A year ago, I was working with an international bank in Gurgaon. My shift timings were Eastern Standard Time (New York) which meant that I was working from 8:30 pm to 5:30 am (IST) and slept by 7:00 am.
While coming back from office, I used to wonder why humans are made to work at night. Is it because they want to work at night or is it because there are fewer jobs available and more people in the world? I thought maybe the organisations have taken the latter as a leverage point to invite people and work in adverse situations. But was that not in a way exploitation of human resources? Whatever the case be, I was ill adjusted to this life and timing, and I often felt off balance.
Then, after two and a half years, I took the decision to quit my job and look for things that I love to do and started trying out different things for a year. A series of events later, I became part of the India Fellow social leadership program through which I now work in a school which is located in a remote village called Zaid in Rajasthan for an organization called Kshamtalaya.
One day, when the students and I were learning about natural resources, everyone was coming up with what they think are natural resources and one student from the back of the class said ‘the sky.’ I thought for some time whether it was a natural resource or not but I was perplexed about it. So I did some research and found an article which says- “A dark night is a resource integral to many natural processes. Many of the darkest night skies in the country are found within national park boundaries. With the loss of night sky quality over the last five decades to light pollution, this resource has become nationally significant.”
We generally think of night skies as a scenic resource and sometimes forget the importance of natural darkness for the wildlife. Nearly half of the species on Earth are nocturnal—active at night instead of during the day. The absence of light, natural or otherwise, is a key element of their habitat. Many species rely on natural patterns of light and dark to navigate, nest, mate, hide from predators, and cue behaviours. The school campus has long eucalyptus trees in which there are lots of bats, who have made those trees their habitat, and thanks to them I was able to show them a live example of a nocturnal mammal.
Here’s when I thought that I was also at some point trying to pursue a nocturnal lifestyle which didn’t suit me. Some more research helped me find that humans are normally diurnal creatures and not nocturnal, that is to say, they are active in the daytime. Hearing from and paying attention to student’s matters and learning from them, is a way for me to rejuvenate myself and look at the same things with a different perspective.
The essence of this journey thus far, for me has been precisely that. With every question asked to me, I have learnt something new about what I already knew.
If you had noticed, at the start I wrote ‘the students and I were learning’ and not that I was teaching the students. Because I have learned as much as they have. And somewhere I have found the balance I was looking for.
Learning has been an experience I can relate to. It is like climbing a mountain which has a beautiful view on top. In order to climb up to the top, there are various obstacles. Each time you get stuck, you need to tell yourself that there is a beautiful view on top and so you need to overcome these obstacles and reach the top. As a student, I did not get interested in studies and took to playing football instead.
Of course, it was football that somewhere brought me to the point I am now, where I teach students different attributes and values through sports. My personal aim as a teacher this year will be to make the engagement with students pleasurable and fun with a variety of subjects to teach and learn so that they can find multiple interests in the hope of not repeating my history. Steve Jobs, during his Stanford Commencement Address of 2005, said–
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference.”
If I hadn’t lost interest in my studies, I wouldn’t have developed the interest in football and learned a lot about it. Since my job did not give me enough engagement, I decided to move out, try different things, and applied to this fellowship. And, if none of this would have happened, I wouldn’t have got the opportunity to work with these kids of Zaid in Kotra, teaching them life skills through football, and meet new interesting people and see the world through a different perspective.
The idea is that don’t let society’s labelled image limit you from what you can do. I now work in a government school after coming from a finance background. You may be a science person doing arts but as long as you believe in what you are doing, you will eventually find the resources to do it either through friends, strangers or self-learning. I would like to conclude by asking everyone reading this to look at the night sky tonight and realise that as beautiful as the stars are, there is a pattern amidst the chaos. And the day you decide to look for it in your life, you will find it.
About the author: Stephen Charles is a 2017 cohort India Fellow working with host organization Kshamtalaya in south Rajasthan. He lives and works in village schools to improve learning outcomes and community fostering via engagements like sports.