Children of Arunachal Pradesh

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In September 2013 had the pleasure of driving thru Arunachal Pradesh. Started with Ramakrishna Mission School, Deomali, Tirap district in the west. Then to Tezu, Roing, Along, Ziro, Itanagar and Tawang in the east. All thru trip met hundreds of Arunachali children of all ages. Found them to be very bright and intelligent. U see boys of RKM school. They were going for morning assembly when I asked them to pose, very enthusiastic.

RKM school was started in 1972 and is affiliated to C.B.S.E. It has app 450 students of which 95% stay in hostel whilst others are day scholars. Classes are from 1-12. Close to the main school is another school called Ma Sarada kindergarten. Pic is of some children there.

Spent a day at school. Visited all classrooms. Requested Vice-Principal Manish Maharaj to get me to meet who is considered the cutest child in their school. Here he is for you. The school has physics, chemistry and biology labs.

Here is another cute child. I loved gentle smile. The school attracts students from all over Arunachal and different tribes. Found children to be very well behaved.

The school has a full fledged computer room (atleast six computers) where children are taught how to work on a PC. This boy is preparing a Pie Chart for some project. On date of visit the school did not have broadband but pray it comes sooner than later because access to the Net would open up the world for students.

At Vivekanand Kendra school (VKV), Tafragam, Tezu. The school is on a hill, very green and beautiful. It is for girls only. Every morning students have Yoga and Prarthana sessions. You see students meditating during morning session. School started in 1980 and is affiliated to C.B.S.E.

It was extremely sunny and humid in Sept. Some students use a umbrella even though it is a short walk from hostel to school. During the interactive session with students, the girl on the right asked ''since you worked with Hindustan Levers, which shampoo would you recommend''. I said Dove and Baba Ramadev''s Ayurvedic shampoo.

Students of primary section. Man in pic is school Principal Pandeyji and lady is local teacher. Pandeyji has spent over thirty years teaching the children of Arunachal. Dominant tribe in this area is Mizo Mishmi. As on date of visit school has app 275 students of which 210 stay in hostel. Classes are 4th-10th.

Tafragam school is atleast 7 kms from Tezu town. Locals wanted a VKV school in Tezu town. They worked together to create the infrastructure for a local school that was started in 2009. It has app 250 students and is from class 1-5. U see a teacher singing along with the children. Clicked thru class window because the kids get too conscious otherwise.

In the same school are another group of primary students. It took some effort for the teacher to get the kids to stand as a group.

Enroute from Tezu to Roing is VKV Sonpura. It is an extremely backward area - barely get cell signal in some part of the compound. It is an all girls school. Started in 1981 today it has 300 children of which app 180 live in hostel. Made a hurried visit on a Sunday morning. U see students of primary section in their hostel. School is 1-10th.

Presenting pics in the schedule of travel. At VKV Roing saw this child enjoying dinner, loved the look on his face. School started in 1977, affiliated to C.B.S.E. and has app 750 students in 1-12th classes. App 140 boys live in hostel. Since Roing is a big town need for hostels is less.

Attended the school assembly in the morning. Very well organised considering the school has 750 students. You see students singing the morning prayer. Right of pic is principal Smt Rita Raj. Roing is the base for hill station Mayudia. It is about 2 hours drive. Great drive thru fog, dense forests, must do. Locals said best time to go in the winters when it snows. About 6 hours from Mayudia is Anini from where one walks to the Tibet border.

Assembly at VKV Roing. End of pic are teachers. Since it was Monday they wear school uniform ie sari (same design by all) and white shirt/blue pant for men. I have always wondered why men wear pant/shirt, do not wear traditional clothes but expect women to wear saris.

When students of lower classes come out of their hostel in the morning and before proceeding to prarthana (prayer) hall they chant the Gayatri Mantra. U see a child chanting the same. We were a distance from where these kids were but hearing their chant we came closer, was a pleasure to hear them.

Young children in the classroom. Loved their smile. All through the trip found the younger i.e. under 6-8 children very very sweet some with great smiles.

From Roing we reached Dibrugarh, crossed the mighty Brahmaputra river and proceeded to temple ruins at Malinatthan. Part of the temple complex is an old Shiv Mandir. The lady that you see had come to visit the temple. She belongs to the Galo tribe.

Out next stop was the Ramakrishna Mission School at Aalo or Along. Drive from Malinatthan to Aalo took nearly six hours, is thru dense forests and lovely. Must be even more beautiful in the monsoons. RKM school was set up in 1966. U see young boys who took time off from their football game to be clicked.

