By N.K.A. Ballal, Retd. Sr. Vice-President, ITDC
I had an interaction with an educationist recently and he narrated something very interesting:
A few weeks back I was in my weekly webinar session with my Foundation students and I was scheduled to speak to my first year batch whom I had met only virtually till now. Before I start any session, I always ask them to come on video, browse through the multiple screens to say hello to each one of them.
I noticed two of my students with some unusual background. The first was a girl student named Kalai, who was sitting under the hot sun, sweating all over and I could see some sculptures in the background.
Curious to know where she was seated, I asked her “Kalai, your background seems to be pretty unusual with all the sculptures, where are you taking this webinar from?”
She politely replied, “Anna, this is our village temple and it is in the entrance of our village and about 4 kms from my residence. This is the only place I get good mobile signal. I spoke to the temple authorities and negotiated a deal with them. I come here everyday morning at 6 am, sweep and clean the premises daily before 7.30 am. I then attend my class from this place where mobile connectivity is good.”
I asked her, “That is good, but why can’t you sit in a place where there is some cover. You are sitting under the hot sun.”
She smiled and said, “Anna, don’t worry. This is the one corner of the temple and it is the only place where connectivity is good. I do not move an inch from this place and in any case sun does not bother me. I am used to it.”
When Kalai said this, my air-conditioned room temperature was 18 degree. Kalai is a be Computer Science student and has been attending her classes for the last several months from her village temple.
The second interesting background was that of one Albin Raj, who was surrounded by leaves all over, branches to his right and left. I paused and asked him the same question. “Hey, Albin, where are you seated? Looks like you are sitting in a jungle.”
He laughed and said, “Sir, I also have the same problem like Kalai. There is no mobile signal in my place and the best place to get the mobile connectivity is in the main road where there is a huge banyan tree. Everyday I come here in the morning with my lunch-box and attend my classes sitting right up in this tree.” Bowled over with this answer, I could not help but ask the obvious question. “I understand the signal part, but why climb up the tree when you can very well sit under the tree and do the same.”
Albin gave me a quirky smile and said, “Sir, I will show you what’s below and tilted his mobile screen pointing downwards. And I could see lots of old people sitting and chatting under the tree and some playing cards too. It was literally a full house. Sir, there is no way I can sit and do my work in between this chatter and that is the reason I prefer sitting on the branch above and do my work.”
I only get down after I finish my work at 4 pm. Albin is a first year student of be [ece].
I was awestruck with the way both these kids approached life. While I sit at my air-conditioned home with two internet connections and still crib, here are two of my students who have all the reason to complain and yet they look at the solutions available to make things work. Not once did they complain about their problems.
A grim reality-check for thousands of students who are provided everything by their parents including connectivity and food of choice too, whether they can afford it or not. There are hundreds of “Kalais” and “Albins” in this harsh world who do not have any basic facility but still manage solutions to their problems without cribbing.
Recently, Anand Mahindra sent out a heart-warming tweet. “This pandemic has taught us one thing — That we have to be grateful to God that we have a roof, food, money in the bank and basic comforts. When I saw millions of migrants walking on roads with their children barefooted, I realised the real meaning of poverty. These are the very people who keep our factories, malls, shops and our economy running. Imagine a life without a maid, cook or a factory hand.”
To conclude, in this pandemic, an estimated 2 or 3 million people have lost their jobs in the hospitality sector alone. Multiply this in other sectors, the numbers are mind-boggling. Just imagine the state of mind of a worker, with hardly any savings, without a job in the middle of this pandemic! It is so common to see a teacher or a waiter selling tea or vegetables to survive. I salute their dignity of not looking for doles from the Government to survive. We have to live with this pandemic for the rest of our lives but be grateful to God for being alive and kicking. Let us not crib. Let us make the best of what one has.
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