The teachers at Siddhikamala Devi are unanimous in their verdict — Ayush Kunwar of UKG is the most cheerful student they have ever seen at their school.
Ranjana Giri, vice principal at the school, says Ayush is also one of the most helpful. “He is very friendly to everybody and because he is also the top student in his class, other pupils come to him with problems and he helps them out,” she says.
The only thing that gets him down it seems, is when he has to miss school. “One day I saw that he was quite sad and when I asked his teacher what had happened, it turns out that he’d missed the monthly test a few days ago because he’d been ill,” Puskhar Rayamajhi, the head teacher at Sinddhikamala recalls. “He is quite into his studies.”
Like most homes in the area, Ayush’s too was destroyed by the earthquakes of 2015. He now lives in a temporary tin-shack. Ayush says it gets quite hot inside there during the summers but on the other seasons he has gotten used to the space. His favorite place to be though, is his school. And his favorite thing to do in school these days is play the Maadal.
“This is my Maadal,” Ayush says, “it’s my favorite instrument.” His teacher says whenever they start recreational activities Ayush instantly goes for the Maadal.
Sidhhikamala Devi is one of the schools in the nine earthquake affected districts of Nepal to be part of the UNICEF- European Union “Restoring Education” project. The school now has three new Transitional Learning Centers to compensate for the loss of two of their buildings. Similarly the school has received educational kits, and recreational kits, like the Maadal as part of the project.
Ayush learned the Maadal largely on his own, thanks to his unending curiosity and need to understand anything that’s presented to him, whether in class, or outside of it. He says he’d seen the Maadal being played during Deusi Bhailo celebrations in the festival of Tihar, and he liked it then because people would dance to its beat. Perhaps to Ayush, the cheer struck a chord. “I just picked it up and started playing,” he says. And he hasn’t stopped.