It is a theme we come back to time and time again. It has popped up in many of the Granny Cloud Tales. It pops up in the course of many of the activities that are the bulk of the Granny sessions. It peeps through the questions that are asked even as Grannies and children get to know each other at the very beginning, and it shines through in the themes that are explicitly explored.
It is about understanding each other. Attempting to understand each other’s language. Understanding each other’s way of living. Dressing, eating, travelling… All of it. It is about understanding each other’s environments. Not just the weather, and the geographical terrain and the animals, but the people (!) that inhabit these environments. It means exploring the crops that grow in it, the customs that create the weave of our daily lives, and the rituals and traditions that still speak to us of an ancient history. It is about understanding the cultures we live in and how they are continuously evolving. It is about understanding and gently questioning the meaning behind our feelings, thoughts and actions. It is about understanding and enabling us to every so often go against the flow, with views that are still largely unaccepted.
It is about getting the first foothold on an understanding of each other’s beliefs – understanding what views we hold, why we think the way we do, and why we value what we value.
Tall order, isn’t it?! You might say I am reading too much into these short, friendly interactions where the ostensible focus is on learning a language to facilitate the use of internet resources. I think not. From the very first sessions when The Granny Cloud was formally launched in May 2009 it was apparent that it wasn’t just a language that was going to be learnt. After all, any conversation, any interaction has ’content’. What we choose to talk about and the way we phrase what we have to say indicates a lot about the respect we accord each other’s views and experiences.
Even as I recruited the very first group of Grannies in the early months of 2009, this was something I was acutely aware of. Since most of the Grannies, in those early months and years of The Granny Cloud, were from the UK; I was also concerned about how the residual impact of the colonial past would pan out.
It was a key part of the screening and subsequent ongoing orientation process. Not a ‘One Way Street’. Not enculturation – where children were encouraged to think of the Grannies cultural background as superior to their own – or themselves as recipients of some sort of largesse. In conversation after conversation with potential (‘about to become’ grannies), I brought this up. I emphasized that what was ultimately more important – was that the interchange between the Grannies and the children led to an acceptance (not just tolerance – but ACEPTANCE) of different lifestyles, of values, of cultures. And that the acceptance was what I saw leading us away from distrust and suspicion of what is ‘different’ and towards respect and trust in our essential humanity.
The Grannies that formed the team and became part of the group came together because that is the way they thought and operated too. They had a healthy respect for the children’s way of life and all that surrounded them. While they hoped for more for these children, they also expected (and wanted) to learn from the children and their experiences (and from the experiences and loves of other Grannies too!).
This sharing of ‘Yours’ and ‘Mine’ – whether it is special food made for festivals (or even just ordinary, daily meals), the culture that surrounds wedding ceremonies, the way the weather impacts their activities, the facilities/ amenities in their environment that play a role in shaping their worldview – all this and much, much more is what leads us to the OURS.
The ‘Ours’ comes from mutual respect – from questioning the basis of our views as we move ahead. I felt this ‘ours’ – even in those early months. But I am surer now – 9 years later. I see it because of the children from the earliest groups that participated in the Granny sessions. Now grown (some just having acquired baccalaureate degrees in various fields, and others just about to step out of school), I see it in their approach to life, in what they value, in their sense of responsibility as citizens, and as members of their families. They stay in touch and I am content.
I am not unrealistic – of course it is only a handful that stays in touch. It is only a few that I see the impact on. But I am optimistic. It is a start and a crucial one at that. So let’s keep moving towards OURS!