Thanks to the indefatigable Monika, the Volunteering SPOC at Tata Technologies, I am quite clued into the volunteering activities by the company, and believe me they are a really enthusiastic and active bunch! So when she mailed me about this great volunteering opportunity at Aabaji Ram Bhao Bhunkar School, Hinjawadi, Pune, I jumped at it. I was going to be in Pune for the day, with time on my hands post lunch, and what better way to put that time to use than to spend it with them and the kids at this school.

1-food-distributionTata Technologies volunteers serve school students their mid-day meals
as part of Tata Volunteering Week 6.

The school gets its midday meal from the centralised kitchen run by ISCKON, and colleagues at Tata Technologies had already finished serving the kids a hot meal of khichdi by the time I landed there. I served the hot meals to a few who hadn’t eaten yet, and grabbed a bite myself, accompanied by a good friend Anubhav Kapoor from Tata Technologies. It was really tasty and Anubhav agreed – which was significant because he is a trained chef and knows more than a thing or two about food!

2-food-distributionShankar Venkateswaran, Chief TSG, serves a young school student his mid-day meal

After the ribbon cutting and inaugural speech – the company donated some great e-learning equipment and software to the school – we volunteers rolled up our sleeves and got down to spending quality time with the kids. We were tasked to support the middle-school kids with some games and puzzles that were designed to pick their brains, abilities and patience and help them improve their concentration.

There were 3 specific kits that the team from Smart Champs, a leading skill development company and Tata Tech’s partner for the activity. What’s interesting is that the person from Smart Champs kept telling us that he had used these kits with Bankers and many of them couldn’t solve them! That taught me 2 things – one, I shouldn’t try them myself and two, I shouldn’t pretend to know how to solve them (we were handed solutions or kunjis, but that’s another story). We were also told to call out and appreciate those kids who managed to solve the puzzles.

2-education-enrichmentShankar Venkateswaran interacts with school students as they try to solve the Smart Champs’ puzzles designed to improve concentration and analytical thinking.

Thus was spent the rest of the afternoon, and what an experience it was! I stayed true to myself and did not even venture into providing solutions, grateful that I wasn’t expected to.  It was fantastic to see the gusto with which the kids attacked the puzzles. There was no sense of giving up, no sense of defeat and no peeking at the neighbours. Many solved the problem, and on several occasions the classroom rang with cheers which everyone – volunteers and kids – joined in. The kids truly ignited my mind!

Endnote: I was presented with 2 boxes of puzzles to take home. I gave one of them a shot, but still haven’t solved it. I should go back to this school in Hinjawadi and learn how to!


About the writer:

Shankar Venkateswaran is the Chief  of Tata Sustainability Group (TSG), Tata Sons. TSG drives all group level initiatives in the sustainability space, and guides Tata Sons and the group companies on sustainability and CSR initiatives. When not working, Shankar loves a good game of tennis, theater and reading.