Day 16: Little quills

Mr. Vats cried in the first English class that I took in his grade. Why? Because I wanted the class to sit in 3s so that they could share a textbook, and I didn’t let him pick his partners. It was very evident that this child was much more sensitive than a normal 11 year old boy. I was curious to know more and was keen to make a personal connect with the child.

I had a little chat with him before snack time. He waved at me from outside the staff room, on his way to drink some water, and we walked out for a chat by the amphitheater. I appreciated him for a wonderful homework done and he blushed. I asked him who helped him write at home and he said nobody, unless he asks his mother for help. I told him how his classwork versus homework difference surprised me. He blushed again and told me how he hated writing.

He showed me a brilliant quill pen that he had made himself from a long feather that he had collected during their field trip to Melkote. He drilled the inner hole further, taped a fine nib to the tip and walked around with an ink pot. He promised to make me one if I found a nice feather that I liked too. But he warned me to stay away from porcupine quills, because they were useless, with just the poison in them. I nodded and we promised to try harder at writing during class hours. He promised and walked back to class.

I stepped into class and Mr. Vats had his notebook open and ready, spic in the first bench, and a brilliant smile on his face. His quill pen and the ink pot were right next to the notebook, ready and willing.

Aunty, I truly missed you and Ankita last Friday.

But we met last Friday, no?

Yes aunty. But after class. That’s when I missed you.

My stomach is paining, aunty. I am not lying. It really doing kodaboda.

OK! Go to Jessi aunty in the infirmary.

(Back later) It looked nice and pink, aunty. So, I drank it thinking it will be nice. And it tasted yucky.

Day 3: Breaking inequality

Equality: I’ve started slowly breaking into the walls of the 6th graders during my English class. We spoke about inequality and discrimination in the 1st class and the most they could tell me was how their older brother got more candy or their younger sister got scolded lesser. I was still not hitting into the stories that mattered. So, I started today’s class reading about this 19yr old girl that started the Color Brave Campaign, because she wanted to fight discrimination based on her color. And then the real stories began.

They told me about how women used to be forced to kill themselves when the husband dies. They listened intently as I explained an ancient funeral pyre and a fully conscious woman walking in. They pointed out how some women started doing this voluntarily until someone just made it a blanket rule.

They realized that they were treating the bus akkas unequal every time they wished the teachers but not them. They told me how the canteen akkas and annas get ignored too.

They recounted stories of them being called American or African or Chinese because of the way they looked. They were Indians no matter what, and they felt ignored when they were called anything else. They remembered funny stories of their older brothers in 8th or 10th grade who’d be mistaken to be a working professional because they were tall or well built. I told them about how I’d get called ‘Sir’ very often because of my hair style. They were shocked and told me about how a number of men these days have long hair and that my hairstyle was ‘cool’.

Productive day!