Saturday, December 10, 2011
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Ek Koshish, One Attempt
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Indian Tradition: ‘Ahoi Ashtami’- One Day Fast by Mothers for Well-being and Long Life of Their Sons
Unique Indian Tradition: ‘Ahoi Ashtami’- One Day Fast by Mothers for Well-being and Long Life of Their Sons
Today is the religious celebration of Ahoi Ashtami in India. In Hinduism, this ritual of keeping fast by mothers for well being and long life of their sons which is popularly known as ‘Ahoi Ashtami’ that falls on 8th day of Kartik month every year is the most important ritual in Indian culture and religion. This not only shows immense love and affection of mothers towards their sons but also tends to keep the families joint and united by filling the thoughts of respect and regards by sons for their mothers. This is unique tradition in India as no other country seems to have such tradition. There is a story behind this most important ritual in Indian culture and religion.
There lived a woman with her seven sons and one day she went to forest to bring some soil to plaster the floor of house. While she was digging soil in the forest, she unfortunately and unintentionally killed a small cub like creature. She felt unhappy and sorry over this incident and came back to home. After this incident all of her sons died one after another within a year. The woman started believing in her heart that her sons died due to her sin of killing that cub. One day she narrated the incident of her killing of that cub to some wise ladies in her neighbourhood. Upon hearing the story of that woman, they advised her to keep fast, confess and pray the Almighty Goddess Ma Bhagwati by making a picture of that cub on the wall on 8th day of Kartik which would redeem her sin of killing the cub. The woman kept fast on that day and prayed the Goddess as was advised by making a picture of that cub on the wall and after some time the Goddess blessed her with all of her seven sons. Since then, this tradition has become a ritual amongst the Hindu mothers to worship the Almighty Goddess Ma Bhagwati by keeping a whole day fast and praying the Almighty Goddess Ma Bhagwati in the form of picture of cubs made on a wall of house for the well being and long life of their sons. Really the tradition is filled with immense love and affection between mothers and sons.
On this day Hindu mothers make pictures of cub(s) on the wall of their house or hang pictures of Ma Bhagwati on the wall and pray Ma Bhagwati as shown in the picture. For the long life of their sons, they also wear a necklace of silver beads around their neck. Two silver beads are added every year in this necklace of silver beads for long life of their sons. Mothers keep on adding these silver beads until they die. In the day time, women/mother gather and listen to the story of Ahoi Ashtami with great devotion. In the evening they pray Goddess Bhagwati and then also pray stars for the long lives of their sons. After that they give food to the eldest lady in the house or if there is no elder lady in the home, they give food to some other elderly woman in the neighbourhood or in the temple. After that only they eat something to break their fast.
It is really a unique tradition in India only to cement the bonds of love and affection between mother and son.
Ek Koshish One Attempt
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Monday, August 22, 2011
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Saturday, August 13, 2011
As such this is a wonderful festival of brothers and sisters. This festival also plays an important role in the society. This festival strengthens fraternal feelings and the spirit of kindness and goodwill in the society. This festival promotes harmonious social life by reaffirming the faith of citizens in the traditional values of love and protection fostering community bonding irrespective of caste, creed and color and highlights the importance of women in Indian society not only as a mother but also as a sister.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Saturday, July 9, 2011
I am writing today because I witnessed a very inspiring sight yesterday when I was invited for lunch at a neighbor's home. The neighbor has adult children, and runs a home filled with his children and grandchildren, with the help of one maid. Though the work appeared to be very demanding, once everyone was out of the house, and I was there sipping some chai, I overheard, from across the room, somebody was reciting the English alphabet, in a very heavy accent. When I looked over, I noticed the maid herself was reading from a notebook aloud! It was quite surprising to see that this young maid, who doesn't attend any school, took the initiative to start to learn English on her own, as she practiced reading the alphabet correctly from memory. Even more surprising to me was that the family that invited me for lunch doesn't speak any English really at all: They simply enjoy my company! The maid had no access to any English newspaper, as the family only receives a copy of the news in Hindi each day, and yet the family still took the time to offer their maid English lessons. I am still surprised with what I witnessed, but it is very heartening to see that many average, middle-class people in India do want to help out their illiterate brothers and sisters in India. We should not take our own education for granted, as I never realized how precious being able to read a sign or write a message really is until I started working with Ek Koshish.
As we have been keeping up with our classes, I am posting a picture from our last lesson with the children, when we practiced dictation with the advanced class, and continued with basic numbers and letters with our beginners.
