To all those moments of learning and laughter!
I think the best moments in life are those when you look back, you learn, laugh and cherish all at once! These are priceless moments which you should be thankful for. 😀
I’m gonna’ share a list of such incidents in this blog, dedicating to someone special on his birthday. Okay, so you will get introduced to Ashwin ji along the way!
#1 In the most obedient classroom I’ve ever seen!
The first time I met Ashwin was during the commencement of my Teach For India Fellowship in July 2016. I was coming back to Chennai after a 5-week intensive training at Pune, popularly known as ‘Institute’.
Though I had a time of 3-4 days on my hands to join my classroom at Chennai Middle School, MGR Nagar (as a class teacher for std 4 students) – I desperately wanted to to visit the school ever since the moment I landed in Chennai.
So, I called up Ashwin who was my previous Fellow (he taught the same students, as a class teacher for Std 2 & 3), and my school team, fixed an appointment with them right before the school ends at 4 PM.
The school was located approx. 2 kms from my house, so I decided to cycle all the way to the school, parked my vehicle outside the gate and then slowly opened the main door to find the ‘watchman anna’ there.
The moment I told that I’m the new Fellow going to teach 4th std, he was super excited, “Oh, you have come to teach in Ashwin sir’s class! Please come.. come.. come..”
And then I walked past the whole ground, crossed the HM room – noticed she was not there. Slightly popped into the classrooms, and said a ‘Hi!’ to my school team mates (didn’t speak much since they were doing the closing circles, which is how we close our classroom teaching during Fellowship).
And then went and stood before a colorful classroom – neatly painted, carefully arranged, with the most obedient students sitting on perfect postures, eagerly waiting for someone (or waiting to go home :P)!
The next moment – someone appeared in front of me with a gentle smile,
“Welcome, Aravindh. This is Ashwin, your previous Fellow.”
Ashwin also ensured that he came on the first official day of my Fellowship (the actual day I joined as a teacher), introduced me to everyone, and to the classroom (which he spent hours of time the before to again paint neatly) and finally handed over the classroom key which was connected to a guitar keychain. When I wondered why guitar, he said – “This is just to remember – there should always be music in the classroom.“
#2 The fundraising kick starter moment!
Fast forward to an year – I was sitting with Ashwin and my other school team mates in the classroom opposite to mine, on a fine holiday – thinking and discussing about what do we do on the next year, so we can provide the best possible impact to the students.
Long story short – I started fundraising campaign with the target of INR 2 lakhs, with my efforts was able to raise somewhere around ~INR 40K in the first 4 months, then honestly I was clueless on how to move forward.
Initially, I was also a bit hesitant to ask people around, and then we decided to push it to the maximum because we had a very limited time (from that point, I had only one year of Fellowship left but the vision was so high).
But still, there was some level of hesitancy from my side – and I didn’t send a request to many people whom I know.
Then came this moment – when I noticed Ashwin sending the request to so many people request for support and he told me in a funny way – ‘See, I’m sending so many request messages to everyone. You should start going on this faastt!’
That’s the actual moment, I felt really confident and motivated at the same, we also received all the support from everyone (honestly, the fundraising was the best experience of my Fellowship, later I went to choose the same as my career with Teach For India for 2 years). In a matter of 3 months, we raised INR 2.4 lakh and did so many technology interventions in the classrooms! Want to know what we did, watch this video!
#3 Rehearsing the award script!
Fast forward to an year and half – I was sitting along with Ashwin at the only pizza restaurant that was open at 11 PM in the Vancouver City, Canada. (Facebook, #MGRNagar2Vancouver to know what happened during this trip)
I had to receive a IEEE Global award on the next day, and also need to deliver a 2 minute acceptance speech along. I was super nervous – though I had done so much of public speaking, this one is really huge considering the scale, and all the best of the academia, industry, and volunteer leadership will be present during the speech witnessing me.
I wrote a draft, a week back – and was rehearsing with Ashwin while we were waiting for the pizza (our first meal after entering the lands of Canada), he was as usual the calming force for me, listening to the whole thing with a smile – he also made sure that I drink hot water, considering I was having cold, because of the sudden shift of weather in Canada. (Watch the award speech here, and the video credits goes to Ashwin)
#4 Eating puliyotharai at the Kuala Lumpur airport!
Fast forward to an year – me and Ashwin was traveling to Indonesia to present our technology-driven educational project at an IEEE Asia-Pacific Conference, and we had a connecting flight via Kuala Lumpur to the Jakarta airport.
Ashwin brought home made puliyotharai as we started our journey from Chennai during the evening – but we missed eating it in the Chennai airport as we had access to the guest lounge and had some buffet food for the night.
We realized about the puliyotharai only in the morning, as we reached Kuala Lumpur, we had handful of time for the next flight.
While waiting at the airport, we opened the puliyotharai and ate it completely. It was so much of fun and the happy meal I’ve ever had! (As expected we didn’t get any Vegetarian food in the Depok city, we roamed around to finally find some restaurant, that’s another story!).
The trip was so memorable, not only because that’s the last international one I’ve had till now (PS – COVID pandemic) – but we did so much of adventure in Bali including parasailing and scuba (which I never had the guts to do before!)
Also, we won the runners up in the project contest out of the 12 shortlisted projects across Asia-Pacific!
There are many more moments I could think of – like for example, anjarai mani BA flight atrocities, sabatha queue at the US embassy, but I think hopefully those are stories for the upcoming birthday’s.
Many more happy returns of the day, Ashwin ji! Have a blast. 😀