Navratri is celebrated throughout Bharat in different forms all depicting Goddess Mahishasura mardini – Durga. In Bengal, exquisitely crafted and decorated life-size clay idols of Ma Durga depicting her slaying the demon Mahishasura are worshipped. At places, a pot is installed (ghatasthapana) at a sanctified place at home and a lamp is kept lit in the pot for nine days. Saraswati puja is performed on 7th day while Kanya poojan is performed on 8th and 9th day. During Navratri devotees observe fast, read Devi Mahatmya while in Gujarat it is celebrated with famous dance ‘Garba’. Vijayadashmi sees ‘Ravandahan’, victory of good over evil which is also the day when Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar started Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in 1925.
2. LUNAR MISSION MET ENGINEERING, SCIENTIFIC OBJECTIVES: Even though the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has formally called-off the first ever Lunar Mission, Chandrayaan-I, the scientists associated with the project claim the exercise has met both its engineering and scientific objectives in its 10- month life. ISRO terminated the lunar mission on August 30 after losing hope of establishing contact with the spacecraft.
ISRO chairman Madhavan Nair said that Chandrayaan-I had taught crucial lessons which are important in launching the lunar mission-II. He said that due to very high radiation in the atmosphere, power-supply units controlling both the computer systems on board failed, which led to snapping the communication connectivity.
Nevertheless, Nair considered the moon mission a success and said 95 per cent of its objective was met. “We could collect a large volume of data, including more than 70,000 images of the moon.”
According to ISRO spokesperson S Satish, taking the spacecraft to four lakh kilometers near to the moon, inserting the spacecraft into lunar orbit, placing an object into the lunar surface and establishing ground instrument to track the satellite were the engineering objectives achieved. Further, he said mapping lunar surface and preparing a three dimensional map of the entire lunar surface, exploration of minerals and chemicals on the lunar surface and study of radiation environment around the moon were the scientific achievements of Chandrayaan-I.
3. DOORS of Sangh are open for all-Mohan Bhagwat: "There is no ban on the entry of anyone whether he is Hindu, Muslim, Christian or any other else, in the Sangh. Everybody born and brought up in this land is Hindu. Just a change in dress, language, traditions and way of worship does not change the ancestors and the culture. All people living here have the same Hindu blood. They all are inspired by the Hindu samskars and culture. The day everybody understands this fact, all disputes will be over. The Sangh has been working for organising such people and doors of the Sangh are open for all" said PP Sarsanghachalak Mohan Bhagwat. He was speaking at a function held in Karnavati (Ahmedabad) on September 6.
Prant Sanghachalak Amritbhai Kariwala, Sahprant Sanghachalak Jayantibhai Bhadesia and Karnavati Vibhag Sanghachalak Vallabhbhai Sanvalia also shared the dais. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, various ministers of the state government and leaders of many organizations were also present on the occasion.
Shri Bhagwat further clarified that those who see the Sangh from outside do not understand it properly. "When they see the swayamevak doing exercise at shakha they feel it a military organisation, when they see our Ghosh Varga they feel it music consort and when they see our intellectual discourse they feel it a political organization. Sangh cannot be understood from a distance. If one has to understand the Sangh, one will have to join it. Seventy eight percent people of the country agree with the Sangh ideology. They recognize it as the most disciplined and service-oriented organization. The swayamsevaks are running more than 1.5 lakh service projects across the country," Shri Bhagwat informed.
4. G. Madhavan Nair to head IAA: Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairperson G Madhavan Nair has been elected as the next president of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA), and will be the first non-American to head the organization fifty years after it was set up.
The announcement came at the inaugural function of the five-day Eighth International Conference on Low Cost Planetary Missions (LCPMs) being convened in Goa, and was made by the IAA's secretary general Jean Mitchell Contant.
The ISRO chairperson will take over the post of IAA president in October, and will have a term of two years.
