Month: August 2002

In a Perfect Setting

In a Perfect Setting

We had waited in anticipation for the wet spell the whole of July. When it finally arrived in early August, we didn’t waste any time and set out for the eagerly awaited annual trek to Yeoor Hills. We were six of us, each an ardent lover of adventure, hungry to grab a slice of nature. We hopped inside a TMT bus that took us to the village, where we left all our belongings except for one haversack that contained food and water. The sky was overcast, creating just the right mood for a trek of this sort. We could feel the vibes of the wilderness from the moment we began our long walk towards the forest.

As it is with friends, we were cracking jokes and laughing our way to the waterfalls. Yet, as we progressed towards our destination, I began to feel disconnected with the rest of the group. While I continued chitchatting with my buddies, a sense of quiet comfort enveloped me. I sensed that there was magic in the air.

The path cuts through dense forest. All through our journey, we could hear faint sounds of several streams. After walking on the muddy terrain for about 45 minutes, and crossing one rather forceful channel of water, we could finally sight the spot where we would be camping. But to reach there, we had to walk through a broad stream of clear water, and several mini-waterfalls right in the middle of the forest-mountain, over thousands of small pebbles, rocks and soil. One has to be particularly careful while walking on these smooth rocks, which have been rendered rather slippery due to the continuous flow of water.

Since we had started out early, the place was still deserted. But I knew that soon there would be flocks arriving. So I urged our people to search another spot. None of them agreed as they thought it was too risky to venture into the unknown jungle, especially since newspapers had reported many deaths in the area recently. But I wasn’t deterred and decided to go surveying the place all alone, despite the disapproval of my friends.  

Soon the explorer in me took over and I found myself delving deeper into the forest-hills. After navigating for a while through the uneven, often slimy rocks, I got to a place that I call perfect setting: two streams flowing from opposite directions merging into one, enclosed by tree-covered hills on all sides. The feeling I had there was compelling and I decided to spend some time in quiet contemplation.

As I observed the beautiful surroundings and inhaled the fresh air, I could hear the reverberation of many different sounds. Birds chirping, water rushing through the rocks, splashing me frequently, and the cool gusts of wind. I felt in touch with that universal energy, the source of all that is, the divine intelligence that we call God.   It was a blissful experience – so serene yet so energising.   As I sat on one of the rocks, the words of Dr. Wayne Dyer flowed through my mind: We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.

My retreat was soon disturbed by the callings of my friends, who had begun to get worried about me. I saw them approaching towards me. But I still had some time with myself and I decided to savour these wonderfully tranquil moments so that I could recall them once I left.

I spent the rest of my trip with my friends, but there was a feeling of detachment. I had left a part of me in that perfect setting – the part that is my invisible, spiritual self.

Freedom from Stress

Freedom from Stress

A recent survey showed that 70-90% of us feel stressed at work and outside. Today’s fast paced lifestyle is putting a toll on us. Unless we learn to manage stress, we will get sick. Stress and tension impact our entire being; our body, mind, and spirit.

But popping pills is hardly the solution. Ours is a chemically dependent society, perpetually drugging itself to relieve stress. What we fail to realise that painkillers, anti-depressants and other substances may provide temporary respite, but only at the cost of causing long-term, sometimes irreversible, damage to our physical and mental selves.

There is a safer remedy for our overmedicated, overstressed society: Yoga. We can overcome the effects of stress and manage them by utilizing the beneficial breathing techniques and postures that yoga provides. These techniques can not only alleviate the problems we encounter daily, but can revitalize and nourish the mind, body, and spirit over a prolonged period of time, enabling all of us to have long and healthy lives. The popularity of Yoga can be assessed from its followers who range from world renowned physicians to Hollywood superstars. Clearly, interest in yoga is surging throughout the world.

Now, overstressed individuals in Thane too have an opportunity to free themselves from the constant worries and anxieties accompanying them. Thane based Gogate’s Personality Development Center is introducing a one-month stress management programme for working executives. From September 01, 2002, Rashmi Bapat, a qualified Yoga teacher, will conduct early morning sessions on Yoga.

