Day 95: You can’t keep questioning our decisions if you want this now

After all the action yesterday, today seemed like a drab Friday. Also because we had classes for only the first half of the day.

Revamp Syllabus

CD hadn’t prepared for her class, some strange reasons that only she could rationalize. So, she proposed we use the class hour to compare syllabi and propose changes for the next year. You know how I’ve been complaining to every teacher about the poor syllabus? So, this was a great opportunity and the real S within me was actually happy.

And then, I looked around the class and saw only SrA. So, the next 50 minutes would play out as thus – I would propose topics of relevance that students really need to study, CD would shy away from them because her traditional, conventional mind would not be able to think beyond the four squares, and SrA would have effectively used the time to finish up yet another final project, while I still lag behind in it.

True to my thoughts, that’s exactly what I told CD. I added that I could send recommendations to her from home, but I couldn’t afford to spend the class hour doing it.

And, we did our own projects.

Plan for Saturday

A and the rest of us asked HOD about the plan for the technology workshop organized for the Saturday. 830 to 530 talking about digital apps like Google Docs and Drive; things we were using on a daily basis. We wanted to sit out of it.

‘I can allow you to sit out of tomorrow’ , the HOD said, ‘but later, if I don’t automatically allow you, you shouldn’t complain. You can’t keep questioning our decisions, if you want this now’. And that’s how we sold our soul to the devil.

The HOD did not make the decision based on the utility of the event to the class, or the workload of the class, or the democratic opinion. He made his decision as a bargain between today’s leeway and a favor at a later time.

This HOD of yours seems to be a consistent actor in your sorry life, S. Don’t worry too much about the oldies. 

Here, take a hug.” Scotch 

Day 94: Don’t underestimate the power of a blind man

Back to Bethany

I did a solo trip back to Bethany Special School to collect completion certificates from the school. I also managed to pick up one of the carpets made by the students from amma’s sarees. It is always a pleasure being back. All the teachers welcomed me back warmly, enquired about the other two, and invited me to say hello to the students. I met Tarun, and our usual sweethearts, Jeslyn and Stuti, and they remembered. Stuti did a full bow and told me that she saw us during her dance for the Prize Day. Even Tarun recognized us during the Vote of thanks apparently. Beautiful souls.

I spent about two hours substituting for Ms Deepa since her mother was in the hospital. Got their computer running, then typed up a few mails and printed out letters for the Principal. It somehow justified the purpose that I was there for, as if the 20 odd hours we spent there didn’t. Maybe it’s me and my idea of not taking back anything but learning from such an institution.

Visually Impaired

The final Teaching practicum for the semester was at a an institution for the visually impaired, called Mitra Jyothi. It is support and resource center for the blind, and the founder is a visually impaired lady herself. So, I was in awe from get-go. We saw the Braille printers and slates, and a number of books published by the institute. It was an impressive establishment for sure. I even saw a blind student type up a super complicated formula in Excel as a part of the computer training, using the screen reader.

I learnt of volunteering opportunities to read books and convert them into talking libraries, and to edit recorded audio to make them blind-compatible. After the recent learning from Radio Namaste, this might be a great place for me to work with them over the weekends.

What affected me the most from the trip was something that the coordinator said. She spoke about the self-respect of the visually impaired and how not every blind man with a stick by the road wants your help to cross it. Most of them have been trained to take care of such basic tasks on their own, and unless they ask for help, you should stay away. A bold and yet powerful observation.

It got me thinking about how in our life’s aim to collect brownie points for the next, we offer help and assistance when we find fit. But what if the person at the other end doesn’t want your help? Are you smart enough to know where to back off?

Silver Ghoster

I’ve had a few decent conversations with SilverGhoster, and it has been refreshing to talk to someone of the newer generation that remembers their Shakespeare. Reddy child, doing his MBA to take over his mother’s school, and we talked about how Christ School is a major threat for their much smaller institution in the area. It talks immensely of brands and how the little mom-pop shop is invariably squashed.

That doesn’t counter the fact that they themselves suffer at the hands of poor teaching methods and teachers. Since it’s run by someone with minimal to no education backing, they still profess rote methods to innovative techniques. I was excited when he told me that most classes have about 25 to 30 students only. We spoke about how powerful that really is and the potential it has to bring real changes in the lives of the students. He had a valid point about the quality of teachers and their willingness to stay in a competitive market. We briefly spoke about recruiting at Christ and so.

Overall, seems like a sensible chappie.

Awkward Dreams

Woke up from a dream where I was being chased by a buffalo. Think the while scene was in a multi-story building, maybe even an infinity pool somewhere. At one point, I am standing in a crisp white room, possibly hiding from the buffalo it walks in, looks directly at me and doesn’t recognize/spot me. Then it takes a little Sniff, and charges directly at me.

