Saturday, October 13, 2012

Dear Malala

Dear Malala,
Even as I am writing this, you are struggling between life and death, with an entire nation, nay, a world that prays for your speedy and safe recovery. 
The first thing I did when I heard about what happened to you was of course google your name and I was shocked to see your year of birth as 1998. As young as 14! It took me back to what I was doing when I was 14.
Preparing for my boards exams, waiting for a Harry Potter novel, struggling with weight issues, worrying about pimples and a bunch of other things which seemed awfully important to me back then.

Education and women's rights activism? Naah not a chance in the world.

Writing a blog and expressing my views on promoting education for girls? I am pretty sure I was still writing essays titled "Television, boon or bane," back then.

Fighting to get the girls in my country educated? Nope! (I would most likely have fought for the opposite at that age and the maturity level that I had back then)

Getting threats from militant organistions? I am not sure I even knew what that term meant back then.

In relative comparison to you, the 14th year of my life makes me look painfully retarded.

I was brought up in a cocooned atmosphere. Education was almost a birth right. There was never a threat or danger to me receiving quality education, which is probably why I never valued it back then. 

Today, I am a teacher. Teaching 8 year old kids in an impoverished government school in Chennai and your shooting angers me to no end. It leaves a dull ache in my heart because I have a very vague idea of what you are fighting for. Because I have a class of 7 girls and 21 boys and despite all odds being in their favor (lack of militant organisations, lack of people thinking 10-14 year old girls are threats, no fear of someone pumping bullets in your head, lack of death threats, etc) quality education seems like a distant dream.

You inspire me Malala
To go out there everyday and try my best and give my children the very best education that I can and help them fight against all the odds stacked against them
To try and instill in them whatever it was that your father instilled in you that made you so socially aware and sensitive way before the age of 14
To tell my girls your story so they understand what a struggle it is for girls in some parts of the world to go to school. And that problems of lack of running water and clean toilets pale in comparision to the problems of bullets in your head.
To tell my boys your story and sensitise them so they can send their sisters to school
To increase the enrollment ratio of girls in my school (I have 28 kids. The ratio in my class is 1:3 in favor of the boys)

You humble me Malala. immensely
I am almost twice as old as you are and I thought I was doing something awfully important when I started my fellowship with Teach for India.
There are times when I feel sorry for myself that I have to teach in a classroom which has no electricity. Better than living the constant fear that you might have no school.
There are times when I feel sorry for my children that they have to walk barefeet to reach school. Pales in comparison to walking in mortal fear of your life
There are times when I think I am doing as much as I can and leave the rest to chance. I realise now that now that it is a continuous fight. That one day all children WILL attain an excellent education come what may.

You give me hope Malala,
For in the times we live in, you give me immense hope
On the days that I think I am fighting a losing battle, I shall think of you and fight harder.
On the days that I think that my country does not give importance to education and girls, I shall think of you and ask myself what can I do about it
On the days that I am trying to talk to yet another parent who thinks education is not important for her girl child, I shall think of you and try harder
On the days that I think I am powerless against irrepressible forces, I shall think of your young 14 year old face and it will make my resolve stronger

I look at your picture and it makes me want to cry. Try as I might, I cannot for the life of me find anything threatening about this picture. I only see an innocent little girl with an iron resolve to make things better for herself and her country.
And I cannot begin to imagine what went through the minds of those who thought it was necessary to wipe you off the face of the earth and continue to bay for your blood.
I don’t know when you will recover. I don’t know how you will fight the forces that be. I don't know if the women in your country (and mine) will ever become truly liberated and educated in our time but one thing I know for sure, is that you give immense inspiration and hope to girls and women in your country (and mine) and you make our fight stronger
May your tribe increase.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Messed up Metaphors

So the tea shop right outside my school is a METAPHOR which I frequently use to tell my children about the kind of lives they should NOT aspire for.

