Update for students visiting from SOLA, Kabul

Monday 18th January to Saturday 30th January, 2016


Last Updated Saturday, 6-feb-16 11:31 AM

Monday, 18th January

This morning, after a welcome back to school, we were finally introduced to the eleven girls from the School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA). After being introduced to the girls we would each be hosting, we showed them around school and got to know a little about one another.
A talk by Ms. Poonam Muttreja followed, who spoke about empowering the youth about issues that are considered a 'hush-hush.' Ms. Muttreja, the executive director of the Population Foundation of India (PFI) spoke in depth about the plight of women in the country. Being an active participant of the 'saathiya' initiative- an attempt to encourage a peer education system in rural areas, Ms. Muttreja strongly believes that the youth of today can make a change. She also introduced us to a TV programme called 'Hum Kuchh Bhi Kar Sakte Hain' that focuses on gender equality, sex education and breaking social norms.
Post lunch, a talk by the founder of SOLA Ms. Shabana Basij-Rasikh followed. Given the privilege to interact with, and hear the story of Ms. Shabana Basij-Rasikh each and every one of the students of classes 10 and 12 imbibed experiences, and lessons that we will cherish and think upon. We were told in depth about the taliban regime in Afghanistan, and what it brought for the females- no schools, no jobs. Secret schools were set up, of which Ms. Shabana and her sisters were extremely lucky to be able to go to, due to the open mindedness, and the respect for education of her parents. She has now given talks at international forums where she has strongly expressed her gratitude of being a part of the 6% of the women educated at the time.
With an enriching insight to the lives of the people living in Afghanistan - a land so close, yet so far away, each one of us looks forward to learning, sharing and growing with our guests.

Tuesdayday, 19th January

As the second day began, fresh faces and charming smiles of the 11 visitors from SOLA and their hosts entered the school with excitement.
An enthralling dance lesson with Ms. Pattajoshi was the first event. 'Afghan Jalebi' was the track of the day and the girls lived their Bollywood dream through dance.
The much awaited debate workshop followed. Mr. Pradyumna Jairam introduced debate through a discussion about Afghanistan. The girls came from different families with different ways of life and thus had different beliefs. The common perceptions of Afghanistan were tackled and notions of backwardness were rebuilt with a conflicting stance.
The conversation turned political when a heated debate about the reasons behind the situation in Afghanistan started. From blaming the lack of action from the current president to the misguided actions of the previous president, the conversation digressed into the past and matters linking the Second World War to the current situation of the nation were brought up. The ideals were then evolved to incorporate the influence of the Taliban and the Mujahedeen. This created an understanding of Afghanistan's stance in the world.
The interactive discussion came to end with the perspective on International politics and the lack of initiative to create a global society.

Wednesday, 20th January

"Sar jhuka ke kar salaam hai shaam shaandaar, Aasmaan se aa giri hai shaam shaandaar!"

Beginning the day with exciting Bollywood music and new dance choreographies,our friends had the most enthralling start to a new day at VVS. After grooving to Bollywood music for over an hour, the SOLA students attended a study skills workshop conducted by Mrs. Gupta, Mrs. Nag and Mrs. Mitra. The workshop began with a general question answer-session related to their difficulties in different subjects. They had to write the number of subjects and which subjects they study back home. The workshop was extremely interesting and was a great learning experience for them. Then they attended a few regular lessons after which our guests were occupied with an exciting dance workshop with Ms.Pattajoshi, as they danced along to the song 'Afghan Jalebi' and 'Gulabo'.
At 1 o'clock, our guests and their hosts left for DLF Promenade Mall to watch the movie 'Bajirao Mastani'. Our newly made friends have told us on numerous occasions about their love for Bollywood movies and after watching this movie they were truly mesmerised by the movie's glamorous sets and extraordinary music-it had completed their true Bollywood dream. Following a brilliant movie, the group of students went around the mall to enjoy another day of this learning experience for all of us. - Aditya Kapur

