Tuesday, April 13, 2010
An APV Update! Finally...
Aaaahhhh… Right now I am writing from the porch of our new kitchen at APV, gazing upon the green, terraced slopes spilling into the valleys below and the fruit trees gently dancing in the wind. Bijli, the puppy that we had gotten right before my departure is now a bonefide two year old dog! And she is lazily sleeping in the shade in front of me, deaf to the darting birds making attempts at the stale chapati and buffalo milk in her food dish.
I have been back at APV for about two weeks, just enough time to realize how unreal this place is. It seems like just yesterday, I was making the ridiculous journey here from Dehradun (a full 24 hours, which included stints in an overnight train, a shared three wheeler bus, the WORSE bus ride of my life, a boat ride across the Ganga, a three km walk that took 2 hours [it is Kumbha Mela in Rishikesh, the largest annual gathering in recorded history to the likes of 300,000 people], then finally a jeep to APV. uck.uck.uck.). Time has little very little significance here, which is both nice from a personal point of view and terribly frustrating from a professional.
In any case many things have changed, albeit only slightly. Maneesha, or my little Chuha, our principal's daughter and resident child in our ashram, has become the most delightful young women. She now is in 7th grade (sweet lawrd), and has shed, confusingly for her age group, her sassiness. I can recall far too many instances such sassiness, where the wrong use a color while helping her one of her pictures would warrant two weeks of silence and cold stares. Now she is a bundle of smarts, cleavers, and so much of love. Thank goodness she hasn't grown out of the endearing traits that have earned the moniker chuha, or mouse. If you leave out anything of her fancy unattended, such as chocolates, books, brightly colored things, etc., they will be gone within minutes; swept away to one of her many hidden goodie nests clandestinely scattered in our home, Ganesh Bhavan.
The fact that children mature when you leave them for a couple years was quite unsettling for me the first week. I was uncomfortable with the Mohit's bass voice, Deepak's sporty new mustache, Priyanka's growth spurt. The kids that I would chase around the school and tickle, now are mini adults. Completely unfair. At least some of my favs, Sudha, Sandiya(s), Saurabh, etc, have not grown an inch, and maintain the same sweet and inquisitive innocence that earned them their high spots on my echelon of favorites (I know a teacher should not hold biases, but that is no fun). Oh, and sweet Ritu, my fav of favs. She grew an inch and mother decided that it was time for her to look more like her first grade peers (e.g. cut her hair like a boy). Still uncontrollably adorable and able to scale any adult to find a nice spot on their shoulders.
The teachers are doing well. Jyoti and Garima, who came right as I was leaving have definitely matured into their teaching craft. I have especially been impressed by Jyoti, her thoughtful lesson plans, her abilities in the classroom, and eagerness to learn. We all are bracing ourselves for the loss of Mansoora next month. Arguably one of the sweetest, hardworking in our cadre, decided, or well, her parents decided that it was time for marriage. Sir ji is Sir ji, as he has always been Sir ji. He has had much energy in working on projects in the school and community, while developing a philosophy on 'mindfields,' a network of energy that binds all people together and can only be accessed through meditation. Still trying to wrap my head around it, but it is interesting enough. We also have two new fellows here, Charlie and Sameer, with whom I have been sharing a room with and enjoying getting to know.
Meditation has been sluggish and frustrating, as with getting readjusted to the schedule. It has been particularly busy as of late; take for example a couple days ago, when a 3:40am wake up call flowed into a meditation, breakfast prep, a tree felling trip, loading heavy logs down treacherous mountain sides, a ridiculous trip down to the market to pick up 25 pounds of vegetables, dinner preparations, then a birthday celebration for Jyoti. Exhausting. I have been working in the class trying to develop cohesive, interesting lesson plans to catch up our kids on English skills. I am finding, though, that the language barrier can be frustrating. My Hindi has become terrible. Also in combatting the popular opinion of myself as a giant white play toy I have found that discipline can be an issue. I hope that over the next couple months, I can further refine my teaching skills in preparation for a Masters in Teaching program when I come home.
I also have made an important discovery: village women don't forget. When I left India last time, I had amassed a group of mothers in my favorite village, Kantoli, that treated me as their own. They were so motherly in fact, that they all gave me their phone numbers and demanded a call when I returned home to tell them that I was safe. Unfortunately, I was swept up with reunions and documentary film making. I didn't call. They definitely remembered.
To my defense, one of the first things I did upon my return was visit this village, for my mind often wandered to the bucolic idylls of Kantoli; the cobbled houses nestled between rolling wheat fields, the worn, beautiful, aged woodwork, and the kind and hospitable townspeople. Some of my favorite memories and favorite people live in this town.
When I made my way down the village, I found all of the women, with whom I was closest to, singing bhaajans and kirtaans together in a small room (idyllic right?). I became quite disappointed to find that their first questions where, 'Do you remember who I am?' and 'Why didn't you call?' I think I made amends with all of them, although it took quite a few hours, many cups of chai, and many more assurances that I would call them next time, to heal the wounds. Ack, always remember to keep your promises to village women. Always.
All I got for now. Very, very busy and very, very content.