December 13th: Ambition & Toilets

Today was Friday and I was merrily busy. I taught my issue classes with now include a Manipuri boy who I mentor. Our mentoring is disguised as Chess class. I’m a bit sorry for the boy because he certainly will not pass tenth grade if he doesn’t shape up. He will have to go to vocational training if he doesn’t pass. The sad thing is that the boy is intelligent. His intelligence is evident in the way he plays chess. The random roulette of wombs fated him to be poor, family less, and living in an environment where he has no access to educational assistance. He lives in an orphanage and it is likely that life in the orphanage is not conducive to studying at all. The part that makes it all worse is that he is ambitious. During our class if I let him go on the computer instead of searching for games he searching for degree programs in Hotel Management. That is his dream, but money and the glass ceiling  of a high school are going to make it very hard for him to achieve that. The teachers haven’t yet told him that he will have to change to vocational school, a decision that will change his life completely and certainly break his heart. In the main time I just let him dream away on the computer, hoping that despite the challenges ahead he will overcome.

I had a fine day otherwise making PowerPoint’s about WWI and WWII for seventh graders.  I have been playing Uno with all the students. I have fallen madly in love with a new pair of kindergarteners. They are twins. They are so adorable and smart. I just go up to them and I tell them they are smart. I don’t need evidence, to give confidence. I know that if you make a child believe they are stupid, then they will limit themselves by how other’s view them, but if you make a child believe they are smart they will effortlessly live up to the view that you implanted in them. In is another application of the Social Mirror. Sometimes I don’t teach the kids anything. I just tell them that they are smart, valuable, and ambitious. I even make them repeat it to me. Then I record it and show it to them. So they see themselves saying proud things.

I grew up with a few learning hurtles along the track. At one point I really believed that I was stupid and that I couldn’t jump over them. I wasn’t getting better grades that changed that opinion and put string in my step, it was nourishing teachers who encouraged me. After they helped me see my own potential and cheered me along the track. I started living up to it. It sounds like a backwards process, but it totally makes sense if you are a forward thinking person. Praise people before they achieve and they are much more likely to deliver.

I pay special attention to praising and encouraging the girls. So many forces, outside of Parikrma, are trying to make them feel worthless. If confidence builds a brick wall around their character than there is nothing the Big Bad Wolf can do, no matter how much he huffs and puffs. So when I see a girl that I am inspired to adore, my only gift to them is to shower them in honest praise. Make up for what their society and  a many of their parents don’t do.

After school I ate at a restaurant. In Virupakshapura, the literal name of my slumburb there is only one hygienic restaurant. The place is open air, perfumed with diesel smoke from the tractors along the road, polluted with the sound of heav trains and all sorts of dirty. However they make fried rice for 1 dollar and people don’t get sick so I guess my cooking days are over. I spent two hour at a browsing center planning a trip to Goa and Chennai. The experience was ok, but I had to pee really bad so it made the whole thing seem super urgent and the computer that much slower.

Men in Virupakshapura pee everywhere. Everyday, I see guys peeing on walls or into the street or out from the street. Grassy areas next to roads are totally toilets for plenty of men. Not even only poor men, men in nice clothes pop a squat on the side of the road too. To be far I have not seen any men going number two, but I has seen people string out of tall grasses as if they were just squatting. I don’t blame them, I blame the poor state of waste management in the country. Even if the government had the money to install a public toilet, they would have enough money to rebuild the water ways to properly maintain that toilet.

I know of a charity in India that only operates safe toilets for women in poor areas. Could you imagine having to line up in the heat with your local area women to wait your turn for a safe toilet? Even though that sounds like being in a pen with a bunch of irritable hens its much better than being outside of the farm with the wolves. I’m so lucky that I get to power-walk home and relieve myself in a western toilet. When I wipe with my left hand, I chuckle at how absurd it is that in Japan the toilet wipes your ass.

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One Response to December 13th: Ambition & Toilets

  1. Kevin Meier says:

    Deren,

    It’s a good thing you’re in India. Of any country on earth I can’t imagine one which needs you more. I recommend you speak to the orphan boy and tell him what will happen. It will suck but at least he has warning, might make the news sting less. We all miss you and how to see you before it’s too late. Keep living the dream and helping others achieve theirs.

    All the best,
    Kevin Meier

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