Month: December 2004

Have skills, will earn

Have skills, will earn

It’s Christmas today, but special children of Jidd school received their gift from Santa five days ago on Sunday itself. And what a special gift it was – a vocational training centre. To gauge the importance of such a training centre, consider this: 40 million children in India are either physically or mentally challenged and a large percentage of these are denied their basic right to education. And even the few lucky ones who manage to study in school are left high and dry once school is over. When these children grow up, they have no option but to depend on others for who will employ them or what will they do?

The Vocational Training Centre at Jidd School, the first of its kind in Thane, is an attempt to answer this difficult question. The centre, which occupies two large rooms in the school’s premises, has been entirely sponsored by the Rotary Club of Thane Hills (RCTH). Equipped with professional apparatus, students will learn soft skills like producing paper bags and office files, screen-printing, producing liquid detergents and phenol and creating and managing a plant nursery. The latter will serve as a plant library, much like a regular book library, where you can borrow a variety of plants for a fixed period of time. The tools at the centre come with built-in safety, so that special children find it easy and safe to use. What’s more, to ensure proper training of children, school instructors completed a course in vocational training from the National Job Development Centre at Chembur, run by the Spastics Society of India (SSI).

Sanjay Sethi, TMC’s new commissioner, who was the chief Guest of the inaugural function, expressed his fondness for the Jidda School and promised to help the school in whichever way possible. For starters, he assured the school’s principal Shyamashree Bhonsle that he will grant permission to Jidda School for construction of the first floor to accommodate the growing number of students. In his address, Sethi appreciated the training centre initiative but also highlighted the need for savvy marketing of the products made by special children. He suggested the use of small labels which will point out that the products have been made by special children. "The market is very competitive and it is usually quite difficult to get orders unless you try something unique and appeal to the spirit of the people," Sethi said.

Marketing is without doubt an important issue, but the Rotary Club is confident that with the right approach, it would be possible to find a market for the products and services offered by these children. Already the TMC Mayor has indicated that TMC will buy files made by these children. "The next move is to make workshop shelters for these children where they will actually manufacture these products. We will hand over the operations of these workshops to Jagruti, which is the association of parents of special children," said Ravi Iyer, project in-charge from the RCTH. Iyer said they also propose to tap the other Rotary clubs of Thane, who already support the Jidda School actively in many ways.

The guest of honour at the function was Varsha Hooja, Team Coordinator of National Resource Centre for Inclusion, an arm of the SSI. Hooja was extremely impressed by Jidd School and said she had not expected a school run by TMC to be so well maintained and well run. She invited Jidd School and TMC to collaborate with SSI in their various projects.

The Vocational Training Centre is a step in the right direction for special schools. Let’s hope more and more special schools follow this example of teaching fishing, instead of merely providing fish.

A Musical Lesson

A Musical Lesson

There are orchestras, ensembles and musical shows. And there is Gagan Jhula – Ek Divas Kavita Gani – a musical show with a difference. When almost every musical showcases popular songs, from films or otherwise, this was a one courageous attempt to break the rules and go against popular belief. For one, all the songs were based on poems that would probably be known only to literary buffs. For another, few producers ready to back the idea because it lacked commercial attraction. But Abhijit Panse decided to go ahead in spite of the criticism. And his valour was rewarded as the culture-loving audiences of Thane welcomed the idea, appreciated the new concept and enjoyed the programme.

Such was the success of the show, which was held on December 12 at the Gadkari Rangayatan, that the auditorium was chock-a-block with people waiting outside to gain entry. The musical, composed by leading Marathi composer Kaushal Inamdar (of Char Divas Sasuche fame), presented songs based on verses, old and new. 22 new songs were created based on verses written by such greats like Sant Dnyaneshwar and Kusumajraj, to present day poets like Ashok Bagwe and Sandeep Khare. Singers like Ajit Parab, Hrishikesh Kanerkar, Hamsika, and Dr Neha Tejpal performed to a full house.

The show was organised in honour of a book release. The book titled “Ha Kumbha Amruta cha” is an autobiography of Baburao Sarnaik. What’s interesting is that due to a small mistake in announcement, most people turned up much earlier than the scheduled time of the show, but most stayed through the programme, including a one-hour break in which the book was released. “To stay for more than five hours for a Marathi show, which is not exactly very famous, was indeed great. I just did not expect the audience to react so encouragingly”, said Panse, who conceived and directed the show. In the past too, Panse created a unique musical drama called Vande Mataram, which received a lukewarm response from producers until it was performed. Then it became very successful. “I welcome youngsters to approach me with unique ideas and would be happy to provide a platform to them, if it’s possible for me to do so. I know how it feels like having ideas without backers,” adds Panse.

The great R. Buckminster Fuller, inventor, architect, engineer, mathematician, poet and cosmologist once said, “People should think things out fresh and not just accept conventional terms and the conventional way of doing things.” Panse followed this advice and look what he achieved. There’s a lesson in it for all of us to learn.

When the soul dances

When the soul dances

The evening of December 3rd was, in many ways, an unforgettable one for lovers of classical dance. The Gadkari Rangayatan, which staged the 11th Padmashree Nataraj Gopikrishna Sangeet Mahotsav, was jam packed with Kathak enthusiasts.
 
