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Madhukar Talwalkar: Meet a young man of 75!

Madhukar Talwalkar: Meet a young man of 75!

That the name Talwalkars is synonymous with fitness is common knowledge. But few people know that its Chairman, Madhukar Talwalkar, is all of 75 and still raring to go. His fitness levels may put even 25-year-olds to shame. I caught up with this enterprising and dynamic young man, to learn his secrets of being in a state of complete wellbeing. Excerpts:

What role has fitness played in your life?

My father, Vishnu Ramakrishna Talwalkar, was a well-known wrestler. At a young age of 22, he came to Mumbai for work and during his spare time, worked as a trainer at Hindu Sarvajanik Vyaamshala, a gym in Girgaum. During this time, his boss offered him to conduct personal training for him. This encouraged some of his friends and associates to prompt him to set up his own gym. So, in 1932, he opened his first gym at Linking Road, Khar, which he called Ramakrishna Physical Culture Institute. Thus began our journey of spreading fitness.

As I grew up, my father encouraged me to finish my education. I completed my textile engineering from VJTI, and joined Khatau Mills in 1953. It was in those days that I began to take fitness seriously and started exercising. You see, my weight was a mere 96 pounds [45 kg] at the age of 25 and I had begun to suffer from an inferiority complex. So I started working out in my father’s gym and soon I gained about 59 pounds [72 kg]. I was proud of myself.

Significant events took place soon afterwards. I was looking good and, in 1959, I took part in Mr Bombay Competition and won the second prize. Then I got married in 1960. In 1961, I started planning to set up a gym of my own. I took the risk of leaving my job. I worked for some time, though, because I had to repay a loan of Rs 1,800, which I had taken [My salary was just Rs 300 then]. I started my first gym at Linking Road in 1962. The rest, as they say, is history,

So you can see, my life changed because of fitness.

What do you attribute your success and good health to?

I have practised what I preach all my life. I consider exercise as my prayer [puja] and I do it regularly with a lot of dedication. I do not have any bad habits, and I am a vegetarian. For a while, I did have non-vegetarian food while I was doing body building. Then, I reminded myself that I’m a Brahmin [chuckles] and I decided to stop eating non-vegetarian food. I take egg as a protein source, today.

I have given up tea/coffee. I want to stay fit, and live for 150 years.

Fitness is not just physical; it is also about the mind. I believe in the attitude of gratitude. So, besides being conscious about physical fitness, I have enjoyed every day and every moment of my life: whether it was failure, success, or times when I didn’t have money.

I also believe in positive attitude. Negativity has no place in my world. For example, you will never read a notice saying that, “Gymnasium will remain closed on [Holiday].” Instead, we say: “There is a special holiday on the occasion of…” You can convey the same meaning by being positive.

You should be a giver. I donate to cancer societies, and others. I never refuse anything to my members. At times, people make exorbitant demands; they also have misused my kindness. But I think it’s all right. I believe that if God has never said no to me, I have no right to say no to anyone.

How does regular exercising help in achieving fitness?

Exercise is a stress-buster. And weight training is akin to physical meditation. It is a feast to the muscles. When you have good health, your blood flows well, eyes work better, brain works better, and because you are confident, you get less angry.
Do our thoughts affect our body?

Of course! What you think definitely affects your body. So pray to your body. Talk to your body, it is a one-time gift of God. Take care of your body, anywhere, whether it is home, office, street, factory. Whenever you get a chance, go for a walk, do yoga, play games, dance, and remember to spend at least 20 minutes on yourself everyday.

What about those who don’t find time to work-out due to their busy schedules?

Exercise is so kind, that even if you do it once a week religiously, it will give you results. Believe in whatever you do, and stick to your time table. Even if you miss one day, it’s fine. Then, you will also overcome the feeling of guilt and not give up.

Your body is a temple, and the soul inside is God. So, if you don’t work-out, it is like showing disrespect to God, because He resides in your body.

Do not abuse your body. You should never say anything bad to it. Always worship it. If you are out of shape, work for it because you are responsible for it. Don’t blame God. Take efforts and live long. It is our birthright. This body is meant for 150 years. These are simple things. If you take care of a table, it will last long. You polish your shoes to take care of that dead skin. So, why not polish your own skin to take care of it?

How important is it to work-out in a professional gym?

