Tag Archives: change

Non Resident Indian becoming a Resident

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So I have been in India now for three years! Can you believe it? Somedays it feels like the time just flew by but other days, oh did it drag. I will be honest, I have had my fair share (ok, more than that) of “why did I come here and what am I doing here…etc.” rantings and sobbing sessions which come with some of my biggest tears. Having been a NRI (non-resident Indian) for pretty much most of my life I suddenly find myself being a resident. But am I? Therefore I thought, why not do a post on somethings or idiosyncrasies of us NRIs that are finding ourselves becoming almost residents.

NRI

  1. No matter how many languages we may speak or how much our Hindi improves over time we will never ever master the Indian number system. Now imagine us trying to do our so called “haggling” with the vegetable guys and we come to the final price and are clueless. So how do we overcome this? We pretend to have a serious face so we give the impression that we are thinking of whether we are getting a fair price when we are actually having a mini panic attack trying to decipher the quoted number.
  2. Our accent will always be different or we will use different accents to talk to different people. Yes, we do speak in an Indianized accent to our Indian friends and will have our American/British/Aussie one for our other friends.
  3. Another thing that drives us crazy is how to write dates….is it the day/month/year system or month/day/year one? I can never figure this out so I always, always spell out the month when I have to write dates.
  4. We probably know more about Bollywood and Hindi songs than we would like to admit. Actually, we can probably win a game of Hindi movie trivia.
  5. Most of us will admit that we NEVER EVER (lemme repeat that…never ever) thought we would live in India. Let me just give you a real life example of my friends and I. We never ever thought we would be in India and 10-15 years later we are ALL here.
  6. Our understanding of our own Indian family tree is non existent. Who is chacha (uncle) and who is mama (also uncle but from your mother’s side…see what I am talking about) becomes a blur when we attend full family events. We can’t even master our own family tree so think about when it comes to our husband’s family. On such instances we just smile 🙂
  7. Coming back to the topic of buying vegetables. We somehow tend to know the names of vegetables in only one language or will forget how to say it in Hindi. True story: I was making a list of vegetables to buy for my help as I was busy, and while making the list I just couldn’t remember how to say Eggplant (Brinjal) in Hindi. So I wrote eggplant on the list and passed it along. My poor help went crazy trying to figure out what I wanted: an egg or a plant.
  8. We are obsessed with fitted bed sheets. I mean if you have to get bedsheets they have to be fitted ones. No questions asked.

So there is it. I am sure I can add a few more. But these mannerisms make our time in India quite interesting, confusing, and sometimes, ever so frustrating. If you want to add more idiosyncrasies to the list please share!

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Election Season

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With the non-stop election coverage that has been in the newspapers and news channels, it is difficult not to get caught up in it all. We get the Indian Express at home, and for the past 10 days or so it had been listing out the net worth of candidates as filed by them to the Election Commission (EC). I must say, politics makes good money in India.

As a rule, candidates are required to declare the market value of their assets, so that the public is aware of year on year wealth accumulation and if this is fact was because they were in power. Not that it matters in my opinion since there are numerous politicians who have amassed wealth way beyond their means and they have had no inquiries on them. Also most tend to list paid value of their assets instead of market value and in some cases the value seems to have stagnated on the properties.

Just to give you some shocking numbers, there is a 25 year old worth 250 million Rupees, and a cabinet minister from Mizoram who has not even finished High School but is worth 1.75 billion Rupees. These are not figures being made up but those declared by the candidates themselves. Then there are those with houses in the capital worth 90 million Rupees and 50 kgs of gold.

Sonia Gandhi

Sonia Gandhi

Then there is the speculation. It is alleged that Congress President Sonia Gandhi is worth 2 billion USD, making her in fact one of the richest people in the world. Richer than Queen Elizabeth. Former Uttar Pradesh CM Mayawati is said to own hundreds of Hermes bags, and supposedly has the largest private collection. I am yet to see a single bag on her. And ofcourse out very own Emelda Marcos with a twist Jayalalitha. This former movie star has a saree collection that extensive that she has never once repeated her look.

They all claim to work for and understand the needs of the common man, but are at times seen as taking advantage of the same and instead building their own private empires with offshore accounts.

Arvind Kejriwal-the text on his cap translates to "I am the common man"

Arvind Kejriwal-the text on his cap translates to “I am the common man”

Therefore when people went out to vote, they demanded change. A change from the same age old politics and politicians, and instead of someone who was the voice of the common man, they chose the common man himself. Arvind Kejriwal with his incumbent Aam Aadmi Party (literally the Common Man’s Party) shook Delhi CM off her seat. They are all for a corruption free government, where everyone is accountable irrespective of their position.

Kejriwal at a party event

Kejriwal at a party event

For now, they have the people’s backing and support. It is time to now sit back and see how will they practice what they preach. All I hope for is for a country we are proud to call home. A country where is it safe for women to go out and night, a country where you do not have to think twice about what you choose to wear, a country where work can get done without money exchanging hands, a country that builds infrastructure, creates jobs, addresses poverty and gives hope to the common man. That yes, there dreams will come true.