5. EDUCATING girl child is the best investment-Pramilatai Medhe: "Bharat was made ‘India’ to ruin its svatva (self-respect). Now making it tejasvi again should be the prime objective of education system in the country. Today education to girl child is the best investment," said Rashtra Sevika Samiti Pramukh Sanchalika Vandaneeya Pramilatai Medhe. She was inaugurating a seminar organized on women education by Akhil Bharatiya Mahila Samanvya in New Delhi on September 6.
A total of 280 representatives from 28 organizations and delegates from 36 Prants participated in the seminar. Fifty women scholars presented their papers on various issues related to women education. Sahkaryavahika of the Samiti Rukminiakka, RSS Sahsarkaryavah Suresh Soni, head of Akhil Bharatiya Mahila Samanvya Geetatai Gunde, convener of the seminar Dr Sharad Renu were also present at the inaugural ceremony. Pramilatai praised the women who apart from doing jobs are also managing their families well. About the women education she said apart from helping the women identifying her internal qualities, they should also be apprised of their duties to the nation and the society.
6. Bharat is more competitive: Vibrant financial markets and a sound banking sector has helped Bharatiya economy move up a notch to 49th place on the global competitive scale, while Switzerland has toppled the US as the top-ranked nation, the World Economic Forum said on September 8.
The US has slipped to the second place and is followed by Singapore, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Japan, Canada and the Netherlands in the top ten, according to the annual ranking of the world’s most competitive economies.
Among the 133 countries featuring in the list, three nations in the BRIC grouping -- Bharat, China and Brazil have moved up the competitiveness ladder while Russia has witnessed a sharp drop.
7. Kashmir Hindu Foundation launched in US: The US’s Kashmiri Hindu fraternity has launched a new organization, the Kashmir Hindu Foundation, which has pledged to “promote and encourage the contributions of Kashmiri Hindus worldwide, improve the lives of some unfortunate ones in the community and bring them hope, and increase awareness of external threats to the community and issues within and help develop and implement meaningful solutions”.
Based in Fremont, California, the foundation also proposes to set up a Kashmiri Cultural Centre, the first of its kind outside Bharat.
8. DAY CAMP FOR CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES IN Oz: Vishwa Hindu Parishad – Australia’s Hindu Social Services Foundation successfully organized a day camp for children and people with disability on Sunday 6th September at Crestwood Community Centre, Baulkham Hills. Many families from Malaysia, Singapore, Fiji, Korea, China, Cambodia, and local Australian families attended the event.
The aim of the proposed activity was to bring together families, which are caring for children with a disability and the elderly/the frail who need personal assistance, for a fun outing and socializing event.
The activities included Yoga, competitions like walking, musical chairs and rangoli and painting. Castle Hill Member of Parliament Michael Richrdson attended the program and gave a speech. The Special Need Children thrilled the audience with their great skills of art work and created a great deal of awareness among the audience and general public.
9. MUMBAI RAGPICKER SHOWS THE WAY: “A Aa Ee E Oo…,” a motley group of children chants the Marathi alphabet, unmindful of the stench and stray hens wandering about a makeshift shed that is their “school”.
From 11.30 am to 3.30 pm every day, their teacher instructs them using a chipped blackboard and reads poems to them from donated textbooks.
The students, aged 3 to 6, are rag-pickers’ children; the school stands in the Mulund dumping ground, which receives 300 metric tonnes of waste daily; the teacher is Kavita Sopane, a Class 10 drop out who used to be a rag-picker.
Sopane (21) started this informal playgroup in the 75-family Durgawadi slum in the dumping ground to encourage children to get a formal education by laying a foundation. There is no government-run anganwadi (childcare and pre-school centre) in the area because under the central government scheme these centers are set up in areas with a population of more than 1,000 people. The nearest civic school, which enrolls children only over six years of age, is a 45-minute walk.
10. BANGLADESH CABINET NOD TO LAW TO RETURN HINDU PROPERTY: The Bangladesh cabinet on September 9 approved a draft law to return land to members of the Hindu families, which were confiscated by the erstwhile Pakistani regime when they fled the country during the 1965 Indo-Pak war.
