Day 102: If she does not want to take class, you accept it and move on

I showed up at Uni today, after sucking it up in traffic for one and a half hour, and I find out that the class teacher, the teacher for hour 1 is absent. I understand everybody has emergencies, and every teacher needs her time off. But I what I do not understand is how your professionalism as a teacher lets you not show up to class, and not make alternate arrangements for your class.

When A spoke to the HOD (wink wink, the model citizen), he bombarded her with comments about how if teachers did not want to come to college, then students just had to suck it out and take a free hour off. Students didn’t have a right to attendance, he made it sound like. He did not let her respond to any of his comments, and just bombarded her with his outdated theories.

We spoke to JK later on, and she reminded us about her M. Ed days in Bangalore University, and how students had no right to question for attendance. Even if the teacher was in the office, but did not feel like taking the class, we could do nothing, she said. She asked us to suck it up, and ask teachers that we knew to see if they could adjust their classes with us. And if they couldn’t, to suck it up and have a break.

Unfortunately, I do not approve of or agree with their logic at all. Every student makes an effort to make it to class every day, mental, physical and emotional effort. I drive 20 kms every day to get to Uni, and another 20 kms to get back home. I take all that pain to learn something new from esteemed professors who have the knowledge and the expertise. If I had to stay at home and learn on my own, I could have taken up a correspondence course and not a full-time one. And if I am not ‘getting taught’ after my 20 kms long struggle, the least that I should get is attendance for the hour that I showed up. That is the least that anyone can do to respect my time, and everybody needs respect.

Don’t get me wrong. If there was a process that I could change, I would start by taking off the one which requires 85% attendance in the first place. But, if that is set in stone, and this very same teacher had the nerve to send me an email that read ‘strict disciplinary action will be taken if you miss classes unnecessarily‘ after I sent an OOO email for being sick, then the teachers should take enough care to make sure they aren’t faulting from their end.

“You spent 1.5 hours in traffic and you didn’t take me along. Saadd!! You know how much I love the driving? But, yeah, standing in traffic is not a lot of fun, and I hate that too.”      ~ Scotch

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Day 101: Your dog is actually very aggressive

Like Father

As I drove back from an unplanned long-distance drive through the city, between being stuck in traffic, and ambling along at a snail’s pace, I realized that I was my father’s daughter after all. Growing up, I’ve always seen my dad go out of the way to ensure guests got where they had to. His theory was always that we had the time, and the means, and we know the place; so why would we subject them to the horror of a new place. I remember all of us stuffed into the car at midnight to drop off my colleagues in Bombay that had come home for dinner. Most people would call a cab and then wave diligently from their pristine balconies; but not Balsu.

I think it all boils down to the love for driving, traffic or none, and like father, like daughter indeed.

Aggressive Dogs

Scotch and I headed out for the evening walk, and we were waiting for the elevator, when the neighbors at 201 popped out of their apartment. The man had the little toddler in his hands, while the lady ran behind him frantically. The child lay limp in the man’s arms, and he screamed out for B to come help, once and then again. As soon as Scotch saw these two grown adults run towards us, she sensed some strange danger to the two of us and started barking. I held her up against the wall while the man and the woman hesitated in front of the Bs, before running down to the family in the ground floor. The elevator dinged at my floor, and we got in and went down to the basement to finish our business.

It was evident that there was some problem with the little one – choking, maybe?

When we were done with the basement work, we saw the man holding the baby and walking around the front garden, trying to settle the baby down. So, I skipped Scotch’s ambling in the garden, and went back up to the house. As I put her back in the house, I saw Mrs. B, and so I went back out to check on the child.

Me: Hey, Is their child OK?

Mrs. B: Swallows some spit. Rolls her ballsy eyes. Your dog is very aggressive.

Me: Excuse me?

Mrs. B: Your dog, is actually, very aggressive.

Me: What did I ask you and what are you responding with? Turn around and walk away.

“She said what? She called me what? Are you sure the B in her name is not bitchy?

Oh! these humans. And they call us the beasts.” ~ Scotch

Scotch in the rain - Rajani

Day 96: I wanted to go alone, and be invisible 

Drama, drama, drama

We finally got the teaching practicum report printed, collated and spiral bound, only for SrA to realize that two of her pages were swapped and out of order. Well, too bad. That’s exactly why I’d handed each one of them the report before it was bound. That time was spent staring at her own pictures and now she was in a fit. A and I tried to pacify her, suggesting she put page numbers to clarify. But before long the whole spiral binding had been ripped out.

A and I agreed; had it been either of us, we’d have submitted the report as is and dealt with the consequences later on. But somehow, because it was SrA, the value of our time was immaterial. It frustrates me more than while printing itself she took twice the time as the other two, and claimed some of her reports had ‘disappeared’ although she’d put them in. Whacky-O!

Vidheyak

GardenMan, his senior and I have been working on submitting a policy proposal for an upcoming competition at IIMB. So after all the drama of submissions, I read up about the case and worked with GardenMan while Senior joined us. We spent a lot of time traveling between one workspace and another: no access, no charger, whatnot.

When we finally got discussing, I realized that public policy, especially the tender and bidding process was something I knew very little about. It also became evident that a lot of work in India is wrapped in so many litigations that the good ones chose to stay away from it while the bad ones make all their money. What also got me thinking was how we’d picked sides with a company in the case, purely because we knew it and had heard about it, while the other two was very new. Branding and marketing definitely plays into our psyche.

