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Monday, August 27, 2012

Never pay up until you are sure you have lost

That is my advice now to Usha. This is because the subsequent data I have received shows a strong correlation in one village between division level children and Std 2 level or higher level readers. In the other two, the proportion of both division-level children and story level children is too low (blame it on backward regions or not a very strong learning camp or very low baseline to start with?) to arrive at a positive conclusion.

A lot of the (few) readers of this blog were excited by the idea that math might be a trigger. This may yet be true of children who are reading at Std 1 level (simple paragraphs) but probably not enough for the others who start with an even lower baseline.

Well, experiments are planned and we will know more in a couple of months. Until then I will not claim Rs. 500 from Usha and will not surrender to her either. Let us see what the experiments throw up.


Friday, August 24, 2012

How I won Rs. 500/- (only).

Betting is not something I do. That is because I don't like to lose bets. But yesterday I saw a certainty. I  bet Rs. 500, and won.

Some members of the Pratham leadership team were discussing the different "learning camp" models they were using in different states. Some conduct camps for 5 days. Others for 10. Yet others experimented with 15 and 30 day models. Some created models of teaching math for a few days followed by reading-writing the next few days or the other way round.  See "Harshad's Learning Camp"

But Renu Seth and her Gujrat team had used a 5 day camp focused on teaching math. Over these 5 days, the camp taught children to master up to 6 digit numbers including place values, and also the four operations with numbers up to 100. Over 50% children learned numbers up to the hundred thousands and also learned all four operations  up to division in that short span. They went back to some camp villages after 15 days and checked if the children had forgotten (most had not). In others they went back after 3 months and still the children had not forgotten what they had learned. In both cases they conducted a 3 day camp again and some more children learned more operations. This time the progress was quicker.

As we discussed these results my colleague, Usha Rane, said to Renu that they should not focus on math alone. They should make sure children can read too. This is because we know that wherever you go in India, half the children in Std 3-5 cannot read even Std 2 level. In Pratham jargon, the children who can read Std 2 level as per the ASER test and higher are called "story" level children.
See Hindi testing tool.  


 I said that Renu should continue to do what she is doing but Usha persisted that teaching the children to read fluently is important. It is common for Usha and me to be on opposite sides of an argument (until she finally gives in and agrees with me!). But I have to use persuasion. In this case, I used a different technique.

So, I said, let us take a bet. Rs. 500. I think, all those children who have now learned to solve division sums have also learned to read at "story" level  although they have not received instruction in reading. Renu was to call her associates in Gujrat and within two days test those same children and see what their reading level was. 

At first, I said this without too much conscious thought. But, once I said it, I started believing in that idea. Then I said it several times and it started to become conviction- without evidence, of course.All those in the room too began to think that this was possible. After all, they too knew that usually children who know how to do division are also good readers. But all those in "story" level are not necessarily able to solve division sums. But, in this case children lagging behind in math and reading were included in the camp and they had received no special instruction in reading.They had only been helped to learn simple arithmetic systematically in a few days. So, would math learning act as a trigger to their learning to read at a higher level on their own? 

What an exciting thought! Math as a trigger for learning to read??? Wow!

We got the first results from one village in just 24 hours. More results will come in another 24 hours. In one village, 26 out of 48 children had learned all operations including division and 26 children were at 'story level'.  Now, we do not yet know if the 26 who are in "story" level are the same 26 in "division" level. We'll know that shortly but at this point those who heard the results are convinced that they will be the same. What were the reading levels of these children before the learning camps. Unfortunately, we do not know that. 

So, we will now conduct a simple experiment  to check the hypothesis:  "when school children in Std 3-5 who are lagging behind in reading and math learn math, they also become "story" readers without any extra instruction in reading". 

If the hypothesis turns out to be largely correct,  it should be cause for a more detailed research. 

But, for now Usha owes me Rs. 500. 


