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Darkness of the Womb

What’s going to really happen when we hit June 30th? Bengal has already announced an extension till July 30th restricting travel. Unlockdown1.0 for the rest of the states (notice how these days we do not call it country, we call it state decisions) will be followed with some ‘normalisation’ and then what? Families torn with health, emotional & financial crisis, industries hit hard with recoveries that leaves everyone anxious, so really what will the world look like till we find the vaccine that every country is promising to provide – ‘soon’ (not to mention clinical trials being done in our country by some with limited sample size as evidence to cure a virus that has destroyed the world in one sweep – 280 people and medication that cures 70 percent of people in 3 days – really?!!!!) We know it will never quite be the same but what does that really mean?

No one knows. Period. But all of us are finding our moment of inspiration to get us to think positively. Here’s mine.

I have been moved ever since I watched an old file video of an American lawyer, Valarie Kaur (Indian forefathers who moved to America) who passionately and eloquently shared her hope for her country with her moving speech a few years ago. It was an old video after 9/11 delivered to an American audience (go on google it) but holds a special significance today. Especially in this country.

She spoke of her son inheriting a world so caught up in rage and despair, a world so hard done and in shambles, a world ‘worse-off’ than what was handed over to future generations when her grandfather was freed in 1913 after the racial challenges when he landed in America and was imprisoned on account of the racial mood at that time, and released thanks to a concerned native American. A ‘white’ man (It bothers me to even write about the colour of the skin as an explanation. When will we ever change?)

9/11 made sure everyone was back accusing and pointing fingers and suspicious of the colour of the skin and all that was not ‘white’. A difficult time. Perhaps in some ways the pain can be compared to what countries are experiencing now. Pandemic. Riots.

She spoke about a darkness but preferred to call it the ‘darkness of the womb’ and not the ‘tomb’, an indication that with every generation the world will present a crisis and we must recognise that these dark times are creating an opportunity for a transition forward, we must lead these transformations to create and give birth to new stories so that history can be written again. Must be written again, so stories of hope can propel a tomorrow to lift us all out of this black hole we find ourselves in.

Over 3 months, we have watched lives lost across the world and in India, gotten familiar with spikes and trends in a manner that is eerie, we isolated those that suffered on account of the pandemic and many shied away from helping to ‘protect’ their own, we have seen cyclones and eclipses, we have seen men and women being laid off and we have seen some tragic bytes on the 9 o’clock news of migrant workers and those in need of healthcare. We’ve seen political battles in some states and our borders bear witness to loss of lives, we have heard and been told of lives lost on account of suicide, we have seen and experienced in 3 and a half months, what many would have experienced in a life time.

And yet here we are. Each one, holding pieces and working out a way to claw back up. To survive.

If our adult world is caught in this huge upheaval, as an educator, I cannot emphasise how important it is to show that ray of hope that Valerie Kaur spoke about to our children. As adults, standing side by side, and working out what we can do to normalise. For the children.

Our calmness, our sense of conviction, our communication, our creativity, our collaboration, our critical strategic direction, our co-existence (The famous educator’s C’s not focused on teaching-learning but relationship management between the school and the home) as those who will do everything to protect these children, wherever they are, be it in small towns or large metros. This is the generation that will eventually shape the decisions of tomorrow and will remember all that we taught them and the manner in which we did it. It isn’t about my child or yours. It isn’t about that my child that goes to this school or yours goes to that, and secretly envying each other. It is about how these children, ‘our’ children who will become tomorrow’s lawyers, sportsmen, bankers, policy makers, doctors, researchers, businessmen and women, artists, who will define the future and for that, we need to stand together.

While reflecting about the current turmoil in the education space, I could not help but wonder, what are we all fighting for? Today, tomorrow or securing ourselves for the future?

I hope as adults we remain mindful of every small step today, that pushes the growth graph above, but really about the future because that is what we will leave our children with. It cannot be so bitter, it cannot be about the colour of the skin, or the surname, it cannot be about the influence or wealth, it must be about opportunities for every one. It cannot be about fee structures and on line learning debates surely? It has to be about the quality of learning, continuous, mental health, life skills …. about empathy, and being open-minded, being careful and respectful, being sensible and becoming independent, it is about focusing tolerance and resilience.

I was answering an email from my child’s school asking me about my views on how online education had been, when school starts would I be comfortable for my son to travel by bus or eat in the cafeteria basis of all the protocols. I answered a 100 questions but in the end, I simply wanted to say, I ‘trust’ the school that I have carefully researched to enrol my child and whom I am grateful to, for providing my family with that opportunity. From then, I will trust what the school works out. And I will trust that management has every family’s best interest at heart and will plan accordingly. Without this trust, I would only be researching and reading and asking questions for which perhaps there are no answers. I simply trust that the decisions that are made will make my family feel secure and safe, and my son happy and allow him to become a responsible adult.

I am told when I talk like that I am in the minority. Well then, Minority it is. Quite happy to be a part and also have my peace of mind in tact. I have enough professional commitments that need attention, at least this part is my ‘secure’ spot.

Think about not reacting in an extreme manner to every whats app fwd that comes your way. Think about trusting your educational partner – your child’s school. More importantly focus on securing your own child with happy thoughts and seamless learning. At least let their world ‘normalise’.

#staywell #staysafe


Fatema Agarkar

Founder, Agarkar Centre of Excellence Veteran of 3 educational start-ups – is now a Founder of Agarkar Centre of Excellence, Fatema’s passion for teaching-learning and children defines the different roles she has crafted – as an edupreneur, educator and mentor.

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