Month: August 2005

Hello Brother!

Hello Brother!

Indians place a high premium on family and relationships. For us, love for family comes before wealth and material acquisitions. Much before the world began to celebrate days honouring specific relationships like friendship day, father’s day, and mother’s day, we Indians have been celebrating days that honour the purity of relationships. Take Raksha Bandhan – a festival that reinforces the bond of love between brothers and sisters. Not only does it foster ties within the family, it also strengthens the social fabric of our society as it extends beyond blood relations and promotes love and respect between individuals not related by birth.

Bond of Love

Year after year, Thane’s schools celebrate this event in wonderful ways, implanting Indian values in children, and ensuring that not only will the tradition be kept alive, but will continue to be celebrated with fervour in the future. Among the most touching celebrations of Raksha Bandhan is organised by the Sri Ma Snehadeep School for Special Children, situated at Patlipada. On Friday August 18, students from as many as 18 city-based regular schools, including Vasant Vihar School, Saraswati (Panchpakhadi), New English School, Hiranandani Foundation School, Bharat English High School, Carmel School, and St Xavier’s School, participated in the 8th inter-school Integration Programme.

It is difficult not be moved when you watch children interacting with their less privileged counterparts. It was a moment to savour when special girls from the host school tied rakhis to normal boys from visiting schools, just like normal girls from visiting schools established bonds with boys from the host school. The rakhis used were as special as the programme because they were all made by the student of Sri Ma Snehadeep.

The excitement of the special children was palpable and was adequately reflected in the welcome speech by a special student called Aniruddh Dongarkar. Addressing the visiting students, he said, "We’re happy that you all come when we invite you in spite of our school being located so far from the city. We’re thankful to you for accepting our invitation." The speech lasted for one full minute, an achievement considering that the Aniruddh is an MR child, and evoked a huge round of applause from the audience. The chief guest, R S Gurav, who is the Assistant Charity Commissioner of Thane District, too was visibly impressed by the programme and envisaged a bright future for all the participating children and also for the schools that encourage their children towards such noble acts.

The objective of the annual programme is to create awareness about special children among normal children. Students of regular schools observe special children, talk to them, see them moving around and singing before an audience and learn about their capabilities (such as making rakhis, selling them and so on). The interaction brings the special children closer to normal kids and also serves to dispel any wrong notions, if any, about special children in the minds of normal children. Special children need love and acceptance more than anything else and the Integration Programme was therefore a truly joyous occasion for them. The Principal of Sri Ma Snehadeep, Manju Tejwani, said, "Just a smile, an acknowledgement, or a simple hello by a normal child can brighten a special child’s day. If, as a result of this programme, a normal child sheds his inhibitions towards special children and reacts positively to them, I will feel the programme has achieved its objective." In fact, the Integration Programme may evoke more than a mere smile or acknowledgement from a normal child. For, the next time one of the participating girls sees a special boy, she will remember her rakhi brother!

A Story of Determination

A Story of Determination

Twenty years of selfless service to the society’s most neglected section requires courage, purpose and determination, like Thaneite Shyamshree Bhonsle has demonstrated.

It was exactly two decades ago, in August 1985, that Bhonsle took it upon herself to serve the one of the society’s severely marginalised sections. With the help of the Thane Municipal Corporation, she founded the Jidd School, an institution for children who were not only physically challenged but were from the lowest strata of the society.

The school has come a long way since its inception. For one it now admits even mentally disabled children. For another, the school is now housed in a high-quality structure built specially to serve its purpose. Meditation, music, dance, craft and physical exercises are some of the activties that students of Jidd School participate in. The school has an occupational-cum-physiotherapy trainer and a psychologist too. A special tool room was inuagurated last year to impart vocational training to the students in order to make them self-reliant.  

Jidd School has proved to be a boon to special children hailing from families who are so poor that they find managing a mere square meal on a regular basis a challenge. The students of the school enjoy free transportation, free food during classes and even free healthcare. In fact when the school started providing free breakfast and lunch, there was a marked increase in attendance, reveals Bhonsle, who has been serving the school ever since 1985.