Plans on the fly

As we were driving back, Gardenman and me at our usual cynical best, he told me about a play that he was planning on attending in the evening. Societal Woes, st Jagriti Theatre. Both the location and the topic were close to home, and I agreed to join him.

He willingly invited me along and then told me something that sent a chill down my spine. ‘I was tired of being social all week. I wanted to put on my black sweater and black jeans, and be invisible for the night’, he said.

How often have you felt the need to disappear? To feel like you dint exist anymore? Wouldn’t it be powerful if we all had an invisibility cloak? We could walk into and out of situations, unnoticed. We could read, learn, explore, and grow, all while going unnoticed. We wouldn’t have to put on this mask that we all draw over our true selfs every morning. We could cry when we wanted, yell and scream when we pleased, and not worry about what the others would take out of it.

Restaurant with the perfect garden

The evening began with a great dinner at The Fat Chef. I love this place for its ambience, the garden at the back. There’s always a dejavu of walking in with H the very first time and being thrilled at the garden. The food was good too. I let myself fall off the diet and enjoyed an all American dinner. Funny how all I craved when I was in the USA was for good old parotta and egg curry.

Societal Woes

I was watching a play after ages and the feeling of sitting amidst the actors, with the scenes unfolding around us, was exciting. All the characters were very relatable, right from the Kasi mama and NRI Rahul, to the skimpily clad Roshni. The story took an unexpected twist from the mirth and banter to suicide and societal pressures, and the entire audience drew silent after the concluding soliloquy.

An amazing performance by the actors, and to think that most of them were senior citizens, well into their 60s, was very inspirational.

White’s Field

I’ve always had a pessimistic view of Whitefield, because of the manic IT crowd, the ever-changing migratory population and their lack of regard for what the city originally stood for. Thanks to GardenMan, I saw a certain side to Whitefield that I did not know existed.

We drove by the twin lanes, Inner circle and Outer circle, encompassing this huge garden at the center. We drove my the oldest villa in the locality, a 150 year old house; Paul uncle is a sweetheart and he lives with his mother, he said. We drove by modern, posh houses, complete with their security cameras and their neighborhood watches.

Seemed like the place Whitefield Rising would rise from.

After all your shenanigans of the day, all I get is a single carrot to munch on? Unfair. 

They should make a play called Doggie’s Woes and I will lead the cast.” 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 55: A fitting finale

I remember watching a few cultural performances by special children in the past. Mostly when I was a child myself, and I had not yet been introduced to the concept of disabilities. I majorly remember feeling disgust, and some shame as the kids flayed aimlessly on the stage. I almost felt a tinge of disgust when the adults appreciated such a half-assed performance, while the normal kids had done much-much better. I have a second cousin with some developmental disabilities, and I remember always making some excuse to not visit that aunt. Even when I was there, I’d try my best to avoid any eye contact. Her loud voice and a lack of personal space all scared the adolescent me.

As we sat at Bethany School, watching the students of the Special School perform for their Prize Day, I felt none of those old emotions. In fact, I felt an abundance of pride while watching these students perform the little skit that we had scripted. I felt awe and amazement as the kids danced for one of the newest Bollywood numbers, never batting an eyelid away from their dance master amongst the audience. I felt mirth as an autistic child broke step from their action song to wave at Ms. Shanti sitting in the first row.

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Jeslyn’s Jesus Loves me 🙂

We reached a good 15 minutes early and I had an opportunity to observe the audience very closely. Most looked like any other parent in any other school; eager to watch their child perform on stage, engaging the other child who is too distracted to see his brother or sister on stage. Most of them had an empathy that is often missing in the competitive nature amongst us normal folk. They had a child that was suffering, and in that they were all united as a community. I felt that powerful bond in the hall.

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We also noticed parents react very differently to their child’s condition. I know it is very naive of me to judge an experience purely from the 15 second interaction that we were purview to. But we saw our dear Stuti run over to her mom and dad sitting a few seats away from us. The mother, first in her path, did not change her morose look at all, as she simply passed the daughter over to her partner beside her. The father was all smiles at Stuti as he hoisted her up on his lap and checked emphatically about her upcoming dance. Just in that body language, the mother somehow seemed to come out as the less supportive parent of the lot. Who knows what demons lurk under her breath there! Did she blame herself for her child’s condition? Does she fight the demons of depression that our society very conveniently ignores? Did she battle complications during her pregnancy that have scarred both her daughter and her for life?

If nothing else, the experience through this teaching practicum has taught me how normal these special children are and how abnormal our ‘normal’ lives are. The two lead boys, who vocalized our entire play, could have been kids in any normal school. I’ve already talked about how a major lapse in awareness can result in children getting taken out of normal schools, and pushed to a slower track.

It pains me that the society still has a strange but deep-rooted taboo associated with disabilities. The current schooling has definitely progressed since my time, and integrated education has brought our kids closer to disabilities. But there is still so much to do. Parents and students need to be caught up on so many issues faced by these children. Only when the mainstream starts worrying about these special children will the policy makers start worrying too.

While you were busy enjoying your morning at the Special School, I’ve spent the morning stalking mom and dad for food. So much so that now daddy refuses to look at me while he eats. 

Look how silly he looks, S. And that’s him eating my fave dosas. How can I let him be? “Scotch 

And I’ll be right here, waiting for you, dosa!