Friday, September 28, 2007
going to school
i held a one day workshop in a design school yesterday. the subject being one of continuing interest to me - perception of color and how it communicates. i stepped into a classroom after almost a year. an unruly class of about 20 sat around the benches sizing me up in the quick, discerning way that only young people can.after teaching for four years, i like to think that one of my favorite places is the classroom.
i like the conversations that take place the most... the way an idea travels around the class and grows and slowly takes form.
i like to watch young faces grapple with a thought, chew it, take in the zest in it, or even challenge it, not liking the flavors at all.
when one teaches, one speaks a lot, and i am not someone who is very fond of hearing my own voice. i prefer to listen. and this has been my greatest lessons of all. so much of teaching is listening, so much of living is listening.in our heated debates and discussions with some of my ex-colleagues in the design school where i taught earlier, we have always wondered what a teacher should be like? especially as more and more younger people are joining the teaching fraternity and the difference of age between the students and the faculty is not all that large. also when information is so extensively and easily available by the flick of a few keys, what is then the emerging role of a teacher? i really, fervently believe that a good teacher is merely someone who can guide and give direction, objectively without prejudice. no longer can we be inexhaustible crucibles of knowledge, who, sitting on a higher throne, distribute it to the 'less enlightened', faithful lot of believers.
i think most of us could do with a large shot of humility. and the sooner we begin to accept that we can also learn from someone who is a decade (if not more) younger than us, the better teachers, parents, siblings or human beings we could be.
teaching... i have never quite liked the word, it is very uni-directional and has a 'holier than thou' ring to it, it brings pictures of shuttered classrooms and unapprochable men and women lurking at the front of the class, brandishing a cane or ruler, in my head. i dont want to call it 'sharing', that sounds too pretentious... so let me call it 'mentoring', until i find another word. a mentor is a trusted advisor, so i think i can go with that for now. being a mentor is exhausting, probably because of the gargantuan sense of responsibility that it brings with it, and giving selflessly can be rather fatiguing. people are fragile, and whether they are young or old, so many times one can do lasting damage to another human being in the garb of doing what is right or knowing what is best. the more we are convinced that we know what is best for another, the more damage we can cause.
the truth is we are all individuals in our own seperate worlds, experiencing every moment that is unique only to us, yet we are connected to each other by the common warp and weft of living. there was this girl in class yesterday, who would interject discussions with the strangest of questions, comments or absurd repetitions of what was being said. i noticed that the other students were a little wary of her, but did not attempt to counter or add to anything she was saying. her face looked old and marked, and she had dark circles under her eyes. i wondered silently about her. i found out later that she had lost her father in an accident four years back, suffered a terrible nervous breakdown, from which she has not recovered yet, there was also a hint that she was subject to sexual abuse. she is 27 years old, the oldest in the class of 20 year olds...the faculty members empathise with her, but are not quite sure how to deal with her.
it seems like they let her be, they watch out for her, are more considerate and perhaps less harsh than they would otherwise be with an average or below average student. i would perhaps do the same.
i have no idea what the right thing to do is. is there such a thing in the first place? i feel more humility with every passing day. i have increasingly begun to feel that what i know can fit into the holes of a button, this one lifetime seems to be too little to learn all that can be. and i dont mean bookish knowledge, i mean about people, about their lives, their hopes, loves, losses, about the lines on their faces... i dont know if this is a good thing or not. but i am not able to have strong, unshakeable opinions any more. ideas about right and wrong have all gone blurry.
all i know is there is an entire landscape of unknowns, and it stretches as far as i can see.
days of sloth and aimlessness
this is officially 'time off', and i like it. the house is finally settled and it sparkles just about as much as i like it to. so how do i spend all my time, you may wonder...well, i wake up early to let my new 'bai' in who thankfully does not bring any entourage with her. i am practising my tamil with her. for some reason the only fluent tamil i can speak is with my parents and brother, i get totally tongue tied if i have to speak this language with anybody else... i stammer and forget simple words and get all flushed. i make my cup of coffee, wake the husband with 'bed-horlicks' (snigger). make breakfast. and then hang around and wait for the husband to leave for work, then i potter around the house doing odd bits of work.make another cup of coffee and do the times crossword, stand in the balcony and look at the bustle that goes on in the street below.
the most fascinating people live in this street. two very old paatis (grannys) and a young girl, who live next to the facing compound wall. all their belongings are stacked in huddles and heaps on a shelf made of flat cemented stones that are stacked high. mornings, all the women on the street line up at the water tap with plastic kodams (water pots). they gossip and chat, while they wait for their turn. the pots are first scrubbed clean before they are filled with water. the tap splutters and spews a thin trickle of water. then come the next batch of women folk, sometime in the afternoon, dragging some very unwilling children to the tap.