Jidd, which is the Marathi word for determination, is an apt christening of the school because that is what it has stood for, over the last twenty years. The ride has been anything but smooth. Overcoming hurdles has become second nature to the Jidd School management and staff. But ironically, they are full of gratitude. They acknowledge the contribution of innumerable individuals, corporations, institutions and NGOs in helping them traverse the thorny path.

Bhonsle is indebted to the various NGOs, clubs, and individual volunteers who have time and again come forth to offer unconditional assistance to the school just so that it continues to serve its purpose. "When young children, college students, housewives and even senior citizens offer to help, we are encouraged beyond measure." She even mentions the positive role that media has played in creating awareness about the plight of special children.
 
Bhonsle makes a particular mention of the vital role of the Late Anand Dighe and the erstwhile TMC commissioner T Chandrasekhar who helped her set up the new premises of the school. The present TMC commissioner, Sanjay Sethi has pledged his support to Jidd from the beginning of this tenure. Then there are others such as TMC PRO Rajderkar, Narendra Kavade (who is now collector at Beed), MLA Eknath Shinde, Ex-Mayor Ramesh Vaity, Corporator Save and many more officials whose constant support has been instrumental in Jidd’s progress. Bhonsle also mentions the Thane Police Department and its various senior officers such as Additional CP Ashok Dhivre (now in Pune), DCP Suresh Ahire, ACP Nandkumar Chaugule among others.

Bhonsle is aware that her own persistence was supported by the selfless staff of Jidd School. It requires tremendous perseverance to teach and train special children but then the teachers of Jidd School are not known to be driven to such a noble occupation by the desire to make money. They derive happiness from serving the children, many of whom suffer from not one or two but multiple disabilities. A momentary glitter in the eyes of such disabled children is enough to make their day.

It is the collective role such countless individuals – staff, teachers, volunteers, NGOs, TMC officials, and many more – that has made it possible to run the Jidd School in spite of the many problems that it has faced and continues to face. The society is grateful to all of them. Indeed, it is these individuals who deserve to be congratulated for Jidd School’s 20th year anniversary.  

How much below the line?

How much below the line?

One can argue that most ad spending today is utter waste and does little to meet its supposed objective, especially the really expensive monthly-quarterly campaigns. Everyday we come across average looking and ineffective (more important that ‘just being creative’) ads in the newspaper and on television.

Yet at times, the product itself is so good it outperforms the ineffectiveness of the ad campaign and this is mistaken as a triumph for those attempts in traditional marketing and advertising. Competing firms, either from the same industry or otherwise, look at this and assume huge ad spends to be the answer to their problems, before they realise it’s too late and then axe themselves in their foot once again, this time with a different promise bearer who yet again is into ‘edgy stuff’.

In the same breadth, it is not always wise to assume that promotions and events are a good blind substitute or will always prove to be better as opposed to ad spends. When buying a television, the promise of a free duffelbag is hardly a carrot. Talk about free software (licence fee waived off) along with a branded computer and yes consumers will show interest.

Invite the customer to relate to what you are offering and she/he will excuse you for carrot dangling. That is how custmers think by and large.

Count your Blessings

Count your Blessings

I have been quite pensive this last week, trying to solve the myriad conundrums that life throws up – the best I know how to. Here is another important one, along with what I think is a plausible justification. To generalise it so might lead you to think that my assessment is an oversimplification of a far more complex phenomenon, but nonetheless, partial answers are better than no answers at all. So with the disclaimer taken care of, here I go.

Today, I want to know: What is at the root of all discontent? Why are people bitter with life and themselves? Is ‘ambition’ a bad word, after all? Does expectation set you up for disappointment? Do people have a bloated sense of self-perception? How much of it is destiny? Does everyone really get what he/she deserves? Tough questions, eh!? Well, here’s what I think..

The base hypothesis that we theorise on is: Every individual has his/her own perception of a utopian state, and consequently, a deviation from the same would lead to discontent; the degree of discontent being directly proportional to the extent of deviation. But wait, there is a rider, a tricky one at that. The definition of ‘Utopia’ is not static, essentially because it is defined in material terms. For instance, today, if it means a paycheck of 50K, a luxury sedan, and a penthouse apartment, with a family that roots for you and a man who loves you to death, then tomorrow ( No, I dont want so much. All the paraphernalia listed here is just to create the right effect!!), when you have it, it might not keep you happy for a long time for, "Yeh Dil Maange More!". And the ‘more’ you want of what you do not have, the ‘more’ unhappy, discontented and disillusioned you become. The more you whine about the best opportunities eluding you despite your being the best there is, and the more jealous you become of friends and colleagues whom you would otherwise love, if only they werent doing better than you! And you go, "Man, life sucks!! I aint getting nowhere – professionally or personally."

