Day 125: Valley and Flights 

Valley

A week and a half in the Valley School, and my mind was more rejuvenated than a long time. I had walked in with a conflicted heart and a dark cloud hanging over my head. But I also had an open mind and that brought in such experiences with it, that I was changed.

  • The most important standout from the experience was how interested people were in sharing their life. There was a willingness to open up and let another in, something that is becoming very difficult to find in the modern world. They wanted you to live their life, walk their path and see how life was.
  • The second highlight was the quality of conversation. Not once did anyone ask my why I hadn’t married yet, why I chose a career I didn’t like or who my newest boyfriend was. They knew that they all lived in glasshouses and any judgment sent out would return their way eventually. Instead, they spent their times talking about the life, the universe, meaning to life and things that mattered.
  • They were content in their lives and unmoved by the trivialities that come with modern affiliations. They did not have the newest fancy smart phone and so they did not spend their together-times staring into each other’s phones or wondering why the wifi speed was so poor. Something bigger mattered and they knew.
  • The relationship that the students shared with their teachers was inspirational. They called them uncles and aunts, hugged them around in class, and openly spoke to them about period pains and worries. There was a stark absence of fear for the role of the teacher. And teachers walked with a mindset that they were co-learners too. This made them awfully powerful, with a direct connect to young minds.
  • “Are you trying to kill us, uncle vipul? “, yelled a 6year old, as Vipul opened his laptop in class. Technology was a necessity and nothing more. It did not take up such a dominant part of their lives that they forgot to smell the rain, hear the birds, or be sensitive to each other.
  • A study center discussion that explored the difference between the mind and the brain sent me on an unknown path, one where I had no footing. I still felt comfortable enough to try out the discussions and I was stunned. Mind is what thinks not merely based on facts in front of us, but based on all past experiences, heartbreaks and successes. So, it automatically becomes a source for conflict. If we could think, but without all those added baggage, then imagine how powerful our brain would really be.
  • Another intriguing conversation was with Saqhib, where he shook my foundation about alternative schooling. By calling yourself alternative, you are automatically boxing yourself into a system, simply by trying to opposing to the mainstream. That invariably means there’s very little you can do differently, because you have a level of comparison in the form of another schooling system. What we should truly try is to be different in all forms, not bound by norms.
  • The highlight of the whole time was how ready the whole school, from the principal to every other teacher was, in inviting me to join their team. Very rarely do we see a case where an institute invites you to join in, only to learn from them, and contribute back. No resumes, no portfolios, no past experiences. Just an open mind.

Overall, I came back positive, both mentally and emotionally, ready to take on the next semester head on.

Flights

The flight out to Switzerland, the multipart journey, started off with a rocky start. Met H and HMan at the airport and the fissures were very evident. It is scary to think of how much one would change by simply being in close proximity with another all their life. We seek relationships to comfort us in times of need and despair. But what if those relationships are the reason for the despair?

The trip from Bangalore to Amsterdam to Geneva was hilarious, with the kids trailing around, completely distracted by the glitz and whatnot. It was kind of all too powerful, knowing the ways of traveling, especially international, while the others struggled reading boards and signs. I was constantly conflicted between helping them out and letting them be. I wouldn’t have enjoyed being told every step of the way. I see myself as the teacher that would let someone try for their own before I step in.

And so, I sat around and played the silent observer.

The flight in to Amsterdam brought a strange new companion to chat along. Punjabi was a good person to talk to, knowing when to not push it and when to bring in his views. We had a good talk about road tripping to Ladakh, about the power and the need to go on solo trips, and about Engineers becoming Management consultants. For a Punjabi living in Bangalore, he seemed aware of the differences in cultures and was filled with the desire to try life out.

For all the writing I wanted to do on the plane, it was a rested time, where I managed to get sufficient sleep. It also reinforced my principle that being nice brings it back to you. The airhostess was awfully nice, bringing me refills even when I didn’t ask for it. Punjabi enjoyed the benefits of my niceness too. The warmness felt evident when he invited me over to walk along to our next stop as well.

Pics4mSwiss: When you have a fond heart, hearts smile back at you from the sky. 

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Day 116: Let’s take it slow and you tell us what you want

One more exam to go and I took the day off to visit Valley school right after breakfast. The drive over was interesting, a comfortable NICE road, SilverGhoster to keep company over the phone, and a beautiful weather. I had lunch with Shankar aunty and helped Sandhya aunty struggle with their failing electricity to grind some dosa dough and realized the simple life that they’ve chosen to live. They battle with the infusion of modern wants and needs every day, but have, as an institution, taken a conscious decision to live simplistic. And I’m told that’s their strategy in reaching kids as well.

