Commute

I am happy, committed, loved, content. Yet something stirs in me when I leave the train.

The train, full to its maximum capacity, struggling to make its way through the hustle of the day, works hard like some people I know. It’s a no-sleep life. Extra load on top, people hanging on the sides for their dear life, men spitting everywhere – the train starts with a grumble, and leaves without another look. People sit inside mindlessly. It’s just another day of the same old stuff: my hour-long commute, seeing strangers again, tolerating the stuffiness and stench, hearing some personal stories and unnecessarily loud drama, getting off to another platform. No turning back. There’s no time for that. We have to move, push, shove into the next phase, the next scene. It’s chop-chop in here; there’s no time to stop.

My POV:

I stand there, my world slowing down to one heartbeat. I feel like a fish in a desert. Am I the only one? I look around fast and new people have already rushed to replace me. Doors shut with a slam and that kind woman whose baby I adored will soon forget my face. With pleasure, I existed for 40 minutes – made love to that space of vibrant life, lived those stories I saw and yet once I stepped away, I am alone in this station. The train has filled me with a void of hopelessness and cold winds slap me as it pulls away and leave me here. I stare in disbelief. Sometimes I think: I left my heart in that train, I wanted to make them family and promise to be home again but unfortunately I’m left with nothing. At the end of the ride, I’m “just another stranger”. Humanity has closed its doors on me and moved on, stranger.

I wish that every time I saw the train leave, I didn’t feel betrayed. But I always look at it, shocked. How can you be so alien when once I was so intimate with your beauty? I feel small in this large world of mindless connections. I wasn’t made for this. I never will be.

~~~

Ah! It’s so nice to have written something again!

For the past few months, every time I started writing, I couldn’t stay with my emotion and finish the piece. This was really bothering me but hopefully now I’m back on track. See you soon!

Advertisements

The storm I hated.

Date of post: 15th Jan

“You know what,”
I typed furiously.
“There is a drop of water that you may see
and I may see
And I will see it,
Yet you will not.”

Only, I didn’t type. It was a thought, blown by the storm of my conscience, to the front of my mind. It was the agitation of a revolt. Though similar to others I had had, this was new at the moment.

And at the moment I felt like fighting. Fighting in the wild sea with everything but the force behind it’s wilderness. I couldn’t find the force, you see. I loved the sea too intensely to see its reality. And it wrecked me. For my love was failing me every minute.

I always thought that I would want to be one of those the sea loved. Those pristine wholesome fish, living in clear water, removed from human lives. Yet somewhere along the lines I learnt to accept my position as the rusted, isolated ship. The ship that was nothing more than one entangled, broken mess on the side.

Oh and how I admired those pristine, wholesome fish. I saw how they charmed the sea. I wished I was them for a minute. But they did make me feel like I was worthless. They made me feel like I was not admired, all those times when the sea forgot I was there.

Still, hear, hear all of the world- I did feel like one of those that the sea loved-when the sea did recognise the bond between. Only recognise I say, not accept or embrace.

So then who am I to blame for the storm between us? The sea, the fish or I?

Maybe I am to blame the mirror that deceived me: my pristine, wholesome self, which was beautiful in it’s own way- just, in a galaxy where I saw a drop of water in all it’s importance, and the sea plainly saw a vast, undefinable blue stretch.

~~~

I had written this story as a metaphor for a relationship that saw no reciprocity from one end. The narrator expresses her angst for she loves someone who doesn’t love her back and wishes that her love could see the storm that she could see-the torture of his loving behaviour.

A Little To Take; A Little To Give.

CHAPTER THREE: A Little To Take; A Little To Give.
To follow the story better, read CHAPTER TWO:  Over-ripe, under-ripe students.

When I had signed up for this internship at Save The Children, I was certain about my duty: a teacher of the underprivileged children. However, as days passed and we interns began to know the faculty much better (Reshma Ma’am, Aruna Ma’am, Sachin Sir, Kondiba Bhaiya and Rahul Bhaiya), the internship turned into a rich two-way experience. It all started the day we translated case-studies from Marathi to English once the students had left. Reshma Ma’am told me how she wanted to be better at speaking and reading English and I was awed by her eagerness to learn. Stuck with a strong desire to give back to society, Ananya, Darshan (the third intern), and I started a half-an-hour long English class for all the staff members-after the day’s work was over.

The first day of teaching the staff made me realise that even to teach my favourite subject, I needed to go back to my first few years at school and recollect all the basic rules of grammar. Vowels, nouns, verbs, articles, conjunctions and prepositions were only a few of the items we had to check off the metaphorical Teach English Successfully List.

