Bollyblog: Freedom from a different perspective

By Eyal Hanfling

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This year, MCPS allows students to use their phones during lunch. At my new school in India, students are forbidden from even bringing their phones onto campus and face searches, pat-downs and confiscation of their phones until they graduate.

Indian schools are well known for their discipline, order and academic focus. Over the past two months, I have grown accustomed to wearing a uniform, addressing all teachers as “Ma’am” or “Sir,” standing up when staff members enter the room and in general, changing all of the rules and practices I have learned throughout my schooling in America to adapt to a stricter and more formal culture.

Blogger Eyal Hanfling meets some younger classmates during break time at school. Students must wear uniforms at all times and obey strict rules like short hair length. Photo courtesy Eyal Hanfling.

Male students are required to have short hair that cannot touch their ears, while female students must wear their hair in braids. My host brother Ahaan, who is in second grade, was asked to pay a 100 rupee (the equivalent of $2) fine to the school because his nails were not cut short enough.

Like most schools in Delhi, Amity Pushp Vihar is a completely closed campus, guarded by what looks like an army of private security guards, who roam the hallways and keep order on the school buses. So when the bell rings at 1:50 p.m., students are forced to either get on the hot, crowded bus with no A/C or get picked up by relative with an ID. I take the bus.

"Guard Bhaiya" wears a rag on his head because of the heat. On the bus, he keeps order and makes sure kids don't fall out the windows or door, which is always open. Photo courtesy Eyal Hanfling.

One of the trademark features of Indian schools is the system of selecting streams, or paths, to different professions during high school. In 10th grade, all students are forced to choose among three streams of study: Economics and Business, Sciences and Maths, and Humanities. From here, students are segregated into subjects based on their stream and have no choice but to follow it until college, where they can finally decide what they want to study. It’s difficult explaining to curious students and teachers that at American public schools, students can choose to study whatever they want — to a certain extent.

I love my new school, friends, teachers and staff here in India, but I really miss being a student at an American school. I miss having the freedom to choose from a wide selection of interesting classes, electives and extracurricular activities, to wear what I want and keep my hair how I like it and to go wherever I want after the bell rings at the end of the day.

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