Month: December 2005

Alerting Young Girls

Alerting Young Girls

The recent episode of the rape and murder of a young BPO employee in Bangalore is just one of the many that has brought to the fore the growing incidence of sexual crimes against young women. The trauma of victims of crimes such as molestation, torture and rape is not only severe but indelible too. A major contributing factor in preventing such crimes is the refusal of prospective victims (as also their parents and teachers) to believe that they are susceptible. Low awareness and a hesitation to report are other factors that play a key role in encouraging such crimes.

In wake of the increasing abuse and exploitation of women, especially adolescent girls, the Thane Women’s Guild (TWG), organised a programme titled Caution Against Rape and Exploitation (CARE) for teenage girls of Thane. On Saturday, December 17, 2005, more than 150 girls from 10 city-based schools participated in an interactive session and received vital insights in preventing such crimes against them. The audience also included many principals, teachers, parents and even social workers. The programme was organised in association with the Rotary Club of Thane and with significant help from Nirmal Kumar Deshmukh, the Chief Executive Officer of Thane District Zilla Parishad.

Held at Sahyog Mandir, Ghantali, the highlight of the programme was the address by Archana Tyagi, the District Superintendent of Police, Thane Rural. Being a senior woman police officer, the audience found Tyagi’s words both empathetic and sensible. Her candid discussion on the sensitive topic encouraged several young girls in the audience to ask pertinent questions. She was pleased with the programme because she admits that the police force rarely, if ever, gets an opportunity to interact with people directly regarding such issues. Talking to the girls, she emphasised the importance of speaking out about such crimes. Her address was filled with revealing statistics. For instance few of us know that most rapes and molestation cases occur between 2 pm and 9 pm. Another rather interesting myth that Tyagi busted was that poverty is not linked to crime – even well off individuals commit such crimes. When one girl brought up the case of constable Sunil More, Tyagi was quick to point out that More was one bad apple and does not reflect the make-up of the entire 12,000-strong Mumbai police force. In fact she underlined the importance of believing in law and order and reporting such cases to help the system book the criminals.

Preeti Patkar, the executive secretary of PRERNA, an NGO for women in distress was the other speaker of the evening. Patkar, who handled the touchy issue delicately, explained the idea of rape and molestation and how to minimise the chances of becoming a victim. In the unfortunate event that any of them gets being victimised, she urged that such victims should, under no circumstances, hide the incident or suppress their feelings. They should share it with their parents, teachers, friends or whoever they feel close with. She warned them the young girls are innocent and often suffer silently, especially if the victimiser happens to be an older relative who cajoles them into believing that ‘this is normal’ and that they should not reveal it to anybody. She said the victims should never feel guilty as they are not at fault. Instead they should report the matter to the police. She even guided them on how they should approach the police, telling them that they should insist on interacting with a lady constable at all times.

While such programmes create the much-needed awareness in the society to fight against abuse, it is the moral obligation on the part of each and every one of us to be more sensitive to such problems and train young girls and boys into becoming more sensible and alert.

Pearls of Wisdom

Pearls of Wisdom

In the era when western influences dominate, a degree in Indian classical dance is no mean feat indeed. But a post-graduate degree is considered to be an even greater achievement. No wonder Pune-based Nritya Visharad and Nritya Alankar, Asawari Rahalkar was invited to Thane on December 3, to share tips on learning classical dance and also to guide students who are taking dance exams. The session was organised by Shree Ganesh Nritya Kala Mandir, which is the official centre for the examination in Thane, for the benefit of students who are due for their exams in the next week.

During the session, Asawari, who is also a Sangeet Visharad, narrated some fascinating anecdotes from her life, like the time when she was troubled by her mother’s ruthless discipline in her childhood. Rahalkar began her informal dance training at a tender age of six, when mother Alaka Rahalkar, herself an accomplished Kathak dancer and trainer, began teaching her. So strict was her mother that nothing could sway her to excuse Asawari from the daily practice. At the time, Asawari used to fret, wondering why her mother wasn’t like other moms.

Many years later, Asawari was recovering from a bad bout of Yellow fever and was scheduled to give a stage performance in a week’s time. Not only did she go ahead with the performance in spite of the weakness, but it was one of her best performances. She could do it because, due to her mother’s early lessons in discipline, she had learned early in life that, with determination, she is capable of triumphing over any obstacle.

