Assorted Reflections from India

As I mentioned in the previous post, I am in India for two weeks with students from the US. The students arrived a week before I did, and have completed their second week here. This past week, we spent about three days in Ahmedabad at the Environmental Sanitation Institute, a Gandhi-inspired organization designed to promote health literacy in urban and rural India. After that we departed for Mumbai (where I’m writing this post), the Indian city of dreams, home to some 20 million people from all over India (and, of course, the world).

I don’t have a single theme or thread to explore here – and, sadly, no pictures at the moment, as internet connections are unreliable and slow – but I did want to share some moments that have stuck out.

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Off to India!

static.squarespaceI’m composing my first blog post from an airport! I’m on my way to Ahmedabad, Gujarat to join students from Phillips Academy and Phillips Exeter Academy on a program called Niswarth.

Lots of links above. Niswarth is an opportunity for students and faculty to learn with each other and peers from Indian schools. We will learn about modern India — politics, religion, culture, history, educational system — while also grappling with questions of privilege, inequality, social change, moral agency, and justice. I’ve been on this trip twice before (in 2008 and 2011) and am delighted to be a part of it once more.

A couple years ago I wrote about the pedagogy of this program for Independent Teacher, an online magazine published by NAIS. You can read that article here.

More interesting, however, is the blog that is being updated regularly by student participants from this year’s trip. It’s well worth a read! (I’ll also try to share thoughts and reflections when I can.)

 

“Nailed,” by Meena Kandasamy

I’ve been getting ready for the Educators for Teaching India conference tomorrow, and I continue to be in awe of the power of Meena Kandasamy’s poetry. She is a contemporary poet-activist (b. 1984) who writes about feminism and caste annihilation (among many other things). Here is one of her many remarkable poems.

Nailed

Men are afraid of any woman who makes poetry and dangerous
portents. Unable to predict when, for what, and for whom she
will open her mouth, unable to stitch up her lips, they silence her.

Her pet parrot developed an atrocious fetish for the flesh of
sacrificial goats, so Kulamaayi was bolted within a box and
dropped in the Kaveri.

She teased and tormented his celibacy, so Miss Success-Village
was thrown into a well by a wandering socialite-godman.

She was inaccessible and unattainable, so Durga was put in an iron
trunk that settled on a riverbed and even the men and women
who tried to approach her were informed in a prerecorded voice
that she was out of reach and network range and coverage area.

She was an outcaste who had all the marks of a fiery orator who
would someday run for parliament, so a nail was driven into her head
on the instructions of her brahmin fiancée and her coffin was
set adrift in a wailing river.

She was black and bloodthirsty, so even Kali found herself shut
inside her shrine.

They were relatively low-risk, so most other women were locked up
at home.