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Rotaract Club inter school debate, 2014.

Rotaract Club inter school debate, 2014.

Long weekend leading up to holi, so how do we spend our time? We sign up for an inter-school debate held in Dadar, put on our uniform, pull up our socks and head to the venue.

Round 1 is a Group Discussion. We participate, we argue, we counter argue and when the results are announced, we find out that we’re ranked second. We go up against Divine Child in the semi finals and nervously wait for the results. We win, and when finals come; we take our game that little notch higher, and half an hour later we sit back in the auto with the spoils.

Winners, Rotaract club inter-school debate, 2014.

We’re 10 years old, but cannot wait to find another competition, so we can counter argue all day long.

Happy holi girls, you should now get some sleep! ☺

What Mohini learnt in Grade 5.

On Saturday last week, 6 of my kids took part in their first ever Model United Nations.

Participating in 3 councils, each with 30 countries, with kids ranging from grades 5-9, they were discussing the Climate Change + the Kyoto protocol in the UNEP, the South China sea + the India China border issue in the UNSC and the Refugee crisis in the UNHRC. It seemed overwhelming at the outset, I wasn’t too well versed with the complexities of the India China border issue myself, and as one of the youngest delegations at the MUN, it seemed like I was pushing my kids too hard, when they were only in Grade 5.

But nobody enjoys a challenge like Mohini Sagar and her new best friend, Ayesha Qureshi. As the double delegation representing India in the UNSC, they absolutely loved the fact that there were the youngest kids in council. They stayed back after school regularly for 4 months, with 10 other kids in my class that I’d picked, to learn the rules of MUNning, and to discuss, debate and deliberate over everyday world news. In the last month and a half, they stayed back everyday specifically to discuss their agenda, research, write their GSL speech, practice and rehearse the same, to discuss potential solutions and write mock resolution papers, while finally staying back to criticize Nehru’s China policy.

On the day of the MUN,  while dwarfed by the delegations from Pune who were more experienced and considerably older at Grades 7,8,9, they weren’t intimidated. 5th vs 9th wasn’t really fair, but David versus Golaith wasn’t either. I told them that in the off chance that they pulled it off, it would make for a great story. They didn’t care much for my advice though, and they walked right into council.

About an hour and a half Ayesha and Mohini were leading their block in the UNSC, authoring a resolution paper on the India China border issue. Shaheen and Famida, were doing the same in the UNHRC, writing fervently about why developed countries should help developing countries deal with the refugee crisis, and by lunch Soheil and Kashif were authoring resolution papers in their council too. Kashif had raised about 15 points of orders, during the GSL almost getting thrown out in the process of doing so.

At the end of the day, the kids sat down, tired and exhausted, fingers crossed in a hall with more than 200 kids, about 90 teams, and many fellows and parents who had come to watch. Ruchita, Swapneel Arhan and I sat at the back, away from the kids who had participated, and we waited with bated breath as the UNSC chair walked up to the podium to announce the winners.

After about a few seconds you could see Ayesha Qureshi and Mohini Sagar walk up the stage to a resounding round of applause to receive the Best Delegation, UNSC award, theiir first ever one at a Model United Nations. Shaheen Siddiqui walked up on stage a minute later as Best Speaker, UNHRC and  Soheil Lanjekar and Kashif Abbas followed to receive their Honarary Mention, UNEP award. They got off stage, looked at me for a split second and then sat down, the award held close to their heart.

But the part that I remember most, was during lunch when I was sitting with Ruchita, behind Mohini and Ayesha. The kids were discussing council proceedings, when the IP walked up to them to take an interview. One of the questions she asked them revolved around what they had learnt this year and Ayesha, very typically replied saying she’d learnt how to speak formally in front of a crowd, and how to write a resolution paper. Mohini Sagar took a second to answer the question, considered options, before looking up.

As the Centre back in her all girls football team that reached the finals of the JFK Mumbai league last year, as the runners up at Halla Bol in the parliamentary debate competition this year, as a fantastic class monitor, and on the verge of winning a Best Delegate award at her first Model united Nations, she looked up, and answered confidently; this year, I learnt how to win.

The world awaits, Mohini.

The fellowship draws to a close, but I now I wait for the day when you actually find yourself sitting down as delegates of India at the United Nations; don’t let anybody ever tell you its not possible.

Because where you come from, will not determine where you go. Not anymore.

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The girls get their Avsara scholarships

The girls get their Avsara scholarships

Avsara is a non profit organization that believes that a girl student’s inability to pay fees should not act as a barrier to attaining quality education. They provide selective scholarships for girls from disadvantaged backgrounds to encourage them to study further.

