Partly Settled In
Classes are now in full swing–or, at least, as much so as they ever will be. I’ve been here for a little over three weeks now and I think maybe, just possibly, I might know my class schedule for the semester. So far I absolutely adore all of my classes, but Yoga Philosophy & Practice is looking to be the favorite for me and everyone else taking it. Our teacher is the coolest and she spends half of the class spouting out mind-blowing philosophies, advice, and anecdotes, and the second half of class is super relaxing practice and meditation. The things she says in class have already started changing how I view myself and the world around me in a very positive way and I cannot wait for next class when she will share more of her yogic ahimsa wisdom.
My other classes are each incredible and rewarding in their own rights. I’m taking a course on religion that has already completely shattered the few things I thought I knew for certain about religion and its limitations. For example, with my own religious beliefs (or lack thereof) I could totally be a Hindu. It all just depends who you ask. Hinduism was a conglomerate term established by settlers to refer to all the currently existing religions in a region of India and, therefore, includes a vast array of different faiths and traditions. In addition to Hinduism’s many encompassed faiths, India itself is home to all kinds of religious traditions and practices, from Jainism to Sikhism to Islam to Christianity to Judaism and many more—several people have pointed out to me now that India has a place for everyone. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what you believe in; there is a community here for you regardless.
Another thing about India I have begun to embrace—without any difficulty—is its longstanding history with the arts. Art and religion have been present in India since pretty much the dawn of humanity and have always been closely intertwined. Something cool that comes from that is that there is sooo much history and so much meaning behind all classical art forms, from dance to music to visual art and architecture. Naturally, I’m focusing most of my attention on dance and I have finally started my apprenticeship with an incredible Kathak guru. Kathak is primarily practiced in the North of India and is a complex and ancient art form. My guru-ji takes is very seriously and has the credentials to back her teaching. She also scares the shit out of me and is by far the most intimidating woman I have met in my life. Our first lesson consisted of her correcting me every time I dared to move and essentially telling me to forget everything I’ve ever learned about dance in my life. So that should be a fun class.
And last, but certainly not least, is my Service Learning course. The class is basically a series of lectures on socio-economics and politics in India combined with six hours a week of volunteering at NGOs in Delhi. I chose to work with an organization called Sshrishti that sets up schools in Delhi slum neighborhoods to teach children of all ages English, Hindi, and the basic math and computer skills needed to attend mainstream, government-funded schools. I went to their headquarters in Vasant Kunj by myself this week to meet with the founder, Sangahamitra-ji, to discuss placement and job options at the different locations. She sent me to a location in Jai Hind camp for the day with a volunteer from Germany who is spending a gap year in Delhi working with Sshrishti. The Jai Hind school was literally in the middle of a giant dump with people living in huts setup amid the trash heaps. It was a two room school with the cutest 2-6 year olds I have ever seen and, before I knew it, they had put me up at the front of the class to teach the 4-6 year olds the English alphabet and English numbers 1-20. It was an amazing and terrifying experience, and I can only hope I didn’t ruin the class structure too badly. The children were fascinated by my white skin, so it’s hard to say if they were silent in awe or silent because they were actually listening to and understood what I was saying to them. While it was a great learning experience for me, I worked out with Sshrishti in the end that my skills would be better suited to their location in Okhla where I will be starting up a computer class for 12-14 year olds with some other IES students and my new German friend. The language barrier was a real issue with the younger children, but I am hoping to learn enough basic Hindi by the end of the semester to at least be able to teach this class.
The real teacher of this class asked me to take some pictures during lunch break and I can’t say I minded. Indian babies are the cutest babies, no ands, ifs, or buts.