Today I did an hour long workshop with people who are studying to be teachers. It was at an institute way out in the outskirts of Delhi in a place called Dilshad Garden. I’d never been there before. I had to change two trains which was also a first for me. On the way, I saw stretching far into the distance, partially constructed homes built in a giant jigsaw puzzle. Willy, nilly. Walls jutting into each other. Bricks exposed. Where is the time for plaster and paint in a place like Delhi? An expanse of urban life dotted by protruding domes and minarets belonging to places of worship. The dreams of a metropolis stuffed together like playing cards.
Life continues through all of it. A populace that is positively vibrating with curiosity and potential is pulsating through the labyrinths of chaos.
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A PhD scholar at the Dept of Education in Jamia Millia Islamia is working on emotional intelligence in the classroom. She has been designing a variety of interventions to help teachers identify, understand and manage their emotions while interacting with students. She had invited me to work with this group of pre-service teachers for a one-hour session using drama exercises to identify and name emotions. We worked with this through some fun improvisations that were followed by acts of self-questioning and noticing your breath, bodily sensation, thoughts and emotions. I had a wonderful time and was amazed by the intelligence of these to-be teachers. I was filled with hope for the children whom they will teach. I spoke to a few of them for a long time afterwards and they asked me a lot of questions that suggested they have rich inner lives. I was glad because I think we as a nation need to move on from note-giving, static curriculum teachers to dynamic, introspective teachers that have an inner process and practice.
Later one of them walked with me to the metro station and shared the ride until the Central Secretariat. He was from a village in Rajasthan. He was nearly 20 years old, very slim. A gaunt face and sharp nose. He told me he prefers to walk and spend the money he would on the rickshaw on something to eat. He eats bananas, he said. I asked him if he would join me in eating gol gappas. He said he avoids eating prepared food outside the house. He said where he lives in Dwarka, he knows the food vendors and the food is of good quality so he eats it there but not here in Dilshad Garden. He also told me the area we were walking through was the most polluted part of Delhi and he had read in the newspaper that Delhi was the most polluted city in the world so he said, this means we are walking through the most polluted place in the world. I remarked that some bougainvillea flowers on the way were beautiful. He said the flowers in Dwarka were better. On the train he asked me about my time in the United States. He listened with great curiosity and often went into deep thought about what I had said. Then he told me that I should stay toward the front when getting off at C. Sectt otherwise the mob will push me back into the train. When he got off, he told me how many stations it will be before mine. I thanked him, we shook hands and he left. I will attach a photo of the whole group today. He is not in it because he took the photo. Later we did a selfie with some other friends of his because he said that all the photos that are taken in the institute, he is usually not in them. Maybe he feels invisible.
For me, as the “expert” it felt good to have a channel for my experience to find a place in someone’s heart. That is what we all want I think, that someone will carry a piece of our legacy and a piece of the beautiful puzzle that they are figuring out will come from us. It really is a fulfilling feeling and on days like this, I feel like my acting aspiration is not just self-absorbed need for accolade and admiration. I owe those students a great debt because they agreed to be the recipients of my wisdom. This is hard these days because everyone already knows so much.
If we all did the things we are capable of,
we would astound ourselves.
That is how I feel about the kids I met today.