Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Digantar Workshop Working

And that’s Where the Workshop happened

An experience at Digantar is uncomfortable, awkward and close to being amongst aliens when you are not a teacher. It’s a good thing that I didn’t think a lot before going a Children’s Literature workshop run by Digantar in Jaipur. If I did, I would have been more than just nervous. An assumption was made that there would be other writers who interested in writing and children’s literature. Once again, good thing that I didn’t do in-depth research.

As it turns out, my assumptions was dashed, battered and broken against the rocks, or if you will – Digantar’s wall.

Turns out that Digantar was training teachers. Teacher’s I scoffed, I laughed, I was afraid – I knew nothing about teaching. Nothing to do but wade along with the workshop.

The shock

I heard stories about the educational world. These stories are more real than those ones I’ve read on a pieces of paper or online pages. These are stories from the movers and shakers of the educational world. Teachers and NGO workers all trying to make a difference in a churning and wheeling machinery that grinds students and teachers alike.

Stories from a Harayan teacher who is trying to get parents to care about education. Stories about a University professor who asks students to return the favour not through monetary means, but by getting more students. An NGO worker who is trying to convince students to just sit and read. Or the story of an NGO that futilely tries to convince a State Education head that the latest curriculum is more of a burden than a problem solver.

They are driven by a need to give something back to society. For some reason, they feel indebted to the goodness of society and teaching is a way to give back. For others, it is the pure joy of children that drives them forward.


I know a lot. I read a lot. I consume information of all sorts. Yet, in front of so many teachers I was humbled in a manner that I never imagined. The stories, the discussions, the ideas, the thought process – everything was foreign to me.

Imagine being in discussion between educationalists on why a child is not interested in a particular type of picture storybook. Ideas and suggestions are flying fast and hard, each as valid and possible as the other. These are suggestions and assessments based on experience. It’s all alien. All I could do was listen.


Even though I consider myself a good listener, the next three days of the workshop took my listening skills to the limits, because that’s what all I could do.

The amount of feedback or suggestions I can give is very limited. A simple story about a children’s story based on a math’s problem can be turned into a drama for children, while a slow story about a tribal girl trying to get school can be quite interesting. I had to change my thinking. 

What goes in the mind of the teacher is very different from a normal human.

The Passion

One thing that you cannot doubt – the passion. The passion shown by these teachers, these NGOs, these educationalists. This is a passion that stands the harsh cogs of the educational machine.

“Fresh water pond” that’s what one teacher called the workshop.

They all face an onslaught.

And even at the end of it all, at the end of the workshop – they are all excited. They can’t wait to take these new learning, these teachings, these passions, this creativity back to their children. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Dental Visit

I wish my father told me, “Fear the Dentist, son”, instead of, “Always visit the dentist once a year, you only have one set of teeth blah blah”. However, now I have the habit of visiting the dentist. There is nothing to worry about from the moment you walk inside the dentist office to sitting in the waiting room. But then I worry and fear hits me as I get seated on the dental chair.

The grey metallic implements are clearly visible on the table. “Open wide”, she says and the bright light flickers on.

“Any complaints?” she asks.

“No, just a regular checkup”, I manage with my jaws still wide apart.

Her hand stretches out and grabs the pick and mirror from the table.

It’s okay, it’s just the pick. She always starts off with the pick.

The metal implement scratches against my teeth as her finger keeps flicking the mirror side to side in an attempt to get a better view.

She says nothing, I knew she wouldn’t say anything. There is nothing wrong with my teeth. She puts the pick and mirror down and then, she picks up the drill.

That’s when I feel the jitters. It vibrates through me as I watch her select a long pin and attach it on and give it a spin. The noise is terrifying for what is to come. As always she does not tell me anything. There is the fear of the unknown.

The drill goes inside and begins chipping away at my teeth. It’s a scary feeling. I wait for the pain to start. You can feel it touch the edges, sending vibrations through the root nerves and my face winced… or winced as much possible when its jaws are stretched wide open.

She took a pause and I took a breath. I didn’t realise in my anxiety I held my breath.

The drilling continued and all that can be said was that it was terrible. I felt parts of my beautiful teeth being chipped away for an unknown reason. When she paused, a quick internal lick of the tongue, revealed a small hole drilled inside.

White matter was poured into the hole and just like how a pothole is filled up, a filling was added inside.

But, that was not the end of it. To my horror, she had a new implement in her hand, one that I hadn’t seen before. Some sort of flat brush which began rubbing against my teeth. “This will give it the white look it needs”, she proclaimed, for the first time telling me what was actually happening.

But, wait, I didn’t want any of this. My teeth are prefect. That’s what I wanted to tell her, but in silence I sat on the chair and let her do the good work to my already good teeth.