MISSION : Change the World with A Chalk !

We would love to have you teach Physics and Math to our 12th graders at Cathedral Pooja !! Let us know what you decide in a week’s time. “ , said Mr. Sandeep Sehgal , IB Director of Asia’s 2nd best school , the alma mater to Muhammad Ali Jinnah , Ratan Tata , J.R.D. Tata , Rajdeep Sardesai , Salman Rushdie , Rahul Bajaj and a thousand other glitterati , The Cathedral & John Connon School , Fort , South Bombay . Mrs. Sejal Modi , my mentor and an educator herself on the interview panel looked and smiled at me convincingly . The Starbucks at Chatrapaji Shivaji Domestic airport , Mumbai had a nervous girl just done with her Maharashtra CAT for Bachelors in Education for the year 2014-2015, A girl whose strife and struggle with herself and social stigma finally made sense , a girl whose glee was infectious , a girl whose dreams finally started taking shape, a girl whose conviction finally won over convention , a mechanical & energy engineer by qualification and a dancer by heart , a girl named Pooja Pradeep . They left almost immediately since they had a flight to catch leaving an ecstatic soul, her latte and her boyfriend behind . Rushil turned to her and hugged her tight .

Why are you so surprised Ja ? Don’t you know you’re awesome already ? “ , he said wiping those tears falling down her face . She sat there dumbfounded , those words of Mr. Sandeep reverberating through her skull . It hurt though ; everything was so quick . The CAT assured her a 2% chance at gaining admission since she was an out state candidate , 2 seats out of a 100 in all her shortlisted colleges ( that’s just not it !! ) ; Her being an engineer got that down to 1 seat in every college . She was adamant in wanting to do her B.Ed in Mumbai since she was already connected to the hip-hop network of dancers in the city . She wanted to get into the starred and supreme St.Xavier’s Institute of Education or Bombay Teacher’s Training Centre ( BTTC ). Her boyfriend had gotten her a big fat guide to prepare from, one month prior . Sejal was sure I would get the job but she insisted I do my B.Ed because that will give me the adequate learning experience in becoming a teacher . That one month was uber hectic ; one seat at her first priority Xavier’s and another one at the second one , BTTC , made life sound almost impossible .

If I crack this , I will believe I’m Batman ! “ , she told herself .


          “You’re sitting at home preparing for B.Ed after your B.Tech ?! “ , those annoying aunts who believed B.Ed is a course girls who want to get married and settled in their lives would opt for ( not because they want to teach and ignite young minds because – Hey ! Who goes for the obvious these days !! ), would eat her ears . Five of their rants and she would cry to her best friend , 
Arjy I don’t think I can do this man !! I don’t have it in me. Just one seat is outrageous !! “

I believe in you Pooj . Maybe you should too !” , he would suggest and put his distressed best friend to sleep after a day spent gorging on that guide, every single day .
The results came out . She got an aggregate percentage of 75. It made no sense to her as there was no benchmark. High , average , low , she didn’t even know how to label it . Pooja wasn’t called for the first allotment , the second allotment or even the third because of her outstate candidature and her undergraduation being a B.Tech. Xavier’s and BTTC being the most wanted ones and minority colleges seemed out of plausible reach . She was disheartened . However , there was a waiting list round to commence where one was to fill a form and go meet the principal of the college . Meanwhile , Rushil and Pooja hunted and found a really nice PG in Andheri . She wasn’t a newbie as such , so Mumbai life didn’t scare her one bit. Rushil left to Kolkata for his work . She was by herself . Woke up at 6, took a train to Churchgate and would wait outside college offices the entire day along with a hundred other until 5 in the evening with NO food because you never know when your stars get lucky in meeting the principal . ( .. and NO food means apocalypse . I hope you get them feels ! )

WHAT ?! You have 75 ?? Why didn’t you get a seat yet Pooja ?! “ , everybody were so curious and surprised !! Talking to others there and getting to know the B.Ed scenario better , Pooja figured that there’s something going terribly wrong with her allocation . Apparently the highest merit student in BTTC scored a 76 percentile and got in in the first allotment itself .

HUH WHAAAA ?!


          “ Papa , I think there’s something wrong . I think I deserve a seat ! “ , she whimpers to Rushil’s father . The next few days were chaotic . Mr. Prabhakar Nori sent his acquaintance to the head office of the entrance examinations at Pune , met shocked principals both in BTTC and Xavier’s leaving them to figure why their college didn’t give her the seat she deserved , sending frantic SOS emails to heads of various organisations , scooted a good deal here and there , went up and down administrative blocks of the Maharashtra Education Council , la la la la laaaaaa .

