Month: March 2002

A Towering Contest

A Towering Contest

It is said that cleanliness is next to Godliness. Thanks to the hottest new contest organized jointly by Rotary Club (Thane North End) and TMC, the people of Thane might soon find out who among them are closest to the almighty.

This unusual contest, unleashed last week promises to be an exciting event with a noble social objective. According to Dr. Sandeep Kadam, President of Rotary Club, "The objective of the contest is to "recognize, promote and accelerate the civic, neighbourhood & environmental values, thereby enriching the human life".

Over the next three months or so, the city’s best managed buildings will vie for the title of "Building of the Year 2002". The buildings will compete with each other on issues such as cleanliness, orderliness and other civic and citizenship values.

The jury will assess the applicant buildings on the basis of a rather wide range of performance criteria such as maintenance of the building structure, beautification, amenities, cultural activities, essential features (such as security) etc. The contest actually goes deeper to evaluate such minute details as member cooperation i.e. if the individual members of the society act responsibly and pay their dues in time. Special care features, like frequent cleaning of water tanks and installation of solar power, would fetch extra points. Director of Rotary Club, N K Marwah calls the exercise, "A Beauty contest with a difference."

Winners will be identified in four different categories (based on the age of the building) and each winner will receive a special Trophy during the awards distribution ceremony on June 28, 2002. The task force from winning buildings will be felicitated too. There is special recognition for sub categories too, such as best exterior, best security arrangement, best cultural and social values and the like.

During the next three months, the organizers have lined up various useful sub-events for Thane residents, and participation in these events also translates into points. Already, one such sub-event, a free interactive session on "Municipal Taxes – Incentives and Rebates", was a major success. Deputy Municipal Commissioner, Vishwanath Kelkar, the key speaker, was so impressive that many people have requested for the session to be held again for the benefit of those who missed out. Other upcoming sub-events would also be of interest to many readers.

Date Description of Sub Event
Sun, April 14 Interactive session on Domestic Gas: Care & Safety, Fire Hazards & Safety Precautions Building Security
Sun, April 21 Drawing and Essay Competition
Wed, May 01 Eye and Blood Donation drives. Medical Checkup of visually impaired and their families. Distribution of folding sticks & Braille watches to visually impaired
Sun, May 05 Solid Waste Management and Vermiculture
Sun, May 19 Solar Energy for domestic and Common Use, Govt. schemes & incentives

The entire programme is an attempt to inculcate social & civic values among the people of Thane, which is one of the cleanest cities in the country. With such efforts, the city is on its way to becoming a model township for other cities to imitate. And why not – after all, the city has the almighty God by its side!

Circle of Friends

Circle of Friends

In my opinion, friends are like diamonds, because just like diamonds, friends are forever too. Take for instance friends of Ashok Sathe, the well known Marathi stage, TV and film artist. Sathe turned sixty on March 10, 2002 and his friends (most of who started their career with him) celebrated the occasion in an unusual style.

Sathe’s friends wanted to use the occasion for a meaningful activity. So they organized a public programme at Sahyog Mandir wherein they held a discussion forum on the topic "Spardhechya Disha aani Dasha". S.N. Navare (another well-known Marathi celebrity) presided as Chief Guest. The other panelists were Kamlakar Sontake, Vishwas Mehandale, Bappu Limaye, Ramesh Choudhary, all of who represent the Marathi Entertainment Industry at various levels.

It was a particularly interesting discussion as it revealed the darker shades of state-level theatre competition. There was universal agreement on the suggestion that competitions cause most artists, directors and producers to become extremely result-oriented with just one objective in mind when conceiving a play or performing a role – that of impressing the judges. Critical factors such as a good script, proper lighting effects etc. are ignored in the quest for awards. As a result of these developments, the scope for experimentation with uncommon ideas and concepts is greatly narrowed down.

The panel of senior artists appealed to the Maharashtra Government to address the situation and pledged support to the steps initiated in this direction.

Thanks to Sathe’s friends, the audience, comprising of some two hundred theatre enthusiasts, enjoyed what was perhaps one of the most unusual birthday celebrations.

Cultural Designs
Thane’s Milind Kulkarni has introduced an exclusive range of tee-shirts, which are available not at garment outlets, but at bookstores. A graphic designer by profession, Kulkarni feels that the uniqueness of his tee-shirts would be lost if they were displayed along with other garments – which is why he wants to avoid selling them through the regular channel.

And what makes Kulkarni’s tee-shirts unique? It is his vision of spreading the richness of Marathi culture and literature through his tee-shirts, which are sold under the brand name of Paridhaan. Each tee-shirt is painted with unique words from the world of Marathi culture – famous film dialogues, nursery rhymes, names of popular plays etc.

