The Transition- Roller coaster of emotions!

LEARNING!
The very image that comes to our mind when we think of learning is a huge classroom with desks and benches. However, the covid crisis seems to have painted a new picture of learning. Online learning, which involves the judicious use of technology is a wonderful thing and can definitely create miracles.

You are just one click away!

Right?

However, this argument can’t be established well when we talk of the people from the poorer sections of the society. Their challenge is way bigger than what we can even imagine of.

“Hello! Can I talk to Sonali?” (NAME CHANGED)

“Haa Didi, mei Sonali bol rahi hu.” (I am Sonali speaking.)

“Why are you not online? I have constantly been trying to reach out to you. I have send across new videos for you to watch and learn.”

“Didi! Mera Papa bolte hai ki larkiyo ko aukat mei rehna chahiye, isiliye mujhe phone nei dete parne ke liye.”
(My Dad claims that girls should stay in their limits and therefore refuses to give me his mobile phone for studying.)


This was my second phone call with the little child and I was stunned. I was just thinking of how quickly kids create a bond. I have never ever met this kid before and I just could not understand how she felt so comfortable with me.

My work location has been changed and I am not dealing with the same set of kids as last year. The new bunch of kids that I am currently dealing with, in my second year of fellowship, are kids, I have never ever met before. However, few phone calls and messages over WhatsApp made me grow extremely fond of them.

I think they really love me too!๐Ÿ˜

Love from a kid๐Ÿ˜‡ I just hope and pray that I can contribute to their lives…

Coming to the transition part;

Shifting from classroom learning to online learning…

Online learning is not the same for kids from the low income society as is for the middle class, upper middle class and rich sections of the society. Kids from the low income societies have a thousand problems hovering over their heads.

Parents don’t stay at home, hence they do not have a device to access their online lectures.

Parents don’t have a smartphone.

Parents can’t afford the costly internet pack.

The covid crisis compelled the families to go back to their native villages and they do not have network there.

Kids have access to smartphones for a very limited time frame and in that time frame, their siblings are also supposed to study.

AND THR LIST OF THEIR PROBLEMS CONTINUE…

Does it at all mean that we give up?

Not at all for they deserve the best in the world. Poverty has robbed them of the opportunities they deserve in life. However it is our duty to relentlessly work to fetch them those opportunities.

Also, how can I undermine their zeal to learn and grow in life.

There is a particular boy named Omkar. The zeal in him to study and grow in life is just inexplicable. The enthusiasm with which he learns is commendable. I got the chance to talk to his mom and she was telling me of how sincere a boy Omkar is. His father leaves for work early morning and comes back late at night. The family has just a single smartphone which the father carries to work everyday. Omkar has a sister who is in 10th standard currently and also needs the smartphone once the father retires home from work. The mother was telling me that when her husband returns home from work, his phone needs charge and hence, the kids face even more difficulty. However, I was absolutely taken aback when I saw Omkar regularly studying and submitting his works. I just kept wondering, how on Earth did he make time. On further investigation, I realised that he stays up late at night and again wakes up early in the morning to study. I was filled with complete respect for him and sent across silent prayers…

“God, may he achieve all that he wants to.”

He is just in standard six, yet he realises the value of education much better than anyone of us from the richer background.

Honestly they deserve the best in life!

Ahh! I again drifted from what I actually was supposed to write about. Too many emotions grooving in my system at the moment!

Where was I?

Yeah! Transition!

So, the kids are somewhat active on whatsapp. I therefore created a class group on WhatsApp. I have sent them a pdf of their textbook for reference. In addition to that I take classes on zoom. However, the attendance is pretty bad, as expected, owing to the challenges they face. I totally understand and in order to ensure that they do not miss out on any kind of learning, I make small concept videos of say 6-7 minutes and send across on whatsapp. Along with the videos, I send them assignments to do, just to test their understanding. They watch the videos at their own pace and solve the assignments. They call me if they have any doubts and I clarify their doubts. ๐Ÿ˜‡

Now the question is,

How do I check assignments and revert back? ๐Ÿค—

Below is how I do it…

We are not here in the fellowship to just teach…

But,

We are here in the fellowship to bring in a huge transformation…

TO MAKE AN IMPACT!

To give back to the society!

To give back to the nation!

Their lives are not easy

With the increasing count in the number of coronavirus cases throughout the globe, the future definitely looks challenging. While our struggles remain limited to pay cuts, threat to catching the infection and hurdles in our career trajectory, the struggles of people from the low income backgrounds remain way more challenging. Not only do they need to protect themselves and their families against the deadly virus, but they also need to ensure that their families do not starve to death.

