This morning when I crossed within the school gate a little girl grabbed me by the arm and said,” come with me Ana”. She dragged me up three flights of stairs and toward her classroom. Before her tiny muscular arms shoved me into her classroom, I managed to tell her that I had to go to my assigned room. She released me from her affection and waved me on my way.
When I got to my room, three tenth grade girls asked me to give them mock interviews. They are hopefuls for the Global Youth Leadership Forum in the Eues. I sat with them under a tree and in the pungent realm of the septic tank. There they told me, ”what leadership means to them, how education brings about change, and what the role of youth is in society ” I was impressed with the strength of their opinions and their, nationally characteristic, verbose Indian ways. I helped them simplify their arguments, stay focused, and give their excited outbursts of global common-sense structure.
I was moved when they told me the affect their education had on their parents. One girl took the English she learned in school and taught it to her mother. Her mother then advanced from a maid to a receptionist. Another girl told me that she helps her father with his work every single day. Her father told her he is proud of her education. I was moved when I thought that the children took the education and gave it to their parents. 感動しました。
The tenth grade boys came to me for their vocational exam prep. The topic of the day’s review lesson was “unnecessary dependence”. I asked the boys what they were dependent on. One boy pointed at the test prep material and said, “ I am dependent on this ”. It made me double think when I said to an unruly boy, “focus after this your life will be good”. I was talking about the positive affect of vocational education and employment. The boy sort of bowed and got back to his work. These kids, even when unruly, are well focused. They don’t have the luxury of anything but success. They made me look at how I and other youngsters moaned through education. What a shame.
One of the advisory level teachers asked me to reach out to the children and tell them how I had struggled to get to where I am today. She looked at me so earnestly that I didn’t dare mention that I didn’t struggle. She went on to tell me that Indian children aren’t asked to take initiative in their education. Indian parents are expected to command their children to study. The parent’s that don’t see the value in education, from forgivable ignorance, don’t pressure their kids to study. This way the kids aren’t encouraged to aspire anywhere, but at school. It is part of my job to inspire the kids to aspire for greater. After graduation and the extremely nurturing environment is gone. They as individuals, without their families support, must apply their education and aspire.
How could I inspire these kids with a story of success? I have not gone through anything relatable. I can’t imagine in what physical and mental environment they live. These kids grew up in a place were a bullshit detector came stock. They would see through anything I said about perseverance. I decided that if the time comes to tell them how education can change their lives I would tell them about the success of my Turkish family; from villagers to professionals in two generations. I was born in the third generation of that progression that luxuriously reaped the fruits of their labors, but these kids are sitting in the shadows where my family sat one hundred years ago.
I want to talk a bit about aspiration and life-perspective. Generally speaking Hindu society asks people to obey the obligations of their caste. Their advancement will come with rebirth, if they act righteously in this life. This idea keeps people relatively placated. This norm serves a king well. It allows people to accept enormous income disparity and hardship. The level of poverty and distress in India would have pushed the USA into civil chaos. Buddhism was a movement born out of Hinduism that said a person could advance to the highest stage in one lifetime, but that they must reject the material world to do so. Buddhism’s influence also didn’t encourage people to aspire. Indian society doesn’t run like a religiously oiled clock, but the norms still exist at the base level.
In ancient times Hinduism didn’t encourage people to aspire. The relaxation of traditional Hinduism came with a pivot west. Through a cultural advent that ran parallel with growth India became a place that values aspiration. In India the billionaires are rock stars. The rich are worshiped for what they accumulated in their lifetime. The richest man in India’s, Mukesh Anbonnie, father was a not a Brahman, but a gas station attendant. The children of the wealthy are encouraged to aspire. The children of the poor are not. The school is trying to be the voice of encouragement for those kids and give them all the advantages their wealthier counter parts have.
After classes ended, I met another American volunteer. She is a sixty year old woman from Maine. She is an art therapist. Her husband is a full bright scholar and they are both in Bengaluru for six months. I met her husband briefly. He was a New England Henry David Thoreau type of guy. They seem like pleasant people and I will enjoy anytime I spend with them.
I have been eating plenty of fruits. I see them as ready-meals in their own wrappings. I consume one 33c pineapple a day and a bunch of greens. Whilst drinking a pint of sugar laden mango juice I realized that I have put myself in a dangerous position. The natural sugars have hazardously contaminated my blood. My blood and I have become irresistibly sweet to mosquitoes. I feel like the most popular girl in school just before prom. I’m swatting away pesky suitors left and right. In order to keep those guys off of me I sleep fully clothed with a shirt on my face. I call it my mosquito burka. Strikingly similar concepts
I returned home to find my toothless doorman wearing a yellow button down long sleeve shirt. Every man knows that there is only one reason any man would ever do that. He was waiting for a lady. I wonder what kind of woman falls in love with a toothless, skeletal, brittle boned wizard. I pretend to go up the stairs toward my 2nd floor apartment. I stopped silently and waited to see his damsel. I could see him staring off into the dark dirty road anticipating her arrival. Just as he cracked a smile across his dry skin and began to swing the gate open for her, the power cut out. I was left wondering in darkness and so are you.