Tsukumo’s Week 1: Work, Heat, and Faith

It’s been a few days since I arrived in India. Everyone I’ve met has been very warm and welcoming. I’m slowly getting used to the brutal heat, and waiting for the monsoon to bring some much-needed rain and cooler air!

I started my work here at NIRMAN last Friday. One of the key components of my internship here is teaching. They have a school for elementary school to high school students, called Vidyashram-Southpoint School, which reopens on June 27 after a long vacation. I will be teaching some classes at this school — I’m not sure exactly what yet, but it will include some English, music, and history. Until the school opens, I’m participating in teachers’ training workshops with a dozen or so teachers, which have been really eye-opening. One of the workshops was a very interesting discussion on interaction between home and school, and how these two environments can work for and against each other in an Indian cultural context. It made me realize how gender-based and age-based discrimination can really affect the students, and how school teachers need to be critical about not recreating that bias in their classrooms. We just started another series of workshop in theater set design, led by an US American professor, since the school produces a show at the end of each school year.

Besides these workshops, I have been exploring Varanasi’s rich traditions by visiting ghats by Ganges river and some historic temples in the area, including the most famous Vishwanath Temple near Dashashwamedh Ghat. It was quite a sight. Dozens, or perhaps hundreds of Hindu visitors in their colorful traditional clothes line up to go into the temple in narrow streets that sell millions of goods including sculptures of holy figures and flowers. I wish I could appreciate all of these better, but I was barely catching up with the person guiding me through the streets. The temple houses various Hindu gods, and visitors pay their respect by putting their hands together, rubbing the statues’ feet, dedicating flowers and leaves, and so on. I don’t know how to describe the emotions I felt watching these and doing some myself, but I can say that I’m grateful for this opportunity and invitation to be a part of some bigger spiritual journey.

I will be participating in more teachers’ training next week, as well as learning more Hindi (I’m trying!). I’m making quite a few new friends through these. So far, I have been doing very well in Varanasi.

Assi Ghat at six in the morning.

Assi Ghat at six in the morning.

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About Tsukumo Niwa

Tsukumo is a junior with a double major in Oboe Performance and International Studies. After graduation, she is interested in finding a career that would allow her to combine her passions for social justice, the arts and multicultural understanding. Tsukumo has engaged in a wide variety of projects dealing with social justice, including the Prison Creative Arts Project, Diversity Peer Educator program at the University Housing, and IGR CommonGround.

3 thoughts on “Tsukumo’s Week 1: Work, Heat, and Faith

  1. I’m happy to hear things are going well! Hindi will be tricky, but I’m sure they’re loving your dedication to even trying. It’s amazing how universal, yet specific to different places, how the interaction between home and school can play such an important role in education. I would love to hear more about that and what particular issues come out of that. Studying K-12 and first generation college students in the United States, there are significant links to be seen through school-home relations, and I can only image how the Indian culture influences that relationship. Enjoy the calm before the storm! (the adorable storm that it will be, though).

  2. The workshops sound so interesting. Let us know how they’re going. I can’t wait to hear. Also, it’s great that you’ve been able to explore. That’s so great!

  3. Hi Tsukumo! I wish you the very best as you begin this transformative journey. I am confident that all of your hard work this year will pay off exponentially! It must be so fascinating to participate in the teacher training workshops. I am sure it will provide you with a lot of perspective on similarities and differences in approaches to teaching in India and how society shapes these roles. I cannot wait to hear more and you are in my thoughts!

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