I had picked him up at an important junction, near one of the exits to the city. I tend to do it, sometimes when I am driving alone. If someone asks for a ride, more often than not, I oblige. After all, I usually have the car all to myself. While on most days, I quite enjoy it, sometimes, I feel guilty about it as well. Today, it was quite early in the morning and it was just him, apart from a family at the junction. This time around, I did not wait for anyone to ask. I just the car in front of this gentleman, rolled down the window and asked him if he wanted a ride to Pondicherry. The family was larger than my car could accommodate so neither they nor I bothered.

The man I had picked up started speaking, we made small talk. I warned him that I may drive fast, and requested him to fasten his seatbelt. He wondered if it was mandatory as per the law. I told him that I wasn’t sure of that, but that he could consider it mandatory, if he wanted a ride. He just smiled and obliged. We made small talk, got to know a bit about each other. He was visiting someone over the weekend, and was curious about the place.

“I work in software”, he said, and added the name of a well known company. I hadn’t even asked him. He was a young chap, perhaps fresh in his job and was evidently enthusiastic to tell me. I did not venture to ask him what he meant by software. Partly, I wasn’t keen on knowing, but it is also about the nature of his work itself. I don’t understand much of it, apart from the fact that they write programmes to do things for other business establishments.

Even as I knew where the conversation was headed, it was his turn to ask me what the nature of my work was. For the longest time, I have shared with my colleagues that it takes some effort to explain what we do to people who may not be aware of the happenings in the domain of school education. So when people ask me, my response would depend on the situation. Sometimes, it is the end of the day and I am on a bus or a train and too tired to make conversation. Or, I may just be hard pressed for time. At other times, I can simply be moody and uninterested in pursuing the conversation. On such occasions, I try to keep it simple and say that I am a teacher or a publisher.

However, on many other occasions, it provides meat to speak about things. Interestingly, a lot of people are able to immediately relate to the work we do. After all, several of them went to school themselves, and are able to look back at the shallowness of the experience. Either that or for many, it was simply harrowing to be able to get through it all. Ask people what they liked about the school, and it is usually about friends, sports or other so called ‘extra-curricular’ activities. Learning itself is seldom perceived as fun, as an innately desirable pursuit. And so there is immediate agreement on the need for such work. Some of them even end up volunteering to help, and wonder if they could get involved in some way.

I am grateful to EZV that it allows me to speak about my work very proudly. Not only this, it has been the context for several great conversations during my sojourns across this country, the reason for which has also been my work. Thank you, EZV.


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