Know where we have  reached

Ajay Interns with 17000 ft!

And sums up his experience ....

"The silence was deafening. I often ridicule people who use that phrase as an oxymoron or juxtaposition. (Use big English word - Done). How could silence possibly be deafening?

As I lay there on the bed at Madam Chondol’s house, nothing mentioned in the above paragraph entered my head. I look at my phone. 12:30am 9th July. I have been trying to sleep for about an hour and a half now. Sayan dozed off about 15 minutes ago, after we completed a “F.R.I.E.N.D.S” marathon. Why can’t I sleep? I had walked quite a bit. Had an active day in school with the kids, running around playing with them and teaching them after. Had multiple plates of rice through the course of the day, and also climbed a mountain with Sayan and Nikita. It’s strange!

I hear a bee at the other end of the room. I’m guessing it is a bee, could be a wasp. Maybe some other nocturnal insect that roams these lands. I try to imagine what it would look like. I sit up and drink a glass of water.

How did I get here? What was this philanthropic drive that made me do this? Was it philanthropy or was I just kidding myself? Maybe it was just me looking to get out of my house and city for some time.

It is my fourth and final night in Igoo. I need noise, even if it was the noise in my head. I need it now more than ever because the silence isn’t going to let me sleep.

How did I get here?

Sleeplessness is making me go back in time. I analyse the last few weeks and especially the last few days, and I’m back to the 1st of July.

Confident about my cardiovascular capacity, I run down the staircase connecting the door of the aircraft to the tarmac. I stop, stretch and inhale. The lack of humidity and oxygen doesn’t hit you like the abundance of it does in places like Mumbai and Chennai. It slowly drains you. The confidence that you had while running down the staircase, slowly dies. You take a deep breath or maybe multiple but you aren’t too satisfied. You realise that you are now standing in the land of the unknown. Surrounded by mountains, your eyes look for an abundance of trees and foliage, but you see none. It’s 7 15am but the sun shines like its noon. The sky is clear and blue but you can’t see it without wearing the new sunglasses you bought. You are in the land where the mythic meets the mystic, but reason fails to meet reality. You are in Ladakh.

I am welcomed at Kushok Bakula Rimpochee airport by 17000FT Foundation’s employee Konchok Dorje also known as Acho Dorje. Achoin Ladakhi means elder brother, one of the first few words I picked up here, after ‘Julley’. Julley has been my true friend in the last few days. At the tip of my tongue, I use it for anyone and anything.

Unhappy with my current timeline (and for the convenience of writing) I decide to go back further in time.

It is March of 2016 and I hear about 17000ft Foundation for the first time. 17000ft foundation is a not for profit working in Ladakh. Founded by Mrs. Sujata Sahu and Mr. Sandeep Sahu, it aims to change the lives of the rural people in this region. They work with the government schools, trying to improve the quality of education, mainly their English reading, writing and comprehension skills.

All it took for me was a look at their website. I was hooked. I felt a deep inner calling. I wanted to go there. I needed to go there.

They offer several volunteering or as they like to call it voluntouring programs. They run from one week to one month. But I wanted to go all the way. I wanted the cream of the crop. The three-month internship. Quickly realising that I live in a country of 1.2 billion people I started the process of applying to their program. You know they are serious about it when you have to do at least two Skype interviews and one Personal interview after they check your CV and letter of motivation.

Point to be noted: If you are appearing for the interview, remember that more important than all your achievements and accomplishments is how good your convincing skills are. Mrs Sujata and Mr Sandeep will make sure they intimidate you and rightly so, because their program is not for the weak hearted. (Self-doting: Done) If you are sure and I mean absolutely sure that you can do it, then start pleading and convincing because you are fighting an uphill battle.

My elephant sized ego kicked in when I was told that kids from metropolitan cities cannot handle the conditions in Ladakh. My convincing skills were tested, border lining to what may have come off as desperation.But, I digress.

Sujata Ma’am was finally, if only partly convinced and all that was left was for me to get there.

So, here I am. Acho Dorje drops me off at my house for the next three months, Mandarva Homestay, run by Dr.Norphel and his family. After spending my first day sleeping it was time to get to work on day two. I am pumped. I have never been so sure about anything in my life. While leaving for office I meet Sayan, my roommate-to-be and Nikita, our third wheel for the next month.

17000ft foundation’s team is filled with the most lovable and endearing people (Yes, including Mr. Sandeep Sahu and Mrs. Sujata Sahu). They make me feel like I belong here. Work increases with the second and third day. We are now working late nights on a new reading camp that we have to pilot in Government Middle School, Igoo.

My phone glows. Eyes open. I can no longer hear the insect. Sayan is still sleeping next to me, in Madam Chondol’s house.

It is my fourth and final night in Igoo and I still cannot sleep. I start working on my feedback form. I write:

Igoo is a village not too far from Leh city. A 75-minute drive from Leh that Acho Dorje covered in 45. Igoo lies in a valley on a river bank like every other village in this region. Sayan, Nikita and I were dropped off by Phuntsog, another senior member of the Ladakhi team and Acho Dorje. Phuntsog convinced Madam Chondol, a teacher at GMS Igoo to let us stay in her house.We met with the Principal and each of us were assigned a class. I worked with classes 6 to 8. Most of the children opened up pretty quickly thanks to the ice-breakers. Part 1(day 1 and 3) of the reading camp was in my opinion a success. Part 2(day 2 and 4) exposed the difficulty the children face with reading and comprehension. Need to work on the worksheets.

I put my pen and paper away. Writing always did the trick. I pull my sheets and I can finally go to slee…""

Thank you Ajay for all the help and for penning it so well!