Dhasa is a little place with a lot of heart.
This morning, at a corner stall outside school, a glass of milk cost me seven rupees.
The lady selling it wouldn’t take the seven rupees!
When I insisted she does, she smiled a motherly smile and said,
“You’re going back to school! If you bring me back a lesson for every rupee, then you can pay me for the glass of milk.”
Why are the biggest hearts in the smallest of places, in the bodies of people who will readily give away a lot of the very little they have?
Lesson One? Certainly, question one on my quest to find seven, solid ones.
I have a fortnight here. And seven lessons to take back to her.
May be then she’ll accept ninety-eight rupees from me at the end of my time here – a glass of milk every morning accounted for!
The students are wonderful. There’s all types of them – adolescents coming into their own, listening and learning, and restless and curious – as they should be!
A book on Vivekananda was an easy pick off one of the shelves of the library.
A true, resonant beginning.
Reading to someone is such a delicate dance.
You’re carrying the substance of the story, the voice of the author, and hopefully, the right feeling to your listener.
And I didn’t want to get it wrong.
I know how much I enjoyed being read to and I wanted these kids to feel the same!
I think I’m going to gradually be able to answer some of these questions,
And in doing so, appreciate what my teachers or anyone who ever told me a story did for me:
How do you create an environment for listening?
How do you bring the setting of a story alive around your listeners?
How do you bring every character to life?
And how do you therefore, ensure the story you’re telling sweeps your listener into a world away from their own, into the life and times of another?
Well, I guess they just have to sit and listen as carefully as they can.
And I have to become the story and relay it as earnestly as I can.
Drama. Voice. Gesture. Expression.
The right mix of it all thrown in.
And then, a lot of heart, of course.
It helps to be in a place like this.
It really trickles into every part of you.
I’ll come back with my first lesson soon.
You can keep an inventory to ensure I pay back the motherly shopkeeper.
Until the next story and glass of milk,
(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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