Filling the idle minute

Have you ever felt that school life is nothing but studies, studies and more studies? Or that holidays are long, empty and boring? That you have plenty of time to kill? Well, watching movies or MTV is not the only alternative. A hundred and one things can be done and they can be both productive and interesting. Here are a few:

Writing: “Writing maketh an exact man.” (Francis Bacon) This can include many things like poetry. You can start writing poems. It is easy if you try. Just take any topic you feel strongly about.

Writing to periodicals: There are lots of children’s columns today to which you can send writings — articles, ideas and views. This may be just for the thrill of it, seeing your name in print. Or you may be paid for it. For this, search the library for all available opportunities; study the columns to find out what type of items are accepted. Then, write out your contribution neatly, better type it, or get it typed and send it to the magazine or paper. Enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope with your item.

Writing to famous people: Why not try it? A child’s innocent views in its own handwriting does have an effect. One small boy had been writing to NASA (a space agency in America) regularly for years. They finally invited him over at their expense. Another girl from Guntur had written a letter to Mikhail Gorbachev, then head of the USSR. The Russian Ambassador in India hand-delivered the reply. Presidents and statesmen are known to have been moved by the voice of a child. Someone I know got replies from numerous sources, right from Ronald Reagan to the BBC. Once you start getting replies, you can maintain a separate file.

Start a school newspaper: This is not as difficult as it sounds. All you need is a group of willing people, with at least one person having a good command over the language and a little help from the authorities. Also preferred is someone good at sketching. First decide whether it is going to be a two or four-pager paper, weekly or monthly. Then think of a well-designed title and logo. You can take initial help from teachers and parents. Remember, the stress should be on school news.

Now you can type out the whole newspaper and photocopy the number of copies you require. Nothing like it if you can get your school authorities to cyclostyle it. Selling is the most difficult part and will depend on your skill. You can get an advertisement put up on the notice board.

If you have relatives throughout the country, you can start a family newspaper. Mention births, nursery/school/college admissions, engagements and marriages, illnesses and recoveries, jobs, promotions, windfalls, retirements. Send the newspaper by post. For this, you will have to keep well in touch with all. The whole family will thus get an update.

For your information, the international Little Master News is a four-page weekly whose editor is just 15. The 200-strong staff’s average age is 11, the youngest being a six-year-old. Gathering news, writing, editing, proof-reading, photography, graphics and advertising are all done by children. And the worldwide circulation? A whopping seven lakhs! No reason why you shouldn’t aim for an initial readership of a hundred plus.

ECA participation: This is good for all-round personality development. Many inter-class and inter-school activities take place through the year. Make the most of them. You won’t get such chances later in life. And don’t be disappointed if you don’t win prozes; you’ll always gain something from each activity.

Maintain a scrap-book: A scrap-book is a blank notebook where you paste cuttings. The cuttings might be from newspapers, magazines or books and bits of information, pictures, cartoons or anything else. Everyone has an interest in something, be it sports, politics, music or science. So maintain a scrap-book on a topic based on your field of ineterst.

Form a club: Another good way of passing time is to form a club. First, get together a group of like-minded people. Then think of a name, aim and a place to meet. Then hunt the neighbourhood for things to do, or think of something else. Even if you don’t find anything, it will be a good get-together every now and then. You can arrange outings and explore the world around you.

Or, if you don’t want to form your own club, you can join existing local ones or something like ‘Interact’, open to school students.

Utilise your backyard: If you live on the ground floor and have a big backyard, then it can be your best playground. With old tyres, boxes, planks, old metal frames and other structures, you can form obstacle courses or imaginary adventure situations. With old bedsheets, poles and bricks you can make tents and play with your friends. If you have a big tree, then you can get your father to make a strong sturdy tree house with a rope ladder to have hours of fun at the top. If you have the patience, you can take to gardening.

Make pen friends: Pen friends can either be from a foreign country or within India. There are many magazines which keep a column for pen friends. Pen friends are fun and you can exchange a lot of ideas by post.

Learn a new language: You can try learning a new language: foreign or India. Learn as many languages as you can and when you travel in this vast country, you can speak to most of them in their mother tongue.

Pursue a creative hobby: It is important to cultivate a good hobby in your spare time. You need something as a creative outlet. The most popular in the hobby is philately (stamp-collecting). No. 2 is coin-collecting. No. 3 is picture postcard collecting. So collecting anything is a hobby. One such popular hobby in India is matchbox-collecting. Other hobbies can include drawing, painting, music and bird-watching.

It all depends on your interest. Whatever it is, do something. You’ll never get so much spare time in your life.

(This article appeared in the Young World section in The Hindu newspaper on February 26, 1994)