"The cabinet approved Vested Property Return (Amendment) Act 2009 to be tabled in parliament" restoring a nearly identical law enacted during the previous 1996-2001 tenure of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League government, her press secretary Abul Kalam Azad said.
11. VKI CELEBRATES CHICAGO SPEECH ON SEPT 11: “The wisdom of our ancient seers coupled with spirit of nationalism, as propounded by Vivekananda shall lead to Universal peace and harmony “said RSS sahsarkaryavaha Suresh Soni while delivering a lecture organized by Vivekananda Kendra International – Chanakyapuri New Delhi on Sept 12, 2009 to commemorate the historical speech by Swami Vivekananda in Chicago in 1893. He dwelt upon the conflict lines such as global /local, tradition / modernity and suggested that the Hindu thought has the way to guide the mankind amongst the cauldron of theories and isms. He remembered the famous invocation ‘My American brothers and Sisters ‘as an expression from heart manifesting the principle of Universal Brotherhood which drew thunderous applause in US. Former Union Minister Jagmohan presided over the function. Others present on the dais were Ajit Doval and former Lt. Gen Delhi Vijay Kapoor.
12. INDIA SETTING UP RADAR NETWORK IN MALDIVES: India is installing 10 radars across islands in the Maldives to help it monitor the surrounding seas. The radars, besides assisting the Maldives in building a maritime surveillance system, will also help India keep track of its strategic interests in the region.
Maldives’ first democratically-elected president, Naseed said on the issue of radars, “India is not trying to influence us. We wanted the radars. A lot of bio-mass poaching (poaching of fish and corals) happens in the area. So does a lot of illegal commercial fishing,’’
The Maldives, made of 1,192 islands, stretches for 1,200 nautical miles from north to south and the radars would help in keeping a watch on activities around the vast stretches of the Indian Ocean.
13. DUTCH HINDU STUDENTS CONDUCT SEWA WEEK: Dispelling the common image of a modern student, the Hindu Students Forum Netherlands (HSFN) held its third annual Sewa Week to show students that they can contribute to society. The members of the HSFN go along with other volunteers for one week’s time. Sewa Week is observed from August 24 to August 29 with a traditional opening ceremony in the cities of Den Haag, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Utrecht. Sewa is done at elderly centers, food banks and the Salvation Army. “The word Sewa comes from the Indian Sanskrit language and means selfless service without attachment,” says Harish Lakhi of HSFN.
14. SAKSHAM LAUNCHES AUDIO BOOK READER: Saksham, a national organization dedicated to the all-round progress of physically-challenged persons, launched the first-ever Audio Book Reader (ABR) for the visually-challenged students in New Delhi on September 7. It is a pocket-sized device that enables the visually-challenged students to study with much more ease. The device, which has been invented by Nagpur-based Shirish Darwhekar, has been developed keeping in mind the specific needs of the visually-challenged students. General Secretary of Saksham Avinash Sangwai, vice president Dr Milind Kasbekar and organizing secretary Dr Kamlesh Kumar were also present at the ABR launch ceremony.
First launched on trial basis earlier this year in Nagpur, the device, in the first phase, is being used by over 75 visually-challenged students in Nagpur. "While one needs to shell out anywhere between Rs 25,000 and Rs 70,000 to buy a similar device available in the market, the manufacturing cost of ABR is only about Rs 5,000. But Saksham supplies it on cost-to-cost basis to the visually-challenged students," informed Shirish Darwhekar.
Saksham has made arrangements to provide the device free-of-cost to the visually-challenged students by finding sponsors for them.
The ABR device reads the audio tracks stored in a multimedia memory card (MMC) with a random access to any subject, book or chapter. With its large storage capacity of 60-hour duration audio with a 2 GB memory card, it provides the facility of putting the entire curriculum up to the 12th standard in a pocket. Its special feature is that it can be operated through voice menu and embossed buttons.
For availability of the ABR device one may contact Shri Shirish Darwhekar at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to ‘SAKSHAM’, Madhav Netra Pedhi, 16, Devadutta Bhavan, Rana Pratap Square, SE Railway Colony, Nagpur 440022 (Maharashtra).
