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I begin my work in Florida Centre for Reading Research (FCRR)

The administrative officer of FCRR Greg Hutchins drove me to the institute and oriented me to the location, physical structure and people working. Many weren’t there as they have the option to work from home after Covid-19. They do all meetings and most classes online. Their student strength is very much manageable for blended learning. My mentor Prof Yaacov Petscher is a wonderful person and is highly sensitive to my need. A man of few words, he understands without saying things and responds in action. As he was recovering from Cancer, he offered me the full support of the Admin to take me out to introduce to FCRR and the city of Tallahassee. As Greg drove me through the quiet yet beautiful city of Tallahassee, I could see the big buildings of Florida State University (FSU), smart cars parked in large numbers in all the academic areas and the lazy daisy lanes. Houses are made so well with gardens around. Mostly independent houses, but for few student apartments adorned the area. Cars parked inside and on the roads. With the silence and scarce population as compared to India, one would surely wonder who lives there and who drives the cars!!! It is a rare sight to spot human beings or even dogs and cows and our beloved buffaloes on the road. Without any application, requests to people behind the computers, my FSU identity card was made and handed over to me instantly. Bank account was opened so easily and the documents reached in couple of days to my residential address. Knowing the importance of local telephone number, got one sim card into my existing smart phone. Everything was done so efficiently not only because of Greg, but also because of the smooth system that is in place.

The FCRR building is huge, corridors are wide, well carpeted and decorated with pots, paintings and quotations but silent, unlike our corridors where students and staff keep bumping into each other smiling, wishing, whispering and cracking jokes to each other. You have no option than to google to find a place or a person!! There is no one to ask for Gowramma’s room, not even a security guard. In RIE Bhubaneswar a Cheeku Bhai or Gopal Bhai is always around to direct a visitor to my room.

Anyway, the comforts outdo the emotions. I have not had a single day to wait outside the rest room with emergencies. A stark contrast where we often bang doors. I wonder how they remain so clean, well equipped with soaps, wipes, well-functioning flush tanks. Never have I seen a leak of a drop of water in my eight months stay, not just in FCRR rest rooms but in every rest room I used across the country. Rest rooms are made in such a way that you don’t need to open the latch to enter. You can just walk in and latch from inside. The doors never remain open. The automatic door closers are so well functioning. There is no confusion to use the rest room in the country. Wherever you go, the same design, the same location for rest rooms. There are no variations in basic requirements.
The lounge in every corridor of FCRR is with vending machine, microwave oven, refrigerator, coffee maker, tea bags, creamer and sugar. You can walk in anytime to make your choice of food and drink. The items never dry up, staked up well in time.
The office room is with stationary well organized with labels. No Biswa and Seema are there to assist. It is so well maintained you don’t need any one to assist. You pick up what you want and do your work. Every kind of stationary is kept in reachable range to save waste in time in looking around for paper, file, pen, stick pad, cello tape, pins, clips of different size, scissors, printer, colour papers, thick papers, rulers, markers. Take as per your need and use it without the fear of note sheets, stock registers and files.
There is a dining hall you may heat your lunch and eat peacefully all alone. The social construct is different. Not easy here to find a company for sharing food. After lunch usually all take a walk around the beautiful location with large gardens with well-maintained lawn, ponds with water birds. After first two months I found an Indian friend Subrat Mallick from the adjacent research building doing post-doctoral work in Oceanography with whom I could have lunch and walk around.

I was given a spacious well-lit room with all the comforts to work. Double desk top on movable table is a regular feature in every room. It is a pleasure to work on two desktops connected to the same keyboard. We can refer to reading materials in one and do our work in the other without wasting fraction of seconds every time to minimize and maximize windows in the same desk top.
There is no entry time exit time that is recorded. The inner consciousness is the only judge. Work completion is the only requirement. If one is not completing it is their problem they will not get salary and not be recruited for the next term. Everything is clear. There is no mid way or there is never a favour to any. The system is well oiled and functions by itself. Weekly online meetings of the research groups are held to take stock of the work in progress. The director of FCRR has her time to come as routine and conducts brief meetings to know the status of work on each project. To get the feel of the magnitude of research work at FCRR my mentors had given chance to be in meetings of research group that was being carried out as part of a multi institutional project “Reach Every Reader” (RER). It was immense learning just being a listener in the meetings. My mentors – the magnificent Prof Hugh Catts (I fondly call him Bheeshma Pitamaha of reading research) and the kind hearted Prof Yaacov Petscher had given me the freedom to message, call and plan online meetings with them at the time of my need.

