As a student of Bengali medium Government aided school, I used to consider that ‘teaching’ and ‘learning’ are two sides of the same coin. For me, schools, as institutions co-existed with learning. With time, I forgot to look back at those days when my mind used to control my actions to not let others know that I feel out of place, to not be incorrect and then be ashamed of it. I neither opened up to truth nor let my confusions get the required clarity. Instead, they dissolved inside.
Learning was always associated with impressing others or being confused with them. There have been piles of doubts and ideas that I’ve gulped down and later, even erased them from the recycle bin. Learning was never a heavy word but a huge task. I only gave attention to its spelling but never to the meaning. As I look back, I see a hollow pathway waiting to absorb all the experiences. I consume words coming my way, and find myself looking only for things that are assigned to me. I have missed too many chances to be close to the flowers, mountains, birds and clouds. The quest of learning triggers my senses as strongly as the fragrance of fish and rice.
When I asked aai (one of my school student’s mother-in-law) what she wants to learn and share with others, her answer left me in awe. She wants to learn tailoring and would love to teach farming.
As I look at the children in school, they are a lot like my old version. They do not think that they have any knowledge to share. I wonder how self-learning has not been taken into account, yet. I paint but haven’t thought of myself as a learner in that field as I don’t have any certificates or institutional guidance in the subject. On the other hand, when I look at my certificates, I see a lost learner trying to cope up with the system, memorizing the truth and theories of others without even resonating with them.
All these years of knowing the unknown and ignoring the known has led to difficulties in articulating my thoughts. There is an absence of structure. Once, my brother said that a good heart full of love is precious to bring change but without any support of proper structure and plan, the ideology carries no value. We need to channelize our energy into something tangible, something quantitative but I often find myself stuck in qualitative. Can we really separate the two!?
These days, I am learning how to balance two buckets of water while climbing uphill, before taking bath and going to the toilet. Now I almost walk steady, making sure that half of the water doesn’t fall on the streets. I’ve perceived it as a way to show my strength, which was once hidden, but is now, no more a secret. Insect bitten fingers once broke me to tears as I felt powerless looking at them. In the last few weeks, my words have curled up, got shrieked and crumpled; and it took a lot of time to exhale.
These days, I am learning to accept love as love, without categorizing it. I am learning to be more expressive through my words. I am learning the language spoken by my school kids. I am learning to facilitate. I am learning to drive the energy in a moment rather than being driven.
This world is a stage where many times, ‘Me’ (the social self) overpowers ‘I’ (the ego-self). I am trying to be as authentic as I can be, with myself and with others. I am learning to stay open to learn and ask for help when nothing goes right. With all this, I am taking a leap of faith to milk the goat, to use the hand-driven oven for roasting corns, to talk to women in the local language.
Recalling my first day at Kshamtalaya in Udaipur. I needed to visit bank. When I asked about the nearest bank from my program manager, Saumya, she said, “You will find out”. A day before that, when I had asked Anupama, an India Fellow team member, about the way to reach Kshamtalaya office, her response was just the same. My journey of last 23 years had always been guided, and hence, I found this behavior apathetic. But now, after 4 months, I understand that I need to find out, through simple but critical decisions, self-analysis, love and/or appreciation.