Resurfacing

I’m just writing to be back in this blogging space that I miss right now. It’s been so long that I feel like Tom Hanks on the island that is my blog.

It’s been so long that wordpress has gone and changed it’s interface which I’m now having trouble with.

My 2 year Fellowship is nearly at its end. I’ve got to say these 2 years have been pretty pivotal and life-defining. It’s not just my experiences in the classroom, it’s also everything else thrown into the crockpot of life in Mumbai.

I’m up past 4am writing cover letters for jobs I’m applying to, but if I could write a cover letter for a vacation that I really want it would be the most convincing. Because a vacation is what I really want. 2-3 months tops.

A vacation sans worries of student achievement (or lack thereof), sans worries of the clothes that are getting too tight for me and my diminishing bank balance, sans talk of marriage, sans career worries. A vacation to just be; to look back on these 2 years and who I’ve become and then dream a little before I throw myself into my next venture.

Here’s where some very well-intentioned close ones are going to ask me “What is that next venture??” Or they’ll tell me a weekend would be enough to do all that reflection, or that career opportunities aren’t waiting around for me to come back from a vacation.

Orrr they’ll tell me that my next venture should be marriage..and maybe a baby? “No. No beta, no vacation. Take husband, make baby. Settle down.”

What’s the hurry, world?

It’s funny that my biological clock ticks loudest in everybody else’s ears but mine.

And that’s all that I have to say tonight. I probably should sleep before I face my class of 45 energetic 8 year olds. The more tired I am, the more unpleasantly eventful the day tends to be. God has his ways of trying me. There are many things my mum says I’ll only understand when I have kids. But I think being a teacher has made me understand how tiring it is to stay cooped up in the house with kids all day.  Ha. It makes sense. That’s actually the reason why a lot of my stay-at-home mums send their kids to school. Free government school education and supplies. AND a free day-time baby-sitter..who stupidly stayed up all night before school.

 

So, what’s your class like?

That’s a question to which I’d have to bite back the answer that’s usually raging to burst forth in my frustration. Before I began teaching, I pictured all I’d do as a teacher. Writing about my students figures among the many things I still haven’t done yet. It’s been 3 months since I last posted here. It’s not that I didn’t have time or stories to put up here, it’s that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be voicing all I felt in the past 3 months.

 

The first month was ok. I was in ‘observer’ mode. Even if days at school were horrible, I’d cut myself slack because you know..”It’s only the beginning.”, “The kids are just testing you.”, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”, “It’ll get better.”

Pushed through to the second month and I realised that waking up in the morning to go to school is still not easy. Until I became a teacher, I had no idea that it’s not just students that try to avoid coming to school. Teachers with a class of seeming juvenile delinquents will find themselves hoping for floods, transport strikes or the apocalypse every morning before school.

Two months in, I hadn’t yet reached the point where my students became people I wanted to meet everyday. They seemed like a terrorist-training camp waiting for me in class 8-C so that they could unleash their evil on me. I hoped students would be absent. I hoped that school area would be flooded. And I’d thought it was only students that dreaded school-day mornings.

I’d also think a taser should be in the teacher kit handed out to teachers in my school. At least a pellet gun. Interrupting a nice lesson a zillion times to discipline a student had become a major piss-off – on some days, my tolerance levels would hit the floor and I’d go batshit crazy on them. At the end of a school-day, getting them to leave class in an orderly manner was the bane of my existence as a school teacher. Other fellows had told me to make them stay back and repeat exit procedures till they did it right..but OH GOD,on most days all I wanted was for them to LEAVE ALREADY! The nicer students, to make sure it’s ok to exit through the door which I guard like a mental dragon on PMS, would ask me very diminutively, “Didi, can I leave?” And then I have to topple many levels down to smile a ‘kind teacher’ smile when my head is screaming ‘PLEASE LEAVEE. LEAVE ME AND GOO! Go far faaar away.’

