Today, I have a little too much of motivation to wake up, dress up, show up in the foyer and hit the road ASAP!
“Why? What’s the reason for this adrenaline rush?”, I asked myself…
It’s the rural immersion, something that I’ve faintly heard of, but was highly interested in. Today, our only rule was to explore a village without asking any questions from its residents. On our way, I could see myself moving away from the city towards an untouched and unexplored place, with my co-fellows (people who joined India Fellow with me), in a 7-seat auto-rickshaw heading towards the village. I felt the thrive.
A lot of things were happening in no particular order. While my co-fellow was talking to a shopkeeper in an attempt to understand the supply chain of grocery products in the village, I was trying to talk to a 7-year-old in Marwadi. A few moments later, we were standing on a graveyard to save ourselves from the rain.
After spending a good 5-6 hours in the village, we were about to head back to Udaipur. But, I couldn’t do that without visiting at least one school. I quickly went ahead and entered this secondary public school situated high up on a hill, with rustic gates and a worn-out building, close to a tea stall.
A lot of curious eyes were watching me from a distance. There were students, teachers, watchmen and other staff. In their head, they were waiting for me to pull out a form from my bag and start a survey because that’s why outsiders come here. To their surprise, I was there just to spend some time with the kids and have fun. Walking into the playground with them, while they waved at me and climbed the monkey ladder at the same time, I couldn’t help grinning. Within a few minutes, I found myself surrounded with 15-20 children.
Only one of them came forward to strike a conversation without any apprehension. She was Durga, a 12-year-old girl. After that brave act of hers, questions started pouring in from others.
“Madam tumara naam kya hai?” (Madam, what’s your name?)
“Tum kahan se aayi ho?” (Where have you come from)
“Kya tum hamara class logi?” (Will you take our class)
“Aur kithni didi aayi hain madam?” (How many more like you have come)
As I answered them, I could see someone waving at from far away. It was the school clerk who was inviting me to have a chat with the Principal. I talked to her, explaining the purpose of my visit. She was kind enough to not mind my presence even though it was causing slight interruption in classes.
Next, I was in an English class. “Teacher humein dance sikhao na” (Teacher, please teach us how to dance), was one common request from these kids. I don’t know what made them think that I am a good dancer or even a teacher. Though their teacher was polite, I couldn’t take too much of their time. Within 5-10 minutes, I said goodbye and started walking towards the gate.
As the distance between me and the classroom kept increasing, voices from the classroom became louder. I could clearly hear Durga and her friend Leela, saying, “Teacher na ja na!” (Teacher, please don’t go!) on the top of their voices. In the memory lane, I was drawn back to the time when something similar had happened.
Three years ago, during my first professional internship, I was a facilitator at a government residential school in Telangana (my home state). It was challenging yet, interesting. Challenging because I was a part of an organizational hierarchy for the first time. I had to report twice a day, follow a schedule that was occupying almost 15 hours of my day. Interesting, and also motivating because of the energy I received from the girls on campus. Their enthusiasm and positive attitude towards life had been a great push for me to do my best. All the “Good morning didi“, “Good evening didi“, and “Good night didi” greetings had not only helped me stay pumped throughout the day but also led me to work at ten more camps like that.
The joy of seeing young girls and boys, their tiny acts of mischief and wonderful amount of kindness are a few things that I can’t get enough of. I think I can trade almost anything to spend time in such setups all my life. I’m not sure if I will spend time in a school this year (we are yet to find out our projects) and if I’ll be able to experience such joy in a different setting. But, I realize that life comes in patterns, and I see one building all through.
Leaving behind everything, I entered this fellowship with faith as my only investment. Faith in people close to me, faith in the program and faith in myself. Having such an experience with kids on the first day in a village, makes me believe in the decisions that I’ve made.
P.S. Supriya got a project at Agastya International Foundation in Kuppam, Andhra Pradesh where she will be working with students throughout the year.