Month: June 2005

Get that extra edge!

Get that extra edge!

As the new academic year begins, most students get busy with their school, homework and tuition classes. While academic pursuits are important, the role of extracurricular activities in the life of students cannot be over-emphasised.   Students who participate in non-academic pursuits develop an all-round personality, which holds them in good stead in their later life, both in their careers and their personal lives. Experts concur that it is important that students expose themselves  to as many different career options as possible during their high school. Not everyone excels in academics, but there are other aspects that exams do not test. Participating in extracurricular activities also help students discover hidden talents, meet interesting people, inspire self-confidence and learn about things outside their immediate environment. One other advantage of non-academic endeavours is that it provides a respite from the monotony of bookish studies, which eventually helps the students perform better at academics.

Parents should encourage their children to participate in extracurricular pursuits by helping them find and enrol with the various groups within and outside their school. Depending on the child’s propensity and interests, he or she should look for activities that either support their current interests or help them explore newer ones. Unless they are exposed to various activities, they will never know what they really like. Adventure, nature trails, sports, singing, music, dancing, literary pursuits, acting/ theatre, reading, writing, drawing, painting – there are scores of options. And each of them offers fabulous career options in the future.

A word of caution to students: be careful not to overextend yourself by taking on too many activities. Extracurricular activities are supposed to complement a student’s life, not complicate it. When you are involved in too many activities or in an activity that takes up too much time, you may become stressed, which will negatively affect your grades.

Because you live in Thane, you are fortunate to have the opportunity to sign up for the several extra-curricular activities offered by schools, adventure clubs, NGOs and other groups. So this year, resolve to enrol yourself in extracurricular activities that will expand your scope, so that you can have that "extra" edge in life.

Life as an army officer
We are fortunate to live in a country where joining the armed forces is voluntary. There are many countries where the military draft makes it mandatory to serve the armed forces for a certain period in your life. In spite of this, the Indian armed forces are among the largest in the world. The pride and respect associated with armed forces is unrivalled. Here’s an opportunity for students of Thane to find out what life as an officer in the armed forces is like.

For more than ten years now, the Jidnyasa Trust has been organising an annual "Military Training Programme" in the city. Held under the guidance of Major (Retd.) Subhash Gawand, the programme is open to students of class VI, VII and VIII. One of the objectives of this training is to prepare boys and girls for the competitive entrance tests such as National Defence Academy (NDA). Students are trained in military parade, air rifle shooting, self-defence, mountaineering, first aid, civil defence and aero-modelling. Group discussion session and public speaking will be organised to develop interpersonal skills. Military training inculcates the highest sense of discipline among its participants at a young age. It also aids improving general behaviour, develops stamina and achieves overall growth of young students.

Like in the past couple of years, the training is being organised in association with P.E. Society’s English School and training sessions will be held in the school premises. The minimum prescribed weight of applicants is 30 kg and they should be at least 135 cm tall. The training sessions will be held every Sunday between 7 am and 11.30 a.m. To enrol, contact Maj. (Retd.) Subhash Gawand, Trustee of Jidnyasa Turst, at P. E. Society’s English School, Mithbunder Road, Thane (East) at 7.00 a.m. on June 26, 2004.

Ignorance is not bliss

Ignorance is not bliss

Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths for women aged 40-59. Every three minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. Every 13 minutes a woman dies from breast cancer. Breast cancer accounts for 20 per cent of the total cancer-related diseases in India and is largely prevalent among urban women. 75,000 new cases occur in Indian women every year. A World Health Organisation survey suggests that by 2020 there will be 10 million new cancer cases every year in the developing world of which 6 million people will die. In India alone it is estimated that 1.5 million new cancer cases will occur yearly at the start of this century. These depressing statistics speak of the alarming magnitude of the problem, and necessitates an urgent need for creating awareness about prevention, control, and cure of breast cancer.

