Friday, 25 September 2009

News Update for my old colleagues at JET

This is a copy of my latest contribution to the "CODAS Chronicle", a newsletter at JET, my old workplace.

I've been here in India almost a year now. Time has whizzed by, especially the last six months. And during all this time I have never once thought that I'd made the wrong choice. So, to those (few) naysayers who reckoned I'd be back working at JET within a year, I hope you didn't bet money on it because I'm going to disappoint you!

I will, however, be coming back to the UK for a short visit in October, to see family and friends and to renew my India visa for at least another year. In fact I'll be applying for a two-year visa though it's by no means certain I'll get it.

Just in case you've forgotten what I'm doing here, my main role is teaching "Computing" to the children at SISP through office and graphics applications. The children are aged from 6 to 20 or so, and all come from impoverished backgrounds.

So, what's been happening? On 15th August we had Independence Day celebrations, commemorating independence from us Brits in 1947. I expected to encounter some animosity but found nothing of the sort. In fact, if anything, all the Indians I've met have a preference for the British. Unfortunately it doesn't extend to getting discounts in the shops! White skin = full manufacturer's recommended price.

Then in early September we celebrated Onam, Kerala's main festival. At SISP we held a competition for the most beautiful 'pookkalam' - essentially a pattern or picture made with flower petals. These could be seen all over Kerala, adorning pavements, shop fronts and bits of empty road-side land. Generally a big temporary roof is placed over them because Onam happens to coincide with the monsoon season and they'd be washed away otherwise! Some patterns were small - just half a metre in diameter. Others were huge - maybe a 3D scene with an area of 25 square metres! SISP's pookkalams ranged from 600mm up to 2 metres in diameter - anything bigger would have cost too much and also have taken an inordinate amount of time to construct. As it was, our classes spent a morning making them and even had to raid nearby rough ground to find sufficient petals!

This little fellow is a House Gecko and he, and a few of his mates, live with me in my house. He's quite harmless, and earns houseroom by eating some of the spiders and cockroaches that are foolish enough to come his way.

I just had to show you these photos! These are on the covers of our latest consignment of exercise books. They depict Ajith, Vijay and a couple of other Bollywood/Tollywood/Kollywood film stars. The kids love these guys, and I got them to make me a poster with them on to brighten up the computer lab. There's some rivalry between fans which has resulted in an adornment of moustaches, glasses and extraneous appendages.

Finally, here's a paan-chewing fruit seller, trying her luck at Kovalam beach. She asked me to photograph her after I'd told her umpteen times I didn't want her pineapple, papaya, bananas or mangoes, so I felt obliged. And anyway, how could I resist the gappy smile and blood-stained teeth? Or her machete...

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