Random Musings

Mumbai – you are simply awesome!

Monsoons & a story about disruption in Mumbai because of flooding is simply inevitable. 

I’ve heard stories of the ‘heart’ that this city showed on 26th July. I often wondered if this is indeed Mumbai’s DNA or just a one of cases. I got my answer today when water levels were proclaimed to be as high as 26th July (but that’s just WhatsApp heresay).

HR reluctantly sent a message to leave early in the light of rains. Now the risk appetite of people varied – so low risk folks rushed immediately (recently moved too Mumbai), followed by medium risk (been here for some time now), followed by the aapna Mumbaikars (love for work OR just a strategy to avoid traffic??). Anyway, so I left @ 5 pm – 2 hours after the warning was issued. I came out of office with strong winds blowing on a rainy day. I was fully drenched even if I had an umbrella. 

Accha Rickshawala (Good AutoDriver): As expected, I didn’t find any Ola, Uber or auto on road. Not one to cave in, I started walking on the 22 km journey where my home lies. I was almost cursing these apps (for not being there in hour of need) & autowalas for being insensitive when an auto stopped on it’s own. He asked me where I have to go & dropped me without charge till our destinations diverged. While driving he explained how in all autos, brakes become sluggish on waterlogged roads. He advised me to take a bus so that I’ll be safer before bidding good bye.

BEST service-best service: With 3 km down & still no auto in sight – I took the first bus that came my way. It was going to take me 13 km towards my place. I felt I could walk faster – such was the pace of this bus! Thinking it would take me 4 hours to reach, I resigned to my fate. I got a call from my colleague who was ahead of me saying he is stranded now as his auto broke down. Just as I was about to hang up, water rushed inside the bus – around the same point his auto broke down. The scene outside sported waterlogged streets, autos/cabs stranded as water entered their engines & the steady drum of the behemoth begrudgingly treading ahead. The crowd in this bus showed how these rusty buses became the knights in the shining armor today!
Inherent safety of Mumbai: I was walking towards the next place I could get an auto. I stopped a man on a scooty to drop me till that point. It’s not that I didn’t want to walk but getting drenched because of water splashing as cars speed by isn’t the best way to enjoy rains! He didn’t think twice & agreed to drop me another kilometer on the highway.

Open hearts & big gestures: The final stretch of my travel was by a car randomly stopping on highway to ask me where I was going & agreeing to drop me. This guy lived near LTT (10+ km from my pickup point) & just took his car out for the 2nd time ferrying people on EEH. My first thought was of genuine disbelief that anyone could do thisb(I don’t think I would). And this thought was followed by may be all this is happening to me because I’m a girl (#sexism). But then I looked around. That point on highway was crowded with people waiting to start their next journeys. Solo bikers were stopping & giving lifts. Cars with less than 4 travellers stopped & asked people to join them. It was heartening to see people being so considerate.

Where there are senseless problem creators, there are selfless resolvers: Water logging, haste to reach home & being sick of traffic could result in some wrong decisions. But haste makes waste & that is so clearly shown in the lockjam below. However absence of traffic cops didn’t stop conscientious Mumbaikars (guy in blue in the picture) to take ownership & solve it. Within 20 minutes, that road turned green on Google maps from red.

The indomitable spirit: Roads are still waterlogged. Rains have eased but not gone. Some of my friends are still stuck in traffic or chilling in office. But, after 7:30 I heard blaring music of ‘Nasik Dhol’ & drums. Mumbaikars left their houses to immerse their favorite God ‘Ganesha’ as the fifth day ends today – rain or no rain!

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Birthdays

22 July 2017

I had promised myself that I won’t let corporate life suck me into it’s vortex. But the delay in writing this shows I’ve failed and they’ve succeeded. So almost a month later here’s what 22 July 2017 was for me! 

With the realization of half of my life’s existence on this planet done (comparing how healthy I am to my elders during this time of their lives, life beyond 70 looks far fetched), this birthday became more about introspection than celebration. 

This doesn’t mean I didn’t celebrate – because of course I did. Celebrations have evolved but some things remain constant. Some people have remained core to all my birthday celebrations & they were there! Basu, Chinnu, GS, Praveen, Shruti, Vasudha & Viraj – all of them were at our very own ‘Central Perk‘ (GS & Chinnu’s place) & we laughed like mad after ages! Some at my cost & some inspite of me. 