I think working-out in a gym is the best. One, because at the gym the atmosphere is such that you get motivated seeing others working-out. Two, you are more serious at the gym because you are paying for it. Three, there is also supervision by trainers so you don’t make mistakes while exercising. And four, there is entertainment.

What is your view on miracle machines and diet pills?

Miracle machines are trying their best, but they haven’t succeeded. All their claims might not be true, but at least they make you work-out and do something. There are some ab-machines, which are better than the others. Pop a pill and you don’t have to exercise! I will become the richest person in the world, if I get the “magic” formula for such exercise pills!

Can you tell us something about diet and nutrition?

Diet is vital to life. Diet means sensible eating. Along with this, I also suggest vitamins and some food supplements. Go to your doctor who has an exercise-mind and not a hospital-mind.

What is your message for CW readers?

Fitness is very important for survival. It is the elixir of life. I think there is a lot of poison available around us, everyday – refined foods such as bread, biscuits, chocolates as well as smoking, coffee, tea, butter, and aerated drinks.

And sweets! I always say that the sweet shop is a death shop, in which Yama [God of Death] always entices, “Come into my lap!”

When I ask people, “Where do you go for remedy?” They reply, “The chemist!” My response is “Come to Talwalkar’s Gym – that’s where you’ll find the antidote to modern poison.”

Swami Vivekananda said in 1890: “You will be nearer to God, not by reading the Gita, but by improving your biceps, by playing on a football field, swimming in the pool.”

Fitness is important for all – young, old, tall, fat, thin, bold, flat. Even animals have their fitness. It is a very crucial part of life, and you cannot neglect it.

Once you neglect it, it will start showing its presence some years later. There is no point giving excuses, or blaming anybody for this. You are responsible for everything. You should be able to change your lifestyle and diet habits.

I understand that people are busy today, but they can definitely spend 20 minutes for themselves. Just 20 minutes is enough, if you do it with sincerity and high intensity. You should not come to the gym for “time-pass.” Because exercising is like praying…

Original source:

Swiss Bliss

Swiss Bliss

As I take off from where I left it in Splendid Switzerland, I cannot help but think that each excursion in Switzerland was truly memorable.

Switzerland offered me ample opportunities to click pictures, and shoot home video, and was, indeed, most fulfilling and enchanting for my mind’s eye, and soul.

I sure have a trigger-happy disposition with cameras. Thankfully, I had also the good sense to carry enough memory because I ended up clicking close to 500 pictures.

My Sony Cyber-Shot captured many unforgettable moments of Switzerland’s everlasting magic. I present a handful of them – for your viewing and reading pleasure.

My first major excursion was to the French part of Switzerland. We were visiting the Leysin American School, one of the four English-based international schools in Leysin, an Alpine resort village near Montreux.

Leysin attracts climbers, hikers, and bikers from all over the world to explore its mountains and trails. The beauty of Leysin touched my soul. As I was returning from the visit, I felt there can’t be a better place for students to learn and grow than the tranquil ambience of Leysin. Such was the impact that for a few serious moments, the thought of turning into a full-time teacher crossed my mind, just so that I’d be able to live in Leysin.

On our way back, we took the Golden Pass Panoramic train. This took us back through a longer, but the most scenic route in Switzerland. The sights of mountains and lakes are a visual treat.

City Excursions—Basel, Lugano, and Interlaken
Located in north-west Switzerland on the river Rhine, Basel borders both Germany and France.

Basel is considered the art and architecture capital of Switzerland. Apart from shopping and strolling through romantic lanes and alleys in the Old Town of Basel, I also visited the famed Zoological Garden, lovingly known to the people of Basel as the Zolli. The zoo, which was opened in 1874, is spread over an area of 11 hectares, and is home to about 6,000 animals belonging to 600 species. I spent the maximum time in the aquarium which houses some of the rarest species – aquatic and amphibian.

Lugano was different than Basel in some ways. The city is built on the periphery of the incredibly beautiful Lake Lugano, also known as the Ceresio. Embraced by tall, green mountains, the lake has a dramatic quality. Its calm, mirror-like waters change in colour and mood through the day, and also through seasons. Another striking aspect was that no sooner than I landed in the city, I saw men that resembled Al Pacino, and women who had features similar to Sophia Lauren and Monica Belluci.

