Month: July 2005

Policing cop’s health

Policing cop’s health

Stress is a known killer. Physicians often trace sickness and other physical health problems to psychological reasons, occupational stress being the most widespread and lethal of them. And the occupation that is among the most stressful is police work. Just consider the work that police personnel are involved in and you won’t envy them. Crime and violence surround them and they are always needed in ominous situations. While police workforce is trained for the job, we often forget that they are only human and are not immune from the horrors, conflicts and miseries that they are required to deal with daily. Because they work long hours in disagreeable circumstances and under tremendous pressure, it takes a toll on their emotional and physical health. The recent spate of suicides by police officers and constables as well as police crimes are evidence of the enormous stress that these public protectors are undergoing. To add to this, resources available to them are hardly worth talking about. So last week, it was welcome change when the police force of Thane got a dose of good health and sound advice at a health check-up camp.

On the morning of July 14, about 120 police personnel across ranks gathered along with their families at the Police Health Centre located near the old police commissioner’s office opposite in Thane. Thane’s Commissioner of Police, D Shivanandan inaugurated a diabetes centre for the police force. This was followed by a general check up and diabetes and lipid-profile estimation of police personnel and their families. Shivanandan also took the tests. It wasn’t surprising that 28 per cent of those tested returned higher-than-normal blood sugar levels. Diabetes is one of the most common stress-related disease and India is supposedly the world headquarter for diabetes.

In his address, Shivanandan advised his force to exercise control over their diet and also recommended a change in their lifestyle in order to be able to remain healthy and deal with the profession’s demanding requirements. Shivanandan hinted at starting a hospital for the force soon.

The camp, which was organised by the Welfare Department of Police in association with a pharmaceutical company and a local NGO, distributed free medicines that would last for a month. But the camp’s benefit will last longer than that. Monthly blood glucose estimation for the next 12 months and a full-year quota of medicines will be provided the police free of cost.

Doctors concur that in the case of diabetes, early detection is important as the disease leads to several complications such as heart disease, blindness, and kidney failure, along with circulatory problems that can result in amputations. With high incidence of diabetes in India and its relationship with stress, the regular blood sugar estimations are a small but significant step towards acknowledging the police personnel’s woes and keeping in mind that their human too. After all, the police force’s health needs to be policed too!

A Pat on the Back

A Pat on the Back

Fame is a fickle friend, it is said. But we think it is also partial. Each year around this time, various NGOs and other organisations felicitate SSC and HSC toppers from the city. The students who are recognised for their academic brilliance often hail from mainstream schools, both private and public, while we often conveniently forget the students that belong to the underprivileged or poorer sections of the society. These students may not score in the high 90s, but if you compare the resources available to students from mainstream schools with those that study in, say, municipal schools, you will agree that perhaps the achievements of the latter deserve equal, if not more, acknowledgement.

On 12 July 2005, 47 SSC and HSC students belonging to municipal schools and tribal villages from Thane were felicitated at a specially organised ceremony. The programme was held at the Thane Manufacturing Association’s Hall at Wagle Estate. Dr B K Mahavarkar, a city-based cardiologist, and the head of a local association (Rotary Club of Thane North End), took the initiative to organise the event with the objective of encouraging the oft-neglected section of the society.   Toppers from 12 schools and junior colleges in remote areas of the city such as Balkum, Kasar Vadavali, Manpada, Kapur Bawdi, and Subhask Nagar were felicitated. Students from a tribal village called Pankhanda, situated off Ghodbunder Road, were also honoured.

Each student was presented a certificate of honour along with a pen set and some food packets. Although most of these children were shy of talking in front of an audience, their teachers volunteered on their behalf and thanked everyone for the support and encouragement offered to the students.