Friday, July 13, 2012

Good bye Dara Singh- music in tribute -

Dara Singh and his brother Randhawa were seasonally a topic of conversation among us kids when the free-style wrestling posters appeared on walls near my home and school at Bombay Central. I was not a movie goer in my school days. We knew Dara acted in movies. Mumtaz was his heroine after Nisha. By the time I went to college Mumtaz was heroine to Rajesh Khanna. Dara Singh was considered a "B" film hero. So, I never paid attention to any of his films. 

Today I started surfing the net for his films and any songs from his films. The pinball motion took me to many songs. What I found is written below. I thought I could make a point. May be it is there somewhere but I have not reached it. But, you can enjoy some songs that you might not have heard and may follow my track for pure entertainment, if you wish. Lots of youtube to watch- be prepared.


We remember a song by the singer or the actors or the film and often lyrics. But the rhythm of the song is invariably ignored except by those who "know".

Watch these clips:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=fvwrel&v=zYmkKZnBS28&NR=1
Dattaram 1
and then this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w62TJYifB8o

His name is mentioned as Dattaramji... He is Dattaram Wadkar from Goa. He died a few years ago.
He was also a music director. Here are some of his compositions you may have heard. Now that you know his connection with rhythm you will listen to these more carefully.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsL82QnlqlM (choon choon karti aai chidiya)
and this one:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbXiAJT4Bzs&feature=relmfu (masti bhara hai sama)
and
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UE-LcQ5NNg (aansu bhari hain yeh jeevan ki rahen)
and
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YemrGBnW9FY (dil dhoondhata hai sahare sahare)
and
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pydFLTpLNT8 (meethi meethi batonse bachana jara)
and  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkfYSbWGnBg    (this one you may recognize if you listen- pyar bhari yeh ghataien)
and this
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RoejYCfVrXc   (tere teer ko hum ne pyar se dil mein rakh liya - not much heard these days)

Remember, these were times when Shankar Jaikishen, Naushad, SD Burman and the likes ruled the waves and it would have been tough for Dattaram to get any good films. None of the above films are remembered as hits except for perhaps Parvarish. But these songs were played often on Vividh Bharati and Radio Ceylon in the early sixties when you could even hear the neighbors' transistors.

So, what?
Dattaram was never considered a top notch music director- he was always an assistant to Shankar Jaikishen. So he got B films. What is a B film?

Here another Datta- Datta Naik composes music for "Tarzan comes to Delhi"- Dara- Mumtaz. Supposedly a B film. What sort of music should you expect from a "B" film with this kind of a name??? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5noQCIWef8A (husna ikrar kare ishq inkaar kare.. )
I had never heard this song and not sure why not. It never features in common antakshari- that is the measure of popularity. But, it sounds equal to any 'good' song of those days.

Listen to this next one (it is what they call item number these days.. ignore the first half of the video)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qg3UOAklvk (chham chham baje payal matwali)
This song and the dance is equal to any good one of the kind in those days. Funnily, I do not recall this at all.

Now that we are on "B" films... see a song composed by another music director GS Kohli for Dara- Mumtaz
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXlbj2z5XkY&feature=fvst (yaad tori aayee main to..)

I don't consider this a B song.. even the dance (for those times) is not quite B.

This one too by GS Kohli is for Dara and Mumtaz.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbYUQ4p4I9o&feature=relmfu  (O mataware saajana ..)
Makes you think it is OP Nayyar- GS Kohli was OP Nayyar's assistant. I recall this song being played on Vividh Bharati and I also recall I used to love the way she extended the "chhalaak" and "sajanaaa".  I had not heard it for perhaps 40 years!!