This year four of my girls, each having proven themselves as leaders in the classroom and beyond, applied for the scholarship, and yesterday at the American School of Bombay, they received their scholarship certificates. They now study in school free of cost, and their parents no longer have to pay their fees.

Very few things in the world match up to watching your girls walk up the aisle and up on stage to receive a scholarship award. The four of you will make us all very proud one day

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MUNing with the kids

MUNing with the kids

To anyone who has participated in an MUN, you’ll understand why this picture means the world to me.

To see Famida walk from a broken home as part of a family that earns less than 4000 rupess a month into a moderated caucus as the delegate of Israel, to watch Ubed come from an uneducated family co-author a resolution paper on climate change, and to watch Ayesha tell the United States of America off for not signing the Kyoto Protocol in 2008, teaching this kids the basics of MUNing over the last few months has been incredible. To see kids who would otherwise be labelled as slum children, learn off study guides, to articulate, discuss and debate issues relating to global issues, to me, this picture just captures why at Teach For India we believe that where you come from will not determine where you go.

We’re doing the TFI MUN in February next year, if there’s anyone who’d be interested in taking an session of sorts for my kids, do get in touch, I promise you an absolutely wonderful time

Do share this with anyone in Mumbai you think might be interested.

Alternatively, you could also think of joining the fellowship and having an MUN team of your own

Love,
Adithya

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Of birthday gifts and memories.

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Of birthday gifts and memories.

Thank you Ubed for the best birthday present ever.

‘Dear sir, I don’t have money to buy something and give it to you, and thats why I give you a story book’

And he’s torn out 6 pages from his notebook, written a story complete with coloured illustrations and stapled the pages together. I sincerely don’t know of anything else that has made me smile as much. Long after my fellowship, one day when I look back at this, it might still make me smile more than anything else.

I guess kids have the ability to give you things that seem far more special, than anything else the rest of the world has to offer. Thank you for your story book Ubed, the year seems complete already

Bright green.

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I’d been waiting for a while now. I looked around and finding her nowhere I called her house again. Her elder sister picked up this time and told me that she had just left home, and that I should expect her any minute.

I put the phone down, took my helmet off and pulled the keys off my bike. I began thinking of the weekly RC plan I’d been working on before Anjum had called, and how I just wanted to get done with it now.

‘Bhaiyya you promised you’ll come home for lunch.’

‘Yes yes, I haven’t forgotten, I’m on my way actually’ I lied before putting the phone down. I had forgotten, with what all the work that was pending and the deadlines looming. Nonetheless, I proceeded to shut my laptop down, took a quick shower, threw on a kurta and here I was.

I’d been staring at the narrow lane for a while now. It was a typical lane the sort you’d find in Malwani – a couple of goats straying around, a cow sprawled in front of a shop, a garbage dump, and a lot of people walking about.

And then the whole thing lit up, just like that and in an instant.

Wearing her bright green salwar, she tore through the crowd, running purposefully toward where she’d asked me to wait. She ran for a about a good five hundred meters, before stopping to catch her breath. Hands on her hips, she impatiently looked around and then I called her name, and as she turned around to look at me her face broke into a big smile.

An hour and a half later, she dropped me back to where I’d picked her up, she said she was scared I’d get lost. As she got off the bike, we hi-5ed our customary hi5, and then she turned around to leave. I paused and watched her run back the way same she’d come, her green salwar adding character to the otherwise unremarkable lane, and I thought to myself thank god I’m not stuck at home working on a weekly plan today in front of a laptop screen.

Eid Mubarak everyone, have a great day 🙂

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And with that, I am proud to oppose.

And with that, I am proud to oppose.

The school had its first formal debate competition, a few days ago.

Debating is something I’ve been extremely passionate about, and while I did a lot of it with my own class the last year, I have been waiting for an opportunity to formally introduce it to the rest of the school.

Worked with kids from the 9th and 10th grade last month after school along with Ruchita Brajabasi and Swapneel Rane on the format and the structure – we do have our own school debate team/club going now. I customized the Asian Parliamentary structure to a 4-member format, and watching Alisha Siddiqui take as much pleasure in destroying the Opposition’s argument as I would in college, was a extremely, extremely satisfying experience.

Here’s hoping we manage to build a team that’s good enough to take on other school teams by the end of this year. I’ve promised them at least one big trophy; god knows they’re talented enough to take home ten.

They’re currently obsessed with Mehdi Hasan, by the end of next week, I promise you they’re going to be spouting ‘Denny Crane’ to anyone who walks by.