15. Bharat to lend up to $10 billion to IMF: bharat, which had to resort to IMF financing on a few occasions, will lend a significant $10 billion to International Monetary Fund (IMF) to shore up its resources. “It is significant that Bharat, which had to resort to IMF financing on a few occasions till the early nineties, will now be participating in an international effort to make resources available to the Fund for lending to countries in need,” an official statement said.
16. PAK HINDUS FLEE TALIBAN BY TRAIN: In the past four years, some 5,000 Hindus may have crossed over from Pakistan, never to return. It has not been easy, abandoning their homes, sometimes even their families, but they say they had no choice: they had to flee the Taliban.
It started as a trickle in 2006, the year the Thar Express was flagged off. The weekly train starts from Karachi, enters Bharat at Munabao a border town in Barmer and runs up to Jodhpur. In the first year itself, 392 Hindus crossed over. This grew to 880 in 2007.
Last year, the number was 1,240, and this year, till August, over 1,000 have crossed over and not gone back. They just keep extending their visas and hope to become Bharatiya citizens.
Immigration officer at Munabao railway station, Hetudan Charan, says the arrival of Hindu migrants had suddenly increased as over 15 to 16 families were reaching Bharat every week. None of them admits they are to settle here but seeing their baggage, we easily understand, he said.
17. WEST COAST YUVA VARGA: The first west coast Sambhag Yuva Varg was held in Lewis and Clark State Park over the Labor Day Weekend (Sept. 5 - Sept. 7). The number of total Shiksharthis was 37.
Varg was started by Deep-prajwalan, a parichay session and a short Bauddhik by Vinod ji. Shobhit's presentation of social entrepreneurship was motivating and liked by all.
The programs included khel, treasure hunt, danda, niyuddha etc. Among various discussions and presentations was one by Vrindavan Parker on similarities between Hindu culture and other ancient cultures of the world. There were also sessions on Yuwa for Sewa and Q&A. The varg was successful in recharging and motivating the Karyakartas and improving their skills.
18. TSAMPA ON MY SHOULDER: In Tibet, there is an overwhelming sense of history and a stark beauty in the landscape. There is also, always, an invisible line between communities and people. A line neither side, Tibetan or Chinese, dared to cross, but were forced to negotiate in order to survive ‘today in the hope of a better future’. The place has a false sense of calm, deceptive to the less discerning.
In the wake of the suppression of the Tibetan uprising last year, and failure of the talks between the Chinese government and representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, it is not difficult to imagine that for now, the divide has deepened and it will be difficult to sustain the enforced peace.
The physical landscape and demography of Tibet are changing rapidly. Over decades, Chinese migrants have moved in large numbers to Tibet — for them a land of opportunity. However, adapting to the harsh environment — physical and otherwise — has not been easy. Many continue to stay for lack of anything better back home.
Tibetans see the movement of people to the plateau as an attempt to diminish their claims to the land of their ancestors. This form of subversion extends to education, popular culture and religion, an attempt to end a way of life. It is difficult to say that the plateau would have been different had Tibetans been in power, but like other marginalized communities, their struggle is for self-determination.
For now, there is an uneasy coexistence between the two sides. Tibet is important to the Chinese because of its proximity to India, and as a vast reserve of natural resources with potential for economic use. Meanwhile, the Tibetan movement stands at a critical juncture and seeks global support for the dialogue necessary to sustain a way of life on the roof of the world.
To quote Ma Jian, a dissident Chinese author, “In China, there is a saying; that which is united will eventually separate, and that which is separated will eventually reunite.” If so, Tibet’s eventual separation from China is inevitable. Till then, the Tibetans wait patiently, their desire for freedom articulated succinctly by an elderly gentleman I met in Lhasa: “...our Gandhi will come one day...” Vidura Jang Bahadur, Hindustan Times 4/9/2009.
19. DALAI LAMA MAY VISIT TAWANG IN NOVEMBER: Amid reports of a Chinese military build-up in Tibet, the Dalai Lama has decided to visit Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as its own, in November.
