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"

Oh.My.God!

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!