Any child who does not do homework, does not come to school or uses poor language is always told, "Do you want to be like those men sitting in the tea shop in the morning? Always drinking tea and never doing any work? Have you seen a policeman drink tea there? Have you seen a doctor drink tea there? Have you seen a pilot come and drink tea there? The tea shop owner himself doesn't sit and drink tea there because he is busy making tea and doing work" and so on.

It is the MOST successful METAPHOR in my class and gets my kids in line almost instantly. I can almost hear their thoughts, "Must. NOT. drink. tea. in. tea. shop"

So today morning (an off day for kids but teachers had to come) tragedy struck when I was caught drinking tea at the tea shop by two of my students. 

Dai, paaru da, miss tea kudikaranga (Hey look, Miss is drinking tea) said in the same tone used to say, "Look, miss has been caught with a glass of whisky"


Kill me now

In my defense, It was NOT A WORKING DAY AND I WANTED TO DRINK TEA! Arrrgh!
Also, it's ONLY a metaphor! Hullo!

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Bits and pieces from an ordinary life

1. So last week saw me falling down a flight of stairs and severely hurting my bum, so much so that the tissues around my bum are now totally damaged which means I can't sit. At all.
Yes. I shall now pause and wait for you to finish laughing and cracking all the bum jokes that you can think of. I have already cracked the "Sorry yaar, mai bumaar hoon" joke and have had other inconsiderate friends cracking the "How are you? hope you are doing kickass".
And this means I cannot cycle to school for at least a week, which is quite sad given its the only form of physical exercise I get (does shouting at kids, standing all day in a classroom with no electricity and running after kids during recess count by the way?). I really enjoy the early morning ride to school. Helps me plan my day and clear my head. Need to fix this posterior of mine, and fast.
Also these things have a way of happening to me. I was walking carefully down the stairs and the next thing I knew Dham dham dham and my tail bone is now severely injured.

2. Also with the Olympics going on an everything I have been following the news about Olympics on and off. And I have been laughing ever since I heard that the gold medal in trampoline was won by ..... wait for it... Dong Dong! -
but seriously. The only thing I can think of is that his parents named him after they heard the noise he made while jumping on the trampoline when he was a baby. Dong Dong Dong Dong.
Also I am curious to know if he has a brother called Ding and another one called Bell. Also is Dong both his first AND last name? Now that would be seriously funny!
And do people in his house rush to the door every time they hear his name because you know, how does one differentiate between a doorbell and a name like Dong Dong.
Here's the link by the way - DONG DONG

3. Teaching third grade kids who don't understand a word of English has to be the MOST challenging thing I ever did. (a close second would be watching half an Emraan Hashmi movie.) I realise that to make them understand I am increasingly beginning to talk like a retard. "You go house and write homework" I said yesterday and mentally kicked myself for how awful my english had become. In my defense when they dont know what home means and finish means I cant really say "Go home and finish homework" no?. Also the kind of questions I am being asked are quite legendary. So I was teaching subtraction with borrow and the number was 912 - 678 and this kid says "Miss tens so poor, have only one number. I borrow directly from hundreds? Yes?" and proceeded to do just that. kept the 1 in 912 intact and borrowed two times from 9 instead! Sighness. And dont you DARE say, oh my what a creative child because I will kick you where it hurts!

4. The weekend also saw me watching Ice Age 2 (where I had to constantly shift positions from one bum to the other because well, I cant sit properly without pain otherwise. This qualifies as the MOST embarrassing and uncomfortable injury ever and I have had some serious injuries before.)
I LOVED the movie and it made me wish I was IN the ice age while the continent drifted apart. SO MUCH coolness. Wow. Also Diego gets a girlfriend! :)
And Sid is still my favorite ice age character. My favorite scene is when Manny says "Diego is suffering from the L word" and Sid says "Leprosy?" and Manny says "No. It starts with an L and ends with an E" and Sid says, "Lice?". Hahahha! Also, there is an Indian villain in the movie who is called Gupta! Heh! Do watch it. The 3D is not great but the movie is awesome