About 100 women from Thane discovered the truth about breast cancer last Saturday, when veteran surgeon Dr Ravi Deshmukh, retired head of surgery at Grant Medical College, provided insights into prevention and control of breast cancer. The seminar, held at Sarva Seva Samiti Hall in Thane East between 5.30 and 7 pm, was organised by social worker Veena Bhatia. Dr Deshmukh revealed that one out of every 30 women in India suffers from the malady and attributed the cause to genetic disposition, late marriage, having fewer children and shorter duration of breast feeding. He urged the women present to check themselves thoroughly on the first of every month and immediately report to the doctor in case they find an abnormality. Dr Deshmukh stressed that not every tumor is cancerous and women should not panic if they discover something abnormal. The problem with Indian women is that they are shy of visiting cancer specialists, most of who are men. They also defer the test in apprehension of what they might discover, sometimes for up to two years, after which it is too late for cure. But this is a big mistake, said Dr Deshmukh, because early detection can prevent the cancer from turning malignant. He suggested that every woman who turns 38 should get a basic mammography done to rule out the chances of breast cancer. He also outlined some basic health and hygiene criteria for women to follow and demonstrated the techniques of self-examination through an audio visual presentation.

A Q&A that followed saw many women asking relevant questions regarding costs of treatment, where to go, whom to approach and so on. One very useful piece of information that Dr Deshmukh shared was that women who discover that they have breast cancer need not wait to get admission to TATA memorial hospital, which sometimes takes precious months. In fact they need leave Thane, because all the advanced treatment facilities are available right here.

Before he ended his session, Dr Deshmukh took a promise from all women present in the audience that they will check themselves on the first of every month and spread the word by informing at least seven other women about what they learnt in the seminar. Incidentally, he revealed that one other problem with spreading awareness about breast cancer is the reluctance of women to attend such seminar even. Dr Deshmukh requested Bhatia to open a centre for breast cancer in Thane on lines of western countries and offered technical help for the same if needed.

Several women requested the doctor for an opportunity to speak to him individually after the seminar was formally over. Although the seminar met its immediate objective of educating the 100-odd women, its larger objective of preventing breast cancer and controlling its incidence will depend on how many women who attended the seminar, and those who are reading this column, follow the advice given by Dr Deshmukh. Remember, when it comes to cancer, ignorance is anything but bliss.

Obsessed with marks?

Obsessed with marks?

Last month, over a dozen students from Mumbai took their lives in fear of the impending board results. And this is an annual phenomenon. Every year, around May and June, we witness paranoia among students awaiting their class X and XII board results. Thousands of students go into depression, take to drugs or commit suicide. A study by The Week magazine found that approximately 4000 students commit suicide in India each year, most of which are exam-related. What’s more, because of our fixation  with marks, a CNN.com report declared India as "obsessed with numbers". This is a disturbing trend and it cannot be stressed enough that we must strive to end collectively – parents, teachers, students and the society at large. Students in particular must be made to understand that life is not about academic success alone and there’s a lot more to it.  

Failing is like stumbling, and should be viewed only a temporary setback – you get up and start walking again. If you obtain lesser marks than you expected, just resolve to do better next time instead of brooding over the current "failure". Remember what, Tom Hopkins, internationally respected sales trainer said, "I am not judged by the number of times I fail, but by the number of times I succeed; and the number of times I succeed is in direct proportion to the number of times I can fail and keep on trying." In other words, not giving up is his mantra of success, which is repeated in different words by every successful person. This is what "You and Your Results", a seminar for students of SSC and HSC and their parents, will highlight.

Every year around the time of declaration of board results, Lighthouse Foundation, a nascent not-for-profit group, organises these seminars in Thane and Mumbai for anxious SSC/HSC students and their parents. The objective of the seminars is to reach out to students and parents and highlight the urgent importance of detaching students from their results. There are countless examples of individuals who have done extremely well in their lives in spite of not having a strong academic background. Thomas Edison, JRD Tata, Charlie Chaplin, George Washington, Mark Twain, Agatha Christie, Dhirubhai Ambani and many more did not complete formal education but that did not deter them from achieving heights of success. "While we do not undermine the importance of academics, we do emphasise that the individual is distinct from his or her results. Our seminar will attempt to dispel the many myths associated with board exam results," said a Lighthouse spokesperson. A free 20-page booklet, intended to encourage students and parents at the time of board results, will be circulated to the students at venue.

In the past eminent personalities such as actor Anupam Kher and commentator Harsha Bhogle have been part of the seminars. This year, well-known singer-composer Shankar Mahadevan will address the students at Siddhivinayak Hall, Siddhivinayak Temple Trust in Prabhadevi on Saturday 11 June at 10.30 am. An audio-visual presentation will focus on the correct way to approach board results. Well-known counsellor Dr Rajan Bhonsle will answer questions of students and parents. The seminar will be repeated at Thane on Sunday 10.30 am at Sahyog Mandir, Ghantali. The seminars are free, but entry is restricted only to SSC/HSC students, their parents/guardians and teachers.