By this point I’d reached the point where I was very aware of how much my students would benefit from having books to read, trips to any place outside of their slum, a blackboard that didn’t reflect sunlight, a projector to view videos and pictures during lessons. Obviously, I had to reach out for aid. But, I was still so bummed- at their behaviour, at their community, at the school system. I realise now that I was wrong then, but on many of those days you’d find me saying “They don’t deserve anything.” because I was so tired and frustrated. A more-experienced Fellow would gently tell me I was wrong, and that tiny sensible voice in my head would agree but fail to be loud enough to drown out the exasperated voice. In my calmer moments, I’d plan on acquiring funds for my class, but there was never a window of calm wide enough that allowed me to objectively relate my classroom experiences, and act on any ambitious intent I had. So, I waited out that turbulent period and I’m here now.

 

I’ve now completed 3 months as their teacher, and just as they are not yet the students I wish they’d be, I’m still not the teacher I want to be to them. But, I know I’ll get there sooner than later. And now, three months in, a little worse for wear, but wiser nonetheless, I can tell you what my class is like –

They are not a bunch of small evil persons. They are a classroom of 12,13 year olds who can be incredibly funny, witty and even considerate.

They are not a pack of dogs attacking a wounded pigeon. They are just students who don’t know if a new teacher like me will care about them enough to stay with them.

They are students who like the little boy that pulls the little girl’s pigtails while wanting her affection,  rock the boat while waiting for the day when I manage to steady it. (They have very helpfully suggested throwing kids out of our boat. A very practical lot. 🙂 )

As much as my class with it’s fights and gaali-flinging can sometimes look like a zoo gone crazy, they are still only children, and not animals- impressionable children who can be guided down better paths.They are students who have physical and verbal abuse thrown at them and around them daily, and are then asked to choose values of non-violence and respect in the face of all that.

They are students who ask for extra-classes- post school and on weekends because their time in the classroom is better than time in their one-room house in the slum.

And lastly and most importantly, they are students who are certainly not undeserving. I had to try much, much lesser to access the education I was given. And at least my education amounted to something..what they’re offered is a sorry excuse for an education and yet, many of them are there every day grabbing at whatever is offered. If I were in their place, there’s no saying if I’d even have stuck it out till 8th standard. So, this class of mine- they deserve everything I can give them, and more.

IMAG1028

This was a chaotic class in progress. That big chart was transitioning from being used as a shelter for 3 students to being a cape. It later became a walking cone in the classroom and finally a floor mat for the cape-wearing, cone-boy who chose to be a homeless beggar in his last act.

At this point, I had the camera out and said I’d be showing the recording of their class behavior to both the principal and their parents. Not such a cool move, but 15 minutes later I had my class in place – as seen below.

IMAG1029

One day, this state of calm will last longer than 3 minutes. One day. Soon!

 

Two roads diverged in a wood..

..and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

~”The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost 

Today’s Daily Prompt is about Taking Chances.

Until this year, I’d have a hard time picking a significant instance of taking a chance on something, but this year, for me, is the year of taking chances.

I go from being an engineer to a school teacher, with my career after 2 years still unplanned. 

I move from comfy, good-weather Bangalore where family is, to Mumbai which has been presented to me as a stinky, crowded, dengue-ridden, flood-prone city. 🙂  But the nay-sayers haven’t managed to deter me. No. I’m pushing on – excited and happy (and maybe a little bit naive). I chose Mumbai, I chose my adventure. I’m pretty sure I won’t regret it. You know why? Cos I’ve heard more ÏloveMumbai than Ilove<insert any other Indian city>. I’m going to take them Mumbai-lovers at their word and discover it for myself.

I’m stalling marriage. No, I don’t have a guy down on one knee asking me for my hand..Oh wait. I have about 6 in line right now..on a matrimonial site. 

The reason why I put that under ‘taking chances’ is because that’s what it’s seen as by the traditionalists in my Indian family. I’m 24- the age at which there’s a very high demand for girls like me. The older I get, the demand goes down in the marriage market. I know. I sound like a commodity. This has both made my stomach turn. and made me laugh. Don’t get me wrong, my parents don’t see me as commodity..but those are the rules of the arranged marriage game. Your daughter has the best chances of winning herself a prize-groom if she (or rather- her parents) plays her hand in her early 20s. 