Settling in – My beginning days in Tallahassee

In the USA, from day one, I used to wake up very early just like I was in India. I intended to settle into my new apartment searched by my host John and my friend Srimani. I wanted to buy things online instantly and settle in and in the wee hours of the morning, I thought of doing some adventure and wanted to increase the limits I had set to my borderless Thomas Cook card. To advocate my cause, I may state that, this was a felt need (!!) as I had to pay the house rent, in shops to buy furniture and some basic requirements like mattress and frame. The card limit was 500 dollars and I had to do more than one transaction. As each transaction is chargeable, I thought of increasing the limit to 1000 dollars. I was unaware that increasing the limit is not allowed online. With several attempts with OTPs somewhere I clicked save details and my OTP got saved as my login password. Next time I wanted to login and the password was wrong two times. The third time without caution my card got blocked. Tried all possible ways to contact Thomas Cook between 4 am and 6 am of local time as it is 2 pm and 4 pm IST. I might have tried some 20 to 25 times, none picked, most numbers did not work, one worked but could not solve the problem. I sent an email with my details. Got an automatic reply that it will be looked into in 2 working days. Oh that was a Friday!!! I had to wait till Monday to hear them and know more about it.
Here I had come on Thursday night…and it was peeping into wee hours of Friday. I had planned to settle in by weekend to be in my research zone by Monday. But as you can understand things did not tick by my timeliness. Out of frustration I informed Nruthya (My younger daughter-in-law). She gave me step by step instructions to enable my SBI debit card for international payments. In the process I did something that the card got disabled. Nruthya sent her card details to make payments for the day. Buying a mattress and frame was a priority and while making payment through her card it was asking for a US address, I gave mine but it was not matching with her card so payment got denied. Srimani had already paid my apartment rent a day before as my card could not pay that amount due to the limit set. Though she insisted on calling her any time, I didn’t want to bother her often as she had already taken several steps to see that my apartment lease was signed. She and John had taken much of their time to search for a place to rent for my comfortable living for 8/9 months. Nruthya informed Vivek (My elder son) and he called his friend Vinay staying in Chicago and he contacted me to make any payment anytime. But I went on trying my ways to make payment. Definitely giving up is not an option anytime.
I sent a payment link to Nruthya and she too tried but without a US address the payment was not complete. All of her Friday night she was figuring out how to make me feel rich by sending some money to my account here, that was not possible as my phone was not activated for messages. My India number was active to call and WhatsApp.
In the meantime, Friday evening, I went out for dinner with my host John’s wife Deepthi, and tried my SBI credit card and it worked. Deepti said to think of Deepti at any time of crisis. I lovingly said that she is my final straw. The space they shared, the freedom they gave to use their kitchen, the warmth they shower is a lifetime experience to me.
Saturday morning Vivek called and told me not to worry at all and to use my credit card to make all payments and took the details of my Thomas Cook card to resolve it.
Nruthya’s unending efforts worked and she paid through her US card and mattress issue was solved. She had activated her US card loading some money and told not to panic in any situation and use the card for all payments. Vivek called Thomas Cook and could solve the temporary password issue.
By Monday morning, I felt a lot richer. I could use Nruthya s card, Thomas Cook borderless and also my credit card. My debit card enabling task I entrusted to Vivek not to mess further with cards and online dealings!!! And not to block any more cards on the way and stay.

It was 5.30 am, Monday morning, I went into the kitchen, made a hot cup of coffee, with a slice of healthy nutty crunchy bread devoured the warmth of my American host and American bread. I was grateful to my host country for all that is happening smoothly. Imagining the situation if my lifelines were missing.
America is not my home. They treat an American or an Asian or anyone the same way. You can’t use the card, that’s it! Whoever you are the same rule applies. Very interesting, no bias absolutely. But for me as an Indian by heart and soul, culturally deep rooted in Indianness, I felt they complicate living in simple ways!! You may be a Professor of NCERT, daughter of a well-known family, daughter in law of an acclaimed person, wife of so and so who has the reputation of buying the shop if not just the mattress, here the system is simply refusing you. I wondered! I grumbled as I am stomach rumbled.
In Coorg, in Mysore, in Bhubaneswar without a penny I can survive for weeks and months. I have people to drive me at any time, feed me more than I can eat, sort out issues with a wink, and take me around where they go. If I don’t have cash, even an autorickshaw will drive me home in Coorg, Mysore and Bhubaneswar if I take some names. I took pride in all that I had in India, missed the near and dear people of Coorg, Mysore and Bhubaneswar and even fondly remembered some autorickshaw supports of Bhubaneswar and vendors.
Greg the admin support from the institute came to pick me up and drop me to the apartment along with the mattress and frame. Some more basic things I bought as I move to stay independently.
Deepti drove me to show the shops near my apartment, some Indian stores to sooth my palate. She helped me shop the necessary grocery and helped me set up my new home in Tallahassee. The apartment kitchen is well equipped, there is a large spacious refrigerator, washing machine, dish washer, OTG, four burner hotplates. Storage space is plenty. Bathroom is cozy, of course without a bucket and mug!!! I said to myself ‘welcome to the pail less culture’
But, I am still wondering what happened to the bucket mid way…did it sink with the titanic??
How come did the Britishers forget it after all they ensured that no one forgot it with… Jack and Jill go up the hill to fetch a pail of water.

