Month: July 2006

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.

Be careful of using adverbs

Be careful of using adverbs

Many writers employ adverbs (and sometimes adjectives too) in their attempt to add emphasis to their writing. What they don’t understand is that, more often than not, the use of these words weaken the effect of their writing. Take for instance the following sentence:

“Your draft is really appalling.”

In the above construction, the adverb “really”, instead of adding emphasis, is subtracting it. Think about it. Would you add “really” if you were sure of yourself? Now read the same sentence minus “really”.

“Your draft is appalling.”

How does it sound? Better? More emphatic? You bet! Why so? Because when you make an assertive statement like the one above, it reflects confidence.

Let’s take another example.

“I can’t believe it!”, said John surprisingly.

Is the adverb surprisingly needed?

“I can’t believe it!”, said John.

Is “surprise” not implied in the words “I can ‘t believe it!”?

So be careful of using adverbs. Rely on stronger verbs and nouns instead. Follow this advice and you minimise your chances of someone saying to you that “Your draft is appalling.”

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.’

Loving like God

Loving like God

Man asked God, “What’s the difference between your love and my love?” God said, “The bird in the sky is my love. The bird in the cage is yours.”

This nice dialogue landed in my SMS in-box and it got me thinking about love. Indeed the bird in the sky is representative of unconditional love – a variety that is rarely exhibited by us humans. When we love, we expect…and thereby capture the bird inside the cage of our demands. When the demands are not met, the love somehow transforms itself into other feelings and emotions.

Mother’s love comes closest to being unconditional – at least in most cases.  But even that is not completely free of expectations. True loves implies true freedom. Such love resides inside us regardless of what happens outside. The beloved may behave in the most unlovable manner, and we may even express our displeasure or disagreement over the matter, yet it doesn’t  change our love for the  individual. As a concept, this sounds esoteric and difficult. Yet if we think deeply, we realise that loving unconditionally is the only way to lasting peace. When we free our love from expectations, our feelings become independent of others. We can then assume complete charge of our lives and discover  our true selves.

I don’t know

I don’t know

I am not the one to have a gender bias but sometimes I am compelled to think in terms of girls and boys or men and women. Take the most recent instance where I was talking to a female friend and just happened to mention that I didn’t get restful sleep last night. This is how the conversation progressed:

Me: I just couldn’t sleep last night. Kept waking up every few mins.
Her: Oh…are you tensed about something?
Me: I don’t know
Her: Maybe you’re missing someone
Me (emphatically): I don’t know
Her: OK. If you don’t wanna tell, I won’t press you.
Me (clueless): ???????!!!!!
I don’t recall having this kind of conversation with the male of the species. My guy friends  generally accept me and my words on face value. But many (not all though) girls have this ability to take everything personally and make you feel guilty for no reason. The girls are usually more reliable and also more compassionate – but why do many have this streak in them of wanting to read between the lines even if there’s nothing in between?

Help me decode this if you can, anyone?

And yes, my female friends…PLEASE, PRETTY PLEASE, do not take this personally. Many of you are my most cherished pals and this is not directed at anyone particular.

Don’t try to impress

Don’t try to impress

As a writer, I often fail to understand why people tend to use difficult words where easy ones can do the job just as effectively. Similarly, many writers construct rather long and complicated sentences, making it difficult for the reader to hold the thought without getting lost. Perhaps in trying to impress, writers often forget the purpose behind writing, which is to communicate.

Yes, we write to communicate our thoughts, ideas, feelings, concepts, and a multitude of other things. And simple words can be very potent if used properly. These simple statistics should make it amply clear that the most accomplished writers depend largely on simple words to communicate. An analysis of William Shakespeare’s works reveals the following statistics

  • The top 10 most frequently occurring words make up 21.4% of all words.
  • The top 100 most frequently occurring words make up 53.9% of all words.
  • The top 1% most frequently occurring words make up 66.7% of all words.

Top 15 word forms, by frequency of occurrence:

  1. the – 28,944
  2. and – 27,317
  3. i – 21,120
  4. to – 20,136
  5. of – 17,181
  6. a – 14,945
  7. you – 13,989
  8. my – 12,950
  9. in – 11,513
  10. that – 11,487
  11. is – 9,545
  12. not – 8,856
  13. with – 8,293
  14. me – 8,043
  15. it – 8,003

So the next time you’re tempted to use a difficult word, think again and use a simpler one instead – you will have William Shakespeare for company!


I am so lonely

I am so lonely

Simplicity is boring. Straightforwardness is drab. Honesty is old-fashioned. Loyalty has no value. People are attracted towards cleverness. They are drawn towards glib talkers. They give importance to appearances. Is that why I am find myself lonely ??

Mumbai had a blast!

Mumbai had a blast!

What a blast we had in Mumbai last week! No I am not referring to the seven (or eight?) bomb blasts that rocked the local trains. I am referring to another blast – a blast of kindness.
The bombs planted by the terrorists took more than 200 lives. More than double that number were injured. The effect of the tragedy was that the rudest people on planet suddenly turned most courteous and compassionate. As one corridor of the city’s rail transport (read lifeline!) came to a standstill, roads got jammed and commuters were left stranded for hours. But their misery was minimised by people from neighborhood colonies who came out of the comforts of their homes to distribute food, water, medicines and in some cases even money to those in distress.

Much to the chagrin of those who wish the city and its people ill, these spontaneous acts of kindness that were captured by almost all TV channels had a positive outcome. People began to talk of the never-say-die spirit of Mumbai and how humanity is still alive, despite the occasional terror attacks by cowards. Interestingly, according to a study described in Power vs Force, Dr David Hawkins, Kindness has a three-dimensional impact – on the extender, receiver and observer of kindness. I read this in The Power of Intention by Dr Wayne Dyer and quoted it in one my articles titled Impact of Kindness. If this study is true, then millions of people benefited as “observers of kindness” even as news channels covered the givers and receivers of kindness in Mumbai on that fateful Tuesday.

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.

Statues come alive

Statues come alive

Someone desecrated Meenatai Thackeray’s statue and Shiv Sena ‘s party workers went on a rampage. Overcome as they were with emotion on their beloved “ma tai” being insulted, the loyal Shiv Sainiks came out in thousands to protest in their unique style. They burnt buses, cars and scooters. They broke shops. They destroyed private and public property.

The sheer power of their retort is impressive, even if it deserves to be criticised as totally unfair. For one, they were all united in their response. For another, their protests spread like wildfire across Maharashtra’s major cities and even beyond…it almost looked like a well-crafted plan. Surely, it was impressive.

Now if only they would react similarly when a police constable rapes a girl child. Or when a senior citizen is murdered for a few thousands. Or when Mumbai’s despicable roads gets inundated with crater-sized potholes at the first hint of rains. Or when the construction mafia forms a cartel to grab every piece of available land to build more concrete structures thereby ensuring more flooding.When all this happens, the loyal Shiv Sainiks become statues themselves.

Of course, statues come alive only when other statues are in distress.