The school has about 2,250 students of which 707 are girls. It has a dispensary, bakery, its own cows and poultry. Both VKV and RKM schools serve students non-vegetarian dishes. Was surprised first but was later told that it is very much part of local diet so have to serve. Saw these kids in the school compound.

Before assembly I was walking around the boy''s hostel looking some cute boys to click when I suddenly saw the boy''s bathroom. Took this pic thru the window. Must say the boys were very sporting and posed in style. Hope some do not take offense to this pic - should be taken in a lighter vein.

In VKV Itanagar is this image of Swami Vivekananda. This is the way Swamiji looked when he travelled through out Bharat. A man is known by his legacy. Swamiji and Sardar Patel are two men whose contribution to India will forever be remembered.

Coming back to RKM Aalo. In the evening children sit in their class with eyes closed and concentrate/meditate. Wish my school had taught us to concentrate like that - would have done much better in life and exams as well. Row one kid on the right is very sweet. To read Education in the Vision of Swami Vivekananda click here

After seeing boys concentrate went to the dining hall. All wanted me to click. If I clicked one group child from another would join in. Child in white wanted to be in every group. Younger boys just loved their pics being taken. Every evening the Doctor from RKM Aalo visits a village and distributes medicines/treats the villagers there. They cover about 13 villages a month, one visit every 15 days. Good but lots more needs to be done by All.

Children at VKV Jirdin. The school is about 30 minutes drive from Aalo town and is surrounded by mountains. Seeing the terrain enroute to school was not sure what to expect from students there. The interactive session with students of this class was probably the most interesting and stimulating conversation I had during the trip. Girls very confident, well informed about what is happening in the country, great sense of humor and testing me all the time. Girl in row one right of pic asked me ''What was wrong with the political system in India. Girls wanted to me to introduce them to Hrithik Roshan and Ranbir Kapoor when they came to Mumbai. Most of them are on Facebook and have personal Gmail accounts.

During the Q&A we laughed so much that I felt rejuvenated after the exchange of views. This is amongst the sweetest girl in the class. She asked difficult questions with such ease. Thanks to Tata Sky/News Channels students are aware of what is happening in India - Arnab Goswami''s 9 pm debates - The Nation Wants to Know. The problem in Aalo as in other towns of Arunachal is liquor shops all over the place. In Aalo saw atleast 20 shops - State Govt wants revenue but drinking habit could ruin the lives of students and elders. Heard Teachers complain that some 9-12th class students had taken to drinking.

Young girls taking Hindi lessons at VKV Jirdin. I was pleasantly surprised to know that Arunachalis speak very good Hindi. School started in 1982. Most students are Adi tribe and belong to local area. In some cases children are non Arunachalis because parents are posted to Aalo. School has app 390 students of whom app 240 in hostel. Class 1 to 10. Hindi teacher that you see has if I remember right been teaching in VKV schools for 26 years and is from Uttar Pradesh. This school had teachers from Orissa, UP, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam. Hats off to them for coming all the way to teach. Ishwar ka aashirwad sada unke saath rahe - May God bless them and their families.

About 5-6 hours drive from Aalo is VKV Kuporijo. This school is at a height and overlooks the Subansiri river. Envy the students for schooling in such beautiful surroundings. When we reached these students were on their way home. The school was set up in 1987, has about 450 students in class 3-10. It has boys and girls. Was happy to know that school has Broadband and it works.

In one of the classes students had to recite a Vraksh Slokha. U see one student reciting the slokh. Each student had to speak for about a minute. I sat on the last bench and heard them. School like others is affiliated to C.B.S.E. School has very positive vibrations. Teachers come from many States including Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

Group photo of class 10 students. During interactive session with this group one of the students wanted to know why the rupee had depreciated so much. Students bright but not as informed about national affairs as those in VKV Jirdin. Everywhere I found the girls more confident and outspoken.

Another student reciting the Vraksh Slokha. Her hair style reminded me of Sadhana hair cut of the 1960''s. Daporjio is supposed to be base for river rafting, angling and picnic. Visited a few tribal homes and saw Ganesh Visarjan. Whilst walking in the market saw young girls buy cosmetic and hair wash products by Levers and L''Oreal. All FMCG products available. Impact of TV advertising.

Within the school complex some students were attending a Art of Living class after school closed. Doing Surya Namaskar. In this school found the students very grounded - something special about school, cannot describe in words. Felt very nice after visiting the school and interacting with students.