5. And tomorrow is a HOLIDAY! Yay! :D. I am probably more excited than my kids at having a holiday. Its my first one in two months and if you have ever been a primary school teacher you will know how hectic and awfully busy the first two months of school can be. Both professionally and personally I have been SO busy in the past two months that its not even funny. Tomorrow I shall reply to emails from friends which have been languishing in my inbox for ages (Sorry B, tomorrow your mails shall be replied to!), tomorrow I shall clean my cupboard, tomorrow I will finish reading an entire book, tomorrow I will go for a long walk (weather in Chennai is lovely), tomorrow I will go and treat myself to some chocolate ice cream, tomorrow I will watch  "Through sunglasses", an Iranian movie which I have been meaning to watch for errr- 2 years now. (I should just get back to watching more world cinema.)
Though knowing me I know that I will probably just spend it correcting papers and making worksheets and entering data and crying at how my kids have STILL not mastered subtraction with borrow despite me drilling it for two months. Sighness!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

And I am SO proud of myself..

I would normally not write about something like this. Definitely not on my blog. And most definitely not when I am writing a post after two months.
But I have to say what I have to say.
So the last weekend saw me going to Madurai to meet my sister's edible and possibly the cutest twin babies on the planet, G and N. No cannibalistic tendencies but honestly they are SUCH cute kids that one just wants to stuff them between two slices of bread and have them for breakfast. Om nom nom.
Now that you are sufficiently disgusted let me continue.
As the trip to Madurai was about as efficiently planned as the errr... most unplanned trip to Madurai ever, I just went to Koyambedu and took one of the many buses leaving for Madurai
What follows is not something which is happening to me for the first time. It has happened to me before, has happened to ALL women/girls I know and very sadly will continue to happen till, well, we wipe men out from the planet. Which by the way is SUCH a good idea. Just freeze a couple of million good sperms (only if you want to that is. Because then we would have boy babies and after G was born I feel kindly towards boy babies so we can't really kill the boy babies you know. I would feel bad :P), wipe out the men and there you go - world peace, no strife, no hunger problems, no rape, no molestation, no dowry deaths, no need for contraception, no population explosion, no wet towels on the bed, no...
But I digress. More on this later.
So you might ask me why I choose to write about this particular incident when there have been so many.
Because I am proud of myself. So proud that I kicked a man in his balls in front of a bus full of men, who *might* be potential molestors themselves. Proud of the fact that there is now one man in Tamil Nadu who will DEFINITELY think twice before he even touches his own wife.
I shall not go into the gory details of what happened but in the middle of the night, I shouted at a bastard, swore at him in my most galeej tamil, poured a litre of water on his head, woke up everyone on the bus, confiscated his voter id card, kicked him in his balls...Thrice, made a co passenger slap him on his face, twice, and then waited till the bus reached the middle of nowhere, asked the bus to stop and made him get down.
I wish I had pepper spray. So I could have made his life more miserable but man! I am so proud of myself.
I also threatened to publish his photo is all the local newspapers that I know of and put it in public forums so people KNOW who he is. Which I have not been able to do. Because I don't know how to go about it. And also because if newspapers started carrying pictures of molestors, then well, there would ONLY be pictures of molestors in papers and little else.
So I shall share his picture and details here. And hope that the few good people who do visit this blog shall tell me how I can go about making his life miserable. Please give me really good ideas to make him regret his birth on this planet.

P.S: So a funny thing happened. When I shouted at this man and asked him how he DARE put his loathsome  effing hand on me, he replies saying "I am a decent man. I did my engineering"

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Of crying babies, teaching and Mumbai

1. So all the women I love and love talking to for hours on the phone are now busy taking care of small, wailing, peeing, pooping creatures and have no time to spend talking to me. So my sister (and hence my mother) and my best friend have been so busy taking care of little babies that they don't remember the last time they were devoid of baby vomit, baby poop and smelt like a woman. My sister went as far as giving birth to not one but TWO babies and the house is completely and constantly chaotic with constant baby squeals and gazillion diapers and thousands of bottles of formula and cute little baby clothes hanging on the clothes line. I miss not being at home in Jamnagar where the worlds best niece and nephew are growing up too fast for me to catch up and watching them grow on skype doesnt really cut it. And Milinta, my best friend, thankfully gave birth to only one but one super hyperactive boy who can sit still for exactly 4 seconds before indulging in some activity. In her own words, "Revs, he can crawl faster than me. I can't catch up with him anymore. Phew". Oh well. The day I have kids I will directly have 6 year olds and send them away to school.