I stayed up till 3 am “partying” & felt younger again 🙂 Morning, Sam thought of the sweetest gesture anyone has ever thought for me. He woke up early because he wanted to decorate the room & give me a surprise (apparently how I did for his birthday)! He tried whatever a 5 year old could decorate, gave me a handmade card & cut cake with me. My in-laws gave me gifts & blessings to conclude the first half of my birthday.

Then I went to my mom-dad’s place in the afternoon where I feasted on ‘Maa ke haath khana’. Throwing diet to the wind, I gorged on yummy food. Shruti, Shraddha & I went to a movie. Namu who really tried hard to come was sorely missed – that’s us missing her when we went for ‘Jagga Jasoos’.

Calls kept pouring in. I think that’s why birthdays are important – because amidst the hustle-bustle of your life, you take time out to catch up on your friend’s life. Sumit, Amit, Arundhati, Priya, Girish, Bridget, Vibhor, Mithila, Shivangi, Preeti, relatives etc. called & we had a good talk. Is it ideal that friendships are now restricted to calls 2 times in a year – No; but is it sufficient to feel connected – Yes!

Post movie was the time of the day when I introspected. I read my 30th birthday blog & tried to see if I’m satisfied where I’ve reached in last 5 years! Those who know me, already know my answer would be in the negative. I’ve always seen the room to improve & there’s almost always someone better than me. Had I not talked to a dear friend & my husband – I would have probably summed up my last 5 years as amounting to nothing. But then, something changed – I’ve decided to see the glass half full. I’ve decided to set milestones for my 40th birthday & then celebrate that one in style having achieved what I aimed to do & satisfied at the place I’ve reached.

It’s been a month post this decision & surprisingly, I’m still trying to do exactly that. And while all my birthdays are as important “to me” – I sure as hell want to write the 40th one as TOW all the goals met!

Random Musings

Bahubali 2 & theory of 95%

bahubali 2
courtesy https://thereel.scroll.in/

It seems ages so as I awaited this movie with abated breath & wrote these predictions about the possible conclusion of this magnum opus. And so much was the anticipation that I went for the first day, last show to see why really Kattapa killed Bahubali? And I loved what I saw. I loved the magnanimity of this movie. I loved how it seamlessly connected the 2 movies – coronation scene, history of Bhalaldeva & Devsena etc.

And since Indians get overzealous about everything – this movie too spurred various debates. There were talks of multiple records it had broken (highest grosser in India, North America, China etc. etc.), of how equal pay is a myth in film industry (with Prabas getting 25 Cr & Ramya getting 2.5 Cr), of how some dialogues caused racial discrimination (movie wasn’t released in Karnataka until Sathyaraj said “Sorry!”… Really people!), of finding brides for Prabhas & of KRK getting his 2 minutes of fame tweeting shit about this movie (why else would people read anything else from his handle?).

From the day I saw the movie, I was reminded of a theory that my manager once told me. He said, “Sharmili, Indians are 95% people. They work against all odds to accomplish a task & just when it’s about to be completed (@ 95% levels), they do a hurried job of completing it.” Why does this movie remind me of this theory you ask? Because while I loved the movie, I felt rushed as an audience when I saw the conclusion.

So, we all knew that good will triumph over evil & that eventually Mahendra will avenge his father, save his mother & win. But what could have made that 5% difference for me was ‘believability‘ of this plot. The details in the first half were brilliant. The story of Amarendra Bahubali until his ill-fated death was exquisitely handled. After the intermission, the plot had tons to offer & I was sure that Bahubali 3 would be the story of actual avenging. Therefore, I half expected the second half to end with recapture of Devsena OR the message of war given by Mahendra to Bhalaldeva (by sending the head of his son!).

Thus, the third movie could have followed Mahendra’s challenge to Bhalaldeva by seasoned Kattapa training his namesake-grandson like he did his father, resurrection of his mother’s lands for which Tamannah had been fighting, some romantic plot between the next generation, some evil plotting by Bhalaldeva’s father etc. Then the triumph would have been believable. I mean Mahendra may be God’s gift to mankind but with no martial training ever received, it’s becomes too filmi that he bests his uncle who trained for years greater than Mahendra’s age. Kattapa’s urging him to think like his father during the war would not then have felt like a stretch on “genetics” but something about his training.

