Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Suffering is what I see all around. People are suffering physically, emotionally and spiritually. However,  in last one year, I have had a rendezvous with people and ideas showing me flipside. Where there was suffering they found joy, where there was ignorance they found wisdom and where there was greed they found generosity. I have often wondered, how did they reach that stage?

Mahatma Gandhi practiced ahmisa by which he meant not harming anyone even in thoughts. Dalai Lama admits that he sleeps 8 hours usually but see his contribution in spreading so much peace in the world. Parmahansa Yogananda in his autobiography tells about spirituality so technically and scientifically that it can construct an absolute path to walk on for the lifetime. Gautam Buddha continuously questioned himself why there is suffering in this world. To find his answer, for years he made himself suffer by giving up his every single desire, punishing his body and facing rejection and remorse. When he found his answer, he felt the cessation of suffering. He felt joy- an absolute joy. How strange is that when he questioned suffering, he found joy!

Last three weeks have been a very testing time for me. My father almost had a date with death. My mother I found out is losing her cognitive abilities due to Dementia. She cannot eat, write, locate things, express her feelings and forgets what happened a minute ago. She cannot be cured and in fact will deteriorate further. A doctor on a single day told me the critical situation of my parents. I have been coping with both of their situations, smiling, without crying and demonstrating unprecedented strength in dealing with the situation. I see them suffering. I suffer with their suffering. I am yet to figure out the path to joy in this scenario. What could that be? Detachment? or Surrender? or Acceptance? These does not sound like paths to joy, paths to peace may be....but not path to joy.

How did Buddha found it? How did he cope up with separation from his family? How did he address his longings? Parmahansa Yogananda cried when he intuitively figured out death of his brother several miles apart. Mahatma Gandhi was torn apart when his wife died and when partition happened. They suffered. How can we be oblivion to our surroundings? How can we break free from interdependence? 

I don't think so we can. In rare moments, we can find joy however and that could be our strength.

I enjoyed getting drenched in the rain yesterday. I in fact sang in the rain. I enjoyed fighting with my dad while he is still recovering and listening to my mom's singing. I love cooking for my parents and the fact that I got to spend so much time with them. That is the small joy I found. Things may not get better. But the present moment is beautiful. It has become beautiful due to one small secret - that I am focusing on it only. And no future or past can take it away from me. That is what I found underlying in teachings of these great men.

Joy. Peace. Happiness.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Hit the waves

With no earrings,a broken watch waiting for its turn and empty fingers, I enter Ummeed worrying not about my jewels but whether boys today will choose education over cricket. It was 9 AM and I promised to have breakfast with them today. All but one already had breakfast, most of them slept again after having it. I had breakfast with one who was waiting for me. I sat in a corner to understand how will I begin teaching. 3 out of 9  IX standard students got up and sat down after a push and pep talk. In past one week, I have discovered that all my students are brilliant but they lack discipline and self-belief. Because of their background, they cannot be forced to do anything nor they can be motivated with stories of great legends. The only thing they need is sense of achievement in academics which will come with consistent trials of their own persistence.

One of the student attended three classes and never attended another one. Two students attended classes and everybody was amazed that they did so. I am still figuring out what turned one away and brought the unexpected ones into classroom. They love my presence is all that I have figured out till now but they have been abandoned before and they don't think I would be an exception. So they don't trust me. I prepared lunch for one of the younger ones, who is not my student, in the past week for I don't like eating my home made food alone while they all eat from mess. I loved little lunch talk I had with him. I brought one boy, desperately waiting for having his love materialized, to my classroom by hitting the bull's eye with "No girl's family will reject you if you are earning well".

This past week it was 9 AM to 10 PM and, a kind of hard work that I never have done before. I am sitting with fewer students at a time so I understand each of their learning styles and motivation levels. I dealt with an issue where a student's clothes were all torn with blade in the night time in his "locker" and he was wearing borrowed clothes. Still don't know how he developed that level of enmity with someone. I just couldn't teach kids when I figured out that they didn't have dinner and breakfast because of some issue with the food. But that was not all. I hit the bottom.

I have got one regular student in my classroom. He is always smiling and has a great sense of humor. He never says no to studies and so I have been really fond of him. During middle of the week however he started asking me quaint questions. It all began with "Didi, what do you mean by 1000 chicks?". Ignored, answered, dodged, deflected, I reached to a stage when he asked me very simply if I have seen Desi Boys. I said Yes and he said "didi why dont you teach us the way the teacher in that movie taught?" I was furious without any bounds. I confronted him by asking him if he has any idea what he is talking about. I asked him to leave the class. I was numb. I thought I have lost a student by not stopping him very strictly at first incident. The fault was mine. And he misused that liberty. After fifteen minutes, I found him lying in another room. I called him out and ask he wants to talk to me about all adult things? If he wants his teacher to give him  sex education class and impart to him knowledge of an appropriate behavior towards the opposite gender. He said sorry several times. When I was about to leave that night I found him cutting away from me, not giving his usual smile and not raising his head at all.

