A Letter.

Much of what is lost,

Was but a thing that would decay,

Time will heal the pain of loss,

Memories will turn to myth one day…

Yourself in the mirror when you face,

Rejoice in knowing this-

Sold you not your soul,

Character and hope none can steal…

Grieve not O’ Heart,

Thou hast me still.

– Thy Faith.

A “Haali” Change :)

This little incident happened in class today and I couldn’t help smiling about it all day.

It is a rather small event but marks a milestone in my efforts with the little students in the village school. Before I tell you about it though, you’ll have to learn new vocabulary. The local (Bhojpuri) term for fast is “haali” and “likha” means “write”.

Now, here goes. As all kids, the ones here are always in a rush to complete work as soon as possible. And used the term haali too often with one another. All these days I corrected and taught them to say “fast” as in, to “write fast”, “come fast”, etc.

And then today in class a kid said, “ haali likha!” But before I could correct, another student said, “No, say Fast”, and then another one said…. “No fast… Write Fast!”

The kids are finally learning to relate words with the things they see around and use them too! And best of all, their favorite sentence and the one oft repeated is, “Teacher, I know full English!” (Well yes, at that I too can’t help but LOL! 😀

From ‘Batti Bandh’ to Batti Gone!!

In my second year of college, I was a part of a campaign called ‘Batti Bandh’. We put up slogans and held talks, spreading awareness on the importance of conserving electricity. And a part of this was also the event of switching off all power points for an hour on a certain day. This event slowly spread across Mumbai and the issue did get a lot of attention.

And now in the village, we have electricity supply for a maximum of eight hours everyday. And if the weather’s bad (by that I mean strong wind, excessive heat) that too is given a skip!
News of someones field getting all burnt up due to a spark leakage from a faulty wiring and acres of standing grain getting burnt to the ground is common, just as power theft and overloading is!!

It is ironic how (within the same country) I have moved from one place where people were requested to turn off power supply for an hour once every year to the place where people plead for as little as eight hours of electricity everyday!!

There is a desperate shortage of electricity here….or the power dept. is a major supporter of Batti Bandh!

*Batti- Hindi for Electricity
Bandh- to turn off.

With ‘a bank for millions’, you have to learn to be their customer.

What’s customer service, when you have to hire a security guard who stands at the gate allowing only a certain number of people into the bank? (“there’s only place for so much”)

I was at one of the branches of the State Bank of India the other day and here’s what I witnessed:

It is cramped; probably 100 or so people in space enough for just 40. I have been waiting for my turn for the past 30 minutes, just like the rest. And in comes this woman, looking all flustered and walks directly to the lady at the deposit counter- “I have to deposit this cash, I had taken my coupon, but the number has passed as I had to rush to the hospital for some urgent work.” (In a rather demanding loud voice)

“Sorry madam, you will have to take the coupon again and wait for your turn…it will be unfair to all the others”

“But I told you, it was an emergency and look, you are here to help the customers and I don’t know all this stupid bank business alright? So will you just help me out here? I have to rush back”

And it continued until one of the customers standing there stood up and said “You can have my coupon and I will go get another one.”

The lady gave a few words of advice to the bank, (you know how…) deposited the cash and left.

My turn finally arrives and as I am standing there waiting for my transaction to complete- in walks another woman and comes to the counter- “Hi, I am in an emergency, could you please deposit this cash, I have to rush to pick my kid up from his school and it’s very late, please…”(in a rather begging tone, with quit a few “please”) The woman at the counter replied, “Alright, wait for two minutes, I’ll do it.”

India’s leading national bank…you have to give some service to get their customer service!!

Colorful World, Gray People.

We come to know through the study of developmental psychology that children at an early stage in life have the concept of all good/all bad for people and things.

And then slowly as they grow the understanding that a single person could be good and otherwise too, begins to take root. The smiling, loving care giver can also get angry; the friend who plays along can also hurt. This is seen as an important milestone in development.

But maybe somewhere, this idea of all good/ all bad does not entirely leave us. Why else would it be that expectations start forming and a rude remark from a friend hurts more than from a stranger?