I met with Ms. Elsie, who will be my sounding board every evening after the observations. I also met Ms. Suneeta, coordinator for the junior school, and Ms. Indira, coordinator for the middle school. I’ll be working with these two ladies starting 23rd and I was stunned by their openness in sharing about their respective jobs. As we sipped hot tea and ate freshly fried bajjis, they quizzed me on my interest for the school and my plan for the upcoming weeks, months and years.

What caught me off guard, and warmed me the most, is the practicality of their approach to my research. They did not want me to come with a predefined questionnaire, structured interview questions, or a project plan for the week I’d spend with them. They wanted me to walk in with an open mind, and a willingness to question and understand. Everybody I met was willing to share, warm in their welcome as they opened their doors for me. I do not yet know if it’s the philosophy of J Krishnamurthy or their individual ideologies, but I sensed a comfort in their interactions that I have sensed in few other schools.

“I hear they have leopards and monkeys at the Valley School. Thank you very much, but I’ll stay out of that campus.” Scotch

Day 75: At the Valley 

My experiences at The Valley School Bangalore will become a regular feature here for at least a few months. I proposed to execute my final year project as a institutional case study of the school and I’m very excited that it’s slowly falling in place.

I met with the Principal and the Headmistress (yes they have both) and I was impressed with how open and willing they were to accommodate me for my research. I sensed a certain acceptance that is invariably missing in a regular school, where they are typically closed and shut about a number of their processes, and most definitely their finances.

I am going to walk in with fingers crossed and hope that the honeymoon effect doesn’t burst a little too soon. Over a week in October, I will be observing the school and the teachers closely, to see how they embody the philosophies of J. Krishnamurthy, and how these translate into a holistic learning for students. Mixed age group classes, spiritual education, open houses and nature walks are all deeply ingrained into their schedule and I will be reporting on all that as an outsider.

Fun!

Fun for you. But what about me that time? I hear they have leopards and wild monkeys in their campus. So, my coming along is ruled out for sure” Scotch

Day 5: Of communications, miscommunications and Bulimia

Communication

We had a productive two hours with this gentleman, independent research reviewer at the University. He was definitely able to set himself apart from the canned academia that I see in the college and was able to bring in a research vocabulary that was different from the masses too. While a lot of what he suggested was simply repackaging the same old wine, he reaffirmed my belief that a smart talker can make even a curse sound poetic.

A few things that I observed at the end of the session were:

  • Teachers, more than students, need to be taught about the basic etiquette of formal conversations. Cutting in when someone else is talking is uncool at every age. When your point has been heard and is being countered, listen! I’m sure that repeatedly stating your view point doesn’t make it the popular opinion.
  • It is always, always, good to accept your mistake the minute you realize you’ve made it. Go drink a sip of water and set things right. Almost always, the audience can know the exact moment when you realized your flaw: your eyes give you away.
  • Keep personal vendettas out of public forums. Nobody wants to hear or see you wash your dirty linen in a common learning space.
  • If you’re quoting books and authors, you better know more than just one. Going back to the same one over and over again doesn’t prove much about the depth of your knowledge: not even if that one book were the Bible.
  • A degree doesn’t define your true caliber. When I see M. Phil and Ph.D scholars attend such learning workshops in silence, with not a question asked or a point countered, I wonder if they are already all-knowing or if the degree were just a farce.
  • The smart and awesome ones are always taken first. 🙂

Miscommunications

The junior MA class is a place I do not want to be in right now. I am confident that being a Master’s class of three is better bet than a Master’s class of 12 lost in a group of 40 Bachelor’s. That’s probably a scene that I would have quit and left soon enough. Destiny set me up right and I dint have that choice to worry about.

But I worry about the current batch. So do some of them. I wanted to talk to them about it, as a group, and also fold in an informal freshers lunch into it. A and I went to our designated location at the designated time and found not one of them. We waited for 15 minutes and left feeling cheated. We resolved not to expend any more of our energies on them, for it was their battle to fight and not ours.

We walked back up to the department and a bunch of the juniors came running, exhausted, wondering why we stood them up. Turns out they waited for us at a concrete park with some pebbles, while we waited for them at the pebbles park with some concrete. Ha! Meeting postponed to Monday.

Bulimia

All that is OK, but why am I behaving like the bulimic supermodel? I love to eat it all, but puke that and half the garden out immediately so that it doesn’t show on my waist. 

No pictures today, please” Scotch. 

That’s all you get on sick day.