So, for me even though I loved the movie – it was a 95% movie! A movie that supported Amarendra’s story 100% but hurriedly delivered Mahendra’s triumph. It was that 5% what could have cost Mr. S.S.Rajamouli with some negative reviews (however little in number they were.) Not that he cared about them but an all positive reaction would have been an icing on the cake!

Now, I wait for Bahubali 3 & I predict it would be about Rise of Sivagami. And this I did even before Amazon started selling books about this! I am as curious & as excited about it as I was for Bahubali 2 – though may be not so much as to write a blog about it 🙂

Teach for India

I can’t make up my mind..

I’ve just come out of the euphoria of good SSC results of my kids. And as with most things, it was short lived and was immediately superceded by other thoughts & they are all over the place!

I can’t make up my mind whether I should push students to get into a great college as opposed to taking the one that is close by. Initially, my first stance didn’t have room for another option & I was ready to fight the world for it. But after talking to many people, they’ve convinced me otherwise. Doubts have suddenly crept in & I’m without a game plan. Questions like what if the student can’t cope up with the travel, what if me pushing parents’ to take these colleges lead them to back off when there comes a need to take extra classes, what if they end up losing focus & not doing well? Was I really ready to risk any of these options by pushing what I thought was a good college?

I can’t make up my mind, what is the line between involvement & intrusion. My decisions – whatever they were – were OKed by parents & teachers alike. My assumption about my kids was that they didn’t have the exposure I did growing up, so I should push them. Therefore, I should have a say in the kind of colleges & streams they pursue. But should I really have a say? Our contexts are 17 years apart & they don’t have the same background/values I did as a student. So, while I could select the college based on my preference, my kids are changing colleges based on where their friends are. I didn’t lose sight of my goal even if no one in college ever bothered with attendance, studies etc. And one of them walks up to me & says Didi, I’m taking commerce “kyunki mujhe easy & chill life chahiye.” With such a mind construct does my exposure angle & therefore the need to get involved fit? Is my involvement constructive or just plain noise?

I can’t make up my mind if peer group is important. I have always been driven by my peer group – friends, colleagues. They have pushed me to excel & I was glad that I was surrounded by such people all my life. But on the flip side, my kids have always been around people who I wouldn’t exactly call good influences. Yet, much to their credit, they’ve managed to be good themselves. By being in search of a better peer group for them am I pushing them towards a more insecure zone? Am I taking them close to a peer group that can get them carried away & start demanding things from their poor parents looking at their counterparts from private schools? For my kids, is having a better peer group essentially an enabler?

And I’m struggling with similar thoughts for each student who passed from my class. And this dichotomy arises from distinct thought processes. This process for them isn’t one of seeking excellence but the one of seeking option with least constraints possible (fees, distance, course, future etc.) And therein lies the problem. The frame of reference is so drastically different that these will never match. 

So, should I give up? Or should I give it a try? I couldn’t make up my mind until one day I decided that in future; I would rather repent about my kids not listening to me than me not having tried!
So I tried with the hope of seeing my kids in colleges that I attended 17 years ago. But I think the more important outcome this discussion should give me is to see them successful in longer term than making me happy for the next 2 years!

Random Musings · Teach for India

On to the next one…

Exhausted, I sat in the car waiting for distance to home move from 20 km to 0 km. When you are in a car & the traffic on the road doesn’t move, there is very little left to do! And despite the exhaustion, my mind decided to take a trip of it’s own. It wandered through all the days that had passed by in the last 2 years. And it started sending signals of comparison – my last 2 years & my coming years. The contrast was as stark as the song of fire & ice!

The first day I joined school, I was surrounded by a throng & I didn’t get time to do my thing. I was that shiny new toy which everyone wanted to play with! Today, I sat alone in the cubicle doing my thing & I longed for someone to hang out with. In TFI, you always find people around so you sorta get used to it.

