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.