Month: October 2004

The secret of a long life

The secret of a long life

The Ogimi Village in Japan is called The Village of Long Life. The statistics of Ogimi village contradict the general pattern of old age, which is usually associated with a plethora of ailments. Consider this: of the 3500 residents in the village, 1056 people are over 65 and there are 80 people aged more than 90. The secret of Ogimi village’s longevity lies in the lifestyle of its inhabitants. Most of the older people live on their own or with their spouse, enjoying a balanced lifestyle amid rich natural surroundings in a close-knit community. In spite of being very old, these people are by no means shunned by society. Rather, they live in a community of mutual care and assistance, with frequent visits to and from with their children and grandchildren in the cities.

Senior citizens can enjoy the same good health and high-quality life described above anywhere in the world. They only need the love, support and understanding of their family and the community. Take the example of our own senior citizen from Thane, Mrs Parvatibai Sadashiv Kelkar, who completed 100 years on October 16, 2004. With the health she enjoys at 100, Kelkar would give an inferiority complex to people who are decades younger than her. She is free from most old-age ailments. She has perfect eyesight, no diabetes, a blood pressure of a 25-year-old, a strong heart, and a powerful memory. She has mobility problems, and can’t move as freely possible, but that is mostly because of slowing down reflexes. She attributes her good health to an active life and good eating habits. "In those days, we consumed healthy, home made food, farm fresh fruits and vegetables and were very active. Besides, we lived a relatively easy life, with far less stress as compared to today."
One significant factor that has contributed to her sound health is her loving family. On her 100th birthday, her family celebrated the occasion with enthusiasm. 30 teachers from Vartak Nagar Madhyamilk Vidyala in Shastri Nagar, where Kelkar’s daughter-in-law Jyoti teaches, felicitated Kelkar by presenting her with a garland made of five rupee notes. Kelkar also cut a huge cake to mark the occasion. Later, the teachers, including Principal Jayshree Jog, listened in awe as veteran narrated a few gripping episodes of her life. For instance, her late husband, Sadashiv Vinayak Kelkar, was a freedom fighter and consequently, great patriots like Yeswantrao Chavan and freedom fighter Krantisingh Nana Patil (known for founding the shadow government) visited the Kelkar’s.

Kelkar’s progeny is remarkable. She has five sons and three daughters, 17 grandchildren and more than 25 great grandchildren. Kelkar lives with her youngest son Chandrakant and appreciates her daughter-in-law Jyoti’s selfless dedication in caring for her.

The story of centenarian Kelkar is as real as the stories of abuse and exploitation of elders across the world. The situation in developing nations like India is worse. Our country had 77 million "grey population" in 2001 as compared to 12 million in 1901. The number is expected to grow to 25 million by 2025. While we have NGOs like Helpage India trying to work for benefit of the elderly, we also require a shift in mass consciousness about our attitude towards the elders. Instead of looking upon them as a liability, we can regard them has treasure trove of wisdom and experience. By giving our elders love and respect, we can make the whole world like the Japanese village, where health, joy and old age coexist.

Dancing to ancient tunes

Dancing to ancient tunes

Residents of Thane are known for their enthusiasm for festivals. And from August to November, there is a string of festivals, one after the other, which Thaneites celebrate with fervour. The ten-day Navratri festival, culminating in Dassera, is one of the big celebrations, with several mini-events gilding the main event. One such mini event is called the Bhondla dance. In the Hindu calendar month of Bhadrapada, when the sun moves to the thirteenth constellation of the zodiac called "Hasta" (Elephant), unmarried and newly married girls perform a dance known as "Bhondla" or "Hadga" and sing specially composed Hadga or "Bhulabai" songs. Bhondla begins with the installation of the deity’s idol and ends on the ninth day of Navratri. Like every year, this year too, hundreds of girls of all ages, and from across the city, were seen celebrating Bhondla by singing special Bhondla songs and performing dances throughout the nine day period.

Manjiri Deo, the veteran dance teacher, who has been teaching Kathak in Thane for 28 long years and has trained thousands of students, organises Bhondla for her students every year since she began coaching. This year was no different, as her students and their parents celebrated bhondla on Sunday, complete songs, dance and sharing of Khirapat. Deo says, "In Kolhapur, where I spent my childhood, Hadga (as it is known there) would go on for 16 days, and little girls would handpick different fruits from their garden, to make a garland which they would then offer to the devi. But in the urban setting, it’s difficult to spare so much time and so we organise Bhondla only for one day. This helps the new generation to learn about the age old tradition and also keep it going."