Interlaken is situated in the heart of the Swiss Alps, between the Lakes of Thun and Brienz, and at the foot of the famous trio of peaks, the Eiger, the Mönch and the Jungfrau. I went to Interlaken twice, but unfortunately I could not spend much time on either occasion. Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in the world, I spotted many Indians who seemed to be residing locally. Yet, the few hours I spent there left a lasting impression on me.

Did you know?
Engelberg-Titlis is the only summer snow paradise to be reached within one-and-a-half-hours from Lucerne, Zurich, Basel and Berne. You can ski and snowboard almost all year round at an altitude of 3,000 m [10,000 feet]. In summer/fall, there is, depending on snow conditions, a downhill run for skiers, a fun park for snowboarders, a fun lift on the snow, guided glacier walks, and much more for non-skiers on Mt. Titlis.

Mount Titlis
Perhaps, the most famous tourist spot in Switzerland, Mount Titlis is a wonder. It was about 23 degrees when I left Lucerne for Mt Titlis and I was wondering if I’d get to see ice on Mount Titlis. But, I was not disappointed.

This glacier paradise at 10,000 feet offers a snow-and-ice experience on the highest point in Central Switzerland. The nearest railway station is Engelberg, from where I took three cable car rides to Mount Titlis. The first one was in a gondola for six people each. In Station Trübsee, I changed the cable car. This time, I found myself in an 80-person Gondel, where we rode up to Station Stand. Finally, it was time to board the Rotair, the first revolving gondola of the world, which offers a “round view panorama trip” to the top.

As I approached Titlis, I was thrilled to see so much ice all around. Once on the top, the experience was simply magnificent, and surprisingly the cold was bearable. Walking on a thick layer of ice, I felt I was in paradise. The “tyre ride” was one of the most exciting snow-games and I took no less than five rides!

The ghost of Pilatus and the forbidden mountain

In 1387, six clergymen were incarcerated for planning an unauthorised journey to the lake of Pilatus and an ascent of the mountain peak. Fearful thunderstorms and heavy flooding around Pilatus were harbingers of something supernatural afoot, prompting the Government of Lucerne to forbid locals and visitors alike from climbing the mountain. Even shepherds were placed under oath not to approach the dark waters of the lake, where it was rumoured that the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate had been laid to rest. Banished to this desolate wilderness, the man’s tormented spirit was said to surface every year on Good Friday, in a vain attempt to wash his bloodied hands.

In 1585, the parish priest of Lucerne, accompanied by a courageous band of citizens, ascended Pilatus to challenge any spirits lurking there. They threw boulders into the lake, churned its surface, waded through the shallows. A supernatural counter-offensive failed to materialise, and the spell was broken.
— Source: Plaque at Mt Pilatus

Mount Pilatus
Mount Pilatus was the nearest mountainous excursion from Lucerne. I reached the foothills in just about 20 minutes and boarded the cable car to the 7,000-foot summit. Mt Pilatus turned out to be central Switzerland’s most scenic peak, with a view of 70 peaks and five different lakes. I clicked the maximum pictures here, even as I discovered the area’s mystical legends [See box]. The combination of clouds, ice, mountain and sunlight cannot be described; it’s to be only experienced. It was extremely cold, in the range of 2-3 degrees Celsius, quite a departure from Lucerne city, which was around 24 degrees during daytime.

While returning, I descended by the world’s steepest cogwheel train that passes through five tunnels and runs at a gradient of 48 per cent. The occasion left a funny feeling in the tummy. It was, however, a small price to pay for the extraordinary sights that the train provided.

Rhine Falls
Located in Schaffhausen, close to the German border, the Rhine Falls are Europe’s largest waterfalls, but not in terms of their height, which is a mere 75 feet. It’s the force of the water with 600 cubic metres flowing out per second across the 450 feet breadth — simply breathtaking. The sheer drama of the place, with water resembling pure white milk, and a spray rising in a cloud of rainbow, was magnificent. The view was even better when I took one of the boats that took me dangerously close to the Falls.
Trümmelbach Falls

I thought I had witnessed the most awesome power of water in Rhine Falls till I saw Trümmelbach glacier falls. The Trümmelbach Falls are the only glacier-waterfalls in Europe inside a mountain and still accessible. The 10 glacier waterfalls inside the mountain are made accessible by a tunnel-lift. The temperature inside the tunnels was close to zero degrees Celsius and the raw power of wild falls cutting through the hard rocks was mind-blowing. Take a guess on how much water flows out of the tunnels: 20,000 litres per second!

