Gandhi Fellow Kabir Arora's final post from his village immersion makes clear the amazing power of stories.
Story telling key to library inauguration
I can claim opening the library as my personal project. Starting from 8th standard, I requested students to come out with stories. Next day they were all set to share. Many of them had amazing stories. I requested students to give them in writing so that they can be shared with the Headmaster. They did so. As promised I talked to Bhagirath Ji and suggested that books should be issued to students while showing the write ups. He accepted the idea. To keep the motivation factor working, I suggested to have story telling in assembly too. The library opened & story telling happened in my absence. I'm assured about its sustainability as everything initiated when I was not physically not present.
The second day after the beginning, one girl didn't prepare and stood with a blank face, HM came down heavily on me. I felt humiliated in front of the whole school. I was not that bothered as I knew that it was not the girl's fault, she narrated a story in past in the smaller group. Somewhere, she was lacking the confidence. Next day, she came up with a small story to share, her confidence boosted, when everybody clapped for her.
It was Manju's turn next day, I had a similar fear. She was always lazy and bored in the class. In the morning, when she came in front, my fingers were crossed. She articulated an amazing story. All the teachers were shaken deep inside. Headmaster was forced to say that there are diamonds hiding in all you students. Another teacher was amused by narration in Hindi with no influence of Marwari. During midday meal, Manju came to me asked my opinion on her story telling. I said “I'm proud of you”. The glow on her face was amazing.
I'm having life's most important phase where there is turmoil inside. There is no external aggression but synthesis of thoughts all around. Village Immersion was smooth journey filled with frustration, anger, tears, smiles, laughter. At certain instances I felt like running away because of tedious life. There was something which stopped me. Krishna's desire to solve addition and subtraction, Naresh's arguments, Ashish's sweet voice saying “Tek Baing” all became the inspiring moments which kept me moving on the path which was filled with rose petals, but thorns in heart. Life was filled with loneliness as had no one to talk with except the moon and stars. Minute observations like placement of polestar and Venus were done in the village. Before VI I didn't know that the moon also rise in east. New moon to full moon and again heading for new moon kept me flowing.
For the first time in last four years away from home, I started missing my family, planned for my semester break. Read poems to short stories, current affairs. I was detached before it, but got very attached with my roots because of month long affair.
Concluding with Eunice de Souza's words:
I clutched Sister Flora's skirt
and cried for my mother
who taught across the road.
Sister Flora is dead.
The school is still standing
I'm still learning
For more of Kabir's experiences, see:If I were my own teacher: confidence, colour and voices