The jeep is waiting to fill itself in all corners. It is ten past eight. “Oh No! I am getting late again”, I said to myself and got up, changed in the usual green kurta and black pajama. I have already packed my bag, with books and water bottle. Next, I splashed my face with the last mug of water left at home in Bikarni, Udaipur, where I am currently staying. Walking still half asleep, I look for my phone. As I saw my mobile screen, I was surprised – “Oh! It’s only 3 in the morning!”
The everyday hustle had now started entering my dreams, replacing the ghosts I used to have in my childhood days. It is difficult to reach the school on time, where I’m working in Jhed village of Kotda Block in Udaipur, Rajasthan. Whenever I say that I am placed at Jhed, the older people at Bikarni sympathize with me.
Initially, in my first month here, it bothered me. Now, in September, the second month, I’m becoming more patient than ever. I have learnt to keep faith in ourselves (students and me) when ideas lose their way in the grazing land. I try to keep them engaged as their attention goes all around the playground, in kicking and poking the one next to them. My days at class room are filled with disappointments, disrespect, miscommunication, and a lot of little milestones full of contentment and joy.
Kailash (a 9th std student) and his friends’ faces drop whenever I ask them to sit in a circle in the class. Some of them want to sit inside the wall. They speak a language alien to me and I speak what they don’t understand. The symbolic interactions reduce when they get busy in copying their home task from the ‘pass’ book (a book that goes around the class) and steal a glance at me.
The skewed boy and girl ratio (37:3) in class VIII and IX, makes me more angry when girls do not come to the school regularly. I have never been with so many boys of this age group earlier. The dominance of men, even outside the class, sometimes threaten my existence. I could have never imagined that answering simple questions regarding my food preference would be a topic of discussion for the Head Master and other male teachers. If only I knew that something so trivial could eventually trouble me, I would’ve avoided answering questions like “What do you love to eat?”. For teachers here, my fondness towards non-vegetarian food is problematic, something that they think is adventurous and should be a secret.
Besides, when I am putting all my energy in the class, either the teachers keep on interrupting or the kids flee away in between. All these realities of education system might be known to you through research papers or reports, and this blog may sound complaining. To be honest, such true but useless information is getting on my nerves too. It makes me confused, leaves me blank, knowing fully well that I am going on the right track and it would be a fruitful year full of learning for me. Learning about what I can do and what I’d like to pursue.
My friend Vivek, who is also the founder of Kshamtalaya Foundation, the organization I am working with, once told me that Revolution is not a dinner party. You need to show up, try different ideas, take a leap of faith and be the change. I am not going to confine myself in the school premises but run after kids, and be the kid who is keen to learn for the betterment of ‘self’. We are here to turn the farmlands into a learning space.
Once, I asked my students that why do they come to school every day. After much probing , some of them said, “What a stupid question! Padhne ke liye (To study)”. Another kid chuckled and said, “Shadi, patni, bachhe ke liye! (For marriage, wife and kids)”. After a long discussion, they came to a common understanding and acknowledged that it is for the betterment of their livelihood. I was astonished to hear varied responses all at once, and was glad to witness the small changes in their thoughts although it cannot be called transformation.
Being with children is like growing a sapling in my balcony. I’d water it every day and it looks the same for days. There are a lot of possibilities and risks attached, in terms of the amount of water, shed, fertilizer, and sunlight required. I’m trying to take care of my students just like a sapling, guiding them by not directly helping but by facilitating, taking one step a time towards revolution.
I dream of a classroom in Jhed, where the mind is without fear, the heads are held high, and knowledge is free. Where the kids learn about social science, language, farming and science all together and not as separate disciplines. Where the kids do not hesitate to raise their voice. Where there are equal opportunities for boys and girls. Where the teachers acknowledge themselves as learners and take part in child’s growth. Where all of us practice mindfulness!
But the clock is ticking, and while I am penning down my 877th word, I am committed to show up and try my best before giving up with hundreds of ‘True but useless information’ because “Revolution is not a dinner party!”.