After a few classes with the staff, Ananya told Kondiba bhaiya that she would give him different kind of homework from the rest as we soon adapted to the different learning speeds and styles within our small classroom. Reshma ma’am and Aruna Ma’am had studied English in college and could therefore read the newspaper and find out the meaning of certain tough words as homework; Kondiba Bhaiya and Rahul Bhaiya needed more help with basic English; Sachin Sir was much better with English so he didn’t need to attend many of our classes and helped us with teaching the others.

The homework we assigned to our adult students was most fervently submitted by Reshma Ma’am. Rahul Bhaiya often tried to hurriedly make up for the incomplete homework during the working hours at the bus when we warned him about the repercussions of incomplete homework. Being young teachers of adults, there was much lighthearted fun poked at us but it was all gladly supported with their seriousness in mastering English. Seriousness is still a light word to explain their dedication towards the subject. Simply recollecting the burning desire of these 30-some-adults to make up for a lack in English skills made me remember all the teachers in school who had, along the way, made me able to spread the light. There is much we are privileged for and while there is much to take from others, there is much to give back.

Over-ripe,under-ripe students.

CHAPTER TWO: Over-ripe, under-ripe students.
To follow the story better, read CHAPTER ONE: My First Day On The Metro

As days went by, we developed a beautiful relationship with our students.
At the very start, we noticed that the students discriminated against their peers on the basis of family background and economic status. I would often hear the influential students ostracize certain others by closing their circle and making the others sit alone, outside. This made me really sad because it was just a dress rehearsal for the life they would lead as adults-in a world where power were used without the interjection of the conscience. I was suddenly even more aware of my role in the lives of these children and reiterating the mantra “If you wouldn’t like to be treated badly, don’t treat others badly.” worked well to resolve this issue.

When a good number of classes were over, I noticed that was Anil greatly interested in birds, Aneesh assumed a natural position of leadership in the class, and Gautam and Anita were the most eager to learn. So soon, apart from being their teacher, I found myself becoming their friend. I realised that many children faced trouble with parents unwilling to send them to the bus-mainly due to trust and practical issues. Even the ones whom we were able to convince sent their children only with their younger siblings because nobody was at home while the adults worked. This opened me up to an over-ripe side to the under-ripe young girls and boys. These children took care of their siblings, did many household chores, worked nearly as much as one would in a a full-time job and still found time to play and go to afternoon school like students their age. Getting to know them filled me with such an intense, powerful urge to help them live a better, educated life in the future.

During these 30 days of teaching, I lived two experiences concerning the students that I will never forget in my life. The first was when an orthodox father came to the bus angrily and dragged his daughter by her upper arm across the street and into their shanty. This totally shattered me because the child was punished so brutally while she wailed and apologized for simply showing an interest in education. Even today, I cannot forget the sight of the small girl being dragged across in her pink kurta by her unmoved father: those are the substance of nightmares.

The second experience was when a mentally disturbed boy of 14 or 15 sat on the steps of our bus and used abusive language with the much younger students. He incited them for no reason and even tried to throw stones at them. When we tried to reason with him, he looked us in the eye and refused to budge. Finally, Rahul Bhaiya-the driver of our bus-drove him away and out of the bus. The teachers said that Sallimullah would perform such acts often because his family did not care at all about a “useless” mentally ill child. He would wander about wherever he wished and his parents would start looking only if he was missing for two days or so. Being a student of Psychology, I was absolutely dejected about Sallimullah’s lack of family support for his illness. 😦

Yet, despite all the difficult experiences, it was wonderful to finish my internship with a family of many loving students behind at Mankhurd. I often heard the young ones calling out excitedly to “Teacher!!” when they were on their way to the market or their local school and those excited faces kept me motivated for the rest of the days. I will always be grateful for their love. 🙂

IMG_20150513_150542937_HDR
Our younger students at Mankhurd, Mumbai.

My First Day On The Metro.

CHAPTER ONE: My First Day On The Metro.
For the next chapter, see CHAPTER TWO: Over-ripe, Under-ripe Students.