i spent a whole hour watching a thin, young woman bathe her three daughters, the other day. she brought lotas of water and filled a big pot, collected bits of wood that was lying around, left over from the construction work, lit a fire under the pot and went about sharply slapping her daughters, getting them to undress for their baths. all of them had neat pigtails tied into curves with black ribbons. as she undid their pigtails, their hair came tumbling out in big, brown raggedy heaps. they sat patiently, one by one, after a few initial squeals and surrendered to being scrubbed and shampooed.i like watching these people. it is surprising that they never look up at me. their life perhaps is all that is immediate and what is right in front of them. or maybe they just have too much to do. or maybe looking up at something only gives you a crick in the neck! going back to the not so interesting times in my life... apart from looking into other people's lives and homes, i flop about and read, listen to music, bake once in a while, catch as many snoozes as i like.
i have been catching up on films that i have missed. watched 'the blue umbrella', 'cheeni kum', 'the good german' and 'knocked up' so far (apart from trikaal, a wedding, mash, dial m for murder and ek ruka hua faisla from my own collection).
cheeni kum was rather nice, except for the sudden burst of emotional, bollywood, hyper drama for the last 30 minutes.
the blue umbrella is a must watch, pankaj kapoor has excelled himself, the film does falter and stretch towards the middle-end, but the idea is refreshing to start with.
the good german is a cross between a quasi schindler's list and casablanca, without doing much justice to either... but nevertheless a good watch for its treatment.knocked up can be avoided like the plague.
once the husband is home in the evening, i make hot samosas and chai for him ( ha! ha! got you there! didnt i?).
we go out to get a film, get a cup of coffee, or meet up with friends. the boys-log sit and watch football or cricket, talk greek, latin and farsi about these games, while i pretend to be watching the game and listening to them. or we are at home, cooking some experimental dinner, curling up with a book or watching a film.as you can see, i have been doing a remarkably good imitation of some dopey elephant seals...but i can say that i am beginning to understand what i would like to be doing for a living.while that idea emerges, i like this period of calm and lull.
i have had this after many, many years and i like the time warp that i am in.
i like to wake up and not have to hurry. i like it when i dont watch any TV, though i have all the time to. i like the quiet. i like the purposelessness.
ta-da!! after a short hiatus, i am back on the blogsphere!much has changed! my life is rather upscale these days, i have put on some more flab in all the wrong places, the new house is bright and dandy and i have already had several anxiety attacks about the screwed up traffic here!
i live in a rather poshish place, ok to be honest, a few minutes walk from a rather poshish place!the street is nice to walk on in the evenings! its lined with trees and cafes.
i have already sampled some delicious chettinaad food with its hot spicy curries and oodles of rice heaped to high mounds on plates!
i went to one of the oldest coffee houses here and drank a litre of bitter-sweet-divine filter kaapi! my favorite occupation is gawking at people! they come in such myriad kinds in this city!trendy chicklet things and grunge pinch-my-butt-boys and old, swarthy uncles!
i think this city cant quite make up its mind... its trendy and local all mixed up together to make a rather smashing blend... if there is anything that is painfully, annoying to the point of madness, is this city's traffic and the autowallahs who want their "ten rupees ekksttra".
will i never be rid of these demons???!
i still havent made my mind up about bengalooru... though the coffee house did steal a big chunk of my heart (old musty walls, lined with tattered coffee posters, mahogany brown, ancient chairs and tables and fluffy poached eggs!), i feel like i belong here... with koshy's, higgin and bothams, gangaram's... i am already half seduced!
my last day at work here!
i can’t say i feel euphoric or that i feel upset. i feel completely detached and neutral.
in retrospect, this is exactly how i have felt about this job over what spans to almost a year. and this is really a first for me. i cannot remember ever being so detached with any work that i have done so far.
i had to fill up a feedback form and there were two questions that got me stumped.
1. what is your most cherished moment here?
2. what is your least cherished moment here?
to my surprise, i found that i had no answers to these questions. i had nothing to cherish or not cherish. that is so abysmally dismal.
what has this place/job really done for me? for starters, i met the most wonderful man here (who now occupies the position of ‘the husband’). i learnt what it was that i certainly did not want to do. i guess that’s not all that bad then. but one thing is for sure; never again will i do something that does not give me the meaning that i seek. never again a job that merely pays the bills and the rent. no more tiny cubicles that fetter my spirit.
i am going to stick my neck out… and see what i see.
11 days that play truant
another weekend's gone by. i have about 11 more days to go in pune.
it sounds like such little time when i put it down this way.
but i so wish it felt that way!i feel limbo, like i am caught between here and there. i am aware of every single day and hour that slinks by. it is such a drudge to bring myself over to work and go through the entire routine of the scores of mundane things that a typical day is made of. i have looked at the calendar about a trillion times already.
i have to get myself to work for 7 days more! that’s it!
and then there shall be new beginnings! new people, places! new conversations, new questions! new purpose!
i feel like a child who is waiting for school to begin, all her new textbooks and notebooks are wrapped in brown paper with bright labels, she’s got a new pencil box, with all the pencils sharpened to sharp points and a fancy new sharpener!
hmm. i can almost smell the lovely, fresh smell of newly printed ink and crisp, untainted white pages! my bags are packed, and now will these 11 truant days just march by quickly??!