Grade 5

God, I love 5th graders! They’re like raw guavas and skinned knees and wet swimsuits and squeaky voices and hot chocolate fudge and Akon and tight hugs and fake burps and real farts all served up at once.

We had 31 of them over for camp at Infinite Souls recently and… well, I lost my voice. Seriously, by Day 2, it was gone. I can pin point the exact moment when it departed – it was 3.45 am, Feb 21st.

I was fast asleep by 11.30 pm having exhausted myself begging kids to get into their tents and hit the sack for we had a 6 am trek the next day. Deep in some wayward dream I heard a huge, piercing scream and rushed out, hair awry and eyes frenzied, only to find all 31 wandering about in Superman pajamas, flashing torches like fireflies and saying “Varun did it, Varun did it” like 30 stuck records. Said Varun kept it up with a contrapuntal “I didn’t, I didn’t”. Turns out they had been awake all the while, the little devils, while innocent I lay asleep and dreaming. Then apparently Varun tripped over a tent cable and fell on one of the girl tents and Vanchika screamed like a banshee and then they all fell to bustling about like 4-foot tall busybodies. Long and the short of it…I lost my voice. It could be terror or else acute laryngitis.

I shone my pathetic Motorola phone light into Varun’s tent balefully, hoping the sight of me would cause the inmates to cower in fright. I opened my mouth to yell at them and here’s what came out “W..gr..h…f..grrr….t.” So they giggled and said, “What’s happened to your voice?” and that was the end of that.

They’re indescribable, this bunch. Like a mouthful of pop-rock; pop-blitz-crackle-spark. Driving you craaaa-zy and then making you collapse laughing. Somewhere in that dreamy liminal space between babies and stroppy teenagers.

Here are 10 wonderful moments from this camp:

1. Watching them play with Bamboo and Mushroom, delighted that the dogs would climb the hill with them.
2. The rounds of fake coughing. It started with one real cough at about 1 am and then continued from tent to tent; a good 30 mins of fake coughing.
3. All of them worrying about not having brushed their teeth before setting off on a trek. “Then how can we drink water on the trek?”
4. The boys rapping “Don’t trust a halli, never trust a halli” and “Meet me at the MTR”
5. One of the boys crying because someone said, as he lay in his sleeping bag in his tent “You look dead, dude”.
6. Shiv telling me his dog’s name is Cosmic Energy, “But we call him C.E.”
7. Watching them try Burma Bridge, try Tyre Wall, try Zip Line – nervous, worried, agrophobic – but not about to let it show too obviously
8. The two bodyguards (one of the children is from a political family) telling Vineeth that they were scared of wildlife and snakes
9. Arya telling me Vineeth’s scary ghost story during the trek with others filling in details
10. Watching them discover that someone had squirted them with Dabur Red toothpaste in the night. Oh, the fury!
11. The incessant questions about food. “What’s for lunch?” soon after they’d eaten breakfast.
12. Watching them try archery and see their hands afraid to let go of the arrow.
13. Their delight at the meal they cooked for us by themselves - wow
14. All of them exhausted and asleep by 9 pm the second night.
15. The moment when they say goodbye and they hug and dog pile you to the ground.

Oh, that’s more than 10…never mind.

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