Change in taste

After five decades of seeing life in my own culture, destiny pulled me to a new land. I entered Bhubaneswar, Odisha far from my Kodava land and culture where I have been living for the past decade. As I arrived into Bhubaneswar to join in the Regional Institute of Education, NCERT I was in for a total culture shock. Let me just say about the culinary differences as one of the major differences apart from the rest ranging from people, dress, language and weather. But now let me talk of the shock I encountered on my plate and palate. The place introduced me to the flavour and taste of mustard that is so frequently used in East Indian cooking. Initially I had no option than to eat the local food as I was staying in the guest house. The taste and smell was so aversive I didn’t know what to do. I had no chance of getting accommodation immediately and adjusting into the workplace culture of the new place left me with no time to go out searching for restaurants and food of my taste. The boiled potato in mustard sauce, fish curry with mustard paste, brinjal in curd seasoned generously with mustard oil, everything had a touch of the tiny black seed that was insignificant in my plate till then! The pungent taste and strong aroma made me struggle to eat but I had to eat to survive.
Generally I am not a fussy eater and more over my hunger made me consume the food that I got in the plate full of colours and flavours of the small yet gigantic mustard. Unknowingly, today when I look down that decadal lane, I realize that, I had started enjoying the very mustard. That very mustard whose colours and flavours that after shifting to my own accommodation, found a place in my kitchen cabinet. My grocery list invariably include mustard oil and de-husked mustard to grind to make gravy!! After a decade though I still enjoy my coconut gravy and groundnut oil for my Kodava and Karnataka taste of curry, the tiny mustard also has easily occupied a pride position in my kitchen. This is what is called cultural homogenisation where your life gets expanded by accepting the nuances of other culture into your own. There is nothing to lose rather everything is a gain. I have transferred the taste of my liking back home, where my typical Kodava family gets to eat potato and fish cooked in mustard gravy!! I bet the best of “Hilisa maach” is when it is in the company of its best friend mustard.
After a decade, I again set off to make a home away from home with my Fulbright fellowship to Florida. I travelled from Bhubaneswar to Delhi. The airport immigration line was too long and slow, and it was hectic. Just got in time to the flight at the right time. After some sleep, they served a basket of cakes, salads, and pastry with “so called” tea. Imagine our twisted and curled Darjeeling leaves being brewd and leakers vanishing within the right proportion of milk and sugar that suit every palate! Reached Paris at sunrise with that onboard breakfast. . Changeover was easy, I had a lot of time to look around the airport. The flight got delayed by an hour. The Air France aircrafts are huge with 3 + 4 + 3 seats in one row and 40 such rows. The next flight of Paris to Atlanta had lunch that was served as soon as the flight took off. No rice, no roti somethings soft and soggy, some bits that are hard and dry. Absolutely no taste and no flavour. They call it lunch!! Our lunch even in flights must have Biriyanis and Rotis ending with Gulab Jamums and Kheers. We in India cant imagine a lunch where you will skip the whole food pyramid and still call it lunch. Anyway these people do not know cooking at all, I realised.

Thus from Bhubaneswar to Delhi; Delhi to Paris and Paris to Atlanta I met variety of plates but nothing soothing to palate. Atlanta airport was huge. Had to wait again in a very long line for customs and immigration clearance. As this was my first port of entry, the luggage was also taken out for a customs check. I was getting delayed to take my next Delta airlines flight to Tallahassee. The staff were very helpful to carry my luggage and put it across to the Delta flight and helped me to reach the security check. Soon after the security check, I had to take a metro to reach the gate. By the time I reached the gate the final call was displayed. I could see the aircraft but could not get into it. The staff at the counter helped me to rebook my ticket for the next flight at 7 pm to my destination. I used the two hours to freshen up, to look better for my first look when I reach Tallahassee. Brushed, washed, combed my hair, applied lip gloss and felt good. I understood how important grooming is for internal health and felt nervous like a 16 year old trying to look prim and proper.
My kind hearted host had come to pick me from the airport and took me to his home. He showed me the kitchen and the food stuff in the fridge. The family gave me all freedom to take and make anything I wish. I was very formal and said I got food in the aircraft. Had a glass of water and went to bed. Had a good sleep as per their time 10 pm to 5 am in my style. All the family left for work. I made my coffee and sandwich with tomatoes and felt good. Food is not for the body, but for the mind. When you have your own comfort food, your stomach rumbles and tells you all is well. The stomach as much as the heart is often scared of the newness of the palate and the change in taste. The feeling that it will get to absorb what it knows comforts it as much as it does the heart and soul.

At this age and stage of my life I realised, reflected why I feel so light, happy, fresh when I eat “Otti – Pajji” or “Kadmbutt – Pandikari”. Because I am genetically carved to relish and digest that!! But I have the potential to adjust and adapt to the new taste if I am positive to its goodness and open to cultural amalgamation.