The challenges of kids from low-income families further extend to domestic abuse. Statistics point to these kids not feeling safe even in their own houses. In many households, there is an alcoholic father who greets his wife with heavy blows every single day. With the lockdown imposed in the country, these children are having to spend the entire day at home. It pains me to even reflect what must pass through their hearts seeing their mothers ruthlessly beaten at home. Those blows remain confined not just to their mothers but also reaches them too. There is warmth and affection missing in most of the families. As a result, these children march out of their homes thinking violent behaviour is quite acceptable in the society. They are ignorant about how basic respect for mankind looks like. It is believed that warmth and affection can bring about discipline in the lives of these children. However, working with reality, I realized that sometimes affection is also a total failure to instill in discipline in the lives of these children. I am still trying to figure out if years of torture met upon them turned them this stoic and indifferent to love and affection. The success of a nation depends on how its population progresses. The first step to progress, according to me, is a disciplined life. I really look forward to the day when the nation will be erected on the pillars of good education and discipline.

Now, coming back to the violence and torture that the kids need to undergo every single day; I got the opportunity to make phone calls to these children during the lockdown, trying to figure out if they are feeling safe at home. There is a properly planned procedure for making the calls that my organization has shared with me. However, it remains a Herculean task for me to bring myself to ask questions revolving around the same. I simultaneously realize that it must not be a flexible job on their part too, to voice out their concerns, knowing that the reason behind their concern is none other than their very own family.

I sometimes feel that my hands are tied to my back and I am not being able to help them in any way at the moment. However, every single day, I just realize what an important role education has to play in our lives. If there is one single thing that I was asked to name, that can drive away miseries of people, that one thing would be nothing, but education.

Virtual Farewell To The Year 2 Fellows

It all started with a lot of brainstorming and planning.

With the lock down imposed throughout the nation, it was not possible to physically meet to bid farewell to the Teach For India, Year 2 fellows. The nation is going through a crisis and it is really sad that the Year 2 fellows are having to exit the organization without meeting the kids whose lives they have tried to impact for the past two years. However, it was necessary to acknowledge and celebrate their contributions towards the society. A virtual meet on zoom has been planned to bid farewell to the fellows. It is supposed to begin with a small farewell note, followed by a video which depicts their two year journey. Then, the team has planned for a small activity for the year 2 fellows. In that activity, they will be given a collage of pictures with small hints and they are to guess whose fellowship journey is it representing. My team members have also sung recorded the song “yaaro dosti” to be played during the farewell. I have taken up the closing of the farewell. In this regard, I have penned down a poem which I plan to recite today evening.

The following is the poem that I have written:-

A complete year rolled;

We were so busy making memories

That, we barely took note of time.


Stepping in school, the first day as a


TFI fellow, triggered in no less reluctance


Than stepping in school, the first day as a kid.


This time, our eyes did not hunt for our parents,


But, it hunted for the year 2 fellows in school.


Our emotions ย wandered, seeking comfort,

Unease gripped us hard, and then, you came


To our rescue. You guided us all throughout


And had our backs when we fell. With days


Rolling, you no longer remained our colleagues,


But, you became a family. Our journey together


Was way beyond professionalism. Today,


It maybe our last working day together, but,


Our bond is eternal and ever green.


ย ย ย ย ย ย ย ย ย ย ย ย  ย ย ย ย ย ย ย ย ย ย ย ย ย ย ย -DEEPANWITA DEY

29th April 2020

The collaboration!

The one really nice and enriching thing about working in the development sector is interaction with people at the grassroots. Not only does it add to your leadership qualities, but, it teaches you lessons for a lifetime. It teaches you the real meaning of “empathy” and “endurance”.

Today the kids of the school that I am dealing with got the chance to take up a project in their community in collaboration with another well known school named “Vidya Valley”. As their project, which I got the chance to facilitate, they decided to visit the different houses in the community/slum and learn about the dominant problems there.

It was a rainy day and I was almost drenched. The kids from both the schools somehow managed to protect their heads by holding their respective school bags above their heads. We were on our mission to execute the first part of the project, i.e visit the different houses in the community and learn about their problems.

I knocked the first door, unsure of the kind of response that I would get. However, the gentleman who opened the door greeted us with warmth and welcomed us in. No sooner did we make ourselves comfortable than he called his wife asking her to make us a cup of tea. I told the gentleman that we just had a couple of questions for him and would leave immediately. I asked his wife not to take the trouble of making tea. However, they insisted and I just couldn’t refuse.

