My Annual ‘Journey’ to India

Aarti Mistry


Aarti with her American
students

Every trip I take to India is not complete without a visit to Pujya Muktanandji Bapu at Charparda. Regardless of how busy my traveling schedule is, each time I visit Bapu, I spend a few days with him at his ashram. Days are spent listening to stories and learning a lot about life and its challenges. Therefore, each visit with Bapu always seems too short to me. I leave with a “glass-half-empty” feeling, yearning for more time with him to make it full. For this reason, this past summer, I took some extra time before beginning my final year of graduate school to make the sole purpose of my trip to India to visit and stay with Bapu.

Upon arriving at Charparda, I learned that Bapu already had a plan for me. He wanted me to use my Teaching Degree and experience from the States and integrate it into the classrooms at Brahmanand Vidya School. Realizing that I had come unprepared without supplies or books, I began to panic. Bapu told me that the best lessons are lessons that are done spontaneously. Thus, with his advice I decided to take the challenge of teaching children without knowing a single thing about their previous education.

I met with the principal of the school and together, we implemented a schedule of teaching for me. Each afternoon I would help in the Primary classes during their tuition time. When I first walked into the classroom of 5-year olds, I was greeted with blank stares from the children as I was introduced. They had just begun practicing their ABC’s when I had walked in. Once they realized that I actually spoke Gujarati, they began to show off how much English they knew. I soon realized that within that particular class of 20, their knowledge of the English Alphabet ranged from knowing it fully to not knowing it at all. Therefore, I decided to divide the class into two groups. One group consisted of students who knew their ABC’s and could recognize the letter and the sound it made. The other group consisted of students who could not write their ABC’s but could sing the alphabet song.

While I worked with those who did not know the alphabet, I had the other group working on word recognition. I had them say a word in Gujarati and then I would give them the English translation and they would phonetically spell the word out. As the days went on both groups began to pick up not only English words but they were able to make a connection with other words as well. Afterwards, we began pointing out objects in the classroom and we would say the word in English then write it on the blackboard. As a reward at the end of the class, we would play a round of “Hangman” with the new words we had learned. At first, the game seemed so foreign to them, but once we started playing it everyday, the class grasped the concept easily.

Before I knew it, 15 days had passed so quickly and it was time for me to leave. However, all that I had learned in those 15 days would stay with me forever, “priceless” as they say in the MasterCard Commercials. I realized that teaching English as a second language may initially have seemed easy to me, however the more time I spent with the children, the more I understood the real challenge behind it. I wanted the children to not just say some words in English, but to be able to remember them and make a connection with their everyday routines. As I left I was happy to see that I had accomplished just that, which made my trip that much more fulfilling and unforgettable. Furthermore, the fact that I was able to help the children progress, no words can truly describe. Now, I just sit in anticipation for my next trip or shall I say, “Journey.”

Arti Mistry is currently a full-time graduate student at Villanova University, USA, enrolled in the Counselling and Human Relations Program expecting to complete the program in May 2006. Prior to becoming a full-time graduate student, she completed her Undergraduate Studies at Rosemont College from where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in May 2003. In addition she is certified in Elementary Education. She lives in Philadelphia with her parents and older sister and loves to travel to India.

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