Nature-al Instincts

Nature-al Instincts

Ecosystem \’e-ko-sis-tem\ n: Any group of living and nonliving things interacting with each other.

According to this definition, we are all a part of an ecosystem. A city, in spite of its concrete development and high density human population, is still an ecosystem. We are surrounded by nature everywhere – birds, insects, animals, trees, plants, clouds, atmosphere, lakes and other water bodies and many more living and non-living   things around us. But how often do we stop and think about it? Every morning when you look up in the sky, you’ll find hundreds of small and large birds crisscrossing the sky, but how many types of species can you identify? Do you ever stop and wonder which lakes supply water to you?   What about trees and their impact on attracting rain? Our busy urban life disconnects us from nature. But NGOs such as HOPE, Hariyali and Jidnyasa consistently work to remind us gently that we’re an inseparable part of the ecosystem.

The city, as an ecosystem, is in fact an ideal classroom for science as Jidnyasa Trust showed us by organising a bio-diversity camp for city students. 20 enthusiastic participants, all college students between 16 and 21 years, toiled for six hours every day for seven days to learn about the ecosystem they inhabit. Every evening, from 5 to 8 pm, the participants would sit through an audio-visual presentation followed by a field trip the next morning from 6.30 to 9.30 am. The camp was made possible by several experts who work in the sphere of environment protection. Dr Sanjay Deshmukh, world renowned expert on conservation of mangroves, and Dr Madhuri Pejawar, principal of Bedekar College, also known for her work in the same area, explained the importance of mangroves to the ecosystem. Hema Gupte and Amol Patwardhan from HOPE helped them in bird-watching and nature trails. While the audio visual lessons were at the Jignyasa-run Science Exploratory at Court Naka, the field work included trips to Yeoor and Thane Creek, which is on the verge of dying. The trip to the creek was particularly adventurous as the group embarked on a two-hour boat-ride from Vasai Bridge and then made a one-hour trek on the other side of the creek.

To assist participants on bird-watching Jidnyasa also circulated a small booklet authored by Hema Gupte. Manasai Apte, one of the participants, said, "We were enthusiastic throughout the camp and as we gathered vital information about the ecosystem and also the importance of maintaining a healthy balance."

Just like the 20 campers got up and close with nature, the rest of us can do too. Simply resolve to spend some time to contemplate the beauty that surrounds us, the miracle of trees growing, flowers blossoming, birds chirping and rain falling. Develop a habit of appreciating and respecting nature. Commit to memory what the legendary US architect Frank Lloyd Wright once said, "I believe in God, only I spell it N-A-T-U-R-E."

The Reach of Science
At 9 am today, DD national will telecast a special documentary called Vigyan Gaatha (Maharashtra’s Science Glory) produced by Jidnyasa Trust. The documentary will highlight the reach of science and technology and its impact on rural areas. Conceived and directed by Rajiv Shah and assisted by Santosh Deodhar and Balchandra Bhave, the documentary is part of the Year of Scientific Awareness, which the government of India is observing and of which Jignyasa was appointed as state coordinator.

Surendra Dighe, Managing Trustee of Jidnyasa revealed, "The documentary captures the tremendous spread of science and technology in rural Maharashtra and to what extent it has managed to change the habits and approaches of the villagers." The documentary covers four villages including Kadam Wadi, which was declared as Ideal village by the Maharashtra Government and which enjoys 100 per cent literacy. What the documentary reveals is extraordinary – for instance, willage women draped in traditional saris working on computers, or innovative methods of producing and conserving energy. Dr Anil Kakodkar, chairman of Atomic Energy Commission took a personal interest in this documentary by donating Rs 1 Lakh towards underwriting the cost of production. So make sure you switch the idiot box at 9 am today.

The 20-minute documentary seems to have impressed DD officials also, since they have now given their go ahead for a second part of documentary. This one will focus on the role of science and technology on health and agriculture. The cleaning of Masunda Lake is also likely to feature in the second part. We’ll keep you updated on this one.