Month: March 2003

Welcoming the New Year!

Welcoming the New Year!

Characteristic of the Indian cultural concoction, Hindus in various states of India celebrate the New Year in their own ways. And not all of these fall on the same day, though most of them do fall in the months of March/April of every year. The people of Kerala celebrate Vishu on the 14th of April. Andhra Pradesh celebrates Ugadi, on the 13th of April and on the same day the Bengalis and Punjabis celebrate Poila Baishakh and Baisakhi, the springtime festivals marking the beginning of a new year.

The Thane city is all set to usher in the Hindu New Year season in style. On April 2, which is also Gudi Padwa, the Maharashtrian New Year, hundreds of Thaneites will participate in the 2nd Bharatiya Nava Varsha Swagat Yatra, a procession to welcome the Indian New Year. The event is being organised by Shri Kopaneshwar Mandir Trust, and will be supported by more than 60 city-based organisations. These include educational institutes, social and religious trusts, NGO’s and such others. But no political parties are involved. "It is a completely apolitical event", says Sagar Oak, who is actively involved in organising the great parade.  

The event aims to bring together people from every sect regardless of their castes and creeds. And they’ll all come out wearing their regional attire. So you can hope to see a Marathi manus in dhoti and turban while a Malayali might be found wearing a lungi. In true Indian spirit, even non-Hindus like Jews, Catholics, Parsis and Muslims are expected to join the celebrations. In fact, Dr. Dawood A Dalvi, ex-Principal of DnyanSadhana College is leading the entire event co-ordination, denoting clearly that the event cuts across all religious boundaries.

The procession will start at 7 am on April 02 and will be flagged off by city Mayor Sharada Raut in presence of Dy. Mayor Subhash Kale, and the Kopaneshwar Mandir committee chairman PW Rege. City Police commissioner will welcome the procession at Jambli Naka with his Police band. Leading the procession will be a Palkhi (an intricately carved and exquisitely upholstered palanquin) which will carry the temple’s deity. About 400 volunteers from Sanskar Bharti will decorate with Rangoli the path of the Palkhi.

The rally, which begins at the Kopaneshwar temple, will traverse many important spots of the city including Jain Mandir, Khopat Circle, Makhmali road, TMC Building, Panch Pakhadi, Hari Nivas, Gokhale road and Ram Maruti Road before heading back to the temple.

The procession will comprise of 60 different floats signifying cultural, educational and social themes of relevance. For instance, the Jidnyasa trust plans a cycle convoy to drive home the anti-pollution thrust.

During the procession, Gudis produced without by physically challenged individuals belonging to Vishwas Organisation, will be available for sale. A gudi is a decorated pole with a brass or a silver vessel placed on it. It is hung on windows to celebrate Mother Nature’s bounty on Gudi Padwa.

As a run up to the celebrations, the evening prior to the New Year will also witness a few exciting events. At 7 pm on Aoril 01, 2003, which is a New Moon day, the Masunda Lake will become glimmer as hundreds of residents will turn up at the periphery of the lake with candles and diyas in their hands. Soon afterwards, a magnificent display of fireworks light up the sky, and with it, the hearts of all Thaneites.

A Habit for a Good Life

A Habit for a Good Life

Good reading habits are becoming rare in these days, especially among the youngsters. Proliferation of TV channels has adversely affected the reading habits of school students, who are invariably hooked up to cartoon shows and other programmes on TV.

In spite of the Internet explosion and the boom in the electronic media, reading remains the most effective way of building up a good thinking mind. When you read, you get loads of benefits. You improve your vocabulary; build up the mechanics of your writing; perfect your spelling; increase speed of your reading and expand your comprehension. You even become more creative, besides increasing your knowledge!

Experts suggest that proficient readers are strategic thinkers. They use what they already know and what the text says to construct meaning. Senior American Scientist Isabel Beck defines constructing meaning as "being able to explain information, connect it to previous knowledge, and use that information."

So how does one go about improving his/her reading skills? The answer is simple: practice! And summer vacations are a good time to practice.

One way to inculcate a habit of reading is to join a nearby circulating library where you can borrow books of your choice. Signing up with a reading library (like the Indian Library in Thane) is also a good idea as it offers an excellent ambience for reading along with a great collection of books and periodicals.

One good thing about reading is you can do it anywhere, anytime: in study halls, at home, during lunch, while travelling. The important thing is to just try and get into the habit of reading often. Just make up your mind to read, say, at least ten pages a day, every day of the holidays.

Parents who wish to inculcate the habit of reading in their children should look out for various reading events such as reading workshops, book reading sessions and story-telling sessions.

