When the bunch of Indian schoolchildren from Kendriya Vidyalaya (KV) assembled on Thursday at the German Chancellery here, they were set for a much-awaited photo-op with Angela Merkel and Manmohan Singh. For the past week or so, the children, who are in Berlin at the invitation of the German government, had been taught the drill by their teachers. “Be on your best behaviour. And do not crowd around the leaders.”
Things went exactly as planned — or so it seemed initially. The class VIII students, all thirty of them, stood ramrod straight without betraying the slightest emotion as the two leaders walked up to them. Ms. Merkel spoke to them in German, knowing they were learning the language in school, and they answered her, politely and crisply, in German. What did you like about Berlin? the Chancellor asked. “Your discipline and cleanliness,” they said.
But when it was the Indian Prime Minister’s turn to exchange pleasantries with the children, they suddenly forgot all that had been dinned into them. Dr. Singh was Prime Minister but he was also an elderly, avuncular figure. So the rules went for a toss and one after another, the kids began to fall at his feet. For the assemblage of German press photographers, caught by surprise by this commotion, it was naturally a moment to capture for posterity.
German is currently being taught in about 300 branches of KV as part of an Indo-German initiative to promote the language in India. In the coming years, the language will be offered to students in the remaining 700-odd KV branches. The children who met with Ms. Merkel and Dr. Singh had topped a German language competition organised in February this year. They presented handmade cards to both leaders besides a pashmina shawl to Ms. Merkel.
The two leaders met the Indian schoolkids just before sitting down for the Indo-German Inter-Governmental Consultations. A key agreement signed at the bilateral meeting related to the promotion of German as a foreign language in India.