Took some 5 hours from Daporjio to Ziro. Drove through thick forests - lovely drive with lots of fog. Somewhere enroute saw this lovely kid in a village.

Amongst the most beautiful places in Arunachal is Ziro. It is plateau at an height of 1500 metres. Very beautiful landscape - rice fields. U see students at VKV Ziro. Again reached Ziro when the students were to leave for home. School location is like a foreign locale seen in a typical Karan Johar movie. School started in 2,000 has 583 students of which 283 live in hostel.

School is co-education. U see a group of students in school corridor. Students in this school mostly belong to the Apatani tribe and come from close by areas. About 30 minutes from school is a Shiva Lingam in Kardo forest. The Lingam is 25 feet tall and 22 feet wide. I spent one and a half days, two nights in Ziro. The students took some time to open up - after that some spoke to me as if they knew me for years. Girl in centre (smiling) asked me what did I do to become six feet tall.

Group photo of class 3 students. I spent time in some of the class rooms as if were a student. Was impressed with the quality of teaching, as good as we got back home in Mumbai. One thing is sure, if my school were in a place as beautiful as Ziro would have scored 75% plus in 10th exams. Another student asked me how Ashwariya Rai''s daugher Aaradhya looked?

Another group of smiling children. During interactive session with 9-10th class students one of them asked me how much would a Chartered Accountant earn in Mumbai. When I told her Rs 4-6 lakhs if joined a big accounting firm, she jumped in excitement but cooled down when I told her about cost of living in Mumbai. Number of Arunachalis worship the Sun and Moon ie Donyi Polo religion. She was surprised when I told her that I too worshipped the Sun. Showed her the Sun ka locket that I wear 24 by 7. Soon I found her reacting to me very differently, became pally and a spokesperson for girls who wanted to ask questions.

Students of class 10 B. Spent nearly half a day visiting tribal homes with the help of friend, philosopher, guide P G Dodum. Ziro women are famous for facial tattoos and nose plugs. More about that later.

This pic is of students in the classroom. Unlike the rest of Arunachal (except Bombdilla, Tawang) which was humid and sweaty in Sept Ziro was cool. U can spend days just walking around the town enjoying the weather and rice fields.

I went to the boy''s hostel.

Group photo of bigger boys in their hostel. School had clear timings for prarthana, study, breakfast, play, evening prarthana, study and dinner. Very well behaved lot.

This place is enroute the drive from Tinsukia (Assam) to RKM Deomali. Sun was about to set. Whenever we entered Assam we saw either rice fields or tea gardens.

VKV Ziro has a very well equipped computer room. No broadband yet though. Students in the computer room.

In every school that I visited the favourite game is football. They play football not on leveled surfaces - it is up and down due to hilly terrain because of which they have strong legs. If any Corporate or Govt of India decides to set up a Football Academy in Arunachal, am sure the State shall contribute a few members to the Indian football team.

Some more student ka photos. After meeting so many children can confidently say that Arunachali are in no way less intelligent then those from other parts of India. In fact they might be better since their schooling involves learning how to concentrate, meditate and Yoga from a young age.

From Ziro we went to Itanagar, Bomdilla and Tawang. Took this picture in the Tawang market.

Children at VKV Itanagar. The school is surrounded by hills on all sides, is like in a valley. It is a co-education school. A cross section of girl students during the evening prarthana. During interactive session with students most of the girls aspired to become doctors, engineers, IAS officers, some police officers. One of the problems is that for 12 plus education students have to go to Pune, Delhi, Chennai etc. Arunachal needs more colleges at graduate and post graduate levels.

I got up early to get an idea of the school lay out and also welcome the students as they walked through the gate (photo opportunity). Here are two close friends. Girl on the left was very keen to be clicked and photogenic too as you shall see.

A group of young boys. This is quite a big school. A new computer room was being made with some 15 computers, trying to get broadband connectivity as well.

Another group pic of children. All kids wanted to come in the picture - at times took some effort to get them to stand in an orderly fashion. Chaos has its own fun.

I attended the Monday morning school assembly. You see students reciting the morning prayer.

A top up view of school children. School area is very open - hills on all sides, not cold but pleasant in September.

Playing the band during school assembly. I forgot to ask the school Principal but how come nearly all the students on both sides i.e. reciting or band were girls.

Another group of kids as they walked into school. I was at the gate tracking their entry. It was a Monday morning, they did not know who I was - why clicking but enjoyed being photographed any which way. It was during the Assembly that the Principal introduced me.