Sunday, July 3, 2011
Last night, we held the second class with our newest students at Ek Koshish. The children came eagerly to class, excited to learn new material, as they had been out of school all summer up until now. With Arun, we got to work on learning all of his capital letters in cursive, as he had advanced up to this level. He was having trouble with capital G, but we taught him the correct way. Interestingly enough, the cursive script we use in India is quite different from the cursive script we are taught in the US, especially when it comes to capital letters: so, I too learned how to write the cursive letters in English when in India! Arun has mastered the first half of the alphabet in cursive, and he knows all of the letters in printed form as well. Poonam, the youngest of the children, is surprisingly advanced, compared to her older brother and sister, as she knows the whole alphabet, and knew how to add and subtract small numbers. Priya was very good in her addition and subtraction practice with us, so we gave her some more advanced practice with adding and subtracting: Soon we can teach her how to carry over numbers when adding. When I spent time with Nancy, she showed great progress with her counting numbers, on her own, up to twenty, and recognizing their corresponding symbols by heart. Badal, up until yesterday, could not draw any number besides "1," but yesterday the director from Ek Koshish sat with him and helped him to be able to write the number "2" on his own! He drew the number several times for practice, and we hope that he can move on to more numbers in the coming lessons. Finally, Vicky is still having a hard time recognizing that letters aren't numbers, but he has been practicing writing the capital letters "A" and "B" quite well, and can write the numbers "1-4" like a natural now. I am very proud of our bright young students, who are desperate to escape from the life of poverty they currently lead.
Saturday, July 2, 2011
Friday, July 1, 2011
Last night, I just came back from a trip with my host family to Jaipur, known as the famous "Pink City" in Rajasthan, a popular tourist destination! The family had to go because of some work in Jaipur, so they invited me to come along with them. Upon arriving in Jaipur, we all stopped at Amber Fort, one of the major sites in the city. This site was the most interesting of any other we had seen, as we got a chance to see what the lives of kings and queens of India were like centuries ago. The fort was beautifully decorated, with plenty of interesting features to it: Several areas had been architecturally designed so as a windy breeze could reach an area where people would sit and relax; the water that would circulate the palace would collect so that it could be redistributed and sent to gardens over and over; there were passageways that were built so that a chair on wheels could climb a flight of stairs (see picture). Seeing that such an aged structure had even had areas that were wheelchair accessible was a stark contrast to the normal planning we see in urban areas, as they are usually highly restrictive for differently-abled individuals. After we climbed to the top, we were at an area reserved for the queen to observe the commoners below her: Though the area was inexplicably decorative, time and people have demolished the beauty in one portion of the area. Notice in the second picture, how the upper-left side of the photo was carved from marble, while the right side had graffiti and inappropriate scribbles on the wall. When I discussed this with the Ek Koshish team, we all agreed that it was a shame to see such a proud symbol of Indian culture ravaged by careless people. Ek Koshish truly hopes to preserve and spread awareness about Indian culture for everyone to appreciate, and they would like to convey the message to everyone to consider how to maintain our precious culture each and every day. Another eyesore for us to witness, and capture on film, was this picture of a little bird by, what appears to be, a birdbath, with trash around and even in the birdbath. We should all be very conscientious that each and every action we take could have an effect on the most helpless of animals, and we should respect our environment. Even when we were enjoying our trip to this new city in India, these images lingered in our minds, as we want to make an attempt to make a difference and reverse the negative trends we see every day. Otherwise, the rest of the trip was great, as we visited two famous Hindu temples, "Birla Mandir" (depicted below) and "Ganesh ji ka Mandir," (where "Birla Mandir" means "Birla [a name] temple" and "Ganesh ji ka mandir" means "Ganesh's temple" in Hindi), City Palace, Jantar Mantar (an ancient site where Hindus used manmade structures to calculate astrological and astronomical phenomena), and even the Crystal Palm movie theater, to watch "Transformers 3" in Hindi (an interesting experience, nonetheless)! It was overall a really great trip, and I look forward to the next trip I take here while I volunteer with Ek Koshish!
In our last lesson with our students from Ek Koshish, we accomplished a lot with our students who were interested in learning. I spent a lot of time with Vicky, making sure he understood the differences between the numbers 1, 2, and 3, which he was able to write well. He was very confused that each different symbol had a different name, because at first he would say that each of the symbols were simply the number 1. By the end of the lesson though, he understood it, but he will need to practice it a lot, because he has to take a lot of time to process the information and remember which symbol stood for which number. I also spent a lot of time with him on the letter A (capital). He can also write this one well, having learned how to properly hold a pencil, but he still thinks that the letter is one of the numbers. We do explain it to him every time, and he starts to understand; however, after ten minutes without persistently asking him, he quickly forgets and thinks that it is also a number. He is very bright though, and he honestly does try his very best, it will just take some time for the information to sink in. Otherwise, he is very attentive, never gives up, and walks into class with the biggest smile of all of the children!
Badal, on the other hand, does try a little, but I believe he is simply too young to pay too much attention to our classes, since he is about only three years old. He has learned how to count to seven in English now, and he has understood some common English parts of the body, so he is capable of learning, but we have to move at a slower pace with him. He is too young to properly use a pencil as well, so we will continue with chalk and oral exercises. Ajay though, is a very difficult child with whom to work: There is a word for his character in Hindi, which I have come to learn. He is not just stubborn, but "Akru" (the Hindi word for "obstinate"). He comes with the intent to have fun, and never try to work. Then, when we give the children treats, he is unwilling to work for his treat. At first, how could we deny giving this poor child from the slums a piece of candy or other special treat we bring for the children? I didn't have the heart to deny him. But, now we have refused to give him any treats until he is willing to work. His mother, a fellow classmate of his, is very disappointed in his work, and she even encourages us to use violence with him so he can learn, but we refuse to resort to any such methods for teaching the children. We want our classroom to be a safe place for the children, to where they always look forward to coming. If he continues with this staunch attitude, we will make him miss one of our classes as a punishment: When he sees his friends earn their treats and come back from their lessons happily, he will want to come and earn his treats too. Let's see if we have to enforce this new plan of action or not!
