It seemed a while ago that I posted my first blog  post and when I posted one last night , I was congratulated on turning 100. A 100 …indeed !!! I could hardly believe it. I began writing after a request from parents who urged me to put my Orientations on a blog . Since ,all my  speeches are always extempore , I rarely record them,so I could never upload  the video. So, they suggested that I write . That was the first step toward writing a blog.When I got caught up with my own tight schedules,  it was always my readers who would remind me of a long absence from the blog site.Then, I began enjoying sharing ideas.

I have never read any blog before I began writing my own nor did I make an attempt to read one.I just wanted to be myself – simple , uncomplicated ,natural – with no pretence and above all, meaningful. Every one believes that they have to be different. So ,there is  a burning  desire  to say ” think out of the box”. But I didn’t have any pre-planned motive. I just asked myself  “What if there were no boxes at all?”.So, I began writing about what I saw,observed,  felt, opined and experienced .

I write from my heart – about  everything that I believe in .  I just know that I enjoy writing  about what I know best, enjoy most  and influence most — Children  and  education. It stretched beyond to   parenting. I have enjoyed my journey  from being  a teacher in a Kindergarten class to teaching Economics  to the ISC students because it offered an opportunity to exercise my versatility.. As a Principal ,every challenge added a new dimension to my thinking and  I evolved as a person. As a Director, I see all the 5 schools under our group , meet children and educators across the globe and even train them.It has helped me draw parallels.I have shared them too with you.

Journey of a thousand miles begins with a small step ,they say. So also has been my journey of writing through this medium. Thank you readers,for your support , encouraging words, comments and suggestions. It has always been taken positively.  With 100 blog posts down  ,I look back and say – It has been fun ,engaging and meaningful. I will be writing more often now hoping to post fresher thoughts and experiences. If you wish that I write on a particular subject do let me know.I would be glad to share.Watch out for the next one …..

Thank you  all….

As a kid , I loved the ad world .I loved writing the punch lines which I learnt later was copy writing. My English teachers thought I was a good script writer and often told me that’s where I ought to be. Those days it was hardly heard of  and so I ended up writing scripts for the Annual Concerts and shows  of my school and college.Looking back ,I think  I developed this interest  during vacations.My dad who encouraged me would encourage me to read the newspapers to “improve my style.I read and re-read every page of the newspaper.Are headlines, headlines anymore ?Leading newspapers have International and national news  shifting to Page 3. Something to ponder about.

While one can understand the aspect of commercial viability , I as an educationist see it differently. I see a shift in prioritization. When children see this every day in  their growing years,it casts an impression in their minds. They look at the momentary WOW moments and the importance of promotion. Use of Hinglish to attract the young  readers  is a norm, which again hampers the  formal style of writing,which is essential later in life for corporate presentations. While students and sometimes even children are enrolled for grooming sessions in Finishing schools, we overlook the need to polish the spoken,aural and writing skills. The art of speaking and writing is something that can be learnt during vacations.

So, how does one learn this skill in writing and speaking? The simplest way to do this to observe and then just describe what s/he saw. Children must speak every language correctly ,in its pure form. Mixing two language impacts mannerism , tones, style and vocabulary. At home ,when  speak their mother tongue,they will be to appreciate some great literary works and enjoy the settings and background against which the stories are based . This will help to develop imagination which is essential for good writing.It helps if grand- parents or parents read out the stories for them.Speaking with simplicity , poise and grace in a reasonable pitch or tone with a good  body language. can also be acquired by observation.

When the juices of the rich literature seeps in, one  develops imagination. Children have an in-built skill to add an element of their imagination.They must just take care  not to get carried away by their own description making the piece a drag or static.Slowly , they will develop their own style of speaking and writing. One never knows , this vacation homework may  help them  take this to more professional level  of  copy-writing , script writing or writers later in life. Has Chetan Bhagat not inspired a lot of youngsters?One need not always take to write as a career. Children can  write  just because they like to or  for  emotional satisfaction or  to express a few thoughts or feelings or build self-esteem or plain pleasure. Why does the reason really matter?Let us just play small role in contributing to an intellectual world of  good writers, poets , essayists, thinkers, well -balanced citizens .

