Sunday, June 26, 2011

Choice - Dance and go places

The institute has been quite an experience. I came here with an open mind at the beginning of a journey. On our first day, this song was played to us. It struck such a chord with the choice and the journey ahead.
Lines I like from "I hope you Dance" -

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances
But they're worth taking
Lovin' might be a mistake
But it's worth making
Don't let some hell bent heart
Leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out
Give the heavens above
More than just a passing glance

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance

..Promise me you'll give faith a fighting chance

Another is a poem by Dr.Seuss called "Oh! The places you'll go!". The first part is lovely.

Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

You’ll look up and down streets. Look’em over with care. About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.” With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you’re too smart to go down a not-so-good street.

And you may not find any you’ll want to go down. In that case, of course, you’ll head straight out of town. It’s opener there in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen and frequently do to people as brainy and footsy as you.

And when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew. Just go right along. You’ll start happening too.
Oh! The Places You’ll Go!

I had my reasons for coming here. I never looked upon it as a service or giving back. I felt thinking about it like that undermined my choice. It made it seem like I was personally not gaining that much as I should/would from other places.
Of course, I chose this because I believed I would gain much from here. However, that doesn't mean that I can't think of it as a service. What's so strange about doing service for one's country? Is it not a purpose in itself? Does personal growth need to be disconnected from it?

There are two people who I am going to quote here -
At our opening ceremony (which was bloody brilliant by the way), Shashank (a 2010 fellow) gave a speech. He had joined NDA but had to leave because of the injury hhe sustained during training. Thereafter, a few years hence, he was working in US of A, the land of dreams when he saw a Teach for India advertisement. That's it. He saw it. There was an India map on it. He chose. He told Shaheen that the reason he chose TFI was because it had the colourful India map on it. He is proud to say - "I teach FOR INDIA."

A friend is the second person. Many companies came to our campus for pre-placement presentations. He said - "There are so many of them and their names consist of 'Boston', 'Suisse', 'Deutsche', 'Japan', 'America' and the like. I thought, why am I working there?" It made me smile. It made me think.
I was born in India. I lived in India. My father spent his life in the Indian Army. I studied in Indian Institute of Technology. And now, I Teach FOR India.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Teach for India Adventure - The Beginning

I am almost about to give up on writing about my experiences at the Teach for India (TFI) Training Institute. Initially, I had the plan to blog a little bit after everyday. The plan changed after my first 3 days to after my first week. The titles have been changed from "First day" to "Early days" to the more general "The beginning". Finally, after 15 days of training, this post should see the light of the day. The thoughts are neither in order or fully developed. Events after the first week in later posts.

First Few Days
In the first few days at the institute, there was so much happening all the time that there was no time at all to think and absorb. A bunch of new people to meet, activities to do and sessions to attend. I have been on 5-6 hours of sleep since joining, which is unbelievable for me as people who know me would know.

In my previous post, I mentioned my motivations for TFI. I had written "I honestly think I have picked up the coolest job on campus." That was before joining TFI. Now I have and... So far, every hour that has passed, every person that I have met (especially every staff member) has substantiated that belief. The energy around me is amazing. When we arrived at the institute, there were some staff members near the parking area cheering our arrival. Seriously. The humility and openness of the staff is humbling. All our welcome speeches by Shaheen (founder and CEO), Maureen (Director-Training) and other senior staff started with how humbled they are to address the 2011 batch. Wow! The effort they take to interact with all of us and eliminate the power distance. They felt bad when they hadn't all of our 100+ names already.

There is excitement, fun and spontaneity. At the end of a session one night, the whole cohort broke out into an impromptu dance. Our sessions are super enjoyable. In every session, we do plenty of chants, exercises, drum-rolls and finger clicking. We throw around balls in the huge classroom. The efforts to build teamwork, collaboration, belief and optimism have borne fruits. In our respective PM (Program Manager) groups, we have shared our deep and difficult life stories with people we have known only for 2-3 days. As a result, our group is so much closer.
One fine day, we were divided into groups and thrown out somewhere in the city to earn Rs.25 per person. Teamwork and optimism was showcased there. My discomfort and slight skepticism was overcome when I saw a bunch of co-fellows just going out there and pressing clothes and washing cars. That night, we performed a skit and injected humour into the experience.
One phrase that has entered our vocabulary is 'sense of possibility.' I don't think that it was epitomized more when we saw the kids from an Akanksha school. They had studied 11 years under Anjali didi and came from very poor and difficult backgrounds. Their English fluency was astonishing. Even more jaw-dropping was their confidence and their dreams. They spoke about themselves, their families, their transformation, their didi and the change that they'll bring. I think all of us learnt a lot from that session. What we also learnt were some cool dance moves. All of us danced to the tunes of one of the girls, who is a choreographer. :)

P.S - The food is excellent. *slurp*