Another city-based institution that strives to uphold the cultural tradition is the Sarawati Mandir Trust’s pre-primary section in Naupada. The school instils the seeds of cultural heritage in the young by celebrating all the important Indian festivals in school. On Tuesday, 19 October, as many as 200 kindergarten children participated in the bhondla event organised by the school. Preparation for the event began a few days ago when the teachers taught the toddlers the words and tunes of Bhondla songs. On the chosen day, little girls sang and danced along with their teachers, while the little boys cheered them. Everyone, including teachers, was dressed in traditional outfits. In the classrooms, the blackboards exhibited the drawings of the devi and the elephant, and the relevance of the same was explained to the students. For children, the most enjoyable part of the Bhondla tradition is the making of khirapat, which is usually a surprise. This year the kids were asked to bring different ingredients that go into the making of Misal, the spicy, delectable Maharashtrian dish. So while the children brought onions, tomatoes and potatoes, teachers got farsan and usal, the spicy gravy that forms the base of Misal. Before the children could relish Misal, teachers taught them how the dish is prepared.

The enthusiasm of Thaneites is contagious and it travels places, literally and figuratively, as is evident from the way one group of women celebrated Bhondla. These 16 women travel to work every day in the 9.11 am CST bound Thane local and board the ladies first class in Thane and Mulund. Anagha Chitale, one of the group members, initiated the practice of celebrating Bhondla in train four years ago and since then the group celebrates it every year. So on Tuesday, all members came draped in saris, and were welcomed with the customary Haldi Kumkum and Ittar. One of the group members, Gauri, had brought Gajras, which she distributed to everyone, even passengers who were not part of the group. Then the women sang bhondla songs throughout the journey and shared Khirapat, which included a variety of items like dry fruit Samosas, kachoris and even chocolates.

In today’s pop culture, Bhondla may have lost out to Garba in the commercial sense, but those who value culture and tradition strive to uphold this ancient tradition by celebrating it in its true essence. It is in the hearts of such citizens that the rich Indian heritage lives.

City’s Science Score

City’s Science Score

In January, when we informed you about city-based NGO Jidnyasa’s appointment as the State Organising Agency (SOA) by National Council for Science and Technology Communication (NCSTC), we promised to keep you updated on the Children’s Science Congress 2004. In keep with the promise, here’s the update.

The results of the district level round for this year’s congress were declared recently and 78 projects were selected out of 230 entries from the Thane District (the highest in the state). 12 of these 78 projects are from rural areas.

15 of the 78 projects are from Thane district, eight of which are from Thane city alone. This year’s theme is "Use of Water Resources for bright future". After the district level, the projects have two more elimination rounds, before the nationals – the regional level and the state level. This year, the state level contest will be held on 3rd and 4th December at Kolhapur.

The topics of the projects that have been selected from our city schools are evidence of the talent that our city has. (See table) Surendra Dighe, the managing trustee of Jidnyasa, is confident of a good performance from Thane kids. "With every subsequent year, the quality of the projects is improving. Last year, seven students from Maharahstra reached the final round (the highest among all states), three of which were from Thane. I see no reason why our city children will not make us proud again," says Dighe

Because this year has been declared as the "Year of Scientific Awareness" by the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India, we hope that students from Thane will repeat their wonderful feat at the National Science Congress. From the performance so far, the prospects look encouraging. On behalf of the residents of Thane, we wish the city-students the very best for their next round of the National Science Congress.

Meanwhile, watch this space for updates on the performance of city students as the Science Congress reaches its culmination between December 27 and December 31, 2004 at Guwahati.