2. So till about a couple of months back (before the baby boom hit our family) the mater and pater were getting really worried and had come to the conclusion that I will remain a spinster for the rest of my life and possibly run away to Africa and start teaching young kids in Sudan or something. From coercion to pleading me to get married my parents were quite at their wits end. It also doesn't help that I work as a teacher (earning a pittance) in one of the worst slums of Mumbai (home to Chota Shakeel) and teach slum kids for a living. Most "prospective" alliances are rejected because I am not qualified enough or because I am a teacher or I don't earn enough or because I work for an NGO or the BEST - "if she works in a slum won't she contract some serious disease? Sorry. We don't want our son to get some terrible disease" HAHAHAHHAHAHAH! I think I laughed for three days continuously when I heard that!
Oh well. You need all kinds of people to make the world.

3. Which brings me to my third rant of the day. I think it is very sad that parents want excellent teachers for their kids but they do NOT want their children to aspire to be excellent teachers. You can be an excellent doctor, engineer, pilot but God forbid if you became a teacher then your career and your life are fucked for eternity. Surprisingly though, in the slum I teach in, I am the MOST respected person. I get special seats in the auto, rowdies won't eve tease me, parents will wear their best clothes when they come to meet me because I am a "teacher". A well educated person who knows it all. But in the so called "upper and middle class" I am looked down upon so violently it is shocking. "A teacher," say most people with a sneer. Why? they want to know. As if I decided to sell my kidneys or indluge in slave trade to earn some money for myself. BUT they will be the first people to complain or take up arms if their child's teacher doesn't teach properly. Very sad state of affairs for a country if teachers aren't respected or paid well enough.

4.So come June, I shall shift BACK to Chennai from Mumbai. I remember when I had to leave Chennai last year to come to Mumbai, I cried buckets and was extremely apprehensive about moving to a new city and that too to Mumbai, a purportedly hostile and tiring city. But now that I have to leave Mumbai to go finish my fellowship and teach in Chennai for an year, I feel hollow from within. I have come to love Mumbai and i LOVE the life this city exudes. This is possibly the only city which matches my pace and is as fast as I would like a city to be. I have had the most amazing time living in Mumbai, traveling in the city, teaching and interacting with the people in this city. Much as I like Chennai, I think the city is light years behind Mumbai in every sense. I don't want to romanticise Mumbai because no doubt it IS a difficult city and is a city of extremes with stark differences and contrasts in the living conditions of people of various incomes. But the city has been kind to me and for that I will be forever indebted.

5. So the other day I was feeling really senti about leaving my kids in Mumbai and going to Chennai and I put up pictures of me with all my kids in Facebook, with a short note about each child. So I had put up a picture of me with the Math whiz kid in my class who can multiply faster in his head than I can do on paper. AND my favorite Math teacher comments on that and says the following. (Click image). This happened a week back but I am still floating on cloud nine. My rather flawed, fail and tumultuous life has come a full circle. :)

Monday, March 19, 2012

And this is what teachers talk about a day before exams!

So it has been a little crazy with the end of year exams and my upcoming trip to the US and shifting out of Mumbai and about a gazillion other things which I don't have the time to go into.
I have been more stressed about the exams than my kids who are pretty bindaas about it and call me a day before the exam to ask "Didi, tomorrow exam? why? what exam?" while I hyperventilate and hope not to die of a weak heart.
I find solace by putting up statuses on facebook about my kids and getting opinions from other teachers.
So yesterday I put up a status message about how I was super tensed about my kids' exams and following were the responses I got from other fellow teachers.
You might have to click on the picture to expand it and read it. I think it's worth it. :)
NOW I know what my teachers spoke about, a day before our exams while all the time as a student I thought that they were chilling and waiting for us to get massacred. Ah! Perspective! :)

Friday, March 16, 2012

The true purpose of a country's existence

You know how most people spend their entire lives finding the true purpose of their existence and spend a lot of time talking about it and wondering when they will find theirs?
I mean I know people who have lived to be a 65 and still wondering what is the purpose of THEIR existence on this planet.