Only time will tell.

Surviving Week 1: Who is the Teacher?

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So school has officially started this past Monday, June 17th! I can’t believe I have been teaching my “own” class for a week. So how has the week been?  It’s been a whirlwind of emotions and experiences. Let me just quickly recount some the things I faced during the first week.

My school for the next two years, Sitaram Abaji PMC in Pune

My school for the next two years, Sitaram Abaji PMC in Pune

With no designated classroom the first day, my kids (20 showed up on the first day) walked up and down 4 floors at least 3 times within a span of 5 minutes. By the time we got a temporary class allocated to us, my kids were quite drained and actually, so was I. But it was okay as the kids greeted me with huge smiles on the first day. They were budding with questions…what did I do before? Where do I live? What do I like to eat? Day 1 ended on a good note, I was able to teach them at least two class procedures and I was content with that. I was all charged up for Day 1!

Class 5B on a Saturday Morning!

Class 5B on a Saturday Morning!

Day 2 rolled around and it was a completely different story. Not only did I realize that due to lack of teachers in the school, I am actually acting like a class teacher for my 5th grade students. On one hand, this was a victory as I now get more time with the students and can really focus on building the core values. However, inside I was panicking because I hadn’t planned enough activities for them!!! On top it all, I felt like I had forgotten everything that was taught to me during institute, especially giving explicit directions and accounting for all things that could go wrong in a class. Anything that could go wrong…pretty much did. I had kids hitting one another, climbing on tables, running around screaming on top of their heads, and one even cried. I was with my kids the entire day and I felt that I was able to teach them nothing. They weren’t listening at all, there was no management in the class, and by the end of it, I almost was on the verge of tears. I left the school thinking will my class ever become the “model” class shown to us in the training videos? Will I ever be able to teach and make a change for these kids? I even asked myself…who is the teacher…me or them?

My individual, Harry Potter, inspired tracker. The kids really want those snitches!

My individual, Harry Potter, inspired tracker. The kids really want those snitches!

I came back home and found myself planning even more. I had to figure out enough activities to keep the students engaged and interested in the class. I hadn’t planned to really bring my class consequences out this early, but decided that this was probably the way to go. Oh, I forgot to mention, I am using Harry Potter as the basis of my class theme. I started giving individual students golden snitches for positive behavior. It worked like a charm!!! Kids wanted those golden snitches and I had everybody’s attention. A huge proud moment for me was when ALL of my students were lined up outside my class exactly as I wanted them to be before school started. I had the bragging rights of telling other fellows that those were my kids lined up neatly outside of the class 🙂

I don’t want to bore all of you but long story short, each day is a surprise. I never know what my kids will do or how they will behave. Which activities will work…which won’t. My daily plan for the kids is constantly running in my mind, how can I make the class better. What do I need to focus on. It’s a challenge, but so far, I am enjoying this journey!

Reflection: TFI Institute

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So I have a new career path: becoming the best teacher I can be, through Teach For India (TFI), and working towards solving the educational inequality gap in India. To be honest, when I applied for TFI I wasn’t really sure about it. I mean I was familiar with Teach for America, had read up on TFI, and was also aware of the inequality gap, but wasn’t sure if I was in a position to do something about it. One of main things that attracted me to TFI was that the fellowship (where you actually become a full-time teacher at a low income school for two years) is also about personal change and growth. That was probably the top thing that bought me here.

Institute, which is a rigorous 5 week training that all incoming fellows undergo, started three days ago and yes, it has been overwhelming with various sessions, community visits, and team building activities, but I also feel like I really only now have had the chance to do a very simple, yet important, thing and that is reflect. Reflect on my actions, my struggles, and feelings. Reflection is one the core values of TFI and on surface it sounds quite simple. I mean I can reflect! I know how I feel, why I feel a certain why, etc. But do I really?

Over the past three days, TFI has forced me to reflect on some the simplest to post profound experiences. How it felt to connect with a child when I entered a low income community. Did I really experience teamwork? What has been a problem I have been struggling with for a while? Why do I hide the way I feel at times? Who is the most important person to me?

These answers might be easy. However, when one has to peel back the onion and really think about the mindset we operate in, the reason behind that belief, and how do we not judge ourselves or others, the reflection isn’t as easy. I have experienced a wide range of emotions over the past few days-those of hope, fear, nervousness, gratitude, belief, confusion, and joy. I think these reflections have forced me to sit and analyze why I behave or feel a certain why. I am not saying that now I know the answers to it all or have a complete understanding in the power of reflecting (to the extent that TFI does), but it has opened the door to thoughts and feelings I probably didn’t let come out before.

TFI truly believes that reflection will help us becoming better leaders and professionals. We should do it frequently so we can constantly improve and give back to our students. I am sure that reflecting upon myself as a teacher and individual will be difficult, somedays I probably won’t want to reflect at all, and may be when I do, the thoughts and answers might be confusing and that is okay.

It may sounds weird, but when was the last time you sat and really reflected upon yourself?