Of Sheep and Dialogues, Books and Catalogues

Usha is from the Krishnamurti School in India called Centre for Learning (CFL). She had offered to come to Brockwood for two months to help in the library. Now that her time is up we wished she didn’t have to go! We are indeed very thankful for the incredible job she did there. Here follows Usha’s reflections on her time here:

I dreamt I was in Brockwood again and I was….after 16 years. What changes might I find in the place and in me? Would I still have the energy and the ability to act, interact, relate, and do anything meaningful in the library? Random thoughts like these kept arising in my mind as I prepared to leave Bangalore for Brockwood. But there was also an eagerness to challenge myself, to leave my comfort zone and see how I could function in a different place.


On August 31st, as I was driven into the dearly familiar environs of Brockwood Park, I found myself in an old captivity. The magic of Brockwood still had the potency I knew of yore. Early next morning, I set off for the school from the beautiful Centre where I had been housed. Sheep were munching…munching….munching ..throwing only a casual look of enquiry at me. The preening peacocks, the placid pigeons and the reckless rabbits against the background of the greenery and the majestic trees were a joy to see. Fruit everywhere to be picked or picked up,…the  familiar rose garden, pumpkins large enough to live in, chickens scrambling all over, and then I enter the school and a wave of humanity hits me and the scenery recedes into the background as I interact, react, form and break images, renew contacts, make new ones and throw myself into human activity.

The delectable food that the kitchen produced day after day was a wonder anew, the quiet and calm at the centre had a clear message of urgency , the morning meetings started my day with immense space and when I got lost in the grove one late evening, I realised that Brockwood had not lost its unique quality of surprising me, challenging me, and yet making me feel completely at home.

Duties, rotas, tutee-care, floor duties, cooking, maintenance, room checks, curriculum planning, teaching, exam co-ordination, caring for the place and the people here, questioning, relating, and still having the time to reach out to a new comer and help with everything I needed……staff  members of Brockwood are a special bunch! Morning and night chats with Leila were a special treat which I shall treasure! Thank you for the warmth and love.

The mature student group felt like old -found friends notwithstanding such an age gap. Conversations flowed effortlessly and turned to serious dialogues or to teasing banter with equal ease. I have truly valued and learnt a great deal from their dialogue session. The table-tennis times with Stanley, the sports champ, along with Farid, Mo and Roland  and a growing number of students, were pure bliss and  took care of my fitness and well-being! (Adrian, our match awaits!).

The library is alive and resonating with activity! Each day more students have been coming in to look at displays of books, to write out little notes recommending a book, to chat with me about books,  to generally  sit around reading quietly or even to give me a smile and a greeting to make my day. Encounters have been of very different kinds but all significant. Rodrigo, the fixture in the library who may seem to be inaccessible but has never been impatient when I tap him on the shoulder to request help to fix a shelf, find an entry for a book online or remind him its time for lunch. Sebastian who suggested a book for me to read and checked that I had read it! Betsy who was thrilled to put labels on books and discover them in the process, Ada the super cleaner, who showed an interest in selecting books to put on display, Coco the dedicated library user, who kicked off the book talk activity so well and set off a chain of Michelle Paver  readers, Carlota, hesitant at first but came out with a passionate book talk, Paloma who surprised us all with her choice of serious reading, Pablo A. the perceptive reader who shared the many books he has read, Artem who made it all the way to the library for the book talks but could not cover the final few yards to the sitting room! Catharine, with whom Karuna and I had many interesting conversations on books and authors, Frederike, Carole, Klara, Aristel all good readers who browsed and  borrowed on their own,  Sasha who told me she never reads but turned up for book talks, Kara whom I lured in as a guest speaker, Maryam who came very shyly to ask for a good book to read (I hope she completes it!),  Sam who surprised us all with his serious and thoughtful presentation of a tough book, Louis, last, but the first I talked to about the library, a great source of strength, and one who has been a constant presence in the library,  and finally, the many many others whom I interacted with through books or through table tennis……..a fond farewell. I will miss you all!

Usha Mukunda

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