On Saturday, the school celebrated Dr George’s 70th birthday in style, with a very full day of games, performances and festivities. This surprise event was planned, executed and largely paid for, by the ‘working grads.’ Although Dr George knew something was brewing he had no idea of the scope of the activities. The day began at 9.30am when the children lined the path from his accommodation to the school.


Children line the path to the school


Dressed in their finest clothes, each of the younger children handed him a rose.

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These same pink dresses have been worn on special occasions since the school began 21 years ago.


The graduates divided the entire ‘school family’ into ten teams, each with a different coloured hat. Teams included security staff, kitchen staff, cleaners, teachers, volunteers, admin and graduates; a total of 370 people. A fiercely competed Tug of War was waged, with 15 per side, and all of us were treated to biscuits and buttermilk.

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Barney’s orange team wins their heat

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Kandy and some of the blue team look on

Next came a very creative carnival. We each received 5 coupons and any points we gained at 10 fun fair stalls staffed by graduates were to go to our team. Simple but effective games included magnetic darts, archery, and various ‘fishing’ activities. We could also spend our coupons on face-painting or fairy floss (aka cotton candy/candy floss).



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William Tell, eat your heart out 

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Face painting was popular

The fairy floss makers, seated on the ground, were a sight to behold. One man threw in the sugar mixture, turned the handle to rotate the machine, and threw the floss onto the mat. His partner, sitting barefoot on the mat, scooped the bright pink floss into a cup.

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Rasiga is all that for you?

At 3.30 we reconvened for the cutting of the birthday cake. The cake depicted three seasons of Dr George’s life, his time in the Indian army, as a successful businessman in the US and now as a philanthropist back in India.



There followed a few more hours of team games such as musical chairs, wheelbarrow races, sack race relay, bobbing for apples relay, ‘lemon and spoon’ race, and lots of good old-fashioned fun.




They had to run to other end, drop the apple on a plate and then the next person ran back to the ‘trough’



Two villagers (parents of facilities staff) are bemused by the activities

An amusing game for spectators was “dog and bone”. This game requires the ten competitors to be numbered in pairs and when a pair’s number is called out they both run into the centre to compete for the ‘bone.’ Sounds straightforward? Picture this. Ready? ‘Number TWO!’ Only one person runs into the centre to retrieve the bone. It turns out that the security guard contestant allocated number two can’t speak English. Ooops. OK, we’ll start again but this time all in Hindi. Wait a minute, Mr Paul can’t speak Hindi. OK, we’ll call out in two languages. This works for a few rounds until scenario one recurs because the kitchen hand speaks only Malalayam. By this time the competitors and spectators are rolling around with laughter.


The games drew to a close with a piñata, and it was time to dress up for the evening activities. The lawn had been transformed with fairy lights and the outside tables had been set with white cloths and flowers. Where we had earlier seen chillies and coriander drying was now a stage. Choral and musical performances were interspersed with terrific dances by different groups of school kids, college grads and working grads. These included traditional Indian dancing, Bollywood, ultra modern gangsta style, and even a combination Irish/ Indian dance. I don’t know how they managed to get together and practice but their efforts were very slick. The volunteers performed a creditable version of ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’, complete with ukelele, guitar and piano accompaniment. What a talented bunch!

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Volunteers perform [Low light but you get the idea].

It was a balmy evening and the feast that followed the performances was delicious and enjoyed by all. It was so lovely to be able to chat to the graduates. Just when we thought the evening couldn’t get any better, the fireworks burst forth. We retired discreetly at 10.30pm, totally exhausted but the older kids disco danced for another half hour. What a great day!

We leave tomorrow afternoon so I must go and pack. Off to Hampi (World Heritage Site) and home on 6th March. See you all soon!