Priyanka Marathe, the topper among girls from Mumbai board was also invited to grace the occasion and to share her experience. The presence of Priyanka ensured that the students from municipal schools and tribal village felt on par with those from mainstream schools. While sharing her experience, Priyanka stressed on the importance an all-round approach revealing that she enjoyed herself till December 10, participating in all sorts of extra-curricular activities. Only after that date did she begin to single-mindedly work towards her board exams.

The chief guest of the evening was Principal of Bandodkar College, Madhuri Pejawar. In her address, she commended the efforts of the organisers and said that such initiatives go a long way in promoting the cause of education. She also advised the organisers to go a step beyond and help these students in developing their personalities. She said that grooming the students in matters such as dressing up, speaking eloquently and interacting with people was as important as basic education if they were to succeed.

French Writer, member of the French Academy and Nobel Prize Winner for Literature in 1921, Anatole France, once said, "Nine tenths of education is encouragement." This quote surely holds true for our young friends from tribal villages and underprivileged sections. A gentle pat for their achievements may drive them to achieve further success.

A Special Evening

A Special Evening

Children have an amazing propensity to squeeze out joy from little pleasures of life. It’s delightful to see little kids enjoying themselves merrily – singing, dancing and generally having fun, oblivious to the world around them. And when the kids in question are physically/mentally challenged, belonging to the underprivileged strata of the society, it’s a sight to behold.

Nearly 140 underprivileged, special children had a time of their life on the evening of Saturday October 18, 2003. The children, students of Anand Dighe Jidd School in Thane, were celebrating Diwali amidst their family, friends and teachers at a programme organised specially for them. "Deepanjali" as the evening was called, was sponsored by the Thane Police Department, Rotaract Club of Thane North End and Lioness club of Upvan. Ironically, senior officials from Police Department and the TMC (which runs the Jidd School) were conspicuous by their absence.

The programme, which was organised in the specially created garden for students of Jidd School, lasted for about three hours. Dance and singing performances by children and adults were the highlights of the evening. In one performance, by the staff members of the school, a man dressed up as a village woman, and danced to the tune of folk song while the children laughed and clapped in joy. Interactive games of fortune allowed the audience to participate and win prizes. The live orchestra band added to the charm of the evening.

Towards the end of the show, the orchestra played many popular Hindi songs in a free-for-all dance show. Half the audience was up on the stage, including a few special children. It literally boggled the mind to see the jest with which the special children were dancing. One polio affected child, with barely any legs, was dancing energetically without any sign of discomfort, and enjoying every moment of it. He was literally jumping on a single foot for what seemed like ages, and seemed like he was over the moon. Another special child joined the band to play the drums – and he played wonderfully. The look on the children’s faces and the demand for more music and more dance made it clear that they just did not want the evening to end. In spite of the celebrations mood, the special children surprisingly maintained discipline and none of them needed to be guarded for causing disruptions. Afterwards, many guests, including this writer, were presented with beautiful paper roses made by the special students of Jidd School.

The ultimate delight for the children was the session of fireworks at the close of the show. The sparklers and explosives lit the sky up repeatedly, producing various colours, noises and effects; some breaking into colour bursts in the air and some displaying colours going up. Each successive burst was accompanied by grand cheers, sounds of roaring laughter interspersed with ecstatic oohs and aahs.

Among the people who graced the programme were Mayor Sharada Raut, TMC house speaker Eknath Shinde, Vijay Padwal from the Department of Sports and Culture, Sanjay More from the Education Department and many others. Group Leader of Shiv Sena in TMC, Anil Save who attended the programme said, "Jidd School holds a special place in our hearts. I know of no other Municipal Corporation anywhere in the country that organises such Diwali celebrations for the underprivileged special children. TMC is unique in that respect."

The principal of Jidd School, Shyamshree Bhonsle, when asked what drove her to organise such a programme, replied, "There is a need to deal with special children with greater creativity and sensitivity. Moreover, our students come from really poor families who may be so occupied with mere sustenance that they can hardly afford to think of celebrating festivals. By organising such a programme and inviting their families, we thought we could provide these children an opportunity to enjoy the festival just like we all do. They always look forward to such celebrations as they forget their daily pains, if only for a few hours." She was thankful to the many supporters of the school and sponsors who made it possible. She added, "I wish to personally thank all the well-wishers who contribute in their own way to run the school for the underprivileged children in need of special care."

