“School Disperse” shouts out the school captain of Dayani Vidyachand Public school, Khandarpur. As soon as children hear the announcement of dispersing to the class, they start running around like small ants in a damp mud. They are running to their classroom.
Manu is in the fourth grade and he too joins the noisy children of his class. The brightness of the red tiled roof of the school’s double storied building becomes all the more colourful and bright with the clattering noise of the class. The quietness of the assembly area, which is a huge playground, did not seem to influence the children. Amidst the other charts hanging in the class room the “Keep Silence” posters also does not seem to do the magic of quietening these children.
“Children! Silence!!!” Mangat madam, a middle aged lady dressed in a cream and black polka dot saree suddenly enters the class. The entire class is in pin drop silence and says in one tone like a chorus of a song, “Good morning Madam’.
Mangat madam, the Math teacher, responds to the class and finally children take their seat in the wooden chair.
Mangat Madam says, “Children, today I will teach addition.” At the end of the class she announces, “Next week is Math week.” All the children seem to be quite excited about the event and start whispering to each other.
“Shh! Class, please listen carefully. I would like each one of you to work on a project. You could do it individually or in a group.” she instructs.
“The topic for the project needs to be approved in the next two day and it has to be displayed at the Math week exhibition next week.” She added
Children start whispering again.
She continues, “Silence!!!” Then after a pause she say, “The best project will be awarded and there is also a surprise gift from my side.”
The school bell rings and Mangat madam leaves the class.
All the children leave their seat and some of them start playing around in the classroom, while some start discussing about the project.
Manu sits in the corner seat of the first bench along with Karan, a thin, fair and a short boy. Manu is extremely good in Mathematics while Karan is an average.
Karan says, “Manu, shall we work on the Math project together?
Manu says in a bullying tone, “Ha-ha you want to join me. I think I will do the project on my own. I do not want to work in a group.”
Karan tries to convince him by saying, “If you allow me to join you, then I will get your favourite chocolate and chole bature for lunch tomorrow.”
Manu thinks for a while, “That’s not a bad proposal.” However the temptation of getting awarded and surprise gift all for himself from Mangat madam seems to overtake Karan’s chocolate and chole bature.
Manu is back home in the evening from his school and tells his mother about the project.
Akhila says, “I have no clue as to how I can help you with it.”
Manu says, “I do not need anybody’s help. I will do this on my own.”
Akhila says, “I think you should take papa’s help. He is good at the subject and maybe he can give you some suggestions and help you with it.” Said she.
Manu sighed “hmmm.”
“By the way, why did you not opt to work in a group?”
Manu answers, “I would like to work on my own.”
Akhila says, “That’s not a good thing Manu. It’s always best to work as a team. Although you are good at the subject, but if you work in a group, you could also learn a lot from others and the hassle of working alone is reduced. Anyway, check with papa if he can help.” She adds.
Rajesh returns home at around 8 o clock in the evening after a long tiring day. He sits on the rocking chair. Manu runs to him and says, ‘Papa! My school has organised Math week and I have to do a project.” He adds, “I need to submit the topic of the project over the next two days.”
Not that the day is not harsh on Rajesh after a hectic day at work, Manu’s project seem to excite him as well. Rajesh is a wizard in Mathematics and always likes to work on such projects.
He smiles tiredly and says “Manu let me freshen up and then we will discuss about your project after dinner. In the meantime, you also think of some ideas. I already have some streaming in my mind.”
Rajesh and Manu have a long discussion and finally Manu decides to work on his own idea of Math magic quiz on the circuit board. He refuses to work on any of his father’s ideas.
Both of them seem to be quite excited about the project.
The next day in school, Mangat madam arrives in the classroom and all the children submit their topics for Math exhibition. Almost all the children work in a group except Manu. Karan’s team decides to do snake and ladder math quiz, Junaid’s team decides to do poster, Kavya’s team decides to do Math puzzles and of course, Manu decides to do Math magic quiz all alone.
Rajesh helps Manu gather all the material for the project such as wires, bulbs, switch and a thin plywood board. Manu works out a few mathematical basic operations to be fixed on the board so that when the wire of the circuit touches the right answer the bulb glows. He works on the project for the next three days and the project is left with final touches.
Suddenly, Rajesh’s mobile phone rings, ‘Tring tring’. His boss is on line. He says, ‘Rajesh, you have to travel in about an hour or so to Flipnagar on an important client meeting. The office has made all arrangements and you need to leave immediately.” In spite of the emergency at the other end, Rajesh is still willing to help Manu complete the project.
Manu says smilingly, “Papa! You can leave for your office work. I can manage to do all of this all alone.”
Rajesh says, “Manu, I can help you. After all the project is just left with the final touches.” However, Manu convinces his father and Rajesh sets out on his office assignment.
Manu completes the project and is happy with the result. While packing his school bags that evening, he again checks the project to see if it is working fine. Alas! What does he see. All the lights that are to glow does not seem to light at all. Manu is tensed. He cries out in a worried tone, ‘Mamma, there is a problem with my project. What do I do now? Papa has already left.”
“Although I did all of this on my own with Papa’s guidance, I do not know how to fix it.”, he added.
Akhila said, “Don’t worry Manu. We will try contacting your papa on the phone and take his help in setting this right.”
Rajesh’s phone is not reachable. Manu and Akhila finally give up. Manu’s efforts are in vain but he decides to take the same project to the school as he cannot change the topic at the last minute.
At the other end, Karan’s team is working on the snake and ladder project in Karan’s house. There is intense discussion amongst all the children and finally the work is divided among the team mates. Jiva designs the snake and ladder board. Karan works on the dice. Mithila works on the math questions. If one of them get stuck somewhere the other one helps. There is lot of information that is exchanged among the children. It is a sight of real team play and team work. The game just seems to be a perfect fit for the math week. All the other teams also work on their projects.
Finally, it’s time for the Math week exhibition. Mangat madam says, “Please display all your projects on the table.” All the teams place their projects on the table with pride but Manu quietly keeps his project at the assigned place. Children enjoy the snake and ladder game and the puzzle. Poster also gives them valuable information. Manu is embarrassed to present his unworkable Math magic quiz. Mangat madam looks at him sternly and says, “Why did you not work in a group. You had a great idea to work on and I see you have also managed to get to it. But if you work alone and face a problem you will not be able to resolve it. Team work always helps.”
Manu apologises to his teacher and walks away embarrassed.
Karan’s team is awarded and also receives a surprise gift from Mangat madam.
Manu realises the value of Team work. He thinks “Chocolate and chole bature would have been a better bargain.” He thinks, “If I had worked with Karan as a team, I would have gained both ways.’ In spite the embarrassment of losing there is a smile on Manu’s face because he has learnt the biggest lesson of his life that “It is always better to work as a team rather than working alone.”