Bapat, who has a Post Graduate Diploma in Yoga & Naturopathy from Vivekananda Kendra Yoga Research Foundation (Bangalore) explains, "Yoga is a proven and powerful transformative practice that integrates body, mind and spirit. Participants will learn yoga asanas, pranayam breathing exercises, meditation, and relaxation techniques."

Each morning session will last approximately ninety minutes and will address the issues of stress. In the first half, the participants will be taught the physiology of stress and its management with yoga. The second half will comprise of a lecture on diet and relaxation. The session will conclude with half an hour dedicated to personal counseling to address individual needs. This last part is worthy of note as each individual has a unique physical and mental constitution. Therefore a generalised course may leave finer aspects of an individual’s problem unattended. To enable this personal attention, a maximum of eight persons will be allowed per batch.

Vasant Gogate, the founder of the center, is himself an avid student of Yoga. Having learnt about the benefits of Yoga early in his life, he wants to make this ancient wisdom available to the residents of this city. His programme is specially designed for the modern day executive who deals with various forms of social and personal pressures which in turn causes his/her health to deteriorate.

Blood pressure, cardiac problems and depression are some of the common derivatives of stress. So if you suffer from stress or simply want to give a new lease of life to your self, you may want to consider participating in this programme.

To enroll in the Stress Management Programme, you may contact Vasant Gogate on Tel. nos. 5400859, 5383486

At a glance – Benefits of Yoga

  • Physical: Through healing, strengthening, stretching and relaxing the skeletal, muscular, digestive, cardio-vascular, glandular and nervous systems.
  • Mental: Through the cultivation of a quite and a peaceful mind, alertness and concentration
  • Spiritual: Through a heightened awareness of self; helps in meditation
Comforting Measures

Comforting Measures

On 15th August 1982, a group of socially conscious citizens from Thane got together to give shape to the Phoenix Trust, a social service organization for the rehabilitation of physically handicapped persons. Today, after twenty long years and a number of hardships, the Trust has grown into a sturdy social service organization which runs a "Rehabilitation, Occupational and Physiotherapy" centre. The centre offers treatment to the physically handicapped as well as orthopaedic patients and it primarily caters to citizens who cannot afford expensive therapy.

Equipped with modern physiotherapy equipment like Short-wave diathermy, Ultrasonic, Muscle stimulators, Tractions and Wax bath, the Phoenix trust centre is manned by visiting orthopaedic surgeons and well qualified therapists.

A cursory glance at services offered by the Phoenix Trust centre proves that it is a boon for the physically challenged people in Thane. The centre provides rehabilitative treatments to people with all types of disabilities i.e. polio-affected children, cases of cerebral palsy/hemiplegia/paraplegia, accidental cases and so on. Orthopaedic patients with problems such as spondyloisis, slip-disc and fractures are offered physiotherapy. For those in dire need, the Trust also provides appliances like walkers, crutches, wheelchairs on hire. All treatments and appliances are provided at very nominal fees.

The Trust regularly organizes check-up camps, lecture sessions and useful public exhibitions. For example, an exhibition on polio was displayed in various slums in the city and the surrounding villages. From time to time, the Trust carries out corrective surgeries on disabled persons with the help of sponsorships.

Tushar Pitale, Chairman of the Managing Committee says, "We chose the name Phoenix as it indicates the spirit behind the activities of the organization. Phoenix is the legendary bird which rises from the ashes. Phoenix Trust works to help disabled persons to rise above the problems by facing the challenges of life upfront, by braving the ignorance, indifference and even intolerance by the society."

Most members of the Trust are professionals from different spheres and offer their services free of cost. The therapists and doctors too provide their treatment on an honorary basis. The organizers of this Trust believe strongly that being blessed with the good lives themselves, they must extend some form of help to those less fortunate than them. The members of the Trust derive tremendous satisfaction from their services and want many more under-privileged citizens to benefit from the Trust.

