were running around the place. Even though they had an early start they were able to take the walking around the fort and were keenly listening to the guide. India Gate is always interesting. The families having picnics on the grass, the tourists from overseas as well as the ones from around the country, make it a particularly crowded and busy place.
We stopped for chaat at the nearby Pandara Road at Prabhu Chaat shop, only to find out that they had no more stock. Being a Sunday it was all eaten up so we settled for some Pav Bhaji close by.
The journey to the Jim Corbett National Park began at 8 am. Our guide Raju, who hails from Jaisalmer, was quite amazed at how different every batch of children is. He has been doing trips with us now for almost four years and enjoys the Head Start excursions a lot. He is with us for the entire week and takes care of all our requirements. We have two buses that take us everywhere and they are stocked with water and basic supplies. Our drivers are friendly and have a fair bit of driving to do.
We covered approximately 245 KMs this morning, from Delhi to Corbett Park. It is the oldest national park in India and was established in 1936 to protect the Endangered Royal Bengal Tiger. It was renamed Jim Corbett National Park after Corbett who played a key role in establishing it. It falls in Nainital District in Uttarakhand. It also happens to be the first park under the Project Tiger initiative.
Corbett Park is surely a place to visit for all wildlife enthusiasts and people from all over the world come to this park. I am told that November is the perfect month to visit and is in fact the start of the visiting season. There is a lot of excitement in the air as the sight of the majestic tiger looms in our minds. The park is said to have 488 species of flora and fauna too.
It's a pleasure spending time with children on school trips as they see us educators slightly differently while travelling. They tend to loose inhibitions and free up with us.
Getting out of Delhi was madness. The traffic near Noida was brutal and we were held up for an hour or so. Most of the day was spent motoring up to Corbett Park. The children enjoyed ice cream along the way and played games in the bus to keep busy. The highway to Moradabad can get busy at regular intervals as you drive through many small towns. There are factories located close to the highway and many eating places. So far the weather has been perfect, not too cold and adequately sunny.
The day ended with the children enjoying the resort and soaking in the forest atmosphere and we are all looking forward to the safari tomorrow.