Wednesday, December 21, 2011

All's Fayre....

Anyone who has served on a volunteer committee of any kind will know that in the organising of events there is always a lot of love and nearly always some kind of war!  Volunteers do what they do for the love of it.  Their conviction that they are right and their way is the right way is what gets things done in spite of the myriad other responsibilities on their collective plates.  I speak from experience.  I have served as a volunteer on some sort of committee or the other since I can remember.

I am Chairman of the PTA at Rhea's school this year.  I felt I could make a difference.  I hoped I could encourage people who are willing and able to join hands and create a community to do just that.  I love to write - so I started to write newsletters and to make plans.  The best part of heading up a committee is the getting to know and work with a bunch of incredible people.  My committee is brilliant.  They each have their strengths, we have a lawyer, a couple of accountants, a couple of people with the history of the PTA and all of them have convictions and commitment.  Fab!

We took over in the middle of September and suddenly realised that we had Pizza Lunches to order, a second hand Uniform Sale to organise, several kids sporting fixtures to support with snacks and refreshments and the big event so far... our Christmas Fayre.

Our school does not have a lot of space to spare, but we get by.  My Vice Chair is fantastic.  She is a whiz on the computer and can create documents that look sooooo professional and sooo enticing!  We cover each other perfectly - I like to be creative and whitter on about my ideas and my vision and she likes things to be bullet pointed to the nth degree!  So I write long newsletters and she make posters with Christmas baubles highlighting the exciting things coming ahead!

I am not working yet and she works more hours than is physically possible!  So I can do the organising and the nitty gritty and she can do the big stuff like the Santa's Grotto we set up in the school gym each year.  She leaves me to getting my bits done and I let her run with hers.  What a partnership!  She ordered the raffle tickets, I distributed them.  She organised the first prize and I trudged from store to store to get the long list of exciting extras.

I was always told that getting parents who work full time to help out or to join in would be a job and a half.  Let me say up front that this is definitely not the case at Reddiford School.  These parents are dedicated, committed and clearly willing to step up to the plate and boy, did they bat a home run for the kids a few weeks ago.  We had over a thousand items donated  - either new, nearly new or gently used books, toys, bric-a-brac, toiletries etc.  Our Bottle Tombola stall had over 400 bottles - absolutely incredible!  We had nail painting, face painting, decorating cookies, Christmas arts and crafts stalls, we had a fluffy Frosty the Snowman to win, we had cakes, cookies and mulled wine.  We had Starbucks Hot Chocolate with yummy whipped cream squirted all over it!  We had a Secret Store where kids had the chance to buy Christmas gifts for their parents (already wrapped and ready to go under the tree!).  We had people laughing and joking with each other.  We had parents and staff socialising in a informal manner.  We had a Willy Wonka Sweet Store with Nerds and Reeses....mmmm!  We had mince pies and egg less cakes.  We had so much Christmas Cheer and good will, it was something amazing to see.  The Gym was packed from the get go.  The School Choir sang carols for us and we joined in.  The Reddiford Families pulled together and pulled a really cracker out of the hat!

The PTA Class Reps (parents who liaise with their classes) came out in full force.  They had their stalls signed up from beginning to end and were flexible enough to jump up and help with the Pizza Stall if needed.  There was no whining, no whinging, no nagging and definitely no Bah Humbug!  Other parents shot off to wholesalers to grab last minute bargains for Grotto gifts.  Others wrapped for all they were worth!  My kids and my family always end up helping whether they like it or not!  My Darling orders take away meals so I can keep working on the Christmas Fayre, The Ray sparkles as she folds raffle tickets for all she is worth and Nikh spends all his time carrying things back and forth to make sure nothing gets forgotten!  What a team

Best of all ... in the whole of the Reddiford Christmas Fayre.... there was a tonne of love and no war whatsoever!

I am beginning to think this could be the start of something good!

home is where the heart is...