I was used to being in a room for hours & not having a fan or even ventilation. Today as I sat in centralized AC, I felt like I was in Tundra region & I cursed myself for not carrying my dearly beloved – a sweater.

My days in TFI were planned to the tee & the infrastructure would derail them (no bathrooms, no class, no cleaning etc.). To ensure derailment doesn’t happen, I had to have plan B upto plan Z! Today, I was in a place with excellent infrastructure & yet had no plan!

In TFI, I didn’t learn any new content, yet I found the use of that content challenging (teaching kids what I knew but in a way they get). Today, I was learning about a completely new industry but somehow it wasn’t very challenging (I’m sure challenges will ramp up as time goes by).

For this one, you need context. There are 4 colors which depict different personalities viz. Yellow – dreamers, blue – task masters, green – planners, red – impulsives/emotionals. (You can read about them here) When I was in TFI, I was a mix of Blue/Green – because I had to be prepared with so many plans! But today, as I sat in my cubicle, my closet Red kept looking for a familiar face to smile to, longing for a friendly chat while going home or wanting great company while having lunch. And while all these thoughts kept going through my mind, I passed my school on my way back. That was when I understood the most important factor. 

Last 2 years, I saw no one around me giving their best, so I tried to give my best to my kids – idea being making a difference in their life. Today, I saw everyone putting their best foot forward – idea being making a difference to themselves which was something that I have done myself for 9 years!

I think we are programmed to think/feel the grass is greener on the other side when we attempt something new! I was complaining about everything that was wrong about my school while I was in there. But today, I’m almost missing it.

It’s funny how our minds react to change…

Random Musings · Travel Experiences

Married? Pull off an all girls trip. I dare you!

I’ve always loved TV series which had friends as the leading characters. That’s the reason, on any bad day I end up watching re-runs of Friends or Big Bang theory or Sex & the City (SATC). It’s just comforting to see, how these people have someone not bound to them by blood understand each other so well.

I love SATC for its awesome writing but more importantly for having 4 girlfriends as the leads. I had always thought (growing up watching it) that I’m going to have such evenings often with my girl gang to remain ‘sane’. But soon I was faced with Sophie’s choice! As the responsibilities increased & the demands on time increased, the first activity to be reduced or to be postponed until further notice was the time with my girls. It happened to my mom, to me, my friends & to my cousins who just got married!

Hanging out felt like an uphill task when a coordinated phone call became very difficult. I remember, I really wanted to speak to a dear friend & around 10 calls later (calls missed because of feeding, cooking, meetings etc. spread over 1 week), we managed to speak. By then, the context was not relevant & it became ‘oh! that thing had happened’ call than a heart-2-heart. Then there are other times, when as a group we overcame all odds & agreed on a day/date/time to meet, only to have last minute drop outs or someone rush home sooner! It has happened consistently & I can’t shirk away the responsibility of being that one person playing spoiled sport at times! And to add to this complexity, there comes a third dimension! Recently, I did manage to go on a backpacking trip (read here) with a girlfriend. Everyone who heard about it said, “A trip with only you girls?”,  “Why aren’t you taking your son/husband”, “How will you survive so many days without missing your son?” “How will he survive without you?” “You won’t like it being alone etc.

I had my apprehensions & all these discussions almost made me cancel. But boy did I have fun! I felt guilty of having a great time away from home 🙂 But when I returned, I realized that I didn’t have to. My son was well pampered, my husband got his ME time, grandparents got time with grandson without the ‘helicopter mom’ around! A win-win for all… But when I casually mentioned, making this an annual thing, the stares I got were frozen!

So, I began to wonder – does this similar thing happen to all-boys plans too? Evidence seemed otherwise. Viraj planned to meet his school friends a couple of times & all of them drove in from far away places & had a blast (no time/location constraints). Another friend manages to have an annual boys trip with his wing mates (spread across continents) & has been doing for 3 years now with ease!

Then why is girl gang time so difficult? Is it our self assessed need of being irreplaceable? Is it our compulsive need to be around to do things or getting things done in our way? How can all-boys trips, family trips, trips with friends & their families become a reality much faster/easier than an all-girls trip? Initially, it seemed like a very Indian family phenomenon but then it isn’t exactly universal? Then I thought may be it’s just “my generation” but then girl trips aren’t exactly a pandemic!

