KV Youth Camp Shimla
“Instagram Snow White” and the 200 Dwarfs

On their way to Shimla
On their way to Shimla | © Jakob Sonntag

Over a long weekend in early November, 2016, the biggest annual Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan youth camp for Kendriya-Vidhyala schoolchildren (KV) took place in Shimla.

Around 200 schoolchildren from more than 50 KV schoolsmade their way with their teachers into the icy, cold foothills of the Himalayas to spend an exciting weekend together molded around the topic, “German creative.”

New Delhi Railway Station is the starting point for the excursion, where many dozens of light-green caps start appearing on track 2 at the crack of dawn amidst the bustling business of the station. The yawning bearers of the Goethe caps are looking for the train meant to bring them to Kalka, where they will board the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage “Toy Train,” built in 1903, for their journey to Shimla.

After the strenuous trip packed with many opportunities for getting to know one another, the exhausted children all fall into bed. The next morning, it becomes immediately clear where the name of their lodging, “Toshali Royal View,” comes from. Beneath the blue sky and sunshine, there’s a truly regal view of the untouched peaks of the Himalayas, far from Dehli’s hustle bustle and air pollution. After breakfast and the subsequent ice breaking, it’s time to get to it: One group is assigned “trip through Germany” and the other is assigned an animated film.

Trip Through Germany

On the trip through Germany, the schoolchildren are given the opportunity to get to know different cities in Germany. Whether the Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin, the Cologne Cathedral or the Isar in Munich, each group researches and learns diligently; ultimately they’re supposed to make posters that present the cities in the most interesting way possible.

The next day, the “trip” begins. The Munich group learns about Cologne’s Carnival; the Berliners marvel at Oktoberfest in Munich and the Cologne group hears about the Bundestag in Berlin.

Modern Snow White

In the meantime, another group sets out to breathe new life into the German fairytale, Snow White. They’re supposed to interpret the beloved story in a modern way: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who has the most Instagram followers of them all?” asks the evil queen into her magic mirror.

After the answer that Snow White has 1000 more followers, she’s promptly exiled. Namely to the seven Bollywood dwarfs under the leadership of film legend, Amitabh Bachchan. Sound twisted? It really is.

Expertly Animated

After writing a storyboard, the entire thing has to be brought to life. Under the expert guidance of Gaurav Juyal, an artist who specializes in animated films, the children paint, cut out and glue together all the characters and props for the story. Then many thousands of images are shot using the principle of a flip book, where the positions are changed a few millimeters after each photo. It’s painstaking work, that’s more than worth it.

After all the work is done and having a substantial dinner, it’s finally time for what everyone has been waiting for: the partyyy! In the resort’s garden, the children warm themselves with chai in the moonlight and then dance into late in the evening to the booming bass of Raftaar & Co.

The highpoint of the last day is a visit to downtown Shimla. After the teachers’ never-ending instructions are finally over, the kids dash off to paint the town red, looking for the church of Shimla in the narrow alleyways and of course, “The Mall,” the famous shopping street. After a beautiful sunset and some golgappe for replenishment, its finally time to return to the camp. There, their trip back to Delhi awaits.