Between Us Education

To my city, with love

Exchange of ideas: Gaining new perspectives.

Exchange of ideas: Gaining new perspectives.   | Photo Credit: M. Vedhan

Rediscover the places you live in through new eyes

Each day, the city breathes the million desires, dreams and aspirations of those who come to its doors. Home becomes a place where the once unfamiliar gives way to a feeling of security, almost like the childhood toys we held onto.

Most of us are constantly redefining our notion of “home” and our journeys may take us to places we never imagined. The most authentic love letter that one can write to a city is the story of our lives as we live, study, work, and travel its streets and labyrinths.

New perspectives

It is always a delight to meet and interact with students who come to the city from different parts of the country. Even in this virtual age of social media platforms, there is an innate curiosity in those who come to explore the various facets of the city.

Having met students who have travelled through the bylanes of Bengaluru, learnt and practised the local lingo and celebrated local festivals with gusto, one can see that their ability to adapt and integrate add a rich dimension to their overall education. They are not trapped by nostalgia. While sporadic bouts of homesickness are common, the spirit of viewing everything through the lens of wonder and appreciation is admirable.

It is easy to take the city we live in for granted. Every city shares the burden of a burgeoning population, chaotic traffic, pollution and a breakdown of civic services. Sometimes, it takes an “outsider” to give us an alternative perspective.

During a conversation in class about the dismal conditions, an exchange student from a war-torn country gave us a completely alternative world view. She narrated the conditions in her country and pointed out in admiration the number of processes that actually worked here!

The discussion then expanded spontaneously to a sharing of the various remarkable aspects of the city. Stories surfaced about meeting an honest policeman who refused the lure of a bribe for a traffic offence; the compassion of strangers who opened their doors to those trapped in the flood; and of a rickshaw driver who went beyond his call of duty to help a student locate his missing passport.

Beyond rigidity

When you move to another place, whether for study or employment, you would observe that your impressions are not written in stone. Based on one’s experience, our opinions keep shifting every day.

We have had students who lived in the city with absolutely no connection to the spirit of the place. It becomes easy to live in an isolated bubble-like existence, mingling with only those who share one’s language or culture, and restricting weekend outings to homogeneous malls and fast food joints.

We observe a quality of stagnation and narrow mindedness, a stubborn refusal to test their own rigidly held views. On leading a group of students into a community-based project in the slums, we observed a shift in their entire way of viewing things. Interacting and listening to the meetings held within the slums, they were surprised that these neighbourhoods challenged their notions of hygiene and women’s empowerment. Some of the students felt the women were more vocal and more informed about their rights than their own family members! Those who had called the city home for years, shared how the visit opened their eyes to places they passed by every day.

Compose your own story

On August 22 this year, Chennai celebrated Madras Day featuring a series of events centred round getting to know the city. Having once lived in Chennai, it was delightful to read about the various initiatives. Perhaps every city, has its own form of celebrating its spaces. These are ways of bringing awareness and kindling a sense of connectedness to one’s surroundings.

For those interested, the city one lives in can be a muse to inspire various creative projects like video documentaries, poems, prose, and short stories. It will be interesting to find your own way to compose a love letter to the place you live in.

Enjoy the discovery of looking at the places you live in through new eyes. Ultimately, the city you live in is a mirror to your own self, both of which are in a constant process of growth.

The author has worked as a special educator in various settings. Share your thoughts and ideas at: lifeplus590@gmail.com

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 8:02:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/to-my-city-with-love/article19650105.ece

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