As I sit by the window trying to take the newness in of the place which I will call home for the next 8 months, I understand that my stomach has to take in as much new as I have to. The change in colour on my plate also brings a change in colour in my life, as I wonder what new recipes I will take home to Kodag and Karnataka and what stories, I will tell back in Bhubaneswar.

Spark that never fades

Ye wohi ladki hai jo deri se ake mujhe milne keliye bahana bana kart thi thi
Ab mujhe dekhke has has ke samne aa jaati hai!
Ye wohi hai baar baar ghar jaaneka permission na milne se jagda karne wali
Ab Kahi bhi milne se daud ke aati hai pair choo ke pyar dikhati hai!

Ek suneheri swati aayi barso baad,
Mere class ke darvaze par khadi thi apni pati ke saath
Apni pati ko garv se keheti hai hamari mam hai, bahut achi hai
Are wah!! Kyu maine nahi suna ye sab bathe jab tum hostel pe thi?
Mai bhi garv ke saath apni students ko class me batayi
Ye meri bitiya hai! GB me reheti ti barso pehele
Dekh dekh the hi pehechan gaye ham donone
Dononke anckho me tha ansoo…..pata nahi kyo

Chal rahi thi platform pe howra station me
Suitcase aur laptop ki bag bhaari to tha
Peeche se suna awaaz “Mam” “Ma..”
Aate hi suitcase, uta liya, laptop bag ko apni khando par
Samne chal rahi hai mujhe rah dikhake, meri bhoj utake
Meri ashchary ke Drishti ko pehechanke boli
Mai aapki hostel ki chaatra thi, aap hamari itni khayal rak thi thi!
Bahut bonewali bandana, Ye bath pehele kabhi batayi nahi!

Institute ki kamre me baiti thi laptop ke samne
Bahut tezi se ayi ladki, nazar utane tak gayab!
Table ke neeche pair choo rahi hai,
Kaun hai thu bitiya – mai hoo aap ki hostel ki student
Aap itna strict thi samaj na payi aapki jimmedari tab
Ab mai hoon school ke teacher aur wahan bachon ki warden
Wah meri bachi scohne wali sahana tum bahut badal gai hai

Maam se akhri ‘m’ choot jaata hai message par, pata nahi e spelling error hai?
Shikshika banke paya bahut pyar bachon ka
Har jagah milthe hai koi na koi “mai appke student”
Sunna bahut bhaari padti hai, meri jimmedari badti jaa rahi hai

Seeing the brighter side of examination helps

“Examination” the term is associated with trouble, distress, confusion, turmoil, pain, anger, frustration, anxiety, stress, and many more disturbing emotions. And, the funny part is that we live it, as all are doing so. We feel contended that we are also like others having all the trouble. For a change, let us know ourselves. Let us take some time to anlyse the emotions that we are undergoing. Am I sad? Am I anxious? Am I troubled? Is it a combination of two or more emotions? Am I disturbed and angry? Am I troubled and stressed? Am I disturbed, troubled and stressed? OMG!! I don’t know.
Take time, experience each feeling and name it. See the gradation of it. If you are stressed, find out the level of stress. If you are in pain, know the intensity of pain. This helps in working towards reducing the same. Once you identify, know that it is natural and accept it. The disturbance settles to some extent. Most of the times, one negative emotion leads to the other. Find out which one is leading to the other. In case you are not able to assess your own emotions speaking to someone helps. Once you accept your unpleasant feeling towards examination, know the reason for it. Is it due to self-induced pressure of doing the best, is it expectation by school and family? Is it lack of preparation? Is it because of no clear goal for the future? Is it due to not being able to know your own abilities and potentials? Is it because of chasing the goal that is set by others? You will feel relived once to know the reason for your trouble during the time of examination. Take little more time and refute fears that are baseless. If there are some genuine anxiety, accept it and work towards it.
Further, see by chance if there are any pleasant emotions associated with it!! I am not joking!!! Believe me!!!! It will be there, but it is submerged under the huge heavy bundle of unpleasant emotions. Search for those emotions. Relaxation after the examination, accomplishment of success, happiness of going for higher studies, fulfillment of getting seat in my dream college/school, entering the world of work of my choice, confidence of becoming an earning member, pride in contributing to the cause, success, achievement, recognition, much more. Hye!! come on, wake up, get up, brush up, let us go to face the hurdle as crossing the hurdle is for the treasure.
There is no success without disturbance, difficulty. To get the benefit of anything there will be a hurdle of hard work and distress. But the thought of crossing the hurdle by knowing the pleasure on the other side is refreshing. Phrases like “no one has drowned in sweat”, “the fruits of hard work are always sweet”, “the one who toils will succeed”, “hard work never goes unrewarded” etc. are worth realizing, rethinking, reliving during the time of exam.
You reap what you sow. You are the maker of your destiny. Know yourself and be with yourself. Examination is a day, daily we face examination of life. Let us face. There is still time. Start the work, hard work, more work, sincere work.