Story telling sessions are frequently organised by Thane’s Paperback Book Store. In fact from April 13, 2003, there would be a one-hour session every Sunday at 11:00 am. "Stories from the Panchtantra, the Harry Potter series and Rudyard Kipling’s works will be read out to boys and girl aged between 7 and 14 years", reveals B Mahesh of Paperback. Every fourth Sunday, a skit is performed by the kids based on original stories scripted by themselves. For more information on these story-telling sessions, readers may contact Paperback on 2545 0541.

A reading workshop is also good way to motivate students to do some independent reading on their own. Enthusiasm is contagious. Students learn to love reading as they watch others enjoying reading and interacting with texts. Reading workshop allows students a choice in what they read and provides time for independent reading.

Reading workshops are organised from time to time by various clubs, libraries and other not-for-profit bodies. One such workshop is being held between April 05 and April 10 at at Shiv Samarth Vidyalaya in Thane. Every morning on each of those six days, participants would be exposed to the wonderful world of books. This workshop is open to students from class VII to Class X. The primary medium for this workshop would be Marathi.

The workshop will include reading and writing exercises and guest lectures from prominent Marathi personalities such as Sampada Joglekar (TV actress), Anupama Ujgare (poet) and Prof. Meena Gurjar (HOD, Marathi Dept. Siddharth College). These guest lecturers will share their experience of reading good books, discuss famous authors and their works and generally create interest among the participants.

Entry Forms for this workshop are available at Majestic Book Depot, which is jointly promoting the event. In order to encourage the reading habit, the book store will offer a 20 per cent discount on all its books to each participant of the workshop up to May 31, 2003. Readers may contact 2533 0951 for further details.

A Literary Flock

A Literary Flock

There are booklovers, film freaks and theatre enthusiasts. And then there are literary buffs, aficionados if you will, who simply thrive on books, theatre and the like. Thane has a rich tradition that values literary culture and boasts of having produced many well-known artists and writers. The residents of the city are also ardent enthusiasts and lap up half an opportunity for participating in art and related events.

Come March 30, 2003 and the city will witness a highly charged literature conference. Marathi Sahitya Parishad (Thane District) is organising the seventh Vibhagiya Sahitya Sammelan, a district level literary forum, which will see the coming together of eminent personalities from the world of Marathi literature.

The forum is an annual affair, which began in 1992 and since then has been held at various locations in Thane district including Kalyan, Ambernath and Ulhasnagar. This year it is scheduled to be held on Sunday March 30, 2003. at Marathi Granth Sangralaya, a well-known library located in Thane city. It would be an all-day event starting at 9 in the morning and concluding at 6:30 pm.

Makrand Joshi, secretary of Marathi Granth Sangralaya, likes to think of this event as a miniature version of Akhil Bhartiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan, which is a National Event held across the country. He says, "It’s an opportunity for literature lovers to interact with celebrated writers, directors and stage artists and they can gain valuable insights into the world of literature."

In the past, prominent personalities like Girija Kir, Shankar Vaidya, Subhash Bhende, Anand Yadav, Aruna Dheer have presided over the symposium. This year, the president is Dr. Arun Tikekar.

The highlight of the forum is an interview with renowned Marathi writer and former editor of Lok Prabha, H M Marathe, whose recent biography has found him many fans. The interview will be conducted by Neelima Palwankar, a college professor from the city.

There will also be a Group Discussion on the subject of "Biographical Dramas in Marathi Stage". The past few years have seen a surge in comedies, whereas biographical dramas are not as popular as they used be. This issue will be discussed by a panel comprising of the different sections of the society. Santosh Pawar (writer-cum-director), Kedar Shinde (writer-cum-director), Kumar Sohani (director) and Chandrakant Kulkarni (director) will represent Marathi stage. Suresh Magarkar will represent the audience and columnist Jayant Pawar from Maharashtra Times will also participate. Ashok Sathe, legendary actor/director will moderate the discussion.

An eighteenth century German playwright, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, "The decline of literature indicates the decline of a nation."    

Such forums are a great boost to world of literature, especially in times when shallow quality has come to dominate its every sphere – books, stage, films and music. When important issues are brought to the forefront by public figures, we can rest assured that the decline in quality of literary works can be stopped or even reversed.

Readers may contact 25386928 or 25400318 for more information.

Yagna for Peace

Yagna for Peace

Yagna holds a special significance for Hindus. It is one of the oldest rituals of India, a tradition which began in the Vedic era. Essentially, Yagna refers a fire ceremony with people gathering around a trough with firewood burning in it. As the flames go up, the priest performing the Yagna offers submits an offering made up of various elements such as sesame seeds, rice, ghee, incense and sandalwood. These are typically collected from the attendees. These offerings (known as ahuti) symbolise impurities – anger, greed, jealousy, grudges, pains and obstacles – that are sacrificed for attaining purity of mind, heart and soul. So Yagna is, in essence, a purifying ritual. It has been said that simply inhaling the smoke of a holy yagna fire has the ability to cure ailments of the lungs or respiratory system.