I’m pretty sure that in most families, husbands now-a-days are more hands-on fathers than our father’s ever were! They are even more empathetic! Then what is stopping us from taking that ME time? Women always wait for everything to be perfect so they feel less paranoid about leaving their people behind. But this perfection you’re waiting for ladies, is a myth! Having recently gone on this trip, I’ll strongly recommend it! Yes, things can go unplanned back at home while you are away, but you’ll never know until you try! So, as Samantha puts it in SATC, 

“We made a deal ages ago… men, babies, it doesn’t matter. We’re soulmates.” 

Just go & find time for yours!

Travel Experiences

Woh 11 din in North East India…

MEET THE TRAVELERSIMG_20170327_064828.jpg

After lot of deliberation, 2 most unlikely co-travelers – Bridget & I decided to travel solo (minus kid & husband) to Northeast.

It was supposed to be a simple, value for money back-packing trip but it ended up being a big excursion into 3 States of Northeast viz. Assam, Arunachal Pradesh & Meghalaya.

ASSAM – Day 1 & 2

After about 6 hours drive from Guwahati, we reached Nameri National Park & Tiger reserve (though the last tiger sighting was in 2013-14). It was pitch dark at 5 pm itself so we were mainly huddled in the hotel itself. This place is a heaven for flora & fauna lovers. For us, it was a place to bond with nature.

We stayed in a tent in Eco Camp – a hotel which has tents & cottages. Doing trekking through the national park & lazy river rafting was the highlight of this day. Brilliant pictures of the birds, the park itself & the surroundings – that’s what is in store for you here.

NOTE: Do check the water levels of Jia Bhorelli river before you go for the river rafting option. If too low, it’s not rafting – just boating!

ARUNACHAL PRADESH – Day 3 to Day 7

Before going to Arunachal Pradesh:

You need to get an ILP (Inner Line Permit) to enter the state. This can be easily obtained online OR in designated offices around the country.

In Arunachal Pradesh:

We went to Bhalukpong (border of Assam & Arunachal) -> Bomdila -> Tawang & then back. The stop at Bhalukpong was only taken to reduce the distance towards Tawang – which is an arduous journey. Bhalukpong is a small village with some brilliant views & Tippi Orchardarium nearby to spend some quality time.

Once we left Bhalukpong (recommended to start earlier as it gets dark pretty soon), we went into a world where the only predominant feature was scenic bliss. It was a treat for the eyes & calming for the brain! Our driver was harassed by us to stop at various places – pretty places (Nechiphu falls, Tenga valley, Naag mandir) – to take pictures. The beautiful backdrop & a suitable pose helped us actually show how carefree we were & IMG_5746.JPGwe felt. It became almost 3 pm till we reached Bomdila where we managed to stay in a monastary guest house (because of goibibo having a ghost hotel listed on its site!) & called it a night. The temperatures can be anywhere between 8 degress to 12 degrees here.

We left Bomdila the next day earlier too since this was the most difficult part of the journey. First stop was Dirang valley & Dirang Hot water springs. We didn’t feel comfortable enough to experience the medicinal effects of these springs when locals were flocking to bathe! We were strongly advised to take a 4-wheeled drive while going to Tawang. Why this is the case, became apparent to us as we started this journey. This road is covered with snow for 6 months & with water the other 6. If the road gets damaged (which it often does) it is closed for 1.5-2 hours – while stopping traffic from both sides – and made on-the-fly by the army people. Do eat in one of the army canteens. You will have some amazing food at a very reasonable value!

“All good things come to those who wait” & our wait ended with breathtaking Sela pass & it’s frozen lake. Post Sela we went to Jaswant Garh (a memorial for Jaswant Singh – a soldier who defended that point from the invading Chinese army for 72 hours in the 1962 war) & then reached Tawang by 7:00 pm. There is very little to do here once it gets dark.

“Dharti pe agar swarg, kahin hai toh yahin hai!” Pt. Nehru said this about Kashmir. I haven’t been there but route to Tawang sure felt like heaven on earth. I was on cloud nine, I was surrounded by pristine snow & I didn’t want to come back from it. It was an arduous journey with really poor roads but the effort was all worth it because of what you see all around you!