City-based Shree Ganesh Cultural Academy organises this annual programme in recognition of Dance Master Gopikrishna’s immeasurable contribution to the art of classical dance. Manjiri Deo, veteran dance teacher from Thane, who founded the Academy, was a student of Gopikrishna. Last Friday, when she performed on stage, she deliberately chose steps and moves that the great master had taught her. So enthralled was the audience with Deo’s performance that several times the auditorium resonated with requests of "once more".

When 68-year-old Asha Joglekar was awarded the lifetime achievement award for her contribution to the field of dance, Manjiri Deo’s husband, Sriram Sripad Deo, who hosted the programme, requested his wife to present the award. But Deo’s response was, "I am too insignificant in the presence of my Guru (Asha Joglekar) and I don’t think I am worthy of presenting an award to her." Joglelar, in turn, said in her speech that she would have been honoured to receive the award at the hands of one of her most talented students (referring to Manjiri Deo). It is this humility that is the mark of great individuals.

The evening was an unforgettable experience for lovers of classical dance from Thane. And why not, it was Indian culture at its best.
 
Go get it!
Here is an update on the National Science Congress, where students from Thane have often outperformed the others. Once again this year, our city is set to make a powerful impression at the national round of the Children’s Science Congress. As many as four projects, have reached the ultimate round – the highest from any one city. A remarkable achievement considering that there were a total of 800 entries from all over Maharashtra, out of which only 30 will represent the state at the national round, to be held in Guwahati between 27 and 31 December 2004. As usual, President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam is scheduled to inaugurate the event.
 
Another unique aspect of this year’s congress is that for the very first time the Municipal Corporation Schools from Thane participated and one of the four projects selected for the national round is from TMC School No. 2. The project, titled " Ice Candy – The health Hazard" and guided by Sushama Rege, analyses the quality of water used to make ice by vendors of ice candy.
 
What’s more, Thane District coordinator Mrs. Sandhya Dharde, a teacher from Smt. Savartividevi Tharni High School, Vartak Nagar, has been chosen for The Best Performance Award.
 
Thane based Jidnyasa Trust, which is State Coordinator of National Children Science Congress for Maharashtra actively supported all projects from Thane. Surendra Dighe, Managing Trustee of Jidnyasa says, "We got valuable support from TMC’s Education Department and the Pollution Control laboratory, which testes water samples and provides results promptly. Of course, there were many individuals too, from schools, colleges and other organisations whose support made this possible."
 
That the students of Thane are bright is a known fact. Time and again, they prove their mettle against the best brains in the country. Let’s all wish the participants all the very best for Guwahati. Go get it!

Victory of Good over Evil

Victory of Good over Evil

The full moon in the Hindu month of Kartik is celebrated as Tripuri Pournima   This year the full moon was on Friday 26 November 2004, and thousands of temples around the country,   the 64-year-old Kopaneshwar Temple in Thane was lit up with countless oil-lamps to mark the occasion.

There are many legends about why Tripuri Pournima is celebrated. One of them goes like this: in the ancient period, there was a demon called Tripurasur, who pleased Lord Vishnu with years of penance, and in return, the received a boon of protection along with amulets of iron, silver and gold from the Lord. This made the demon almost indestructible as he could be killed only with a single arrow from Lord Shiva’s quiver. The demon started misusing his new-found power and began troubling the Gods and the Rishis. The Gods turned to Shiva for help, who fought a war and with the help of Lord Ganesha, and finally defeated Tripurasur with a single arrow demolishing his three amulets. This victory over Tripurasur took place on the night of full moon in the month of "Kartik". The Gods rejoiced and celebrated this victory by illuminating their abdoes and lighting fireworks. It is therefore also known as Dev Diwali (God’s Diwali). Tripuri Pournima is considered next only to Mahashivaratri for the worship of Lord Shiva.

The Shree Kopaneshwar Mandir Committee Trust has been celebrating Tripuri Pournima in this fashion for over 25 years now, in association with various city-based groups that work in the cultural sphere. This year, Vivekananda Kendra (Kanyakumari) Thane, The Chinmaya Mission, Brahman Shabha, Naupada Hindu Bhagini Mandal, Rastriya Sevika Samiti, Mukhtayi Bhagini Mandal and a few more cultural organisations collaborated in celebrating the occasion.

On November 26, women from the city performed a "deep prajavalan" (lighting of lamps) as part of the process of offering prayers to Lord Shiva. Inside the temple where the Shivling is housed, there were 750 wicks that were ignited to make a deepamala (garland of lights). To mark the occasion, the Kopaneshwar temple flooring was decorated with several large and colourful rangolis and oil-lamps. One giant rangoli, made from colours and flowers, was right in the middle of the temple, portraying Lord Krishna with his cow and a Shivling in the background. On its periphery were hundreds of oil-lamps, making it a sight to behold. Next to it was a large swastik made out Marigold flowers, also very attractive. The entire temple was replete with a variety of colours, flowers and oil-lamps arranged so beautifully that it left the devotees, regardless of their age, awestruck. Such was the enthusiasm of the devotees that if the breeze would cause any lamp to be put out, the by-standing devotees would light it up themselves.
 
Tripuri Pournima is yet another day to celebrate the victory of good over evil and like many other Hindu festivals, serves to remind us that such celebrations are symbolic and have significance that is far more profound than the rituals themselves. In today’s modern context, Tripuri Pournima stands for the fight between the good and evil that resides inside each of us. We have to encourage the good (which contains the word GOD within) and destroy the devil (which contains the word evil within). The lighting of lamps signifies the chasing away of the dark (evil) forces from our hearts.