Voluntary English Teaching at a local school: India Literacy Project

Thanks to a friend, who introduced me to this person who’s coordinating the India Literacy Project in Hyderabad, from tomorrow I will be teaching a couple of hours of English at a local school every week.

Frankly, eternal pessimist that I am, when I went to check out one of the schools under the ILP a few days back, I was very sceptical. Then I sat in this class. There were  about 40 students dressed in neat but faded school uniforms with their school bags in front of them, seated cross-legged on the floor. The teacher has been working with the kids for 3 years. 3 years – I thought, thats a long time, a lot of commitment. The students were so eager to learn from her, it was quite amazing. And she both firm and kind at the same time. I was such a pleasure to watch her – she was teaching in the phonetic style, and the students were picking up the stuff like sponge.

She later went to teach the 5th standard students. She’d given them comprehension and composition to do – stuff like writing a para about a picture, answering questions from a para – and they had done quite well. Much better than the primary school in Guwahati near my house, where my Aunt teaches. Believe me, it does make a difference, quite a huge one. But as with any other effort, it needs long term commitment.

So this lady pretty much inspired me without knowing it. And I am looking forward to tomorrow, when I will start my first class. Hopefully, I will be able to stay as committed as she is.

There are of course debates galore about this, as with every other issue. So the debate here is – what about the school teachers? Aren’t they supposed to be doing this job? I don’t know about that ( though the ILP guy tells me that most schools do not have good teachers, or even any teacher for English, an essential life-skill today), but I do know that most students pass out without a working knowledge of English.

So there is some work to be done there. And two hours a week is not a lot.

N’s third birthday party coming up soon

And Appa and I are discussing how we’d like the party to be – we for a moment were actually wondering if we should ever consider the McDonald’s and Pizza Hut party, but I don’t think we can ever do that. I mean, its not in us, we’d rather have our parties at home, and have it at least feel different.

And call me a control freak or what, but I like to do a lot of things for myself instead of leaving it all to the caterer, or the event manager, or whatever,

So our Bday is going to be really simple – starting with the B’day dress, a simple cotton dress with a few frills and ribbons and what-nots here and there, that N can run around without me having to shout at her for spoiling the satin/silk. And one B’day frock for the day to wear to school.

APpa wants to make a statement with the food – that even though it is a party, we can still try to eat healthy. So apparently we are going to have lots of fruits and juices, and sandwiches and pasta. No chips ( the kids are going to hate this party maybe??)

And we will have N’s toys accessible all over the place, set up different play corners for the kids ( maybe even a play-pool?) – I don’t know. But stuff that we will think about ourselves. And that N can also think about.

She’s already excited – and she’s already named the kids she wants to call. I will keep the guest list to that – my friends, appa’s friends and N’s friends. No family around here , unfortunately, but maybe the Grandparents will come from Mumbai, and maybe little sis will come too. That will be a blast.

While thinking all these thoughts, I came across Madmomma’s post on her kid’s third b’day party. And I realised hey – this is what I’ve been thinking about. Glad to see more people around you who think the way to do, and believe in the authenticity of the experience rather than the show of it.

Incidentally, this is N’s first Bday party in our own house – part of why Appa and I are very excited. The first one was in Guwahati, the second in Mumbai.

Summer is here in Hyderabad

Mornings and evenings are still cool, but during the day the temperature is already hitting the thirties. Summer is here, and looking like it is coming with a vengeance.

Some good things to look forward to –  teaching N swimming ( she, unfortunately, like the Little Sis, appears not too keen on this), eating raw mango chutney ( the recipe for which I will try to flick from my maid whose claim to fame is chutneys and pickles that set your tongue on fire), icecreams and cool juices, and, very soon, luscious mangoes. The entire summer the year before N would sit in the balcony and gorge on mangoes.

Some not so good things – the heat and tossing about at night because of power cuts, sun burn, not able to walk/cycle much during the day, water shortage, power cuts.Also, N’s school break where I have to think of how to entertain her the entire day!

When spouses become strangers

Sometimes we get so engrossed in our day to day routine we tend to forget the pleasures and focus only on the responsibilities.

A casualty of this attitude : slow killing of those relationships which at one point were the most important to us.

A manifestation of this is common to women with the responsibility of work and kids and managing a  household, not to mention keeping up with social schedules. You know what happens often? Their relationship with their husband suffers.

The person who once wooed you on his knees, and with whom you would exchange sweet nothings etc.. transformed into a sperm donor and a household expense provider. Perhaps, one day, when the kids have flown the nest and ambition ( or lack of) no longer drives you at work, you will look at him once again. But then, he would be middle aged and so wouild you be, and you will have rheumy eyes, and would you be able to do the same things together again?

This post is a kind of wake-up call to all women ( and men) who are forgetting to look at their spouse because they are so busy getting on with their lives otherwise. Its not just twice in a year ( birthday and anniversary) that I am talking about – it is everyday.

I know how it is to get caught up – but I think we can rouse ourselves before it is too late, get out of our jombie state and start loving again.

Walking the ruins of Hampi

This is as laid back a vacation as it can get, at least for someone like me who can’t sit still even on a beach with a beach umbrella and a drink. I am one of those irritating people who always need to be on the move somehow, or always need to be, DOING something.

So then Hampi happened over the weekend. A place that I loved the first time I went there I think 6 or 7 years back, where there was no N and not even Appa ( well, he was there in my life, but was out of the country at that time). And that I fell in love with again – this time with N and Appa along. We walked and walked, and when we didn’t walk we lazed and lazed – sipping – not wine, but Lassi. Plain lassi , papaya lassi, banana lassi, mixed fruit lassi – you name it and they had it!

Hampi is as beautiful as ever. Not changed much, in fact, not changed at all. Beautiful ruins set among rocks that change colors depending on the time of the day, greenery of the fields and greenery of the banana plantations , and the playful Tungabhadra river with its little coracle boats.

So whats new in Hampi? I noticed much more hippie crowd – floating down the coast from Goa and Gokarna, and heading somewhere towards salvation ( or so they hope). So we mingled with the crowd, stayed in youth hostels for backpackers ( it was really nice actually, and very clean too), met interesting people, and ate at.. of course. the Mango tree – the only restaurant in the world that has good staff, good lassi and good view ( I challenge you to find another)!

N cooperated and walked a fair bit for a kid of her age. But the heat did get to her, and there was some amount of carrying we had to do. THis was different from carrying her in Rome, she was a mere 1.5 year old baby then, now she is going to be 3! And carrying her and walking is an entirely different story. Not to forget that our bones and musles are older too.

But we all loved Hampi. Why? Here’s why..

We got to explore the lovely ruins of the old Vijayanagar kingdom.

Exploring the ruins of Hampi: Achutaraya temple

We got to watch Lakhsmi the temple elephant having a nice bath in the river.

Lakshmi the temple elephant enjoying her bath

The Goan corner is a restaurant in Hampi. Yes. ANd here’s how you get to it.

Walking to the Goan corner restaurant in Hampi

The icing on the cake? The flaming sunsets ..

The sun setting on the Tungabhadra river

Please notice my new header – its my best sunset photo from Hampi! And I’m quite proud of it.