  We meet people, some are remembered some lost in oblivion. Those that we like, we become friends with. We look for good qualities in them. What about them attracts us? Their words, ideas, look etc…their white side. The twirl of which shows us colors of the rainbow.

And then there are people we don’t approve of. Their look, ideas, words do not match ours. Their concept of good and bad; life and living are different. The dark areas of our life? Pushed far away they look plain black.

But surprise, surprise!! The good friend fails at something you expected, is not just the colors you so far pictured. And someone out of the dark turns out quite different- shines like a star on a day with heavy rain.

Gray People: Precisely the shade we all are. Good at certain things, not so much at others. “Wonderfully perfect” for some; “Got a lot to learn” for others. We are all, black and white together.

Seeing the grays and learning to pick the whiter shades – Smart Living.

A Ride Like Many Other…

Here, I have described just one of the many trips I took while in UP. Each venture out of the school, for even little things like internet connection (it was at a three hour drive, mind you) would turn out to be an adventure.  Political rallies, detour at regular intervals are a part of daily commuting.

Frustration personified…

It’s spooky, the driver’s hungry, there are basically just potholes-one after another that makes- (what they call) the road! The dry, parched fields on either side and large wide shrubs and bushes growing wildly, entering the open car window.  The moon’s high up in the sky, the sound of wolves in some distant field. Flashes of torchlight every few minutes…

And then just as you turn a corner, there! Dim lights, blaring Bhojpuri songs and random people sitting together in groups- smoking or talking loudly. They are the people who want to defy the village custom of sleeping early, and so this is their city adaptation of the market place. The village kids going to these markets call them “bumbai!” Totally bumbed me! LOL.

And here’s a funny part… We are returning home, my dad and I. It’s 8.30 pm, conditions as mentioned above. I have traveled this part quite a few times lately. Now concentrate on the part ‘the driver’s hungry’…. So as we turn from the loud, annoying Bhojpuri music to take the road home deep in a village. The driver takes another road cut through the fields.

Dad inquired and  he says this road is better, with fewer bumps. Turns out, totally the opposite! After passing through the fields, and a canal and fighting quite hard to keep as still as possible to avoid tumbling over, we reach a house that belonged to the cook who would have food ready for our hungry driver on his way home. So all this for reminding the cook he’d be there in half an hour for his dinner. The cook barely looked up from the mobile phone(?!) he was talking on, but simply nodded, as another bump…

What to Teach and How.

Running the school administration and my stay in the village has been an eye opener. Seeing people struggle, debate and quit at things I considered obvious and, “what’s there to ask in it?” comes as a surprise and the realization that indeed we have a long way to go.

Take Education- its food, clothing, shelter and basic education is a necessity for life. Isn’t it? And then- I heard from a local girl, who I was helping with English for her upcoming tenth grade exams- “I a not giving my exams, no need to study.”


“My brother says “The exam centre is not my own school, so there is no need to go. What is the need to study, and besides we have already let you go to school, how does exam matter? You don’t have to go show your degree anywhere!”

And that was the end of discussion. She couldn’t say anything to her “older, wiser” brother. And the parents too were- “He knows the world, he has seen it. Maybe it’s better this way.”

Then I spoke to the girl’s mother and realizing how helpless she was, I asked my dad to speak to the girl’s father. After talking to him all my father could say was, “They are really stubborn, but after this, they may send her for the exams as the son is going to the city in a couple of days.”

The girl however, was more than pleased at the idea of not having to give the exams. Even if she would give, it would only be a temporary solution. A permanent remedy for the people’s mindset…urgently needed.

This is the day I finally realized the magnitude of my work- teaching children where education is not even considered important enough for an extra half an hour drive from home to school.

I have only kindergartners in my school right now. I have time to prevent something like this happening to the tiny tots I’m teaching. And that is the day I resolved the number one agenda for my school would be to develop an interest and love for learning. If I could ensure that in the early couple of years they were in my school…I could be at rest, knowing that they will fight odds to learn. And for that I started using the method of teaching which focused on creating curiosity among the children.