Can you gift an excellent education to 33 of my kids?

Deepesh

I am a Fellow with Teach for India, spreading joy to and sharing woes with 33 gracious kids belonging to Grade 7 and 8 housing at Lallubhai Compound, a “vertical slum” in the Govandi area of Mumbai, India.

Coming from a melting pot of backgrounds of Computer Science, Consulting and Art Direction, I found my luxury in teaching these beautiful beings.

In the classroom, I strive for an excellent educational ethos for my kids. While textual knowledge serves as a base to excellence, I intend to bring much more to their lives; I swear by ‘learning by doing‘.

Something that took me aback on the first day of my visit to the community is the amount of insensitivity towards societal disorders, especially from the kids. They are too used to the violence in and around their homes to consider it unnatural.

And I was sure, this is not how the story of my kids will be read.

So, I began focusing more on values than a bunch of formulae and story-tell episodes exhibiting a variety of mindsets more than dictating of notes. Moreover, I hate to latch my kids indoors when it comes to learning, and we often camp out for a lesson or two, for exposure and access.

I consider myself incredibly lucky to have ‘chosen’ this path.

All these words written to each of you, give me immense joy in announcing the flag off my baby project, Design a Smile

This project (DAS) got its name long back when I decided to quit a full-time concrete jungle job at Deloitte and joined a TEDx Global team. I almost cannot believe that this project has reached its curation and is ready to be funded.

My vision for these kids is that, they will make informed decision at any stage of their lives.

While this seems to be an ordinary statement for any of us, it looks quite the opposite and goes on to become a statement of hope for my kids, if you think about where they’re coming from. When you are welcomed in your community with threats and subjected to constant motivation to quit school, you know what a courageously taken step can do for you.

We are undertaking the Project Based Learning (PBL) framework while working towards this vision and under the DAS project, my kids will execute the following projects, besides PBS aligned to their curriculum:

  1. Humans of Lallubhai Compound– A weekly project based on ‘Humans of New York’ to learn ‘People Photography’, respect community and have the courage to see lives beyond mundane experiences so as to understand how biases effect us while making a choice.
  2. Vamos!– A weekly project to learn Spanish language and culture so as to respect various forms of traditions that may exist elsewhere and understand how information that we may otherwise overlook effects the decisions we make.
  3. Rendezvous– A monthly project that helps my kids connect with people belonging to various professions and walks of life in order to be develop a quest for as many fields as they can before making an informed career choice.

And I need your help.

Besides logistics and (a lot of) stationery, I need finances for educational resources, classroom amenities and field trips.

Through your contributions, at the end of my two years, I would not only have helped 33 kids reach their reading levels and solve grade-level Math problems but also grown in them a resolution to achieve their dreams, instilled in them a faith in their own community and planted a seed of hope to live a better life.

33 is a small number, and I do not disagree. But, this small tweak of fixing educational inequity is leading all of us towards a big change. And one day, all the children across the globe will receive an excellent education.

Did I forget to mention the perks involved?

While I really cannot afford to buy you a return gift, I promise you letters and pictures from my kids, those of gratefulness and of reports as to how your valuable contribution is being harnessed.

Are there any other way in which you could help me out?

Of course, yes! You can write to me and we will see what we can do together towards Ed Equity. May be, you could bring your own strengths to my classroom. Feel free to ask as many questions and/or give suggestions through mails at roma.kalani2014@teachforindia.org.

Hoping to design many smiles with you, and helping my kids design a few more than all of us.

Love and Light,
Roma.

[Write to me at roma.kalani2014@teachforindia.org]

My light? Happiness. Forever.

Gobbar

 

I tend to become so reflective, if not upset, at the end of the classes thinking about lessons that do not really end the way they are supposed to and blaming things on myself. And then there are reminders like these — Meet Gaurav!

One of my Grade 8 kids, who is in the middle order at studies, but is the clear winner when it comes to looking at the brighter things in life. Always giggling in my classrooms, making sure I do not even frown for a minute with him. I have started sharing my woes with him too — school or otherwise, and it’s magical how breezily he has a solution for most of them.

I have come to realise, his thoughts always revolve around happiness, and that makes so much sense now when I look at all the light and optimism in him. :)


This picture was captured in one of our People Photography classes, but is not a rare scene really when it comes to ‘Gobbar’ (Cowdung, in Hindi). Yes, that’s how he used to write his name in Grade 3 during Anasuya‘s fellowship and he pretty much goes by that name till date. :) 

P.S.: We all need a friend like Gaurav in our lives.

And that is when you became a dream

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They told me, strangers could share dreams too. We were strangers. They told me, the end of a dream would be a celebration. But I rejoiced at the mere thought of our togetherness. They never failed to mention how dreams always keep you awake. But your endless stories blurred me into sleep mode each night. They asserted how hard work always pays off. But I do not think they ever fell for someone like you, or may be, they never really needed one absolute chance to explain their work:

Loving you was one fine record of labour I had done in my life. That night, I felt our souls being intertwined. “You are my reality,” I told myself. Next morning, just when I felt that I have given you my universe, I noticed you struggle with the wrinkles of a blissful time, before you went on to ask me for some space in our star-crossed oneness. And that is when you became a dream.

A dream that should either remain a dream unfulfilled or the one that should be forgotten terming it a nightmare. “You were my reality,” I told myself. I knew I had loved and lost you. What scares me today, you ask? The fact that, you often crawl into every corner of head and make me cold causing a tornado in my body, just like you used to, but only in my heart. You have become that ‘nothing’ when everybody asks me, “What’s wrong?”

Sure, people come and go. Others were my cigarette breaks, and you? You are a forest fire. How can you help me, you ask? Just give me back the centre of my universe, for it lies right within you. And we could be strangers. Again.

My Career Path

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…And while everyone else is excited to have arrived at the shore in order to test their aspirations, you manage to smile to yourself while gearing up all over again to sail around the ocean, get lost between the tides, punctuate smiles on strangers as you cruise through those waves, write mirthful stories and find a better version of yourself right before you scheme another voyage. :)

A quest for nothingness

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How I wish I could fetch a thick white paper square,
And may be even stack an extra bunch for despair.

Crease, fold and craft it neatly into a small boat,
Take a good seat and watch my moments float.

Renounce plans; sail across seas, oceans and more,
Keep gliding gently till I see every wave, find no shore.

Why do I not drink (alcohol)?

Originally posted on Let there be Life...:

I like fivefold reasons — 5 is my lucky number. [Kidding!]

  • I am not enchanted by my peer group [Or anyone for that matter when it comes to this]
  • [Did you just say taste it? Ugh.] I would rather prefer sipping on something I know I could/would get addicted to. [Let’s talk coffee!]
  • I have my own mannerism to embrace adversities [which I love by the way!] and celebrate happiness [Let's dance!]
  • I am too high on life [Cliché? Buy it!]
  • I don’t think time is a good asset to spend on coming out of a self-invited head-spin, let alone a hangover

P.S.: I am not against the idea of consuming alcohol; this write-up pools around mental notes which makes me feel that I’m talking to myself. :D

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