Friday, May 9, 2014

Day 2 -You are on the path

Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own.  And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.

OH!THE PLACES YOU'LL GO!

You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.

You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.


No better way to describe any new journey that one is about to embark . Gives you the reality of what it would be like and the hope that at the end it would all fall in palce. And who better than Shaheen Mistri (CEO of TFI)to tell us. Listening to her speak about the tremendous journey of transformation TFI has had so far is like drinking a RedBull that energizes you and keeps up the spirit.

With all this positivity and stimulation the journey has begun,we are on the path and we were about to experience the first hurdle along the way. We had the task to connect with any child from a community  (slum settlement) we were taken to . So I enter the settlement with confidence thinking if I can talk to my 5 year old niece for hours why not this child. Like any settlement the houses were cramped, but for some reason the interior was cleaner and well kept than the exterior of the house. Whether they had the basic amenities or not I saw almost all of them had a dish attached to their roofs.

This activity was getting a lot of attention, we had everyone looking out from their houses.  Some called off their children and condemned them from talking to us. Some came to us and asked if were taking some kind of a survey. Well its not everyday they see a huge number of people walking in to their settlement and randomly picking up a child to talk to them. Had I been living there I surely would have been offended that people who had no business to be in the community decided just to walk right in and intervene. So I could understand why some of them resented us.
Looking around if I could spot any kid who wasn't taken by any of them yet, I came across a few women who were washing clothes at the wash area that was common to the entire community. Now this group was extremely friendly. I noticed most of them spoke only in Marathi, And I thought everyone in Maharashtra knew Hindi .They were smart and had already guesses where we were coming from and why we were at their community. One lady called out to all the kids and a bunch of kids looking really skeptical gathered around. I spoke to a few of them, most of the kids went to Marathi medium school. The ladies proudly introduced me to two girls going to an English medium school, they were the only two going to an English medium school in their community. Sangamitra and Anmeesha. Sangamitra's favorite subject is mathematics, yet she aspires to become a doctor. Anmeesha loves English because she can read novels. Though initially they were answering only to my questions they later warmed up to me after we played a game of dumbcharads and insisted I play kabaddi too with them.It was a great experience.I spoke to a few older gals as well I gathered most of the older girls had either dropped out for taking care of younger siblings or financial reasons, some of them were all happy and glee about getting married post their twelfth boards. College wasn’t given consideration, post twelfth they were more interested in working and being of use to the family financially. For obvious reasons money was the only thing that mattered. I would have loved to spend more time to get to know better but it was time to get back to our buses. The kids and the older girls were great hosts and told us atleast a zillion times to come back some other day. 

So I go back and sit inside the bus feeling all nice and happy and notice a lot of boys from the community stood near our windows and they tried to shake hands, some boys even tried to feel the hands and what not. The girls who experienced this was first in shock because they saw them as kids and never  contemplated them as a threat. The girls then shut their window which then resulted in us being stoned. They kept throwing tiny rocks at the bus until we moved out of the area.

 I was appalled. I imagined what would happen if these boys were in my classroom? I wouldn't want to go through such a thing. I sat in shock for the entire journey and realized. Things like this may happen and will happen. We all come from different backgrounds and cultures and it takes a lot of effort in letting go off them. Which is why doing what we do at TFI makes more sense. Along with academics believing that we can bring in set of values and condition the mindsets of kids by giving them the required access and exposure is very important.

Soon after this we headed to our Opening ceremony. If there is one thing that TFI does best its reinforcing the fact that you can make a huge difference. The session started with a video of deaf and mute children miming the National Anthem with the BG in background. I had goosebumbs for the first time while I sang the anthem. Starting with the anthem through the entire ceremony I was overwhelmed. The MAYA kids who performed, the father who spoke of why it makes sense to him that his daughter chose TFI over a corporate job, The fellow who gave a speech about her experiences, the kids who were participants of MUN conference, Shaheen's stories of compassion were all exemplary and reeked of the art of giving. But Akbar was my favorite, this little boy had the confidence of addressing a crowd of 400 people. And I know it takes a lot of courage to do that when you are just 12 years old. He shared with complete strangers how he, who hadn't spoken a single word of English today could articulate his thoughts in English even if it was not all grammatically right and had the courage to share it in front of everyone. But I was sad to know for someone like him who had the rigor  and aptitude to learn  wasn't admitted into another school for his eighth standard. TFI is hopeful they can help him and find out some school that will welcome him with open hands.

The spirit of all the TFI members and the enthusiasm that was filled in the auditorium was just so infectious. I did miss my family and my friends back at home, because a moment such as this I would have loved to share with all of them. But for now it just feels I did the right thing and truly everything in life happens for a reason.

So Step with care and great tact 
and remember that Life's 
a Great Balancing Act. 
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. 
And never mix up your right foot with your left. 

And will you succeed? 
Yes! You will, indeed! 
(98 and 3 / 4 percent guaranteed.) 

KID, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS! 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Day 1 – FLAME

After Travelling down the hill and engulfing in the beauty of the mountains and the lush green golf club that I saw on the way  I finally arrived at FLAME institute and wished it dint have to be summer. For this place would have been heaven in the winter.

A not so familiar place, 300 complete strangers, scorching heat, a lot of hustle-bustle happening around, these factors are enough for somebody like me to feel like Alice in wonderland. LOST.  I have no qualms jumping into situations like this, its post the jump I have issues with. To connect with people I don’t know, to bond and develop relationships, it is just not something that comes easily to me. I will take my time. And it is just day1 so I try and think there is no need to be apprehensive. I’ll make friends eventually.
Anxiously I look around, some smile, some seem as lost as I am, some have animated conversations with others, some are talking to a bunch of enthusiastic kids. Having entered into what felt like an oven, all I could think of was gulping down something down my dry throat & eat something to appease my growling stomach.
Having done both, I felt better and geared up for the next obvious thing-REGISTRATION. I move from one procedure to the other and after about 6 long exhausting hours (the heat was getting to me) I finally complete the registration formality and make my way into the TFI family. I WILL TEACH FOR INDIA.

Later in the night at dinner I looked around again and thought, most people here are so warm, bubbling with energy and welcoming be it the new fellows, TFI staff and even a few kids who had accompanied the existing TFI fellows. Coming from an IT background this is something you don’t find. If you don’t know someone they wouldn’t stand smiling at you. The chances are they will stare at you top to bottom like you are a statue and move on.

The kids especially came to all the tables conversed with everybody. At their age I would have shrugged my shoulders if strangers asked me questions, and been coy and ran away from them. (I still might) The confidence these kids have amazes me.

So by this time I had met a few fellows, got to know where they come from and found it quite intriguing that there are people from all walks of life. A lot of them like me have quit their IT jobs because staring at your computer and being locked in a small cubicle just wasn’t enough, Bringing life to characters sketched for animation movies wasn’t fascinating enough, For some it was time to give back after having taken a lot, to be useful post retirement, and some of them are here just for the sheer joy they get out of being with kids. I thought they all looked so vibrant and their brightly lit eyes carried a hope that they are here to be a part of a revolution and will be making a huge difference.


The feeling hasn’t quite sunk in for me yet, but today I go to bed with a lot of uncertainties as to what is in hold for the next few days. Will this training be enough for me to handle a class? Am I really going to change my kids in the classroom? Does this really mean anything to me? Am I good enough for this responsibility? What is next post two years fellowship? Will the next few days answer these concerns? I don’t have the answers but I remember reading “The birds of hope are everywhere, listen to them sing”. I am being hopeful to figure them out. WAITING IT OUT WITH PATIENCE!!