Pitale maintains, "We believe that this sense of social commitment is the vital driving force that has kept this project running for the last 20 years."

The Phoenix Trust Centre is housed at the Red Cross Building in Thane and remains open from Mondays to Fridays between 6 p. m. and 8 p. m.

Reader’s Delight
It is believed that proliferation of the electronic media and the Internet implies the eventual death of the print media. But contrary to what many people fear, newspaper readership 5in India has in fact increased by ten percent, while the average television viewing time has come down from 85 minutes in 1999 to 82 minutes in 2002 (source: NRS 2002). This interesting piece of statistic was adequately substantiated by an interesting account related by Milind Ballal, former president of Rotary Club of Thane Mid-Town, at the opening of the "Free Newspaper Reading Stand" at the ST Bus Terminus last week.

During the function, Ballal recalled an episode that took place during the launch of a similar reading corner near Kalva Hospital a few months back. The then mayor of Thane, Ramesh Vaiti, who had been invited to inaugurate the center, was late for the function. Since the day’s newspapers had already been placed on the stand, a few citizens, who were eager to catch the latest headlines, started browsing. Slowly more people joined them and the stand was soon surrounded by people busy reading the various newspapers. When the Mayor finally arrived, the organisers had a tough time trying to clear the stand so that it could be officially thrown open. So much for the popularity of newspapers in the digital age!

Swadeshi Sentiments

Swadeshi Sentiments

Each year, the Naupada Hindu Bhagini Mandal, a Thane based women’s association, organizes a week-long event called Varsha Vyakhyanmala, a series of discourses covering various spheres of life. People from all walks of life are invited to share their experiences with the audience.

This year, one of the guests was Madhusudhan Tamhane, the production manager of the historical film "Veer Savarkar". Tamhane also played the role of Superintendent of Police in the film. Being so closely associated with the film, he shared some fascinating anecdotes related to the making of the film.

The cast and crew of the film were in Pune, shooting the "Go Swadeshi" sequence. In the sequence, Shailendra Gaur, who played the lead in the film, was urging people to discard foreign clothes as a gesture of self reliance. People were throwing foreign-made clothes into a pyre specially kindled for the sole purpose of abandoning British clothes. When the filming began, one of the bystanders, who was watching the proceedings for some time, got so aroused by the speech of Veer Savarkar that he stepped ahead and threw his foreign-made jacket into the pyre! It hardly mattered to him that it was just a film being shot – his patriotic instinct caught up with him and he declared in public that he would never wear foreign clothes again.

Ironically, another incident related by Tamhane illustrates quite a contrasting set of values. During the filming of another sequence, about fifteen local men had been hired to represent a gathering. The scene was about Veer Savarkar protesting with the British against the death sentence announced for Madanlal Dingra, another freedom fighter. Once the filming was over, the crowd dispersed and the fifteen men who had been hired also disappeared – and along with them they took the jackets too, which were provided to them for the scene!

“It’s not about money, honey!”

“It’s not about money, honey!”

Someone once said, "The joy of entrepreneurship is to be able to work twice as hard for half as much". Truer words are seldom spoken. As any true entrepreneur will vouch, it’s not money that drives him or her.

Although money is an important factor, a number of people venture into entrepreneurship not because of the financial gains but because they want to do their own stuff. Paradoxically, more often than not, entrepreneurs end up making more money than they ever expected. Take the case of Anita Roddick, a successful woman entrepreneur in the US. In 1976, Anita started retailing homemade naturally inspired products through The Body Shop, a small shop in Brighton on the South Coast of England, with only around 25 hand-mixed products on sale. Today, twenty five years later, The Body Shop has evolved into a worldwide network of shops operating in 47 countries with over 1,500 outlets.