The Trümmelbach Falls are fed by the melting snow and ice from the glaciers hugging the flanks of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains.

Not far from Trümmelbach Falls is Mürren, a breathtakingly beautiful mountain village which has a mere 450 inhabitants! Mürren cannot be reached by road – either cable car, or train. I took both: the cable car for ascending and the train for descending. Perched on a high, sunny terrace facing the famous Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, the village is the highest altitude ski-resort in the Bernese Oberland. It’s also famous for the revolving Piz Gloria Restaurant, which is where the James Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, was shot. But, I would, any day, choose Mürren only for its unadulterated beauty.
Journey back home

As my stay in Switzerland came to end, I felt poignant. I wanted to spend more time and resolved that I will return. My journey back home was made somewhat less gloomy with a lovely in-flight experience aboard the Swiss International Airlines.

I enjoyed the in-flight entertainment thoroughly, watching as many as three Hollywood flicks, including the critically acclaimed The Pursuit of Happyness. The nine-hour flight itself was smooth, with hardly any jerks. Even the touchdown was superb.

As I stepped on home soil, I knew I had left a part of me in the “Garden of the World.”

Splendid Switzerland

Splendid Switzerland

Romancing the Alps

Gorgeous bays, lakes and creeks
Surrounded by snow-capped peaks
And adorned by sunlight streaks
This is where the soul speaks
A million different shades abound
A blissful sight is all around
As if our Planet has been crowned
By Europe’s pretty playground
Switzerland’s beauty so enchants
It gently leads one to a trance
While in the heart God implants
A seed of lifelong romance
If you wish to feel that splendour
And taste that awesome flavour
Then go, experience, and savour
The beauty of the Alps forever

— Manoj Khatri

I just returned from a trip to Switzerland and like millions of other tourists before, I have been thoroughly charmed by its enchanting beauty.

Long considered the most beautiful country in the world, Switzerland, the Alpine country, and the Playground of Europe, has inspired many a poet and philosopher.

Poetic disposition or not, the effect of Switzerland’s awe-inspiring grandeur affects everyone. After all, we are spiritual beings having a human experience, and not the other way around. And, in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Each man is capable of using the natural world to achieve spiritual understanding.”

Even as I was landing at Zurich airport, the view from the aircraft windowpane was beautifully breathtaking. Though I had known that Switzerland is the world’s most beautiful country, I was not prepared to encounter perfection. From the moment I stepped on Swiss soil till the time I left its shores, I was, quite simply, spellbound.

By the time my stay ended, I pondered over and over again: how can a country be so exquisitely perfect? One thing’s sure — God, on His part, has been extraordinarily kind to this country made up of an endless string of magnificent mountains and lovely lakes, with a splendid canvas of green trees and pure white snow.

Switzerland’s scenic beauty has been written about countless times. Most of us have seen Switzerland in innumerable Hollywood and Indian movies too. So, you know it is a beautiful country.

What most people don’t know is how calming a visit to this country can be on your nerves. Living in Switzerland is too beautiful to describe in one short article — it would be unfair. So, I am not even attempting that. What I wish to share with you, though, is my experience of spending 10 enchanting days in what I call the “Garden of the

Let’s first start travelling within Switzerland, which incidentally is as important a part of touring in this lovely country — just as the exquisite destinations themselves are.

Thanks to hi-tech German engineering, travelling within Switzerland is itself an experience worth savouring. A rare combination of comfort, convenience and speed, the Swiss railways, public transport [trams and buses], cruises, and cable car rides, are among the best in the world. Swiss precision is, perhaps, why the country has been nicknamed, “Timekeeper to the World.” Like in most Western countries, the transport system is technologically-advanced.

But, it’s not just the engineering that marvels and amazes us. To pick one example: like when I entered the train headed to Rhine Falls. The colourful interiors of the coaches left me mesmerised. As the train started its journey, the dual effect of beauty inside the train and the outside — the vast lands of manicured greenery — soothed my heart and soul.