Here we saw clear blue skies & white cover of snow as long as eyes extended. Our first stop was PTSO lake – an unfrozen lake surrounded by snow followed by Madhuri Lake (originally named Shungetsar Lake & changed because the movie Koyla starring Madhuri Dixit was shot here)

NOTE: Do check if Bumla pass is open (India-China border) & get the permit – a different one from ILP – to visit that place. Unfortunately, when we visited – it was closed for tourists.

After sumptuous lunch of ‘Thupka’ – traditional Nepalese food, we visited the Tawang Monastary (biggest monastery after the Ladakh one) & went to Tawang war memorial. This entire place reminds you of the sacrifices military did to keep us safe during the 1962 war. The light & sound show, though quite simple, touches your heart!

We left in the morning for Bomdila after Tawang for just staying the night – as the roads are pretty rough. This was the part where we left snow far behind & our journey to lower altitudes started. It was almost 6 – 7 pm when we reached Bomdila & checked in at Tsepal Yongjam.

Next day was the longest ride of our trip – 10 hours since we didn’t stop at Kaziranga! Things we missed on the way up, we saw on our way down. One of them is the mighty Jung falls – huge waterbody!

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MEGHALAYA – Day 7 to DAY 11

So, generally people prefer to stop at Kaziranga (Assam) from Bomdila to break the journey & also to see the one-horned rhino. Not too much into fauna of the place, we were just excited to go to Meghalaya.

Tawang had set a very high standard for beauty & there had to be something awesome in Meghalaya for us to go mad taking pictures. In Meghalaya, the brown of mountains & white of snow was replaced by green of forests as far as eyes can go on our route to Cherrapunji. It was here that we saw Elephant falls, 7 sister falls, Nohkalikai falls, Mawsmai caves & stopped at multiple view points on the way. Ram Krishna Mission Museum is also informative. The eclectic things we did here, proved Meghalaya was going to put up a hell of a fight to prove it’s beauty to us!

It’s true what they say, Meghalaya is not only the Scotland of the East but also the land of innumerable waterfalls.

After getting fully wet in the wettest place on earth, we hurried to our hotel Eee Cee in Police Bazaar to get ready for date night 🙂 This fancy place is Cloud 9 – we unfortunately went when it wasn’t a live performance night – a club that is highly recommended.

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Next day we went to Mawlynnong – cleanest village in Asia, Dawki – the place of crystal clear waters, Living Root Bridges & Brun Khongmen view point, Nature & wonder rock & finally to India – Bangladesh border. It is not flashy like the Wagah border, just a road where one side was Bangladesh flag & other side was Indian flag & you see line 0.

On the final day of our trip, we went to places in Shillong like Wards lake, Barapani lake, Don Bosco museum, Polo grounds etc. Each of them was as commercial as the other with a whole lot of entry fees, camera fees etc. But they did help us take some very good pictures & gave us significant information about the locals & their culture.

Finally, after 11 days we took a flight back from the lands of raincoats & sweaters to the overheated oven that Mumbai was.

Throughout the flight I kept thinking of how it had to be fate – that got Bridget & me together, that got us to plan this trip together & the icing of the cake – realize that we weren’t too different after all (it took 10 days of the trip to do so 🙂 )!

As I always believed – C’est la vie (such is life)!!!

Teach for India

The unofficial last day…

Today 1st March 2017 became the last day of my school..

As expected from the inefficient school management, it was moved up from tomorrow. I was completely unprepared for this & I thought so were the students. But in the last 2 years of fiercely protecting them against such inefficiencies, I forgot how resourceful they are! As soon as it was announced today is the last day (at 12:20 pm when the school leaves at 12:30 pm), the students managed to do EVERYTHING they planned with WHATEVER available resources!

What my students did?

Their uniforms became writing boards – with each student writing a message. They wanted to write on our dresses as well but we didn’t wear the one which we were supposed to. They got water from somewhere & played ‘Holi’ since they won’t be able to play on the actual day (next day being Algebra paper). They got marker refill & used it as Holi colors (thank God, we don’t use permanent markers!)

They wrote notes to me & discussed what to do for the farewell party quite efficiently. Responsibilities were delegated & roles were assigned.