It’s no surprise that I love some dialogues in the Pixar movie Brave. For those who aren’t familiar with the story line- the film tells the story of a princess named Merida who, determined to make her own way in life, defies an age-old custom, causing chaos in the kingdom by expressing the desire to not be betrothed.

The headstrong daughter  ©Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The headstrong daughter
©Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

This dialogue between Merida and her mum, Queen Elinor, is a pretty accurate reflection of what it’s like to be me right now.

Princess Merida: I don’t want my life to be over. I want my freedom!
Queen Elinor: But are you willing to pay the price your freedom will cost?
Princess Merida: I’m not doing any of this to hurt you!
Queen Elinor: If you could just try to see what I do, I do out of love.
Princess Merida: But it’s my life! I’m just not ready!

The anxious parents ©Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The anxious parents
©Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

And this is the part that made me  happy cos I was imagining my parents saying this to me. 🙂 

Princess Merida: And so, there is the matter of my betrothal. I decided to do what’s right, and…
[as she looks around the room she notices her mother in the background trying to stop her]
Princess Merida: : And…and break tradition.
[she looks over at her mother who is miming what Merida should say]
Princess Merida: : My mother, the queen, feels…uh, in her heart, that I…that we be free to…write our own story. Follow our hearts, and find love in our time

🙂

And I end this post with Princess Merida’s closing narration:

“There are those who say fate is something beyond our command, that destiny is not our own, but I know better. Our fate lives within us, you only have to be brave enough to see it.” 

Why I Blog

 

This post is in response to the Blogging 201 assignment and has been posted a day too late cos I’m presently holidaying in Kerala and thought I’d be taking a break from blogging..but I notifications from my blogger-friends wooed me back. Soo…here! It’s been almost 2 years since I created this blog, and now I tell you why I’m blogging-

I’m having me a partyy, a party for two EVERYBODY

If anybody’s noticed, I’ve been blogging a lot more in the past month. Besides the fact that I had more time on my hands (since I quit my job), I also hoped to increase readership.

Why would you have a house party and invite a tonne of people? Cos you want to meet a lot of people and engage in conversation with people you wouldn’t have met if you were holed up in your room.

(Google tells me 1 tonne = 1000 kilos, but I”m not really weighing people at my party..soo..even if that dress does make you look fat, don’t worry come on in! – aannnd that’s how you take an analogy too far.)

That’s why I blog. I was plenty shy at first (this blog has twice been private) and then I wanted to speak up, I wanted to find people I had something in common with, meet interesting people who were living lives so different from mine.

My house-party isn’t very happening yet, but I have managed to meet so manyy interesting people!  I’m still a little shy- which is why this blog hasn’t seen the light of Facebook..but maybe one day soon I’ll put this out there..because this is a platform from which my voice can be heard, and getting past the shyness lets me reach more people.

Talking about being heard- soon I want to tell the stories of the people I meet, the children I get to teach- the people who don’t get heard. I’m really looking forward to getting to know them, and I’d like for more people to hear their stories. So, I’ll be their voice on the internet.

Sharing brings joy and happiness. (Also the best line to excuse yourself when stealing your friend’s fries)

It’s what gives us a sense of community. I blog to be part of that community. We share, we encourage, we empathize, we appreciate. Blogging is about sharing- sharing experiences, thoughts and opinions, ideas, art…etc. etc. And every response we get brings us joy, every comment we leave brings the other some joy.

(Was that too subtle? Here’s the not-subtle version: I love comments. And likes too, but comments are super-er! When I see I’ve got traffic and likes, but no comments it’s like having my doorbell rung, and my spirits soar cos I have a visitor and I run to the door and throw it wide open..but nobody’s there. They passed by without saying anything. I’m glad they came and saw my house..but I’d love if they stayed and chatted.

Oh dear. I overdid it when I killed subtlety. Now I sound like a poor ignored child.)