Creating Blended Learning opportunities for students / Experimenting with the Flipped Classroom

Has been listening to online digital learning too much that I wanted to try my hand at it.  There were innumerable other factors that prompted me to take the extra effort – the UGC mandate to give few online courses, UGC guideline to go for blended mode, giving autonomy to learners, giving a safe environment to learn by choosing the time and style as per individual demand, promoting self-learning, providing the opportunity for self-assessment, encouraging safe expression platform to all learners, many more to add to the list.  For sure these are not Covid driven thoughts, but for sure, Covid made us think of it seriously pushing us into action

The work started with the motto that beginning is more important than quality. This put me at ease to refine my existing PowerPoint presentations into the course “Childhood and Growing Up”; the course I had in B.Ed. first semester.  I was taking online classes with the same batch and was noticing a few students had difficulties being connected continuously due to poor network connections. I started putting the PPTs with a few reflective questions in the learning portal.  I was surprised to find a good number of students responding quickly to the reflective questions.  Collected a few short videos that had aspects reflecting concepts of the unit.  Those videos were given as view and respond.  Students started uploading their answers/reflections to the questions/discussion points raised in the video description.

By this time the batch of students were called to the offline classes.  It was an opportunity that LMS created to flip the classroom, to use the face to face contact only for discussion on questions, doubts raised by students.  The need to give points of discussion in a lecture mode got automatically restricted.  That put the role of teacher from speaker to listener.  Students came out happily to ask their queries, doubts, arguments openly.  Those students who were not very articulate in class either due to language barrier or social barrier chose to express themselves freely in the discussion forum of the LMS.

At this juncture we had to send the same batch of B Ed students to their school exposure and multicultural placement in selected schools.  There are five activities to be taken up by students during their fifteen days of school experience.  One among them is ‘case study’.  Students are briefed on all the activities by different faculty members in a one or two days pre conference.  My responsibility was to orient the students and prepare them to do the case study.  With a very brief interaction with students in the session, gave them the code to join the course online.  Prepared a short video as introductory information on case study.  A power point to give information on what is case study, why is it important for a teacher preparation programme and how to dot it that was available was refined and added to the course.  The recorded class on briefing the students of previous batch was uploaded for further view for more clarity and details.  The format to report with example was prepared that was put in the portal for the benefit of students.  The same activity is in the four year integrated programmes of the institute B A B Ed and B Sc B Ed.  I just had to generate different codes for the different batches and share with students during the face to face interaction session.  A question and answer forum was created in the course so that students can post their query if any. This was informed to students in the session.  I felt highly empowered and satisfied as the resources available were already floated in the online classroom.  The same design was useful for three different courses of students.  What is more comforting is that for the batches to come in future the course remains organized and I can improve upon it as and when I get interesting materials and as and when I get time to relook into the example and power point presentation that is in the portal.  Experienced great joy when I realized that the resources can be put in drive and any change I make in the file automatically gets changed in the portal.  There is no need to go to the portal and edit the material if the resources are directly put in the portal from the drive.

This experience I gained as a teacher educator in the year 2020-2021 is remarkable and has great potentiality to reach large number of students simultaneously.  Opportunity to peer interaction opens up the scope for peer learning.  Needless to say the motivation for self-learning is at its best, with no interference and disturbance by others during learning.  Teacher support is made available both online and offline for the comfort of students based on their preference.

Immense potentiality of blended learning is opening up to the faculty at higher education institutes.  It is time we embark on this journey slowly but steadily.  A technical team to support the faculty and a server of its own by every institute would go a long way in accomplishing this goal.  Further faculty members may be given the chance to upgrade their skills to board on this fascinating journey.  The satisfaction of creating a learning experience for a large number of students for years to come where they can learn at their comfort is worth the effort.

My delight

https://www.learningportal.gowriip.in

Has been listening to the online digital learning too much that I wanted to try my hand at it.  Two driving forces to embark on the journey – one is that I can relax tomorrow if I work today philosophy (!!) and I can reach large number of students with one-time hard work.  There were innumerable other factors that prompted to take the extra effort – the UGC mandate to give few online courses, UGC guideline to go for blended mode, giving autonomy to learner, giving a safe environment to learn by choosing the time and style as per individual demand, promoting self learning, providing opportunity for self assessment, encouraging safe expression platform to all learners, many more to add to the list.  For sure these are not Covid driven throughts!! But for sure, Covid made us think of it seriously pushing us into action.

My journey started with taking up an online course on Moodle LMS by IIT Madras in collaboration with Bodoland University.  The course not just guided me into the know how of developing courses online but also impressed with the audio and video lessons and online assessment.  I was highly inspired by the way the course was designed.

Two of my friends from University of St Francis, with their experience of putting few courses of study compulsorily online since the past decade, roped in to bring the thought to India knowing its immense potentiality.  Pulled in two youngsters who had passion to develop courses online as well as had the technical know how of creating the LMS in a resource depleted higher education scenario in India.