The million dollar question then is: Is trading your inner happiness and peace worth some small change of conforming to external standards of success and affluence? Yes, I say small change, for if that latest material acquistion, that cool new PDA phone, that beauty of an Ipod, the latest celeb-endorsed fragrance, that expensive Armani suit, or that Bentley chronograph, could buy you eternal happiness, you wouldn’t be whining. And while I swear by retail therapy myself, I would say it’s a symptomatic treatment for blues at best, and by no means curative. But I digress, the point that I am trying to make here is that you are trying to win a race, that doesn’t have a finishing line, and so however hard you or anybody might run, none is going to win. And really, it’s okay to take a breather every once in a while, take in the view, and take a moment to appreciate how pretty it is! To put it simply, count your blessings. And then get back to the run, for run you must. You’ll discover not only are you running harder, but running happier. Now, wouldn’t you want that?

Fruits of Education

Fruits of Education

It is well-documented that students understand concepts and ideas better when hands-on involvement accompanies theory. Saraswati Mandir Trust’s Pre-primary section adopts this approach in their day-to-day teaching. Like last week, when they organised a "Vruksha Dindi", a procession of saplings.

The idea of the procession was to educate the pre-primary kids about how trees are planted, how they grow and also to make them appreciate the importance of trees in the ecology. The preparation began on July 18 when the students were asked to sow a seed, preferably mango seed, in their homes and water it daily. Then, on August 05, the students were asked to bring their seed-turned-sapling to school. The sapling-procession, which ensued, looked rather fascinating with students dressed in outfits with the theme of trees. So there were little girls and boys, aged around four or five,  turned up as trees, trunks, branches, fruits and even parrots, marching forward. There was a Vanadevi too (Goddess of the forest). Students were carrying placards with environment friendly messages such as "Trees are our friends" and "Plant more trees". The staff of the school sang songs praising trees. Later, the saplings were stored in a beautifully decorated space reserved for them. The saplings will be handed over to Thane-based environment-care NGO Hariyali, for further care.

The sapling-procession is akin to sowing a hundred seeds from which a whole forest of environment consciousness will grow, each tree bearing the sweetest fruits. Mother Nature will be pleased.

A Divine Course
Bhagavad Gita, literally translated as "the song of the Divine" is the most revered sacred scripture of the Hindu religion. Many believe that the wealth of spiritual wisdom contained in the Gita is the only antidote to the widespread human suffering, which is the result of a highly materialistic life focused only on accumulation. The "more" disease, as it is sometimes referred, causes us humans to fight with each other, with nature and with ourselves. Most of us seem to have forgotten that we are spiritual beings in human form. Perhaps only by becoming aware of our spiritual aspect, our true inner self, will each us be able to get hold of lasting contentment and peace of mind. Alas, the vicious circle of urban life does not allow us to explore the divine part of us, keeping us busy in accumulations and possessions.

Residents of Thane are now getting an opportunity of self-exploration via Gita lessons. Sri Ma Trust has organised a free certificate course in Bhagavad Gita for Thaneiets. The course was initiated on the auspicious occasion of Guru Pournima and is held every Sunday between 4.30 and 5.30 pm at Sri Ma Vanasthali located behind Municipal Commissioner’s Bungalow at near Hiranandani Estate. Already, about 25 parents of Sri Ma Bal Niketan students have registered for the course, which is open to all residents of Thane. Nirmal Jothi, principal of Sri Ma Bal Niketan conducts the sessions. A division for children’s development, christened Sri Ma Bal Seva Mandal (SMBSM) was also instituted on the same day. Among other activities, SMBSM too will conduct Essence of Gita courses for the benefit of inculcating the right spiritual values in children.

The wisdom of Gita distributed to a small group of people in Thane may not make the slightest difference to the sorry state of affairs of the world, but it does have a potential to alter the world of every individual in the group. The secret is to trust the wisdom of Lord Krishna much like Arjuna did.

