Theory of adaptability…

The bitter sweet meeting of perception and reality: 'Yay! I'm saved!!'

Will the boatman adapt to a life on the island or vice versa? How do we perceive change? The winter we left Australia our daughter was in year ten and son in year six in school. We moved to California and not only did we encounter summer overnight but also our daughter became something called a sophomore in high school and son a grade six-middle schooler. Suddenly she was to write tests and more tests called the SATs (Scholastic Aptitude Test) for college admission , CAHSEE- the California High School Exit Examination and working on her GPA. Before I realized the son’s cricket bat was in the garage replaced by a baseball bat, in my eyes- a club instead of a paddle! The Aussie rule foot(ie) ball too was replaced by the American football which by the way, didn’t seem at all like football.

In Australia we saw a few cricket matches in the Melbourne Cricket Ground and I recall the son jumping with excitement as the Aussies slammed runs after runs against the visiting Kiwis. Then for a game between Australia and India, he clapped and jumped for both the teams, sharing each one’s victory and losses. He was an Indian at heart but home was Australia then and both the teams had his loving loyalty. I recall meeting the daughter’s teacher at a Parent-Teacher meet and listening to his enthusiasm and words of praise for her writing as he wondered which school in Melbourne had instilled the love for English language and literature. He couldn’t believe that she was not a native Australian but that her early schooling and foundation of the English language and literature was laid in two non English speaking countries- Japan and India.

The husband’s brother married a lovely British girl so I have an English co-sister who moved to Mumbai and adapted the Mumbai way of life literally like fish to water. A few times cab drivers tried to take her on a merry ride assuming she was a foreigner but she set them right much to their astonishment as well as amusement giving them a piece of her mind with a string of local Hindi abuses. When it was time to get her Permanent Residence Card for India my brother in law as per the undocumented but prevalent law added a ‘suitable’ bribe with her papers which she snatched back right from under the agent’s nose and reduced the amount by half. She had learnt the Indian way of bargaining far better than her Indian husband and accomplished the task with a big disarming smile combined with a reproachful look, almost reprimanding the agent’s exorbitant price.

When we bought our home in California we employed small businesses to do some work before moving in. The business fitting the closets was owned by a Native American with the Comanche background. We drew the plan for the master bedroom walk- in- closet and I explained that I wished to have a place for my prayers. I have a collection of idols, pictures, holy water, holy soil, holy oil from all over the world so my place of worship has the Holy Cross, Bhagwad Gita, holy oil, water and soil from Jerusalem, Rosary, sacred cloth from a Mosque, Buddha alongside multiple idols of Ganesha and other Gods from Hinduism. My place of worship is like the United Nations of  multiple Gods from different religions/nations. Some have been procured by us as blessings during our travels while others are presents from friends from their pilgrimage. So, I went to great lengths to make him understand that I wished to have them together in one place and he cut me short with, so you want a place for your Pooja (Hindi word for prayer/worship) and it was my turn to be taken aback at the knowledge of the gentleman without any Indian background. His take of- ‘I have lived and worked long enough in the Bay Area to know Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese and many other cultures.’

Last week I was away at Washington DC and prior to renting a car commuted by using the lyft app. In the two instances that I traveled by cab, the first driver was an Indian who told me stories of his daughter going to medical school and how he and his wife were managing with her aspirations, while the second driver was a retired government employee, an African American and he regaled me with stories from the Bible, his son’s wedding and by the time we drove up to Dulles International Airport Terminal we had animated book discussions on a couple of biographies we both had read.

I recall saying Jambo (greetings) while in Kenya, ohaiyo gazaimasta (good morning) in Japan and the other day when I was walking by a store at a local shopping strip a young Chinese strum his guitar singing in heavily accented Hindi, a Bollywood song and ending with aplomb, hands folded in salutations saying Namaste. While I laughed and commended his efforts he asked if I knew Shah Rukh Khan, the King of Bollywood. I tried to be funny and replied, ‘of course he is my neighbor’ only to hear the repartee, ‘oh really, he is my brother from an Indian mother.’

cartoon-wine-literature-library-saThe random incidents that I shared above are ordinary though unique, recurrent yet special showcasing our inherent tendency, ability, preference and wish to adapt. Unconsciously and continuously we evolve to encompass our environment, people, beliefs and customs. My faith that the world is a beautiful place despite the acts of terrorism by a select few gets reiterated by these little incidents. I smiled to myself as I read the newspaper that the United States Postal Service (USPS) is commemorating the Indian festival of lights Diwali by releasing a forever stamp  on Oct 5th 2016. While we adapt to our adopted country, our adopted country adapts to us!

How do you percept change? Do you react with optimistic positive thoughts or do you enjoy nitpicking? Do you adapt or do you attempt to change your new environment or maybe you manage to reach that perfect fine balance? Share your stories so we all know the speciality of ordinary random things…

Picture courtesy: http://www.cartoonstock.com & George Aldridge

Education…Then and Now.

My husband raised in New Delhi completed twelve years of education from the same school before heading to an engineering college, while I studied in three different schools in three different cities of India before starting college. Our children have had the privilege of going to school in five cities, four countries and three continents and their education comprises of learning in private, public, British, Indian and American system of schooling.

Whether thirty years ago or now the basic subjects in school remain the same but the methodology has undergone a rapid change, evolving from its limited textbook exposure to a broader spectrum utilizing innovative tools making education not only interesting but also fun while adding to the challenge and value.

I compare my son’s exposure and learning of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in grade nine vastly different from how we learned. Today, he  doesn’t just read the story and answer questions as I did. To make the language of 1595 compatible to the understanding of teens in 2016 the teachers require the class to follow the annotations with writing excerpts of conversations in today’s slang, text language, even abbreviated text language with Benvolio called Benji, Mercutio – Marco and so on.

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My daughter’s international relations professor didn’t arrive for a class and the Teacher’s Assistants switched on the television for the waiting students declaring ‘today’s class is on CNN’. The professor was being interviewed on CNN live at that very moment and his views on the effect of Trump on International Relation was the topic and soon after the telecast he rushed into the class ready to begin the discussion. I love hearing the way education has evolved in every sphere, still laugh at my son’s first tryst with learning about maps and how to draw to scale in grade 4. His homework entailed drawing a map of his home, surroundings, route to school and time taken to reach school. The classwork contained whether the route was followed or were there diversions and the difference in time to reach destination with reasons. My boy biked to school that was less than a mile away and was on the same side of the road as our home so no rocket science there for absence of any other route. But his teacher did note the time he took varied and the reason was written with great honesty- “unscheduled return home due to an emergency bathroom visit”. While I was both embarrassed and amused he received an A + for meeting all the requirements. In high school my daughter’s class would write letters to the senator with current water contamination/ issues after they arrived at conclusions on experimenting and the beauty of it was that the senators would reply in details appreciating and thanking them for their efforts.

I never envisioned an education on these lines and the more I hear the more I wish to turn back the clock to be in school again studying in this marvelous environment. But then I open my eyes wider and look at all that being a high schooler or a college student entails and I sit back with a sigh of relief, happy to enjoy stories that my children share- of education how they get it.

Picture courtesy: www.glasbergen.com & http://www.carptoons.com