Sometimes when you look back, you just wonder what gave you the good sense to make a certain decision. After you’re done wondering, you realize it wasn’t good sense, it was a combination of the strength to fight off lethargy and the will to pull it off. :)
My beautiful office building stands ten floors tall with plush interiors and a relatively good-looking exterior, right next to a slum. We share a wall with that slum, and every morning as a 1000 employees drive into the building, they wade through a group of little children and sometimes adults performing their early morning duties on the roadside, which is almost in front of our main gate. I see them sorting out stuff from the giant yellow PMC dustbin, picking up stuff that can be consumed. And when I enter the office I hear about HSE policies, water cooler conversations about corruption, complaints about the system and some more lift lobby conversations about EMI’s, holiday destinations, new cars and newly acquired flats.
“When an individual can look around and see a connection between a man that has too much bread and the man that has too little, then it becomes his/her obligation to take action. Teaching was my way of action” – Mariyam Farooq, Teach For America Alumni
I read this on Teach For India site a long time ago. It took a while to sink in….But when it did, it made complete sense. Education or rather the lack of it is the root causes of many problems in India. Yes, it is something we all know. But aren’t there a hundred NGO’s working towards this? Well, again yes. But even without looking at any statistics, we all know that India is faced with the worst educational crisis in the world. 40% of India is still illiterate and the so-called educated 60% has to the wake up to these numbers and act.
I’d thought about doing something, contributing in some way towards the educational set up many a times. I took up the Teach India campaign, I did my part for about two months and then my Dubai Deputation came along. By the time I got back, a very small period of this three-month campaign was left. But the need to contribute, to do something kept coming back. I told myself there are only two things you can do with this feeling;
- Channelize it to produce consistent efforts
- Turn Away (Read : Shut up, if you aren’t doing anything)
Turning away was not an option, I know coz I’ve tried and failed. Indifference has been a faithful companion in many aspects of my life, but in this respect, it just never worked for me. So last October, I did something towards the first option. I applied for the Teach For India fellowship. It involved all the stages of a b-school admission procedure. An online application, essays, recommendations, a phone interview and finally the assessment centre interview.
After the assessment centre, the TFI team told us that the results would be intimated to us in 4-6 weeks. I’m telling you every single day of waiting had been a trial after that. But as they had promised the results came out on 1st Feb 2010.
I’d just gotten back from lunch in office to my workstation and I couldn’t fight the urge to check my mail, which I was doing close to 20 times a day by now. And there it was, it said…’Dear Chaitra, Welcome to Teach For India’. Less than 7% of the total number of applicants (3800) had made it.:)
So that was 2 PM on 1st Feb 2010 and on 7:03 PM the very same day, I put in my papers. I resigned. Up until this point, neither my friends nor my parents knew about this decision. Four months ago, when I took this decision to apply, I had a lot of things on my plate, too much conflict of ideas within, chaos, confusion…. I don’t know what it was, amidst this disarray, that gave me the push to do this. But after I took the jump, slowly everything began to fall into place, including this blog, which is why, it’s called Tranquil Chaos. Why no one was told or was not a part of this was simply because I had to walk this line alone. All friends and of course family would have had opinions to offer and concerns to rise, and maybe they were all valid, but I didn’t want any sort of influences at all. I’d also been studying the profiles of 2009 fellows who’d made it; it looked like I had a fat chance of getting in. I didn’t want to make a big fuss about it even before I got in.
So starting this May, I will be a Teach for India fellow and hence a full-time teacher for the next two years. We will be dedicated teachers in government and low-income private schools across Mumbai and Pune. From a sales engineer for a Process Automation MNC to a full-time teacher……..I can only smile at the contrast.
My day will depend on how each kid in my class of 40 students will react or what new they’ll have to say each day. Every day is going to be a packet of surprises as I choose 5 different topics for 5 subjects which I’ll be taking as their class teacher. A brand new lesson plan day every day…..and I will be responsible for their progress for the next two years…:) It makes me nervous, happy, obliged and thankful, all at the same time.
These four months have been a journey of belief, faith and discovery. There have been a lot of people who knowingly or unknowingly contributed to this decision . Two people who raised me with the fundamentals that always encouraged me to take my decisions as my own and stand up for what I believed in. My friends and the long drawn conversations we had over endless cups of coffee. People at work who supported with me with everything I needed and more. They were more excited than me in tracking the progress of this admit. Some people who’d find comfort only in anonymity, but their help and support through this process is something that cannot be put in words, it’s simply beyond what words can convey. A big thank you to all of you….:)
I’m happy that I am going to be living the next two years the way I choose to live them, not because I’m expected to or supposed to, but because now I’m calling the shots…:) And this would be the moment when she and I parted ways, my planned last move is in place….Finally certainty and I were going to go different ways, not because life took its course, but because I chose it to be that way.