As I walk towards the dining hall, I see Mr. X sitting all by himself enjoying his dinner. I join this gentleman who’s kind enough to ask me about my day, every single day. We both started talking about different things like my current project on self-learning with kids of government schools in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka; his interaction with a few government teachers from Odisha and the type of questions they posed; our encounter with film stars and so on. Mr. Y joined us at the table with his cup of curd and some savory on it. When asked about his meal, he said he isn’t hungry enough to eat anything and digest it later on.

The discussion between the three of us started with why children find it difficult to mug up multiplication tables, to which Mr. Y said that they don’t understand the need to learn those. If they do, it won’t be a difficult task. We both completely agreed and poured in some supplementary questions on how to help them understand it, so that they get the logic and don’t have to gulp it. Taking a turn from there, our conversation arrived at the teachers’ interests, their role in a child’s learning, and how treating math differently from languages and science is also a reason for such disinterest and difficulties.

The discussion reached completely new arenas and it was so rich that I remember every topic discussed, along with the way they connected to each other. Isn’t that a great sign of long meaningful conversations!

At some point, these two guys (graduated from IITs) started explaining their stories of using computers for the first time. I clearly remember seeing the brightest spark in those shrunk pupils, the moment they said, “Oh the pagers of that time!”. They told about the gigantic computers and their struggles to get permission to use them. The extremely large cell phones (sat phones which they had to carry around in cars, just like briefcases), why they felt those were useless and how they never wanted to use those.

Apparently, the fastest computer once had 12 KB memory and they’d run companies using these super powerful machines. There were coders for people to write, punch in, compile and draw the flow graphs to get a better understanding of the purpose and to reduce the editing as much as possible since it was not affordable to edit. That was the time when engineers used flow graphs somewhere other than examination halls. All through these conversations, I was just smiling and thinking to myself how young and cheerful these people are. Zero cribbing and most statements starting with “Back in those days, we didn’t…”. They didn’t have a single complaint about this generation as they don’t see themselves from a different era or world. They have grown gracefully and it’s only fun to hang around with them.

When I first started working here at Agastya, I was bogged down a little bit by my co-workers and how their lifestyle looked completely different from mine; how I might not be able to make friends and potentially spend a year in the woods all alone. But, my thinking has completely changed in no time with fun meal-times with the same people and Ted Talk-like conversations floating around. I feel more energized and wise every morning before starting the work and each night before hitting the bed.

P.S. – X and Y are my co-workers about 60 years of age and I enjoy being around them!

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