Next morning, I went back to him. This time I said sorry for being so furious. Of all the things I know his intention wasn't bad. He just didn't know what to talk in front of a girl. I want to be a mother of these kids and I just have to accept the challenges that they are giving me. He still didn't want to talk and didn't respond well to my apology. After two hours however when I was teaching eighth graders, he asked me from behind "Didi shall I bring the book?". He was back! My joy knew no limits. He placed his trust back in me again. He studied for two hours that day with a gentleman behavior and his usual sense of humor! Joy pervade in every cell of my body. I am proud to have a student like him!

Ummeed definitely is turning out to be one of the hardest things of my life. And I think I am underestimating!

Sunday, June 3, 2012


I have completed my first week at Ummeed. It is an interesting shift as a teacher from 8-years-old kids to 16-years old boys.  I have discovered love lives of few of them. A boy very cutely wrote a  beautiful calligraphy of his girl's name on his calf. Another boy told me about an entire story on how he proposed. I loved when they said that they will tell me but that they wont tell that in front of anyone. They are truly in love can be judged by the way that they always are happy and looked so effortless towards their daily struggles. May God keep their sanctity and insanity forever!

I have been demanded to teach even on Sunday, today. Apparently, today the girls will be coming for TEDEx preparations and one student wants to create an impression on her girl by demonstrating that he is a very hard-working guy. This is so cute! Makes my job easier too!

This was a real good part of my week there. The week however didn't start that way. 

At 6:30 PM on Tuesday:

I saw two of my students walking out with their bags. One of them was being asked to go out of the shelter home by the staff. The second one was walking out in support of his friend. I was told by other boys that the first one threw stones on the staff last night. Before that he mistakenly broke the printer, beat a younger kid, steal a tap, brought bear on his birthday party etc. He had already been given a punishment for staying at an old age home for a week. This time staff (5 caretakers) demanded that this boy was creating nuisance since a long time and should be thrown out else they all will resign. The coordinator from the management came over to resolve the issue. It was decided that this child will be asked to stay with his mother for over two weeks. He gave a call to his mother but he said that if his mother comes here, she should not be disrespected as happened with a case earlier. Staff believed that this child should not be kept in shelter home as his mother can afford his education. They were very adamant. Since the boy committed the mistake, I really have no choice then to ask him to call his mother and promised to him the project co-ordinator and I will talk to her.

She came over. She looked tensed. We sat together and we told her about the entire situation. Meantime, staff barged in too. She broke down and said to his son that you always get me insulted in front of everyone. I was flabbergasted. The boy started crying too, pushed his head three four times on the wall. I held him and told his mother that how proud we all are of him. He is very intelligent in studies (he is brilliant!) and is giving Ted talk too where he will be talking in front of several people! There are few mistakes that he is doing and since you are his mother and he is so much attached to you, he will listen to you. Why don't you talk to him while we all wait outside?" We all left the room. I ran for water! I was so damn thirsty. All other students outside thronged around me but I had no answer to give them yet. After fifteen minutes, I walked inside the room alone and told the boy in front of his mother, "People waiting outside are really angry at you. What do you think you should be doing even if whatever you did according to you was right". He said, " I will apologize and I was wrong in doing what I did.". The staff and project coordinator came in and he said sorry to them. Staff however wasn't satisfied. They put their demand forward that he should be taken with his mother. His mother said " I can't keep him with me. You brought him from streets of Connaught Place, threw him back there." This was another shocker. The boy broke down again. I took him out of the room. He told me "I ran from my home only because my mother started crying whenever somebody complained to her" Heavens! I calmed him down and I said that I won't let anything happen to him anymore.

The project coordinator understood that Mother can't take the boy with her. He made the moments light and  appreciated her for taking time out at 9:30 PM. She replied that my daughters were requesting me not to go but I still came. I was in deep agony for that child. 

It was 10:30 PM when everything got settled down. All other kids rejoiced with this decision. He will still be given a punishment and it will decided soon! But he and his mother were respectfully treated overall throughout the "hearing".

I took this child on a ride on my Active to give him some fresh air. He was ok now and said with a laugh "I am having a headache now because of  barging my head onto the wall". After a km ride, i dropped him. I reached home at 11 PM. Phew!


I have few more eventful stories to tell but this has already turned out to be a long post. Just to add, I am struggling in classroom. Out of all my 25 students, only 4 are turning up. Rest are ignoring their education and their new teacher! Lets see till what time time they do that.