I have been missing in action for a while. I blame the poor internet facilities here. It’s been over 8 weeks now ever since I moved to Leh. School keeps me busy, and sometimes I feel like I need more days to be able to complete the work I am supposed to do. I don’t need more hours in a day. I need more days. There’s a difference; a subtle difference that I am learning here. You see, I don’t need to get more things done in a day. That is not how life works here. That is not its demand. I needn’t take myself so seriously, if you know what I mean. So when work increases, the response that seems more appropriate somehow is to pine for more days lest I work too much in one! It is funny how easily I have incorporated that state of mind. Most of the work that seems to eat away my hours unnoticed comprises an unceasing flow of notebooks and, or tests to check. It can sometimes get quite painful. That, though, is a story for another paragraph.
I am teaching English to grades 9 and 7. It was an interesting start, to say the least. The first couple of days were ones when the waters were being tested. More than the teacher assessing the students, it was the students scanning the new teacher and reading her every move. And the most valuable inference from their observations: “How much can they get away with?” Once they had that figured, well, they had pretty much everything that mattered figured. I have also been assigned as a class teacher for class 9 A. This responsibility has ushered into my life a realization of a whole new state of being: a complex mix of joy and frustration. Initially mere students I had been assigned special responsibility of, they have become my kids I worry about often. It is as if while I learnt to associate their names with their faces to begin with, followed by identifying particular traits that stood out in each, and all the while being often led to extreme annoyance for their lack of care with school-work but then getting over it soon enough, there was a thread of a sort of adoption that weaved them to me binding us together. What strikes me is these are kids that accept easily, and love generously. For that I consider myself fortunate. Now I find thoughts of them moving on to the next class enter and exit my mind, leaving behind a little trail of sadness. I wish I could have them with me longer. After all I am just beginning to get to know them; and them, me.
I often struggle in my mind trying to get a load of an effective approach that will bring desired results in their lives. All of them deserve it. And all of them are unique, requiring different doses of love, discipline, accountability and care. Such a task seems pretty overwhelmingly. At such moments when I am seeking answers I feel very limited. Limited in my skills, limited in time and limited in other resources, both external and internal. “If only I could multiply.” It is nice to think and worry about someone else other than myself, though. For a while I can forget about myself and my problems, and not act like I am the center of the universe because clearly, I am not. Out there, there are lives brimming with different possibilities. And each one of them is loved by God, each one matters. He holds each one of them in the palm of His Hands. And my gosh, what they could do! The possibilities that will only remain a hypothesis if not invested upon. And I have been placed right in the middle of it all. But so far nothing much I have tried seems to work on them. I want to throw my hands up in the air in utter helplessness sometimes. But then I suppose I want results too quick. I will need to be more patient. These are lives I am dealing with: living and breathing, not mere objects that need work. And I still have a lot to learn.
One of the joys of teaching at the school here is getting to witness sights one would never see in the cities. It isn't a rare event that a dog sprinting past the classroom distracts the class in session, or a cow lazily strolls by as if it owns the place! It isn't a rarity to see a teacher and a random stray dog bask under the sun together, or another sly canine skillfully snatch away a snack while the teacher trying to enjoy a little break with a light-refreshment remains oblivious to it all. It isn't a rare affair when a class is being conducted in open air, or an examination is in progress in the basketball court. And I couldn't tell you enough of what I get to read when I check the notebooks of my students. You’d have to follow me on Instagram, or be a Facebook friend to stay updated and amused. What with one student mechanically copying another student’s notes, including the errors and even my remarks (do note they were made in red ink); while another boy answers a mock test question with a dialogue from a popular Bollywood movie. What could be more ridiculous than “Pyar kiya toh darna kya” scribbled in the Devanagri script in an English paper? “Ma’am, kuch samach mein nahin aa raha tha,” came the helpless response when I questioned him about it. Please do not let his insistence on using Hindi escape your notice here. So what if the teacher keeps advising to use English? It isn't a cake-walk to instill a good habit. Bottom line: work is a larger part fun and smaller part frustrating. And the silver lining is I have a source of entertainment during and in the tedious job of checking notebooks, with their million grammatical errors and utter lack of punctuation. I am trying my best, but I do not forget to give myself a break sometimes.
The life I have here is completely different than the one I had in Delhi, and I am glad I had the opportunity to give this life a chance. Sometimes I can’t believe I am really doing this. Sometimes the “rational” mind takes over and I begin to wonder how this really benefits me and my future career-wise. I couldn't present any solid argument in favour of that. And talking about the other favourite matter next, my sister once showed concern about me not finding a suitable man here. She remarked, “How will you find a guy there?” I was amused at that time; finding a guy is not one of my major concerns in life at the moment. But I must admit, I do wonder sometimes, even if for a moment. What if time is just flitting by, and when I am ready and looking it is too late? I don’t really expect to find anyone here. That is not what I am here for, anyway. But I sometimes wonder if it was the best move to hide myself from the rest of the world, choosing to live in some edge of the universe. Am I missing out on all the great guys out there? I find myself seriously considering this question, while laughing at myself at the same time. But then a thought occurs. How many of my friends or individuals of my generation do I know of that have had the courage (or stupidity) to do something different with their lives, simply on a rush for adventure or just for more? I’d like to think I am doing something different. God knows what it will lead to, but I am. This could be the best and bravest decision I have made in my life till date, or the biggest mistake. Time will tell.
So, am I missing out? Yes, missing out on all the stuff that Delhi or another metropolitan city offers (which I admit I miss sometimes). But I am experiencing everything else that it doesn't offer, and possibly nothing else could ever.