The proposed visit comes exactly a year after the exiled Tibetan leader dropped his plan to visit Tawang "because of the Lok Sabha elections''.
"China doesn't need to worry about the trip. It's purely a spiritual and religious visit,'' said Chimme Choekyappa, the Dalai Lama's secretary. Last year, the Dalai Lama was denied permission to visit Tawang, reportedly under pressure from China.
This is the Dalai Lama's fifth visit to Tawang that he had passed through while fleeing to Bharat in 1959. He has visited other parts of Arunachal six times since then. Beijing describes Tawang a part of China on grounds that the VIth Dalai Lama was born there in the 17th century.
Besides holding spiritual and religious discourses, the Dalai Lama would inaugurate a multi-speciality hospital at Tawang with the money that he had got from his followers.
20. PRIESTS DIVIDED OVER GOVERNMENT MOVE FOR INCLUSIVE DUSSHERA: On Aug. 30, Karnataka state’s Minority Welfare Minister Mumtaz Ali Khan proposed inviting Christians and Muslims to celebrate Dusshera saying that Dusshera is not just for Hindus and that religious minority communities should take part in it.
To give the festival what he calls a ‘secular’ touch, the minister suggested illuminating churches and mosques at the government’s expense. One church selected for illumination is Mysore’s St. Philomena’s Cathedral. Parish priest Father William Pinto said that local people celebrate Dusshera as a cultural festival. “We have no objection to Catholics joining the festival or our church looking elegant.”
However, Father Faustine Lobo, spokesperson of the Catholic Church in Karnataka, says he sees “no good intention” in it, especially since the government does not recognize the festivals of other communities.
“Will the state government illuminate the cathedral when it celebrates Saint Philomena’s feast?” the priest asked.
But Father John Fernandes, a senior priest who has given talks to Hindu groups, finds “nothing threatening” in the government proposal, which he said aims to draw in more tourists.
21. ROADMAP TO REVOLUTION: CLASS X BOARDS TO GO: A school examination system designed to cut stress and bring India up to par with international educational standards kicks in from this year, and will truly come into its own in 2011 when Class X boards pass into history.
There will be no boards, and no marks, only grades.
The students at the end of their academic year will be handed their results based on internal exams and Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation of such qualities as physical education and speaking skills. It will also test students on such co-scholastic skills as attitude towards teachers, understanding of values, thinking and emotional skills and creative and scientific activities. In English for instance, a student will be tested for diction, fluency and content knowledge.
The new exam system will apply only to the 11,000 schools affiliated to the Central Board for Secondary Education, better known as the CBSE, all over the country.
22. INDIA SPEEDS PAST CHINA IN AUTO EXPORTS: China may be the world's shop floor, but India is rolling it out faster when it comes to automobile exports. India exported a total of 2.30 lakh cars, vans, SUVs and trucks between January and July 2009, a growth of 18% even as China’s exports tumbled 60% in the same period to 1.65 lakh units.
Industry experts pointed out that India scores due to its liberal investment policies and high quality manufacturing which stems from its growing prowess in research and development.
Cheap labour costs and especially-tailored lower manufacturing tax (8% excise duty) make small car manufacturing in India a highly-competitive option which more and more companies are padding up for — Suzuki, Hyundai, Nissan, General Motors, Toyota, to name a few.
23. NASA astronaut Fincke to take Assam tea to space during his next mission: Michael Fincke, who married an Assamese girl Renita Saikia, had carried the traditional Assamese gamocha (traditional cotton scarf) to space during the Expedition 18 Mission to the International Space Station (ISS) last year. He was commander of Expedition 18 and spent six months, between October 2008 and April 2009, in ISS. He is currently on a visit to Assam along with his wife Renita, an engineer with Nasa and three children.
Assam Tea Planters' Association (ATPA) and North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) met Fincke and proposed that he carry along Assam Tea to space during his next mission. Mike heartily accepted the proposal, but he will be allowed to carry it only after clearance from Nasa.