Such was the evening’s effect that it caused our eyes to become moist with emotion. The joy on the faces of the special children overwhelmed our hearts and made us pray for them. It was a special evening by all counts, indeed.

To love or not to love

To love or not to love

Love is blind is a maxim that is perhaps as old as love itself, and if you’re like me, then you have, at some time or the other, wondered about that one. Well, it’s time to stop wondering, because a group of researchers have actually found that the old adage is not an empty cliche. A report on the BBC News website says that scientists have found that feelings of love lead to a “suppression of activity in the areas of the brain controlling critical thought”. Simply put, this means that when in love, the heart takes over the central command and the brain is relegated to playing the second fiddle. So, in effect, the heart deviates from its defined function of pumping blood and begins to order the brain around. On second thoughts, going by what the scientists have discovered about the brain’s digression, love might not just be blind but also deaf and dumb. Does that mean that when you fall in love, you become handicapped? Perhaps that’s where the term “lovesick” came from.

That love is blind might also explain the universal truth of “opposites attract”. Although the latter is supposed to describe the behaviour of magnetic substances, the phrase is commonly used to describe seemingly inexplicable human behaviour: The most beautiful girl always falls for the most ordinary looking boy. The fairest guy marries the darkest girl (in this case, we can’t say whether love is blind but it is positively colour-blind). And how can we forget the age-old, run-to-death love story of a rich-boy falling for poor girl or vice versa?

So science has proved that love makes you weaker in the brain. Does that mean we must stop loving? Of course not! Personally I think love is cool. Granted that according to research love subdues certain functions of the brain, but while doing so, it enriches the soul. And soul is all there is to life. What will you do with a brain without the soul? In fact, come to think of it, geniuses have always known the importance of love. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the greatest music composers of all time and a genius in his own right, once said, “Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.” There.

“What about those disasters?” I hear you asking. Well, the truth is that those disasters are probably the result of the brain interfering in matters that are more to suited to the heart. Analyse love, and it will die, crippling you in the process. Leave love alone, and it will not only survive, it will flourish.

Building strong values

Building strong values

Bernadette Pimenta is a veteran teacher from Thane, who began teaching in 1971. Over the past 35 years, she has taught countless children. In 1996, when she completed 25 years of being in the noble profession of teaching, she decided to do something that will go beyond classrooms and help young children in developing an all-round personality. Early childhood, she recognised, is perhaps the most important phase of human life because that’s what determines personality a child would possess when he grows up. Thus, Garden School, of which she is the principal, started "Enrichment Class", an extra-curricular course for young children that aims at developing a high spiritual, emotional and intellectual quotient among children. It’s a values-oriented course that endeavours to arouse among children a concern for nature and the importance of giving back to the society in some meaningful ways. The course has different levels depending upon the age of the student, from pre-school to level five, and is slowly progressive to more advanced levels. This is the first year of level five and although activities at every level are interesting, the ones of class five deserve a special mention.

Held once every week, students are taken around a prominent part of the city. During the visit, the kids observe the environment around them, making mental notes of whatever strikes them. Once back, they write a report on their observations, detailing all the small and big nuances of the city. This improves their observation and writing skills while inculcating a sense of appreciation of the surroundings which they inhabit. As the festive season approaches, every week the children will be taken to one place of worship – Temple, Church, Gurudwara, Agiary, and Mosque – so that they learn to respect all religions and understand the importance of co-existing with others. A visit to Mani Bhavan helps them recognise the contribution of Mahatma Gandhi and also learn his values of non-violence and love. They also learn the basics of a foreign language (French), which helps them to acquire a perspective of the world outside their own country.

