Mumbai Day One
Late last night we landed in Bombay and this morning I awoke to realize I have completely lost my voice. Blaim it on transcontinental migration, from shivering cold snowstorm to sun-drenched seaside…or perhaps an overdose of that Goan specialty, Feni. whatever the case, I am now mute as a mule.
The first day in Bombay was action packed nevertheless. We set out for Akanksha to be welcomed by an enthusisatic and excited staff. I hadn’t seen Shaheen (Akanskha’s founder) and Vandana (the director of the School Project) in over a year, when I met them in New York, where I had first told them about my Uniform Project plans to aid their cause. Today, 8 months into the wearathon, $50,000+ later, it was a joyful reunion from all sides.
The highlight of the day was certainly the afternoon class we sat in on at the St. Xavier’s center, where Shaheen was doing a special workshop on the ‘Gives’ and ‘Gets’ of the world. The approach to teaching immediately struck me as light years ahead of what I had experienced when I was a public school kid in southern India. The focus here was steeped in analytical thinking and the development of coherent reading skills as opposed to the typical regurgatation of random dates, names, factoids and formulas that I was taught with as an adolescent. Perhaps not so unusual, you might say, if you come from a good school in a relatively progressive country. But what struck me as singular and revolutionary about Akanksha’s approach was how the teachers framed their lessons within a contextual framework unique to the environments these kids were living in, and how they used this method as a catalyst to strengthen the kids’ social and moral codes, where social position could be viewed as an advanatge rather than a burden. From this vantage point, it was more than evident that these kids, while underprivilged, were anything but victims and that the goings on in an Akanksha classroom were a cause for celebration. Celebration of spirit, of talent and of a bond that is undoubtedly akin to that of a surrogate family.