24. MAHARASHTRA’S VOCATIONAL CENTRES PART OF SILENT REVOLUTION
Far from the glamorous world of MBA job fairs and corporate recruiters, a silent revolution is brewing in Maharashtra’s labour market — one that might prove crucial to the country’s economic growth.
The state’s network of 750 Industrial Training Institutes (ITI), the country’s largest, which teach highly specialised vocational trades such as welding and auto mechanics, has tied up over the past two years with more than 100 companies, such as Bharat Forge and Indian Hotels, which runs the Taj chain.
These companies are helping train these youngsters, many of who are school drop-outs, and employ them.Unlike graduates and post-graduates, these youngsters are guaranteed work because there is such a huge demand for them.
A Confederation of Indian Industry survey estimates that, at the current economic growth rate, Maharashtra will need 40 lakh industrial skilled employees (distinct from professionals such as software engineers and chartered accountants) by 2010. But the state’s ITIs produce less than 500,000 employees every year.
25. INDIA'S LOW-COST FOOD FOR BELLY-UP WEST: When the global economy was mired in recession through 2008-09, exports of farm products from Bharat peaked with its ready-to-eat and pre-cooked meals preferred all over the developed world.
According to data from Agriculture and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) exports grew by 24% (worth Rs 39,461 crore) in 2008-09.
"Bharatiya companies are adhering to cost competitiveness, trying to keep it low or manageable in a year of low income. The government's support has been the key," Praveen Gupta, APEDA's general manager for processed foods said.
26. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: Pravas: Dr. Shankar Tatwawadi , Samyojak Vishwa Vibhag is in Bharat till Nov., Ravikumar, Sahsamyojak will be in Guyana and Trinidad before returning to Bharat by Sept end. Shyam Parande, Secretary Sewa International will return Bharat after his tour to US and Canada. Visitors: Smt. Jyotsna Raichura, Trishul and Pritul from UK.
27. FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Belief in karma ought to make life pure, strong, serene and glad. Only our own deeds can hinder us; only our own will can fetter us. Once let men recognize this truth, and the hour of their liberation has struck. Nature cannot enslave the soul that by wisdom has gained power and used both in love. – Annie Besant
JAI SRI RAM
A FULFILLING SUMMERThough this summer began with ambivalent uncertainty, it ends with contented fulfillment. Since I was given the extraordinary opportunity to dedicate the entirety of my summer volunteering in both India and Guyana, I was decidedly excited but a tad apprehensive about, well, everything: could I handle the doubtless myriad issues that daily life in foreign places would entail? As my project mostly involved teaching children English (in Bharat) and Vedic Math (in Guyana), I was also anxious about how it would be—would there be communication issues? Would I be able to deal with them, to reach them? Would they like me?
(Volunteering in Bharat and Guyana )
(Volunteering in Bharat and Guyana )
I was extremely privileged to commence my sewa experience at the Maitreyi Gurukula in the village of Moorkaje (located in the south Bharatiya state of Karnataka). The Maitreyi Gurukula is a free boarding school, funded by the Ajaya Trust, for exceptional girls between the ages of 8 and 16 of rural or impoverished background—brilliant and talented girls who would otherwise never receive the opportunity to realize their potential. Many of these girls would have been married off at a young age simply because their families could not afford to keep them, let alone give them the education their talents merit. The purpose of the school is to educate these girls so that they can go back and educate others in their villages, as well as properly educate and bring up their children with Satvic values—a sort of intellectual trickle-down. By giving these girls a holistic and well-rounded education, it is ensured that not only is an individual being helped but also the next generation has a greater chance of being raised with strong, positive morals and ethical values.
It is simultaneously heart-warming and wrenching to see them. Though a delight to watch them flourish in the wholesome and intellectual environment in which they clearly belong, it is beyond heartbreaking to imagine how many such children are languishing in surroundings undeserving of their ability. I am immeasurably lucky my project teaching English allowed me the opportunity to interact with these girls on a very familiar level.
