Dating back to my early teen years, I could passionately recollect how supported were all my hopes and aspirations by my very conspicuous vigour and vibrancy. And, I presumed I was in charge of my life, and happiness seemed granted. Books, along with loving, caring family and friends, were my companions. Though waking up early to birds chirping was thrilling. Those street vendors knocking on our doors with fresh, organic, non-GMO veggies felt disturbing, and the paperboy hurling the newspaper sounded interfering. The postman’s appearance intruded into my private space as my dad would receive a dozen letters every day. An emotional reminiscence made me feel touched as I have had the best childhood. Now, stuck in a motor jungle, the hyped communications can be coded- a gentle horn is a hello, and a bighorn is for anger.

Generally speaking, people are associated with their car numbers, and everyone has a busy daily schedule. In this part of the world, big parties hosting a minimum of fifty families over weekends is the norm. Greeting every guest  is not even the basis of social get-togethers. Tracing back those street vendors’ affectionate smug in my search for healthy foods in shopping malls where plastic cards do all the exchanges, and organic food is far and beyond my reach. Forget Non-GMO’s. The postman wouldn’t be knocking on my door anymore, but letters, well, primarily sales and marketing flyers, and our monthly bills are left in a box at bay.  

Back then, physical handwritten letters were part of exchanging warmth and birthday wishes among cousins and classmates who lived farther or moved places. I moved to England with my husband in 2004. Until then, all those twenty-five years of my early life were spent in a small historical, cultural town, Vizianagaram. Hailing from a small town which was the home town for us since my great grand parents time, every year, I look forward to my town!  After nearly 14 years of my marriage, I still get homesick; I still have the foreigner-feeling wherever I am.  My roots are firm, so are my experiences. My best friend, my maternal granddad, regretted it when telephones became part of every household. “If it’s a handwritten letter, I will cherish reading my letters whenever I want to, whenever I yearn for that person. These phone wishes take away my happy memories, my best time pass and make me long for my grandkids more”, in his exact words.

My granddad was eager to learn about e-mails in 1999, but he didn’t live longer to try that ‘e’spect. I miss my granddad, who was my movie partner, my walking partner, my guide, and my stress-buster, my wall. I never understood his agony about the newly forming nuclear families then and the repercussions. His usage of cloth bags to reduce plastic/paper wastage; his willingness to walk any number of miles to stay fit and be able to say hello to his friends and work colleagues on the way. His philosophy towards vasudaika kutumbam- the whole world as one family – most of his life he had been a great host and rarely a guest. I miss my grandparents’ unconditional love, my grandmum’s innocence, my granddad’s willingness to accept whatever was thrown at him, with a smile on his face though it caused pain to his heart. I was part of the latter emotion, his agony once, and I bury my head in disgust when that thought surfaces in my memory. They taught me the importance of relations in life, and hence I try and maintain one-to-one relationships with everyone I meet and get to know. I try my best to be an agony aunt to any in need. Many forget me in their happy times. I was back-stabbed many times. Yet,  I trained myself not to change my core.  I am not that weak that any negativity around me could change me.

              I have realised “Life” is in charge of me. Lots have changed, but there are affections beneath all these hustle, bustles.  Fortunately, the world around me is very sane, and definitely, love will dominate hatred.. I am incredibly fortunate to have some friends, our extended family, who have the hearts of gold and have the Midas touch. Luckily, we all share the same principles. Love begets love.

Journey of education from fighting illiteracy to a business!

Being born in a family of educators, my sister and I grew up with an awe-inspiring experience of learning every word of the
Archarya devo bhava (Sanskrit for may teacher be your God) and
(Mathru) pithrau devo bhava“, translating to, parents be your God.