Wet pillows put the distressed girl to erratic sleep for a week !!


          “ Get your college fee DD and confirm your admission right away . Don’t tell anybody you’re admitted as yet . I’m going to take a risk . But this will be seen to and sorted eventually . Meanwhile , I want u attending college and not miss any more than 2 months which you have already . Congratulations Pooja . You’re in !! “ , Dr. Sybil Thomas , Principal of St.Xavier’s Institute of Education , Mumbai , shook her hand . She walked to the washroom at the end of the corridor with a smile that touched her ears , locked herself in and cried . This is what the folks meant by saying , ” In the end , it’s all worth it ! “


( phone rings )


“ Mummy !! I was just going to call you . Guess wha…. “
“ POOJA POOJA !! BTTC PRINCIPAL HAD CALLED. THEY’VE BLOCKED YOUR SEAT .THEY WANT YOU TO CONFIRM YOUR ADMISSION AT THE EARLIEST .“


She danced a little . A little , Yeah she did !!

GUESS WHO BATMAN IS BIT**ES !?!


She called up her parents the first . They were at home fighting the dogmatic world’s clichéd queries regarding their daughter packing off to Mumbai for dance and B.Ed soon after her B.Tech, fending for her and guarding her interests not knowing what exactly she’s up to but just trusting her ambition to do the best for herself . Boy , were they proud or what ?! And then , she called the love of her life .

WOAH WOAH WOAH ! Ja be swagmax getting to choose between the best colleges in the country eh ? “ , he laughed over the phone while booking his tickets to Mumbai from Kolkata simultaneously . He knew she just wanted to be enveloped in his arms and collapse and sleep maybe ?! And she did . She slept so peacefully that night .

Tomorrow is going to be a great beginning ! “ , she snored away to dreams .
*******************************************************
“ Hey “
“Hi . I’m Pooja Pradeep .“
“You’re new here ?! “
“Yeah “
“Oh nice. You’re a graduate in which subject ?! “
“ Err , … uhmm ..technology ?! “
“WHAT ?! “
“Well…yeah . I’m an engineer ! “

This drill was my everyday story for quite sometime . 9 others and I were admitted as the waitlist batch and we very well took our seats at the last row of the class . Always loved the hype and hullaballoo associated in being a smart back bencher ever since school . Somethings don’t change, yeah ?
From a mechanical engineering environment with 1000 odd boys and 10 girls to a batch of 90 odd girls and 8 boys , well , I’m sure Rushil was happy . Not a lot of them used to come and talk to me . I give out a very condescending Queen Bee vibe , I’m told ever since time immemorial . They thought my degree , curly hair and the oily shiny face made me feel superior to them . I was judged and branded almost immediately but my fellow back benchers , the other newbies , little did I know they would be my family . I was happy ! Profound complacency engulfed me in my cornermost seat !! Nobody knew how precious it was to me !!

“ Hey Pooja . We’re having an inter house dance competition . So we wanted to ask you something . Do you dance ?! “
A cocky me smiled away to glory .
“ Yea . I think I do !! “

And thereby , a new advent began .
So ,


What did B.Ed do to me ?!

Suffocation due to the noose-tight extensively exhaustive schedule of workload and practicum ; of course two hours of packed Mumbai local travel everyday ; surviving the horrendous ordeal of Mumbai monsoon ; not even a day to spare for my dancing ; crashing with my face dug into my lap in autos and shoulders of every stranger possible ; missing Andheri station quite a couple of times on my way back because power naps would betray themselves ; one meal a day ( I repeat , ONE , {apocalyptic feels } ) ; frequent food poisoning due to that ONE meal being from restaurants because of my inability to cook ( Don’t blame me , my mallu Dr. Amma Pradeep doesn’t even know how to make Aviyal ) ; subsequent periodic gastric infection ; a sprained hand because I absent-mindedly took a Bhayander Fast local at 07:00 pm ( For non-mumbaikars , it’s a forbidden thing to do , lest of course you’re Thor ) ; a skin allergy that left me with a nasty puberty ( strike 2 ) with craters , scars and cystic acne ; A professor who loathed me aloud with a passion in college ; loneliness that knew no bounds ; Bilateral Pyelonephritis , ie , inflamed kidneys because I forgot to drink enough water amidst all this ruckus ; subjection to 4 courses of grade A antibiotics with Jai Hind hospital , Mumbai behind my life to get me admitted for intravenous treatment ; a consequential blackout fall while climbing down a fleet of stairs resulting in a degeneration between the 5th and 6th vertebrae ; eventually flown back home and bed ridden for 2 weeks !!