From the age of nine, Asawari found her first guru in Rohini Bhate, with whom she trained for eight years. She was the youngest in her batch and was also among the most cherished students of her Guru. Once, on the day of Guru Pournima, Bhate gave her students an assignment in which they were to choreograph their own steps on a tune of their choice. Asawari chose a tune composed by the Pt Ravi Shankar and her performance evoked the most unexpected response from her proud Guru who walked up to her to congratulate her. Then, as a mark of extreme joy, Bhate went out to a sweet shop, bought heaps of sweets and distributed them among the other
students.

Asawari’s current Guru is Rajendra Gangani, who hails from the famous Jaipur gharana of Kathak. When a student asked her how she manages to interact with a Guru in Delhi when she herself is based in Pune, she replied, "My guru has taught me one thing. To be a good student, we have to be like a sponge, absorb everything and retain it for later use."

For the 50-odd students from various dance institutes in Thane, her tips were invaluable. For example, as an examiner, she often asks students to define a concept of dance and the students simply reply with a theoretical definition, straight from the book. According to her, a performance oriented art form like dance cannot be learned from books alone. She emphasised the importance of internalising the dance techniques rather than learning definitions from the book. To those who are born talented, she advised them to not let their good fortune get into their head and make them arrogant. Students should never take their talents for granted and never underestimate the importance of regular riyaz (practice), because there is always scope for growth and improvisation – even after they acquire degrees and achieve recognition.

The pearls of wisdom that Asawari shared with the anxious students acted like tonic. After the two-hour session, all those present in the audience felt not only wiser but also determined to succeed in the examination they will soon take.

Theory versus Practice

Theory versus Practice

There is an interesting anecdote about James Watt. One day, when he was still young, he happened to observe a kettle boiling on the hearth and started to fiddle around by holding a spoon over its spout, opening the kettle and shutting it, gauging the pressure and so on. When his aunt saw him “fooling around”, she scolded him for “idleness” and told him to go out and do something more productive. His "idleness" soon led to the development of the famed steam engine.

Children's Science Centre in Thane

There is a lesson in that little story for our education system which is predominantly theory-oriented. For, true learning always follows understanding, which needs observation and involvement. This is even more so for subjects like science, which have a basis in experiments. For example, read the following statement: “The centre of gravity of a collection of masses is the point where all the weight of the object can be considered to be concentrated.” Now would you not rather that you understand the concept of centre of gravity with the help of an experiment?

School students from the city can rejoice as they can now strengthen their theoretical knowledge with the help of practical understanding. Last Saturday, Jidnyasa Bal Vidnyan Kendra, a science activity centre was unveiled at the TMC School No.7, located in Uthalsar. The centre, dubbed “Mini Nehru Science Centre”, opens up news vistas in science education for children of Thane. To begin with, 30 scientific apparatus have been installed to facilitate the explanation of basic science principles. Visiting children can now easily grasp concepts such as the Archimedes principle, effect of centre of gravity on objects in motion or how geostationary satellites work – all in a playful atmosphere.

A joint initiative of city based youth-welfare NGO Jidnyasa and the Education Committee of the TMC, the science activity centre was inaugurated by the director of Nehru Science Centre, Dr G S Rautela who said, “This is the first science centre built entirely by an NGO. It’s a very good start and a great example for others to follow.” Rautela’s delight was not unwarranted. There are 528 districts in India and every district is supposed to have at least one science centre of its own, yet the annual budget allows no more than two centres. At that rate it will take decades before we can see the light of the day. Unless NGOs like Jidnyasa take up the issue with the help of individuals like Sanjay More who is the chairman of the education committee of TMC.

Inspired by non-profit institutes like Bal Bhavan in Charni Road, the Jidnyasa Bal Vidnyan Kendra will remain open for five days every week – half a day for students from municipal schools and the remaining half for those from private schools. The centre will be open to public on weekends too, when parents can accompany their children to the centre for a nominal fee. A staff member will always be present to take the visitors around the centre. “We believe this centre will be more useful to students from Thane than visiting the Nehru Science Centre, which has become more like a picnic spot. We encourage teachers and students to make full use of the facility.” Jidnyasa, who formally handed over the centre to the Mayor, plans to form an advisory committee comprising Thane residents, who will play a role of guiding the centre activities.

Albert Einstein once said, “It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.” The science activity centre is a breeding ground for curiosities – like those displayed by James Watt.