One of the first things I observed was the traffic culture of the country. In Basel, Lucerne, Zurich or Lugano, people have an almost intrinsic sense of driving. For one, nobody honks. I mean nobody! All through my stay, I didn’t hear a single car yelling on its way — and, to think of it, I spent most of my waking hours travelling. For another, lane discipline is not enforced. It’s part of the people’s consciousness. It stems from healthy self-respect, I reckon. It’s like if you want to be treated well, you ought to treat others well too. So, everyone respects one another.

In almost all interactions I had with them, I found the Swiss folk courteous and friendly. One may expect that being such a rich country, the locals may have a condescending attitude towards foreigners, especially non-Europeans. But, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Wherever I went, I found it very easy to get along with the Swiss. Even when language was a hurdle, the general attitude was helpful and co-operative. From ticket checking staff and shop attendants to counter clerks, everyone served with a smile, creating a peaceful environment wherever I went.

This also got me thinking what it was that made this country so serene and Godlike. I guess, the answer lies in human nature. Result: when everything is so perfectly synchronised, our mind, body and soul, get aligned and serenity ensues.

Read the second part of the this article here

Tip: Unless you are going on a package tour, buy the Swiss Pass, during your stay in the country. It is extremely cost-effective and convenient as it lets you travel in trains, buses, trams and most cable cars and cruises free of charge.

Source of original article:

Grey issues

Grey issues


Thanks to the advancement in the fields of science, technology and health services, the average lifespan of a human beings has gone up substantially, increasing number of elderly in the world. In the west, the elderly population in the 1990s was 7-15% of the total population, and is expected to reach 25% by the year 2020. According to an NGO HelpAge, life expectancy in India has gone up from 20 years in the beginning of the 20th century to 62 years today. Better medical care and low fertility have made the elderly the fastest growing section of society.

The requirements of individuals change, the older they become, more so in the area of health and wellness. It is to address these special requirements that Sri Ma Senior Citizens Welfare Centre conducted its third "Free Comprehensive Health Check up Camp for Senior Citizens" last week.


On October 15, about 200 seniors participated in the camp, which was held at the Prem Ashram. The camp was inaugurated at the Divine Hands of Sri Ma with the lighting of the inaugural lamp and was conducted under the guidance of Dr Sunder Krishnan. The other doctors on the panel consisted Dr Pooja Vazirani (General Medicine, BP and ECG), Dr Uday Gadgil (Ophthalmologist), Dr Subodh Mehta (Orthopaedic Surgeon), Dr Pratima Sharma (General Medicine, BP and ECG) and Dr Vijay Yadav (General Medicine, BP and ECG). RN Sud conducted the blood sugar tests and AR Ranadive did the audiometry.

The seniors, who participated, made full use of the opportunity to meet and consult so many renowned doctors at a time. All elders went through a series of examinations including Blood Pressure, Electrocardiogram (ECG) and weight and then based on the results, received appropriate advice. Diabetics came in for their Fasting Blood Sugar tests at 7.30 am and stayed on for the other tests. Non-diabetics started coming in from 9.30 am. The camp was on till 2 pm.

Follow up consultations have also been arranged with the respective specialists and the required tests have been arranged for them. The participants were given case paper files, audiogram sheets and ECG readings for them to carry the findings with them for future purpose. Free medicines were administered at the camp.

For those unaware, Sri Ma Senior Citizens Welfare Centre seeks to render service to the elderly. Established on idea that "Elders retire from work and not life" the centre organises various programmes throughout the year – excursions, seminars, discourses, workshops and presentations on health issues. The centre also provides library facilities. Sri Ma Trust has plans for setting up a Senior Citizens Home at its Sri Ma Vidyanagari Campus in Patlipada on Ghodbunder Road. If you’re interested in supporting this noble venture in any manner, please contact on: 25458750/51 or 9323716280.

Thank you teacher!

Thank you teacher!

On September 5, every year, we honour the most important people in our lives after our parents- our teachers. We learn many important lessons from teachers – both academic and non-academic – guiding us whenever we stumble in the walk of life.

All of us have a few teachers we remember fondly – these are the ones who are etched in our memories forever as torchbearers.

This year, on the occasion of Teacher’s Day, I am reminded of one of the most distinguished teachers of Thane – Alu Shroff. All of 80, Alu teacher, as she is fondly called, dedicated her whole life to this noble profession, teaching for half a century.

