By Maggie Brown
One of the greatest beauties in the mystery of the precious human life lies within the irrefutable fact that time is not infinite, tomorrow is never guaranteed, and that the world will not spin beneath our wavering feet forever. Unified in our common standing as members of the human race, we are granted the priceless gift of life at the designated time of our birth, and are conceded a period of time in which the surrounding world becomes our playground for an unpredictable allotted number of years. Living in this playground, we know little in advance of what twists and turns might be dealt our way, which obstacles we will be required to climb, and what successes will enter into our life with great elation. In fact, in the cycle of life, the only thing that is guaranteed is the day of our birth, and the unknown day of our death – the time in-between is what is ours, leaving a lifetime of opportunity up to us alone to passionately seize.
Small acts of compassion, kindness, and love by millions of people carries the capability to ultimately change the world. While this makes clear sense on paper, I arrived in India for the first time two years ago, utterly unsure of what precise acts of change I could possibly contribute to a nation so dense in population, yet so lost in inequality and suffering. Quite simply, there were too many incapacitated mouths to feed, too many shantytowns to develop, and too many overworked laborers to even comprehend where the starting line should be drawn. Surely, Chennai was a city that needed assistance, yet support was needed in seemingly every which direction, leaving me with only one lifetime to make a difference in a world where I was nothing but the size of a pea.
Feeling lost in translation, it was difficult to represent Team Crossover at times last summer, as I had no idea if anything that we were up to was leaving a lasting impression on a wave of children who desperately needed a glimmer of hope in their short lives. But then, our group got to know a man by the name of Ramabhadran Sundaram (Ram). Ram, a fresh faced Teach for India fellow with a world of hope and dream in his eyes, was the first teacher affiliated with the Teach for India initiative to give the Crossover program a chance. Everyday, Ram showed up on his own personal time, off the clock and unpaid, with a line of rambunctious, enthusiastic, and eager children, who wanted nothing more than to learn, and guided them through each and every aspect of the Crossover education. He formulated sponges out of his students, molding them into beings eager to take everything in, eyes wide with anticipation, and ears open with lively attentiveness. He brought his students from one station to the next, guiding them through every aspect of the day, his eyes never drooping in tiredness, and his spirit never dying in exhaustion. He wanted his students to have fun and enjoy the experience, but he also wanted them to grow as individual human beings and as a team, for he understood that life extended beyond the textbook, beyond the equations, and beyond the memorizing of concise facts. He believed in his students, and he knew that their potential ran deep without limits, both inside of the classroom and beyond. He was a Teach for India fellow, but he was also so much more – he was a man constantly performing small acts of kindness in the time between his birth and death, in the hope that he, in some way, could perpetuate change in the India that he calls home.
To me, and to all of Team Crossover, Ram falls immensely beyond the definition of a role model, for no words can possibly describe the meaningful ways in which he has imprinted our lives. Two years ago, I arrived in India unsure if my meager advances to instigate social change were of any realistic use. But, Ram has instilled in me the same hope that he aims to instill in his students everyday– that the world is their playground, and what they choose to do with it during their lifetimes is simply up to them. Ram, now an integral piece of the Crossover puzzle that we could not function without, has taught me what no words can simply describe. He has taught me, and his students, that never giving up is the only way to live the time between your birth and death, and that determination is the only way to climb the mountains that stand imposingly in the way of our dreams. He has taught me, and his students, that the fervor of love and care can carry a team through their darkest hour, and that nothing is done alone when the surrounding team constantly provides a barrier of unwavering support. He has taught me, and his students, that they have the potential to change the world, no matter how small they may feel, and that if they believe in themselves the sky is the limit, and the world will forever be their own playground.
To simply thank Ram would never be enough. He will never know the impact he has left on the Crossover initiative, and the sincere gratitude we feel towards him for the work that he has done in the short span of his lifetime. He has changed the world just a year into his Teach for India fellowship, a gift to India, which no amount of rupees could ever compare, and his determination to continue pushing the envelope brings great admiration and respect from the entire Crossover family and myself. If the world had a million Ram’s living in it, it would be a better place – a place where evil ceased to exist, eyes filled with hope, and children grasped the opportunity to inherit society in their own hands. While we are not quite there yet, we might be soon, due to the diligent work of the people like Ram – the people who care, the people who believe, and the people who empower. As a Crossover family, we are lucky and blessed to count Ram as one of our own, and struggle each and every day to repay him for the imprint of change that he has instilled into the confines of each and every single one of our hearts. For this we thank you Ram, with words that could not even begin to describe our gratitude.