And that’s how I was woken up by a blind buffalo chasing me through a fancy resort.

Don’t underestimate the power of a blind man? Is that what the visually challenged computer teacher said? Noo! I’m sure you made that up. Wait! He really said that??

Funny guy!

But it’s scary that they’re in the dark all their lives, no? ” Scotch

Day 85: Bad manners 

I’m learning a lot about poor manners from the Swiss, through this project.

I’ve worked in multi cultural environments before, but we always made sure that language was never seen as a barrier. Even when I worked with the Mexicans, and Indians from different parts of the country, we had an unsaid rule to always speak in English at the table. You do not want to sound like the Filipino pedicurists, who are probably just complaining about each other’s husband’s but always seem like they’re bitching about how your feet smell, because their whole conversation is in a language you do not know.

Even when we started off with this project, all of us Indians had an agreement to speak only in English lest we let the Malayalam, Hindi and Kannada backgrounds between us be a reason to split us. And then the Swiss showed up and shamelessly spoke in French all the time. For a novice ear, it always seems like they’re talking smack about us, gesticulating violently and furiously.

For the first few days, I interrupted, clarified and always tried to bring the conversation back to English. But now, into week 2, I’ve given up. I speak in Malayalam and Hindi to people in the project with whom I’ve never used any language other than English for the last one year. People are shocked with how good my Hindi or Malayalam is because that’s how little they’ve heard me speak it before. And often, I speak about the Swiss in Malayalam or Hindi so that they feel like they’re getting the Filipino pedicurists treatment. A tooth for a tooth, and a foreign language for a foreign language.

Anyway, we had a presentation by the Swiss students to the School of Education, and we learnt how poor they are with public speaking skills. Dinner at Namesake’s house quickly turned into a show of extravagance, what with the fancy jacuzzi and infinity pool in the club house. But the family was very welcoming and the food tasted good. Hectic day indeed!

You’re complaining about a foreign language now? And you yell ‘Sit’ and ‘namaskaram’ and what not to me every time. What’s with that? Should I just bark back in Scotch-tongue going forward?” Scotch

Day 81: Swiss-Indo Bhai-bhai

The day was amm…aazing! That’s it!

Business Meet

The first event of the day was at Taj Mansingh, and is that a luxury hotel or what!? We had a desk set up right at the entrance to the business hall, where the President of the Swiss Federation was going to address a number of business partners, to further the Indo-Swiss friendship. It was truly an exhilarating experience, rolling around with the organizers from the Swiss embassy in India, and talking to some of the visiting delegates. It was more fun to listen to the proceedings of the event itself:

  • Ms. Nirmala Sitaraman, Indian Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, was astute in her observations about the mutual dependence between the two countries.
  • Ms. Doris Leuthard, the President of the Swiss Confederation, was prim in her pink kurta, and summarized wonderfully the last 70 years.

So, TallSwiss played a great photographer, and I managed to listen to a majority of the session and summarize it on the radio, and Mr. YZ, well, he managed to stress out for all three of us. Since this was the first radio session for both TallSwiss and I, there were some hiccups starting off, but I think we got into the flow. I realized the key to being a successful radio host was spontaneity and content. You need to have sufficient material content in order to be spontaneous enough on the radio. If not, you are just blabbering on air and playing sloppy music.

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The Radio Namanste desk with YZ, and me looking super serious. 🙂

 

Delhi Darshan

We managed to report on most of the first event and TallSwiss and I took off to show him some New Delhi. A quick change and we were on an auto to the heart of Old Delhi; Chandni Chowk. I’d heard wonderful things about the parathewali gali and I was going to try some. We had a little stop-over at India gate, to show the TallSwiss off to the local public. He has been awfully calm in the middle of all the mayhem around; it is either a sign of utter disdain or a sign of his maturity. Only time will tell. Well, we sweated it out a little at India Gate, and took another auto to Chandni Chowk.

I am totally intrigued by the accent of Hindi that you find in Delhi. It’s rude almost to the point of being familial. Wonderful! I don’t know if the auto man is yelling at me, or asking me something like an extremely intrusive, paternal uncle would. What also moved me immensely was the scene around Old Delhi, Jama Masijd, in preparation for Bakr-Id. Hundreds of goats waited, chewing carelessly, unaware of the near-distant future that awaited them. Pity! I am convinced that my dietary choices are only temporary and my going vegan is just around the corner.

We got off a little ways to Parathewali gali, and walked the rest of the way, so that we could soak in a lot of the local sights and sounds. It was a new experience for me too, dari bazaar, and I definitely want to go back there, a camera in tow. Parathewali gali was a revelation, an entire little street dedicated to cholesterol mania. We had just enough time to eat an aloo paratha and a thick lassi.

aaf15c32-9d03-4962-bf09-38e0e00e6fb2 Hot and steaming aloo paratha, with a side of aloo and more aloo

Town Hall

The second big event was more high-security than the first, and we had to go through three rounds of security checks, metal and man, before we got into the main hall. The event was late by about an hour. But it was great honor to listen in on a town hall that was open to students of environmental sciences and climate studies of New Delhi. And through the radio broadcast, I’m hoping we opened this up to students from other parts of the world too.

