School screenings, fun, and cultural learning…

By Betsy:

Today was a fun filled day as we continued expanding our cultural and clinical knowledge by completing hearing screenings at a government residential school, visiting the Kishkindha Moolika Bonsai Garden/Aviary and attending a dance performance by the Academy of Bharathanatyam Dance. I’ve noticed that no matter what we encounter on this trip, there are always cultural lessons to reflect upon! Even as I write this blog post, the power has gone out, which has happened several times since we’ve been in India. Although a power outage is miniscule, it is still something that is different from our typical everyday environments in the United States. These small changes highlight the importance of embracing even the small differences and being flexible!!

We couldn’t have asked for a better morning, starting off with the school screenings for 6th-8thgraders! As soon as we got off the bus, we heard the joyous sounds of a marching band and children singing and clapping. As we approached, each and every student surrounded the entrance and courtyard of the school and gave us a huge warm welcome. The positive and loving energy radiated throughout the entire building. Even after welcoming us as a group, they welcomed us each individually by blessing us with a rose and bead garland.

Wearing our bead garlands…

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This touched my heart and pumped me up for the day! This type of hospitality has been a common trend throughout our time in India. It seems as though every place we have visited, people have been extremely courteous, welcoming, thoughtful and always attending to our needs. There’s almost always someone giving a warm welcome and/or goodbye, offering tea/coffee/snacks, offering a place to sit, giving us small cultural presentations through song and/or dance, and much more. Although the attention can be overwhelming at times, it’s something we are very appreciative of and have become accustomed to. Before the screenings commenced, the principal of the school shared his story about how his daughter has bilateral hearing loss and how she wouldn’t be where she is today without speech and hearing professionals. He expressed his gratitude toward our field of study, which made me feel even more inspired, comfortable and connected to the facility.

 

Throughout the screenings, I was blown away by the children. They were excited, attentive, respectful and eager to spend time with us! Since a lot of children in India learn English in school, we were able to have simple conversations with them. I thought it was adorable when one of the students asked me, “What village are you from?”. Despite some of the language barrier that did exist, the children were able to understand the screening task quickly and respond consistently! They were very impressive! Due to the organization, cooperation and fluidity, we were able to screen 140 children! Woo hoo!! This was our 5thscreening day of the trip and I could really tell everyone has increased their confidence and that we are working really well as a team!

Screenings…

And of course Spoorthi Mam – who helped organize this program for us through Audiology India…

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Next, we headed to the Bonsai Garden and Aviary, where we enjoyed the calming essence of nature! At this garden, there was a large and beautiful collection of bonsai trees and plants from all over the world. Along with the trees and plants, there were several statues and art pieces which were representative of Indian culture and religion. For example, some of the plants had connections to the Indian zodiac system, Indian classical music and natural remedies for different illnesses.

At the Bonsai Garden…

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Next, we visited the aviary which is a rehabilitation center for birds. We were able to see a wide array of beautiful birds and colorful parrots from all over the world!! These activities were the perfect way for us to relax, while still exploring India!

We ended the evening by attending a classical Indian dance performance. There were dancers of all ages who were dressed in beautiful and extravagant costumes! I was extremely excited for this!! Dancing is something I am passionate about, therefore I was eager to experience and learn more about Indian dance specifically. A few years ago, I took a Bollywood dance class in the US, which is dance-form commonly used in Indian films. The performance we attended today displayed a different style of dance known as Bharathanatyam, which is a more traditional style. Although this is different than Bollywood, I was intrigued to see if I would notice any similarities to the dance I learned back at home. Typically, in Bharathanatyam, the dancers tell a religious story through hand motions, neck/head movements, and facial expressions. For example, one of the dances told a story about when Krishna (one of the major deities in Hinduism) was a child. As I watched, I noticed that the hand motions were almost acting as a form of sign language to help tell the story.

Finale of group dance about Goddess Lakshmi…

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Above – one of the tiniest dancers in the pose of Krishna playing the flute

In the end, I concluded that there are in fact similarities between Bollywood and Bharathanatyam. Although they have a different vibe, they share similar signs and meanings. I would love to learn Bharathanatyam in the future!! This experience showed me that something as simple as dance can have a much deeper cultural significance!

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