Dara Singh, Sheikh Mukhtar and Kishor Kumar in a film named "Hum sab ustad hain" must be a B film. Right?
Listen to this song that you definitely know: Does it sound like a B film?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiU6XQIfsps (you know this well.. ajanabi tum jaanee pehchane se lagate ho)

The following one is a Dara starrer. Laxmikant Pyarelal music, Helen dancing. Another song I recall but had not heard for decades. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZfBaoa1t5k (mujhe dekhiye main koi dastaan hoon) and this one from the same film that became quite popular (but never in Antakshari !) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCylZRYQo0M (kisi ko pata na chale baat ka)  You will notice that Dara is nowhere on the scene. Good thing too since he could neither dance nor act.

Lutera, the film with the above songs,  seems like a "Parasmani" type film that had many good, even extraordinary songs ( for example: hasta hua noorani cheherra http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kd7C8fMmss ) , but the rest was what they call "B". Parasmani was probably worse as a film but better "hit" songs. Both films' music by Laxmikant Pyarelal. Parasmani was LP's first.

Looks like B films did good business. Dara Singh said somewhere that producers came to him because they could make wrestling films which the rural folks liked. I am sure his bare-chested muscular appearance had a sex appeal for rural (and urban) women. That made them B films. Coming to think of it, many of today's films would classify as B films. Great songs, dances, bad story although sleek production techniques.

I will leave you with another song I remember very well from Vividh Bharati in my childhood. Never knew it was from Dara- Mumtaz. No way this a a B song.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTMgF8FdKOg  (paon mein jhanjhar, hathon mein kangana..) 

Here's to Dara, Mumtaz, rhythm and all that is ridiculed as B !!

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Good Friend

I have many good friends. In fact, I have no bad friends. Not sure if I have been a good friend to some of my good friends. Sometimes I think that I could have been a better person with some of my old friends.

Today, I got a call from a friend I made in 1989. As I was nearing home, Mr. Vaidya called. He owns the Jolly Offset Press at Vadala Udyog Bhavan, which his two sons now run. "We have a new machine. Your feet must touch our office- he said in his typical manner in Marathi. I have been trying to call you but your number has changed. Finally, I sent my man to your home and your father gave your number".  It is always embarrassing when Mr. Vaidya says these things. He is at least fifteen years older than I. But more importantly, he was one of the first people to help me when I was barely a few weeks old in the literacy work.

I cannot remember the exact date but it must have been October 1989. Some of my friends and I had set up an organization with a rather long name, which eventually became CORO for Literacy. Our first activity was to be a human chain from Dharavi to BARC in Mumbai. One was the most well-known slum of ASIA and the other represented the scientific and technological progress of India. School children and youth were to form this chain. CORO received the funds for this program in mid-October and the schools were about to close for the Diwali vacation and reopen a week before Nov 14 - the date of the event. We had only a week to print close to 100,000 leaflets (if I recall correctly) and distribute them in schools along the path of the human chain (at that time I did not think that a large number of school children would not be able to read!!). 

Mrs. Kumud Bansal was the Secretary of Education of Maharashtra at the time. I had written up the text of the leaflet but had no clue where to get it composed and printed. She sent me off to meet a gentleman who worked for the Text Book Bureau, whose name I cannot recall. The people in Mrs. Bansal's office said he was a very strict man and it would be impossible to get his help in a hurry. But, he was my only chance. He looked at me sternly. Should a young man of mid-thirties in jeans and sneakers be taken seriously? I suppose he had to take Mrs. Bansal seriously. He read my draft and looked at me. "Well written", is all he said before asking what I wanted. I said I need this printed in four days. He picked up the phone. "Mr. Vaidya will do it for you. He is your only hope in this hurry and his printing is very good". He spoke with Mr. Vaidya seriously and I was packed off to Vadala Udyog Bhavan. 