Hi I am Sejal and I have been Chennai-free for nearly a year!  Chennai is an addiction.... one I needed to quit.  (Although I didn't know I was addicted until I quit!)

We left Chennai in India about ten months ago.  I had been preparing for our exit for almost ten years!  We had gone there on a short term assignment which became very very long term.

My Darling and I came to Chennai with three suitcases and a three year old.  We left Chennai with a twenty foot sea freight container, 18 pieces of baggage, loads of hand luggage, a twelve year old and a five year old.  I guess that is what you call value added!

Both kids took the decision to leave in different ways. The Ray wanted to know when she would see her best friends again and Nikh flatly refused to go. He started trying to find a family that would take him in and our many many good good friends obliged without hesitation - thanks a bunch!  Made my life that much harder!

Anyway we arrived home (London, that is!), it was still in mainly holiday mode.  This was still not reality.  As months went by, Nikh, The Ray and I started to realise that this was our new REAL life.  My Darling started his travelling again and we had to deal with a new set of issues that could not be solved by maids, cooks and drivers.  We had to deal with it all on our own. We did.  We survived!

Nikh was still not quite happy.  He wanted to go 'home'.  I told him he was home.  He chose to ignore me!  We agreed to VISIT Chennai at Christmas.  In the end, I changed the dates as none of us were truly settled and this would be five steps back.  Our recovery was dependant on how we dealt with this revisiting of old haunts, old friends and AISC.

We landed in Chennai during the Easter holidays (Spring Break for AISC).  It was a bittersweet arrival.  It still smelled yucky, the airport was still hot, humid and crowded with disorganised travellers.  But it felt like a homecoming! It was familiar and comforting (never thought I would say that in a million years!!)  I had made plans with as many of our friends (more like family) were in town and we were booked back to back for the whole of our stay.  

We started with brunch at The Park with the usual suspects (!!), moved to meals galore at The Madras Club, Tuscana, Golden Dragon, Bayview Point, Woodlands etc etc and umpteen homes.  We had idlys, dosas, tiramisu, Indian Chinese, the freshest fish in the world, dim sum, Thai, Italian, homemade wadas, cheese dosas  and so very much more.  We did nothing but eat, drink, shop and grow out of our waistbands!

It was an absolute pleasure to spend time with people we love and those who care about us in return!  We played water polo in the pool at Fish Cove, cricket on the beach, did one more turtle release and spent so much pleasurable, treasurable time with these wonderful people.  We missed some who were on holiday, but will make plans over the next few months.  We went back to AISC - so much a part of our lives for so many years.  It is changing and growing. It was both hauntingly familiar and strangely unfamiliar.  It was lovely to sit and chat with friends just like the old days, with the thoughts of departure held firmly at bay.

Nikh drifted through the school remembering his time at one of the nicest places in Chennai.  When he was done, we left.  More hugs, kisses and bittersweet tears.

After a final frantic shopping dash, we headed down to Fisherman's Cove where there was one last batch of Olive Ridley Turtles waiting for us to help release them into the ocean.  The joy on my kids' faces, the awe and wonder on friends' faces who were doing this for the first time and the pleasure of sharing such a wondrous experience was simply incredible.  At the end of a day spent splashing on the beach and in the pool, playing with people we like to be with and eating such delicious fresh fish and chips, we went back to the town centre to pack and prepare to leave.

One last night out again with two charming kids and we were on the home stretch, literally!  One last friend to visit us, straight off the plane, out of the airport and to our hotel just to spend an hour together.  lots more tears, hugs and kisses and we were off.

As we took off, both kids held on tight.  Nikh looked at me with sadness and said, "Chennai will always be a sort of home, won't it?"  The Ray insists she is a Chennai-girl as this is her birthplace.  And I?  I will hold cherished memories of a place that filled me with love, laughter, joy, pain, frustration, heat rash, tears, gallons of alcohol, dozens of mosquito bites, snakes, cockroaches, biting spiders, incredible experiences and so many many lifelong friends... how could I not think of it as a home?