Saturday, August 21, 2010

A poem - a pebbleI

Today was the concluding day of a leadership training program. In the parting session, we were asked to write a poem on an object in nature. We were told later on that the object represents 'I'. So I came up with this in the next 10 mins. Here goes...

Roundish, brownish, dusty, free
Lying alone with more like me
I feel the feel of a childish palm
Plop! into a lake quite calm
I make the ripples all around
And shine, squeak, clean and brown

Reddish, brownish, dusty, free
Staring beneath a mighty tree
That hands that pick me and four
I bump against my fellows more
Up I fly, she catches me,
Down I'm put, all but three

Roundish, brownish, dusty, free
Below a foot make sounds eerie
The pebbles all around like me
Rubbing against me and see
Into a bottle, there I go
All ready to see, the world at show

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What makes a day good or bad...

Children not responding to the marble jar, 5th standard teacher not appearing and half of that class sitting in mine, RC diagnostic that makes no sense to no one, 1 hour in the traffic to cover a distance of 3 kms, words pulled out from the wall... I'm wondering whether my first sense of negativity lead to everything else crashing down. But, hey! I cannot possibly have impacted the universe so much with my thoughts to have created a traffic jam and make the 5th std. teacher not appear, to mention a few. Or do each of us have a personal Murphy who ensures that things to go wrong when they can?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

One day all MCGM teachers will send their own children to MCGM schools

As much as I love this line that Ashish Singh penned down as our vision for the MCGM project, I was yanked back to reality today when one teacher explained to me why she was urging a parent to send her child to a private school. So, apparently the child in question was so bright that she shouldn't be wasted in a municipal school like ours. And this coming from a teacher who is supposed to be directly correlated to the definition of education, was disheartening to say the least. I'm just wondering about whom these schools are supposed to cater too? The lowly and destitute are too downtrodden to instruct their children to value education (so I've heard) and hence they don't have a future as it is and the brighter ones should go some place else so they are saved!

But I do realise that the teacher had the best interest of that child at heart and that's what makes this so dreadful! And I'm going to come back a full circle and admit that that's the very reason the vision makes so much sense!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Who are we to give?

Many of us in Teach for India visited a poor community in Ahmedabad during our Diwali break. It was part of a programme that was meant to sensitise us to the needs of low-income communities, their issues, introduce us to other people working for their welfare and open our eyes to the vast amount of work that could be initiated. By the end of the day, however, many of us were struck by how happy they seemed with whatever little they had. The rag-pickers, the house maids, the nimbu-paani wala, everyone had the time and heart for a laugh and some light hearted banter. Some of us came back feeling that we shouldn’t intrude on their lives because they had found the secret to happiness and we were probably corrupting them with dreams that they will not be able to fulfil (a-la-Emma).

It reminds me of the urban legend wherein a young successful man chances upon a street ‘bum’ who looks like he could do with some help. Our young chap here asks “Do you need help?” to which he gets back “Don’t we all?” in return. So we all need help. All of us need help on different things but most of us are better off for the help we receive. And who are we to judge the kind of help given or received?

More recently we met an NGO, which is led by a doctor, which works towards improving the health conditions of Commercial Sex Workers (CSW) in the red light area in Pune. They do a lot of work – from spreading awareness of STDs to rescue operations to free check-ups and medicines and education for the CSW’s children. It seemed like a lot of women were benefitting from the help they were receiving. However, for a moment I felt as if a lot of energy was being spent in making the lives of these CSWs comfortable in a place where they shouldn’t have been in the first place. It brought back the age old debate of systemic change vs. being the change in my mind. (That issue deserves to be separate topic by itself)

There is probably a very thin line between ‘intervention’ and ‘intrusion’ and very often it’ll be the “results” of whatever it is that you’re attempting that’ll give people retrospectively an opportunity to label it as either. But I think the acid test to all these intellectual judgements about what to give, whom to give to, are we being righteous in giving - is to ask yourself the question – ‘What if it was one of your kin who was stuck in one of those low-income communities? Would it still be ok to leave them ‘happy’ in their well? Or would you think that they deserved a better life? Would you choose that life of ‘happiness’ for your loved ones?’ I’m sure the answer is a NO.

Finally, I think – it is only natural to give. The earth gives of itself for the plants to grow, the sun gives of itself for everything else to flourish, and the air gives of itself for us to breathe. We are but a tiny manifestation of everything that’s natural. Giving of ourselves only makes us more natural. We can relive the connections that we have with this world. We can find the answer to our existence.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Are you ready for a challenge?

Dear ONE,

Whether you’re considering the TFI Fellowship because you want to give to others or because you want to gain for yourself - it doesn’t matter here – you won’t gain without giving to others and you can’t give without gaining for yourself. That’s what has sunk in deeply and the more I observe, in and around me, these expressions of giving, not only towards my class of 59 third graders, but towards the school and the fraternity on the whole, I realize that what I have received from them is much more and it is unalterable and immeasurable.

And yet, complacent as we can be, in the knowledge of this seemingly perfect karmic logic – the truth is – it is a struggle - in the classroom, in the Principal’s office, in the community, with the parents; trying to shift mindsets, to establish that each child can learn, to tackle this daunting mission of every child receiving an education that he is worthy of. What did the children learn today? Are they learning anything? Which actions of mine are contributing to better behaviour in the classroom? How else can I do this so the whole class gets it? These and more are the questions that’ll loom large long after you’ve gone through your Student Achievement Tracker and you’re wishing that your mind was as tired as your body, so you could sleep those last few hours before morn.

And you will want to stand up for everything that’s right and do it the right way! Whether it is a mother smacking her own child or the child who didn’t come to school because ‘maataji’ had taken possession of her mother or the child who slept in class because the tuition teacher made her ‘murga’ for 2 hours or the child who flinches when you want to just pet her cheek…education neither begins nor ends in the classroom. And you’ll notice that the divides run deeper and longer – superstition and apathy leave behind scars, which, you will struggle to deal with let alone heal. And then finally you wake up each time with the thought that they probably don’t know any better and it is up to you to CHANGE one step at a time, mindful of your own locus of control.

Like a parent watching the first baby steps, which come after many attempts and practice, I have had HUGE teacher moments watching my children take their first baby steps towards speaking English, writing English and expressing themselves in various ways. These are the moments that shine on and cast their soft glow on my life. These are the moments that’ll add up to that day when they’ll run out into the world on their own, making a place of their own. These are the moments I want to look back upon!

Best regards,


Class Teacher – Standard 3

Holy Mother’s English School

For questions:

first deadline: Oct. 11, 09

“One day all children will attain an excellent education”