A balding man with a lot of white hair, chewing paan in a manner that was well imitated by Kishor Kumar in Padosan sat in a small cabin behind a small desk with a glass top. He always had tobacco paan in his mouth. The fan in the cabin was recirculating hot air as Mr. Vaidya had his shirt buttons open to his belly with his wet banyan showing. He took one look at the draft calling for children to help in making their parents and neighbors literate. He had no comment. "If you can get this typeset by tomorrow, I can get it done for you". Where? Mr. Vaidya made a call and off I went to Akshar Typeset (I think). It was late afternoon and they did not complete the work for two days. When I came back to Mr Vaidya he said he could not give the 100,000 copies within two days. He made his calculations. There were other urgent orders. Then positives, printing, cutting, bundling... no, could not be done. This meant our whole campaign was sunk. I just sat there contemplating quietly.  A few seconds went by as his trusted employee Tukaram and his friend Mr. Bali Marathe watched the two of us. Mr. Vaidya broke the silence. "Call me tomorrow evening and I will tell you if I can deliver by the day after evening. That is the best I can do". 

The next afternoon I went back to the press instead of calling. Mr. Vaidya had a smile on his face. "I did not have your phone number. Good you came. Your order will be ready by 6 pm".  I told him I could not pay him for another week. He laughed. "Don't worry. I read what you have written. Then we stopped all the other work and printed your leaflet".  The work done was excellent although it was just a simple black and white leaflet and his main business required much more precision with colors.

The leaflets reached the schools in time. Teachers and CORO volunteers told the children what it was about. They had to take the leaflets home and write the names of illiterate people in their homes or in the neighborhood. When they came back from the vacation, they would participate in the human chain and take a pledge to teach at least one person. 

Mr. Vaidya has remained a trusted friend since then. Some of my colleagues later compared his cost with the cost of other printers. It turned out that Mr. Vaidya's was costlier. I called him. He told me that my colleagues were right but precision and good quality assurance meant little higher cost. My colleagues did not give him the job but Mr. Vaidya was fine. He continued to call me every now and then and we shared a cup of tea in his small cabin. 

Today, I visited him again and he offered me fresh coconut water. We talked about his new machine.

On my way back I was wondering. Mr. Vaidya has lost a lot of hair. And a few front teeth. And there was something else. I called his office again. "Mr. Vaidya, you were not eating paan today!!!". He laughed. "Yes, gave up some years ago. You should stop smoking too. Remember, it cannot be done in stages. Just throw away the packet and do not smoke again.". That was his advice. Hmmm

And, what happened to the human chain that tied Mr. Vaidya and me together??  

Well, it did not happen the way it was planned. 

Loksabha general elections were announced as soon as the schools closed. Elections were to be held in the third-fourth week of November. So, we could not get children to come on the street. Government funds could not be used for something like this. So functions and events were held in each school and we began our work soon after the elections.





Thursday, March 29, 2012

Prediction coming true.

My friend Praveen Dhopat reminded me that I have not written a blog for nearly a month. Well, there were many things to write about but I was "distracted" by important work. But it is also true that I did not feel very energetic about what I wanted to write.

I am at Oxford at the Skoll World Forum. This morning, when I opened the Times of India online, the following news hit me. It seems the BRICS summit is discussing setting up a rival Bank to the World Bank and the Asia Development Bank in order to finance development and infrastructure projects. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/BRICS-summit-opens-in-New-Delhi-focuses-on-new-development-bank/articleshow/12451783.cms

As many of my friends know, I have a long story - some call it a novel- called "Sambhav" to my credit. It was inspired by the movie "Oh, God!" released in 1977. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oh,_God!

The name Sanbhav is a play on the word which in Marathi means "possible" or in Sanskrut means "birth" or My story, written in the period 1992-94,  was different than the film 'Oh, God" or other works based on the same basic theme of God landing up on the Earth, In my novel a man claiming to be God appears in Mumbai and the characters of the novel, as also the readers,  are all engaged in trying to figure out if 'he' is indeed what he says he is. What is the purpose of his arriving? So, my novel takes the form of a thriller. In the end it turns out that the Prime Minister of India rises in the Parliament to declare setting up a rival International Monetary Fund with South-South collaborations. So, for a story written almost two decades ago, the prediction was not too bad!

