Amma, I am going to school (on my own terms)

In my previous post I mentioned how we live in a house surrounded by schools. Disha has, over the months, been peeking out of our living room window watching the day-to-day proceeding of the school in front of our house. Sometimes, she would spend long minutes looking outside, sometimes she would run outside, sit on the stone by the side of the school playground and observe.

She has friends who attend the school. Over time, she has been seeing them going everyday, in uniform to sit in classrooms with teachers. She has been pretending to be a teacher or a student and playing with friends using the black board and chalk. One morning, about a month back, Disha, announced that she is going to the school. So she packed her bag, went to the classroom where her friend was and sat next to him. She spent two hours on the first day and came back home. Soon, it became an every day thing. Each day she went on her own, stayed for longer. After 4-5 days, she took a break to hang around at home and spent sometime with me reading, drawing and playing. But was back at school the next day.

Every morning she wakes up asking if it is time to go to school and she is off. Breakfast is just something to be had in as minimal time as possible. She helps packing her lunch and school bag.

I used to take Disha along for any errands, meetings or field work. But she has been consistently refusing to come with me, so I have had to leave her at school to get all my work done. Yesterday was the first time I left her at school for 6 hours. We have friends staying over at our place, so I knew that in case she came home, she would find someone who would offer her food or anything else she needs. I also informed our neighbors and the teacher that I will not be available.

Disha, did come home and went to use the bathroom. After that she told our friend that she wanted to go back to school and went right back. She did not even look for me!

It was an organic progression for Disha to end up at school. She is there as long as she wants. If she gets bored or overwhelmed, she comes back home. At times she goes back, other times, she is content just staying with me and doing something together. On some other days, she is tired so she comes home, has her lunch and naps. Sometimes, she spends the entire day at school. She comes home singing some song, her teacher sang in school. Yesterday she came back home in 20 mins, saying that her teacher did not come today so she did not want her to go to school. One of the days, she came home and told me how a teacher yelled at her. I went, spoke to the teacher and explained how Disha expects to be treated with respect. Maybe the teacher is not used to a parent coming and telling her something like this or she understood, she was willing to change her tone to be less intimidating.

When I filled out her school admission form, I spoke to the principal and told her that Disha would go to the school on her own terms. For which the principal heartily agreed and so did the nursery teacher. I was initially apprehensive and disappointed, thinking- so much for homeschooling! But did not stop her from doing what she wanted. She clearly enjoys being at school and since our home is right across, she freely comes and goes.

I do have some reservations with the school, children are constantly yelled at and not treated with respect. Every adult in the school hold a stick to “tame” the “unruly” children. At times I see some kids holding sticks too. I am trying to engage with them and hoping to change few of the habits. One way would be to volunteer “teaching” at the school. Though I do not feel like doing it, but hoping to gather some inspiration in the next year.

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Theatre of our lives

The last three weeks have turned our lives inside out, literally! We had five friends stay over with us who have be become really dear to all of us. Four of them are from Space Ensemble, a theater and art group from Goa. The fifth is a friend’s sister who has come to Bangalore for interning in a law firm.

So our house has been crowded, but in such a good way. Music playing all the time, someone humming a tune or strumming a guitar or playing drum or mouth organ. Or practicing singing voices or animal sounds.

It has helped Karthik and me open up, get more imaginative, get in touch with being willfully dramatic. It has meant long, meaningful conversations about anything and everything, we dreamed up and chatted away. And those cooking sessions were fun too. Sharing recipes, tips on sustainable living and minimalistic approach to life. They helped babysit Disha quite a few times and I ended up attending meetings without having to take her along (I did miss having her around though).

I am truly grateful that our paths cross with such amazing people, who are living largely unconventional lives, away from the hum-drum of the mainstream life of ‘study-do well-get a job’.

Disha has grown fond of all of them. During their many rehearsals, she was quite keenly and patiently watching them along with Karthik and me.  After that, she has been spending some time imitating their clown act. She enjoys doing it over and over again. Off late she has been into dancing and now after being exposed to drama has taken a penchant for it too.

Two days ago, we all went to an ice cream parlor for a send off treat. Somehow, we all got into an impromptu performance right in the parlor, with all the other customers staring and quite keenly listening in. And on the way back home, as we walked and ran, we sang loudly, spooked each other and passer-bys, played games, danced and made animal noises.

All this made me realize how good it feels to break away from our uptight -upright lives which we lead mostly in a certain, serious manner. Where we hardly express or exaggerate emotions, living only in our “comfort zones” or “bubbles”, hesitating to dance or sing, feeling judged every minute.

So, get out there, shout, dance (out of sync) and sing (even out of tune) because it does feel so good.