For instance, one design carries the words "ye re ye re pavasa", the favourite Marathi nursery rhyme while another one displays the words "preeye paha", from the popular Marathi play "Sanget Saubhadra". According to Kulkarni, "a true lover of Marathi literature and culture will take pride in sporting one of his tee-shirts."

Kulkarni’s efforts have already begun showing encouraging results. His concept of Marathi designer tee-shirts has been appreciated by prominent Marathi personalities such as Vasundhara Pendse Naik (President of Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Parishad) and renowned Marathi writer Ratnakar Matkari.

Kulkarni’s target is not restricted to only Marathi-speaking public. In fact his ultimate objective is to sell his tee-shirts to foreigners. According to him, the art of fashion carries a universal appeal and this means that all fashion-conscious individuals are his prospects. To substantiate this, he gives an example, "Many Indians wear tee-shirts that sport messages in various foreign languages like German, French and even Japanese. They may not comprehend the message, but they pick up the tee-shirt for its aesthetic value."

Success Factor

Success Factor

Nervousness is uncomfortable. But according to motivational speaker Gil Eagles, "If you want to be successful, you must be willing to be uncomfortable." Indeed, great people have often attributed their triumph to the hardships and discomfort they face along the path to success. Padmashri Padmaja Phenani-Joglekar (remember, she sang Vajapayee’s poems) recently related an anecdote that confirms this attitude.

Padmaja and Milind Ingle were the chief guests of an orchestra concert held at the Gadkari Rangayatan on March 12, 2002. The theme of the orchestra was Hey Rang Jeevanache or The colors of life. The orchestra team was led by Rupesh Raut who also directs Marathi Sa Re Ga Ma on Alpha TV.

During the show, Padmaja told the audience about her brief meeting that she had had, with the orchestra team just before the show had begun. "The talented group of individuals said to me that they were feeling nervous with the thought of performing in my presence. I think this is the sign of greatness in the making", said the accomplished singer. She went on to relate how she once asked Pandit Bhimsen Joshi if he ever felt nervous before his shows, to which he had replied, "I feel nervous before every show – I feel it is my first time, every time."

"Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain", said Ralph Waldo Emerson. The orchestra team performed brilliantly that evening and the applause they received in return dissolved their nervousness and fear!

Train travails
The numerous platforms at Thane Railway Station often leave suburban travelers in a state of confusion. For instance, a CST slow local in Thane can depart from four possible platforms (1, 2, 3 and 4).

Fortunately, Thane city has been a beneficiary of good corporate citizens. After sponsored signboards on traffic signals, we now have sponsored train-time indicators.

Last week, suburban train travelers in Thane city were pleasantly surprised to see digital time indicators put up outside the station. This means that people rushing to work early morning, will be able to decide which platform they need to rush to, even before they enter the station.

While this may not seem like a big deal, it will certainly make a difference to the thousands of Thane residents who depend on local trains to travel to their workplaces. Often, a delay of just a few seconds leads to missed trains and late attendance (And frequent late attendance can be a costly affair – it can cost you your job).

Helping hand
Yet another example of the generous nature of corporate citizenry in Thane was demonstrated recently by a supplier of school uniforms.

Last week, Kalpavriksha Marketing Pvt. Ltd. adopted 32 students from 16 schools of Thane (2 from each school). These students, who have been nominated by their respective schools, are financially weak and the company has decided to sponsor their entire education-related expenses. This includes their school fees, uniforms, accessories, stationary and books.

These small acts of kindness can be best described in the words of the famous broadcast journalist, Charles Kuralt, "The everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines".

Exam Adventure

Exam Adventure

Had it not been for the professional attitude and thoughtfulness on the part of Smt. Sulochanadevi Singhania School, the sudden call for Maharashtra Bandh, last week could have caused a lot of inconvenience to its students who fall under the ICSE board.

As you know, the State Boards announced the postponement of the SSC and HSC exams scheduled on March 1, 2002 – the day of Bandh. But the ICSE board exams do not come under the jurisdiction of state boards and they had to be conducted as scheduled.

Taking the situation as a challenge, the Singhania School staff, under the leadership of Pincipal Mrs. Vijayan Ravi, worked out a wonderful arrangement so that the 208 students of class X are not inconvenienced on such a crucial day.

A day before the exam, the School staff contacted every single student by the phone informing them about their plan. Though the exam was to begin at 2:30 in the afternoon, students were asked to assemble in the school campus early next morning, before the effect of the Bandh begins to show. Parents too were allowed to accompany their wards. More importantly, students who could not be contacted by phone were contacted in person by an official representative of the school. The school made sure that the message is conveyed to every student.

