Contd from my previous post (in case you missed it plz..go to the archives)
If what I learnt from Mrs Katre is zeal for life, my zest for life began from then.
I had this incessant need to do something more than what I am doing.
Teaching, organizing events, attending parties and knowing a little more than what I should know was not enough for me. Life has to have more purpose and more focus..but
I didn’t know what my goals are.
Working in Santushti and with experience in the world of designer living and import/exports made me understand life a little better but the fact remains that I am not a good sales person. I cannot sell anything.
That left me with some confusion. After seeing the glitzy life of glamour and designer living, its a little depressing to get back to hot classrooms, boring staffrooms and mundane routine of a school.
Meanwhile we shifted to Hyderabad on posting to Begumpet Airforce Station.My hometown...my alma matter!
After being away for more than 14yrs from home state, it was a grand homecoming. Living amongst family and relatives, getting back to teaching and regular social life of the Airforce led my ambitions sleep for some time.
1996 December: Guess I never want to remember or recall that terrible aircrash. But that sight of watching a mass cremation of 24 bodies with 23 families mourning for their dear ones ( 1 body was unidentified so some kind person volunteered to do the last rites) made me a little stone hearted . I grew out of the myth that life is permanent. I told myself that I will not worry about death ‘coz its inevitable, and will not bother myself with small things in life ‘coz living has to have higher meaning.
From then ‘dying’ never scared me. The pilot of that aircraft Flt Lt Harita was one of the first women pilots in the AF. The previous night all of us spent a warm evening with bon fire and dancing in Trimulgherry Mess and next afternoon her body was only a mass of flesh. I didn’t need any other lesson to teach me on the temporary nature of life.
1999: Gwalior: The premiere base of AF with fighter aircrafts ‘Mirages’ based there. Barely after moving there and settling down, Kargil war started and both the Mirage squadrons were actively involved. The war like feeling was very depressing. Most of the men moved to borders and women everywhere were talking fears and apprehensions. Those 2 months had an eerie feeling that remained with us for a long time. My deep interest in Indo- Pak problems began then. Until then my knowledge was limited and I began to read extensively about this ‘issue’. I started reading about defence and strategic problems between continents and countries when my husband used to bring journals from NDC , but now my interest deepened and I wanted to know the micro and macro level issues that prevent peace between our two countries.
Thats when I grew out of fiction and romances completely and reading ‘to learn and know’ started.My reading habit turned into passion. Reading had a purpose and direction from then.
The School for Special Children: All the Airforce wives have to assume certain social welfare responsibilities. I was asked to take care of the Special School in Gwalior Airforce station and
I led myself to learn the needs of these children and take care of them with my human best. It was my heart that was more attached to them than my mind. My mind could not accept them but my heart welcomed them.
Me -The Script Writer/ Director/Choreographer: Gwalior being a premier base, we had dignitaries visiting frequently. In Air force, the maxim was -live life the king size. And if I have to do something it has to be different. My sojourn with ‘out of the box thinking’ started since then.-
The kind of events and programs that I conceived and organized were highly appreciated.
I led myself to do things differently-something that was never done before!
Chambal: next to our quarters, we had a rehabilitation village for voluntarily retired dacoits. Former dhakus are now farmers, shepherds and dairy workers. My milkman used to come riding on a Royal Enfield bike with a rifle tied to his back, taller than my doorframe with a milk can in his hand.
(Ex-Dhaku)Man Singh in his gruffy voice would say...’memsaab doodh lelo’ and would adjust his rifle to bend and pour the milk in the vessel. I learnt from him –that in one lifetime we can assume two extreme roles and still find happiness in it.
SHILLONG: I can talk for the next 10 years but still find something more to say about shillong.
Each day of the 3 years stay there –I treasured in my heart. The hills, clouds, pines and the people there will always remain with me. Shillong being the educational and cultural capital for all the north eastern hill states,I had students from all the states. Teaching those teenagers in 11th and 12th Grades actually made me into a student once again. Behind those tiny eyes and stony expressions those hills people have a heart of gold.
Teaching in a state where –most
marwari students come to school for the sake of owning an ornamental degree,
most Bengalis students come to school for the sake of earning degree, PG and get into teaching
most meghalay, mizo, Naga, Manipuri and arunachal students come because a degree will get them a government job.
To be precise all of them had only one aim-to settle down into the passive and predictable lives their elders are leading. No great ambitions or aspirations. Moreover the hills people had these apprehensions and fears of the mainland Indians and to some extent they show their xenophobia very obviously.
Well, teaching Political science and that too unity in diversity was indeed an uphill task where they never sang National anthem thinking that it is a Hindu Prayer or never celebrate Republic Day or Independence Day.
Teaching them ‘threats to democracy’ was easy because I managed to gather examples from their Bandhs and boycotts. Regionalism and Communalism was also easy but my aggressive stance on their lopsided views on ‘India’ (they treated themselves as foreigners) was sometimes met with fears from my colleagues. I was undeterred as I started seeing their tiny eyes opening wider with each thought provoking question I would ask.
I have seen it all- knives, weapons, drugs, cigarrettes and liquor –with them. When some of them had roommates or friends who are actively working for banned organizations like HNLC (Hynniew Nation Liberation Council) NLF (Naga Liberation front) I knew that they were also indirectly there. Somehow I did not fear them. On the contrary I felt responsible to awaken them to the reality. They were under this myth that if they are independent from India they will be able to bring development in their region.
I spared no efforts in educating my students regarding the issues as they are. They suffered from the syndrome-I like dad’s money but not his control or attitude. Even vegetable vendors used to say-tumhare India mein kya hai?
I knew that I was treading on a sensitive issue but to my surprise I did not get any threats. In fact my bunch of students were more regular to school and we started having more discussions on policies of the centre. Some of their questions, I am sure were not from them (may be their friends had these questions).
They started showing me threatening letters from banned organizations to Marwari families. My Marwari students showed me how they leave the monthly hafta(money) in a sack in the corners of their shop. The receipts they get for the hafta collected also-I saw.
I was saddened to see the mis-information flowing in and how ignorant and vulnerable these people are. It is the vested interests of the local politicians that prevents peace prevail here. Guess it is the same problem as we have here in the mainland. Atleast I did my modest best in lighting a fire in them. I could make them all sing National Song and Anthem. I could bring in a lot of cohesion in the classrooms too. The kind of love and affection I got ( get) from them, I guess I cant ask for more from life.
The positive vibes that I got from there was simply electrifying. It actually awakened me to the fact that teaching need not be just from books. In fact we could complete an year’s syllabus in 3 months and yet get merit out of them in the boards.
Thats when I realized that in the 9 months of an academic session, we can actually teach volumes about the world. Textbooks are actually deterrents; they limit a teacher’s scope. My confidence that world is the textbook and that I can teach it all with a defined scope and sequence came from my Shillong experience. If I can specify what a 10 year old has to learn in EVS or what a 13 year old should learn in Science without referring to any books or curriculum it is because of the teaching practices that I followed in those classrooms.
With scarcity of textbooks,bandhs,5 day week,2 months of winter vacation in December and jan, and no special classes- if the students can achieve 75% on an average in the boards, how much should the students in AP get with 100% more time and practice...atleast 175% in my opinion !
Teaching, motivating and auguring a momentum in their thought was the most satisfying period of my life.
I feel that from a teacher I have become an educator since then- and all thanks to my students who led me to this fire in me.
I do not want this to stretch like the typical TV serials-
To be continued and concluded in my next post.