Saturday, April 21, 2018

Save Our Souls

I graduated from the Teach For India fellowship last week. With these lofty ideas that somehow I had helped mould the future for some children. And that these children will be the leaders a few years hence and their strength, courage and wisdom will be a deterrent to the darkness and monsters that run rampant now. I must admit, I was so preoccupied with the graduation ceremony, my part in it, what I’d have worn to it that for the days preceding it, I did not care what was happening in the country that I had so proudly helped (in my opinion) to shape.

Serves me right for living in a bubble.

The news incidents of the last couple of weeks have been the biggest antidote to my complacency of thinking that (attempts to) teaching children values like respect, empathy, friendship, grit, awareness is going to bring even the tiniest deviation in where we are headed as a people. For anybody to have a future, there is a precursor of surviving the present. Which is what seems most bleak now.

One of the things that we had learnt as a part of the fellowship was that to truly guide children to a better future, it was important to understand their truth. Only then would we be able to contextualize the hope that we could provide to them. Take out the truth and the hope might be false or not make sense. Take out the hope and the truth would suffocate them.

Cut to the present – in the last week itself, there have been numerous distressing, disgusting and depraved news incidents coming from all over the country; of people conspiring towards, committing or condoning violations like no other. And these were just reported cases. Who knows how many never got reported? Amidst news of people supporting, justifying and pardoning acts of rapes, murders, riots and massacres, I’ve been struggling to give myself even a sliver of hope.

And that reminded me of the balance between truth and hope.

Before I try to find that elusive bit of hope, I probably need to understand the truth behind these acts.
Now I’m asking this question to whoever can give me an answer with substance – What kind of human does one have to be to dehumanize an entire class of people based on their religion, social status, skin colour or gender? Forget a class, how does one dehumanize even one person? Is it something circumstantial? Psychological? Pathological? Genetic? Would something have gone wrong in their childhood? Or in their education?

I am trying to look for trends. Gender doesn’t classify – there are males and females alike. (Maybe the third gender will be our saviour. Who knows?) Maybe belonging to a particular Faith or Spirituality? Again, it doesn’t help. These perpetrators have included various spiritual leaders themselves (regardless of faith or being self-proclaimed or appointed). Educational background doesn’t seem to help either – we’ve had doctors, lawyers, police officers complicit in this. The only clause in educational background is that we don’t have set standards in or even a proper definition of education.

At this point, I don’t have any other clues. Hence the question – what does it take for one human being to look at another human being but not see them as humans? Until we understand, I doubt we will be able to devise deterrents or punishments. And until we understand this truth, any hope that we give ourselves will be as shallow as these threats to humanity masquerading as humans themselves.  

Someone had better start talking. And soon.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Reveling in revelations!

Some people take pride in being the "Do-It-Yourself" type. They can fix things in the house, design the simplest or the most complicated things in their heads, predict faults and failures  in a single look, and know what they'll need in new stations / situations alike. They may not boast about it. But there's that unmistakable hint of self-esteem, nay, self-admiration, every time they... well.. do things themselves.

Now I'm at the other end of the spectrum. Not the blatantly outsourcing types. That would have been so much easier! I am what I call a "Screw-It-Yourself" type of person.

I never know what I want. Or what I need. What would look, feel or work well in different situations. I try making things, but never finish them. I plan things that I never do. I have detailed conversations in my head and then forget they were only in my head. (For the record, I blame Dumbledore for this!). And all this is in a relatively non stressful environment.

At work, I take things like an old historian. I observe for the longest time before I make a conclusion. Only it's the wrong conclusion. I try to think and derive a pattern in things, so that I can predict some behavior or define some corrections - only the corrections don't work, even if the patterns or predictions are right (I do get lucky sometimes). I've done this consistently at work, at home, in my relationships, and now, most dangerously, as I'm bringing up my own and a bunch of other kids.

And yet - the thing I share with my DIY counterparts is the self-admiration.