          Devastated to the core I hid my face in my palms and burst out crying when I got home . I couldn’t even turn and dive into the pillow because my neck wouldn’t let me . The whole world saw me cry bitterly that day !!


P-H-E-W !!


Know what’s worse than the fact that I ain’t exaggerating ?


I DIDN’T EVEN GET TIME TO WATCH GAME OF THRONES THEREAFTER !!!!

          I flew back to Mumbai with wee little clarity , immense ambition and a fixed purpose . I keep reminding myself of the same at times of abysmal distress . Let’s try that question once again ,

What did B.Ed do to me ?

The first spark of light was when I took off to Dhule district in Maharashtra for a rural camp , my first stint as a teacher . I was responsible for the 11th and 12th grade boys and was to teach them life , physics and calculus ; Also requested to take dance workshops for the 150 students present at the camp with my batchmates to which I blissfully agreed . Father Assis Rodrigues was the Jesuit priest in charge of the camp , a humble man with a heart of gold and a zeal that has brought about a qualitative substantial change to the children from the adjoining 4-5 villages associated with the camp , he was the first to boost my morale . My boys were darlings .

Language was a barrier , I thought .

          I didn’t know how to say integration or differentiation in Hindi . But they promised me they would cope up . Pawara was their tribe and also their language . I made an effort to learn it . My boys thought I was pathetic at it and felt morose seeing me try too hard . So they decided to surprise me by learning malayalam . I laughed so much . It was beautiful .

Language isn’t a barrier , they made me believe .

          I visited their homes in the adjoining villages of Navagaon , Kodith and Kuglipada and almost got adopted into most families . They guffawed at my ridiculous Hindi and my animated gimmicks . Never felt this elated to be the joke I must say ! Living 8 days with them and I didn’t shed a tear seeing them all cry , bidding goodbye . I knew I’ve already emerged as a stronger woman . I was sure of the cause I’ve struggled so much for . I wouldn’t call it social work . It’s just what I do best . It’s what I am . A friend !! I told them I’ll come back for them , to teach them all the science and math and the world I know . And know what the best part is ?! I actually intend to !!
I came back to Mumbai with a resolve nobody could break . It’s amazing how passion makes you feel invincible and indestructible . I was like a butterfly on cocaine !!
Apart from being the dance field expert at Asha Daan ( Mother Teresa’s Sevashram Unit , Mumbai ) ; “Pooja Didi “ to my special most children at Asha Daan ; advisory committee member of Eshan Humanity Foundation and National Association for the Blind ; a friend and mentor to my favourite kid who lives on the streets at Carter’s road , Sadif ; a regular at The Big Nasty ( well #‎sorrynotsorry‬ ! Party animal, because I HAD TO dance somewhere , hence I chose Nasty’s table tops ) ; a guide to my higher secondary rural students at Dhule , a Samaritan to multitude of young minds I’ve interacted with ……


MAN !! I think I’ve become a teacher !!


Like I really have ! The final examination paper had my “g”s and “y”s looking like euphoric sperms in a hurry . Forgive me , I just couldn’t control my crazy !!

          I’ve a zillion names to thank and share my Biriyani with – Annette Londhe , Maria Saldanha , Sneha David , Prachi Tamhankar , Shanice Immaculate Gonsalves, Alvia Noronha , Lizelle Montes , Diane D’souza , Father Oliver Nazareth , Prof. Dr. Geetha Shetty , Dinesh Gawande are a few unforgettable names I would recite a vote of thanks to if woken right out of slumber . As for Papa , Mummy , Rushil , Arjun and Puneet , they undoubtedly deserve my kidneys . Especially the last two !! Know why ??