Project Title Name of Student Class School
Rain Water Harvesting from Terrace Water Chaitra Pavgi VIII Saraswati Secondary School
Water Purification using biotechnology Ruccha Vakharia IX Srirang Vidyalaya
Water and Hygiene – Diseases from Water Sharvari Joshi IX Saraswati Secondary School
Water Conservation in Society Tanks Sai Apte VII Saraswati Secondary School
How to save water Kaushik Kamble VIII Savitridevi Chirani Vidyalaya
Use of Saline Water for Agriculture Sonia Karapurkar IX A K Joshi
Back to roots (How to water plants/crops?) Manali Bagavde VIII Saraswati Vidyaprasarak Trust’s School
Does water become stale? Amrita Kamble VII Dr Bedekar Vidyamandir

Children’s Science Congress
Organised by the National Council for Science & Technology Communication (NCSTC), the Children’s Science Congress is the unique opportunity for children of all backgrounds and from all over the country to use their scientific attitude and talents. The major objectives of the programme include: (i) to provide a forum for the children to pursue their national curiosity and quench their thrust for creativity, (ii) to effect a change in the way science is taught and learned in our schools, by relating the learning process to the physical and social environment around and (iii) to stimulate scientific temper through use and internalisation of the method of science i.e., conservation, collection of data, experimentation, analysis and then arriving at conclusions.

Old is gold

Old is gold

It is said that age is all mind over matter – if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. If age is a matter of the mind, then you’re as old as you feel. Though old age has its drawbacks, it comes with many rewards. Old is Gold, because virtues like wisdom, insight, patience, tolerance and knowledge come with old age. It is to honour these virtues that we celebrate the World Elder’s Day.

On Friday October 01, 2004, the Rotary Club of Thane North End (RCTNE) and Innerwheel Club of Thane Hills (IWCTH) together organised a programme to celebrate Elder’s Day. Held at Gadkari Rangayatan, over 350 senior citizens attended the programme. Speaking on the occasion, the chief guest Retired Judge Raja Bhau Gawande said, "Old age is a phenomenon to be enjoyed. If you love your life, life will love you." He also told the audience how in foreign countries, old age is categorised as young old (60-80 years) and old-old (80-100 years). Ashok Chitnis, former Principal of Bedekar School held a story telling session in which he narrated an award-winning story written by him about a notorious student and his teacher.

Later, three elders were felicitated: Chandravage Chorge, 102 years, Parashuram Naik, 95 years and Khayatkar, 93 years as their contemporaries in the audience cheered.

At the time when so many elder are abused, it is time for the youth and children to acknowledge that we owe our life to them. Old age is inevitable, and some day, the youth of today will become the old of tomorrow. Perhaps it is a good time to commit to memory the following quotation by the French romantic poet, novelist and dramatist Victor Hugo, which echoes the sentiments of elders accurately: "The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved – loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves." Let’s pledge happiness for our elders.

For your eyes only
Did you know that with nearly one third of the world’s blind, India has one of the highest incidences of blindness in the world? And though a significant proportion of these persons can have their eyesight restored through corneal transplantation, thousands of blind persons registered with the eye banks have to wait for years because of an acute shortage of donor eyes. Incidentally our neighbouring Sri Lanka has ten times more donor eyes than the requirement. Needless to say, we need to create an urgent awareness about eye donations, if we are to reduce this paucity.

While celebrating World Elder Day at the Gadkari, the RCTNE also used the opportunity to inaugurate an eye bank called "Diyva Drushti," a project which is part of the Centennial Year Celebrations of The Rotary International. A skit presentation by Suhas Joshi, Iravati Lagoo, Leeladhar Kambli, and Yatin Thakur urged people to pledge their eyes for donation. The skit creating attempted to create awareness about the benefits of the noble deed and also busted a few myths associated with eye donation. For example, removing the eye does not disfigure the face of the donor.

For pledge forms and other details, readers may contact Dr. Shekhar Suradkar or Dr. Kalpana Suradkar, at Highway Hospital, near Teen Haat Naka. Tel: 2582 2683/2581 2910. Mobile 9820045614

A March for Peace

A March for Peace

"Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth," said Albert Einstein about one of the most inspiring and influential men of the twentieth century. Yes, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, fondly known as the father of our nation, was loved and respected by the world’s most respected individuals. And yet today, amidst attacks on the Mahatma’s personal life and his relationship with his children, many among us are forgetting his contribution to India’s freedom struggle in specific and to humankind in general. Therefore it was heartening to see students, parents and teachers along with peace loving residents, participating in such large numbers to remember and honour Mahatma Gandhi’s principles of peace, truth, love, non-violence and justice.

On the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti last week, almost 550 people counting 450 children from seven different schools in the city (including a tribal school in Yeoor) walked on the streets of Thane to remember the values that Mahatma Gandhi stood for. This was the fifth consecutive year of Shanti Yatra (or peace march). What started as a celebration of the apostle of peace by Garden School of Thane four years ago has now become an important event with several city-based NGOs actively participating to remind us the powerful ideas of Mahatma Gandhi.

