Joshua with his students. (Photo credit: The Fifth Estate, IIT Madras)
At a time when most students like to pursue their summer internship in reputed companies, Joshua Albin, a student at Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IITM) chose to make a difference. Joshua, a second year biotechnology student, went to Ladakh to teach English at a Buddhist nunnery. Joshua participated in this initiative with the help of ‘Volunteer Ladakh‘, an organisation which undertakes community development programmes in Ladakh.
Under IITM chapter of National Service Scheme (NSS), Joshua teaches underprivileged children in localities near IITM. He said, “Though I had some experience of teaching children, Ladakh was completely different.” He shared his Ladakh experience with PaGaLGuY.
Joshua taught at a school run by Chulichan nunnery affiliated to the Rizong Monastery known to be one of the most respected and conservative in Ladakh. The Chulichan nunnery is secluded due to its topography. It is situated at an altitude of 3,510 meters (11,520 ft) in Leh district. Joshua’s task was to teach Buddhist nuns aged between five to twenty-one years.
Before taking up this assignment, Joshua was briefed about the sensitive cultural milieu from which his students come. “I was told not to talk of ‘superheroes’ because such stories glorify violence”, Joshua recalled. His routine would start at 9 in the morning and end by 4 in the evening with a short lunch break. It was a challenging job as Joshua himself had to decide what to teach. He managed to teach by using books available in the school library and his own knowledge. There is no mobile connectivity in those higher reaches, where the nunnery is situated. Joshua would walk four kilometres to reach the town to make a call from a public phone (PCO). This was the only way Joshua kept in touch with his family. After classes, Joshua spent time reading books, writing his diary and taking short evening walks.
Remembering the way of life in Ladakh, Joshua said, “For someone who has lived in a city, it could be difficult to cope with a life so isolated from modern life. We have so many luxuries at our disposal in cities, but we still crib about everything. People in the nunnery have nothing lavish, but are satisfied with a simple meal. This made me introspect about my life in general. This experience has taught me to adapt to any situation that life throws at me. I have resolved to spend some days independent of gadgets every year. I am looking forward to going there again this summer.”