Do get in touch if you’d be interested in taking a debate workshop of sorts for them 🙂

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Usamah really knows his cricket

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Usamah Feroz is a little laddoo in my class who talks about cricket with a sense of authority that even Sunil Gavaskar doesn’t posses.

Usamah in his first interview on why MS Dhoni is his favourite player, why he doesn’t really like Shikhar Dhawan and what Ishant Sharma can do better in life.

Of Grit and other things

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I have decided that that I like it far, far more when my kids lose a football match or a class election than when they win it, because while victory allows them to show their abilities on stage, losing allows them to show character off it, and I’d rather that they take my breath away with the latter than with the former. 

Anjum lost the class elections to Mohini and Kashif this year, and her eyes betrayed her smile, as they welled up within seconds of the results being announced. She quickly wiped them off though, and proceeded to wish the two of them as the class applauded and congratulated their new leaders. 

I asked her about it later, and she promised me she was okay. ‘Bhaiyya, she reminded me, ‘grit is one of our core values this year, right?’

Grit is one of our 3 core values this year, Anjum and you have no idea how kicked I am about it, especially because I haven’t seen anybody else embody it quite the way you do, you little beauty you.

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A new house, a new year, a new post.

I’m sitting in my new house (the owner of the old one got married, never mind, long story) surrounded by a ton of thick cartons, all of which lie unpacked – cello-tape shining on all of them. There are suitcases of different sizes lying around, a couple of bags are on top of a stool, the TV is upside down, and I don’t have a fan. I didn’t even have electricity or water until about an hour back, but the watchman + electrician + plumber helped me fix it. He was working on the light in the hall, but I now notice he’s not there, he’s probably run down to get something. He’s left the door wide open, I’m too exhausted to get up and shut it. It’s also pouring outside (I don’t care how much you like the rains in Bombay, I don’t – I hate the rains from the bottom of my heart) it just hasn’t stopped raining since the morning. It looks like it’s going to take time for him to come back, and I probably should shut the door, but I cannot be convinced to move.

My phone vibrates next to me, it’s an email from one of the program managers at Teach For India, and the email serves as another one of the many reminders I’ve had today, that the new academic year is about to start in 2 days.

And that reminder changes the mood in my head all-together, it is both – an extremely exciting and an extremely terrifying thought to harbor – neither of which I have  managed to come to terms with.

The last year in class was great, really.  The Just For Kicks finals, the literacy data, the quiz and art workshops every Saturday, the Avsara scholarships, the dance performance(s), the End Of Year showcase and everything else in between.

And that’s why I’m excited about the coming year – we did really well as a team last year, and this year we really have the opportunity to step it up and take it to the next level.

But I’ll admit, I’m also terrified looking ahead – partly because of the success of the last year, partly because its my last year with the kids and partly because things have changed so much in the last 2 months.

I don’t have Mary with me this year (I have Ruchita now as my new co-teacher and she’s great, but suddenly I’m the second year fellow and my co – teacher is the first year one – it was just SO much easier the other way around with Mary calling all the shots), we’re no longer a primary class – we’re a secondary class doing the morning shift from 7am to 12.30pm (god knows what’s going to happen to early morning football practice), some of my students are not with me anymore and my HM (she’s a terrific lady, great personality) tells me some new ones will join too.

It’s just overwhelming trying to look ahead, because I honestly don’t know what this year holds, I don’t know what to expect for my kids and me. I don’t know how we’re going to do, where we are going to fail and where we are not, I don’t know if I feel ready for all thats expected and more and its just too much to process sitting here on the bean bag, waiting for the watchman to come back.

But one thing is for certain, I realize that regardless of how this year goes, I’d want to document thoroughly the things I do this year; because I feel like I’d want to come back and dissect everything I do this year, sometime later in life, more than the years before.

And thats because I feel like this will be the year, during which I will the make the mistakes that I will learn from the most. I also feel like this will be year that will take my breath away, because I finally feel like I’m ready to experience the success I’ve always set myself up for. I’m also aware, that this year there is more at stake, and definitely more responsibility to shoulder than before, and I know I must step up, and do all that I need to do.

Its partly why I’m writing again, right now even, because like I said, I know this year will be eventful, and I must begin the process by writing down all that’s in my head, 2 days before the start of the second year, so I can continue to document this year as it unfolds before me (and you).

Here’s simply looking forward to the success and the failures of a new, kickass second year of the fellowship.

Watchman uncle’s back now, I feel this urgent need to get off the couch and help him with the light bulb in the hall now. I must go. I’m actually raring to go.