The WoW effect

The school’s white compound was turning red...none of the conventional plans were working either, until Heena hit a brainwave...

Published - July 03, 2024 09:06 am IST

Oh no!” cried Heena, as she walked out of the school gates.

“Not again!” echoed Romal.

Heena’s mom looked up from her phone. “What? What happened?” Her eyes fell on a passer-by, who’d stopped by the compound wall.

“Hey!” Heena called out.

“Don’t!” chimed in Romal.

Hearing their cries, Amalan Anna sprang up from his chair. Before the security guard could break into a run, the passer-by leaned forward and spat out paan juice, staining the whitewashed school wall. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, the wall vandal glanced at the horrified audience and took to his heels.

Heena’s shoulders sagged. “Third time this month.”

“Disgusting,” exclaimed Heena’s mom.

“And it’s not always spitting, Aunty,” Romal informed her, giving her a meaningful look.

Heena’s mom wrinkled her nose in disgust. Romal wasn’t exaggerating. Pedestrians and motorists had been using the school’s compound wall as a spittoon, a wash basin, a dustbin, a compost heap and, on lamentable occasions, as an open-air restroom.

“Can’t the school authorities do something about it?” asked Heena’s mom, as they walked back home.

“Amalan Anna does his best during school hours,” replied Heena. “But after school hours…” she trailed off with a defeated shrug.

Call for action

Back home, Heena gulped down a glass of milk. “We cannot let people use our compound wall as they please,” she declared.

“We need to stop this menace,” agreed Romal, taking a bite of the chutney sandwich.

The best friends lived in the same building and Romal was waiting for his mom to get back home from work. A determined look came into Heena’s eyes. If the grown-ups couldn’t find a solution, they would. “We need to do something.”

“But-sch what-sch?” asked Romal with his mouth full.

Her eyes lit up an, as idea flashed into her head. “What if we made posters, banners, standees...?”

Romal clapped his hands with glee. “Super! Let’s get Diya Ma’am’s permission tomorrow.”

Over the next week, Heena, Romal and the rest of Class of VB worked very hard. When they were done, the teachers, staff and Amalan Anna swung into action. Before long, colourful banners with messages like “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” flew over the school gate, sturdy standees with rhyming slogans like “Don’t let the Swachh Bharat campaign be in vain” stood proudly by the compound wall, and posters with catchy taglines “Let’s keep our hearts, minds and surroundings clean” covered the big dustbins the school had placed on the street.

The Monday after the cleanliness drive, the students returned to school. Only to be greeted by a nasty sight. There, on the compound wall, was a new tell-tale red stain. Along with a small heap of banana peels, plastic bags, cigarette packs, matchboxes, mineral water bottles, and assorted rubbish.

“What if we made signboards?” suggested Romal.

“That could work!” Heena said, her face glowing with hope.

Seeing how passionate students were, the school threw its weight behind the cause. Soon, “NO SPITTING’, ‘DO NOT LITTER’, ‘COMMIT NO NUISANCE” signboards were put up outside the school.

The weekend after, a BIGGER pile of trash awaited the students.

“It’s no use,” said Romal sadly. “I give up.”

Heena sighed. “People aren’t going to change. Our street will never be a litter-free zone. Our compound wall will always be a canvas for paan juice splashes...” she stopped mid-sentence as she had a sudden brainwave.

“What is it?” asked Romal eagerly, recognising that look.

“WoW!” he said, after Heena told him what she had in mind.

New tactic

The next week, passers-by on the school street stopped in their tracks. Not to spit, throw trash or commit other nuisance. But to gape at the long snaking queue of little artists working their magic on the compound wall. As the primary school students unleashed their creativity and imagination on the Wall of Wonders (WoW), a crowd of spectators gathered to ooh and aah over their art. Butterflies and flowers, trees and birds, dragons and fairies, superheroes and princesses vied for the attention of the viewers.

“It’s truly a wonder!” gushed the teachers, when the artists put away their brushes.

“Sight for sore eyes,” Amalan Anna marvelled at the murals.

“Let’s put scannable QR codes on the compound wall,” suggested Mr. Thomas, the principal. “Let everyone discover how gifted our students are.”

A loud cheer went up from the primary students of Bal Vidya School.

“Think it’ll work on the public?” wondered Heena.

“We’ll have to wait till the weekend,” said Romal.

The students and staff held their breath. Only to release it in a big whoosh the following Monday. The Wall of Wonders was intact. No one stubborn paan stains, rubbish heap, and no flies hovering around. Heena and Romal high-fived. The WoW effect had worked!

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