This past Thursday our entire floor at Microsoft Research India decided to take the night off and go watch a movie called Dasavatharam. However this was no ordinary movie, this movie was going to be in GOLD CLASS! In addition to being in GOLD CLASS, (I am capitalizing GOLD CLASS to emphasize its true golden nature.) Dasavatharam was a Tamil movie without any English subtitles. We arrived at the theater without any knowledge of what GOLD CLASS meant and without any knowledge of Tamil. After taking one step into the theater, I knew why they called it GOLD CLASS. The chairs, which in my opinion were more like thrones, were full recliners. As the movie played, a waiter would come by with a menu and let you order food throughout the movie. I loved my throne and had an incredible time sipping on my drink. Every time I wanted a sip I would incline up take a sip, then recline down. This may not sound interesting but once you have experienced the chairs in GOLD CLASS you will understand how fun moving up and down is. Surprisingly I understood most of the movie, which was the most expensive movie ever made in India, because it consisted of lot of action and an easy to follow plot line. The main actor played 10 different roles in the movie and definitely would have made Mike Myers proud. All I can say about Thursday is life is good in gold class.
On Friday we had our first party at Microsoft. The party started off slow but I was quickly informed that I had to take Indian standard time into account. Indian standard time means that the actual start time is at least 1hour after the published start time. Those who truly follow Indian standard time will preach that the rule is actually at least 2 hours. The party finally started going after a game of musical chairs. Actually the party finally started going after a game of musical chairs and a fifteen-minute rest period that allowed everybody to catch their breath. The party showcased Erin’s party planning and Kaleem’s (aka DK) DJ skills and allowed all the MSRI employees to show their personalities outside of the work environment. Thursday and Friday highlighted the best that Bangalore has to offer, a great nightlife, and an IT industry filled with intelligent and fun employees.
Every Saturday, 25 students from Mathru are taken to the Kensri School. The Kensri School created a program where students from Kensri mentor each student from Mathru. At the Kensri school the Mathru students learn yoga, music, and get to play sports. The highlight of Saturday was getting to teach the students how to play sports and seeing their determination to learn. The students show no fear while learning new games. As they learned how to catch a basketball, they would often get hit in the face. However, the pain of a ball hitting them did not slow their determination for learning the game. The students were quick learners and started using bounce passes that allowed them to hear the ball coming. The first lesson you are taught when batting is to keep your eye on the ball. Obviously most of the students could not do that, but this did not stop Rajendra*, a blind student, from hitting the ball. As a major sports aficionado I am extremely passionate about sports and love spreading this passion to other people. However, often when dealing with sports, I get caught up in winning. These students helped remind me that playing the sport is what brings happiness, not the end result.
Erin and Aysha wanted to collect testimonials from the parents of the students from Mathru, so today morning we headed out to different villages around Bangalore. Everyday we see beggars on the street but this was our first time getting away from paved roads and seeing a world with minimal signs of technology. These villages were isolated from the city and were 30-40 minutes off the closest main roads. To enter most of the houses you would have to duck your head under the door. Most of the people in the villages were illiterate and only knew how to speak Kannada, the native language of the state Karnataka. Even though these families faced extreme poverty they still showed amazing hospitality. The families pampered us with food, drinks, and showed no sign of their economic status. It was also interesting to see how residents from all over the village would come to see who the “American” visitors were. All of the parents were extremely pleased with how Mathru had helped their children. However, even though Mathru is a great example of a school that helps change the lives of children, today’s experience showed that there is a major need for more schools like Mathru. This experience highlighted the disparity between the life we are living in Bangalore and the life in these villages. Within the span of four days we saw how Bangalore, similar to many other places around the world, is unfortunately a tale of two very distinct styles of life.
*names changed to protect identities of student