Wednesday, November 24, 2010


When Vandana said  ‘I started a preschool,’ and added in the same breath, ‘you’ll love it’ I knew I would. Vandana was always one with great taste and I knew she would surely have put together a preschool that even adults would want to go. So when I visited the elegant and superbly designed Dunmore House building in the Siddapura area, I completely fell in love with the place. Located off the main road from the Siddapura bus stop (the lane after the Shell gas station in Siddhapura, just off the Whitefield Main Road if you are coming from Marathahalli, you can even catch a small sign of The Dumore House on the left) in a serene area, the first thing that strikes you about The Dunmore House is the amount of space, sky and greenery around it. Set in a spacious 18,000 sq. ft. plot, the building is quaint with the exterior reminding you of the best of Indian and western architecture. The wizard of Dunmore greets you with a broad smile as you enter the huge gates with ‘Dunmore House’ inscribed in them. Beside him is a lotus pond with a tranquil stone Buddha meditating. A well-maintained flower garden with some exotic plants on the left of the paved path, all plants labeled and named, and then you turn right into the Dunmore House’s large door, its board hanging on top.
The Dunmore House

By now you are already smiling, looking around in delight at this house and its environs - obviously built with lots of love and care. Inside the house you enter a spacious reception area with high ceilings, lots of light flooding the room and passages scurrying off into rooms on either side. A play area on the left already filled with all kinds of toys and activities, a kitchen and dining room, a large play area that leads out into a sand pit, two rooms on the other side, one for napping and another the library. The house opens up into a lawn in the center courtyard inside. The airy, well-lit building has a lot of space, creating the perfect environment to play and learn, a lovely playground to play, and a vegetable garden where the children can grow their own vegetables!
Shehan in the play area, the vegetable garden behind it

Shehan, Vandana’s little son wanders off to play in the large play area which houses slides and monkey gym kind of a thing that appears very interesting. As we look up the place Vandana tells me that she and her partner Shahista formally opened Dunmore House on  October 17, 2010.  ‘We cater to age groups between the ages of 1.8 years to 5+ years,’ she said. ‘And extended day care for children, twelve and under until 6pm from Monday through Friday.  Staff is in place, really committed people who are very good with their job and more importantly, with children.’ If you know Vandana, you know they would be just right.

Now, how did Vandana Kumar, an MBA from San Diego, get involved with a preschool. ‘Early childhood education really became a passion for me after Shehan came into our life,’ says Vandana. ‘ He showed me the fascinating world of children’s minds and when I took time off from work in the US to spend time with him, I realized how much I enjoyed being with him, with other children.’ Oh yes, I saw her with Anjali, and there is a way in which Vandana seems to understand their needs and goes that extra mile to see that all they want (the best possible stuff) is there for them. (The way her eyes light up when she says ‘Let’s go shopping for Anjali’ is another giveaway at how much children mean to her.)
Vandana in the Activity Room

Vandana, since her days as a Finance professional, seems to have learnt all about childrens early education and waxes eloquent about everything – from Montessori to Circle Time and Playway and what not. She seems to have figured out the company that sells all the right kind of toys, the activities that aid their holistic growth, the methods in which they can go about quietly helping the child learn two or more things through one well-designed activity and so much more information that you know she has been really working on this project passionately.
Open Courtyard

Her partner Shahista Ismail, has a diploma in Montessori education from the UK (and also has two other preschools in Bangalore).  She has several years of experience in the field of early childhood education both in India and abroad as well and without doubt, they make a great team. 
Activity room overlooking the courtyard

The Dining Area

‘I think children are like sponges for learning at that age,’ says Vandana animatedly, as we chat over a morning cup of tea. ‘We should never underestimate the child’s capacity to learn. You can teach anything to them. But the point is to not focus only on teaching them in a routine way. If we give them activities that are fun and well thought out, we can form the backbone of their future learning.’
Some Play Stuff

‘What makes us different from other preschools is our philosophy I guess,’ says Vandana. ‘A child need not be forced into hardcore academics to succeed in life. Fun is the keyword. Our focus is not on mere academic development but rather on the emotional side – security, confidence and self-esteem. Children at Dunmore House have the freedom of choice and they will be guided by a professional in every activity they do, supported as they figure out the world themselves. They get a lot of free time in an unstructured way.’