It’s nice to know that we’ve been heard, that we’ve managed to make a little splash in somebody’s ocean eventhough we’re little fish in a pond somewhere, that as spread out as we are- all us are united under the bloggers sun.

Life’s a journey worth documenting

When I’m 80 and a legend, maybe they’ll want to make a documentary or biopic or something about me..and if I’m like frail and quivery, I’m not going to be able to tell them all they need to know. So instead I’ll get “thesalmonyatra.wordpress.com” tattooed on my scalp (cos I don’t think the scalp gets wrinkly- hence my tattoo stays legible, and also I might be naturally bald by then) and they’ll have enough juice to create something amazing.

Until then I’ll make sure my life gets that amazing and document my memories and experiences here. 🙂 Stay tuned! (In 2060, when my movie is out you’ll want to say you knew me and read all about my life as it happened 🙂 )

 

 

An Ode to Working Mothers

“We passed by this Flower Hmong woman working in the field with her baby bundled on her back. Women in the villages seem to do the same physical work as men, but with extra loads on their back women’s work seems to be more challenging.” – TravelingSolemates.com

 

I worked for over 2 years in a corporate company as a software engineer. In my last year, one of my good friends at work was a young mother. On so many occasions I’d feel so bad for her because of how difficult her day seemed, and yet she’d never complain, she’d never say she was tired, and she’d always go the extra mile to do all the work she was assigned (even the unfair amounts that should’ve been assigned to someone else).

Now, I don’t consider myself a poet or anything..but on Mother’s Day last year, I wrote a poem for all the mothers who worked with me, and it was inspired by this friend of mine. I thought maybe I’ll post this poem here on Mother’s Day and then I realised Mother’s Day fell on different days in different parts of the world..AND THEN I realised mothers deserve to be celebrated everyday..so I’m going ahead and posting that poem today 🙂

 

An Ode to Working-Mothers – by Sara Pulickal

She’s up in the morning
before anybody else
Fighting tiredness and sleep
She leaves the comfort of her bed.
She’s got an hour before the baby is up
So much to do
Before she catches her bus
There’s a house to clean
A baby to bathe
her husband’s breakfast
and then lunch to make.
In the middle of it all
She sends up a prayer
not just for her husband and child
but for assistance in this race against time.

She finally makes it
She catches her bus
And she reaches the office,
looking like any one of us.
She’s a daughter, she’s a wife
But look closer- she is more
We don’t realise she’s on full-time mother-mode
She worries about her baby, but stays focused on her code*
code that stares back at her from her computer’s screen
Reminding her of the deadline that’s so hard to meet.
She’ll crack jokes and she’ll be your friend
But inside she’s just waiting for her work-day to end
But even that doesn’t bring her to-do list to it’s end
Cos there’s a long journey back home and some more chores before bed
But her world lights up when she’s back with her child
It’s the only high she enjoys in this roller-coaster ride
Just thinking of her day can drive you insane
But she’s driven by love, love that makes her rise above her pain.

To all these women who are mothers
That demographic in our workplace, so significantly above the others,
We celebrate you today for being the women that you are
Women who do more than they should
Women with the strength that only comes with motherhood
For the blood sweat and tears- that it takes to live your life
For the hours away from your baby and from your role as a wife
For your company, your laughter and all that you share
We’re ever so grateful, we want you to know we care
We wish you the best,
peace, happiness and whenever possible- some rest:)

We pray you have the strength to face all that comes your way,
And with all our love we wish you
a Happy Mother’s Day!

*I..and the mothers worked in IT (well those mothers are still working there, I’m not. Alleluia 🙂 )  , so almost all our work revolves around code, i,e computer programming language, that’s as technical as I care to get.. aand that’s me trying to explain ‘code’ to people who might not get what code is. And maybe that was unnecessary, but never mind.

A baby on her back, a woman works in her field in Matuli, a village in northern Malawi. Copyright: Paul Jeffrey.

