For 15 days I traveled with seven Janwaar kids 1200 km – more than 100 hours on trains and on the road. We went via Varanasi all the way to Guwahati in Assam. Many people asked how I alone could take care of them and my simple answer was: “At Janwaar Castle kids learn to be responsible and take ownership of what they do, meaning they take care of themselves and grow as a group.”
What I saw during our journey was: yes indeed, kids learn while traveling. They are like sponges absorbing everything they can. Traveling is free and informal learning, so the kids couldn’t help but reflect the same and valuable and diverse things emerged.
Suman, the Adivasi girl gained huge self-confidence and started to speak her mind and participate in activities voluntarily. Jayanti, the Yadav girl, learned to respect Adivasi and became better friends. Ajay, the most notorious of all, started writing about the first days of Janwaar Castle. And Anil learned Assamese with his new friends. Everyone in his/her own way and speed.
In Varanasi, we stayed in hostelavie, just beside a ghat. The kids met their old friends from our skateboarding competition last November – Shyam, Vikas and Sagar. With them, they skateboarded the ghats of the Ganga and explored the city. In Guwahati, we were invited by the Parijat Academy. The kids learned with the locals. Uttam Teron started the Academy, a junior college, in 2002 with just Rs 500 and 4 kids. Today 548 kids attend school, 50 come from villages far off and thus stay in the hostel.
With some of our hosts, we visited one village inside the Garbhanga Forest Reserve. It was a 40 km hike, two days of intense walking. It was one of the most beautiful villages I’ve ever seen. And hiking with these kids less than half my age became an unforgettable experience. For the kids too, it was breathtaking. They saw a village very different from Janwaar – water comes from the mountains, not from the underground, the walls in the houses are made of bamboo and not mud, roofs are different and it was a whole lot greener.
The kids were happy to go back home, yet they surely miss their newly made friends.