The peach march began from St John the Baptist High School at Jambli Naka and terminated at the bust of Mahatma Gandhi on Shivaji Path covering prominent city roads like Ghantali and Gokhale Road. True to its name, the peace march was peaceful and no one was shouting slogans. Instead, the marchers were carrying placards with Gandhi’s core ideas and messages written on them.

The shanti yatra began as an inter-religious effort but the focus has now shifted to children. The idea behind the event is to familiarise children of today with the values that the Mahatma stood for. Bernadette Pimenta, Garden School’s founder-principal says, "The children of today are so lost that they need a role model like Mahatma Gandhi. This peace march is an effort to instil in our children the love and respect for the father of the nation."

Last year, Tushar Gandhi and Medha Patkar had participated in the Shanti Yatra. This year, the chief guest was Dr Dalvi, former principal of Dnyansadhana College, who spoke about Mahatma’s life and his contribution to India. A little boy from Majiwada School gave a speech on the father of the nation and later bhajans of Gandhi were sung.

Bapu, as children affectionately call him, once said, "Every murder or other injury, no matter for what cause, committed or inflicted on another is a crime against humanity." With widespread violence, terrorism and wars threatening to consume our planet, it is perhaps now more than ever before, that we need to remember the values of the Mahatma.

Discovering your talent

Discovering your talent

"Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade," said the great American statesman and inventor, Benjamin Franklin. Talent, if rearranged, spells "latent". It is said that that each of us possess some talent, which is often latent until discovered. And the best time to discover your talents is during childhood, because then you have a lifetime opportunity to hone and employ your talent.

Last week, students of Sulochana Devi Singhania High School participated in the "cultural week" celebrations, an annual event that offers opportunities to discover and stimulate talent in various disciplines. The event is celebrated across all classes, from Junior KG to class X and throughout the duration of the event, hundreds of competitions are held. It culminates with the youth festival that is being celebrated today (October 02).

As in many schools, all students belong to one of the four houses: Vindya, Himachal, Yamuna, Ganga. Every time, a student wins, points are awarded to the house they represent. At the end of the festival, the house with maximum points is awarded the trophy.

While competitions for the higher classes are tougher and more competitive, those for the smaller children are designed to encourage them to discover their talents and then build their confidence in using them. Students of Kindergarten participated in recitation, drawing, fancy dress, handwriting and storytelling contests. Handwriting and storytelling was open only to Senior KG students and the latter turned out to be quite tough. "Only 30 students out of the 330 could be in the finals, and it was indeed difficult to decide, because all children were so good," says Sangita Pitale, Coordinator for the pre-primary section.

The fancy dress contest of the pre-primary section was a rather interesting event. Gone are the days when children would dress up as historical figures, cartoon characters or celebrities. Approximately 600 kids, 300 each from Junior and Senior KG, appeared on the stage – most of them dressed as inanimate and devise objects or intangible ideas. So there was an ambulance, complete with flashing lights, a Lotus flower, a scarecrow, spider with deadly legs, a silkworm, who actually crawled on to the stage, a mobile phone, a butterfly who came out of cocoon, pollution control, and even a messenger of peace. Of course there were also some who turned up as Pokemon characters like Picachio.

The various competitions got over on September 29. Of course, only a handful of children were declared winners, while the rest of them silently vowed to try harder next time. But it is not winning or losing that counts. It is discovering and using your talent. Like Leo Buscaglia said, "Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God." These children are in a process of unwrapping God’s gifts. Someday they will offer their own gift to God.

God of all ages
Hanuman Vyayamshala, the city’s 81-year old sports association, celebrated its 80th year of Ganpati celebrations. The enthusiasm of the students, ex-students and instructors of this institute is rather contagious. Each year, the students of the institute participate in organizing the Ganpati celebration right from the beginning. What’s interesting is that many ex-students of the association are now senior citizens. And the current members are usually school students. So on 27 September, hundreds of students, ex-students, parents and instructors got together at the institute to participate in the visarjan by playing lezim. It was a sight to see as Ganesha brought together the oldest and the youngest of his devotees, as they danced away merrily to songs sung in praise of the Lord.