The Monsoon Has Begun — What About School?

The summer heat has broken; monsoon has begun.  Vacation is over as school had closed for the intense summer heat.  Now begins the season of figuring out if and when the girls go to school.   For Ganga, yesterday was her first day back at school.  Ganga has CP and cannot speak but she attends Class II in the local government school.  Yesterday was her first day back.  A massi (childcare worker) goes with her.  On the way home yesterday Ganga started to cry.  She wanted to go back.  She loves school.  This morning at 5:30 it was wet out but not raining, so I said to get her ready and if the weather clears to take her, if not she would stay home.  At 6:30 she was ready to go and they took her to the doorway and then told me it was raining. (not the best sequence of events) so I said to keep her home.  Ganga protested, yelling and thrusting her body towards the door.  So we covered her up, and they went to school.

Ganga has fought to go to school since she arrived at four years weighing 17 pounds.

Jelly slept in… her answer to monsoon
Ganga came home at 8:30 am with three new books, and very happy.
In the meantime, our four older girls started back to school today.  Usually we walk them to the bus stop.  We pay for the schoolbus to pick them up and bring them back, but we bring them back ourselves.  We never know exactly when they will be dropped off by the bus, or even where.  Also the bus waits for a later class to get out, so some students have to wait an extra hour to come home.  No, the school will not give them a place to be, except one covered concrete area.  They can’t play on the grounds because some classes are going on, and they can’t study because there’s no place to be.  They are not supposed to board the buses early but they do.  Namely, there is no supervision or security.  So we pick them up.
This is our first monsoon season with this school.  So this morning we took them by car to the bus stop.  The bus never arrived.  Finally Bijoy called the bus company and they said they weren’t running buses because of the rain.  So we took them to school, and learned they will get out early.  I’m wondering how many children actually came.  But, our girls are there.  We are always under scrutiny there.
As I look out the window now, the rain has slowed, but the road is flooded — only about six inches.  Monsoon always has mystery to it, whether there will be more or less flooding as a result of the “drainage improvements” in the previous year.  As this was an election year there were many improvement projects.  But judging from the flooding after only a few hours of rain this morning, I’m guessing we are set for “minus improvement” which is when the water level goes up after the drainage pipes have been re-done.  Sometimes it will rain for days, but now we have flooding after four hours.
I’ve just sent Bijoy and Pearl, our house supervisor to go to the school and wait.  They have lunch money with them in case they have trouble getting back.   Most f our teachers at Shishur Sevay live close by and are able to get here.
p.s. I had a dream last night that I was in a hotel with my family in the US and then the hotel lobby became a shallow pool about six inches deep and I was sitting in the water in the sunlight holding Victoria, my 9 month old granddaughter and feeling wonderful.  To live “in the present” is sometimes to live more than one life at once, more than one set of feelings, yearnings, love — all true, and all happening at the same time. 

“I Never Thought I Would See Such A Place In My Life!”

Those were the words written in their diary exercise books during our vacation at Mondarmani Beach, a barely developed stretch of coastland along the Bay of Bengal.

My life has taken me to new places.


She was terrified of the water at first!


Everything is new, except for big sisters taking care of little sisters




She loves life and lives it to its fullest

  It was four days of beauty, four days of children at peace.  Years ago I wrote a poem about being on a beach with “Children playing in the gently lapping waves of the shallow ocean shore…”  And, “Holy cows walk beside us as though time were forever.”

"Holy cows walk beside us as though time were forever..."

For me, this time with the girls was a time of peace, a dream fulfilled, an image from the past played out in the present.  I am living life to its fullest.

Welcome to Our New Blog Site

Today is the first day of the rest of this blog….. We have moved from Typepad, in the still of the night, communicating over oceans and social networking sites, and now I want to bring you up to date on life here at Shishur Sevay.  First of all, I’m back at Shishur Sevay after three wonderful weeks visiting my family in NY, especially my new granddaughter, whom I miss a lot.  I’m stretched across the world.  That’s how it feels.  I was also thrilled to be back home with my kids here.  I’m anchored in two continents. 

We at Shishur Sevay have never gone away overnight.  I was reluctant to do so until I felt I had a good team, and that the girls would be well-behaved.  And we needed to find a place we would be safe, as we have not always been safe here.  Mondarmani Beach is a stretch along the Bay of Bengal, not yet built up, still without even a road, or electricity (except for individual generators).  The beach is almost empty except for some few vacationers, and a herd of cows walking peacefully along the water twice a day.  The vacation was wonderful.  The girls were wonderful.  Our girls with disabilities were able to enjoy the beach and the vacation with the others.  My team worked well.  I did not have to carry the full burden of the trip.  It was as good as it gets and I felt a wonderful sense of peace about the girls, their growth, poise, behavior, and all that we have achieved.  The feeling remains.

I brought back two wheelchairs donated to us by the A Harry Moore school in Jersey City.   great about letting me take them.  So, we had four chairs and were able to use them on the beach, even indulging in a bit of wheelchair racing, which was totally disorganized and just a chance for the big girls to have fun with the little ones.

Our new Associate Director left while I was away so that was a blow and the work load is enormous once again.  It really was nice to have some relief, but this is a very tough place.  I think I’ve written before that originally I wanted to write a “how to” book for others who wanted to do this.  But one day I asked myself, “Who?”

Well, life here… the girls still have three days of vacation and they are back to studying.  I discovered today that our math teacher was giving exams using the same problems she showed them, not changing the numbers at all.  It came up because in marking, for one of the girls, the work was all wrong but the answer was right — so she must have remembered the answer.   It’s like a conspiracy to not have them think, or need to think what they are doing.  So I crumpled up the papers and said for her to give a new test with new numbers. 

Our new special educator is working out very well and she is excited to explore the technology i’ve brought back.  Ganga is working on the keyboard, trying with toes, hand, nose, and tongue….  We are also having a head pointer made for her.  Bono has learned to use the communication board to tell us she likes to eat, is sad when food is delayed, and she doesn’t like to study.  Rani was quiet and at peace for the whole vacation.  She is bored here and we are working on that.   And our little Sonali remains happy and playful all the time.  We are working on choice making, and also seeing if she has any useful vision.

As for me, I’m sitting at the computer too much, not exercising, missing the hours of walking in the US.  It’s been hot like an oven here, though monsoon should start within a week, and then we will have some relief.

Jelly, our dog missed us and didn’t eat much while we were away.  The guards and our house supervisor took care of her.  It’s been quiet in the neighborhood, but still, the guards were actually afraid to be on duty alone while we were away.  I agreed to have them double up at night, two guards on for the night.  Everything was fine though.

It’s late on the night of this first blog of the rest of the blogs here.   I’m very grateful to the friends who helped me through this transition.  Some problems actually get solved!!!!  What a wonderful thought.  On this note, I say good night to those of you in India and “Have a great day” to those who are just beginning the day.






June 2011
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