As predictions go, not everything in the story fits well. But, I am quite tickled that the broader prediction is unfolding!

(Within 18 hours of the first news on the matter, The Times had the following to say-  http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Fear-of-China-scuttles-move-for-BRICS-bank/articleshow/12462714.cms

Now I predict that the next blog will come soon. Ha, ha!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Matter of Perspective- Duke's Nose/ Nag Phani

I wrote about names of directions yesterday. Other names have fascinated me since childhood.

Phantom, the ghost who walks, was a popular comic-book hero in my childhood. He lived in a skull shaped cave, which added quite another dimension to the story. There was also an account in my textbook that dealt with rocks. It was a letter from the well-known Socialist, N. G. Gore to his daughter. 

In this letter N G Gore told his daughter about a rock formation between Mumbai and Pune near Khandala mountains. My mother had pointed it out to me many times as we traveled every vacation in a State Transport bus from Mumbai to Kolhapur via Pune. As Mr. Gore wrote, the rock was known by its English name Duke's nose, but the locals know it as "Nag Phani" नाग फणी or  Cobra's head. I recall looking at the rock many times and wondering why it was called by either name. From the road, it definitely did not look like the Duke's or anyone's nose unless you were looking up his nostrils. Imagining the cobra was a bit difficult too. But, what the heck. People call rocks by any name they choose, I thought. Recently I surfed for pictures of Duke's nose. See for yourself how trekkers and holiday-makers see the Duke's nose or Nag Phani. Feel free to search more if you would like. 

Duke's Nose or Nag Phani from close - Mumbai-Pune Road.
 In 1991 or so, I was walking in Khandala near the Kune Church in the evening and there it was! The Duke's nose! The royal features of the Duke are unmistakable. I am almost sure that no one else has published this perspective of the Duke's nose until now. If that is true, it is absurdly strange!! 


Duke's un-mistakable Nose from near Kune Church- 2007 Madhav Chavan
I took this picture in 2007 but over the years I have taken dozens of my friends and relations to see it for themselves. Why is it that no-one else has uploaded this perspective of the rock? Perhaps they are always so close to the rock that they miss this perspective completely.

If you compare the pictures, the ones available on the net until now are taken from very close to the main rock. These pictures are probably appropriate for the Cobra's Head, the local name. I do not have any evidence, but it seems to me that some Englishman may have taken a look at the whole formation from where I stood and called it Duke's Nose. There is no reason why any sane person standing close to the rock would call it the Duke's Nose and there seems to be no other place from where it would look so much like the Duke's Nose.


If I must make a familiar serious point - when you are close to something, things have one look. If you step away, they take quite another shape. It helps to change perspectives.

I have a similar story about another rock formation in South India- Kudremukh- the horse-head. Now that you have seen the Duke's Nose- don't you think the Kudremukh must look different and more like a horse's head from another perspective?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lagging behind - about 46 years!

Why is this blog called The Self Motivated Pinball?

When I started looking back at my life some years ago, I realized that it was shaped as much by own motivations as by some very strong momentum I borrowed from some events, individuals, and associations much like a pinball does when it gets hit by the triggers (what are those things called?) in the pinball machine. This is probably true for the life of any person to a lesser or greater extent.  I hope to justify the name of the blog as I go along. 

Today, I write about an example of this motivated pinball motion. In a real "Eureka!!" moment I discovered what had stuck in my memory in Std 5, but had never understood. Thank you, Internet.

The story starts a few weeks ago when my colleagues Jayashree, Neel, and I were talking about why science does not make sense without the context of the knowledge. For example, children are taught in schools that the Sun rises in the East. Hmmmm. Or is it that the direction from where the Sun rises is called the East?  The phenomenon of the Sun rising clearly has primacy over the name of the direction. If you stand in an unknown place without a compass in the afternoon, and if you were asked to point towards the North, how would you do it? Try asking a passer-by where the North is (do try it). It is tough to answer that without knowing where East is, which in turn is impossible unless you know where the Sun rises. But the words East or Poorva (or variations of that in India) do not give you a clue about why they have those names. Some internet search did throw up long stories and mythology.