Our other two students, Mohini and Nancy, have been learning at a very rapid pace! Mohini can recall "A for apple, B for boy, C for cat, D for dog" flawlessly, while recognizing the shapes of the symbols from memory. Mohini, having worked as a maid and washerwoman's wife for several years now, can count and recognize the symbols on paper, as she needs to know how to count to earn. Nancy, though, still hasn't mastered English counting one through ten, but she does recognize the shapes. When we mix up the numbers for her and ask her to recall any given symbol, she then is unable to do so, without us explaining to her to think of all of the symbols in order before reaching the answer to our question. Nancy has also been practicing several English nouns, after learning to read and write the first few letters in the alphabet. We are very proud of our students' progress, and we are looking forward to working with them again soon! Now, we are looking into arranging one more class, so that we can tutor two different sets of children at the same time. We don't want to handle more than two different batches of students at one time though, because we don't want to compromise the quality of education we offer the children with one on one tutoring for bigger classrooms. I am very lucky to have been helping out and working with the Ek Koshish team!
Sunday, June 26, 2011
I want to talk about my experience as a volunteer in India with Ek Koshish, One Attempt. Being here has been one of the most memorable and wonderful experiences in my life: Not only am I volunteering, giving back to the desperately needy community here in Faridabad, but I am also learning so much about Indian culture and Hinduism. Working as a volunteer has been an incredible way to learn and improve my Hindi; should anyone be interested in learning this beautiful language, I can guarantee that working with "Ek Koshish, One Attempt" would undoubtedly accelerate anyone's understanding of Hindi or even Indian traditions. The Ek Koshish team is superb, as they truly care about the projects they run and the people to whom they reach out.
For example, this picture, taken during yesterday's lesson, depicts the many kindnesses of the people who run this NGO: The clothes that our student Vicky is wearing, were recently donated to him by the Ek Koshish staff, because he lacked proper clothing. The team at Ek Koshish also purchased all of their school supplies, donated all of their time to tutoring this student and his family and neighbors, and even offered their own home as a classroom for yesterday's lesson: Because of the unbearable heat, the head of Ek Koshish insisted that the children study in his home comfortably, with the luxury of air conditioning. When I was overhearing other locals' reactions to our work here, they had very negative feedback about inviting such children into one's home. I suppose they don't mind these children coming to work in their houses, but they cannot consider the children enjoying a birthday party or learning to read and write in their own homes. At least it's nice to see that the people who run Ek Koshish's NGO do not have this attitude, not even in the slightest!
As a final note, I want to emphasize that volunteering with Ek Koshish is essentially a free trip to India with volunteering arrangements ready for anyone. Of course, there is a very minimal fee for housing, but this is not incumbent upon anyone: If you want to just come and visit Ek Koshish for a day, you are more than welcome to do so; if you know anyone living in Faridabad, you can stay with them and volunteer for free. Otherwise, the very minimal living expenses here in India would be around $150 USD for one month of room and board, use of utilities, and three meals daily, all included. Though funds are very tight with Ek Koshish, they do not have any interest in charging volunteers to work and help the community. I highly recommend this experience, not only to those readers out there who are my friends and family, but to anyone interested in this sincerely altruistic cause!
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Yesterday, we held our "Ek Koshish, One Attempt" classes with our students from slum areas of Delhi NCR in Faridabad again! Yesterday, Vicky (about 4+ years old), the oldest of our male students, practiced using a pencil for the first time! I reviewed with him writing the numbers 1, 2, and 3, while he recited their names each time while writing them. The first time I asked him to recite the names of the numbers, he didn't understand the point of the exercise; however, he is very bright, and soon understood how it would reinforce him to learn it appropriately. He then performed the exercise properly for the rest of the lesson! We also started our first letter, the letter "A," which you can observe in the picture! It was difficult for him to grasp the pencil correctly at first, because it was such an alien concept to him; but, he soon got the hang of it. Badal, Ajay, and Mohini practiced oral exercises yesterday, learning English and Hindi nouns, like fruits, parts of the body, boy and girl, etc. Nancy, our most advanced student, practiced writing the numbers 1-10, and she also wrote the first few letters in the English alphabet. We are very proud of all of our students' progress, and we hope to be able to refine them quick enough so that we can enroll them in a school in India: Our goal is to mainstream the children into a classroom, as they are not anywhere near the level they need to be at for the time being. We will then train another batch of students similarly, so that we don't compromise the quality of our one-on-one tutoring facilities that we can currently offer our children.