Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Teacher Screecher

Since the time I lined up my teddy bears and dolls and taught my lessons to them as a child, I've harbored the dream of being a teacher. Something about the blackboard and chalk caught my fancy- they were tools that seemed as cool as medieval weapons to me. As I grew up, based on what I saw of my own friends, I slowly formed a preference for what age group would be ideal to teach. I zeroed in on the early secondary level- between primary and high school. The kids in primary were too young for me to appeal to their barely there intellect and the older ones were too far gone for to make a difference. So in between the snotty and the snooty, I thought my world made sense. My first teaching job confirmed this and all was well.

Which is why it came as a shock to me when I landed up in school in Bangkok and learnt that I would be a primary English teacher- classes 1 to 6. I was like 'oh-oh'. Didn't I mention that secondary was my strength during the interview? Yet I find myself thrown into these little jaws. Fine, I'll show them what's what.

I now am a slightly wiser human being. Class 1...what can I say about them? The chubbiest cheeks, widest eyes, so ready to smile and giggle for no apparent reason. And so damn earnest, it sometimes breaks my heart. I can barely hold it together when they smack their little chubby hands together in a high-five because they rhymed 'fan' with 'man' successfully. They're achievements are so tiny, yet their joy in them so huge...

And then there's the competition to outdo each other. All I have to do is open my mouth and say 'good' when I get an answer orally. Immediately, there's an outpouring of 'I said it first!" "No, I said it first!" "Ma'am I only said!"

Not all is perfect in paradise though. Class 2 is a bunch of devils that I would gladly send to boot camp for a week or ten. The other classes are okay and of course, fitting in nicely with my theory, classes 5 and 6 are a pleasure to teach. They can comprehend concepts, which is such a relief!

The thing about class 2 and 3 especially, that I find really tough to digest is that they don't know how to spell. What?! This is an alien concept to me because I have no memory of me at that age unarmed with spelling skills, and I don't hang out with kids that age. So, I find myself gaping in an unflattering manner in class often. It's so unbelievable that when a cherub asks 'Ma'am, how do I spell 'table'?", my mouth answers, but my mind is thinking, "No way kid! You need to get back in the womb and stay there longer coz you clearly need more development." It's a testament to my inexperience with toddlers that I expect humans to leave the womb well versed in phonics. So you could say I'm learning.

The other teachers find it funny that I have a cut off time with kids. I don't think I can be with the same set of them for more than an hour and guarantee their safety. So it may seem a strange career choice, but it does work. Classes last for 45 mins in most schools. They're safe. It's okay. Oh yes, they also have cameras in classrooms. Being monitored greatly reduces the instinct to crime, you know. I glance at it from to time like a religious man would look at an idol of his God to gain spiritual strength. It does work.

Which brings us to the other players in the equation. On my first day at work, I was warned about the politics that was common amongst the staff. In the weeks that followed, as a quiet observer, I saw it play out and I'm surprised. That a pleasant friendly woman who is so earnest about everything she does would go out of her way to talk about someone else. That a man who loves to make people laugh would be so quick at misunderstanding and misrepresenting them. But all this, I must add, happens only across the factions. Within them, they are all forgiving. And it pains me to add that these factions are all cut broadly along the lines of nationality and race.

One thing I think we must sit down and change are the classic fairytales that we tell our children-  to make sure that they know that evil is not always and just the presence of hate, but that most of the time it is an unthinking absence of kindness, compassion or acceptance. That it is what happens when you think it's okay to bend your ethics to accommodate your ambition or popularity or whatever.

I wonder at God or whatever creative force that may exist at the creation of this system- how can parents and teachers- people so flawed and so in need of growth ourselves be so completely entrusted with the upbringing of children? It leads me to another thought, this time about religion- most of us have faith in this creative force, this God. But heavens, He/She has a lot more faith- blind, reckless faith in us. Look at how much power we have! And we have the nerve to ask for stuff. If I were God, there'd be an apocalypse every other day. I'd be like, "Damn no, bitches! Where's my white out?"

So all in all, coming back to my apartment at the end of the work day is great.

That's a video I made for my family to see. I share it here so that I may draw your attention to the bath tub. I point it out not just to gloat that I have one, or even because I'm Indian. (We check out each others houses thoroughly when we visit, even the bathrooms.) I point it out for more spiritual reasons. If it is possible for a human being to have an object soulmate, meaning just that- one object destined just for you, then this bathtub is mine. Some divine voice whispered in the manufacturer's ear at the time of its creation, "She will be born, make it perfect" and then gave the man certain specifications- the chief of which was the measurement of my butt. I swear, you can make me sit in it and fill one half of the tub right to the top without even a drop of water leaking through to the other side. Like some human dam. It's way too short lengthwise, but since it doubles up as my clothes washing tub, I'm actually grateful for the dimensions. Like I said, soulmate. I grew up thinking my object soulmate would be a bike, but age changes you in mysterious and pathetic ways. Though I haven't given up hope yet. For the right bike, I'll cheat on the tub. Don't judge me...

So, to my friends who ask me how life is, this is it. Snotty kids, soul searching sessions and bottom fitting bathtubs. Perfect :)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Peace, my friend.....

People represent hope. That's a big part of why we cling to each other, even though we know deeply how alone we are and that when we leave, we go alone. Some might say it's love, but anyone who's been in a relationship that they want to last forever knows that it's hope. I learnt that someone I'd kept in a corner of my heart has passed away and it is devastating. I thought about what it was- what it was about you that you instantly lose when they leave your life, and to me, the answer is hope. The hope of the laughter you thought you'd share for the rest of your lives, the stories you were going to share, the memories you've made together that you could always go back to with a 'Do you remember when...', the hope of hearing a voice that lifts your spirits, the hope of talking about how life sucks just so you know someone else understands, the hope of simply being alive together.

When messiahs and spiritual gurus tell me to 'live in the now', I grasp the concept for what it is, but it is this beautiful, inspiring, smiles-giving hope that always looms in the way and I wonder how it is possible. I was told that it's not true, that it's all just expectations, just selfish desires but what's wrong with that? It's hope.

That's maybe why it hurts so much. People leave. Hope still stays, reminding you of them.

(Rest in peace, Lasheen.)