I have decided to dedicate an entire post to this little excursion Max and I went on to Kao Secondary State School. Due to it being one of the most simultaneously uplifting and awkward ordeals we have ever experienced.
Munish’s brother works in a small school located in a farming village. It has roughly 400 students, 10 teachers and 5 classrooms. The children are all immaculately dressed – boys in blue shirts and suit trousers; girls in white trousers, red or green tunics, white sashes and plaited hair with white ribbons. They all looked stunning and thrilled to be there.
When we arrived, we were greeted by Munish’s brother, both of us under the impression that we were going to have a look round the school briefly and maybe chat to one of the classes about our travelling experiences in India so far. Instead, we were lead straight to the Principle’s office, where we were given central seats, presented with fresh juice on silver trays and a platter of fruit. Due to the Indian hospitality we had now grown used to, this didn’t strike us as too odd. Slowly the Principle’s office began to fill up with various members of staff, all who sat around us like orbiting planets and watched us intently. This as when we started to get a little apprehensive that they thought we were much more impressive than we were but, then again it was a small farming village, many people had never seen a white person before and blond hair has always been a thing of intrigue amongst most eastern people I have met.
Finally the Principle arrived, she nodded curtly, sat and stared at us for a while without uttering a word and then Munish’s brother began to tell us what we were going to do during our visit. First, we would take a tour of the school (fine, just as we had expected); second, we would then give a lecture to one of the classes on communication and security (hang on…); third, we would finish off talking to his tourism class about our travels (also fine). About this second point though…
Noting our obvious discomfort at this surprise bit of news, we were presented with a booklet on their syllabus for communication and security and told to flick through and not to worry, as they all understand English. We decided to just go along with it, speak a bit about non-verbal and verbal communication skills and how they would assist them in various aspects of their lives. Done.
On with the tour!
The outlook and demeanour of the students was so refreshing and inspiring to see. They were completely ecstatic to see us and most were hanging out of windows or following us in huge groups! Most had never set foot outside the village and as it isn’t exactly a tourist destination, a vast majority had never seen a Western person in their lives. We were taken to each of the five classrooms, some of which had students in. As soon as we entered a classroom, talking halted instantly and they all stood up, only sitting again when told to do so. The manners and respect they have for their elders is just wonderful to see and the genuine excitement they have about learning is completely refreshing. Max and I couldn’t get over their happy faces and pride for their school and education – features that a lot of children in Britain should take on board themselves! Lessons such as commerce, tourism and communication and security are lessons that feature within their classrooms – interesting additions and an illuminating insight into what is important or affluent in Indian culture.
Once the tour was over we were treated to some lunch – dal, rice and cucumber – and then were lead to a classroom in which our communications lecture was expected. This was when we really started to panic somewhat! As we entered the classroom we realised that nearly all the other teachers were gathered there. Chairs were brought and it was not just 40 students staring at us with interest but also the entire staff faculty including the Principle. Seeing as this was the lecture we had not expected nor planned for, we felt somewhat out of our depth – to say the least! Max was asked to speak first and so he bravely ploughed on. He started with a few jokes, which, due to the language barrier, went down like a lead balloon. Ploughing on, he proceeded to repeat the word communication about 30 times before staring accusingly at me (who had been silently laughing up until this point at his misfortune) and got his revenge by asking if I would like to say anything. So I stood up, rambled on about Christ knows what for a few minutes before handing back to Max who rounded off with a final: ‘Any questions?’ Blank faces stared back at us and it then became apparent that none of them had understood a word we had said. A teacher stood up and bravely tried to summarise what we had just recounted to the children and then tried to push them to ask some questions. Everyone, thankfully, was far too nervous to do so and so it moved onto gifts! The children had made us some stunning garlands of yellow and purple flowers, these were hung around our necks and then we were also presented with a pen and chocolate bar each. They applauded enthusiastically and then a photos began!
After this completely traumatising ordeal for absolutely everyone involved, we finished by chatting to a small group of kids about our travelling and sat outside with a delicious cup of chai. A very pleasant way to end and a far more coherent lecture – a shame only Munish and his brother witnessed that one.
We waved goodbye to our delightful and smiley new friends and set off back up the dusty track and back to reality. Both of us feel that we will never forget (even if we wanted to!) that completely surreal but elevating experience, ever, in our lives.