In Marathi, which is the mother-tongue of all three of us, the East also has a simpler name that clearly associates the phenomenon of rising (Sun?) with the direction, The more Sanskrit Poorva has a simpler local alternative - "ugavati" (rising,  or is it 'beginning'?). The opposite in Sanskrit is Paschim but in the local language it is simply "mavalati" (setting, or is it 'ending'?). In regular Marathi usage, "the Sun rose" is simply "Soorya ugavala" and "the Sun set" is simply "Soorya mavalala". The directions take their names from the verbs or the acts of rising and setting. But, because we are teaching 'science', we do not teach 'ugavati' and 'mavalati', which are more scientific names if you ask me.

Having started rolling along, the next thought was that since Maharashtrians are not really unique (although we definitely would like to think so!), most Indian dialects must have similar verb-based names for the two directions. A phone call to Renu Seth in Ahmadabad brought up the local words in Gujarat- "ugamnu" and "athamnu". A call to Gaurav Sharma in Chhattisgarh and he called up some Pratham people in the tribal areas. There too we got verb-based names for directions.(Gaurav, please send those to me)

I am sure someone has gone through an exercise to find out local names of directions in every Indian dialect. I would urge my colleagues to catalog the names of directions in every dialect. The hypothesis is that most dialects will have names connected with rising and setting or beginning and ending. 

Even more important is that while I can tell about "ugavati" and "mavalati", I have no clue if there are similar names for the North or Uttar, and South or Dakshin. Perhaps there are. But it seems unlikely unless they are important to the local life of hundreds or thousands of years. 

So, I was looking for names of directions in other languages. You can try it too. But be careful. You may get sucked into this search, and lose all sense of direction. It seems, the Hebrew for the equivalent of East is quedem - a word for "front". or 'in front. With 'front' as context as you face the East, Hebrew names for directions are front (East), right -(South), left- (North), and back or behind (West). The article I have linked here also gives the Egyptian directions. To them the Nile was of great consequence. So, their reference point was not the East or the rising Sun at all! They started with the source of the Nile as the reference point. They started by facing South, where the Nile originated. Hence their directions relative to the South known as "face" (or look at?) are : face (South), left (East), right (West), and back  (North). 

Wow! The Pinball, gathers momentum and keeps rolling. As I was writing the above, it occurred to me that my geography book of Std 5 had two words that I had to learn by heart and could never tell what they were. These were names of winds- kharay (खारे salty) waray (वारे winds) and matlai (मतलई) waray. I distinctly remember being told by a friend to just remember that salty winds must come from the sea (when the sea is warmer and the land is cooler.. yeah!!) and hence the matlai winds must flow in the opposite direction. For the coastal people, the Arabian Sea is to the West so the matlai winds must come from the land to the East. But matlai did not make sense at all!!!!

I have to find Mrs. Redkar, who made a great effort to teach us and she was such a wonderful teacher. She even gave me the part of Alexander the Great in a school play with classroom desks put together to create a makeshift stage. 

But, Mrs. Redkar did not have the Internet.

What did I find out?  

Matlai means East" or "sunrise".
   
I could tell you in which language... but how will you then have your own Eureka moment? Search "matlai meaning" and see what comes up or go here

So, historically the sea faring people on the West Coast of Maharashtra must have picked up the name for the Eastern winds from the visiting East Africans and called them the matlai winds. The word got absorbed in the language of the local people but by the time it entered the textbooks, we had lost the context, and hence the cramming.

I am proud that I seem to have found out something that I did not know 46 years ago.  And it is so simple and beautiful.

The Pinball hit a target in what seems like random motion.. but it was very self-motivated.






Friday, February 24, 2012

It's official. I am Babaji

A little girl compared me with her 'babaji' yesterday. It took me back a quarter of a century.

