Thursday, 17 September 2015

The thin line

"Is this the kind of Education that you are providing the kids?" she said - I was surprised.

It was just yesterday that I got a call from my colleague informing me that the students, we work with, wanted a holiday for Vishwakarma puja. Declaring a holiday wasn't a big deal but it was important to understand why they wanted it. So, I asked them to come and meet me.

They came with eyes full of expectations. When I look back at my childhood, I have been a similar kind of a kid who didn't want anything to do with the world during pujas. So, I perfectly understood what the kids wanted. I told them to attend their class for just an hour in the morning and then they can have the entire day to themselves. But kids being kids, they were just not willing to let go. I smiled, got sad, angry but to no avail. So, I told them that I would talk to their parents and if they didn't have any issues, we could go ahead with an hour of studies or else we would scrap it altogether.

However, this blog is not about my negotiations with them or whether they were able to get a day's holiday - these are minute things. This blog is about what happened unexpectedly when I visited their community. I was talking to some of the parents and the kids had encircled me and since I have always asked them to call me bhaiya (hindi for elder brother), they not only call me by that term but also behave like the same to which I have no issues what-so-ever.

There I was, talking to the parents as well as the kids and the latter were like - "no! we can't come", "even if you call, we wouldn't miss our puja", "just tell us whether you would give us a holiday or not" and I was joking with them regarding the same when suddenly I could hear a voice speak to me from behind in Bengali - "aei shikhha dyan apnara aei bachhader?" (Is this the kind of Education that you are providing the kids?). She was a woman from the community itself, aged in her early 30s wearing a saree with a short stature but firm eyes looking at me as if I had committed a blunder. I was taken aback for a moment because never before had any stranger spoken to me in such a tone.

She continued saying that children of this age shouldn't dare to talk to their teachers this way. She told us that we should be strict enough so that they become disciplined. She asked us whether our education was qualitative enough. I tried explaining her what we do but it seemed she had already made up her mind. I don't know why but I felt really bad at that point of time and suddenly my head bent down. I didn't say anything and once she was done, I just walked back to my office without saying a single word to anyone.

For almost that entire day, I was pondering on whether I was wrong, should I maintain a strict code of conduct with those kids, am I being an ineffective role model. So today, when I was just about to enter my office, I got a call from those students' facilitator saying that the kids wanted to talk to me. I thought they would again come to ask about the holiday but something unexpected happened. When these kids came, there was a slightly different look on their faces - something that I hadn't seen before. When I asked them what they wanted to tell me, they just got up and said - "We are sorry!" 

I was taken aback again - for the 2nd time in 2 days. I asked them the reason for the apology. They said they felt bad when the woman in the community reprimanded me (well, kind of) and they stood watching. One of the kids, Suman, who is generally the most notorious said that he had later gone to her house and told her never to talk to me in such a manner. Well, whether he did it or not is not the point, the point being that they had somewhat reflected about the entire incident internally. I felt really emotional at that time. I told them that it wasn't their fault but they need to realize that in future, they need to maintain some code of conduct with general people in the society as their behaviour will sketch people's perspective towards them. 

I don't know whether this is an age for them to understand what I said but I think they got the point. When I spoke to my Boss about this, he instantly asked me to pen down this experience. I thank him for otherwise, I would have just kept all of this in my mind. The questions surrounding my mind are - 

Why did the woman say those things?

Was she right?
Should I just ignore the situation?
Were the kids right?

I am not looking to find the answers right away as I feel happy after writing this down. However, it'll be great if my readers (you all) have any perspective to share about the incident. Thank you for spending so much time to go through this. I know it was a bit lengthy and I promise to make it shorter and crisper next time.


Srotriya Chowdhury

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