Alu Shroff, what teachers ought to be

Alu teacher joined St John the Baptist High School in 1951 as a Mathematics teacher. She retired from the school as Vice-principal, the highest position possible. Universally revered by students and colleagues, this remarkable woman represents the spirit of a perfect teacher – an extraordinary combination of intelligence, wit, compassion, perseverance and dedication. Her frail body structure notwithstanding, her stature in the teaching profession is nothing less than a giant. All those who have studied or taught in St John the Baptist High School, anytime between 1951 and 2000 would vouch for this. She was also conferred the Best Teacher’s Award from the Education Department, Thane Municipal Corporation.

Alu teacher reminds one of Mother Teresa – not only does she look like her, but just like Mother’s Teresa’s life, her life too is simple, yet inspiring. She has even remained unmarried like the Mother! Ironically, Mother Teresa left her physical body on September 5, 1997.

Just last year, I had the privilege of meeting Alu teacher at a function organised to honour her. After the function, I offered to drop her home and she insisted, in her typical soft-spoken manner, that she would not like to trouble anyone and that she would walk it down – this despite not being able to see clearly and being extremely weak. To be able to spend time speaking to such a wonderful and selfless human being, who speaks like an angel incarnate, and to receive her best wishes and blessings in person, was indeed a joy to behold.

Since that function last year, Alu teacher’s health has deteriorated even further and she is now totally homebound. Old age has rendered her homebound. But her life has been an example for the rest of us to follow.

This year on Teacher’s Day let us all pray for Alu teacher’s well-being in her twilight years. Let us also thank all the teachers like her who have made a difference to thousands of us in a silent, selfless way. May their tribe increase!

A Unique Bond

A Unique Bond


In wake of terrorism’s spread across the globe, love is our only hope. Love is the only antidote to acts of hatred. St Francis, in his famous prayer, entreats God: "Where there is hatred, let me sow love." Last week, over two hundred students from Thane sowed the seeds of love when they celebrated Rakshabandhan in a unique way. Ninety boys and girls in need of special care bonded with more than 150 students from 12 different regular schools including DAV Public School, Holy Cross Convent, Hiranandani Foundation School, Saraswati Secondary High School, St. Lawrence High School, Little Flower High School, St. Carmel High School, and Bharat English High School.

The children were participating in the ninth annual inter-school Integration Programme at Sri Ma Snehadeep School for Mentally and Physically challenged and Visually and Hearing impaired.

There were many highlights of the programme that deserve a mention. The special children had crafted their own rakhis, which they sold to the guests (children). They also welcomed them in the traditional style with haldi, kum kum and flowers.

Later they sang Rakshabandhan songs. The special girls tied rakhis to MLC Sanjay Kelkar, who was the chief guest and Sri Balagopal, director of the Sri Ma Group of Institutions among others.

The most touching moment of the event was when girls from the special school tied rakhis to boys from regular schools and girls from regular schools tied rakhis to boys from the special school. The entire process of tying the rakhis was carried out by following the time-honoured ritual complete with kum kum, haldi, sweetmeat and Akshata (rice smeared with turmeric). Later, special children made friends with regular school children and interacted with them.

When it was turn of adults to speak, Chief Guest Kelkar appeared impressed with the special children. He said, "I like the term ‘special children’. These children are really special and, though challenged to varying degrees, are in no way to be undermined, for they have the abilities to perform and manifest their skills in various spheres of life."

Principal of Sri Ma Snehadeep, Manju Tejwani said, "I am so happy to see that you have made this function successful by attending it in such huge numbers (schools and students) despite the rains. You represent the society and it is for you to carry the message back that special children, if encouraged, can develop their skills very well. They don’t need sympathy; they only require your loving look. At least give them a pat or a smile when you pass by them. Many people don’t even look at them though they live next door. Remember, special children too have a right to respectful living."

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Love is our highest word and the synonym of God." In a way, the children showed us a glimpse of God.

Boosting confidence

Boosting confidence

On July 25, more than 150 students, mostly from civic schools, got an opportunity to attend three lectures in a seminar organised to felicitate SSC and HSC toppers. The programme was held at the Thane Manufacturer’s Association Hall between 3 pm and 8 pm. The total strength of attendees was 240, including teachers and parents. The programme is an annual affair organised by the Rotary Club of Thane North End.