But Yagna is often performed with a purpose. Like the way it was recently, at Krishnai Hall in Pokhran. About 250 peace-loving Thaneites got together on Sunday, March 02, 2003 at the open-air hall, located among beautiful trees. The event was a Lakshmi Yagna being performed with the objective of bringing in World Peace.

The highlight of the Yagna was the priest who carried out the Yagna. Swami Bhaneshwaranand, the spiritual master who performed Sunday’s Yagna holds an M.Tech from IIT!   Not happy with the materialistic pleasures life had to offer, he turned towards spiritual pursuits. Even as a child, he is supposed to have to been inclined towards spirituality.

Initiated to spirituality by his guru Shri Sachiddanand, Bhaneshwaranand has done substantial research on the effects of mantras and tantra sadhana (a form of meditation). He runs an Ashram in Baroda called Adhyatma Shakti Kendra, a foundation for providing astrological, tantrik and spiritual services.

To the 250 odd attendees of Yagna, Bhaneshwaranand offered some much needed insights into the "science of Yagna", mantras and other age-old Vedic Rituals. He condemned the Black Magicians and said that they give such holy practices a bad name. He stressed the importance of such Yagnas and said it assumed even more importance in the present times, when the whole world is reeling under threats of war, extreme corruption and other social ailments.

Starting at eight in the morning, the Yagna and the spiritual discourse lasted approximately three hours. Though people had to sit for such an extended period of time, no one showed any signs of discomfort – perhaps because the spiritual and mental peace they found helped them overcome the physical discomfort.

People were particularly happy with the interactive Q&A session as their doubts were put to rest by the savvy Swamiji who provided them more than some food for thought.

Most attendees felt that such Yagnas should be organised with more regularity, for it only benefits those to participate but also sends out powerful prayers into the cosmos, for the larger good of mankind.

Summer Escapades

Summer Escapades

Come summer, and most students heave a sigh of relief. Soon, exams would be over and there would be no more cramming till late nights. After a monotonous and wearisome academic year, they certainly deserve a stress-free summer vacation. But stress-free need not mean laid-back. In fact, summer is a great time to catch up with all those exciting activities that are simply impossible to take up during school time.

One really nice way to unwind during summer vacations is to embark upon an adventure trip by signing up with one of the several adventure camps organised specially for school students. Imagine being away from the sweltering heat of Mumbai in the peak of summer. Imagine yourself skiing away to glory in the snow-capped Himalayas, or navigating through dense forests, crossing rivers and climbing rocky mountains. Imagine spending nights under open skies, on the top of a hill that offers a view to a beautiful alpine lake. This is the groovy stuff adventure camps are made of.

Each year, dozens of students from Thane participate in such camps, thanks to Jidnyasa Trust. For the tenth year in a row, the Thane-based Jidnyasa Trust is organising the Himalayan Adventure Camps, scheduled in the months of April and May 2003. The camps are conducted by the Directorate of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, Government of Himachal Pradesh at Manali.

The Adventure Course, as it is called, includes various outdoor adventure activities like Snow & Rock-Climbing, Forest-Navigation, River-Crossing, Rappelling and Zoomering. In the 14-day Basic Skiing Course, campers will learn the techniques of Skiing by professionals from the Mountaineering Institute of Himachal Pradesh.

Surendra Dighe, founder of the not-for-profit Jidnyasa Trust says, "Jidnyasa is all about adventure. Our objective is to help students discover the hidden potential in them. From my experience, I can say with a high degree of conviction that living in the beautiful Himalayas for a couple of weeks away from their folks, imbibes a feeling of self-confidence and a spirit of adventure among the campers. And when they return from the camp, they are really transformed."

It is true that the challenge to undertake a variety of unfamiliar activities not only provides sense of achievement, but also exposes the campers to a more diverse selection of interests. Adventure camps offer a terrific opportunity for these children to experience the real world first hand – away from the protective shield of their parents and teachers. It helps them develop into confident and mature individuals by creating a sense of responsibility and self-discipline. Students learn to be self-motivated and resourceful in organising and planning their activities and also learn to be accountable for their actions throughout the expedition. Noted French critic, essayist, & novelist once wrote, "It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves – in finding themselves"

The Himalayan adventure camps are open for students aged between 10 and 15 years. The camps have been specially organised for ‘Jidnyasa’ students by the Government of Himachal Pradesh. Younger students or those who don’t wish to go all the way to the Himalayas need not despair. There are several shorter camps that held closer to Thane. These are typically 3-day camps and offer many adventurous opportunities to campers. Nature trails, star-gazing and trekking are a few of them.

To find out more about these adventure camps, readers may contact Sumita Dighe on 25403857 between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. or email jidnyasa@indiatimes.com