By Sophia Mansoori
One summer I found something on my timeline that piqued my interest. I saw pictures of my former dramatics coach, surrounded by dusky little faces, in what looked like a less-maintained playground than those of the schools I would associate him with. I opened the album spotted by a blue logo “Rabtt.” It was two years later when I actually got to be a part of this small nurturing space. What ensued taught me in more ways than I can explain.
When I came for the summer camps, a month back I had left a job in a multinational, where everyone connected with each other on the kinds of operations each performed and the roles they played. I crowed over being a well connected employee throughout the hierarchy given my position in communications. When Rabtt was juxtaposed with a corporate experience I was confronted by a strange phenomenon – as if I was re-learning something really familiar – Connections.
Summer Camps 2015 began with all of us quickly taking our course packs to the classes, planning out activities, introducing ourselves to the kids and spearheading our game! Above all we were angelic volunteers there to make a difference, bring butterflies out of the larvae presented to us. Soon when you begin your lessons on philosophy and public speaking, pop goes your halo. Now you are a bit lost. You gaze into their eyes with questions and their eyes gaze right back into yours with more – now begins your learning.
On the other end, as the subject head of public speaking I was required to be on the case of my team – most seasoned debaters of the town, who are of course quite self-assured too. From exchanging lukewarm “hello-s” and “hi-s” on the Whatsapp group, we went on to “WTH”, “phir so gaya?” and “lets nail this thing!”
We were taking up a mock parliament session to the stage, knowingly that audience may not get a word. Yes, “debaters” – whose egos feed on applause and “hear, hear” from the audience – shunned the idea because it was afterall a test of reasoning, a skill that we helped them uncover in themselves and along the way learnt so much ourselves. If we were to put our real hardwork to display it was by making our students reason and debate on their feet with all kinds of pressure.
As the mock parliament kicked off, there was some tension in the hall which was met by occasional loud cheers and applause on some very stormy speeches. However, during these 15 minutes there was one moment – Nauman gets up as “Asma Jehangir”. As he addresses himself as a female, a few hoots and giggles come from the crowd. His voice shook a little as he looked at the crowd. He looked back at me and my co-chair, his instructors. We nodded at him. He cleared his throat and completed his argument making perfect sense. He delivered all other speeches with same firmness and unwavering focus. He may not have been the best speaker among others but his grit, unwavering focus and command over his reasoning in that moment will continue to inspire me. Anyone can reason well under perfectly normal circumstances but the real test of reasoning lies when you know majority is not on your side for what is apparent, but you’d nevertheless maintian a level head and continue to argue. No other moment through out the camps made me feel more worthy as an instructor than this. This was my connection with my student. We may not talk or see eachother again, but next time when I feel knocked down and can not think straight I know where to look back – this moment.
Lasting connections take place at a human level, when you shed a layer or two and let yourself be vulnerable. That is when others recognise you and your mettle. Connections are not always about meeting goals and targets, together. It is in the undefined spaces and spontaneity of moments. Thanks to my team and students who helped me re-learn this simple fact. Here’s to connections!