Hi Prof G.,
Being part of this village ecosystem is as enchanting as it is an eye-opener. For a while I thought I’d remain in a daze, swept by the gentle breeze, smell of cow dung, open fields, starry skies and slow life. Until, I took a walk into their homes and therefore, their lives, and realized just how much the winds don’t blow in their favour. There are real challenges here – disconcertingly primitive conditions, a lack of basic infrastructure, dreams that only dream as far as the closest town 40 minutes away.
When I teach the kids, curious as ever, I’m afraid I’ll answer something wrong. I’m afraid I’ll misrepresent the education system that I have now come to represent.
When I have to yell, I sometimes don’t. Is it fair to holler at a child who has never seen the privileges I have?
If I don’t straighten her up, am I being unfair to the material I’m teaching; to the story I’m telling?
I find myself questioning my own behavior so much. Do I need to be this soft; this hard; this funny; this silly; this child-like; so grown-up?
Gah! So many question of my own, over and above all the questions the kids ask me!
I think it will all make sense.
For now, all that matters is that my kids enjoy listening, that they’re so intrigued by the
words being read to them, so involved, that they almost want to know a story outside the story being read to them.
I’m happy to say more, to explain more, to create a universe – sometimes illusory, sometimes alternate, sometimes real for them to bask in.
In this ‘Story Exchange’, I can see a change. A movement of sorts.
Where there’s something shifting in the micro-climate of the school with this new, different inclusion of storytelling that’s strengthening their grasp over a foreign language and their own – in translation and general usage.
To be at the grass-root level is actually an advantage, a position of power, because the kids now know what they deserve, that they can do better if only the opportunity is presented to them, if the platforms are created for them, if new stories are being told to them, if a whole new world is being opened up to them.
Until now, they didn’t know what they were missing.
Now, they will want it.
I wish we could do these for a lot more subjects – in and out of their curriculum.
I wish they had electricity and running water all day.
I wish every single one of them had a concrete roof over their heads so they didn’t have to miss school on very stormy days.
I wish their meals had more than what constitutes a rich kids’ shampoo.
I wish there were more voices to meet the questions circling in their bright minds and even brighter smiles.
I wish we had more regard for our rural heartlands.
I wish we had hearts as big as them.
This Revolution, our Revolution, Prof. G, does indeed begin on THE RURAL DISPATCH.
Still gathering the seven lessons to meet my daily dairy requirement,
Yours and learning every day,
(X is currently part of ‘The Story Exchange Program’ at the O.P.Z. High School in the village of Dhasa in Gujarat. This letter is part of a series we’re calling: ‘THE RURAL DISPATCH’.)
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