Friday, November 20, 2015

Winter Nostalgia - The Tutor and the Taught

My Universe has become nocturnal of late. The thing with being nocturnal is that nostalgia and goofy smiles start assaulting you with more force than is good for sanity. Memories demand peace to hit you - and what is more peaceful than sitting alone at night with the only sounds in the background being Jagjit Singh ji's ghazals, the whirring of the fan above, and the gentle and endearing snores emanating from the next room (or the next house).

So, yes - this nocturnal memory gazing sent me sometime back in time. And that is when it struck me that the recent past was made up with many beautiful experiences and moments which deserved mention but got snowed under the volume of work and commitments.

These recountable moments fall under many categories, but the first emotions which hit are those which relate to my teaching experiences. Many of you might know that I have been visiting a lot of colleges and schools to talk to them about poetry, and by extension, about life. Among 20 odd such visits, I have taught little, and learnt much. This post is not about recalling those learnings, but sharing some instances, which left me both, warm and stunned. Here goes -

1. Tears of Poetry

Gargi College is the only institution which has gracefully tolerated two of my talks on poetry. This time, when I went over to discuss 'unshackling of the rainbow within' using poetry as a tool of choice, I had no idea that I'd end up unshackling some crazy emotions. Mahika Chaturvedi is a beautiful girl I met there, who got emotional during the talk because the passion for writing we carry on our sleeves became overwhelming for her.

And this repeated in my talk at DTU, when another girl ended up crying, not because I said anything sentimental in the speech, but because I expressed a clear, intense love for the world of words. Last I heard, she was telling her friends about me, "She is quite awesome. She makes people cry in her lectures." Ahem. I will choose to be happy with that statement

2. Twitter Honor

This is by far my favourite tweet of the year. This is so, because, firstly, it comes from the poet I respect most. And secondly, because of the humility inherent in the tweet where a man who has been a legendary teacher for over three decades, recognises me as one. #Win

3. Lawyered

I usually don't lose my cool. But in one session, I did. This was at Symbiosis Law School, where an unfortunate conversation over a futile detail of a sentence I uttered set me simmering. The end-product of that was a lecture on poetry transforming into a lesson on learning. I knew by the end of the speech that I had managed to make some strong bonds with the students of the college, but how well they received my rant became apparent in this late night message from one of the organisers.

4. Discussing Digital Creativity

Taking a break from poetry, I took on the onus of discussing the nuances of digital writing with the students of Shiv Nadar School. We discussed concepts of content creation, curation and aggregation, in the midst of really invigorating comments and questions from the supremely bright students of the school. In a response published on here - - the students had this to say about the session -

"We love Saumya ma'am and her sessions. It is so fantastic to have something new to learn from her each time. Having a session with her on last Thursday was simply amazing. The great connect she has with the students is undefinable. We long for Saumya ma'am to come to our school and to spread bonhomie and information among the members of our Shiv Nadar School family." (-Drishti Mangar)

5. Broken Words, Full Sentiments

The last session I conducted was with school students inside Ramjas College, during a sanitation awareness drive. We did what we do - we wrote poems and discussed poetry, in as basic a manner as possible. Among the many activities, one was to write non-stop for two minutes with whatever comes to the mind, and here is what this girl (whose name I cannot remember) scribbled. I just wish she had not assumed on herself a condition to write in English.

So, those were the top five moments I spent teaching little, and learning much more.

The biggest moment, however, greeted me post my lecture at IIIT Delhi. A late evening lecture, on poetry and poetic traditions across languages, which I delivered in a sleepy stupor, earnt me an opportunity to teach an elective course in the winter semester at the same college. This, I am elated to share, will not be a one time interaction, but a longer commitment to poetry and imagination, into the organized educational sphere. It is one of those challenges I am most eager to take on, since I have the liberty to design my own course and testing methodologies.

To end this post, here is one among my favourite quotations from the world of learning and teaching.


  1. Inspiring memories those few are! First time on this blog. Hoping to be here often :)

    1. Happy to have you here :) You're a definite reason for the smile on my face today.