Preparing for Sicily

Sunday 19 August, 2001

No chance for a lie-in because there was still a lot of work to do for the Sicily groups this afternoon. In the car on the way to the house I briefed the men about the presence of women – their group was scheduled for 12-2 o’clock, with the men’s group from 4-6 o’clock. I told them that they should avoid any games, don’t rescue or persecute, don’t make any sexual comments and don’t freeze.

We arrived and in keeping with Karaj’s attitude – even when there’s work to do it is imperative that we relax – we sat together and reviewed yesterday’s events. There was not much time to prepare for the women’s group. Karaj and I worked well to put the finishing touches to the preparations. I particularly enjoyed the detailed and systematic work on the matrices for analysing the work each person had done with the rest of the group on the homework. We were upstairs when the women began to arrive. I had prepared Robert for welcoming them all, by telling him that this was as much his space as it is theirs. When I talked to him about it later he seemed pleased with his performance. I found out later still that the women had seen him in a less favourable light – like a child, hovering, nosy.

I was quite excited by the presence of the women. At the same time I was acutely aware of my behaviour. I had worked hard to get things done and it was to be a full day with both groups overlapping as they did in the end by virtue of the women’s group overrunning. In the morning I had phoned George to arrange for him to be picked up by Dev. He refused the offer at first and was clearly setting up to persecute his wife for not returning the car in time for him to make his way over to the house. She had told him she would and he was determined to keep her to it. We had discussed this yesterday and he had not understood it then, but eventually I think he saw that this is what he does.

I was called into the women’s group by Karaj on a number of occasions. There were some nerves on my part but these were almost negligible compared to the confidence I felt as a result of my position in the house. Just as I had felt when Priya spent a day with us, I was in control and had much better things to do than try and impress women in any way. I kept a lid on my emotions, I did not act childishly (looking to be mothered) and, with the fleeting exception of Priya once or twice, I was not interested in any of them fancying me. It was important for me that I did not let myself, Karaj or my maleness down in any way.

The men began to arrive and when the group started it was not long before the atmosphere turned to one of tension and concern. Karaj went straight in with the matrix analysis, asking us all to list the hours we had spent in the company of other men doing the homework, telling us that if we had not spent sufficient time exploring and pastiming about the Sicily homework then we did not meet the criteria to go to Sicily.

Because I had helped to record the figures in the women’s group, I assumed the role with the men too. As the concern spread through the room, brought on by the realisation that some might not meet the standards, I noticed that Leon was very restless. When Ishwar required clarification of the categories, Leon became flustered and irritated. Three thoughts occurred to me:

  1. He wanted to get through this quickly and get away
  2. He was annoyed that Ishwar had not grasped the concept
  3. His nose had been put out of joint because I was on flip-chart duty.

Twice it occurred to me to raise it with him but I didn’t. I was flustered myself. The room was hot and I started to make mistakes with the figures. It struck me that the men did not notice my mistakes, or if they did they did not say anything. I had made similar mistakes in the women’s group but Dania had picked me up on them both times. Karaj later told me that the men want to undermine me and see me fail. He told me that such a situation is manageable if they act individually but if two or three try at once then I will really have to be on my guard.

Karaj took the finished matrices, printed them off and presented the men with the final results which clearly showed that four men did not meet the standard – George, Dev, Robert and Leon. Karaj told them, particularly George that it had been a case of not recording what they had actually done. They had done the work, they just couldn’t recall that they had. We all handed out copies of our ‘successes’ homework to each other and it was these copies which formed the basis of our next homework – to be completed before we travel. We are to analyse all 21 success stories (three each from the seven other members of the party) giving details of our analysis, supported by evidence from the text.

Towards the end of the group Ishwar addressed us all as only he can. Calmly, and without any emotion, he put it to us that this is serious work and that some people, Leon in particular, had made comments which suggested that they were not as serious as the opportunity demanded. As he had done with Kuldip, he stated clearly that he would not tolerate such attitudes or behaviour. I don’t know how he does it, but the beauty of his presence in the group for me is that he shows me what is possible and, as I have written in these pages before, if I know something is possible then I know I can achieve it. His challenge led us on to Leon.

I told him of my observation from the start of the group and Karaj supported it saying that Leon has a tendency to get very angry in spite of his otherwise gentle demeanour. He asked for the group’s feedback on this and we took a five-minute break to consider our answers. This extended the group for another two hours as we explored the reasons for Leon’s behaviour. George, Robert and I all gave examples of the force of his anger and together we all tried to get to the bottom of why he is this way and why he blocks our support. At times over the last two days I have seen the expression in Leon’s face whilst he is receiving support and there is something about him which says, ‘If only you people knew what I have been/am going through’.

In the end, Karaj explained that the reason has to do with all the pain with which he has yet to reconcile himself. He has been a successful and respected engineer and skilled craftsmen, and somehow he has lost those successes and has not come to terms with the loss. Just like me and my football. Until he heals that pain he cannot progress. Me neither.

The group ended and we (Sunil, Dev and I) returned to my house where we continued with a session of our own. For about three hours the evening flowed and we all took something from it. My learning point concerned the way I had thanked Sunil at the end of last weekend. We talked and were in full agreement but neither of us were satisfied with the explanations until Sunil casually hypothesised that maybe I was checking something with him. I immediately felt that he was right. For a split second after that realisation I considered whether I could bring myself to admit to it but I did and it felt better for it. We had cleared up a situation which had felt uncomfortable for both of us. Sunil had found my gratitude wholly unnecessary and I had only thanked him because I wanted reassurance that the weekend had been a good one, because at the time I was bashing myself up that it hadn’t been.

With this in mind we could both clearly see and feel the difference between that thank you and the one I gave Karaj this evening for a good day. The one to Karaj was genuine gratitude for an enjoyable, productive and informative experience, whereas the one to Sunil was a cry for reassurance.

I went to bed and read Robert’s Sicily homework. This was the beginning of a whole new dimension to my learning, my progress and my development.


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