Questomired!!

Questomired!!

Ever wondered- how many kisses it takes to melt a heart of stone?..how many tears before a river flows?!..how many heartaches before eternal bliss, or how many loves (or things that look like it) before THE ONE?…

If any numbers are important, these are…but believe you me, there arent even credible proximate guesses, much less accurate answers to these…

Another question: A deterministic world view would have us believe, "It’s destiny! All’s pre-determined". Why then the pain, the angst, the living hell of going through relationships that would seem ‘oh-so-right’ at the outset, only to be transcribed inexplicably as ‘not meant-to-bes’, six months down the line? Some would say, experience enriches you, makes you more aware of what you want and more importantly, what you absolutely do not? But again, cant self-awareness precede mistakes? Does learning necessarily come the hard way-through falling and failing? And if that’s indeed the way of it, why is it like that?

It’s said that all humans are blessed with Intuition- and a certain level of consciousness has all the answers, knows all you need to know. You need to get attuned to that level, ask for guidance and trust,   it’ll take you where you want to go. If that really is the case, why do we not have a clear sense of perspective? What does it take to get in touch with that level of consciousness?

Questions? questions?? Why so many of them?? And worse, why, no plausible answers???

Prudent Parenting

Prudent Parenting

Our attitudes, confidence levels and approach to deal with difficult situations are formed during childhood. Parenting children under age 10 is therefore one of the most difficult tasks and calls for a tremendous sense of responsibility. But young couples often find themselves unable to cope with raising healthy and happy children. To help such couples, Saraswati Mandir Trust’s Pre-Primary School at Naupada organised a series of lectures by experts. Titled Paalak Shaala, meaning School for Parents, the lectures were held in two batches – one for parents of students aged around four years on July 24 and the other for parents whose students are aged around five years on July 31. The lectures, held between 8.30 am and 12.30 pm, saw a massive turnout of 700 parents collectively.

The first speaker was Dr Ashok Paranjpe (MD, BAMS), a well-known authority in the field of diet and nutrition. In his lecture, he urged parents to move away from the popular tendency of relying on supplements only and highlighted the importance of a balanced diet for their children. According to Paranjpe, a high-protein diet is not sufficient. For proper physical and mental growth, the child requires complete nutrition which is available in seasonal produce, green vegetables and natural foods. These foods are rich in medicinal values and also build resistance (immunity) of the child. He also emphasised the role of physical exercise for children suggesting that they be encouraged to indulge in physical activity. Running, skipping and jogging are great for children. He insisted parents on teaching children the traditional Indian Suryanamaskar, which is a great all-body workout.
 
The next speaker was Arun Naik, a psychologist with a vibrant personality, who gave loads of sound advice to parents. Naik underlined the difference between growth, which is quantitative and development, which is qualitative. According to Naik, parents must give more importance to the latter. He said that for a proper development of the child, parents must learn how to deal with difficult situations in a calm and balanced manner. Talking about expectations, he revealed that parental pressure to perform often takes away the child’s joy of participating in competitions. Instead, the child should be allowed to enjoy without any expectations whatsoever. Naik ended his session by emphasising on showing children the immense possibilities of life rather than categorising their every act as "good" or "bad".

It was then the turn of clinical therapist and counsellor Sunila Dingankar, who used several examples to illustrate how parents can effectively mould the thought patterns of their children. She outlined four behavioural patterns of parents: firm, firm and indecisive, kind and indecisive, and kind yet firm. According to her, the last one, firm but kind, is best way to deal with children.

Parents who attended the lectures were so moved by the wisdom they received that they appealed for regular sessions covering wider issues of concern. Taking into account the enthusiastic response of parents, principal pf the school, Rohini Rasal, announced the setting up of "Paalak Charcha Vyaspeeth", a congregation of parents to discuss the various issues. She also made the school premises available for the meetings. The first meeting is scheduled for August 07 at 5pm and interested parents have been invited to participate.

Bestselling author Robert Fulghum says, "Don’t worry that children never listen to you. Worry that they are always watching you". Parenting is, first and foremost, about setting a good example and then ensuring gently that your child grows up healthy, self-reliant, and fulfilled. Isn’t that every parent’s dream?