The work started with the motto that beginning is more important than quality.  This put me at ease to refine my existing power point presentations into the course Childhood and growing up the course I had in B Ed first semester.  I was taking online classes to the same batch and was noticing few students had difficulties to be connected continuously due to network connections.  I started putting the PPTs with few reflective questions in the learning portal.  I was surprised to find a good number of students responding quickly to the reflective questions.  Collected few short videos that had aspects reflecting concepts of the unit.  Those videos were given as view and respond.  Students started uploading their answers/reflections to the questions/discussion points raised in the video description.

By this time the batch of students were called to the offline classes.  It was an opportunity that LMS created to flip the classroom, to use the face to face contact only for discussion on questions, doubts raised by students.  The need to give points of discussion in a lecture mode got automatically restricted.  That put the role of teacher from speaker to listener which was welcome move!!  Students came out happily to ask their queries, doubts, arguments openly.  Those students who were not very articulate in class either due to language barrier or social barrier chose to express themselves freely in the discussion forum of the LMS.

With this experience another course I am teaching for the M Ed first years on Psychology of development and learning was organized in the learning platform with the few power point presentations.

At this juncture we had to send the same batch of B Ed students to their school exposure and multicultural placement in selected schools.  There are five activities to be taken up by students during their fifteen days of school experience.  One among them is ‘case study’.  Students are briefed on all the activities by different faculty members in a one or two days pre conference.  My responsibility was to orient the students and prepare them to do the case study.  With a very brief interaction with students in the session, gave them the code to join the course online.  Prepared a short video as introductory information on case study.  A power point to give information on what is case study, why is it important for a teacher preparation programme and how to dot it that was available was refined and added to the course.  The recorded class on briefing the students of previous batch was uploaded for further view for more clarity and details.  The format to report with example was prepared that was put in the portal for the benefit of students.  The same activity is in the four year integrated programmes of the institute B A B Ed and B Sc B Ed.  I just had to generate different codes for the different batches and share with students during the face to face interaction session.  A question and answer forum was created in the course so that students can post their query if any. This was informed to students in the session.  I felt highly empowered and satisfied as the resources available were already floated in the online classroom.  The same design was useful for three different courses of students.  What is more comforting is that for the batches to come in future the course remains organized and I can improve upon it as and when I get interesting materials and as and when I get time to relook into the example and power point presentation that is in the portal.  Experienced great joy when I realized that the resources can be put in drive and any change I make in the file automatically gets changed in the portal.  There is no need to go to the portal and edit the material if the resources are directly put in the portal from the drive.

This experience I gained as a teacher educator in the year 2020-2021 is remarkable and has great potentiality to reach large number of students simultaneously.  Opportunity to peer interaction opens up the scope for peer learning.  Needless to say the motivation for self learning is at its best, with no interference and disturbance by others during learning.  Teacher support is made available both online and offline for the comfort of students based on their preference.

The immense potentiality of blended learning is opening up to the faculty at higher education institutes.  It is time we embark on this journey slowly but steadily.  A technical team to support the faculty and a server of its own by every institute would go a long way in accomplishing this goal.  Further faculty members may be given the chance to upgrade their skills to embark on this fascinating journey.  The satisfaction of creating a learning experience for a large number of students for years to come where they can learn at their comfort is worth the effort.