          Loneliness is my most dreaded weakness . I’m a social creep . I can’t stand myself ; “just” myself !! Hence , living in a 3BHK all by myself ripped me off my laughter . Arjun Sharma and Puneet Chadha , suckers turned succors , loser best friends of mine , also my most priced and adored possession chose to be my saviours at the other end of the phone !! From the time I wake up to the time I crash , all day , every single day !! Be it travelling , waiting , eating , in class , during breaks , amidst work , taking a dump , partying , anything at all . Conference calls were the only times I felt most alive . Family was just an electronic signal away !! I was taken care of dearly. Them whines had an audience , my whims and fancies had critics and my retarded boisterous laughter was safeguarded !!
[ PS – SORRY ! MY BOYS ARE NOT FOR SALE !! ]

My story is almost coming to its grand “ The End ! “ fellas . There’s always a story . It’s all stories , really . The sun rising every day is a story . Everything’s got a story in it . Change the story . Change the world !!

“How can I change the world Pooja ?! “ , I’m often asked .


One smile has the power to calm fears , soften stone walls , warm a cold heart , make a new friend , mimic a loving hug , beautify the bearer , lighten heavy hearts , promote good deeds , brighten a gloomy day , comfort a grieving spirit , offer hope to the forlorn , lift the downtrodden soul , patch them invisible wounds , weaken the hold of misery , act as a medicine for suffering , fulfill the human need of belonging … Who knew changing the world is so simple ?!
Don’t believe me ? Think it’s all literary bull ?
Smile at a nobody today . I dare you !! Thank me later .

          So point is , I really think unicorns exist . The part where fairytales emphasize on the universe aiding you when your instinct fights for it , that’s my favourite one . A lot of people have asked me what my holy grail antidote for life is .
“ Love .”
This four letter word has the power to yield the Tesseract . You love yourself , love one another , love your work , love your gods , love your demons , love the uncertainties , love them lovers , love them haters , love every qualitative bit under the sun . You’ll find yourself to be a better person if you even start trying ! You shall find yourself fearlessly happy . Love is the …

(phone rings )


“ Pooja. Hey !! Sejal here . The board at Cathedral want to meet you. They’re excited you’re done with your B.Ed . Tomorrow at 09:30 am ?! “
Yes of course Sejal . I’ll be there

My thoughts resonated with my heartbeat that night. I didn’t even pause to blink , let alone sleep !


“ WHAT ?! “
Yes Sir . I’m sorry !!
“ You’re declining the offer ? Because you’re relocating after marriage ?! Or do you want the initial pay increased from Rs.80,000 a month we’re willing to offer already ? “
No Sir . Not at all . It isn’t that. I don’t want to be discontinuous . I will be relocating back to Mumbai in a couple of years anyway . But right now , I can’t assure you . The marriage is scheduled in November .
“ Hmm . You do realize that this is a dream offer to most right ?! “
Yes Sir , I do. It is mine too . You know that very well . But I think I need to prioritize right now . I could lie to you and relieve myself close to the wedding . But that would be wrong . Also unfair to the students .
“ Hmm . What makes you think you won’t regret this. Aren’t you too young to make such sacrifices already ?! “

I smiled with sparkling eyes . I didn’t know the answer to that one .
I’ll soon find that out Sir . I will definitely let you know
He laughed . So did I .
“ Looks like we’ll see you back here when you relocate to Mumbai then ?! “
I almost somersaulted .
“YES ! “ , I assured him .
I took leave . “ Pooja ?! “ , he called out when I got to the door .
“ Yes Sir ?! “
“It intrigues me , what are you going to do now ?! What’s next ?! “

I smiled radiating euphoria .
“ Well , I got a man to marry Sir , A rather large one !! “
He waved at me and chuckled in disbelief . I got out , paused for a minute , took out my phone and dialled Rushil .
“ Ja. I’m busy now. Meetings are lined up .Can I call you ba .. “
“ Ru I love you ! “ , I interrupted .
“ … Are you okay ?! What happened at the meeting ? Is everything sorted ? What did you decide ? “
“Yes yes . Call me back when you’re free “ , I whispered with tears in my eyes .
“ Okay beautiful. Take care. Bye ! “
He hung up .
I took my phone . Took a selfie outside the board room. Put the snapchat time filter to freeze the moment . I couldn’t afford a smile. Yes I was scared . Haha , I am still scared . But I chose it , that’s the beauty of life I guess ; respecting your priorities and embracing your demons and uncertainties. It felt right , absolutely !!

( heaves an ecstatic sigh of satisfaction )


Well , looks like that’s all folks !!

For a while at least ; the cape I borrowed from Superman is in dire need of laundry .

Plus I’m sort of in a hurry . Got to change the world with a chalk you see !!

So let’s end on a pompous note, shall we ?!