The kids then began interviewing the gentleman by asking questions which they had already prepared before hand. The gentleman was really patient enough to listen to all the questions attentively and answer to the best of his ability. I was an active note taker and occasionally intervened by asking a few additional questions. After the entire process of interviewing, we realised that garbage disposal was a dominant issue that they faced in their community. In a similar fashion, we visited few more houses and collected data on the issues that they faced.

After the data collection, garbage disposal and domestic violence stood out starkly. We were absolutely clueless as to how this problem could be solved. On brainstorming, we realised that nothing could be more powerful than spreading awareness. Now the question that arose was regarding how exactly are we to spread awareness.

Should we take up classes in the community?

Should we go and personally talk to the people in the community?

After a lot of brainstorming, it was decided that they would perform a Nukkad Natak on the streets. Hence, the preparations began…

Rigourous scripting followed by rigourous practice began… Finally, after practice for a couple of days, the day arrived when they were to perform the Natak on the streets…

Here are a few glimpses from the street play…

Major throwback to 20th September 2019…

Creativity at its best

So what we have a learning gap…

So what our grades are less…

So what we don’t know our tables well…

We are stars who can create miracles with our creativity…

And together we shall fight for the attainment of excellent education…

They made helmets and swords and dressed themselves as power rangers… To my surprise, they didn’t learn the cuttings from any video on the YouTube

Pure creativity it is!

I walked into the class thinking that I will teach them about Indus Valley Civilization but I got so absorbed seeing their creativity that I made them pose for pictures…

Isn’t learning so much fun… ๐Ÿ™ƒ

Zoiab from 3rd grade rejoices at the opportunity of getting to recite a poem before his peers and seniors. Such innocence he parades with…๐Ÿ˜‡

I do not contribute to his academics but I guide him on how he should address a gathering. “Public speaking” they call it in his school.

The brightest smile that he greets me with and the immense respect that he has for me definitely makes every single Friday of mine.

Friendship band after years!

More than seven years rolled since the last time I celebrated friendship day by actually tying friendship bands on the wrist of my friends. I recall those days, sometime back in 2004, when I as a child would be so engrossed making friendship bands with wool on the night previous to that of the friendship day. My whole evening would be spent making friendship bands. Making friendship bands required someone to hold the knot of the three strands of wool while I braided, but, I had no one who could hold it for me. My mother would be so busy catering to my brother who was merely 2 years old and my dad would be busy with other works after office. I therefore would press the knot against the weight of encyclopedias and proceed with the braiding. As time passed, woolen friendship bands transformed into the readymade ones and finally, after years, ended in just a wish.

I grew up!๐Ÿฅบ๐Ÿ˜•

This year, that is 2019, I again got the chance to relive my childhood days when my students tied friendship bands around my wrist. I, like a baby, actually sat counting the number of friendship bands that I got, perhaps, in anticipation for more.

Time flies…

I want my childhood back…๐Ÿฅบ๐Ÿ˜ž

You are an inspiration!

He lives in a world,

Very different to that of ours.

He isn’t moved by the pleasures

Of the world. They say, he can’t

Really distinguish between joy and

Sorrow. Autism they call it!

I say, he feels much more than a

Normal human being does.

His heart, definitely vibrates with

Greater affection than any of ours.

His fellow classmates tease him,

Or sometimes hit him. As a retaliation

He may hit back. But the very next

Moment, I see him hugging them as

A mark of friendship. True, he doesn’t

Realize what a sorry means but he

Understands the gravity of a hug.

His classmates complain, saying,

He hit them first. They lie of course!

When repeatedly asked him about

What happened, he doesn’t shoulder

Blame on others. Instead,

He hugs them and says “dossht”.โ˜บ๏ธ

How many of us actually respect a hug this way? How many of us actually stay true to our “dosssht” a.k.a doosstt a.k.a friend? โ˜บ๏ธ

Such a wonderful soul he is!โค๏ธ

He loves Spiderman, Power rangers and Motu Patlu. He runs to me chanting “Power Rangers” in his repetitive yet adorable tone. He longs for my phone everyday to have but one glimpse of his favourite “Power Rangers”. I give him my phone without opening the image tab of Power Rangers, hoping that he would take effort to figure out a way to spell the word “Power Rangers”. What he does surprises me even more…

He clicks on the mic and speaks to Google ๐Ÿ˜ฑ

~Says “Power Rangers” loudly and there, Google has “Power Rangers” displayed right before him. ๐Ÿ˜…

Today, I plugged in my earphones and gave him my phone. For some reason, the mic wasn’t recognizing his voice…

So, I was teaching him to press “P” and then “O”, trying to gauge if he can understand alphabets. Before I could say “W”, he again surprised me by typing the correct spelling of power rangers without my instructions…๐Ÿ˜ฑ

He makes wonderful objects with clay. Such intricate details he incorporates into those that it leaves everyone awestruck.