Mohan – Kastur

Gandhi exposing himself to public and claiming that his life is a open book has made people from every field to analyse him from multiple angles. His strong propositions on brahmacharya, upavas, satyagrah, life of hardship, simple living, food system, eradication of untouchability, trusteeship, education and several other views have been subject to critical analysis. He is discussed on his perspectives on religion, women, modern science, oppressed class far more than anybody, by multi-disciplinary team that lessons of a simple life by an innocent man is missed.
Here is an effort to sketch the elusive Mohan as perceived by his wife Kastur. As we go down the memory lane, we need to make conscious effort not to situate the incidents in the present ecosystem. There are vignettes followed by their analysis and interpretation. I have struggled to keep me out of analysis – as woman / wife and a Gandhi admirer. I acknowledge the resources I used from different websites and two authors Dr Aparna Basu of Kasturba Gandhi and Dr H S Anupama author of I am Kastur.
Vignette 1 Two children got engaged and got married as teenagers. Kastur was given enough lessons in her maternal home as to how to behave after marriage. Mohan was no less in imposing restrictions on his wife. He made several rules in an effort to keep her in his control, one of which is “you can’t go anywhere without my permission’. Listen to me, keep quiet, you don’t know, frequented to the utter irritation of Kastur. But Kastur had her way and did what she wanted to do leading to fights. Once when Kastur went to temple with Puthlibai, Mohan scolded Kastur for not taking permission from him. Kastur asserted “who is elder, you or your mother? Why should there be permission from you to go with the elder of the family? Since then he stopped restricting her.
In a social milieu rooted in inequalities and gender stereotype, a husband was questioned by a wife!!! But this did not mobilize Mohan to harness on the gender based stereotypes and structural and institutional inequalities against Kastur to manipulate the reality, rather it made him reflect on the episode to begin accepting individualism. Mohan could see neither a wife nor a woman in Kastur, but an individual.
Vignette 2. While in South Africa every one in the house had to take turns to do the work. A friend of Mohan was staying with them and Kastur could not accept to clean the toilet of the guest and expressed her reluctance to do so. Mohan got so angry that he pulled Kastur out of the house saying choose to stay or go away, I will not tolerate this differentiation towards others. Kastur though cried initially, gained courage to ask Mohan are you not ashamed of putting me out of the house in a foreign land? The angry man suddenly stopped his screaming. Both realised their mistakes and apologised with each other. That was the last time Mohan showed his anger on his wife. Mohan realised that his behaviour was very cheap to punish an individual when they are vulnerable.
This instance revealed to Mohan how abusers mobilize structural vulnerabilities related to race, nationality, and sexuality; and institutional inequalities against victims to erode their realities. These are cruel tactics to rely on the association of vulnerability with irrationality. Kastur mirrored Mohan of his action being opposite to the cause he is fighting in South Africa.
Gandhi understands that pain is not just in jail tortures and physical insults, pain is also in humiliation and subjugation of the vulnerable. It is for that pain that Gandhi speaks again and again. His biography is towards his strive to become Bapu: the caring perosn for all. A figure that truly wants to embrace humanity, not “being human in the shadows worldly pleasures and inborn weaknesses”.
Vignette 3. In the Satyagraha Ashram Kastur was a commanding lady with, sharp and firm voice. She had heavy job on her hands to cook for and feed, besides her family some more people in the Ashram. She was a most demanding leader and would keep the helpers in kitchen on your toes. There would often be a crowd of unexpected guests at the Ashram, then the ‘political capital’ of India. Kastur would sometimes clash with Mohan while he used to bring guests untimely and without informing in the Kitchen. So Mohan used to be nervous on these occasions. Mohan on such occasions would be very humble and tactful. He was then a little afraid of Kastur. One day just after Kastur and her young assistant had washed up after lunch and closed the kitchen, Mohan quickly approached the kitchen and reckoned to the kitchen assistant who was about to leave. He spoke in a whisper so as not to disturb Kastur taking rest in the adjoining room. A number of guests, he announced, were to arrive in an hour, very distinguished guests, among whom was the late Pandit Motilal Nehru, for whom lunch had to be prepared.
He put a finger to his lips as he glanced at Kastur’s room. ‘Do not disturb her, Summon some one, light the fire, chop the vegetables and knead the flour for the chapaties. Send for Kastur only when she is needed. He had the look of some innocent conspirator. The young assistant and helper opened the kitchen noiselessly. Suddenly a brass plate crashed to the floor to wake Kastur and she rushed to the kitchen. She was surprised to see the kitchen in full action at the odd hour. She demanded to know what it was all about. ‘Why did you not send for me?’ she demanded, ‘You think I cannot manage this extra work?’ It was all smooth sailing thereafter. She knew Mohan had arranged the whole thing. At night, after prayers, when all the guests had left, she faced him unexpectedly. She stood before him and a mischievous light in her eyes.
‘Why did you ask them to do the work without me? You think I am lazy?
Mohan replied with all innocence Don’t you know, I am afraid of you on such occasions?”
The anecdote speaks of a deep bond in Mohan – Kastur relationship that is built on friendship, care and mutual respect. Gandhi as a person not only respects women, feels their struggle at home and in the society, be it at the time of menstruation or bearing and rearing of a child, or putting together household chores to take time and weave in the charkha.
Vignette 4. The forth anecdote that I would like to narrate is that of Mahadev Desai’s wife and Kastur visiting the Jagannath temple when they visited Odisha on a mission on Swaraj, one goal being educating the mass against untouchability. Mohan comes to know of the visit is deeply saddened. It is his wee years, now he does not scold Kastur anymore like he used to in their early married years. Kastur later reflects on her husband’s feelings and action and feels them vibrating inside her that “she need not visit a temple that practices untouchability”.
Thus after a time, the beliefs, the causes, and soul of Mohan and Kastur became the very belief system, cause and soul of both, they became one. They learned from each other, they grew old together, lived their dream of a free India together and they continue to live in this free India together in the hearts of every Indian. Wish they continue to live in every human being by starting a new tradition of respect, care and concern in every intimate relationship, learning from each other in the path of attaining self-actualisation.
As a sociological phenomenon macro-level social inequalities get transformed into micro-level strategies. But Mohan could transcend to Mahatma by applying the micro level strategies to fight the social inequalities and the lessons learnt on individualism helped to build collectivism. Sociologically placing this phenomenon in its cultural, structural, and institutional contexts would give a new perspective to human relationships and development. This is the lesson we can learn from the simple life of Mohan and Kastur while analysing the Perspective of Mahatma on women.
(Mahatma from Kastur’s perspectives, views expressed in the one – day webinar on Gandhi and Women conducted by centre for women’s studies Pondicherry University on 18th August 2020).

