US Hindi Teachers Travel to India to Learn Culture
In the months of October and November 2022. I led a team of 12 US-based teachers and student teachers on a Study Tour to India. The tour was sponsored by the US Department of Education under the ‘Fulbright-Hays GPA Short-Term /Curricula Development Award 2022’, an award that I received.
The purpose of the tour was to familiarize US-based teachers and student teachers with the ground realities, created by global warming and climate change, at various locations in India. Participants were required to look at the impact of ‘Climate Change’, in the cultural context of India and be aware of the ‘sustainable’ lifestyle of local communities. We were also required to collect authentic materials in the native land of the Hindi language.
The Study Tour played an important role in acquiring authentic material and subsequently supported the curricula for using it in the language classroom.
We boarded the United Airlines flight for New Delhi on October 28, 2022, at Newark International Airport. We arrived at Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi on October 29, 2022, where we were received by our Indian staff.
For four weeks we traveled to various parts of India that are deeply impacted by climate change. First, we traveled to Nainital, a hill station in the northern state of Uttarakhand. We were invited to attend an event organized by Kumaun University. Ajay Rawat, an expert, and activist, presented detailed information about the problems of land erosion and water pollution in the region. We visited an area called Ballia Nala, where we witnessed the devastation caused by land erosion. The local population is living in fear of further landslides. A road passing through the area was completely cut off due to the landslide. We met activists who were working to create awareness among people about water pollution and climate. We traveled to the surrounding villages and interviewed villagers on local issues.
We left Nainital for Jim Corbett National Forest area and then to Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand state. We rented safari jeeps to travel inside the forest and observed the impact of Climate Change on the wildlife. We continued our journey to Dehradun where we camped at Navdhanya complex, a farmland established by the noted environmentalist Vandana Shiva, who mentored us on traditional living. We observed people engaged in producing agricultural crops using compost fertilizer. Dr. Shiva lectured and demonstrated the benefits of sustainable living that were possible with organic farming and a simple lifestyle. Our participants joined local farmers and villagers to get hands-on experience in sustainable living.
We flew to Mumbai and traveled by road to Dahanu, a coastal town where the Warli tribal folks live a self-contained life in their hutments. They use local resources to build huts, fishing and create world-famous Warli paintings. We intended to enhance our knowledge and understanding of sustainable living. We met Warli artists and farmers to learn about ‘sustainability’ and the depiction of life in their paintings. Our participants took part in art workshops conducted by experienced Warli artists and visited local schools to experience how Warli boys and girls were learning language and art.
Our fourth and final destination was Alwar district in the state of Rajasthan-the region that has experienced water shortage for decades. Alwar is also home to dozens of wild animals that live in the forest of Sariska. We learned about the impact of climate change on the local communities. There was the depletion of water levels in local wells and ponds that affected the lives of people and animals. However, the local population has managed to store rainwater by constructing small dams. The traditional methodology to rejuvenate wells, ponds, and rivers were revived by Tarun Bharat Sangh, a local Non-Government organization in the early Eighties. Since then volunteers of TBS, under the mentorship of Dr. Rajendra Singh, a Magsaysay Award winner social activist, have been working with villagers to preserve water resources by constructing Johads and Pokhars, as the small dams are locally known. They have preserved water for drinking and irrigating farmland, and rejuvenated rivers to raise water levels in the village wells enabling women and girls to engage in more productive activities than just fetching water from miles away. Today the villages of the Alwar district have enough water for drinking and irrigating their farmland. They are able to sustain their lives which have been facing the impact of climate change.
The participants of YHS FULBRIGHT-HAYS GPA SHORT TERM CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT PROJECT 2022 observed, learned, and collected varieties of authentic materials at various locations in India during the 4 weeks long Study Tour from October 29-November 26, 2022. All video clips created during the trip are available on our website: https://21stcenturyhindi.com/phase-ll.
Ashok Ojha, a NJ-based journalist, and teacher, recipient of this year’s ‘Fulbright-Hays’ GPA project, funded by the US Department of Education, teaches Hindi under the banner of Yuva Hindi Sansthan, a non-profit educational outfit https://21stcenturyhindi.com/
Ashok directed dozens of federally funded language programs for teaching Hindi. He has also directed a number of educational films. Before moving to the USA in 1996 he worked as a journalist in India for more than two decades.