Saturday, April 21, 2007


Things here are heating up in more ways than one. Yes, daytime temperatures consistently soar to 100F; but things are heating up as regards my schedule of engagements, too.

Today is Saturday, and this week alone, aside from teaching my regular classes, I’ve been involved every day with one extra-curricular activity or another.

I’ve given presentations at my university, to the faculty of the Education Department (Monday) and the English Department (Tuesday).

On Wednesday (9:30 pm) and Thursday (12:30 am!!) I gave online presentations at the Teaching in the Community Colleges 2007 conference out of Hawaii, USA.

Thursday morning saw me at Akshaya Kshetra as the chairperson of a three hour workshop for elementary school children on “Integration.” 100 children from a Renigunta primary school spent time with the Akshaya’s disabled residents learning about the plight of people with a disability.

On Friday I was guest of honor at the Valedictory function for our graduating Masters of Education students. It was a beautiful ceremony where the students performed with recitals, songs and a short skit in between speeches by all and sundry. I was “felicitated” once again, garlanded and shawled, perfumed with sandalwood paste, my forehead daubed with a flash of red paint. I also was presented by my students with the most gorgeous gift of a beautifully carved figure of a Indian woman in tribal dress.

Today, Saturday, I’m not long back from the Sri Venkateswara private elementary and secondary school in Renigunta, from which the children came for Thursday’s Integration workshop at the Akshaya Kshetra.

I'm used to what I call "Indian time," where the starting time of anything is never--I mean never--at the appointed hour, and usually as much as half an hour late. But this morning was ridiculous even by Indian standards. The car to bring me to Renigunta was scheduled to pick me up at the guest house at 7:30 am. It eventually showed at 8:45 am!

To add insult to injury, the car was a truly clapped-out banger, a bone-shaker of a thing, which stalled every time the driver took his foot off the accelerator! No A/C, of course.

We eventually got to the school in Renigunta at around 9:30 am and I told the headmaster that I was on a very tight schedule. I absolutely had to leave by 10:30 so that I could be back at my university in time to teach my 11:30 class. I also said that I simply had to have a more reliable vehicle for the return trip--a motorbike, a scooter, a push bike, even a bullock cart!--anything rather than the jalopy they brought me in.

A deal was struck. I gave my speech, after which I posed for photos with the students and staff. Then I foolishly accepted one student's request to sign her notebook. Next thing I knew, I was absolutely mobbed by students thrusting notebooks and scraps of paper at me.

I scribbled a few more signatures, then I realized that I'd be there all day if I continued. So I threw up my hands, refused to sign another one, and pushed my way through the throng of clamoring boys and girls.

It was like swimming against an ocean tide. Everyone wanted to shake my hands on the way back to the headmaster's office, where I gratefully sought refuge and downed a thirst-quenching bottle of coffee-cream milk.

An air-conditioned jeep was commissioned to take me back to Tirupati. Now that's more like it! I made it back to the university with five minutes to spare.

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