My first day on the metro. I walked into the compartment with my sister, sat on the spot-free morning seat and looked around. Sophisticated and simple women sat shoulder to shoulder looking high and mighty in their silence. All back to the Monday grind. Sigh, still a few more of these internships, the end of college and I’d be in their place. Hopefully the big window with its fleeting scenery would save me from routine. Full and luscious green trees stood before me each for just a millisecond – looking worse than a few years ago, I’m presuming, but still beautiful.
My sister had a don’t-talk-to-me-before-10am-rule and in my own world of mellow morning music, I thought about what was going to become a unique memory for the future-my first time meeting children from the Nirankari slum. It was the first day of our teaching internship with Save The Children that day and I was anxious about meeting the little ones. They were not more than 14 and so sadly distant from us in their underprivileged lives. Still, here we were, going to teach them something that would link us forever.
Ananya and I got off the metro and took a bus to Shivaji Nagar. The bus journey was hot and uncomfortable but that was just another thing we got used to, by the end. At Shivaji Nagar, an office help was sent to direct us towards the work area in the Muslim-dominated project location. (I learnt later-to my delight-that Kondiba Bhaiya was considered as no less than the other members of the office).
The slum was just surrounding the dumping grounds of the city of Mumbai and there was an immediate stench when we walked into the interiors of the rural-urban setting. I took in the stench as any other local there but I was very conscious of the fact that I was a stranger. Apart from being a resident of a suburban area, something that separated me from Mankud was that I was a different-looking woman in a clean, hygienic state. And that received some cheeky looks and scrutiny.
I walked on the unpaved road amidst locals going for their afternoon namaaz and entered our work area for the next 30 days-a large, blue bus with pull-down tables and a  clean whiteboard.  The children were young, scruffy, eager, talkative and wearing what seemed like yesterday’s clothes.
The first struggle in teaching, I realised, was the difference in language. I was shocked at our lack of complete fluency in Hindi but the teachers at Save The Children helped us out with a few translations here and there. We taught the children the basic education we had taken for granted in our primary schooling and helped them with Math and English specifically.
In our later-afternoon session, we recieved a larger audience of students who had been freed of household chores and afternoon namaaz. I was personally surprised about their ignorance about certain fundamental matters and amazed at their child-like curiosity. Ananya and I asked personal questions to the students in an effort to show that we cared about each one of them.
The day ended with a little staff-room chatter in our bus and a reflection on the huge difference between this life and the life back at home. 29 days to go.

~~~

This is the first post in a series of posts regarding my experiences teaching young children at a difficult slum in Mumbai last year. The experience is close to my heart and I hope you can live it early as well as I did.

Follow to receive email updates about the next chapters in my story. 🙂

metro

Trembling words escaping through the crevices of a broken heart

I’m so different. So sexy. So different. So smart. So loving. So loved. Yet I am none of those things when he looks at her fleetingly when she is looking away. He smiles with her, admires her, loves her, beautifies her. He does none of that for me.When I realise this I feel cold. Cold and alone. Cold and unloved, uninteresting, unintelligent.

I notice her curves now, how they’re perfect with her smile and confidence. Everything seems beautiful about her when he’s with her. It makes a hollow in my heart so big. How can nobody else’s attention give me happiness. Why am I so alone in my life. He just doesn’t care anymore. He just doesn’t give a shit. About me, or my life. I care too much. And I shouldn’t care this much. I’ll just always be the outsider to his class. I shouldn’t care. I shouldn’t care. I NEED to stop caring. Because I’m so different. So sexy. So different. So smart. So loving. So loved. I’m beautiful the way I am. And I don’t need him to beautify me.

~For all those high school crushes that broke your heart.

It’s incredibly difficult to just press a “DELETE” for those memories that can never truly escape.

But all we have is hope so young child, muster courage till again that heart takes its proper shape.

Featured image
Trembling words coming from steady lips.(Anushka Bhatnagar’s artwork)

Travelling homeward: Introspection.

“Everyone introspects, don’t they?” I thought, as I crossed the road holding a packet of chips in my hand, heading homeward. I went on to the gate and in those 10 seconds another multitude thoughts came to my head. “The most captivating thing about a human is their ability to think, surely. It’s so innate, and so individualistic. But then why is it that people portray that they don’t think of their actions or words really;and that they don’t seem to care about a less superficial view?”

Munching on the crips, I thought of one person, who had made me ask the first question of this post to myself just recently. I pushed the gate of my building ajar and slipped through, my mind in a blur. Walking on the grey and greying bricks I thought some more “Doesn’t everybody like reflecting their reflections into actions? It’s evident that they do, for I have been surprised by their responses to thoughtful dialogues many-a-times. Ah, maybe thinking so deeply is often too cumbersome.”

Wiping my feet on the green, aging mat that royalised our lobby, I lost once more against the ever competitive door of the lift. Waiting for my chance to use the facility I thought, “What if it’s the ignorance and bias in my head that’s not allowing me to see that there are many perspectives to a person? And then there is definitely that cliché factor of ‘what will society say?’, that makes us dance a masked dance throughout life.”

By the time this epiphany came to my head, I was at my doorstep, waiting for someone to open the door, anxious once again as to why the the house seemed slow to respond to my call. Finally I stepped into my home, coming to the conclusion that maybe to understand someone completely we need to fall in sync with their vagueness. We need to realise that even THAT aspect of them is acceptable considering that the battle against the troubles of life is fought only with the personalised, unaided weapons of our minds.

P.S. : You might want to read the title once more, it’s more than just that. 😉