Isn’t chaos the norm of life?

Memoirs of LSUC 2020

There was so much to do and yet so little I did. There were people to meet, places to go, dreams to catch. There were conversations to be held, projects to be launched, dates to go on. There were colours to be filled, laughter to share, songs to sing and stars to gaze. And I did so much and yet so much was left. LSUC was like life going on at its full throttle. The best of mankind gathered for 5 days to experience life, to experience humanity. We laughed, we cried, we danced and we saw dreams together and 5 days passed by, leaving all of us to wait for another year. I thought to myself how do I make each day for all the humans such fun and frolic. The Corona scare that swept through the world after LSUC gave everyone more time to spend at homes and to ponder even more about what are we really doing running from one place to another without really asking ourselves Why? But that’s a topic for another day.

The air of the place has an embrace of self. The moment I entered the gates, I felt as if I have come home, if even for a while. The living arrangements were most basic, but no one could care less. By the time we went to sleep, we were so dead tired that none of the 1st world problems mattered. I realised that when we are truly living, a lot of things we unnecessarily fuss about ceases to exist.

When I look back at 5 days, I just find myself wondering how we did so much. First thing I just did was to help an artist make LSUC board. And I didn’t even realise how I learnt an entirely new technique to paint in no time. There was no sense of rules on how to use the brush or instructions on what not to do. Despite having Anjush who is excellent at his art with us, I never felt as if I have to follow his way or style. We were rather co-creating and despite making a few mistakes, end painting came out beautiful. Anjush, who was creating this piece did not for a second instructed or took the position of authority, he did give suggestions when asked, but allowed everyone to be, everyone to try. And then he patiently added more strokes to fix our mistakes without a word. And then when I looked at the final art piece I understood why he was not directing or worried when we made mistakes. It was because he was so confident that he can fix it. He portrayed an example of the teacher who lets his students make their mistakes rather than not.

In following days, I hosted two sessions for people working in or building self-design learning spaces to discuss their journeys and challenges. The intention was to find out what can we learn from each other. And in the first session itself, I felt the power of community. There were over 20 people in the room with more people joining.

We were left short of space, so we opened our hearts a little more.

Two circles which we held on Self-directed learning

During our interactions, I realised how a discussion becomes so meaningful when no one is trying to lead but to support. Everyone was trying to learn and listen and share and in that way we all became learners and facilitators. We came out with beautiful ideas of how can we support each other and decided to meet again the next day. Due to some reasons, we couldn’t meet at the time we decided the next day and I was feeling a little lazy as well about coordinating another session. Something beautiful happened then. Sharmila, a friend and a mother to three unschooled kids, who was part of the circle the previous day, came and said why are we not meeting. And it just got me moving as she helped me see how important it was to meet again. I realised how holding each other accountable gets things moving.

All the inspiration and interest expressed in these two circles, made me move on an idea I mulling over from 2 months. We decided to make an alliance which supports self-designed learning; acts as a resource centre for unschoolers/homeschoolers and people who building self-directed learning spaces, and becomes a connecting chord between entire self-directed learning community. I was thrilled by the enthusiasm with which everyone expressed towards building it. And I feel so grateful that everyone kept their word and is working to build it. Here is a sneak peek into what we are building.

We were able to cry in each other company. We realised that many of us who think of ourselves as strong and empowered are victims of the same patriarchal society.

Another highlight for me was the impromptu women circle that a beautiful woman I met held. It was so cathartic sharing. For the first time in life, I felt the power of feminine energy circle. We spoke about our lives and I learnt what feminism is. I realise there was so much hidden inside me that just started to flow. And I found immense bonding with women I met for the first time. The thought that we are all same inside, though we may look different from outside started to deepen. I realised how much we all go through without a word. We were able to cry in each other company. We realised that many of us who think of ourselves as strong and empowered are victims of the same patriarchal society. The roots of patriarchy are so deep within all of us, that we unknowingly let it rule us and rather scaffold it. I realised that we need much more solidarity as women blended with a lot of acceptance for each other. It’s high time that we learn to support each other and claim our lives.

There were 30 workshops going on at the same time. One has to choose among a fabulous session on Dance Movement therapy, how to bake your bread, how to build a multiversity etc etc. People were painting the walls and dancing their hearts and feet out in the evening. Everyone was so much alive. At the same time, everyone found their tribe, their inclinations, friends who they would like to spend time with. My sister who I dragged to LSUC along with me made friends for life. Out of 5 days of LSUC, we barely spent 5 minutes together. Like all siblings we are different. I was so heartened to see that she found her tribe, people who she can share her liveliness.

I spent time taking naps under the trees and having Chais with so many interesting people. We were awake at nights, playing silliest games possible, finding treasures which people so graciously shared. Sometimes I would find myself gaping at the art piece of someone. At others, I would look at the guy dancing with a speaker in hand at 4 am in the night and inviting everyone to join him. I wondered what kept them awake. There was life in every corner, people were playing games, singing songs, discussing everything beautiful and ugly and foremost celebrating their being.

Amongst so many amazing things that LSUC made possible, I feel the crux of it lies in how it humanises people. How it brings everyone together and how everyone comes together shredding their titles and designations. The world is organised in such a discriminatory fashion that anyone who achieved some success is put behind glass doors and is made quite unapproachable. Then you have to jump the hoops to reach them and talk to them or learn from them. LSUC broke those barriers. There wasn’t a class system. Everyone, irrespective of what they do, how famous or infamous they are, lived together under the same roof sharing the same living arrangements, eating the same food. It made everyone so much equal and broke the stupid walls that we build around ourselves. The way it was organised, rather co-organised not only humanised people, but it also made everyone so important and valuable. There were no social indicators left for one to judge the other person. The only way left to know someone is by interacting with them and by listening to their stories.

All the discrimination of caste, cloth, money, status, knowledge were shredded off.

I met so many people by chance. I would sit at a Chai stall, and someone would come to talk. I met Sharmila who shared her story, her experiences and I found a life long friend and supporter. I met a boy who left his job and is now trying to learn a different way of living. A very beautiful human who I don’t recollect now taught me how to hug. He told me that we should hug someone such that our head is towards our right. This way their heart and our heart will touch each other. There is a beautiful word for it which I am forgetting now. It was such a beautiful and loving space, people offering their gifts so freely, caring for each other that I started to believe that it was not the first time I met them. Maybe we have met before and maybe we all are connected.

Still, I couldn’t meet everyone, couldn’t spend as much time as I would have liked to with few people, but I found myself at peace with that reality. I told myself that if you are meant to meet someone, your paths will cross, you will meet them when the time is right.

Prachi is co-creator at Pitaara and is a propagator of the idea of Self-designed learning!