Thursday, 21st January

11 sleepy eyed girls marched on the bus, drowsy yet excited awaiting the bus that would take them to agra to move its wheels so that the journey could begin. After a four hour journey where some snoozed and some chattered excitedly, taking those selfies with wide smiles and bright eyes and snacking on certifiable 'tuck' the girls arrived at their destination.
Upon arriving, the sightseeing tour began. They were enthralled at the sight of the gigantic agra fort and the mixture of Hindu and Islamic architecture. The guest house and mosque proved to be architectural gems, wide eyed and sharp eared, our friends came back filled with information and pictures of all the sites.
The main feature of the trip was of course the Taj Mahal. The white walled wonder of the world that the girls had on their bucket list, was finally ticked off as they looked upon the great tomb of marble with an inlay of 64 semi precious rocks. As they arrived back in Delhi, all they could talk about was the great masoleum that is an integral part of India.
Tired, yet grinning, the girls came home laughing after their tiring day, happy that they had finally been able to see the elusive city of Agra with all its sparkling wonder of symmetry and architecture.

Friday, 22nd January

The girls began their day with a public speaking workshop conducted by Ms. Tripti Nijhawan and Ms. Nimrit Aulakh. They thoroughly enjoyed talking about their views on various subjects and proved to be extremely eager to put forth their own perspectives. Some of them spoke about their respective districts, some about their country and also on their interpretations of religion.
Later in the day, clad in colourful traditional clothes the girls from SOLA sang their National Anthem, Sorod Mily. They also gave us a glimpse of Afghani culture by putting up a beautiful dance performance for the entire school along with their teacher. It was delightful to see them engaged in the steps, smiling faces, clapping along with the music. The dance form they performed is know as Atan and it is often performed at weddings and national parties in Afghanistan.
At lunchtime, all the students of class 10 gathered to sing for Shehnaz's birthday celebrations. Along with all our guests, all of us devoured the chocolate cake that had been brought to celebrate the occasion.
The day ended with a tie and dye session with Mrs. Ghoshal in the Biology lab. During the workshop, the girls learnt different tie and dye techniques and also made their own tie and dye designs on a piece of cloth. It was a great learning experience for all the students as they made their own designs, tied the knots, dipped the cloth in the dye and excitedly untied the knots to reveal beautiful, colourful souvenirs to take back home.

Saturday, 23rd January

As the fog overtook the atmosphere at 7:30 in the morning, everyone was extremely enthusiastic about what the rest of the day had in store for them.
After standing in long queues and going through several security checks, we finally reached our seats from where we would watch the dress rehearsal of the Republic Day parade. The parade commenced with the national anthem and the 21 gun salute. This was followed by a group of military dogs who also marched along this time, proving to be an interesting aspect of this year's parade. The French regiment too marched as part of the parade, since the Chief Guest on Republic Day will be French President Francois Hollande.
The floats of the different states showcased several aspects of our country that our Afghani guests would've been unable to see in Delhi. The numerous formations by our army men on motorcycles was a spectacle to view live and caught the attention of all of us as we stood on our seats for a peek.
The parade came to an end with an air show that was splendid and hundreds of tri-coloured balloons were released into the sky. As they played our national anthem at the end, all of us felt a sense of pride of being Indian and our guests from Afghanistan were mesmerised, as they viewed something they had never seen before.

