By Monalisa Debnath:
My classroom has changed a lot in the last few months, in positive ways. But the fact that Mohan from class 9 still finds it difficult to count the numbers got us both a sense of existential crisis.
I dream of a class where all my kids can read, understand simple sentences, are able to put their emotions in words, and become both loving and loveable in the process. But somehow, both of us are failing badly.
Most of my last month was spent dealing with piles and fever. While staying with the local community has made me come closer to the self, it has distanced me from the world outside my village. Being a part of people’s daily lives here has tremendously helped me in understanding my students but somehow self-proclamation has been derived from it. The one who did not bother whoever said anything against her, has started giving significant time to the things burning her inside. However, like beautiful Palash in the spring, one needs to get burnt and go through the pain to show their brightest colours.
It’s been 8 months since I am breathing the air here, and I’m aware of my lungs getting contaminated with the sand of Aravalli. I am aware of my sun-kissed skin that has made art all over my body (like a zebra crossing). All the emotions grab me by neck sometimes and don’t let me breathe from time to time. The tanned skin suddenly looks fair and on days, I color my heart with the darkest shades of wax crayons to not be able to see my significance here, in my organisation, my world now. It always takes great effort to ask for anything. I usually have a 10-minute long conversation in my head before talking to a person in reality and most of the times, the context changes when I open my mouth to churn the correct words in the right order; making them sound irrelevant. In the past months, it has decreased from 10 to 2 minutes. Nowadays, my tongue has stopped responding to my mind.
I am tired of reconciling between ‘I’ and ‘Me’ (Reference: Mead’s theory), of trying to erase my 23 years of existence and what I am, and redesigning ‘me’ on the basis of what I want to be. My whole life has been like a butterfly that sits on what excites it in that moment.
I love blank pages. It has all the possibilities to get filled with the colours that can be found in the cosmos. But finding myself blank breaks me down. I wasn’t doing okay and needed help. But my friend, Vivek (also the co-founder of my fellowship host organization Kshamtalaya) held me strong, made time for me even when he was unwell so much so that I had started fleeing away even from his shadow in the fear of getting asked “How are you?” again. Though my eyes have been saying it all, Vivek waited for me to be courageous to seek help. He held out the mirror for me. But my mind had not prepared the script. Instead, ‘I’ am getting ready to come out of the shell and waiting to experience and learn from all that’s coming my way.
It was easy to lose track of time. He took me to the day we first met and let me say ‘Hi!’ to the Monalisa I was planning to kill. In the process, I saw the beauty in me and realised that I can be pretty even with a dark side. I have immense love inside me and it may not be considered a skill but it is who I am. The not-so-secret ingredient of my existence that has been bothering me since my brother told me that without a structure or an ideology, love cannot change the world. The leaf had flown away in search of a structure leaving behind who I am (Vivek was right in describing me like a leaf flowing in the river that needs everyday nurturing).
Any sound outside my classroom has been bothering me. A month passed by, in asking myself thousands of questions unanswered. All this while, people at Kshamtalaya have been by my side. I decided to get back on my feet and accept my positive aspects as much as the evil side with constant support from my friends and Maa. As Vivek says “You do not fit in this world. You create your own.”, I’m sailing my ship to the harbour of that unknown world that’s waiting for someone like me with a new dawn. A world where no one would be pretentious. People will let out their frustrations with the hope of being understood and forgiven. A world where I share and not just give or take; one that accepts me both as an angel and a monster; that acknowledges the phenomenal love I have for every living being; that doesn’t leave my side saying “get well soon” but waits for my recovery; where there is an abundance of love for each other; where mental health is taken seriously!
About The Author: Monalisa Debnath is a 2018-19 cohort India Fellow working in rural Rajasthan (Kotda block of Udaipur district) with public schools on improving learning outcomes amongst tribal children. She has been brave to choose to talk about a very personal aspect of her life and hopes that it will help others who might be in the same situation like hers.