As responsible adults , don’t you think we need to get our headlines back to Page 1?Won’t it even  more interesting to have our kids penning/making it to  the headlines ?.Looking forward to that day !!!

Holidays are fun  and everyone looks forward to it  . But a day after the start of the vacations ,  we wonder how  we can keep children occupied .Advertisements draw our attention to holiday packages , nature trails, adventure sports , classes of all kinds from salsa , to grooming, to creative thinking .We often take the  decision of keeping our children “occupied”  by asking – What to do ? Which program to enroll ?Then, how do we arrange for the kids to reach them to the destination? Stop ! Let us pose the question – Why?Why do we want our kids to do what we want? Why do we want them to be”” occupied” from dawn to dusk even during vacations?Why do kids have  to hop from one class  to the other ? Why don’t we ask kids what they want to do , without prompting or leading them to trail our dreams? While -Never Stop Learning – should be our motto ,it is more  important  for them to  create opportunities and take the trouble to find their path.

Why do we have summer camps ? It is to kindle interest in a skill, later And if they did not  feel the passion , it would be something they can shelve for a while and ponder over .What really happens once the camps are done.? Children  will complain of boredom may then just  eat ,sleep , watch television and go online .Parents tend to be irritated by the sight of sluggishness and wasteful time. Relax .. let us see what happens after a week ?Children will start charting out a plan for themselves. Schools basically teach them indirectly to introspect from time to time  and ask the question -Why? So they will embark on a short journey of thinking ,reading,listening  and discussing with friends and parents. They will find an answer sooner or later .They learn all of this in their school life.They must give shape to their interest.  The purpose of vacation is to disrupt  routine,engage in learning , feel the excitement and indulge themselves.

When we see that excitement in children to learn something new, let us hold ourselves back when it comes to expectations..  If kids play cricket ,they need not be ‘like Sachin Tendulkar”. The child may follow  his idol literally but never makes it even  to the school team.Why?.The child has just  observed and imitated  the style, the mannerisms   and the game in that order i.e the glamour but not the techniques and  attitudes. Children are never told that Sachin practices batting facing at least a 100 balls and then watches the recorded video, analyses his strikes and makes the corrections painstakingly.Kids must perfect the art or skill to the best of their ability.We cannot expect children to excel after a year of coaching/training . It takes time for a stage performance or a match.Sometimes ,children just want to be left alone during vacations..They keep themselves occupied . That is the way for innovation in creativity.

In case of older students, vacations are unfortunately ,often spent on completion of syllabus for the next academic year .It is actually time to revisit concepts  and developing thinking skills. Stimulation of thoughts , provoking to question the very purpose of their own goals and path, engaging in intellectual discussions with peers and adults facilitates true learning. It helps to develop their  personality .

All children are uniquely talented and diverse in their thinking. Vacations help to  light the spark of interest .We have to make it  simple for them  by giving them time to celebrate their talent and passion. By pushing them too hard , we are putting everything on a conveyor belt even before it is ready to roll.Let them be left to themselves to decide why they wish to do what they are doing during the vacation .

Whose vacation is it ,anyway ?

I was driving from Gandhinagar to Punsari, a small village tucked in the interiors of Gujarat because this village received world- wide recognition for governance and I wondered why was I doing this visit in the sweltering heat. As we drove down through the villages, I could appreciate the shades of green that Nature has to offer from the dark green leaves of the huge trees that formed avenues to the vast fresh green fields to the yellowish green grass weeds to the brown barren lands . Having taken the 5 a.m flight from Mumbai and then hopped on to the waiting car to avoid the hot late morning drive, we looked for eating joints but there were none. I had a long day at Ahmadabad, so we decided to drive without stopping by.

