Pushing boundaries, bit by bit

Pushing boundaries, bit by bit

Representational photo

Sonika Sethi

When I first read my favourite author Elif Shafak’s work of fiction, Forty Rules of Love, based on the friendship between the 13th-century Sufi poet Rumi and Shams of Tabriz, I could not get over this one particular line for months, ‘In love, boundaries are blurred.’

Well, it’s no longer ‘love’ that can transcend boundaries. In the current pandemic and subsequent lockdown, boundaries have blurred in almost every activity. The water-tight compartmentalisation of domestic responsibilities has witnessed not only dismantling of rigid stereotypes but also ushering in of reversal of roles in many households.

One such activity that has transcended and blurred all bounds is teaching and learning. Right from the choice of classroom to the choice of medium, everything seems to exist in a perpetual boundless and limitless amalgamation where one thing effortlessly moulds into another.

Around 8.50 am, my house is nothing short of a war zone, with the pandemonium reaching its peak at 9 am sharp. In a joint family of 10, seven of us are to either meet or take their class at 9 am. We have to micro-manage the available space in a manner that each one of us is able to get not only the maximum access to the Internet but also the quietest possible nook and cranny for maximum use of our mental faculties, minus all distractions.

The first boundary to be blurred through virtual learning is the age disparity. The range for the takers of the task varies from being on the wrong side of the forties to a measly ‘single digit’. The youngest member in our household to undertake the Herculean task is a child of three, for whom sitting in front of a mobile phone for a one-hour class is a project that involves making funny faces, yawning and coming up with endless excuses not to attend the class. The ones in their ‘double digits’ are sincere in their efforts, though the concept of e-learning requires them to go the extra mile too.

We, the people involved in the teaching-learning process, use different media as well as media platforms to receive or deliver our curricula. Smartphones, laptops and desktops come in handy. Every room and every piece of furniture is allocated to the members of the household, priority-wise. Often, I find the boundaries of my workspace extending from my study table in the bedroom to the working shelf in kitchen in between my classes. And sometimes, the last bites of the breakfast are still being swallowed hurriedly while I log into my first lecture of the day.

No doubt, these are difficult times for those who wish to teach and for those who wish to learn. However, the lives of great men are examples that one learns through grit and determination, and not by means alone. TS Eliot’s statement significantly endorses the hypothesis, ‘If you do not push the boundaries, you will never know where they are.’

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