Well for the fact that it is a country, and a fairly young one at that, I think Bangladesh is DAMN lucky that just 41 years after its creation it has found the "true purpose of its existence".

The true purpose of Bangladesh's existence is so that Sachin could one day score his 100th 100 in this country. :P

P.S: I can't believe I have lived in a time when

- I saw the passing of a millenium
- India won the world cup
- Sachin made 200 runs
- Sachin made 10,000 runs
- Sachin made his 100th 100

I feel truly blessed.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

and THIS is pretty much why I teach

So after school I usually take all my naughty kids and personally drop them off home to prevent them from getting into trouble and killing or maiming each other. The other day after dropping off two of them, Gaurav and I were walking hand in hand on the road, him humming Chammak Chalo and me smiling and feeling happy the way I usually do after school.
The best part about me and Gaurav is that no words need to be exchanged between us but we can still keep walking and turning around periodically to smile at each other. It is the best part of my day because Gaurav ALWAYS has a guilty smile which is the kind of smile kids give when they know they have done some mischief. He has this irrespective of whether he has been naughty or not.
So the other day while I was walking with Gaurav, I felt this sudden urgent tug on my hand.

Gaurav: didiiii, didiiiii

Me: What is it Gaurav?

Gaurav: That truck ke peeche. Look

Me: (puzzled): Yes?

Gaurav: I can read what is written on it
Horn. Ok. Please

"I can read everything now didiiiiii" (wide grin)

It is moments like these that make ALL of it worth it.
The Mumbai rains, the Mumbai trains, the dirty slum, the lecherous men, the rotting garbage, the stuffy classroom, the long, tiring days, the sore throat.
Everything pales in comparison to this one moment when the world around him starts making sense for a child of mine who couldn't write his own name an year ago.

This is why I teach.

P.S: This was my 200th post :)

P.P.S: This is my Gaurav.

My bhai! Mumbhai ka bhai wearing my glasses! :)

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Hello there! :)

(llo llo llo llo)
The -llo -llo -llo -llo my friends was the sound of my hello echoing off the empty walls of an abandoned/haunted house which is pretty much how GBCI has become.

(laughs at own joke, realising she is the only one)

So it has ALMOST been two years since I stepped into this space. This, that was once my comfort zone, once the place i frequented the most, the place I liked most in the world. almost like a relationship. four year long relationship which I broke on a whim and which like all relationships do, took something out of me which I valued the most. My writing skills (if any existed)
I find it impossible now to write. About anything. And all that thinking about what to write wastes too much time. Time which I don't have.
So maybe I will start with what has happened these two years. I am sure all my two readers TOTALLY want to know where I have been up to so here goes.
So the last time you guys read GBCI, I was doing a course in journalism waiting to become the next Goenka asking people uncomfortable questions and making their lives miserable.
BUT I didnt. I mean I did try. So I joined the largest selling English daily in the world and worked for an year and then quit.
Quit to do what you might ask.

"Get married?"  No
"Become a nuclear scientist?"  No
"Go back to software?" Hell! No
"To do nothing. Err?" Haha! No
"To study some more? Dear God!" That was on the cards. But No!

So I quit to become a school teacher.
Haha! What I would give to see the expression on your faces right now.
Like my dad says "You are going down the ladder of success. From software engineer to jounralism to teacher. What next? watchman?"
Yes. So now I teach fifth grade kids in a low income school in Mumbai. And this has to be the best job I have EVER taken up.
More in my next post about what it is that I do and an introduction to the best-est kids on the planet
So long then!