On Friday 26th February 2010, as part of the Bray Lion’s Club ‘Windows on the World’ project, Mr. Ramamoorthy, from the Indian Embassy, visited the school. The Junior and Senior Infant classes greeted everyone waving Irish and Indian flags they had made.
5th Class presented their project work on India, which is to be displayed in Tansey’s shopfront window.
In the hall entertainment was provided by the 6th Class choir, traditional musicians and Irish dancers. Mr. Ramamoorthy then gave an informative presentation about India.
WHERE THE GANGES MEETS THE DARGLE
by Mrs. Sinéad Boland
The excitement had been brewing for weeks. As part of the Windows on the World project, St. Patrick’s Loreto was to welcome dignitaries from the Indian Embassy in Ireland.
In preparation for this great honour, the girls in 5th class, under the guidance of their teachers, Ms. Lyons, Ms. Dunleavy and Ms. Grant, explored the history and geography of this vast hot country, and a range of Indian culture from its art, religion and music to its fascinating cuisine. Yes-think poppadums, spicy curries, turmeric, saffron and mangoes! They produced a large impressive map of India, wrote tributes to the great Mahatma Gandhi and painted colourful Rangolis, circular designs used during Holi (spring festival of colours) and Diwali (winter festival of lights) to represent the endlessness of Time. They also made a striking 3D model of a peacock, the national emblem of India. Many of these exhibits, including artistic contributions from 4th class, went on to grace the window display of Tansey’s shop in Bray.
With equal dedication, the 2nd classes explored Indian life and culture, guided skilfully by their teachers, Ms. Blount, Ms. Driver, and Ms. Dowling-who was a great personal source of information following her visit to India three years ago. Indeed, Ms Dowling was resplendent on the festive occasion in her authentic pastel Salwar Khaneez, a flowing Indian silk tunic complete with loose trousers and colourful scarf called a dupatta.
The girls in both 2nd and 4th classes made beautiful representations of the Taj Mahal, inspired by the romantic story of Shah Jahan’s love of his wife. All their classrooms now teem with projects on this multi-lingual land, including arranged weddings, Henna hands, cricket and hockey heroes, and native foods such as tandoori, naan bread, ginger, figs and chapattis. Their art-work reflects their new knowledge: that Hindus believe the cow to be sacred and therefore eat no beef; that the tiger is the national animal, that Indian grooms arrive at their weddings on elephants, that New Delhi is the capital city and that the Ganges is the sacred mother river. And P.E. classes took on a distinctly exotic mood as pupils responded, Slumdog Millionaire style, to the strains of “Bollywood” music-very different from the Hollywood variety!
One of the most valuable lessons was the project on the Rainbow children of Kolkata during which the pupils learned about Mother Teresa’s pioneering work with the Missionaries of Charity and about our own Sr. Cyril and her on-going selfless work in the Loreto Sealdah school with the street children of that poverty-stricken city.
Eventually, the preparations were all done and Friday 26th February 2010 dawned. Mercifully it was dry. Mrs Buckley did us proud, sporting an orange flower on her lapel-not unlike a Lotus, the national flower of India. All clutter had miraculously disappeared from the front hall of St. Patrick’s and festive bunting hung in place.
Excitement levels in the Infant department were rising. The Junior Infants had made Irish flags, as the day was to be a meeting of cultures, while their more Senior colleagues had undertaken Indian flags. Interestingly the flags have the same three colours except that the Indian one has horizontal stripes with a blue wheel in the middle. Despite many warnings, no doubt quite a few little boys and girls in my own Senior Infant class expected to see Geronimo galloping up in his feathers with a tomahawk and spear!
At last, the big moment comes and the Infants form a guard of honour all along the school avenue. “He’s here, he’s here!” rises the messianic cry as Mr. D. Ramamoorthy, the Deputy Head of Mission, arrives accompanied by his beautiful wife, Grace. We see a dignified man in a well-tailored suit with a distinctive high collar. He has a kindly face and deep brown eyes that smile in delight at the sea of young children waving colourful flags. Mr. O’Doherty welcomes the visitors warmly and introduces them to the teachers. One little boy thinks he will fall down with happiness as Mr. Ramamoorthy approaches and shakes his hand. A little girl stares with open mouth at Grace’s long black hair and beautiful pink bejewelled sari and asks, “Is she a princess?”
Murphy’s Law: there’s a gremlin in the broadcasting system and although the Infants’ welcoming song is heard loud and clear inside the school, it doesn’t sound at all outside as arranged! Plan B: Ms McLoughlin to the rescue as she leads us all (in her impeccable Bengali!) in a touching rendering of Baak Bakum Paira (The Magic Dove), complete with actions. The singing boys and girls all gather round the front doors while the visitors, including members of the Bray Lions Club and some of our Indian families, stand inside-no doubt glad of the warmth as the day is cold. Photographers have a field day, making us all celebrities for the day. The song ends to great applause, the doors are closed and the Little People, still waving their flags, make their way gleefully back to their dens.
The dignitaries are then swept onwards and upwards to greater things by Mr. O’Doherty and Mrs Buckley. Lining the right stairwell is a guard of honour comprising the 5th classes whose classroom exhibits delight the visitors. Next stop, the 2nd classrooms where the delegation express astonishment at the depth of Indian culture embraced by the Irish pupils. Down the left stairwell past yet another guard of honour, this one made up of the 1st class girls, also waving flags. On then to the hall where an eager audience of 3rd, 4th and 6th classes awaits impatiently. The hall itself is festooned with impressive 4th class Indian art and project work, including decorative clay elephants, sari-clad dolls and festive lanterns, inspired by their teachers Mrs. Flanagan, Ms. Morragh, Ms. Doran and Ms. Travers.
Next the visitors are royally entertained by a massed 6th class choir who excel themselves with a bilingual presentation, in English agus as Gaeilge, prepared by their teachers Ms. McKeon, Ms. O’Dwyer and Mrs. Coyne, ably assisted by Ms. O’Brien and Mrs. M. Nolan. A small group of gifted pupils play traditional music that makes us proud of our own Irish culture. The piece de resistance is arguably the Irish dancing display organised by Ms. Finlay and her seriously-talented troupe.
In turn, the pupils are treated to a fascinating talk with Images of India by Mr and Mrs Ramamoorthy. A presentation made to the school from the Lions Club is graciously received by Sr. Denise. To finish off, what better than our two countries’ common national drink, a cup of tea, before the dignitaries are whisked away to the Bray Civic Centre for another reception.
A hint of perfume lingers in the air. Vibrant colours are etched on our memories. The warm and appreciative smiles of our humble guests remain in our hearts. What truly magnificent ambassadors for their country!
Slowly, normality returns to St. Patrick’s. As we head out for playtime, our feet are, of course, still firmly on Bray soil but somehow, India-exotic land of diversity, mystique and impossible dreams-doesn’t seem that far away any more.