With the big picture of India often so overwhelming, the tiny beauties are often overlooked.
It has been four months of memorable moments in Bangalore!
Here are some of our most memorable moments while travelling in India!
I found another school to inspire me and hope it will inspire others as well. I had the pleasure of visiting a Parikrma Learning Centre and meeting its founder Shukla Bose. I am frustrated that I only had the chance to visit this school in my last days in Bangalore. I would have spent lots of time here, otherwise!
Parikrma differs from Ananya in that they keep the kids at home (Ananya is a residential school). But they both serve the same slum kids who otherwise would likely not be attending school at all.
The scope of Parikrma is much bigger, though. Parikrma started nine years ago when Bose left the corporate world to make a difference for children She began first by spending her own life’s savings and since then has spread from one school in the Koramangala slum to four schools and one junior college. Parikrma has served 1,300 children, from kindergarten to getting a job. She shares the Parikrma story in a TED talk given in Mysore recently.
What stands apart for me in the Parikrma model is an understanding of a child as a social system. The group begins with the end point–What is necessary for this slum child to become an employee of IBM? Content is a big focus here. Also instilling a belief in each child that they are special and can make a difference in the world.
Two other aspects stand out–one is the importance of the schools being English medium schools. Bose was adamant that one of the great power differentials in Indian society is the ability to speak English well. Thus, English is the focal point of most lessons.
Second, learning is much more than the classroom at Parikrma. Attention is given to the whole child. How is the child’s health? Nutrition? What barriers are preventing the child from learning? The school offers classes for the mother sat night. It also offers alcohol rehabilitation since the majority of fathers are addicts. The school then works to place the fathers in jobs once they have rehabilitated. Each of these pieces helps to lay the groundwork for the stability necessary for the children to succeed.
Among the students graduating from Parikrma, 11 are in hotel management school two are in college for engineering; one is in college for law. Student has become national champions in many sports–indeed the school is the city champion in sports. Other students have travelled to San Diego for a conference. Still others have worked with Duke University faculty. Others are working on a Robotics lab.
Bose’s corporate background shines through in her clear and compelling presentations of the schools’ vision such as this video. Below, Bose and the headmaster of this Learning Centre.
While the school was officially closed for summer break, groups of children were attending for remedial preparation in math and English. They also were attending to ensure that they received a mid-day meal–perhaps the only meal they will receive today.
As I was leaving, the headmaster and this little fellow presented me with a card to thank me for coming. What magical, magical place.
The keeping of records is a fascinating issue in India. Other than the national corporations, many hotels, apartment complexes and banks even still keep records in big old fashioned ledgers. With power often iffy, no computer can go down and lose the records. And it’s how it has always been done.
I am astounded by the number of sign in books in our apartment complex and those of other complexes. Sign in the little books to go to the gym, to use the pool, to welcome visitors. And I am astounded by the paper trail at grocery stores. Get a tally of the bill from one person, pay another person, and then a third person at the door checks the receipt and stamps it.
While such record keeping seems ubiquitous in what seems like silly situations to me, we have been equally astounded by the lack of data bases and record keeping where it matters. For example, most book stores in India, even huge multi-level bookstores often do not have a method for keeping track of inventory. Books are not shelved based on title or author. Sometimes they are shelved by publisher. Sometimes by subject. Sometimes willy nilly.
Even at the big and fancy Mantri Mall this week, my mom went to a very large book store to find if they have books by Amit Chowdry, a famous intellectual in India. Big shot. Big deal. The book store pulled up Amazon.
My mother asked, “How do you know if you have the book if you look it up on Amazon?”
Clerk: “The book might be shelved by title.”
My mom goes to the section and notices that they aren’t shelved by title at all. She returns to the clerk and asks, “How are the books ordered if they aren’t ordered by title.”
Clerk: “It is what it is madam.”
Even more surprisingly than the book store, my parents went to the Museum of Modern art.
None of the personnel knew what paintings were located in the museum. When asking to speak to a more senior person, the man admitted that the museum does not have a database or catalog. Even more surprisingly, though, was that they could not find anyone who knew where the painting by Tagore was located. Tagore is one of the most famous authors/poets in India history. My parents finally found the painting tucked away on the sixth floor.
We took the kids to the Art Museum in our last days in Bangalore. The kids were not very enthused about the visit until I lucked out with a game that kept them happy. In each room of art, we all had to choose our favorite and then we had to guess the favorite’s of everyone else. It slowed them down, caused them to consider the pieces carefully, and they had a blast. I will definitely remember that trick for Paris.
The one place where records are watched very closely is in the cricket league which has caught India by storm. My dad watches a match every night. Carson is obsessed as well. He wears his red Bangalore Royal Challengers cap all around town. Below are some of the team logos at the hotel bar in Hospet. Carson insisted on watching the matches on the big screen in the bar, much to the concern of the wait staff at the hotel!
Mom and I set out to finish our shopping in what turned out to be a marathon day. We were out there so long that driving into town I texted good night to Todd. By the time we returned home, he had slept through the night, gotten showered, and had gone into work.
First stop: Safina Plaza for some fabrics and pillow covers.
Second stop: Dispensary Road, to our tried and trusted cranky lady to get some ultra soft linens with elephants!
Time then for me to hit Commercial Street and stock up on some bangles.
While I am still not a professional bargainer like some of my friends, I did succeed with a new technique. I talked one guy down to his lowest price, then walked across the street and said to the next guy, “That guy will give me xxx rupees, what will you give? (but I really said less than what the first said).” Was the most effortless bargaining of the day.
After a brief respite at KFC in the air conditioning and stop in Fab India, we discovered this lovely gem of a store called Kasmir House. Actually it is three shops–two brothers and a son. Each shop is more like a closet. But great prices and amazing treasures. We were bad. Very bad in this store. So many things to buy.
Then down the road to my favorite fixed price man. His prices are so reasonable and he is so cute. And he puts bubble wrap on everything. And I mean everything.
He even sent us down the alleyway to find even more bubble wrap to bring home for packing up! That was a lot of bubble wrap mom was viewing!
On the way home, we stopped at Bamburi’s to get the best beef in town and some darned good looking eggs. Plus Swensen’s for ice cream, Reliance for veggies, and then to a tailors. For $4, I got three shirts altered.
Two days later, Kaden and I had our own final celebration–getting a little India bling on our toes!
And on a commercial note, I finally figured out why my cell phone plays this Kannada song. For four months, it has been playing the same song. I have no idea what song because I never call myself. But at this point my mom can sing it by heart even though none of us know what it says. Turns out the messages I have been getting for my HT service weren’t related to texting as I thought. Instead it was the monthly renewal of my Happy Tunes service! Rs 30 a month!
And on a second random note on commercialization in India, I am completely amused by the Disney channel in India. They have turned all of the popular Disney Tween shows into Hindi shows here in India. The other night Kaden was watching “Best of Luck, Nikki” in Hindi with no subtitles, and she was able not only to tell me exactly what had happened so far, but started eerily predicting what would happen next on the screen. Turns out the show is an exact knockoff of the show “Good Luck, Charlie.” Kaden knows the show so well that she was able to share with me that the exact storyline was repeated on this Indian show. So exact that Kaden would say things like, “Now a girl is going to come around the corner. Next a stuffed dinosaur will fall out of the air.” It’s not the only show that has been adapted to a Hindi format. “Suite Life with Zack and Cody” is “Suite Life of Karan and Kabir.” Of course, the sociologist in me is fascinated to learn what they changed on these shows. With the attempt to make such a parallel formula–what was perceived as not funny or not appropriate for Indian audiences?