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The 'T' Puzzle

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

 @Balu Adda 

It was a long ride, and the rain was very harsh. I was wondering if I should call up Om Sir(1) and ask him if they are still having Life-Skill Lessons at our Balu Adda Slum. When the rain pours out its sorrow, the slums are quickest to empathise with her. Balu Adda, in particular, is a tormented soul! There is no reprieve; there is only distress and anguish for those who live there and for those who come there. Like the dove from Noah's ark, my motorbike rambled across the swampy pathway, searching a dry land to perch my aching wheels. All I could remember was Titania's harangue!(2) The nine men's morris(3) is filled up with mud, And the quaint mazes in the wanton green For lack of tread are undistinguishable. The human mortals want their winter cheer; No night is now with hymn or carol blessed. Only that, in this case, there is no wanton green, but just the drenched soil on some torrid maze! And Oh! How much I look forward to some hymn or carol blessed! Winter's a long way!  Once I found a safe spot, I dropped the stand, allowing the poor soul of my bike to rest on a comfortable rock. She creaked a 'thank you'; and assured me to wait until I returned. I flitted across the boggy terrain, hopping now on a mound of metal scraps, then on an idunnowhat polymer junk.  Phew! Strewn garbage can be of great help on rainy days!  The school door flipped open smoothly, and I presented myself before a gang of shimmering eyes. A cacophony of giggles broke out among the children amidst the Tabala beats(4) of the rain clearly indicating the spectacle I was.   Om Sir was teaching. I am an hour late!                        

We had begun a Life-Skill Education Programme under our Community Development project. It is a promising endeavor and relevant to the times. Often, children who could go to other formal schools, drop out before reaching matriculation, (preparing to enter tenth class). These children find themselves at par with those who have barely entered school because nothing was accomplished during their futile years. These few years of so-called learning numeracy and literacy cocooned within school walls warps their minds and blunts their street skills. The promise made to them by our educators frustrates the efforts of many children. They only regret their time spent at school. Qualities like collaboration, curiosity, risk-taking, and innovation, which have become essential survival skills, should be taught at schools. This is where Life-Skill Training Education plays its vital role.   A seat was offered to me and I'm glad that we have just plastic chairs at our schools. Om sir is teaching:  "So taking help is very important. When you feel lost or helpless, asking for help is essential. It is not beneath you…" What is Om sir teaching? I was curious...  "When you tried the puzzle, how did you feel?"  Some answered sad, others said angry, and others said frustrated.  Vinay Sir, who was also present there, brought a pack of some pieces of plastic sheets and handed it over to me. He told me to make a "T" out of it. There were four pieces of plastic. They were cut comely at different angles with many corners. It looked like they could fit together somehow. But the puzzle was challenging. I took to the task while listening to the lesson in class.   "Even when you are troubled at home… or where there is stress at home, and don't think you could handle it alone…" The puzzle pieces needed to be easier! Using my engineering skills, logical ability, reasoning proficiency, spatial capacity, left brain and right brain, I tried all ways of placing them: conjoined, parallel, perpendicular, inline, antiparallel, vertical, and adjacent.   A girl named Tannu came to me and asked: 

"Sir, Shall I help you?" I squarely rejected her offer indicating that I would rather try and lose. She had her baby brother supported on her hip. She left and stood far at the corner.  I gave mental proposals to think out of the box, change my perspective, expand my thoughts, bring in broader reasoning, have a bird's eye view, and develop a different paradigm. Nothing puts the pieces together!!! Meanwhile, Om sir continued teaching…  "If we work together, there is always success. Life is about collaboration…" The puzzles were not fitting to make a 'T'. It just wasn't happening. Am I asking the wrong question? Did I consider all possibilities? Do I have the correct arguments? Am I being fooled? Should I have doubts? Oh goodness!!! Something's wrong! Om Sir's voice was now firm as he taught the children. "Take help…"  That came as a bang! What? That was the lesson all about! Take help! Why did this not occur to me? I laughed… An insistent kid was standing next to me. He saw the opportunity.  "Sir, shall I do it?"  I agreed. I failed… failed miserably!!! Actually, I may not have failed. The whole point of the lesson was to get help. Om Sir had begun the class with the illustration. None of the kids could put the pieces together. Now, all of us can. We are here to help and take help. What a lesson?   

As the class ended, I asked how many of them struggled with stress at home. All of them lifted their hands. One said his elder brother left home and no longer cares for the family. One said there is a lot of fighting at home. Another said their parents go for rag picking, and she's left alone with her baby sibling to be taken care of (she came to the class with the little one). All of them needed help- So did I.  I am glad we asked you for help. You gave it to us: It was timely. Frankly speaking, I have often hesitated to ask you for help. But the fact remains that we need your support, and I don't want to be ashamed of asking for help.  The rain was still pouring hard. There was going to be no relief for the day. My motorbike was waiting for me across the maze of runnels through the satisfied soil. I reached home drenched in the reality of interdependence.   Written by Nithin E. Sam Director of JanPragati _________________________________ 1 It’s typical in India to refer to a teacher by his/ her name followed by either ‘Sir’/ ‘Ma’am’. 2 Titania, the fairy queen, has a bitter argument with her husband, Oberon, in Act II, Scene I of 'Midsummer Night's Dream';. She accuses him of disturbing Nature and that all mankind is troubled by the excessive rain. 3 Nine men's Morris is a game played on the ground, akin to tic tac toe. 4 Tabala is a small pair of hand drums, similar to bongos

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