Lockdown

I search for words to glorify agony in gloom

Cries of my fellow human beings worldwide is loud.

 

Warriors on the roads and hospitals risking lives

Their families under constant threat.

 

Siblings in the boarders unperturbed by heat and dust

Waging a war that is different, to their best.

 

Children locked in countries unknown

Chasing dreams of everyone.

 

Lots to do! in home, from home, for home.

Posterity I owe you a better abode

Creating New Equations

Few minutes spent with Mr Murugan on my way back from Kohima on 25th July 2019 enriched me as a teacher educator.  What is special about Murugan? He won National Award for Teachers in September 2018, a Tamilian representing Nagaland.

After being in the 2018 state selection committee for the National Award to Teachers,  I was in the committee again for the 2019 teacher selection.  During the process of selection I expressed with the Principal secretary, Ministry of Education and the Director School education, that we could have invited the last year’s winner at the National level. They immediately arranged my meeting with him on my way back to Dimapur airport the following day.  He reached Chumukedima High School from his school Peren at 11 am and I reached the school on time.  The Principal Ms Karen Sema was pleasantly surprised and showed her eagerness to listen to our conversation when she came to know the background of our visit to her school.

With Mr. Murugan (Right) and Ms Karen Sema (Left)

Journey of Murugan from Tirunelveli to Peren is unimaginable, more so his journey from an ordinary teacher to a national award winning teacher. Murugan lost his father when he was 12 years old.  Being the eldest son with three brothers and three sisters he has seen the struggle to earn money for feeding the family and to study.  He vividly remembers how the siblings used to work in tobacco packing for 50 paisa per day during 1980.  That was the daily wage for children while women would get Rs 2 and men Rs 3.  His mother used to work there and during holidays and vacation children would join her so that they could continue their education.  From 1984 to 86 while studying in plus 2, he found black topping on the road a high earning job with Rs 13 per day.  There was an incentive of Rs 2 for those who were fast and would do more work.  Murugan without fail earned Rs 15 with his swift movement, not because he was so but because of the Rs 2 incentive.  Saved money and continued education to become a graduate with chemistry honours, math and physics.  Though he was fond of Mathematics from the school days, took chemistry major only because his teacher said Chemistry honours has more  scope of getting job in industries compared to Mathematics.  His only focus was to get a job as soon as possible and help his younger siblings and mother a better life.

PM Narendra Modi Tweets to Congratulate Mr. Murugan (Source: https://twitter.com/narendramodi/status/1036991391270760448?s=20)

By the time he completed graduation from Kanyakumari Vivekananda college he had 20 options written in his dairy to work in which the last was server in hotel.  During such dire need for salary few of his friends talked to him about demand for Mathematics teachers in Nagaland.  Without much details he boarded the weekly train to Guwahati from where he reached Nagaland and entered a Baptist school at Oka for Rs 700 per month as salary. He narrated his 5 days train journey with out reservation on a unreserved compartment in the upper birth. He did not think of anything as that was a big money for him he could save maximum and send home.  His flair for teaching earned him good name and respect from the villagers.  Within two years the head master of the school moved to another private school, forcibly took Murugan for double the salary.  In the mean time there was a written exam for Nagaland Government teacher’s post which we qualified and got appointed in 1992.  In 1995 competed B. Ed. from Annamalai University.  He was happy to get a government job and his satisfaction of being a teacher continued in spite of remaining as a contractual employee till 2006. As per the Government of Nagaland policy if any local person qualifies for the same post for which a non local is already appointed, the job would automatically get cancelled.  With such risk he stayed on as he liked the local people, his love for teaching Mathematics to young kids and of course the salary.

In his was sailing through his professional life, he got married, has two children, studying in his native place.  He goes home twice in a year.  All his siblings are married and well settled.  Mother lives in the village with one of the brother.

As a teacher he finds complete satisfaction in teaching Mathematics to his school children.  His innings from making effort to understand Zeliang (the tribal language)  ‘chima’ (don’t know) and ‘kethe chima’ (don’t know anything) to ‘chitha le’ (I know) and ‘thouda le’ (I got it) has brought the National award to this passionate teacher.  He is well versed with several tribal languages and Nagamese.  He has become one with the local community.  He is proud to say that some of his students are his colleagues in the same school now.  He has adapted to the food and climate of Peren and the serene surrounding.  He feels uncomfortable when he goes to his hometown due to the extreme heat there.

He remembers his mother and her struggle, the freedom she gave her children to go the way they think is the  best for their family.  Only because of her fearless farewell when he boarded the train to Nagaland he could work without any doubt and establish himself in a distant land that is unknown and little connected with India geographically and culturally.

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