They are blessed! They are talented! They are their own boss! They are precious!๐Ÿ˜Š

Feeding the people of poor communities without spending a penny from the pocket.

I joined the Teach For India fellowship on the 27th of April 2019 and the next one month was supposed to be the training period. The training period was rigorous and by the end of each day, it ensured that even the last calorie in our body was burnt. Things weren’t a cake walk and many questions revolted in my system. Each day had it’s own share of hurdles.

One fine day during the training, as a team, we were asked to jot down the ingredients that we would require to feed people at the poor communities.

No! They didn’t mention that we would not be allowed to spend a single penny from our own pocket.

So, was it the company sponsoring?

No!

Then?

It was supposed to be an activity where we had been given two minutes to jot down the things that we would be requiring to feed people at the community. Thinking that the company would be sponsoring, we wrote down every single thing possible, ranging right from serving tray to garbage bags. After the two minutes got over, we had to put our pens aside and were not allowed to add anything to the list. We had around thirty items in the list.

What happened next came as a shocker to us. I could hear the voice of the facilitator saying “Strike out all the odd numbers from your list.”

Basically we weren’t supposed to be using the struck out ingredients. Before the activity began, we didn’t know that we would be asked to do such a thing and hence did not add anything surplus to the list. Then the facilitator called out random even numbers which had to be struck off.

Once the process of striking out of ingredients was done, we were left with few things such as “rice”, “milk”, “sugar”, “cups”, “scissors” and other unnecessary things. The main items such as biscuits, bread, chocolates, chips and cakes were gone.

The facilitator now told us that,

“You won’t be allowed to spend a single penny from your pocket nor will the company sponsor. Also please ensure to use nothing beyond the remaining items. You have a time limit of 2 hours and at no cost will you tell people that you are from Teach For India“.๐Ÿ˜Ÿ

So was it beg-borrow-steal?

I was pretty clueless, so were the others. We had a one hour bus trip to the community and on the bus we sat reflecting about how to execute things out. The one hour seldom helped because all our brains were clogged. It almost occurred as an insurmountable task for all of us. There were seniors in my team, some of them having left their jobs at prestigious organizations like the Barclays and Microsoft to join the Teach For India fellowship. It was an altogether out of the blue experience that I was getting. It was definitely dealing with people at the grassroots and working with sensible and educated people at the same time. The feeling was beautiful.

We arrived at the destination and got off the bus. We didn’t know how to begin. We were as clueless as could be. So we decided to divide ourselves into further smaller teams. One team was supposed to visit the shops nearby asking for help. The other team was supposed to knock doors of the slums asking for help. I was in the second group.

So we went about knocking doors of the slums and asking them for help. We begged them to give us little rice and sugar. They gave us suspicious and cold looks initially, but later, some of the houses consented to help us. We went about door to door knocking and when we realized that we had enough ingredients, we decided to stop. Now the hurdle that was standing out before us was to cook. We decided to make “khir” out of the ingredients.

Now, who would let us enter their houses and cook?

We did not give up!

We went about door to door knocking again, asking the people to let us use their stove. Many rejections came up but one household finally agreed. There was a little girl in the house whose parents had gone out for some work and she agreed to let us in. Her expressions revealed that she was pretty reluctant but she was kind enough to ask us for water.

In the meantime the other team managed to beg for milk and paper cups from CCD and was returning to the community. No sooner did they come than cooking began.

We were running short of time.

The next hurdle was to gather people and actually convince them to eat our cooked “khir”. To cater to this hurdle, we decided to sing and dance our way through the lanes of the community.

As soon as the “khir” was prepared, we got on our feet singing and dancing to distribute the “khir” in those paper cups that we got from CCD. We gathered children asking them to taste the “khir” which we so lovingly cooked for them. Although many children denied to taste it, few however consented.

At the end of the day we managed to feed some fifty kids.

“Bohot accha khir hai, aaplog phirse ana.”

The above line spoken by a few kids with the brightest smile on their faces was our reward for the day. It was a memorable experience altogether.๐Ÿ˜‡