I belong to a small town, Vizianagaram, where most schools and colleges were established and supported by the local kings: Gajapathis. Also, our town had had a concept of feeding the financially struggling students (typically attending a university), both local and non-local, to pursue their education. These students approach the halls of residences patronised by royalty or the student’s lecturers or any generous people who can afford a meal to these students. The way it’s done is unique and inspirational. Warm hearts who could feed a student or more can fix on one day of the week, say, Mondays; lunch and dinner at this fixed house, elsewhere on Tuesdays, and so on. In my language, Telugu, it is called “Varalabbay”- Varam- any particular day of the week and ‘Abbay–boy! I had seen only boys practising this; maybe, only boys were allowed to study in such challenging situations – patriarchal society. I still remember such students coming to my house, Mondays & Thursdays. By the time they finished their courses and found a meaningful livelihood, my mother, more than my dad or their parents,  was the first one with whom they shared their happiness! Feeding the hunger is the kindest deed one can observe. Wonderful memories those were. All this was before the demand vs. supply of the education and government interference was minimal.

By the mid-’80s, the capitalist approach had slowly entered the education sector, which paved the way for the growth of many private schools and colleges. Who can afford what was the hidden motto, worth had taken a second place. At the age of two, the first school I attended was run by our family friends, and my mum was a teacher there. For our high-school studies, my dad sent my sister and I to our times’ top Christian missionary school. And we were a handful of children in our area to get such privileged private education. I remember almost every teacher of mine to date, and I  learnt something from every one of them and had been many of their favourites. My teachers have inspired me, instilled discipline and principles along with knowledge. Many of my high-school teachers, my undergrad lecturers are ones I owe a lot to. I was also my undergrad college topper. Education was totally a changed scenario by then. It’s grown into a major business sector. Globalisation, awareness, affordability, everything stirred up, and private schools, colleges, universities mushroomed. So much so that every street has an education institute. Quantity over quality and the most dominant factor, caste-based reservations, rule the Indian education system. The zeal in students may or may not be appreciated. The teaching profession, mostly, is seen as a means of livelihood, and education is precipitated into getting a paper called a degree. By the time I started my masters, I must say, there was a perceivable digression from education as a pursuit & sharing of knowledge in both the parties, students and lecturers. On my part, that was the major regret in life. I must stress there are still those who teach with a passion for knowledge and mold a student’s life for the better. I bow to those, only those. Moving to England, it was fascinating to see a deviation from the hierarchical structure. Yet, I  learnt a lot from my managers and colleagues. But I have started learning more as a mother of two kids. It was enlightening to see not all the students in one class read the same books at school levels. They are placed in one class, only based on their age. Based on their abilities, they follow different levels. That was really a way forward. I remember giving quarterly, half-yearly, year-end exams, and monthly tests that included assignment and unit tests throughout my schooling.  In the UK, my son’s first exam was when he was 7 and it was an observational test, not even letting the student know they were being tested. So, there were no external pressures,  nor did the student “prepare” for the test. At that age, it was based on what you are just as every day!:

Having moved to the US, the highly competitive school my kids go to bring the zeal out of my very relaxed son and made him nervous at the same time. This system has tests, competitions, tournaments on whatever one can name. Is that necessary? Well, it comes with its repercussions, both positive and not so. Leaving all these competitions aside, schooling by itself is another beautiful system. Students attempt mandatory tests at around the age of nine. Many of the teachers have decades of experience. I believe the local people should teach children at a young age to understand how that country works—getting deviated again. Coming to my original topic, teachers lay a solid foundation for any child’s life. When parents find it hard to manage their kids inside four walls over a week’s break, imagine the tenacity teachers possess having to deal with them throughout the year and build a strong foundation. I am on a book, “living at the source,” by Swamy Vivekananda, based on his speeches during his trip to the US. He says every race has something positive to give to society. Yes, a valid point. But one should not regress from a well-working system to one that’s outdated and possibly unrefined! Many children are brain dead by the time they finish their universities. Life is supposed to start from there, not end there. Trust teachers, trust our children. They have their views towards their aims, ambitions. It’s their world. The future belongs to them. Let them flourish. Let them be thankful for what we, as parents, have done. Not make their escape from us. With a few exceptions, teachers know their role. There is abundant sunlight out there. It depends on how much you, yourself, let it in. How much, as parents, we make our children self-sufficient in discovering it themselves. As said, Knowledge is power. The essence of childhood is not treasured in competitions and measured in scores.