-DECEMBER 21ST, 2019
She would spend hours inhaling smoke
Locked away in a tiny kitchen, drab and stale
Her only companions, the burnt pan, the wheat drum
The steel tongs, all the rest curtailed
She had some friends outside the kitchen too
Depending on days, sometimes more, sometimes less
They were the recycled containers of water,
And the scrappy clothes of squalid finesse
She would always smell of – detergent, burnt rotis,
Filth, piss, perpetually re-stitched seams,
A vanished childhood lost innocence
A desire to not desire and nonexistent dreams
She was then “gifted” away for a meager price
To someone who added another chore to her list
And that chore was the worst, as it hurt
And she would just play dead with a tight fist
She was cranky in the morning, the sun in her eyes
But the vigor of today soon made it bright
It was finally going to pay and pay off well
The many practice sessions of last night
She found no food in the kitchen but made something quick
The bag on her shoulder, shoes on her feet
Perfect with the blue ribbons of her hair
And the speech scribbled on a lined sheet
She likes to often remember, the glory of that day
Her first victory, her first speech, her first future
The hope in her teacher’s eyes
The beginning of a fulfilled life’s suture
She became and remained her parents’ gift
Her wedding was a beautiful celebration
Her life, a dish not just cooked but delicious
With the empowering honey of education
What do Teachers Give us?
-DECEMBER 20, 2019
A month ago, one of my teachers said something that struck me. He was teaching and someone was creating a ruckus in the class. He (gently) told them off and said, “We come here and stay for 8 hours to teach your kids. We couldn’t do anything big, now we want to give you the tools you need to do that. So please, take what you can from this class.”
This statement of his had a deep impact on me.
Ever since I was a kid, I remember being asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. Up until third grade, even fourth, anything I said was funny, or not taken seriously. But soon I realized that my answer to this particular question was going to decide how the ‘adults’ looked at me. I also realized that one of my favorite responses to this question, ‘I wanna be a teacher’, was something, not a lot of them appreciated. Around eighth grade, I got to know that nobody, not one single kid in my class wanted to be a teacher. Slowly, with time, it became one of those things that I began to accept as I grew up. I never saw it as wrong or right. It just was, the fact that wanting to be a teacher equaled a lack of ambition.
This whole story came back to me when I heard my teacher say the aforementioned statement a month ago. I kept thinking about it for the rest of the day. We live in a world where ambition and competitiveness have taken priority over most other things. People have become the profession they are in, and some of the most important jobs have not made the cut to be ‘awesome’, or ‘mind-blowing’, or the more common term of, ‘rich’. Teaching is one such profession.
I have seen the struggle teachers go through when they are teaching, or making a paper, or checking assignments. They keep every child in their mind when they do any activity in a class, and that cannot be easy. Especially primary teachers (who, just so you know, are never given the praise they deserve for the tough, tough job they do), they create a base for children to stand on, the foundation that their education will build a whole skyscraper over.
Teaching is a grossly underrated profession. Most people assume that teachers are doing their job because they had nowhere else to go, or because they failed at other things. Nobody thinks they are there because they want to teach. I don’t see kids saying ‘I want to be a teacher when I grow up’. While our doctors save lives, our teachers are building them, and that is nothing short of a miracle either.
So, maybe we can send a little appreciation to our gurus today. The ones who have given us a direction to go into but never limited us to a single road. Maybe today we can tell them that their presence in our lives means a lot more than just grades and percentages.
CHANGING TIMES, CHANGING MINDS
OCTOBER 24TH, 2019
It is difficult being a child in a world where things are moving faster than even adults can comprehend. When I look at children, I wonder what they must have in their curious little minds. Whether they worry about the future, whether they even know about the concept of the future. I remember when I was a kid, my head used to spin all sorts of stories and turn the tiniest, most mundane thing into a fairy tale. Some days, I feel, we forget that these children are the ones who will be shaping the world tomorrow, and we have to teach them how to use the tools they will be handed, to do that. The education we give our children has turned into a small box of repetitive facts. While we need to give them the best education we possibly can, killing their curiosity cannot help that cause.
Every little dream has its own worth, and mustn’t we give each of these a chance? We cannot continue to teach the coming generations the same way we were taught. Because then, we are just doing what has been done all along. And we are standing in the way of inevitable change that is long due. A curriculum is not supposed to tell a child what they must do in their lives, it is supposed to show them what they can do, and that is pretty much everything out there. Limiting these young minds is at the very least unfair to them, if not outrightly wrong on our parts. What we must do, is show them the mistakes we made, and teach them to do better, to build a better world. What we can give them, we should. Doing anything less than that would mean holding them back from doing something far more than we could possibly imagine.
RESPECT THE STRUGGLE
OCTOBER 20TH, 2019
In a sea of bodies, where no one matters more than anyone else, we forget to sometimes see, what is below us. Our eyes are so fixed on the horizon, we just have to get to the finish line. The inconvenience of a broken elevator or a dirty seat in the metro is not going to stop us. But you know, there are days we decide to hold someone responsible for the little things that go wrong. We decide that today, we must tell off the ones we can show power over. And who are they? Mostly, the ‘help’. So, we target the ones serving us, working so hard to make our lives easier, and so their kids don’t go to bed hungry. We pick the cleaner, the sweeper, the washerman, the maid, the peon, the janitor, the labor, the gardener, the driver, the waiter, the autowale bhaiya, the metro employee behind the glass, the security check lady, the sabziwale bhaiya, the mailman. Anyone with a red collar job becomes the target of a tired businessman or an exhausted lady after a hard day at the office. And we may feel terrible about it after a while but perhaps we can never feel it to the extent they do. We never pay attention to the calloused hands of hard labour. We never really see that the woman who washes our dishes then goes home to feed her children. The father who is raising a daughter alone, learned to braid his little girl’s hair when she refused to cut it short anymore. So, you see, I look around and see that everyone, the rich and the poor, they all are trying to do something so that someone else doesn’t go through the difficulties they went through. Then why do some of us look down upon the others and pretend that we are better than them? All of us, are humans but where is the humanity that we are supposed to be born with? Respect is something nobody is entitled to, but it is our duty to stop and look around once in a while. The ones making the hardest sacrifices are sometimes the ones treated with the least respect, the least dignity. I am inspired by the fight in some of the eyes that meet mine, traveling in the metro, or serving chai on the roadside. I just wish, we all could see that. And slowly, learn to respect each other, and everyone else.
THE DAY WE DECIDE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
September 10th, 2019
Literacy is not confined to the pages of textbooks. It makes an individual more informed about the rights and responsibilities. It is a tool that better prepares the individual to tackle exploitation more efficiently. It educates them about how exploitation comes in disguised ways and forms and how succumbing to any of its types is a crime in itself towards oneself. Every year on literacy day I see several posts on my social media and I wonder only if half the people actually started contributing in this direction instead of just posting, we as a community could give wings to lives of thousands and lakhs of children and adults who are deserving and passionate.