Yesterday morning, I had the pleasure to partake in a daily Indian custom with the secretary of the Ek Koshish team! Every morning, when people make “Roti”(traditional Indian flat bread, similar in shape to pita bread, but much thinner), the very first roti that they make is supposed to be saved for cows and bulls, who may come by the house in the morning. In case a cow or bull does not come by during the day, they save the bread for the next day, as I found out after having asked the question. A cow or bull doesn’t usually just eat bread that someone holds up to its mouth: A person must affectionately offer these creatures the bread, while petting them and tenderly interacting with them. As cows are considered to be the archetypal mother-symbol in India (because it freely gives us milk, just like our own mothers did), Indians say that they offer cows and bulls this roti as a part of their spiritual duty, or “Dharm”. As I learned more about this tradition while speaking with the rest of the team with Ek Koshish, they explained that there is another tradition they follow at the end of the day: The very last roti that is made at night, is to be saved for dogs. In feeding dogs, we play our role in society by keeping in mind to help the needy and hungry, a responsibility called “Karm.” Though these words Dharm and Karm have very profound meanings, through this way every morning and every evening we remember that there are two essential types of obligations that we have as human beings: those to our mother, or more broadly, to the one who created us, and those to our fellow brethren.
A few days ago, our volunteer from the US visited Vrindavan, an Indian city known for it’s historical and religious heritage, with his friend who was traveling in India. The volunteer had much to say about the city, as we advised him about the different sites to see. The first picture was taken on the Yamuna River, one of the most important rivers in India. Justin ji, our volunteer, describes how on one level, it seemed so distant and isolated from the rest of India he had ever seen, yet the first picture also epitomizes how people very often compromise their own safety for the sake of completing a job as quickly as possible. We at Ek Koshish would like to raise awareness of safety concerns to drivers, or even civil engineers, to create safe and sustainable infrastructure with the welfare of Indian residents, or foreigners, at heart. Justin ji took the next picture on the Yamuna river as well, as the sight of turtles was a pleasant surprise! Ek Koshish’s programs revolve around preservation of the environment and animals, and we would like to keep the public eye aware of environmentalist concerns. The last photo was a very rare and special photograph, taken in a garden of basil plants, or what we call “Tulsi” in Hindi. Being the most sacred plant in all of Ayurvedic Medicine, these basil plants are said to have existed for thousands and thousands of years. Observing the plants, they also have grown into majestic trees, which neither the volunteer, nor his friend, had ever conceived possible! They both remarked that the garden was, by far, the highlight of their journey! We are happy to have helped our volunteer and his friend enjoy seeing but some of the sites in the mystical city of Vrindavan!
Just a few days ago it was my last day at the school for impoverished and needy children in Faridabad, until the end of the summer vacation, which is fairly short in India: By July 1st, I will be back at the school in my normal schedule. Over the break, I have been working on my lesson plans, now that I have a feel for the students’ capabilities in each grade level. Eighth grade is quite good at picking up grammar concepts in English, especially learning new tenses, so I will continue working on more helping verb constructions with them and finish up tenses for now in their classes. Afterwards, we will move onto clauses, but we will start with some basic subordinate clauses and work our way from there, as I see fit. The seventh grade class is not as quick on picking up tenses or working on prepositional phrases, so I will continue to review all of the tenses with those classes, as well as more practice with prepositional phrases. Hopefully before I leave India in October, we can start to introduce some more topics in grammar, but I think for now that subordinate clauses may be a bit too difficult for them, as they have a hard time being able to differentiate the subject of a sentence, the verb of a sentence, and other objects in a sentence. The sixth grade class is a very clever group of children, and we may even get to more advanced material before the seventh grade class, but I will play it by ear for now. We will continue working on new tenses and recognizing parts of speech. In the fifth grade class, they still have trouble recognizing nouns, adjectives, and verbs, so I will make some worksheets for them, which in which they will circle nouns, underline adjectives, etc. This should help them for more difficult topics to come in the future, like prepositional phrases and adverbs. Finally, the fourth grade class is very weak in English, as many of the students have been held back for many years, or have not had access for many years until now. As such, I will continue working on adjectives and nouns, as these two topics are somewhat strong for them in Hindi, but they cannot grasp a correlation with Hindi grammar and English grammar, which is quite evident in terms of adjectives and nouns. Otherwise, I have another picture from when the doctors were giving checkups to the students. The last day at school was especially touching, as the children literally touched my feet, a sign of high respect to elders in Indian society. It was a moment I’ll never forget, being a part of a wonderful tradition for my efforts working with these eager to learn students. I have high aspirations for these determined children, and hope that with my work here in India, they can be inspired to make names for themselves in society, whether in India or even abroad. Let’s see how my English classes on July 1st go!
The other day at the charitable school, I was answering many questions the children had about my home in the US, to which they all paid close attention, listening in amazement. Several of the children were very interested in US currency, and they asked me “What is money like over there? Can you bring some American money for us to see?” Thankfully, I held onto a bunch of my singles and some change I had at the airport, and I brought in one of each coin, along with a single, a five, ten, and twenty dollar bill for them to observe. At the end of class today, the children made sure I didn’t forget to show them the currency, as they asked, “You did bring the money, right?” I pulled out the money from my pockets, from which they all derived great pleasure! They each were touching the dollars, asking who was on each different coin and bill, which buildings were depicted on each bill, how many rupees each coin or bill was worth, and much more. After they all relished this special moment they never had envisioned would occur, one of the students took out some Indian Rupees and was showing me what Indian currency looks like! The other students were explaining to him that I probably already know what Indian money here looks like; but even still, he kept showing me more coins and different bills! It was very sweet that he wanted to share with me the same excitement he experienced from looking at foreign money! In a few days, it will be the last day of the school before summer holidays, until July 1st, so I am looking forward to this last exciting week of classes until then!