“ I TEACH !!
WHAT’S YOUR SUPERPOWER ?! “
( * does my move * )

When I assured them that

When I assured them that “Love” is the answer to most questions out there in the world .
( Rural Camp , Dhule , Maharashtra )

Personified pure unadulterated happiness .

Personified pure unadulterated happiness .

Meanwhile , on Snapchat >>>>

Meanwhile , on Snapchat >>>>

You !! St.Xaviers Institute Of Education , Mumbai .

You !!
St.Xaviers Institute Of Education , Mumbai .

A world out there that needs you as much as you need them.

A world out there that needs you as much as you need them.

31

Who doesn’t love chocolate cake ?! ( Birthday celebration with my special children . Asha Daan , Mumbai )

My 12th graders . ( Rural Camp . Dhule, Maharashtra )

My 12th graders .
( Rural Camp . Dhule, Maharashtra )

” What is the point of it all Pooja ? “
” THIS !! “

Because we heart Snapchat .

Because we heart the front camera !! ( Asha Daan , Mumbai )

Std VII Anil didn't want me to leave . Especially after  I sported a stache and a beard .He believed a red rose would persuade me !

Std VII Anil didn’t want me to leave . Especially after I sported a stache and a beard . He believed a red rose would persuade me ! ( Rural Camp . Dhule , Maharashtra )

Being a Xavierite , Marine Drive gallavants, the controversial St.Xaviers Vile Parle School Practise Teaching Group , new found family , Mauja dining, all that dancing , innumerable selfies .... so many more memories to pickle !!

Being a Xavierite , Marine Drive gallavants, the controversial St.Xaviers Vile Parle School Practise Teaching Group , new found family , Mauja dining, all that dancing , all those selfies …… innumerable memories to pickle !!

Aren't my powerpuff girls the cutest?! ( Rural camp. Dhule , Maharashtra )

Aren’t my powerpuff girls the cutest?!
( Rural camp. Dhule , Maharashtra )

Remember the selfie I took outside the board room at Cathedral & John Connon ?!  Well , THAT !!

Remember the selfie I took outside the board room at Cathedral & John Connon ?!
Well , THAT !!

Teaching boys how to get that

Teaching boys how to get that “thumka” right is always hilarious ; right from those VIT days !!

Meet Alpana Pawara !!  She hates being photographed . She loves to go to school .  Fact remains , I almost ate her . Cuteness level was 10000 , don't blame me !!

Meet Alpana Pawara !!
She hates being photographed . She loves to go to school . Fact remains , I almost ate her . Cuteness level was 10000 , don’t blame me !! ( Navagaon , Dhule , Maharashtra )

When we're not having fun in the classroom  , we're sure as heavens having fun elsewhere !!

When we’re not having fun in the classroom , we’re sure as heavens having fun elsewhere !!

Patootie wouldn't stop it's mem-meh .  ( Kodith village . Dhule, Maharashtra )

Patootie wouldn’t stop it’s meh-meh .
( Kodith village . Dhule, Maharashtra )

” You know what Pooja ?! I see myself in you when you teach !! ” , said Prof . Dr . Geetha Shetty , my mentor , role model and lesson supervisor .

6 thoughts on “MISSION : Change the World with A Chalk !

  1. The energy and positive vibes you bring to teaching is infectious. Did you know your class kids love you? Young and dynamic people like you are needed to change the mind set of the people about teaching as a career. Don’t ever quit Pooja. Schools need teachers like you.And yes Love is the answer to all the world’s problems.Reminded of John Lennon”s Imagine!

    Like

  2. Hey PEEPEE ( P P )

    NEVER EVER I THOUGHT OF READING AN UTMOST STRANGER BLOG IN FULL BUT WHAT A TALKING PARROT YOU ARE JUST LIKE MY OWN DAUGHTER

    WELL YOU AND YOUR TALENTED HUBBY NEEDS TO BE HERE IN DXB, WHICH IS SOMUCH LIKE MUMBAI,KERALA AND ALL THAT PUT TOGETHER BUT WITH LOTS OF $$$$ and Hyderabadi biryanis with idli dosas and Haji Ali juice center too.

    CAREER IS SOMETHING NOT ABOUT MONEY WE THINK BUT 25 YEARS BACK I JUST LANDED HERE AND MADE MINE $$$$

    Well talking parrot, bye for now and have lots of BLESSINGS

    SANDY

    Like

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