What then drives entrepreneurs, you may ask? Successful businessmen agree on certain basic motivators that steered them on to the entrepreneurial path. Here are some of them:

Creative Satisfaction
This one tops the list. Imagine doing what you love doing and being paid for it – isn’t it really wonderful? Most entrepreneurs are individuals with a strong desire for creative expression. These individuals want to do new things or do old things in a new way. There are many instances of people having left their well-paying jobs to follow their dreams. Like B Mahesh, a full time journalist, who left his secure job and founded a bookstore called Paperback in Thane City. He says he simply followed his dreams as he believes that dreams have a wonderful way of coming true. Today, his small but classy bookstore has carved a niche for itself not just in Thane, but also in the surrounding suburbs.

Lower risk
Contrary to what most people believe, the risk associated with self-employment is lower than the risk associated with a job. Most people view their employment as a type of security. But in the real sense, there is no such thing as job security. Every one knows that he or she can get fired anytime, with or without notice. The feeling of absolute security can come only from within and real entrepreneurs seem to know this inherent fact.

Entrepreneurs always looks for newer avenues to apply themselves and as a result, make themselves a lot more self-reliant. In the process of setting up and running a business, they are able to not only sharpen their core professional skills but also acquire peripheral skills and abilities. Thus an entrepreneur’s professional competency rating climbs and what ensues is an overall reduction in risk.

Higher independence
Entrepreneurs value freedom and flexibility. But in a job set-up, it is often observed that there is very little room for doing things your way. You are expected to follow a pattern determined by the culture of your organization and often this proves to be a bottleneck when it comes to operating without restraint.

By being your own boss, you can adopt new ideas quickly. Since your company will usually be a small business – at least in the beginning – you won’t need to approach the board to get permission, each time you wish to try something new. If the idea doesn’t work you can drop it just as quickly. This opportunity for flexibility is one of the greatest assets of an entrepreneur.

Sense of accomplishment
As an entrepreneur, one experiences a pride in ownership. Also, entrepreneurs derive great satisfaction from offering a product or service which is valued in the market place. Because you can pay yourself a salary and the profit or return on your investment will also be yours, you anticipate a good income once your business is established.

What makes a good entrepreneur?

Entrepreneurial drive is alright. But drive alone is only a necessary condition, not a sufficient one. Let’s take a look at the other side – the ingredients that go into making a successful entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurship guarantees freedom. But freedom does not imply lack of discipline. In fact it requires tremendous self-discipline to be a successful entrepreneur. What freedom does mean, in the context of entrepreneurship, is the flexibility to adjust according to the need of the hour. This freedom from rigidity is perhaps the single most important factor that contributes to the success of an entrepreneur. At times you may work for days together, even on Sundays, and then, when there is no work on the plate, take off for a short trip to the nearby hills. You can afford to do this because you do not have a boss. Clearly, freedom from rigid work schedules helps you grow into a more efficient and effective manager, yet enjoy your free time.

The term responsibility literally means ability to respond. And that’s what entrepreneurship is all about. Think about it. If you have employees, you must meet their payroll month after month. You must always have money to pay creditors – the man who sells you goods or raw materials, the dealer who sells you equipment, your landlord, the publisher running your advertisements, the income-tax department, and many others. All of these must be paid before you can consider the "profits" yours.

You must accept sole responsibility for all final decisions. A wrong judgment on your part can result in losses not only to yourself but, also to your employees, creditors, and customers. Moreover, you must withstand, alone, the adverse situations caused by circumstances frequently beyond your control.

Hard Work
By now you must have figured that keeping your business profitable means long hours of hard work, consistently. Also, it could very well not be the work you want to do. As someone else’s employee you acquired certain skill sets. In your own business, you not only use these skills forty hours a week, but also perform the management tasks. Keeping books, maintaining accounting records, long-range planning, handling contingencies and coping with expediting are everyday chores of a small businessman. Finally, when everyone else goes home you may even have to sweep the floor.

Boss or Employee?
You will be your most important employee. As a result, you will have rate yourself as objectively as you rate any prospective employee. As a prospective operator of your own business, acknowledge that you are weak in certain areas and cover the deficiency by either retraining yourself or hiring someone with the necessary skill.