What my students felt?

I wish they had expressed what they were thinking. All I could see was, how can we find the best way to do everything in the given time. Most common theme was to tell me to not cry on the farewell day. Some thoughtful students (who wanted to write on my dress) wrote me notes instead. Here is one sample.

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What I did?

I just stood there – looking at all the frenzy around. I wrote on the BMC uniforms of all the students. I gave pens / papers to those who hadn’t any. But mostly, I was a mute spectator of this event. I wanted to shout at them for the water throwing but I refrained from my natural instinct because well; LAST DAY! Lastly, being the hyper-organized one, I did one last discussion about next steps of farewell party & called it a day!

What I felt?

I thought, I would be relieved.. No more rushing out with shoes in one hand & dupatta in the other at 7:10 am. No more checking of papers or dealing with illogical BMC circulars. No more dealing with students answering back, being stubborn OR being rude. But surprisingly, I felt the opposite of it.

I was worried about how they will deal with the upcoming boards. I was sad that I will not have this one place (a class) to meet all my students. I was pensive about what % of my kids after 5 years will call & tell me, “Didi, I have graduated with honors!” But most importantly, I was thinking about if I did anything worthwhile in the last 2 years. I was thinking if I made any difference in their lives OR were they better off without me?

I thought I would choke thinking of all these thoughts & just then Sachin (who wasn’t going to come to the farewell as his last rebellion against me) said, “Didi, aap tension mat lo, mein aa jaunga farewell mein!” And just like that I smiled…

Teach for India

It all starts tomorrow…

The two years now seem like a blur! They did seem unsurmountable while I was going through them (read here of my trials & tribulations), but strangely it culminated quite ‘in order’ (when you expect chaos, even mild disorder feels like order, isn’t it)! 

Tomorrow my class takes their first SSC board exam – their Science practicals! The 2 year journey for me & a key milestone for them is less than 24 hours away! These last few days I’ve been running around for this – collecting journals, smelling pungent HCl fumes & struggling to get that image from a convex lens at 15 cm – to name a few! Obviously, it can’t be a smooth ride as my kids feel the utmost need to add bumpers on the way!
– “Didi, journal ghoom gaya (lost journal which was mandatory for the exam), 
– ” Didi, journal complete hai but cover nahi hai (no brown cover for the journal), 
“Didi, I’m going to Satara for some XYZ funeral so I’ll miss practice practicals. Please adjust know, so that I don’t get lower marks!”
– “Didi, I wrote experiment 4 ka observation table in experiment 6.. Ab kya karu” (interchanged observation tables of experiments & didn’t know what to do)
.. so on so forth.. 

This entire week made me feel like a plumber. Constantly plugging in the leaks in their lives, wherever & whenever they crop up. The leaks are sealed, here’s hoping that whatever seal we’ve applied works well till end of March to give us astounding results…

Leak 1: We just can’t remember. We are blanking out in exams..
This has been a complaint of a significant % of class. So, we decided there is something we can do here. Through the year, we’ve been giving them pneumonics, shortcuts, flash cards etc. to remember. Now it seemed more an anxiety issue so we organized yoga session – mainly focusing on how to concentrate, how to get back focus if you blank out during exams etc. We were very fortunate to have Yoga Siromani Manish Bhaiya from International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre along with his colleagues come n help our students. Read about them here if you wish to conduct some sessions for your students.

Glimpses from the Yoga session

The session went very well with basics of stretching & breathing exercises taught to 80 odd students. It was heartening to see that the next day one of the students actually kept the pen down & did an exercise to try n remember what she had forgotten.

Leak 2: Exam fatigue…
7 prelims is too much & I get it. But the school just refuses to understand that. So, we decided that we should be the sound of reason & told kids to take the last prelim “lightly”. Voilà! The people who wanted to take it lightly or bunk were the ones who needed the most practice 😦 So, we managed to hold the last prelim in a differentiated manner to avoid exam fatigue & give good practice!

