It is early Sunday morning. A walk along Mumbai’s Fashion Street doesn’t throw up anything interesting. Rather, it is the loud yells and thumps emanating from a nearby hall that attracts the attention of morning joggers.The hall is the Pirojsha Godrej Scouts and Guide Pavilion, and the loud yells are characteristic of the oldest scouting group in the country — the 94-year-old Sethna’s 18th West Bombay Scout Group. The occasion? It is the annual investiture ceremony.
Inside the hall, the youngest member is four while the oldest is 76. They all sing of the importance of pure thoughts, words and deeds as they stand in a horse-shoe shape, symbolising the open friendship circle.
Nineteen-year-old Mohit Pathak, a student of Wilson College, sports a well-adorned shoulder. It is covered with proficiency badges, marking his many achievements. “I am an Ambulance Man, Healthy Man, Electrician, Best Camper, Soil Conservator, Ecologist, Best Cook, Swimmer, Athlete, Handyman, Pioneer and Soil Conservationist,” he says.
Travelling is an essential part of a Guide and Scouts life. And since it is an international movement, there are huge gatherings (jamborees) that take place every year. Arzan Wadia recalls how he represented India at one such jamboree, “I went to the Korean jamboree, which was an event where scouts from everywhere would meet and make lifelong friends,” he says.
But it is not just about camping. Young students pick up various skills at camps. Captain Lavji Mistry, group leader of the scouts, attributes his success as a captain in the Merchant Navy to the training he received during his Sea Scout days. “I was trained to swim, sail and row at the Apollo Yacht Club. It was a good break for me and young students who want to set sail,” he says.
Six-year-old Farang Daruvalla calls himself a Wolf Cub. “C-U-B stands for cheerful, useful boy.” His fellow cubs and he salute as they tell me tales of how they want to grow up to become Scouts and then Rovers. They contemplate and make plans about the future of the movement.
They may only be children, but their determination to uphold nature’s principles lends a lesson that we all best learn.