In 1987, I was crossing the railway bridge at Dadar in Mumbai, and I heard a young female voice. "Uncle? Which platform do I go to for the Borivali train?". I was hardly 'uncle' material in my jeans and sneakers, although I was a faculty at the University Department of Chemical Technology.  And this twenty-something actually called me "uncle"!! Most educated 'young' Indian men suffer this shock at one time or another. Samsung has tried to use the 'uncle' problem to their advantage in a commercial recently.



Strangely, it felt much better to be called 'babaji', as in grandpa, at 57 than being called "uncle" at 33. 

In my last blog I had written about the class in Seelampur and how Beena and KumKum had startled us all by reading out a passage. The story the class was reading was about two friends Chunnu and Guddu. One liked mangoes, and the other did not. There was a donkey in the story too, and apparently he did not like mangoes either.I asked the girls to do a role play. So, one girl said she would be Chunnu and the other Guddu. Who will be the Donkey? No one! So, I told them that the story would not be complete without the donkey. They all giggled but finally, Rani, who was clearly more confident than the rest said. "I am Donkey!". They all laughed and Rani laughed with them. So, they did the role play. There were only three lines to say but Chunnu and Guddu could not get them right so the 'donkey' got up and whispered their lines in their ears. When they did not walk like they were supposed to in the park, the 'donkey' got up in exasperation and showed them how to.

They had a ball and I had a great time. Much better than sitting behind a desk writing proposals and reports.

When it was time to go, I asked them if they were afraid of me when I walked into their class. "Nooo!" they all said in a chorus. Rani, our lovable little donkey, did not join the chorus. Once everybody had quieted down she said. "You are like my babaji". So, I asked who babaji was and she told me it was her grandfather who visits them every now and then and tells stories.

I liked that. Being babaji feels good.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

And she smiled...

I have seen that smile many times but it is magical every time I see it.

Was in a Pratham class in Seelampur, Delhi. A young lady, Rashmi,  was teaching several girls, who were in Std 4-5. She had read out a story to the girls and they were discussing it. But half the class was quiet, and the other half participating. Rashmi said that the quiet girls did not know reading. They could read words with difficulty. The quiet girls were looking at me. So, I asked, "Did you hear the story?". They nodded slowly. They said they knew the names of the people in the story and they also knew there was a donkey in it. They knew there was talk about mangoes and chaat. So they knew many words on the story.

I told the girls, who apparently did not know how to read, to step outside the class with their story sheets and try to read the first paragraph carefully. They were to look at each word and then try to read the sentence to themselves till it made sense. I also told another teacher, Asha, to step out with the group. She was to help them in reading words only if the girls asked her, but not otherwise. The girls were told that when any one of them felt that she could read the first paragraph well, she could come in to the class and read it out.

As I chatted with the remaining girls in the class I could see the group outside concentrating on the text with fingers under the words. Occasionally they asked for help. After about fifteen minutes, I heard commotion outside and a bright smiling face. "Beena wants to read to you!", said the excited Asha. The 'insiders' were very curious. Will Beena be able to read????

Beena walked in and sat down with her book. She looked at everyone and... started reading!! When she was done, the remaining class froze for a fraction of second and broke out into a huge applause. Rashmi could not believe this. "But Sir, I swear she could not read more than just words. And this was just a little before you came!". Beena was taking in the compliments. She was quiet, and had that far away look as she smiled to herself.

There was more commotion and in came KumKum. I had asked her to read earlier and had seen that she struggle with every word. She read very softly so as to hide her mistakes. KumKum too had that smile that Beena had come in with. Everyone waited as she cleared her throat. And then, in a loud and strong voice, with her fingers stressing each word, KumKum read the passage. Applause! Applause!!

Now KumKum and Beena shared a smile as they looked at each other.

I have seen these smile many times. They say, "We too can!". It is such a lovely smile. Wish I had taken a picture.

Next time.