You see, anyone can be careless and silly with material (or immaterial) things. But to do so with things that matter or with people takes real and rare talent. And guts. Try doing your experiments on people who can do it back on you. You have to assume that the said people (and their guardians) have a sense of humor. And that they'll be kind enough to see your intentions, if not your methods. And most importantly, that they won't sue!

I love it that my life has this comical (and borderline loony) theme. With a little extra wits, I could script a play using quite literally comedy of (my) errors. Of course without any of the classical unities of action, time or place. But then what's the point? I would never finish it.

Like I said - patterns may be identified, predictions may be made, but corrections? Ahhh.. I think I'll outsource them!

Still laughing it off. And hoping it never comes down to blowing it up!

Enjoy the farce!


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Hide and still seeking

There was a time when I used to sing a little, write a little, read a lot and walk a lot. These were the things that used to keep me sane and at peace - both with myself and the world, in that order.

That there probably was a lot of insanity in my life then is inconsequential to this post. Partly because there still is. But the point remains, that through the anger and madness, I still had enough time to do the things I liked.

And then I took the bold step of changing my premise. I'm told it was bold. And brave. And I don't refute it. I did it with the hope that I'll find myself by doing what I believe in. As a bonus, I found that I was good at it. Good enough to finally give me a job satisfaction at least.

That being the case, I'm wondering why I still feel short changed.

The answer is complicated. I miss doing my favorite things. I miss being able to disconnect from work, even if for a short while. Most of all, I miss the luxury of not caring about work all the time.

That is what I've realized in the last year. Being a teacher means more than thinking and planning extensively. It's more than having to make a decision - big or small, every 2 minutes. The thing that takes the biggest toll is caring every single minute.

Case in point - this post. It's been 10 days since my school closed for the summer break. And my mind is still in the classroom - reminiscing the year gone by, or working out some plan for next academic year, or just thinking about the little tykes of my class and hoping they're safe, happy, carefree, and having fun! I find myself wishing that they get a break from the problems that they face in their lives every single day. Every political update that I find revolting reminds me of values that I want to inculcate in my children. Every new achievement in science or arts or sports reminds me to tell the same to my children to give them some heroes to look up to. Every time I notice instances of excess in my life and around it, I get repulsed, because it reminds me of these incredibly warm families living in the opposite end of the financial spectrum, and how unfair life is to them.

And if this is my mental state during summer break, it's nobody's guess what really goes on when school is in session.

The thing that I do feel thankful for is being a part of the solution. Of having a chance to do something other than feeling sorry. So it comes at a price. So be it.

Love, luck and hope.
Miss K.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The other crazies...

This journey began on a beautiful sunny day (albeit a little hot), on a beautiful diary, writing with a beautiful pen. I'm guessing this omen should have been good enough. But then, I never did believe in omens.

What do I believe in? Remember Sound of Music - I have confidence in rain; I have confidence that spring will come again.. Something something.. (oops) I have confidence in me!

Maybe, just maybe - I can solve a problem like Maria (does).

And of course - I get by and high and fly with a little help from my friends.

Oh where (o where) would I be without songs?

But you know - I go on and on about friends almost all the time. There's also this crazy (and not so) bunch of people who didn't have the choice of rejecting me. And who love me despite all my weirdness. This group of lovely people I call family. Bound by blood, or by law - they go miles out of their way to fill in for me when I go off wandering. In search of peace or purpose or self. How they do it every single time and with so much love is something I'll never comprehend. But I sincerely hope all good things come their way - good health, cheer, times - everything!

Now that I think about it, it's remarkable how certain friends get so close, they start feeling like family. And how certain family members feel so close, you start treating them like friends. It all gets blurred, the closer people get.

Maybe all you do need is love.

Love, luck and happiness! (To everyone!)


Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Truant

Drawn towards the silence,
away from the noise -
both familiar and strange
And that creepy human voice
Some days are like that, I guess.

Days that go wrong without a reason.
Or good for that matter.
And you're left looking for logic,
Though you know it's just plain chatter.
Some days feel like that, I guess.

Feelings that run wild
All over your spectrum of emotions.
With, without, nowhere in between;
Sweetness and sadness in crazy proportions.
Some days seem that like that, I guess.