The first speaker, Dr Madhuri Pejawar, Principal of BN Bandodkar College of Science, spoke on how to select their careers. "I am not going to talk about science careers as I know many of you may not be in a position to opt for those. But you can opt for the armed forces, which is a good career option," she said.

Later, Anagha Gandhi from MIDCON, a career guidance centre, spoke on how to start small businesses and provided information on a variety of short courses such as baking, embroidery and mehndi. Gandhi even circulated a list of alternative professions available for these students.

JP Kabra, a management professional, taught the students techniques of building confidence, developing a positive attitude and facing challenges. He even narrated some inspiring stories of people who succeeded despite their humble backgrounds.

On her turn, the chief guest of the evening, well-known educationist Sunita Deodhar said, "Try and become computer literate because you will have a much better chance of procuring office jobs if you are familiar with computers. There are computer courses in Marathi too and we can help you there." For girls, Deodhar suggested nurse’s training.

For the 49 students who topped their respective schools, the felicitation that followed the seminar was a big boost to their confidence. Students from civic schools are not as privileged as many of their more well-off counterparts. Most students hail from poor families and often work and study together. For them to achieve excellence in their academics despite their background deserves recognition.

As the programme came to a close, the 150-odd children came away feeling a bit more confident of choosing their careers. And thanks to the felicitation, the toppers amongst them felt on top of the world.

Gee! You are You

Gee! You are You

The contribution of teachers is perhaps greater than the contribution of anyone else. Indians have acknowledged this for ages and that’s why we celebrate Gurupournima, also known as Vyasa Poornima. The term guru means ‘dispeller of darkness’.

The original Vedic texts were monolithic in nature and it was almost impossible for any individual to study them in a single lifetime. To make the wisdom of the Vedas more accessible, the great sage Vyasa, who is considered to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, is said to have divided the Vedas into four parts: Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva. It is this event that gave him the name Veda Vyasa or the compiler of the Vedas. Vyasa later composed the great epic, Mahabharata, which captures all the lessons of Vedas in the form of a story.

Considering his epic contribution to the history of humankind, the birth anniversary of Mahamuni Veda Vyasa is celebrated as Gurupournima. On the occasion, various institutions and its students across the country pay homage to their teachers, past and present.

Like every year, Thane-based Sri Tara Ma Mission, which runs ashrams, schools, colleges, and academies, observed Gurupournima with enthusiasm and reverence. On July 11, 2006, the devotees worshipped the founder of mission, Sri Tara Ma and Swami Omkarananda. Spiritual aspirants seeking guidance received the Guru mantra from them for spiritual progress through its chanting. The programme at the Sri Ma Vanasthali Ashram began early in the morning at 5 am with the chanting of Omkar followed by bhajans, kirtans, meditation and stotra recitation, and lasted for more than an hour. A number of devotees received their Guru mantra from Sri Tara Ma and Swami Omkarananda after the morning programme.

Later, the Vishwa Shanti Havan or the sacrificial ceremony for universal peace was performed at Sri Ma Vidyalaya from 8.30 am to 11.30 am. Many students from Std VI to X received Mantra Diksha from Sri Tara Ma and Swami Omkarananda. As part of the diksha, Sri Tara Ma and Swami Omkarananda also gifted them with a japa-mala (chanting beads) and taught them the method of chanting, using the same.

Children too displayed an enquiring mind with questions on the correct way of living and conducting oneself. Questions such as ‘When my mind and my heart presents conflicting solutions, what should I do?’ and ‘Since I have received the Guru mantra, does it mean that from now onwards I should stop the consumption of non-vegetarian food?’ All questions were answered in simple language so that children could understand.

Sri Tara Ma and Swami Omkarananda explained the children the effectiveness of chanting Guru mantra in developing concentration and a clear mind for improved performance in studies, at work in the future and ultimately in making better world citizens of them.
This was followed by Sri Tara Ma’s and Swami Omkarananda’s message on Gurupournima. Sri Tara Ma said, ‘In most spiritual or religious functions, people come late and leave early. But I am happy that all people came here much before the Havan began and stayed on till the consummation. I am happy that they have taken in the air purified by the Agni arising from this Havan. May peace be to all.’