‘We were clear of course that they need individual attention,’ she says. ‘Our teachers are all qualified. But more importantly they are creative in their ability to deal with children - and perceptive enough to know the individual needs of the each child. This way they can use the best methods to engage the child for maximum benefit in a fun way. We all understand one thing – that love and affection is the key and our focus is on that. Since they are qualified professionals, they also know the science behind early education. But they also are interested in getting the kids do the best they can by giving them the space. I truly believe that the child is never wrong. If anyone is at fault, it is the environment.’
Shehan at the proposed sandpit

 ‘There is no doubt that Montessori has the best equipment and has influenced all types of education,’ says Vandana. ‘It is very well researched system. We are primarily Montessori but we have incorporated other methods such as Circle Time and Playway as well to get the maximum stimulation per child.’

‘Soon as they come in in the morning they all get 30 minutes of physical activity,’ she points out. ‘We have a state-of-the-art playground that is imported with a monkey base and 3 kinds of slides, a trampoline and other stuff. This gets them all energized and they go in for a snack and then they are ready for other activities.’
First floor activity room

‘All equipment, toys and activities have been carefully chosen and picked by us,’ she adds. ‘They are specially designed to give the best mental, physical and emotional stimulation – for holistic growth. You know if our children have a better understanding of the world and get back home feeling secure and confident about themselves, we cannot ask for more. And, gently does it.’

The tranquil surroundings, with nothing but farmland and plantations around, sets one's heart free. And if the Dunmore House is built so beautifully by its owners, Vandana and her team have turned it into a delightful space for little children with their thought and care. The first thought that came to my mind when I saw it was, Ah, how Anjali (my three year old) would have loved being here! The kind of a place where you know it will be difficult to get the child off from. And it’s so enchanting that you really want to share it with everyone.

The Dunmore House seems headed for greater things without doubt. The place, the ambience, the setting itself is a huge plus. The activities, facilities, equipment and support staff adds that much more to it but to me it’s the passion on which this entire idea is built that takes the cake. You cannot keep that energy down from the moment you enter the preschool. Any child that goes to Dunmore, I am convinced will surely leave it with a happy, contented and full heart. And a lot of learning that happens by the side. Congratulations Vandana and Shahista, you are on to a great idea, have made a great beginning and you will surely succeed in making a difference to the world of early education. I would wager that Dunmore House has all the makings of becoming a big brand but I know that you are more interested in keeping each child happy and secure in the knowledge that the world is a great fun place. Wishing you well in your new endeavour! And I can’t wait to get Anjali out there next time.

For more information please call Vandana at +91 9901555669 or Shahista +91-9901555667. 
Address: The Dunmore House, House # 119/78/1, Siddhapura, Whitefield. The Dunmore House can be found on google maps as well.


Anonymous said...

hi harimohan paruvu

great to see a post on dunmore house. I myself wanna to do what u have did in ur blog as i have enrolled my son there. Not just because my son is there, as a parent for sure i can say that anybody especially any kid would love that place and any parent gets convinced with such an awesome preschool.

My best wishes to Dunmore House Team. Good luck guys and have a great going.... Ramya (Ron's mom)

Harimohan said...

Thanks Ramya for writing in. I am certain that Ron will have a great time at Dunmore House - learning in a fun way, in a great environment and in caring hands.

Shanker said...

Hi Hari, this is Shanker Ron's dad, just wanted to add one more point to what you guys were mentioning about Dunmore house is that definetly its on of the best infrastructure we can find for a preschool and above all we can be sure that our kid is in the safe hands of Vandana who has the right approach and the best method to handle kids. Myself and Ramya are now very much relieved about the tension what we had for our son Ronit....

Harimohan said...

Hi Shanker, That is so true. Vandana is really good with young children as you mentioned. She genuinely cares for them and understands their needs. I know it from experience, having seen her deal with my 3 year old Anjali.

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