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Proudly Supporting

Bal Bharati Public School, Delhi, India

By Yvette Vignando - 4th August 2010

Flying in from Hyderabad, I arrived at Delhi's domestic airport and enjoyed 20 minutes of leisurely travel along the the airport runway. It was a brief respite because soon I was out again in traffic; actually calling Delhi's road transportation 'traffic' is somewhat of a misnomer - it's more like a vehicle scramble for any available tarmac. Like everywhere else in India, drivers of taxis, cars, rickshaws and bikes are blind to the existence of lane markings and mostly, to the existence of pedestrians. An Indian friend described it to me like this "In your country you drive on the left, in India we drive on what is left!"

There is one good thing about the traffic in Delhi - you are very unlikely to be seriously injured in a car there - it's impossible to reach any kind of dangerous speed. You are more likely to be in medical trouble from dehydration and heat exhaustion if the car's air conditioning gives up after being stuck in an interminable standstill in the oppressive heat and humidity.

But you thought you were reading about my visit to a Delhi school - not about traffic. The thing is - I had to get through the traffic to visit the school. So I was grateful for my local guide and truly intrepid taxi drivers who calmly helped me make my way around the maze of apartments and roads, many of which were being manually beautified for the impending visit of Commonwealth games tourists.

Bal Bharati Public school is, by Australian standards, huge. The charming and intelligent COO, Mr Sushanta K. Bhattacharya, told me that the school educates over 5000 students. Spread over 4 acres of land, Bal Bharati caters for students from kindergarten to graduation. The educational philosophy of the school is inspired by the quote "Let noble thoughts come to us from all sides" - I hoped my thoughts on emotional intelligence would be judged as noble, because they were coming from another side of the world.

I was not disappointed. Like other audiences of teachers in India, the Bal Bharati teachers and their colleagues from sister schools were delightful, participative and incredibly supportive. Their feedback comments were so generous I was almost embarrassed by them - to read "Ms Yvette Vignando is one of the best facilitators I have ever heard...it is sheer bliss and pleasure to listen to her". How kind is that? I always love running workshops on topics I am passionate about so to also be rewarded with lovely feedback, is the icing on the cake.

During any workshop I run, in schools or elsewhere, I frequently feel a strong connection with particular members of the audience - sometimes this comes from their comments in the interactive exercises and at other times, I have the opportunity to talk with people during the breaks. At Bal Bharati, I felt very fortunate to have these feelings about the entire audience, and even luckier to talk to some of the teachers and resource staff about their views on emotional intelligence in schools. I'm sure I will stay in touch with some of them.

The other enjoyable aspect of my visit was the hospitality of Mr Sushanta Kumar who treated me to an array of delicious food during the two lunchtimes I was there - I do so love Indian food and I enjpyed my conversations with my host. Mr Sushanta also explained a mystery to me about an aspect of castes in India.

Although many people had explained to me that caste was becoming less of an issue in middle class, educated India, I was confused about how anyone knew what caste someone was from. Mr Sushanta explained that it's the last name of people that gives this information away - each caste is associated with a list of caste-specific surnames.  I found this very interesting and realised that this single fact makes it even more difficult for caste to be quickly or easily eradicated from people's minds against the background of its long history in India. However, I did observe that among the - admittedly highly educated -  people I spoke to, the topic of "castes" was more of a curiosity than an issue to be taken into account.

So much more to learn about India for me - and not enough time ...

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