No matter what your business, to succeed you must always satisfy your customers. If you don’t give the customers what they want, they’ll go somewhere else and you’ll be out of business. This only means that every customer or potential customer is your boss. Your creditors too may dictate to you, and your competitors’ actions may force you into making decisions that you don’t want to make.

Finally, it takes considerable grit and determination to go the entrepreneurial way. "Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision", said Peter Drucker, one of the most admired modern management guru. This courage is what differentiates entrepreneurs from the rest.

Summing Up
To sum up, successful entrepreneurs are often driven by more than just the desire to make loads of money – they are motivated by a love for freedom, a longing for creative expression and a need for self-reliance. Yet, this drive alone is not enough and should be accompanied by discipline, responsibility and lots of hard work.

Distress Call

Distress Call

Suresh and Mamta (names changed to protect identities) fall in love. Their parents don’t approve of their marriage. They go ahead and marry anyway. After their marriage, the couple reaches Suresh’s home but his folks refuse to let them in. Rejecting their marriage, Suresh’s father (who is a judge by profession) issues a warning to his son: Either leave the girl or cut all ties with us. Suresh chooses to remain with his family and the Mamta is left in the lurch. She asks for a divorce but is refused on the grounds that there is no proof that the marriage indeed did take place.

Left with no option, Mamta seeks help from the Thane chapter of Bharatiya Mahila Federation. The Federation goes all out to extend support to Mamta. In order to garner public support and to put pressure on the Suresh and his family, the federation prints and distributes pamphlets at all the significant places. Suresh’s judge-father files a defamation case against the federation. But the federation fights back and wins the case. Mamta is granted a divorce with full honour, whereas Suresh and his family are left high and dry. Mamta marries again and lives happily with two children and a successful career too.

This is but one of the several hundred cases that are regularly taken up by the Bharatiya Mahila Federation (Thane Samiti). The federation, which is an NGO, deals with typical women’s issues such as dowry matters, physical and mental torture, extra-marital affairs, liquor addictions and problems of widows etc.

The Thane chapter of Bhartiya Mahila Federation has helped thousands of victims of social injustice since its inception in 1985 by a small group of educated middle-class women in Thane city. The federation was established with a view to spread awareness about the women’s issues and extends help to women in distress.

The federation runs a family counseling center which has been recognized by the Central Social Welfare Board, New Delhi and receives a grant in aid from the Board since 1990 in the form of salaries of the staff etc. The cases range from marital discord due to personality differences to extreme violence as a result of dowry system or alcoholic addiction of the husband etc. Meghana Mehandale, the President of the Thane center says, "A distressed woman receives moral support, patient hearing, counseling, legal advise and aid, police assistance (whenever called for), and finally even protection and shelter at a short stay home in the hour of crisis."

The Short Stay Home is run by Malati Vaidya Smriti Trust, a charitable trust working in co-ordination with the federation for rehabilitation of women caught up in severe crisis. Social worker Geeta Mahajan, who is also the secretary of the federation, related many frightening accounts of distressed women and children and how the federation has reached out to their assistance. Relating how helpful the "Short Stay Home" has been, Mahajan says, "A young girl was forced into prostitution by her own mother in Bhiwandi who was rescued and given assistance at the home. A battered wife with two young daughters could come out of the clutches of a very violent and alcoholic husband, thanks to the shelter at home. An unwed young mother from a peasant family received timely help for her and her child’s rehabilitation".

The cultural squad of the organization plays a significant role in creating awareness. It has performed a number of street plays on the themes of women’s inequality, Sati, communal riots etc. for different target groups. Activities like nursery school for slum children, literacy classes for women, women’s vigilance committees for proper functioning of public distribution system, life education for adolescent girls form part of the organizations routine work in the community. Their street-play Mulgi Zhali Ho (Oh! A girl is born) was so successful that it led many volunteers to offer their services to the organisation.

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" said Martin Luther King, Jr. The federation’s fight for justice offers hope in a society that is heavily skewed against the female gender.

Readers can contact the Bhartiya Mahila Federation (Thane Samiti) on Tel. No. 25369879