After why, what – that is the question.. almost a Shakespearian one..
Six years down the line we have successfully proved that with a little effort and local resources, drop out rates can be contained and children can pass their Boards. True that we have some students who cross the 70 and even 80 % line, but they are the exception; most of them hover around 50 and some even dip lower..
This is the time of the year when the famed or ill famed cut off marks are out. One stares with despair at the 92 and 93 % marks you need to enter a good college and wonders where does that leave children of lesser gods..
Evening colleges, correspondence courses, open universities… Most again leaving the students idle for part of the day, bearing the brunt of parental pressure urging them to work..
This has been disturbing us as school education in India is totally devoid of technical options. In many countries, weaker students are urged to take a technical stream that ensures that they leave school with a certificate and a skill. In France there is even a stream called bac en alternance where the student spends three days in school and the other three learning a trade: working as a sales person in a shop, training in a kitchen, working with a carpenter and so on…
After much thought we have decided to start evening and week end classes in plumbing, electrical works, air conditioning repair, computer repair, carpentry, tailoring, accupressure and naturopathy, beautician etc using local talent. If we are able to do so we would even think of launching – call pwhy – whereby we would offer these skills in a well organised way to friends and others.
Another option that we plan to start, and one where our special section can also play an important role is providing packed lunches and diners to offices and young people living alone. This would also provide work to handicapped people with tricycles as they would be able to deliver them and thereby earn a dignified living.
These are but a few options we have thought of, the mainstay being that children would acquire a skill that would come handy in their lives. We are looking for other ideas, but given our past errors, when we jumped and made things and did not find outlets, we only want to launch a new idea if there is a market to support it.
One must realise that a simple education is not enough; we are duty bound to give our children the required skills to be able to survive..
The myth of government jobs has to be destroyed, and children taught that nothing comes easy.. But if you have the will then the way is there as young Sanjiv has proved. He chose to learn yoga, accupressure, shiatsu and other massage and many alternative forms of healing while doing his studies (week end classes at Gandhi smriti) even if his peer group made fun of him and today earns a whopping 7 to 8 K and has a motorcycle. He is learning English with us and we hope to get him clients from the expat community.. Sanjiv did much more than survive just because he chose to walk an unknown path that a kind soul showed him with his head held high..
Can we convince others to do the same becomes the next existential question.
I cannot but remember the days in May 2000, when I use to sit at a door step in Giri Nagar, and hordes of parents use do come with a single plea:
“English bolana sikhado” – teach them to speak in English-
How intuitive and right these poor illiterate parents were: last week spirited Garima, a class X topper was denied a place in a ‘prestigious’ English medium school because she could not speak English properly.. what properly means should be defined by the principal of that school..
Wonder if next time my French friends say: ze book is on ze taboul‘ I should cross them off my social list and what about the London friends who speak with a cockney lilt!
Almost 60 years after independence, one that was fought against the British, we still judge people by their ability to parrot the queens’ tongue!
Garima was lucky – NDTV picked up her story.. there are so many Garimas living under the stranglehold of their inability to converse in English, their self esteem eroded.. there are many whose mother tongue’s inflection is so strong that it permeates every language they speak and who can never quite get rid of it… the Japanese and Italians and our own Biharis or Bengalis are good examples of this
There is something terribly wrong in our land, now added to your social or religious background is added the ability to master the language of the erstwhile coloniser.
So now perhaps some smart alec will come up with a reservation for those who cannot speak English well..
Why can’t we accept the child who speaks English with her or his Indian accent, just as we accept the inversion of l’s and r’s by our friends from the Far East..
One of the most difficult tasks at pwhy has been to get our kids to shed their self-consciousness and put in active use the huge knowledge of English that lies hidden in their brain.. one understands why when one reads Garima’s story..
But there is another aspect to her story, one that I highlighted earlier with reference to the Mumbai old couple: the role of the media as an agent of change… a single story on the silver screen gets people to shed their cynicism and inaction and do something, be it redressing a tort or reaching out to another..
So maybe that is the road to tread..
PS: Kudos to Garima who has decided to remain in her old school, the one that helped her top and kudos to her parents who have stood by her.
When the aviator missed his Little Prince in St Exupery’s beautiful fable, he looked at the sky searching for a star… when he missed his laugh he thought of bells ringing..
Two weeks from now little mr p will walk out of my door to a new life in his new school.. and a new future just what I wanted, just what we all worked for so hard..
I must confess that though I have been making all the right noises and saying the right words, the ones everyone expects, written all the appropriate thank you’s and bless you’s, deep in my heart all is not quite well.. as is obvious by the fact that I have been hiding the list the school has given and that needs to be purchased as if delaying buying the little socks and hankies would make the two weeks seem longer, or by my erractic work pattern, or my tiptoeing in the dark room and watching popples sleep..
I must also confess that each time he says Maa’mji and comes struting into my office I have been far more indulgent in spite of the many raised eyebrows around me using my position as elder shamlessly.. silly behavior I know but when was love logical.
I have also spent long moments going back on the past three years since I first lay my eyes on this little chap and trying to understand the bond. It is so easy to find reasons to explain why you love someone and when it is little mr p, then they are there on a platter, but I think there are some hidden reasons that only you know and those are the real ones.
So you understand how a tiny fellow has shown you the way many a times when your steps faltered, has helped you find in yourself things you did not know you possessed, even if it is simply stopping your early wails each time you burnt your little finger..
Yes he has taught me many things: courage, uncondional love, stoical acceptance of humiliation and hurt, remarkable ability to adapt to new situations.. albeit adults ones.. but also brought into my life his warm hugs, his special maa’mji, his beautiful smile and above all his demanding love which beckons me and makes me the one he knows is there even if no one is.
But love means to know when your presence becomes hampering, when you need to tiptoe away as life waits with open arms and many dreams to follow.. So two weeks from now I will let mr p walk out of the door into the light..
kids are quite amazing.. mr p wore his Hanuman mask and had us in peals of laughter as we kept telling him to smile and he kept obliging under his mask not realising that no one could see his face..
we finally did tell him to remove it and the dazzling smile was revealed!
Keep smiling little Hanuman
This morning as I entered my office the light on my cellphone was flashing indicating a message in my inbox. I rarely use this facility and normally what awaits me on the screen is some promo or the other. I opened the message – not a promo this time – and read the beautiful words sent by a lovely young woman I recently met. It said:
If God answers your prayers he is increasing your faith
If He delays, he is testing your patience
If He does not, he knows you can handle…
I stared at the words for a long time letting their meaning sink in, and realising how true they were. The words written were in no way a message of resignation but one of hope. How many times have I not sat waiting for what many call miracles, till I realised that it was for me to make it happen, and then somheow things happened: the right words appeared on the screen as my fingers tapped the keys, the long forgotten name sprung back in one’s memory or the right option was sought..
One is but human and somehow one forgets that the greatest gift anyone can give you is the realisation that nothing comes by begging, but by believing in yourself and in your ability to get it, no matter how many hurdles you need to overcome.