The 45-week course also includes a kitchen module, wherein for a few weeks the kids learn to manage the kitchen. The kids learn simple tasks like peeling and cutting vegetables, spreading butter on bread and making sandwiches. They learn the right way to hold a knife, the importance of washing vegetables and maintaining hygiene, and also table manners such as not slouching, not over-eating and gargling after meals. Every Monday, these 10-year-olds learn to prepare a new dish like Poha, Upma, and Sabudana Kichdi, so that they are able to cook something in the event of their parents/maids not being available for some reason.

By stimulating their thinking and observation skills, and by teaching them daily chores, the course helps students to learn to trust themselves and their abilities. It provides the little students with a way of life, while assisting their overall growth and development. The role of the teachers here cannot be overemphasised as they work relentlessly to ensure that the objective of every activity undertaken is met.

Many experts believe that our personality characteristics are rooted in childhood and remain more or less fixed throughout our lives. Values such as love, compassion, non-violence, honesty, truth, and hard work cannot be acquired by adults – these have to be coded in childhood. This being the case, Garden School’s enrichment class deserves to be applauded for imparting sound values in little children – values that will serve them well when they grow up and thereby create a highly values-driven society.

Dance of the Gods

Dance of the Gods

Dance is a form of communication that brings out the innermost feelings. Indian classical dances are in fact dances of the mind and soul, more than of the body. Its exponents believe that it is an art form that has descended from heaven to earth. In fact Lord Shiva’s Nataraj pose speaks volumes about the role of classical dance in India.

No wonder then that on Monday 27 June 2005, the Gadkari Rangayatan was packed with 800-odd dance lovers from Thane who had come to watch a programme on Indian classical dance. The programme, titled "Akaar Mahotsav", focussed on the importance of technique in Indian classical dances like Kathak and Bharatnatyam. The programme started at 8.30 pm and went on for three hours during which a number of dance items enthralled the audience.

The programme was organised by Payal Nrutyaniketan, a classical dance academy in Thane, to celebrate its annual day with a theme that pays respect to Indian Classical Dance. The founder of Payal Nrutyaniketan, Poonam Murdeshwar, a Kathak and Bharatntyam exponent, has been teaching Kathak and Bharatnatyam to students in Thane for 35 years now, insists that dance is more than just artistic gestures of the body. According to Murdeshwar, it takes years to master the techniques of the various aspects of classical dance, including the utterance of dance syllables, which is as importance as the gestures. Facial expression is another important aspect of Indian classical dance that has to be mastered by students who wish to perfect the art.

It was these details that Monday’s programme tried to bring out when many of Murdeshwar’s erstwhile students performed dance numbers to an audience that kept shouting "once more" requests. Murdeshwar’s daughter Tammanna, herself a Kathak and Bharatnatyam expert, performed an item based on old film songs along with choreographer Mayur Vaidya, also her ex-student. She also did a pure Kathak number based on Hridayanath Mangeshkar’s famous Marathi song, "Tu Tehwa Tassi" along with Angad Maskar.

Murdeshwar, who has taught more than a 1000 students, learnt her art from such distinguished dance teachers as Gopikrishna, Dr Rajkumar Ketkar, Raj Rajeshwari, Madhumati and Vaishali. And her daughter Tammanna is continuing her legacy of dance. She too has learnt both dance forms and now helps her mother in teaching students.

So what made her choose a theme of technique? Murdeshwar is a firm believer of pure art form. According to her, "Once you master Indian classical dances, you will find you can very easily learn perform western dances too. Though, the opposite is not true." Even western culture has classical dances that are equally good, but unfortunately today’s generation is exposed to western pop and rock influences, she reveals. What is heartening though is that youngsters in Thane are enthusiastic about learning classical dances – a trend that’s healthy from the cultural viewpoint because Indian classical dance is not just about dance – it’s also about inculcating the Indian value system.