What really overwhelmed the parents and students was the thoughtful arrangement made by the staff to take care of basic necessities such as food, water etc. On a day when all shutters would be down, it certainly called for astute planning on the part of the school to make breakfast and lunch available to almost 500 people.

Most students can’t do without the last-minute-revision, so they were allowed to study anywhere they liked, as long as they were within the school campus. Before the exam, students were seen all throughout the school – the library, the garden, classrooms and even the playground.

"Just before the examination began, some students touched the feet of their teachers, in return for blessings – much like the days of Gurukul" said Tushar Pitale, a visibly impressed parent.

He said, "For most parents, this was a rare opportunity as they looked on, while students prayed, studied and ate together, regardless of their communities. They saw teachers performing Saraswati Puja, holding last-minute revision sessions and generally encouraging students to fare well in the exams. This was in sharp contrast with what was happening outside".

The day was peaceful and the exams were conducted smoothly. A couple of days later, the Principal received a bouquet made up of 208 roses, one for each student. It was presented to the School staff by the Parents-Teachers Association in appreciation of the excellent handling of a particularly difficult situation.

A Collective Prayer
On March 5, 2002, hundreds of people offered their prayers to Gajanan Maharaj, who was highly revered saint from Shegoan in Maharashtra.

The devotees were celebrating his Prakat Din (day of appearance) with a lot of vigour and enthusiasm. Devotees started flowing in as early as four in the morning and kept coming till late evening, all of them eager to catch a glimpse (darshan) of the saint’s idol.

It was impossible to ignore the long queues originating from the temple situated on the Ram Maruti Road. The ladies queue almost looked like a human chain as it extended right up to the ICICI bank, which is located a approximately 300 metres away from the temple.

This year, the prakat din followed, what can be called as one of the worst communal episodes of the country. Let’s hope that the collective prayers offered on this auspicious day will help in restoring communal harmony. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, "Prayer is not an old woman’s idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action."

Healthy Competition

Healthy Competition

Normally, the word competition has a negative connotation. But often, competition serves the noble cause of encouraging people to perform better. Like it did on February 17, 2002 when more than two thousand students from as many as fifteen schools of Thane participated in an inter-school competition called Kalpakala 2002.

The event was held in the campus of Saraswati Secondary High School and was organized by Kalpavriksha Marketing Pvt. Ltd. Mayor of Thane, Ramesh Vaity, presided as Chief Guest.

With categories ranging from essay writing, drawing, fancy-dress, elocution and one-act plays, students got ample opportunity to display their talents. The audience too was enthralled as they got the opportunity to see some highly gifted children perform.

The highlight of the day was the Fancy Dress competition, where a young boy called Yash Dhruv from Bhagwati Vidyalaya had become "pollution" personified. Wrapped in newspaper, his message was quite meaningful: "Kill me, else I will kill you!" Another young girl had dressed up as The Statue of Liberty with a message about the dreadful day of September 11, 2001. The elocution competition had a physically challenged child who performed as if he faced no discomfort.

"We believe that such competitions boost the confidence of participants and also gear them up for tougher competitions that life may offer in future. That’s the real objective of organizing such an event", explains Dr. Umesh Khede, President of Kalpavriksha

The prize distribution for the event will take place on March 10, 2002. But, regardless of which students are felicitated, everyone was a winner!

Everyday Miracle
Often we encounter episodes of miracles that reaffirm our faith in that higher force that is constantly protecting and guiding all of us. George Bernard Shaw said, "Miracles, in the sense of phenomena we cannot explain, surround us on every hand: life itself is the miracle of miracles."

Recently, Mrs. Jyotsna Phadke from Thane experienced one such mini-miracle.

In October last year, Mrs. Phadke suddenly found her gold chain (Devi’s Mangalsutra) missing. In spite of a massive search operation that followed, the chain was not to be found. Later she realized that she had mistakenly left the chain in the flower container in the Puja room. But it was too late, as by then, these flowers (nirmalya) were already disposed of.

Having tried everything possible to locate the missing mangalsutra, Mrs. Phadke finally lost all hope of finding the gold chain.

Then, last week a strange thing happened. Mrs. Phadke’s was overlooking her 18 month-old grandson who was playing with water in the porch of their duplex apartment, when she suddenly spotted her missing chain – in the flower pot! And the chain was absolutely intact and clean. At first Mrs. Phadke could not believe what her eyes saw. Slowly it dawned upon her that she had been witness to a rare phenomenon – a miracle.