Aunt Scrooge needs her fix

I am aunt to a 2 year old girl and a 9 month old baby boy. And I’ve been living in the same house as them since the time the older one was born. I’ve seen a lot – inconsolable howling babies, fever-ridden babies, nights in the hospital, poop on my wrist thanks to a diarrhoea-baby, the smell of puke on my shirt when I’m out with friends because I played with a well-fed baby right before leaving the house..you get the picture.

After all of the above, I’m guessing I’ve led you to believe I’ve become quite the Aunt Scrooge, BahHumbugging my way through life stepping over crying pooping little humans, grimacing at any trace of baby-drool or puke that might get on me.

But No! Infact, just when life makes me most grouchy, no amount of chocolate, no amount of ice cream, no amount of any happy-food can do what a giggling happy baby does for me.

Lets get one thing clear- I’m not one of those girls who go  ‘Awwwww’ at every soft and cuddly thing she sees. No, I’m like Hulk Hogan cuddling a baby, OK?

Hulk Hogan says,

hulk hogan” Babies can be so cute you wonder how completely un-cute,gross or evil people get from being cute babies to what they are today. What? No, I’m not talking about me..Just listen dude, I’m making a point. Where was I?

Yeah, so babies. If they weren’t cute we’d dump them somewhere when they got too hard to handle. It’s true. Apparently, evolution made us respond to cute characteristics..it triggers a protective nurturing reaction in us..cos you see animal-babies can take of themselves so they needn’t be cared for till adulthood. Human babies need taking care of..actually, so do some human adults. Heh.”

Just kidding. Hulk Hogan didn’t say that. I did. 🙂  Actually evolutionary biologists did.  I was afraid I’d lose my audience if I went on and on about cuteness, cos seriously, who wants to go through a post on cuteness? Not me. So I used Hulk Hogan to keep you reading. teehee 🙂

So, my point is- my niece and nephew are uber-cute and that over-compensates for their crying, naughtiness and grossness, and they’re my sure-shot way of getting a smile out of the grumpiest me and the grumpiest anyone.

Case in point : Nephew un-Scrooging the aunt

Case in point : Nephew un-Scrooging the aunt

 

This post was written in response to the Daily Prompt.

Poetry that doesn’t challenge my brain

I’m expressive, but I’m a lazy expresser.

My go-to mode of expression is drawing. I can talk about a whole day in pictures and in my head, it seems more effortless than wording out the experience..like I did here> an outing with the family when in Kerala.

But, as I’ve realized, drawing takes more time than typing out my story..which is why I end up posting writing more than drawings on this blog.

Recently, I’ve begun to accept that poetry is a very beautiful form of expression. I don’t usually have the patience for poetry- Poetry is beautiful, I know..but it requires some patience or a fancy brain to unwrap all that flowery, abstract language and find the meaning inside. I’ll just take a fortune-cookie, thank you.  But then there’s this blank verse kinda poetry that’s pretty much like regular writing and lacking excessive floweriness- that I love, especially when the words seem to be exactly what I’ve been feeling.  Oh it reminds me of Spoken Word. I’d love to be able to express my way through spoken word too!

I’ll stop here for this post, and end with a beautiful poem I found on googling. Go on! I promise you it’s worth the read.

Comes the dawn – by Veronica A. Shoffstall

After a while you learn
the subtle difference between
holding a hand and chaining a soul

and you learn
that love doesn’t mean leaning
and company doesn’t always mean security.

And you begin to learn
that kisses aren’t contracts
and presents aren’t promises

and you begin to accept your defeats
with your head up and your eyes ahead
with the grace of woman, not the grief of a child

and you learn
to build all your roads on today
because tomorrow’s ground is
too uncertain for plans
and futures have a way of falling down
in mid-flight.

After a while you learn
that even sunshine burns
if you get too much

so you plant your own garden
and decorate your own soul
instead of waiting for someone
to bring you flowers.

And you learn that you really can endure
you really are strong
you really do have worth
and you learn
and you learn
with every goodbye, you learn…

This post was written in response to today’s Daily Prompt.