SHIKSHAMITRA is a process for learning to live better. It is a space where one

learns to keep well and to help others keep well too. Shikshamitra has an address.

However, it goes beyond this – permeating into the lives of many, influencing

one’s choices in life and ways of life. To be associated with Shikshamitra is to assume

the responsibility of trying to live better. It is a continuous attempt to search for

activities that inspire life and build trust, or, it is an attempt to keep away from

anything to the contrary. Shikshamitra is a means toward becoming aware of

how much one can be and knowing exactly what one’s limitations are.

December 10, 2009

Visitors Make a Difference!

During the early summer, we had a visit from two friends of Shikshamitra who took out some time from their travels to volunteer doing dance workshops at school. The culmination of this ended in a beautiful performance! Here is the blog entry they wrote about their time spent at the school:

Dear Shikshamitra Readers:

Our names are Kajori and Meghna Purkayastha. We had the most remarkable experience in Kolkata this year. Out of the many places we visited in India, Kolkata was definitely the most memorable. We were born and raised in Orange County, California, and despite the assimilation to American culture, our parents have kept us in touch with our Indian heritage and culture. As 14 year olds, we have a lifelong desire to pursue community service, especially through our involvement in Swanirvar. Our time spent at Shikshamitra was a continuation of this goal.

We spoke to Sujit and Sudeshna about what we could do while at Shikshamitra, and proposed that we expose the children to movement and dance. We have both been learning the Indian classical dance known as Kathak for eight years, with our teacher Ms. Punam Kumar. Sudeshna asked us to write a brief narrative on the history of Kathak and also asked us to choreograph a short dance piece. We picked the song “Jhini” by the group Indian Ocean.

We choreographed Kathak footwork and added some Bollywood steps to make the dancing more free and flowing. In our dance group, we had much help from other Shikshamitra staff members, Mausami Auntie and Biswajit Uncle. They helped us teach the Shikhamitra students: Kiran, Rajesh, Indu, Priyanka, Anita, Bikey, Prodeep, Neha, Kakoli, and Chaitali. The ages of the students ranged from 7-15 years. After the school session was over each day, the kids assembled in the classroom. We taught from 1:30 PM to about 3:00 PM. We had a lot of fun teaching and getting to know the kids! They were polite and friendly, and very curious to know where we came from and what we liked to do. When they got more comfortable around us, they were not shy to fight with each other and ask for help. Kids will be kids!

In the beginning, we were apprehensive of our language skills. We worried about how we would communicate with the children, as our Bangla was not perfect. However, as time went on, we learned quite a bit of Bangla from them, and they learned English from us – it was quite amusing hearing them imitate our American English phrases like “Good job!” and “Fantastic!” We looked forward to spending every afternoon with them. The rigorous dance practices in the sweat and heat paid off- the kids gave a wonderful performance for the entire school. The dancers were beautifully dressed and looked so sweet for the final day.

We had the most memorable time at Shikshamitra- it was an experience we will keep in our hearts. For this we thank our relatives, Sujit Uncle and Sudeshna Maasi. We made many friends and hope to stay in touch with them. The parting was very emotional, but it will not be our last. We plan to visit our friends at Shikhamitra in the future!

Lastly, our visit has changed the way we do certain things. We found upon our return, that we have become much more gracious and alert about the struggles of life. We work to shed our attachment to material things and focus on working hard to overcome the obstacles we encounter-not complaining or doubting ourselves. Indeed, we felt that we had learned more from the students at Shikshamitra than they did from us.