The very first thing I noticed about everyone—not just the students—at the Gurukula was their profound contentment, unfaltering joie de vivre, and absolute graciousness. Despite being afforded but the barest minimum of luxuries, they are utterly satisfied with their lot. They are uprooted from their native villages and families at the age of 8, schooled in a wholly different language (the medium of instruction is Sanskrit; they are taught upon arrival and become fluent in usually a year or two), wake up at 4:30 in the morning, and—in addition to classes—daily clean the buildings, tend to the gardens and do all the required upkeep themselves. The Mathrushris (the teachers) are all absolutely wonderful women for whom my respect knows no bounds. As their title suggests, they are all extremely nurturing, caring and devoted; these brave ladies have literally dedicated their whole lives to improving the world by beginning at the foundation of society: caring for the wellbeing of less fortunate children.
My weeks at the Gurukula were among the most fulfilling and inspiring of my life. Seeing the simplicity of these girls, how happy they were even though they woke up at the crack of dawn every morning, swept and mopped the whole school, had three pairs of clothing (two for everyday wear and one for special occasions), washed their clothes everyday by hand on a stone, slept on straw mats atop the concrete floors in their classrooms with all their possessions placed in one square foot’s space on a communal rack—this was indescribably inspirational to me! I experienced a complete paradigm shift.
It is commonly thought that people lacking material luxury are unhappy, but it seems to be the very opposite to me. Too often people look to material goods for fulfillment and validation. The means become the end, and people attach their identity to transient things; they become their statuses, their possessions. And since things are ephemeral, they find no fulfillment or joy in their lives. Those who do not have the crutch of material comfort find their value and happiness in the internal, the intangible, and that which can never be taken from them.
My experience in Guyana was markedly different. At the Gurukula, I was more of a friend to the girls, and treated as a respected peer rather than as an authority figure, but my role in Guyana was decidedly that of a teacher. Teaching math is far different from teaching English. At the Gurukula, my English classes were mostly teaching conversational English and improving pronunciation, resulting in an informal and casual atmosphere where I learned as much (if not more) from the students than they from me. I had no challenges teaching because the girls didn’t require any disciplining: there was nothing for me to control or to do besides presenting the coursework, which the girls dutifully followed.
In Guyana I taught at the Saraswati Vidya Niketan School, a Hindu school taking inspiration from Vidya Bharati in Bharat. It is located in Cornelia Ida and serves to educate Guyanese Hindu children (who are fifth or sixth generation Indians) on Hindu values, and to experientially teach them their cultural heritage. Here, I did a lot more teaching and a lot less conversing. I learned to control a classroom of noisy adolescents who are but a few years younger than I (asking nicely, speaking sternly, yelling a bit, and issuing ultimatums of extra homework—in that order), and how to command authority. Whereas at the Gurukula, all my classes consisted of between twelve and twenty extremely respectful girls who viewed being educated as a high honor and privilege and firmly practiced acharya devo bava (treating the teacher as god), at SVN, I had classes of thirty normal kids. Of course, it was a mixed bag. Some classes were a real pleasure to teach: one of my classes asked me if I could come teach them every day (I taught five grades, each twice a week) and if I could keep teaching through the next period as well, and the youngest class was so unabashedly enthusiastic, sweet and eager that they would beg me for homework and further practice! Only one class (the eldest students) was unruly. The rest were more than manageable. In Guyana I learned to deal with the disciplining aspect and leadership that is part and parcel of teaching.
Both of my projects were deeply satisfying, albeit in completely different ways. I loved almost everything about both of the countries I had the honor to visit. Though I suppose my original trepidation was not baseless, I fortunately experienced no insurmountable difficulties. Sure there were cultural differences and quite a bit of miscommunication (the supreme irony that I had no problem communicating in my second language, Kannada, but I could not for the life of me discern what was being said to me in English-speaking Guyana), but even that which was originally unpleasant became wonderful. I would not change a single detail of my experiences during this internship.
Apurva is an undergraduate student at Case Western Reserve University, majoring in philosophy. This summer she volunteered in Bangalore and Guyana, through the Yuva for Sewa fellowship program. For more information about the program, please visit www.sewausa.org/yuva-for-sewa.