A huge welcome sign arch – Punsari Village Panchayat welcomes you – greets us. What strikes a visitor is the cleanliness of the village. Swatcch Bharat Abhiyaan found a meaning there. I could see a city in a village. The village was equipped with an automatic water purification plant, supplying pure drinking water to every household. A reverse Osmosis system ensured water all day long. The village had free wi-fi and there were four primary schools running to full capacity with a zero drop – out rate. The local police station had no cases of theft, cheating, ill-treatment registered in the past 5 years. The Sarpanch attended to all the disputed matters once a week. A system of registering complaints using a toll -free number was in place and the complaints were attended to by evening. The responsibility of the complainant is to send a thank – you message. The primary health care center had two doctors on duty – a general physician and a gynaecologist.

I met the young sarpanch of Punsari, Himanshu Patel to know how he brought about such a change. One could see development. The villagers too were proud of their Sarpanch. They insisted that I watch his interview on BBC. It is amazing that a man born and bred in a village could educate the people of the village in the use of technology. What is amazing is that technology is used by the villagers to bring positive changes in growth. Himanshu Patel proudly claims that his village offers “the amenities of a city but the spirit of a village”. “I want people to return to the village and earn their livelihood. Why should they go to cities?”

Every home in the village had a toilet inside the house, dustbins at every junction,  four primary schools which are cleaned by the students themselves, street lights and a drainage system. The entire village had CCTV cameras installed at strategic points. What was unique was the  public address system which covered the entire village with the help of about 140 loudspeakers installed. The sarpanch addressed the people every morning over the public address system.

It is surprising that none of the villages in India, have tried to adopt a few good practices from this model village. I came back inspired because of that ‘one not so educated man’ who has made an indelible mark in India by the way of development. His hard work, immense energy and the dedication has made it possible to ‘educate’ the illiterates bringing about a magical difference. I wish that our higher education focuses on CSR as a part of their course so that our youth (which comprises of 1/5th of our population) will commit to excel and experience the true meaning of Education.

On the occasion of World Woman’s Day, let us all celebrate the exclusivity in us. What is it we must celebrate? – The Power of Womanhood. What is Power? The dictionary definition of Power would be something like this – The ability or capacity to do something effectively and the ability to influence. Power is not about control, not being superior but about being yourself and feeling good about oneself. What is womanhood?- It is about self -belief, self -respect, self-courage, self-dignity. It is only in the past decade that we celebrate womanhood. This piece is to offer our pranams to all the women of the yesteryears who did not ever get an opportunity to celebrate. Because …. they were busy making us all women of substance – each one of us!!!

In our journey of life, we have had a lot of women who have inspired and made a difference in our lives. If each one of us remember our grandmothers who in their own simple ways showed what it is to be ‘power’ful!!! They did so by being tall, having the breadth of experience and depth of knowledge. They ensured that each member in the family inculcated a strength of character, discipline in living, dedication. Most of our grand moms managed their homes and their lives almost perfectly. The doors to their homes were always open and the kitchens always dished out the best savouries and meals anytime of the day. Not a grumble or mumble, not even a sigh when guests poured in unannounced. Broken buttons were mended, vegetables were chopped, skirts were stitched, rice was pounded all while chit chatting with friends and relatives. The bhajan sessions at the neighbor’s house were never missed and the events of family and friends were marked on the calendar well ahead of time and the dates blocked (corporate style). Nothing stopped them from socializing. The absence of driver or the maid was never a deterrent. Home remedies were on the tip of the tongue and were ready for any one who asked for it. Networking was amazing…personal visits and trunk calls kept them connected. When the evenings were free, they would call the maid’s daughter to teach her. Were they not great multi-taskers, managers of time and household, trendy, communicator ….? Hats off to all of them for teaching us through their own ways – the art and science of Management.

Today almost all of us multi-task. We do our best to strike a work – life balance but with one difference. We have an external support system that comes at a price and many a time call the shots. Many of us become helpless when the support system crashes even temporarily. We race against time, not stopping to enjoy the simple and little pleasures. We feel flustered. We have to make time to relax. That needs planning too. Are we going to turn around and say that we live in a complex and competitive? Let us not blame the competitive world. It is there to stay. We must learn from our grannies. They understood the learning styles, ability of every one and the art of communication. Remember how your granny did it?She called out our names early morning till we were all forced to roll out of our beds. She then reminded the kids of the tasks for the day. Holidays didn’t mean we could get up at 12 noon. We could never refuse to perform for the love of granny. From dusting, to watering the plants, to tending to the younger kids, to serving people, we were all meaningfully engaged with lessons and tips for better management falling into our ears like dew drops. The treat of gulab-jamuns, mysore- paks, kissan squashes or ice creams lured us. She was happy doing everything, prioritizing and macro managing. No management degree could beat that skill. For all of this, Grandma practised multiple intelligence and child psychology theories much before we thought them into our classrooms!!!

Women today must pick up a few lessons from the leaves of ” Management – Granny style.” It will make life simple and every task will be enjoyable and not appear as one more responsibility. Just as we think giving a good life to every member in the family is our duty it is the fundamental duty of every parent to make kids realize their duties to their families. Despite time constraints sharing chores helps kids relate to parents and family. Over a period of time, it becomes family time. Women will have more time to read, pursue education, have leisure and strike a balance. It will make every woman more complete, have greater self -belief, is more relaxed and high level of confidence.

A woman is blessed, she is the Creator! She must create and make more beautiful people in this Universe.

Times have changed .I am sitting on a panel for selection of teachers and I often see the keenness in getting the job . A far cry from my own personal experience.

I remembered when I walked into the gates of a big Convent ,soon after giving my Masters, the gate security stopped me,” Appointment hay?”I remember telling him, Haan.Interview hay (when they were none).Today I recall”my interview”so well . The Nuns asked me in a rather firm tone,”Why do you want to teach ? We have only experienced teachers here. This is not a training  ground”.A rebellious young thing fresh out of college that I was,I almost retorted instantly, ” Sister,I am not sure if I am here for the  job , but I certainly know that I am here for the love of something I wish to explore.If the  school trains me , may be you would have contributed to making one good teacher who will serve a 100 students.” I didn’t think that nuns appreciated my reply ,at least their expressions didn’t have any signs of approval. I was pleased with myself ,for no reason. I took a little stroll before I headed back home.A  man stood at my door with an envelope in hand -I had to report to school at 7a.m the next day! I could not believe what I saw and read. I haven’t looked back in all my 28 years!!!

Being a pragmatic person, I feel it is not only talent but also the opportunities and the environment that makes us be!The schools we attend , the home ,the family,the friends we make has an impact on our thinking.I still remember the Pandara road residence portico where we lived in Delhi  as kids,  was always a mini -theatre. A group of friends discussed a book we read , wrote the script ,wrote lyrics, designed costumes on newspapers, brainstormed on variations for the story, designed invites and then went door to door inviting uncles and aunties to watch us perform.The portico was the stage. The guests sat in the lawn.We collected  chairs from every household.We made nimbu-pani ourselves, which we served our guests ourselves after the program. We were all children in the age -group of 7 to 13. Oh yes! we had to manage the car-parking too! We all learnt to perfect the art of staging over time.It was hard on us but passion drove us.Since most of our friends were the kids of senior Defence officers, they would move on ,only to be replaced by the new entrants and they needed to be trained.The large circle of friends remained connected with each other for more than 10 years ,poring in ideas for plays and sharing experiences.What could not be discussed over trunk- calls (they were expensive) were written out and sent through the blue envelope called the inland letter.

Whatever I have learnt and acquired have, come from those childhood experiences , my friends and my school . Since our parents gave us nothing on a platter , we struggled. Our families were good critics and supported us in our acts. Today, we want everything to be near -perfect so that it receives appreciation , applause and public acclaim.We feel that since we have the facilities let us give it our kids ,The joy of creation comes from doing it ourselves. They are invaluable lessons for life .Much of my whole involvement in every presentation of the school comes from my early days. As friends, we hung out with each other discussing happenings in the world ,our scripts , movie-making ,designing on a day to day basis .The long week-ends were spent going to museums and other places of interest which we discussed with friends.That created a thinking space.

That is the experience for many of you too . Let’s take a look at celebrities.Bill Gates had comfortable early days and spent much of his time with his friend Paul Allen at Lakeside.They hung out in the computer room . On the other hand,Steve Jobs  belonged to a middle class family in California. The Silicon valley was a place for engineers and he spent a lot of time discussing electronics with them.He went to the flea markets where a lot electronic material was available cheap.He attended talks by experts. Both of them acquired knowledge and expertise in their fields from the environment and culture they created.

Opportunities don’t come knocking inviting us and asking us to be a part . We must create them by cultivating  friends who will and make spaces for creativity,problem-solving  and  thinking .Small efforts go a long way in providing extraordinary achievements later in life like it did for Gates and Jobs. Most times  having a high IQ , money or power  will not help people travel far and beyond because they do not see the trivia.Neither have they experienced it.

The Sisters at the Convent   spotted a teacher in a young girl,trained her to be capable of not just  serving a hundred students but many ,many more with joy.

I am back on the panel for selection looking for the spark.

At the conclusion of my talk to the tenth graders just before their Boards were to commence,my heart  missed a beat,when it suddenly dawned on me that one of my kids was not there in the hall. A friendly , warm ,cheerful,polite and well-mannered Meherzad was not there . His cheerful smiling face stood right there saying,”I am here to cheer my classmates”. He was, I know ,up there doing his bit for his friends ,so that they will do well.

I have known Meherzad for 12 years, more so in the past 3 years, when he was diagnosed with cancer. Moving between hospitals and the rigorous treatments, he always told me ,”I am a survivor” I would always tell him “You are a fighter and with the positive attitude you exude , you will always be a winner.” However ,sadly, it was not to be.

Around the same time last year ,we lost a great educationist Shri Rasikbhai Shah whom I know for over 18 years to the dreaded disease Cancer.Despite his brave fight for life , he could not win the battle.When Rasik bhai refused Chemo after a few cycles , I chided him and asked him ,’ Why do you deny treatment? ,he would laugh it aloud saying “Arre, chalta hai .I am an old man. Gaadi chalegi.”Both of have have left a void in the lives of all those who knew them.

Both of them had similar qualities though one was 15 and the other 85. Their smiles , the cheer,the joy love for life  and open fields/farms and positive aura had always attracted people to them. I was left stumped for words when Meherzad’s father wrote to me ,” I am just coming out of Meherzad’s prayers , I felt that it would be incomplete if I forgot the kindness care , affection personally  shown by you and the school  throughout our difficult times. Meherzad’s world centered  around the school and the farm. He went to sleep every night looking forward to going to school.”I thank my teachers who stood by the family always.If school meant so much to Meherzad , the  presence of all of us must have kept him happy.Teary eyed his father then said,”Perhaps, he does not need me as much as I need him.please cherish all the memories forever.”I could do nothing to disagree.

As I drove through the emotional journey, I realised – What is always remembered and cherished is the goodness that people have in them  and what we  share with others.Wealth , power, positions,money, the brands we wear has no meaning because during moments of crisis , what matters is humanity. When we reach out , it gives us bliss .Humanity needs no awards , recognition or publicity.

Farewell Meherzad -We will always cherish the beautiful years of you in school.


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