Swami Omkarananda then added, ‘Mental and environmental peace is missing. People are running after sensory objects in their quest for happiness. No one is happy with their lot. After a particular object is attained, the mind craves for something else. So much is the vagary of the mind that it is not at peace even with a particular Guru and forces the individual to go from one Guru to another.’ He added, ‘Do Japam (chanting), Dhyanam (meditation) and cultivate favourable qualities to attain peace of mind, which is the true wealth.’

The students and others who received spiritual wisdom came away feeling calmer and at peace with themselves. And why not – the real purpose of Guru is to get us to know ourselves. Little wonder then that the word Guru is spelt G-U-R-U, which, when pronounced a letter at a time, reads ‘Gee! You are You.’

Girl Power

Girl Power

All children are vulnerable. But street children or urchins are much more gullible to the struggles that life throws at them. And it’s a double whammy if these children are girls. Twenty-two such girls live in Divya Prabha (DP), a home for street children located in Vartak Nagar, Thane.

DivyaPrabha Girls

The girls are students of a TMC School at Shastri Nagar. What’s inspiring is that in spite of the lack of fortune, many of these girls do well in their academics and extra-curricular activities.

Take Sonali Suryavanshi for instance, who took shelter at the home four years ago when she was in class I. In April, she appeared for her class IV scholarship exam conducted by Maharashtra State and stunned everyone by securing 98.91 percentile at the school level. For the uninitiated, a percentile is a value on a scale of 100 that indicates the per cent of a distribution that is equal to or below it.

In simple terms, Sonali’s score was equal to or more than 98.91 per cent of all who appeared the exam. Her percentile scores are equally striking at the Taluka, district and state level where she scored 99.61, 99.94 and 99.99 respectively. Of course, she has been awarded a scholarship. According to DP sources, she’s also good in drawing and dance.

There are others too, like Anita Rathod (class IV) and Ruchi Jain (class III) who always stand first in their classes. Both participated in the national drawing competition conducted by Kala Children’s Academy. Ruchi got an A+, while Anita scored B+. Versatility has no limits. Both these girls also participated in an inter-school drama competition in which 120 TMC schools participated. Their team won the first prize.

Sister Juliet from DP says, “These girls need an opportunity to grow and be educated like other girls and boys their age. They need a proper environment for a healthy development, which we strive to provide within the constraints.” Indeed, just basic facilities like education and shelter is enough to motivate some to excel. Only goes to show that where there’s a will, excuses have no place.

The BIG Party

The BIG Party

Children love birthdays. They love the cakes, the music, and the celebration. But not all children are fortunate to have their birthdays celebrated. Take for instance the students of Jidd School, who face the double whammy of being mentally challenged as well as hailing from poor families. Their parents are mostly daily wage earners who can barely manage a hand to mouth existence. Therefore birthday celebrations of their children are a luxury they cannot afford. But children being what they are, they crave for them nevertheless.

mass birthday celebrations Shyamashree Bhonsle, principal of Jiddh School, recognised the strong desire of her students and decided to do something about it. With the help of Inner Wheel Club of Thane Hills (IWCTH), Bhonsle came up with a novel idea – to have a mass celebrations once every month to wish all students whose birthdays fall in that month. The first such occasion was on Wednesday June 28, 2006, when 21 students whose birthdays fell in April, May and June (because April and May fall in the vacation period,) was celebrated at a time.

On the morning of June 28, all the students of the school were excited and one could hear them chattering away happily as they waited eagerly for the song-singing and cake-cutting ceremonies to begin. When Bhonsle asked them to describe why the day was special, they all said in unison that it was a birthday celebration when songs would be sung, a cake would be cut and there would be the traditional aarti. They were bang on as soon afterwards the 21 birthday boys and girls were made to sit on a stool one by one while other students performed aarti. The mouth-watering, two kg butterscotch flavoured cake was then cut amidst songs and applause. One teacher even sang a Marathi birthday song. Dr Kalpana Suradkar president of IWCTH and Dr Veena Chandavarkar were among the others who cheered the birthday kids as they rejoiced.

The next celebration is due on July 25, 2006, when July born children will have a go at the cake. This monthly affair might not sound like a big deal to the rest of us. But if you were to look at the joy on the faces of the children, you hearts would swell. Like Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “We find delight in the beauty and happiness of children that makes the heart too big for the body.”