Before clicking pics of girls or ladies usually ask for permission. In Arunachal realized that when I did so, the people got conscious were unable to be their natural selves. What I then did was to click a pic (natural pose) and then ask is it ok to retain the pic. Arunachalis very sporting, none asked me to delete the pic.

This pic was taken at Bomdilla. Most people who travel to Tawang break their journey at Bomdilla. Suggest you break the journey at Dirang i.e. about 1.5 hours from Bomdilla. Hotels in Bomdilla are not less Rs 1,300/ for a double room, except for a monastery there is nothing to see at Bomdilla. Dirang is cheaper, more small eating places and not as cold as Bomdilla.

Students of VKV Itanagar. Left to right second girl features in many pictures - loved her smile and attitude.

Bomdilla market. The first pic that I took had child smiling and stern Mother. This pic has a smiling mother and crying child.

Boys at VKV Itanagar.

In Bomdilla market. Note size of red chilies. Found that all small children had black tikka on their forehead or cheeks.

Inside Bomdilla vegetable market. Lady is Nepali, child belongs to Monpa tribe. In Bomdilla you find mostly Buddhists who belong to Monpa tribe. Was told that a number of Nepalis have settled there - assimilated with the local population. Marry locals i.e. Monpa tribe.

This river is whilst driving from RKM Deomali to Teju, about an hour before we reached Wakro. Intent of showing landscape pics is to showcase Arunachal''s natural beauty as well.

Evening in Bomdilla did not know what to do so began walking. Suddenly heard the noise of kids. Walked down the lane into a school. Was fortunate to see these lovely kids there.

After having breakfast at Dirang was in the market looking around for school kids since it was school going time. Here is the first group of girls that I saw. I think belong to Monpa tribe, very different features from the girls I had seen in other parts of the state.

In Bomdilla managed to convince these kids out of the classroom for a pic.

Whilst team members were enjoying aalu parantha chana for breakfast I started walking on the road to Tawang. Met these girls who happily posed for a pic.

In the Dirang market.

It was 7 pm in Tawang market. Lights had gone off. I was walking looking for a photo opportunity. Saw this kid playing in her Fathers shop. Loved her smile and very sweet. She was so full of energy that was difficult to make her stand in one place.

Monks outside Tawang Monastery. Morning prayers start around 5 am and go on till about 6 am. U see monks just as they got out of the monastery post prayers.

Girls belonging to the Monpa tribe at Sangetsar Lake ie a couple of hours drive from Tawang. This is the first pic I took - ie without asking them which is why you see the girl in red looking side ways and her friends laughing. Realized that the most natural pics are the ones where people were taken by surprise. Later on the girls happily gave some lovely photo shots.

A monk at Tawang Monastery takes I think (water or tea) in a pot for fellow monks.

Slightly less than a hour''s drive from Tawang is VKV Kitpi school. It is an all girl''s school. Girls at the end of the evening prarthana session. Spent slightly more than an hour there.

Students meditating during the evening session.

In Tawang was on the road from 7 am looking for school going children. Here is the first one I saw.

This child was on the road with his father - loved the look and dress.

Going back to RKM Aalo. I was walking around the boy''s hostel when I saw these fun loving sporting boys. The pic must not be construed to pass a comment on the school management or the students, it was taken at my initiative. In fact I am very impressed with the Secretary Maharaj and his team who are managing a school with 2000 plus students, no easy task.

Close to the market in Tawang was this Govt school. I had not noticed it inspite of being stone''s throw from where we were staying. Here is a group pic.

A close up. The young man was so perplexed as to what was happening, he stood like this for may be 5 seconds after which he went back to his class.

Students at VKV Jirdin. My apologies to the very bright students of this school for not clicking a good pic. I had two options - not to upload the pic or upload as is. I chose option 2, my gratitude for a great time that I spent at the school. Sad that could spent only a couple of hours there.

In Tawang market. Loved the kid on right of pic. Based on my trip recommend you visit Ziro, Tawang, Roing-Mayurdia-Anini, Tezu-Hawai (snow clad mountains), Aalo and just drive through the mountains. People are very nice, speak Hindi, you get parathas - rice - dal, sabzi - noodles. To see pics of People of Marwar Click here

By the time I finished the 3 week tour of Arunachal, I felt like a child of Arunachal Pradesh. Loved the state and its people so much that has become part of me forever. You see me at SELA PASS. Very foggy so background unclear. Head gear belongs to my friend and guide P G Dodum who belongs to the Nyishi tribe. To see pics of People of Kumaon Click here

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