Sunday, 24th January  
Monday, 25th January The new week began with an interactive session with the students of class 5. The students avidly listened to the talk as our friends spoke about Afghanistan, life in their country, interesting facts about their culture and also cleared many misconceptions about Afghanistan, which included beliefs such as Afghanistan denying girls of any independence in the society. This was followed by an interesting question-answer session, where a number of excellent questions were asked, with answers that enabled us to widen our knowledge about Afghanistan's culture and the people's lives.
The study skills workshop following this was conducted by Mrs.Nag. Many study skills were discussed, including how to incorporate the internet in one's study schedule, and make it as beneficial as possible. An outreach activity at the Ritanjali school at Kusumpur Pahari, with Mrs. Johri and Mr. Trivedi followed. The Afghani girls, along with their hosts, spoke to the underprivileged kids ranging between ages three to six about Republic Day and also incorporated a few things about The nation of Afghanistan.
This was a great eye-opening experience for all us, especially for our guests, to witness a totally different atmosphere from our small world where we are in many ways, oblivious to such places in our city.
Tuesday, 26th January After a lazy morning, we all arrived at Nehru park for a picnic with our guests and families which included a potluck lunch. On the way, we saw the Rashtrapathi Bhavan and all the embassies. The girls from SOLA were captivated by the various buildings in Connaught Place and their grandeur.
Once we arrived at the park we began exploring it and clicking pictures. Our guests enjoyed meeting different host families and getting to meet each other on a day off from school. We played a few games of badminton and hide and seek and then proceeded to devour the feast put before us.
The girls enjoyed tasting different dishes cooked by the host families; all the dishes were a big hit. Sitting on carpets under the much needed warm sunshine and chit-chatting was extremely fun for us all.
After that, we celebrated Sameema's 18th birthday by cutting not one, but two different but equally delicious cakes. A spirited yet friendly game of football followed. Our new friends seemed eager to play football, and passionately scored several goals. We spent the afternoon leisurely, gorging on delicious home cooked food and getting to know each other better. Overall it was a wonderful Republic Day celebration!
Wednesday, 27th January The new day began with students of Vasant Valley along with our guests from SOLA attending a talk by Suhasini Haider. Ms Haider is a well known journalist and a former CNN-IBN anchor.
She spoke about the various experiences she has had as a journalist along with pointers on what it takes to make a good journalist. Our friends from Afghanistan seemed extremely engrossed and asked a bunch of interesting questions.
As the talk finished, the girls and their hosts jumped onto the bus and were ready to go shopping to Dilli Haat. They were seen haggling to buy beautiful shawls, bangles and kurtas. For lunch, we ate sumptious food from all the different parts of India - Biryani, momos, kebabs, chaat and kulfi.
Walking in Dilli Haat was like walking across the the subcontinent of India and visiting all the different States allowing our new friends to see and witness the diversity India has to showcase.


Thursday, 28th January To start the day,our guests gave a talk to the students of class 10 about Afghanistan and Afghani culture.Following this,the SOLA students attended regular lessons throughout the day.
At 3 o'clock we left to watch the full dress rehearsal of the 'Beating Retreat' ceremony at Vijay Chowk.After passing through lengthy queues and numerous security checks,we reached our seats to witness the grand closure of the 67th Republic Day festivities.The setting for the ceremony was picture perfect,as all over one could see the grandeur of the parade,with decorated camels and horses and men from the armed forces standing still in their majestic uniforms for over an hour on the steps of the neighbouring buildings.The event began with the National Anthem,after which the bands of the three armed forces marched up and down Rajpath as they played many army tunes and patriotic songs such as 'Ae mere watan ke logon' , 'Kandho se milte hai kandhe' and the most renown 'Saare jahan Se Accha',which was the final song played by our military men.Once the marching bands moved out of the area,the lights came on over Rashtrapati Bhavan,Parliament House and North and South Block.It was a delight to see,as we were brimming with a spirit of patriotism.Our guests were mesmerised to witness the splendour of the band,the uniforms and the synchronisation of all the men and women as they played innumerable patriotic songs on a variety of instruments such as the trumpet,violin,tabla,sitar and the drums.
As the show came to end,we were allowed to walk on Rajpath and click pictures with the illuminated iconic buildings of our city.It had been an excellent evening,one that everyone enjoyed thoroughly.

Friday, 29th January  
Saturday, 30th January

The last day of the programme began with an early morning 'Hop on Hop off' tour around Delhi. The girls visited historical and cultural sites, from the Qutub Minar to the Jama Masjid.They spent the afternoon with their hosts and this was their last opportunity to imbibe all that Delhi had to offer.

The evening's programme commenced with high tea at the India International Centre. The event began with an insight to the experiences at the programme as told by Ananya,Sakina and Shabana Jan which then continued with Mr.Kapur's presentation on Ritinjali, a voluntary organisation working on social issues and improvement projects and finally ended with a talk on 'nation building' by Dr.Pramath Raj Sinha.

Dr.Sinha spoke about Ashoka University and the Indian School of Business, two institutions of higher learning he has been deeply involved with. He spoke about the opportunities they provide to its students. He invited the Afghani girls to research about Ashoka's admissions and study in India after they finished schooling. He believed that educating a new generation was in fact nation building, for it trained the future of that very nation.

The speeches by the two girls and Shabana Jan were warm and heartfelt, The girls and the hosts reminisced about their two weeks and found tears in their eyes. The moment to say goodbye had arrived. As the girls hugged each other tight and promised to stay in touch, they forged a bond that was so strong-it would last a life time. The programme created a difference in the lives of the girls both from India and Afghanistan. Until the girls from India get an opportunity to visit SOLA, the exchange programme stays incomplete, but the anticipation lives on.
-Aditya Kapur


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