Sunday, December 28, 2008

Doing a Little Teaching during a Holiday

We have returned just this morning from a good holiday in Hampi ( with a couple of friends - three peaceful days that gave us lots of exercise and good sightseeing. Four of us traveled around in one auto-rickshaw, sometimes using a “big” auto, which is said to take ten people with some compression :=) Memorable was the trip to the Daroji Bear Sanctuary (, about 25 kilometers away.

We stayed at the Ranjana Guest House, the house of the Doraisamy Dass family offering a few rented rooms. We managed to get two rooms on the first floor, where we could climb a ladder to get to the terrace with a great view of the city. We enjoyed that view almost as much as we enjoyed the good breakfasts :=)

Mr Dass is the publisher of a popular tourist guide booklet on Hampi. His daughter, Kala, teaches forty to fifty young students on the terrace, in the evenings - students ranging from Grade 1 to Grade 10, who attend various schools during the day. The evening classes provide supplementary education.

My wife Usha and I asked Kala if we could spend sometime teaching her students, and were delighted when she agreed. We then spent an hour with ten bright-eyed students, who were in the grades from 6 to 10. They were relaxed and were very attentive and responsive to our questions. Not having learnt the local language Kannada as yet, I could only speak in English. Usha could do better as she knows some Kannada. One student, Rehmoo, was very clear about what he wanted to be when he completed high school – a tourist guide. He wanted to learn some French, German and Spanish. There were girls who wanted to be doctors and software engineers. One boy wanted to be a police officer and another a military officer. Many of them studied in schools that used English as the medium of instruction. However, no one was willing to tell us a story in English. So, we used the time available to engage them in English conversation and to encourage them to be less hesitant to speak in English.

Next morning, we were walking down the street when we heard a cheerful voice greeting us. It was Rehmoo who was selling copies of a tourist guidebook. “What about school?” we asked. He said that he would return home at 9:30 and get ready for school.

Hundreds of tourists come to Hampi every day. Some of them obviously like to do some teaching. This often has led to amusing results – like local boys with a smattering of English speaking in very noticeable foreign accents!
I have always wanted to teach students outside the big cities. This experience showed me how I could combine an interesting holiday with a bit of volunteer work. Usha and I hope to return to Hampi soon, better prepared to do some useful teaching. I should perhaps plan to give them a simple demonstration illustrating a scientific principle, a sky-watching session on the terrace, a session in mathematics and a session in English. A written quiz at the end may not be a bad idea. I must also see if I can buy a portable data projector for use with a laptop computer.

Srinivasan Ramani
December 28, '08

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