Things that seem one way
But may be completely different, altogether.
Like people interchanging roles -
Friend, foe, mother, father, brother.
Some people are like that, I guess.

Friday, May 20, 2016

I-We League

For a long time, I had been craving a moving experience. Of course not the literal moving, but the metaphorical. Well I couldn't have gone to a better place in search of it.

The last two weeks at Teach For India have been a series of revelations and reflections (as is the popular culture here). Not that I have a problem with either of these; but I do sometimes wonder how many revelations my heart can take in a month. In just the first weekend, we had 2 community visits - both shattering my preconceived notions about people, poverty and even my own self. There were stories aplenty of both heart break and breakthroughs, told in both first and second person. And though it may not be the best thing to say publicly about oneself, I found myself crying like a sissy in all of these. And let's face it - there's just this much that you can blame on homesickness.

We met people living in slums; we made a sculpture out of garbage in a lower income group community; we went door to door in another lower income community recruiting children to a summer school, and we've had 2 PTM's since school started on May 12th. In all of these meetings with people, I have been amazed at how similar we all are in terms of simple joys, hopes, aspirations and even fears. And also how varied because of the conditions we live in and the world we have been exposed to. It's a reaffirmation of what our CEO Shaheen Mistry said during induction - it was a coin toss that decided that I will lead the life that I am living. I didn't do anything to deserve the family I was born in.

There's so much detail that I want to express. But I find I cannot contain it in words anymore. Even though they are the only set of tools I am comfortable with. I'm reminded of roller coaster rides that made me dizzy afterwards. It's only logical that emotional roller coasters should numb your mind. Maybe I should just wait it out and count on the reflections to reveal themselves.

However, even if the details get blurred, the one theme that remains constant is the strength in numbers while also remembering how each one of us is needed for all of us to stay strong. Isn't it ironic?

Oh well.. Life does have a funny way of sneaking up on you. And a funny, funny way of helping you out. Thanks a lot, Alanis Morissette. Here's my other hand giving a high five!

Peace out! \_/


Monday, May 09, 2016

The heart of conversations

Sometime in school, I had read the book - Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul. For those who aren't familiar with the "Chicken Soup for ..." series, all books are collections of simple, heartwarming stories to comfort the target audience. In my case, the perennially agitated teenager. One such story came with a lesson that everyone has something to tell us, and perhaps teach us, if only we're willing to listen.

While that is indeed a good piece of advice, it is rather incomplete. It does not teach how to get people to talk so that you can listen to what they might have to say.

And that, has been my affliction in life - not being able to initiate or engage in conversations.

Last week, I finished reading my first Hindi novel - Kasap. By Manohar Shyam Joshi. It's a beautifully written love story set in Kumaun. It can be argued that I liked the story so much because of the Kumauni flavour, or because Manohar Shyam Joshi was a relative. Or maybe because it was my first foray into reading Hindi literature and I don't have anything to compare it to. But then it's not the relation or the setting which makes language beautiful. And really, I find comparison between literature quite futile. Is there any point judging a Catch-22 against say, Train to Pakistan or Midnight's Children?

Coming back to Kasap - it's a genuinely sweet story. The simplicity of characters and situations make it that much more easy to relate to. Even in a state of hysteria. At the end, the story leaves you with a sweet sadness which is strangely satisfying. As if any other outcome would have been a betrayal. And like any other well written work of fiction, it has these pearls of wisdom thrown in, in the most inconspicuous manner.

And that is what reminded me of my lack of conversational skills. It reminded me of all potential conversations I could have had. Not just with Mr. MSJ, but with so many other brilliant, beautiful people in my family - my Grandfathers in particular. And not just people who have passed away, but even those whom I am not in as close contact with as I would like to be. Or those who are actually close, but with whom I've never managed to go further than weather talk. And all these new, wonderful people I keep meeting everyday in training. Have conversations of substance, only to listen.

Maybe one day, I'll know. Until then .. Hello, voices in my head!

Cheers, as always!