Unlike the morning event, which was attended by business professionals, and she needed them to invest in climate and relationships, this event was for students in attendance and she spoke about the future. There was a lot about how India had to learn from Switzerland’s sustainable energy models and that India was going through the same transformation that Switzerland went through in the 1900s and that there was hope. Promising talk from a leader!

Since we were set up in the same hall as the main event, we couldn’t report live throughout, but we were able to get a majority recorded. And I was able to listen in to some very interesting talk. Most of the questions from the students were around what Switzerland could do for India, and how the students could help. This showed me two big things: One, the next generation wanted to do something, and Two, they wanted to know who could help and how. Powerful!

The weird buffet

This is when things got weird. Satan’s waterfall struck, and I had to get excused from the gentlemen to get stocked. I reached the Swiss embassy alone for the final event, the buffet dinner hosted for the President, and the Swiss joined in few minutes later. We were given a room right inside the embassy, by the main living area, where the President was expected to greet her guests before proceeding out to the garden for the events of the evening. This speaks wonders about the publicity that Radio Namaste had at the embassy and the expectations that the show held. For all that, I thought the two Swiss let us down. We were done setting up, and before we even went live, YZ was running crazy to get himself a drink. “I need my l’alcohol”, he went around screaming, and you should have seen the smirk on his face when we were handed three bottles of water. That completely shattered the high horse that I had put them on so far.

At least on three or four different occasions, they were both missing, off to find themselves a fix, while I handed the radio pad, mixing my own little AC/DC and ABBA. But, if we were there to report on the proceedings of the evening, then why were we playing just the tunes? I would have been really disappointed had I been on the other side, with a lax radio team.

Anyway, the evening show went on for about an hour, and I was able to listen in to the proceedings, as 5 Friendship Ambassadors were honored by the President at the embassy. It was inspiring to hear about the Premchands, who have been in business from Switzerland from the 1950s, and on the other hand, Mr Matias Echanove and Mr Rahul Srivastava, Co-Founders of the urbz platform in Mumbai and Geneva, two young entrepreneurs bringing the two countries together.

The event ended in dinner and we brought the show to a troubled end, before setting out for dinner. The dessert was amazing and I started with it to get the evening going. The Swiss were, of course, drinking more than eating, and it got me thinking about how quick I was to judge alcoholics. I’ve had trouble in the past accepting people and their excessive drinking; ex-boyfriends, the father, and past clients; and was I simply being too harsh on them for their choices?

YZ was excessively sweet after his third drink, and thanked me profusely for the ease with which I handled the day. He mentioned how nobody would have done the job better, and even when TallSwiss was hesitant, I brought in the facts and made the show worth it all. Just drunk talk or was he being genuinely grateful? That’s my problem with the drunk, I think; their words can never be taken for what they are worth.

“One should never be too quick to judge, S. If you looked at Scotch and I, you’d think we are born trouble-makers. But you get to know us a little more, and you’ll know that all we want is to relax and smell the rain. Give people a chance, S.” Goose

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Day 47: Drive-bys

I drove to college today. I was lost in my usual morning thoughts, when I saw a two-wheeler parked near the median, way up ahead. As I started getting worked up about the lack of traffic discipline in the country and the audacity of some people who flout basic traffic rules, I drove by, and noticed an old man by the two wheeler. He looked like the one driving, still had his helmet on, and was sitting with his hands on both knees, head bent down. Panting, maybe? It took me three seconds to see all this and I drove past him.

Was he hurt? Did he need help? Was he hypoglycemic or dehydrated, and needed a a bottle of water? I had water, and some biscuits. Was he in trouble?  But, I didn’t stop.

I drove away. By the time I’d processed what I’d seen, I had driven past him. Now how could I inconvenience people, driving in reverse back to him? I could take a u-turn. But then I’d have to take two, and thats such a bore. There’s anyway going to be maddening traffic already at that junction ahead. And I had places to be. I drove away.

Sometimes when I take the bus, and I’m in my seat, looking out the window, I see something similar, that moves me. A dog with a bottle stuck in its head, a haggard lady needing fresh clothes, or a child begging for food. I consider myself helpless in helping them. I was after all stuck in a bus. I didn’t have control over when to stop and where. I console myself saying I’d get my chance when I’m driving on my own.

And, when I do drive on my own, I’m so caught up with reaching the destination, that I never stop. I just drive away.

That is some deep thinking from in there, S. Are you OK?” Scotch