Mission Delhi – Samairaa Arora, Gurgaon
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is the best of times. It is the worst of times.
She no longer has to get up early — at 7 am. She no longer is able to meet her friends.
She is happy to be at home. She is unhappy to be away from school.
Grade two student Samairaa Arora’s schooldays have become an oddity. This is a kind of schooling never ever experienced by her mother, nor even her mother’s mother, enquiries reveal.
So what happened?
Aged six and a half, Ms Arora instantly snaps out the reason: “It’s because of coronavirus.”
The young woman is talking from the isolation of her Gurgaon apartment in the Greater Delhi Region. As she is considered too young by her parents to be given a cellphone, she is talking on WhatsApp video from her mother’s mobile. “But I use FaceTime to talk to my friend Aahna,” she points out.
Ms Arora shares her spacious apartment with her parents and grandparents. She has her own room, one corner of which has been converted into her own little school. It has a glossy yellow table and a red chair.
“Now our classes are held online,” she explains.
Until the end of the BC (before corona) era, Ms Arora’s conscientious parents did their best to keep her away, while at home, from any interaction with screens. The household has three iPads for instance, but Ms Arora has no direct experience of them. The only exception was the TV—she’s a fan of Master Chef Australia. But the inevitability of life with internet-based gadgets arrived for her sooner than expected, as the pandemic forced people to stay at home, obliging them to deal with the world outside through phones and computers. Her father gave her one of his laptops and thus began the foundation of her online schooling—the school opened in the new normal in April, after a scheduled spring break.
Ms Arora’s classes are currently held daily from 9 am to 1.30 pm, five days a week. Each period lasts for 45 minutes, followed by a fifteen minutes break. Back in the days of old world schooling, she would have her breakfast and lunch at school, but now all her meals are had at home. She declares she finds the food at school “nicer” than at home.
Recalling the days when she would be attending school, offline, Ms Arora presents herself as an ideal student. Unlike other students, she would never be naughty, and would never make funny faces either, she claims. Talking of which, she playfully spills the beans about some of her classmates (names withheld) who regularly make “Halloween kind of faces” even in online classrooms—nine students can be seen on the laptop screen at any given time. Sometimes the teacher, sitting behind her own laptop, catches such a truant — who might be tuned out of screen for a while.
But of course, Ms Arora is a model student, who “always make my teachers my best friends.”
After expressing hope that she may return to her old habits soon, with her father driving her to school every morning, Ms Arora agrees to pose on her study desk for a photo shoot.
[This is the 331st portrait of Mission Delhi project]
School days… at home