Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Before Midnight

I love what I currently do. The problem with loving what you do is that you are always thinking about it - for me 'it' is my classroom. I have only felt partially detached from my work when I am running - focusing all my thoughts and energy on finishing the extra lap. That has not happened much off late. Since nothing else is equally effective, my personal time has not entirely been my own.

However today, miraculously, I was able to cut myself off for the whole 108 minutes of watching 'Before Midnight'. If you like a rosy fast paced romance with its highs and lows making way for a happy ending, this is NOT the movie for you. If your idea of a romantic movie is one that combines the colours of a strong rationale and authentic emotion against a backdrop of reality, then 'Before Midnight' is a must watch. Richard Linklater is exceptional as director (again!) and Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have stayed brutally true to their character portrayal of Jesse and Celine respectively, as they move nearly another decade in time.

I personally found this movie to be the best of the three - for the beauty with which it handles the phase of life the characters are in and the metamorphosis of their relationship over time. As they move back and forth between reminiscing the journey of their love and contemplating the possibilities of the future, they realize that coping with the present is the real struggle.

The movie was engrossing for the simple reason that I strongly believe in the definition of love that it represents. I believe true love has many hues that change shade over time. Nonetheless, at any point in time, those hues make the two people more beautiful together, than each of them would have been individually or with someone else.

To be able to capture the essence of something so deep, so simply, is what strikes me the most about 'Before Midnight'. It is good poetry that leaves you with many thoughts, possibilities and positive emotions. I do hope I see Jesse and Celine grow old together with Linklater, Hawke and Delpy teaming up again one last time.

PS: This is also the 200th post on my blog!! Never thought I would last this long when I started writing here.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Five Weeks

People had told me that I won't have the time to write at institute. I had always thought I would find time to write, despite the hectic pace of the schedule. I was wrong. The five weeks I spent at the institute preparing for my teaching stint were the longest of my life in many ways.

They seemed long because my day was packed from 7AM in the morning till 11PM in the night. They seemed long because of the over whelming amount of information that was shared with us. They seemed long because of how much I learned. They seemed long because of the number of highs and lows that were packed in them - as many as there would have been in a typical year of  'normal' living. They seemed long because I was cut off from the world and the people I love in a manner I had never been before. Above all, they seemed long because I feel I know and trust the people I met here at the same level as I have known and trusted my closest friends.

These five weeks seemed long, but they were unforgettable. If I could, I would love to relive them. However, nothing would better the first experience and the element of surprise associated with it. Of that, I would only have memories.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


I finally met half of the 140 sixth graders I will be teaching over the next two years, along with my team of three other fellows. Majority of them have been with Teach for India for four years but initial assessment results have shown that they lag behind their grade level considerably (some at an emergent level - which means at a KG level of reading fluency). Reasons for low achievement levels have been aplenty and at this point, I do not have enough information to deduce which of those are facts and which opinions.

Let me present some of the facts.My school is run by a large Shia trust and is one of the largest in the Shivaji Nagar area. The class is mostly composed of Shia Muslims (around 60-70%) and Sunni Muslims (around 30-35%) and one-two Hindu student. An intriguing thing is that the school is next to one of the largest dumping grounds in the Chembur-Ghatkopar area - in which people claim bodies of victims of the gang violence are found. This gang violence is a reason why parents of our kids are over protective about their safety. As a result of their paranoia, they are hesitant in allowing their kids to stay back for extra classes after school. Considering the pressure of completing both the state and TFI curriculum as well as the varying achievement level in class, lack of extra time with the kids is going to be a barrier we will have to work around. I am hoping we can reach a strong consensus with the key stake holders on the same - both parents and school authorities.

However, the picture in the classroom is not bleak. I know my kids are strong and gritty in life. I have seen their sensibility in planning a farewell for one of the fellows. I have seen them shower love on the same fellow, like one would on their parents.  I know they are street smart.They may not be able to express themselves as cogently in English as they should at their age, but their thought process is not immature and they can reason.

I want them to consistently demonstrate the same qualities in the classroom. I will have to introduce them to many role models, both male and female, who they can look up to for inspiration to break free from the setting. I will have to drive a culture of achievement in class and make them believe that they can each learn despite and in spite of everything they see around them. Their environment cannot and will not become a decider of who they become in life.

TFI does not joke when it says "Are you ready for the challenge?" in their recruitment campaigns. Clearly, the road ahead is going to be arduous and long. There are no short cuts to this goal. Isn't that why most of us came here in the first place - to challenge ourselves in a meaningful and unprecedented way?