The gods hear the whispers of friendly souls.
In Spring 2011, I was an engineering student enrolled in the Academic Listening class level 2, and the teacher spent two sessions just walking us through a six-page syllabus, which looked exactly like the Academic Listening level 1 syllabus (except that the books were different). I decided to drop the class and enrol in another section. The enrolment lady said to me “there is a section in the afternoon, but it is a new teacher and I don’t know how she is with students.” I remember thinking “she can’t be worse or slower than the professor I have.” I enrolled in her class and it was the best decision I took that year.
I met Anjuli Pandavar, and I had the privilege to be in one of the best classes I have taken in AUI. The lectures, the exercises and discussions we had were all eye-opening. She generously gave us the best advice, and she helped me overcome my frustration with writing in English. Further, thanks to her valuable lessons in public speaking, we almost won [see note, AP] a public debate on the highly contentious subject of polygamy, in which we had to take a pro-polygamy stance.
I was enlightened by every remark or commentary she made, and sometimes she did not even need to talk. Her gestures revealed kindness, professionalism, and a deep understanding of society as a whole. Her mere presence was enough. Many of our discussion were revealing on many levels, especially about the men in Moroccan society. My class was mostly males, and we were only two girls. She would spend hours lecturing us about communication and relationships between men and women and how gender roles are socially constructed. The guys in the class, would still stubbornly and confidently argue against her point saying that women are “naturally weak” because that’s how God made them. Incapable of comprehending the significance of what she was trying to explain to us, all they could do was to be angrily antagonistic to her reasoning. She would still receive their comments and smoothly address them pushing us to further think of our perceptions of the matter and making me admire her skillful teaching even more.
These discussions made me angry too because I was raised and surrounded with strong women my whole life. Women who have endured all kinds of hardship, mostly caused by men, and still reached high levels of success independently from the “support” of men. I remember smiling and thinking “this society is not ready for tough women like you, Anjuli”. Interestingly, when I looked at the other girl in the class, she had the exact same smile. The class was a miniature Arab patriarchal society where people are angry towards and unwilling to assimilate anything that is different from the old and obsolete mainstream ideas they have, specifically when women suggest it.
Being in Anjuli’s class helped me develop not only as a student, but also as a human being. I asked her once on her background, and she said it was in political economy. Her amazing grasp of history and politics made me realize that it was exactly the kind of studies I want to do. As smart as making software made me look, I was clueless about the dynamics and laws that govern society in general. I figured the social sciences can help me answer the endless questions I have about the world. I switched major to international relations, and it was the second best decision I took in the following two years.
Thank you Anjuli.
Rajae Oujlakh, Meknes, Morocco.
Note: Actually, Rajae was the lead debater and we did win the debate. But that’s another story, AP.
Received October 2015.