This blog post is part of the A to Z Challenge. This challenge involves writing a blog post on any topic/theme in the order of the alphabets from A-Z. The blog posts have to be written each day through the entire month of April, excluding Sundays.
My chosen theme is the city of Chennai - sights, sounds, tastes, its happenings, events, and my memories and experiences connected with this place.
Another flower post right after K for Kanakambaram? :) This post is also of beauty, with a whiff of innocence. It has only happened that one time, but it is a lasting memory of a lifetime. An afternoon that made me pause and look at my life completely differently.
I met a little girl there; she had all the precious qualities of a young child - shyness, sweetness, politeness, kindness, (all rare qualities in most urban kids these days!) and one that most of us adults today do not have - of gratitude. She was the person I spent the afternoon with. We were hangout buddies for the day.
I wandered into this expanse of trees, playgrounds and walkways and was instantly hit with a wave of childhood nostalgia. Yes, it was a school but not at all noisy or chatter-filled; in fact it was almost deathly quiet. The venue was Little Flower Convent for Blind and Deaf at T.Nagar, right next to the Gemini Flyover.
It was my 1st time as a scribe--one who helps the visually challenged to write exams. I was to read out the questions on the exam paper, diligently write down the answers she dictated, draw margins on the answer sheets, use different coloured ink to highlight stuff, etc. This part was not particularly happy nostalgia. Exams were always a pain in the wrong place while growing up.
But this one I was going to enjoy thoroughly. It was not my exam, no pressure to score well, no tension waiting for the grades. Would be such a lark, is what I told myself when I joined the program in enthusiasm although mixed with slight trepidation.
Wouldn't you know it, it was worse, 'coz here I was writing someone else's exam, that too an 11-year-old's. She didn't know me from Adam (or Eve) and yet trusted me implicitly to get her a grade good enough to move up to the next level at her school. What a terrible responsibility! This was so nerve-wracking...did I actually sign up for this?! What was wrong with me...all sorts of thoughts ran amuck in my head. Needless to say, I was petrified.
It was a day of mixed emotions. Because of her learning difficulty due to her disability, questions sometimes had to be repeated, she took a long time to understand or come up with an answer, and yet she never gave up by saying "Let's go to the next question." I gently guided her and repeated and explained the questions a few times over and in different ways hoping the answer would click in her head and she would yell out 'Eureka!' No such luck.
Some of her answers were incorrect. The brief given to scribes is to write down EXACTLY what the student says, be it a child or a college student. We cannot take the decision to put in the right answer if they are wrong. We are not to be partial or sympathetic to their situation.
Most of these kids are from underprivileged families, many parents cannot afford to give their children an education. Schools, institutions and donors chip in to help. This makes a lot of the children feel very privileged and determined to do well for themselves so that they can support their parents and siblings. Yes, you heard that right...a visually challenged child/young adult has the drive to succeed, something lacking in the urban sections thanks to the easy, comfortable life they lead.
Under the circumstances, helping them with correct answers here and there is not a crime, and it is not out of sympathy. Au contraire, it is out of sheer respect for their desire to achieve.
Before, during and even after the exam, the little girl was humble, considerate (kept asking me if I needed anything, even water), pens, pencils, if I was comfortable etc. She was being hospitable almost as if I was a guest in her home. She displayed extremely good manners and extended such courtesy that left me wonderstruck. I wasn't very comfortable to be honest. I was nervous, unsure and scared in the beginning. As we settled into the task I laughed at myself and reminded myself mentally that I was supposed to be the responsible adult here. Managed to put her at ease and even joked around.
She was just a perfect little angel, a little flower that I hope and pray has a beautiful life. I don't know about her but a part of me blossomed and bloomed again that day; a part of the cynical grown-up I might have become. It was an ordinary exam for her, she was used to scribes, but the experience gave me a fresh lease of life.
People think a scribe helps the challenged students, but it is quite the other way around. You walk out of there feeling truly inspired by the grace and dignity with which they conduct themselves. One guy I had been a scribe for (a few months after this incident) had multiple degrees--he was more educated than most of us!!
The little girl taught me so much that day. Most of those lessons can never be found in a textbook or on an exam paper. And certainly not on a blog.
Life's experiences that touch the core of your heart can only be felt and experienced, never explained.