Leak 3: Lack of a lab throughout the year
When getting a class is an issue, you can hardly expect students will get to conduct science experiments in a lab. Teachers said, “They’ll just mug up the experiment & write.” After a lot of cajoling, pushing through – they got to see the science lab & us performing experiments (they had a firm belief that kids aren’t sensible enough to handle chemicals themselves). Up side, I was so excited to do labs after 18 years 🙂

There were many more things along the way but without context they won’t make sense so not listing them here. The last few months have been grueling – both for the teachers & the students. But don’t they say, “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for extraordinary destiny” and we really hope that in these 41 cases we do achieve something brilliant. In the next month, do keep us in your prayers – it’ll give us enough blessings to cruise through the exams unaffected!

Random Musings · Teach for India

#tfifellowship – it’s not for the faint hearted!

#tfifellowship is demanding & is not for the faint hearted! The sheer time, committment & mindspace it requires is mind boggling. As I started fellowship, I knew that the challenge I was here to seek was meaty enough! But in the past 1 year 10 months, I would have concluded that it was more an emotionally exhilarating journey than the one stressing me physically.

With efficient self & time management, I never found myself in a position where I was unable to cope up with my work. But I believe I jinxed this myself & God thought, well let’s stress her brawn now more than her brain!

Expose the body to grime & dust!
You will emerge stronger, this process you trust!

My school when we started tenth

April 1 the school decided to go under construction. “We’ll move, we won’t move ” yo-yo moved on the whims & fancies of authorities in-charge. After about 5 months of vacillation, logic didn’t prevail. We were asked to teach while the construction work was going on. The arguments like “there are loose live wires dangling, bamboo erections have become students’ Everests to surmount & the ceiling can collapse on ground floor if the heavy machinery works on the top floors” just weren’t convincing enough for taking any action! We unsuccessfully tried to make these as inhuman & inhospitable conditions of work, but we were told the only way the authorities will take action is if the slab falls on one of the students (falling on teacher would just not cut it)! I couldn’t pray for that now, could I?

In the last 2 months, I have no class. The make shift class given to me has the capacity of 15 & seats 29! It’s beside a toilet which is used with no water connection so a slight whiff of air post recess makes it unbearable to sit. 

But what doesn’t kill makes you stronger! I’ve circumvented the problem of infection (throat, nose, eyes) due to excessive inhaling of dust (cement, brick, pop, mud etc)! My nose has developed an ability to withstand worst of smells thanks to the last 2 months.

Teaching ain’t a piece of cake. 
There ain’t no rest, there ain’t no room – there’s lot at stake!

With little regard for human life, you can hardly expect any regard for nature’s call now, would you? So, quite obviously for a significant period of time we worked from 7:30 am to 12:45 pm without a bathroom break. Naturally, my bladder has now developed super human strength to store ‘stuff’ & my body can survive without water for longer periods of time (a desert expedition should be next on my travel plans). In the last 2 months, we have a bathroom which is used by students after 10. Miraculously, my body can now even time it’s nature’s call 🙂 What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger!

It don’t matter if you’re black or white
Never get in the middle of a cat fight!

A valuable lesson on encroachment was taught to me by my HM. In absence of a class when I went to her, the solution given was come earlier than school time and occupy this class. Don’t leave till I come to school & I’ll work out the details to make the class yours. Surprisingly, the tactic worked (she just didn’t come to school that day) & we got the class. 2 HMs fought like cats & I thought I was the mouse who ate all the cheese. Little did I know that the BMC-BMC bond runs deeper than BMC-TFI bond. Just like that both the cats pounced on this poor mouse & gave us the aforementioned puny class. But I have a class, who am I to whine! What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!

Writing papers is a part of student’s life
Checking them is teacher’s strife!

“These students will study only if you conduct tests.” That’s what we were told! So, against our better judgement we went ahead and had 5 prelims for them (the other BMC class they handled had none btw). Net result, almost every 10 days 90 papers were generated for me to check. And the students ensured that their writing was consistently bad resulting in poor eye sight for me! After checking tons of papers in record breaking time (thanks to husband & sisters who I bribed/bullied to total marks or check objectives or enter marks in tracker etc.), I’m with the same list of passing & failing students but a different power of my lens! By now you know, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

TFI told us that teaching is our only super power! But little do they know, these experiences have created Sharmili version 2.0 – Sharmili with a stronger nose, bigger bladder, encroaching abilities & higher eye power!!! I told you – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger….