I was in a small town of Tamil Nadu last week on an official assignment. A two hour drive from the capital city of Chennai, reminded me of the fact that it was just about ten days since Vardah  took the towns by storm. The huge trees that were uprooted were cut and logs of wood lay by the side of the roads. Ironically, the wild small  trees were intact. The compound walls were crushed under the weight of the huge branches. Driving down to the school  with the Principal, I listened to the stories of hardships and wondered how difficult it must be for the children who were writing their half-yearly exams. It was only 630pm, but were in the thick of darkness. The small shops had shut down and a couple of small industries had some blinking lights giving a hint that life is normal. Invertors are not known to them and generators are a luxury.

The school day begins at 8 am and is on till 330 pm for classes Nursery to Std VIII. The day began with a morning assembly and I was invited to address the children. Despite the exams, the students were in school the whole day, with the afternoons for self-study, quite unlike schools in the city. Anxious to know how they coped with this calamities, I asked the children about it. The hands went up . Not wanting to disappoint the enthusiastic children, I patiently heard each one of the students. Next day at school  and I summarize their thoughts. Worth the read.

“Expected as it was a day earlier, we  prepared for it -mentally and physically. Basics like batteries, kerosene, food, essentials were stocked. Our parents kept cash ready for any emergency. Mentally, we started to prepare for the last few papers since we expected the Government to shut  schools for at least 3 days. Those three days were used to revise for the immediate exams. We understand  that exams can not be postponed because teachers will find it difficult to complete the portions for the finals. We can’t complain of not having electricity in school even if the temperature during the day is 30 degrees because it is a waste of money to hire generator and purchase fuel. We can just wash our faces when we are sweaty.”

“We use our afternoons in school well to study because we have only an hour before sunsets. We sleep early, so we are rested. Why grumble, fret and fume, it will only cause frustration and irritation. Accept the situation , do the best you can . Just enjoy instead of complaining. Big people go to gyms to sweat it out, we sweat naturally without paying. (evokes a lot of laughter from the gathering ). After school , all our male teachers, parents and staff volunteer to remove debris and logs of wood outside school, so that it is clear. The locals and the political leaders too carry logs of wood. They do it cheerfully despite a long day at work. We can not expect the state administration to do it all the time. We can not help there so , we help our parents at home. We  will continue to have high temperatures  and such calamities all the time, if not in Chennai, in some other part of India and even in the world. We don’t know the people who suffer , so we just read the news and say – Ayyo Paavam in Tamil (So sad ,poor souls) We have caused it , we have to face it. Moreover, it makes us tough to face other challenges that we may face when we grow up.” A young girl of Std V stunned me with -” Madam , we are facing all these hardships only once in a while. There are thousands of people in our own town and villages who face this every day of their lives…. fetching water from roadside pumps, no electricity….”

Profound thoughts..Life’s lessons spoken by children quite casually. When I left the place, I reflected on the day gone by – Are we preparing our children for life or is life doing so? The answer is  Build fitness of the mind and body. It will keep you happy always.

Keep cheerful at all times.

Warm Regards,

Revathi Srinivasan

Children’s Day..

Dear Children,

For a long time we have been celebrating Children’s Day on the 14th of November. While other special occasions for Valentines, Mothers, Fathers have got commercialized, thankfully Children’s Day has retained its very purpose and simplicity. I think every day has to be a special day for children. It is not about the celebrations as much as the essence of it..

14th November takes me back to my school days, when we were given two laddoos and were taken to the theatres for a film. The whole school would walk to the theatre after lunch. The 20+ minutes walk on the road was more enjoyable than the movie itself. Chatting, munching, added fun element. The theatre was booked for the school and we would only hope that we had a place in the balcony. It was all a matter of luck. Some had to sit in the front rows. The goodbye Girl, Airport, Hitler, The Greatest, Saturday Night Fever, Close encounters of the Third Kind, Gharonda, Amar, Akbar Anthony, ABBA, Oh God, Shirdi ke Saibaba were some of the films that we saw. It was compulsory. Packets of munchies would go down our throats if the film was not to our liking. We lined up outside the theatre, to again trot back to school. The teachers ensured that we did not get homework that day.

Today sadly, I can’t give you, my children, a taste of that. The world has changed and we have to prepare you for the change. This blog is about it. Childhood is the most beautiful phase of one’s life. I want you to retain a child like wonder, curiosity, joy , innocence, simplicity, fun that you are born with. You learn to solve a lot of complex mathematical problems with great ease, you are able to write critical essays, debate over current issues, write programs, make robots but are you able to handle yourself in unexpected situations? These skills cannot be taught. You have to learn and equip them yourself, no matter how complex things may appear outside.

While I don’t want it to be a lecture (which I personally don’t do), I want to spell out what you must know yourself. I am sure you will appreciate the concern I have, an effort to help you be strong and independent. You must learn to say please, sorry and thank you graciously. Small words of appreciation at the dining table will bring a twinkle in the eyes of your mother or grand-mother. Don’t throw your lunch time chapatis/sabzi in the bin because you have the money to eat in the canteen. Remember all the children on the streets who go hungry all through the day. Your mother too, would have ‘sacrificed’ her sleep to get up early to make your tiffin. Show appreciation and empathy. Be stingy in your words for criticism and generous with your words of appreciation.

Be a financial literate even if you are only 5. You must develop lifelong money skills. Be able to assess independently, what you like, what you want and what you need. Spend, if you must. Use resources available (easily) judiciously and do not destroy things for fun or “you are being dared”. Be it at home or in school or any public property, it is not worth spending your money wastefully. Don’t fall for someone who says money can buy anything. Money can get you a seat in a University and a course of your choice anywhere in the world but it cannot give you the self-respect nor satisfaction that you would have earned for yourself if it were with your own efforts. It will not boost your self-esteem, the feel -good factor. Take an educational loan, if you can, and work to pay up. You will be proud to be a” self-made wo/man”and no one can take credit for your success.

You are all born intelligent and with good education, you are skilled. But, you must use your cognitive skills to be able to think, reflect, create, innovate and inspire. The digital world that we live in, offers immense opportunities for your growth and development. Your wisdom should guide you to develop something that is useful for the society. Develop positive thoughts, convert your good thoughts to action. Conscious actions give you the power to create. It gives you the power to translate your personal ideas into a strong tangible process that will impact the world in a positive way. Remember that small opportunities will come often in a day, capitalize on them to get the big break. You will be surprised to unearth the potential in you.

When you wake up every morning, spend two minutes for yourself – how are you going to approach the day till the next morning? This power is yours. The choice is yours. How are you going to make the right choice to make the change? How will you ensure that the transition is smooth?

I am a great believer and a follower of this power and I have immense faith and trust in you.

Happy Children’s Day !

Warm Regards,
Revathi Srinivasan

A bright sunny morning in October just seemed like any other day , just that, 16 twelve year old of our school were playing in the lush green manicured lawns in a small suburb in the far away continent of Africa in a beautiful city called Cape Town.Sitting under a tree , the coaches and I watched the kids who were very excited about the cricket match against one of the better known teams of Cape town.

The beautiful gigantic mountain ranges that seem to hug all the children on the field as if in a motherly embrace seemed to have done a lot of good for our kids who despite their age and puny bodies stood tall against the better built boys and a year older than most of ours.On the day that Gary Kirsten’s Academy were to play against us, the boys were up very early in the morning and raring to go . On the field that it was a tough match for their opponents beat them in runs.They were very disappointed, But,thy were very keen to learn more and better their skills before their next match.The students even stayed back after the matches to pick up train with Kirsten despite their long tiring match in the morning.

The next morning was a trip to the Table Mountains.The cable car ride , the view from the cliff down at the city of Cape Town was breathtaking.We returned in the afternoon but on their own they asked Jio , the South African coach of the Academy, to organize one more match for the same day .Perhaps they wanted to display all that they picked up the precious day from the training . Despite it being a tiring day , they went for a day -night match the same evening . They smashed 4,s and 6,s to be the winner. The next day , they had 3 matches to play including a day night . The enthusiasm was infectious , having fun in the bus while traveling to different cricketing grounds and the best foot forward while on the grounds. They won 12 of the 14 matches played against different teams yet in no way were they over-confident.

I particularly noticed the focus ,the willingness to learn the concentration , the efforts , the hard work, the peer tutoring , the positive outlook , the sharing and the value of money . What was significantly noticeable was the absence of fuss about food, bare use of mobiles,no fights ,the judicious use of resources .They did not need an alarm to wake up at six , no reminders for warm-ups,no mediator required for petty fights, no sermons ; they were just kids out to play.

What can teachers and parents do to get students interested in doing what they have to? Do not attach an achievement or an aspirational score to it . Scholastic learning cannot be about ranks , projects or activities cannot be associated with marks,learning of an art form is for aesthetics not to boast about.They must learn comes by themselves and build self-confidence that will encourage them feel the pangs of hunger to learn

I was watching the kids on the flight back home , all exhausted , watching movies quietly I asked my coach : Why did these 12 year old children do so well?
How do we get them to be so enthusiastic? When do they learn best ?
” Ma’m , unko accha lagta hain” he said cheerfully . Yes .. They only must love and enjoy what they do …..They will be the best .

It is amazing to hear what kids have to say about personal, social, political, environmental and global issues.us with They actually surprise us with their views .I share with you one such experience.The past 4 weekends at School has been times for better bonding, more critical thinking, better living and better citizenry.It was amazing to see the maturity , the seriousness, the language ,the poise and grace exhibited while putting forth their arguments and handling disagreements.

One such event was the annual Family Chef contest that we host each year. Eat Right and Keep Fit has been our slogan for good health for the past 3 years. Watching 525 students turning out theme based dishes and decorating their table was indeed a treat to the eyes. 275 boys enthusiastically churned tasty and innovative meals.

The event was a huge success with parents actively participating in the food-fest.
What added additional flavor and color to the Feast and Fest was the panel discussion on –Convenience foods becoming a way of life. The panelists included a nutritionist, dietician, a chef, a parent, a teacher and 3 students of Gr.X. It was interesting to know about how traditional foods prepared in rural areas and by our grandparents have now found its place back in our kitchens as health foods repackaged attractively.I was surprised that the experts too opined that convenience foods were not so bad at all,though it should not be used regularly since they are all processed.Being the Moderator,I had ample opportunities to provoke my student – panelists to react so as to cause a debate between tradition Vs modern . Not the ones to be provoked by the seniors, the youngsters held their ground that one needs to clear distinction between Convenience and Junk food. And, true to its very word “convenience “ ,The students added that they had to be used when we are hard-pressed for time and for the sake of convenience.It should be used judiciously The students touched on the need for family eating time, family cooking time, stress busters, differentiating between junk food and convenience foods, need for children to help mothers in the kitchen and how they made their Sundays special.
A few lessons from what the kids had to say that day :
Nothing is more important than Good health and Fitness .One gets more productive and effective at work only if we are physically fit . Mental fitness comes from doing a variety of activities that are creative and different.Children must
engage with their parents in activities in the kitchen , so as to appreciate the efforts of all those who cook for them .It also helps to bond better.Kids do eat a lot outside their homes , most of it may be junk food, worse still, at inappropriate times. which should be avoided . Convenience foods offer a way out ,since one can make the same at home oneself. The final word from the students –
” There is nothing to beat Dadima’s Dal -Chawal. ”
So , you know why I keep saying – It all about the roots.

To My Guru

When we step into our profession ,we sail along the many responsibilities that we take till the day we pause to reflect and muse.When we stand near a window and look at the cross-roads ahead we realise that someone has given us some insights and directions to choose the right road.That someone is the Guru.

The greatest guru in one’s life is Experience, provided we halt periodically to reflect on the lessons we can pick up from “Experience.”

What did my Guru teach me?

Dream big and believe in myself
Enjoy all that you do without regrets,
See the bigger picture and not be myopic,
Don’t look for instant and quick gratifications,
You don’t get things when you need it most ,
Take the disappointment in your stride.
But,don’t forget to smile and spread sunshine

Be different even if the world expects you to be a stereotype,
Create your individuality while celebrating the differences.
Look for opportunities even in difficulties,
No problem is big enough,not to have a solution
No matter how limited the resources are,do the best.
Because the world has zero tolerance for a mediocre.
And,don’t forget to smile and spread sunshine.

Let the kid in you spring out
Dance in the rains with the kids, play football
Dream big and make your dreams happen.
When you reach the pinnacle of success
Just be the person you were- humble,simple,sensitive and strong
Remember that you are not known for the position or power you have
But for the person you are .
So,don’t forget to smile and spread sunshine.

To my Guru – Singhania School ,my experience Guru ,thank you for making me the person I am.

As I hoisted the flag this morning marking the Independence Day celebrations , I couldn’t contain myself with a feeling of pride that I have when my students salute the flag ,against the backdrop of the school band playing the National Anthem and all my staff , students and their parents joining melodiously in unison . Today was particularly special.
Two of my N.C.C cadets who received the best cadet from Maharashtra and were felicitated in Delhi by the Government of India . They also called on the Prime-Minister and the President of India and interacted with them.We honored them in the presence of their own parents and school.It is really special more so , because both of them were my girl cadets. It was equally a privilege to felicitate one of our teachers Mr. Dattatrey Tarde, the A.N.O who received his promotion from the N.C.C directorate , New Delhi as First Officer after he bagged the best A.N.O from the state of Maharashtra.
My address was a single message – Take pride .Take pride in all that we do .Patriotism is about feeling good about being an Indian. Pride cannot be described in words or in action. One can only feel it . The feeling leads to actions which helps an individual to think beyond himself , his interests or his expectations. The satisfaction or fulfillment encourages one to contribute to nation -building. They become the thinkers , navigators and drivers of various missions that leads to progress.This helps in making a positive society.
I had not planned to speak about pride . Being an extempore speaker on all occasions, I choose an idea that I think is important . I realized I could not have chosen a better thought than pride . For the two hours , we had parent and child performances – dances , music and instrumental – a jugalbandi between a parent and a child . We saw some of the best performances – father daughter , mother- son , mother-daughter , father-son- one could see and feel the pride that each child had performing with their parent .The audience of nearly 650 students in each hall cheered them as they performed.
What I particularly thought about was that there must have a conscious time spent together as a family for the rehearsals . Schedules may have changed , every member in the family would have given u something to gain this experience of joint performance .Am sure the mobiles , the TV serials , the official emails, the gym sessions may have all taken a backseat . I truly appreciate the efforts of the families . One may not won the prize in the competition, but to me the the greatest prize is the mutual feeling of pride and respect that they will always have for each other.
This is what I call freedom – where one breaks away from shyness , from stage fear , from glass- barriers,from routines that we bog ourselves with, from societal mind-sets . Freedom is about flying to explore and unearth the potential one may have and may not have realized . It is about getting away to” find oneself” in the most positive way.When every Indian works towards that actualization,there is “collective pride” which will help us build a great nation – together.

Friendship Day

Am sure that all mobiles were jammed with morning messages of wishes for a very happy Friendship Day  While it is a much looked forward to event for celebrations today, it’s origin goes back to 1935. The world was going through mistrust ,betrayal, anger , enmity and fear.The US Congress felt the need to unite friends and bring some cheer and happiness. They chose the first Sunday in the month of August . That’s how the Friendship day celebrations began . Soon it spread far and wide bringing friends together .They partied and shared gifts . What started as a simple way of spending time with friends bringing cheer and smiles soon became commercial with the bands  and wild parties.

How do we add value to the friendship day ? What do we do on this day or the year that will help us feel we brought out the right meaning of  “friendship”. It makes the relationship more powerful and meaningful.. This is how my students of IBDP Year 1 celebrated. The 16year olds spent the day( Sunday) with  children younger to them , making them smile, laugh , sing , dance , eat and play . And tying friendship bands.The children enjoyed trying their hands with the guitars, singing along with our students , playing , dancing .. ..They were  in the company of our students enjoying themselves. The little ones were mentally taken to a world of joy , laughter and fun, forgetting their pains and the suffering of the chemo that they were going through. Our students baked a cake and they all relished the cake together. The twinkle in their eyes could not be missed.It was a beautiful experience for us as teachers to watch them bond so beautifully.This is a friendship that not just deserve a band but also, an applause.

It was indeed the best friendship day that our students had in all their 15 years . They want to go back again to bring smiles on their faces .And I know they will… because they learnt what friendship is.