From heat and dust to a warm log fire

Education has the potential to bring out the best in both the teacher and the learner.

Education has the potential to bring out the best in both the teacher and the learner.

Visiting India regularly to work with colleagues and students is one of the greatest privileges experienced in my career. I have been coming here for so many years now, that I feel that whilst working here I am always in the company of good companions. Each visit brings new learning and renewed acquaintance with friends and colleagues for whom I have a great respect, and because of this I look forward to these trips with anticipation and enthusiasm. This latest venture to Bangalore has been no different, with an opportunity to share ideas with teachers and students who are committed to their work and immensely creative in their daily lives.

Whilst India is a place where I feel comfortable and for which I hold more than a little affinity, it could never be home, and today I begin the long journey by road, air and rail to return to my family and the familiar surroundings of Northamptonshire. The wonders of modern technology do of course, mean that whilst here I can stay in touch by text, or email and better still by skype. These important daily contacts with home are anticipated with relish and on the odd occasions when communication systems fail this is a source of disappointment and frustration.

Travelling west tomorrow means that my departure and arrival will, unless there are delays, see me leave India and arrive home on the same day. I was thinking about this last night when reading an account of merchants from the East India company who reported that a hundred years ago in 1814, the voyage from England to India via the Cape of Good Hope took at least six months. I somehow don’t believe that the University of Northampton would tolerate a six month journey to do two weeks teaching, followed by six months return passage! How much different are conditions now from those days of travel under sail, and written letters that might take six months or longer to reach home?

Having arrived in India to teach and to learn from my students and colleagues, I can reflect on so much that is similar in our education systems and so much more that is different. But amidst all this, a shared purpose of working to improve the education of children who are so often excluded from learning opportunities, gives us common ground and a firm foundation upon which we can build.

I am at that point in my visit when I am counting down the hours to departure, not with any sorrow for the time I have spent here these last few weeks with such good friends and colleagues, but simply in anticipation of being in the company of my family where I belong. Last night my conversation with Sara focused partly upon the sub-zero temperatures and fall of snow that I can anticipate awaiting my arrival – a warm log fire and woolly jumper sounds like the order of the day.

So having packed my bags and as I await a taxi to the airport I must say goodbye and thank you, to all my friends who have afforded me such excellent hospitality here in Bangalore. I value your creativity and friendship and look forward to keeping in touch and to returning to enjoy your company in a few months time.


8 thoughts on “From heat and dust to a warm log fire

  1. Richard, you bring out the best in us, your students. You, Mary, Johnson and Jayashree do challenge us a lot. Give us the time, space and opportunity to voice our thoughts, however trivial or profound they maybe.

    On a different note, in the book Land of Seven Rivers, which is an account of Indain history, there are accounts of influence of architecture in the kingdoms of south (India) from 4th century AD. The structures are testimony to that. It is also mentioned that some travellers also have sketched the structures that they have seen elsewhere. Movement of people is definitely sharing of information!
    But, yes i would be a bundle of nerves, if i dont get feedback on an issue (while we are studying for the MA course) from our guides who are in different locations… So, as they say in India, ‘technology zindabad’, loosely translated to mean ‘hats off to technology’!

    • Hi Rajani,
      Lovely to work with you and such excellent students. I will order The Land of Seven Rivers today so that I can discuss it with you when we meet.
      After a long journey yesterday – not well assisted by some train disruption here when I arrived in UK. I need to collect my thoughts. But by the aid of modern technology I will be in touch very soon. Thank you for all your commitment.

  2. Have been going through your blogs a little before and more after we interacted at the Valley School. Looks like you had a very fulfilling visit to Bangalore on all counts.

    Wanted to let you know that we did too. Sent you an email also and was waiting to get a response so that we could keep this communication on Inclusive Education alive and gaining traction for all of us at the Rajghat Besant School, Varanasi. Planning to share our Valley School experience with our teachers in the coming week.

    Thankyou for your various inputs on small incremental steps that we could initiate at the very beginning of this attempt to provide a customised approach to learning rather than one shoe fits all!

    • Hi Sayantani,
      Thanks for your posting. I enjoyed meeting you and colleagues from Varanasi immensely. I picked up your mail and now that I am home I can compile the literature you asked for and engage in conversation almost as we did in the Valley. Thanks for reading and commenting on the blog,

  3. Richard,
    By the time you see this mail you will be in front of warm log fire. I also enjoy the warmth of log fire during winter times in California.
    It is always a pleasure to have you in Bangalore. I am sure their are lot of people here looking forward to see you again during your next visit.
    My greetings to you and your family.

    • Hi Sunil,
      I hope that you are feeling better. Yesterday was a long day, but I have slept well and now have a couple of hours to compose my thoughts before starting work again. I too look forward to returning to Bangalore in April. I hope that you will be there, but if not, do travel safely to USA and we will catch up in the future.

  4. Richard, it certainly was a memorable week of learning, with many a discussion and an opportunity to understand ourselves in a different light..
    Just last evening I was thinking of the way you, Mary, Jayashree and Johnson have been teaching us.. Immense knowledge and a way of teaching that makes things so easy to understand.. What struck me also was the humility that each one of you radiate.. This is one trait I know I am far away from and one that I certainly want to build in myself..
    Thank you so much for being an inspiration…

    • Hi Malathy,
      Good teachers are dependent upon good students. The work we do with you in Bangalore is enthused by the commitment you and the rest of the students show in every session.

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