Instant Education, Instant Results!

Was a time when education meant learning by observation. By a process of automatic osmosis. By simply being around, and interacting with teachers who weren’t just experts of their respective subjects, but also, were individuals who had amassed a certain worldly wisdom, and at least one ‘x’ factor skill, that one imbibed, by default. That may have been a math teacher’s love of cricket, an economics teacher’s dressing sense, or a headmaster’s way of talking.

I share this background because I find today, too often, that young parents, inundated perhaps by a world of ‘instant gratification’, expect the same of their children’s’ education. Be it at school, or at an external ‘hobby class’; the teaching MUST have a pre-determined PLAN, the lessons be taught quickly and efficiently, and the results be tangible, visible, quantifiable, and relevant in the present to absolute near-future.

I for one find that a bit disconcerting. Why? Because in my view, it has stolen the joy of learning, of discovery, or happy accidents, and of any covert skills that might be developed, that will, in absolute certainty, be invaluable to the pupil years on. But then if we rob our students of any kind of ‘playful’ learning, of a chance to interact with teachers, and of programs where there is no ‘definite goal’ but more abstract exploration of likes, dislikes, passions, sensitization – how do we expect to end up with free-thinking, individualistic young men and women? Are we then not just producing an army of clones, all of whom have been to the same school, been brainwashed into the same morality and definition of ambition?

Was a time when we loved school. Was a time when we loved our teachers. Was a time when we felt like learning…

Apathy – The 8th Sin!

In the near-four years I have returned to my beautiful home-town of Jaipur,  I have been smitten by the city, the culture, the sights and sounds. However, there is one aspect of the city, which I dare say is a microcosm of a larger, pan-India phenomena, that has disturbed me infinitely – apathy!

At a time when the city is burgeoning culturally, bursting at its seams with engaging, attractive, literary, artistic events and spectacles, many of which are FREE – there seems to be a complete lack of engagement, particularly from my generation of the city. At most events, that people and friends of mine organize with a lot of blood, sweat and selfless service to society; it seems only retirees attend! Why? Where are the young people?

Being an educator, I have made similar observations at the school level as well. Say there’s a Poster Making event on some social issue. The focus tends to be how many – 200, 500, a 1000 posters?! Is that really important? Who the hell cares even if a school collectively, and finally made just ONE Poster – in the process, at least the kids would have been TRULY sensitized, activated, aware, and jolted into action.

The number of selfies with the maximum and biggest celebrities seems to take precedence over the substance of any talk or interaction. The press release and the event-party needs to be where you’re seen.

Apathy then, sadly, seems to have gripped us all. And it is a crying shame! Usually even if I’m ranting or complaining, I try to end on a hopeful note, with a solution. Here though, I am at a loss. I can only pray that as young parents, we encourage our children to engage, really engage, and have genuine empathy.

Its NOT A Toy-Train!

A quick post since I’m swamped with work. But this one I couldn’t resist. I’ve talked about this amazing guy I follow on youtube – Robert Llewellyn and his channel Fully Charged, which, as the name suggests, focuses on clean, sustainable energy with a definite bias on Battery Power.

A Tesla Model S owner and user himself, Robert usually does many interesting things on his channel including regular news-updates on developments in the world of clean energy. He also regularly visits sites across the UK and Europe where governments and local/private companies individually and/or in partnership are slowly but steadily replacing fossil-fuel powered grids with Wind, Solar, Battery and other cleaner energy alternatives.

In this particular video, which I found of to be special interest and importance; Robert is at the helm of an under-development Battery-Powered commercial Train! Sure we have come a long way with battery-powering small private use vehicles. But to really take this entire clean-vehicle movement to the next level, we need to make our commercial vehicles, clean. And this is a possible peak into that extremely exciting future. With Tesla announcing its Semi Truck with a possible range of over 300 miles; a Train that is actually running on clean battery power is very very promising.

For all of us in India, due to legislation, infrastructure and other limitations, we are still a fair ways away from where Europe and the UK are in terms of Clean Energy. Having said that, we can keep abreast, and support these endeavors in our own little ways. Why not begin by watching this remarkable video?

Of Wild Berries & Innocent Children

A quick hello and a film recommendation. I just came across this absolute gem from 2103. A film made by the Children’s Film Society, Kaphal. It is a simple, heartwarming story of two young brothers in a remote mountain-village. Their father has been ostensibly working in the ‘big city’ and the kids await his return with bated breath. Alas, his arrival to them turns out to be rather anticlimactic as he (the father), instead of pampering the boys, reprimands them constantly. Under this unexpected, strict new regime, the boys even doubt if it is indeed their own father!

Convinced that they MUST ensure this strange man now LEAVE the village forthwith, the boys set out on an elaborate rouse involving an old witch and some wild berries!

What follows is funny, innocent, touching, and extremely endearing. The film is currently playing on television and I’m certain is available online as well. Kaphal is one of those rare films that in its innocence, says a lot. Its simplicity is its biggest strength, and though it is a ‘children’s movie’, it will leave a lasting impression on all ages. An absolute MUST watch.

A Delectable, Picturesque AcQUAINTance

I had the pleasure today of visiting a new cafe in town. I’d heard about this mere-week-old place at Jawahar Kala Kendra, a place I’ve frequented since I was a little child, enjoyed many a dosa at its iconic original cafe. My intrigue then, when I saw pictures of this NEW cafe, completely different in its ambiance as well as its food (from what one had been used to at JKK), had grown! Normally I’m the first to arrive at most any new-food-place in town (starved as we in Jaipur tend to be of decent dining); traveling robbed me of that ‘first to be there’ pleasure. I’m delighted to report though, Jaipur, we have a wonderful NEW place to eat, and shoot the breeze!

Nestled in the already stunning JKK, this 1st floor little eatery called Cafe Quaint, is an idyllic spot. True to its name, it is simple, quaint, calming, zen, and utterly charming. It seems to believe in a rather simple mantra – great coffee and a few sweet and savory dishes made using fresh ingredients. I’m tempted to, but I am not going to spoil your process of discovery by listing what we ate, how it tasted etc etc. Suffice it to say that it is like a little non-vegetarian version of Anokhi Cafe, only exponentially prettier.

The two lovely young ladies Ayesha & Twinkle who have embarked on this journey are always present, welcoming, hospitable, vivacious. I wish them every success. And finally of the place.. Here’s what I have to say…

Winter days, al fresco, surrounded by art, culture, lush greens, murals, and mostly a whole lot of inspiration. It really is that little piece of paradise in which to reflect, write, create, be inspired, and feed one’s SOUL!


Speaking of Nostalgia…


So my last post was about creating Happy Memories for our children; a thought that stemmed from my own nostalgia. And speaking of nostalgia, I found these pictures of one of my birthday dinners at home in Bombay a few years ago – where, unsurprisingly, I was playing the fool, entertaining my friends, and generally goofing about. Especially a few drinks down, as many of you are familiar with, I love to have an audience!!

The pictures that I chanced upon however, and they’re the ones I’ve shared at the beginning of this post; reminders they may be of my party-tomfoolery – are symbolic of a greater, more significant truth. You see, what I am doing in these pictures, is mimicking a few of my school masters! And if I may say so myself, despite NO ONE in my ‘audience’ knowing who these masters are; everyone still found the impersonations, hilarious! Now.. Sure that’s because I’m a great mimic.. 🙂 More importantly though, it is telling testimony of the huge impact these masters have had on my life; almost 25 years since having graduated high school, I’m still imitating them! It is true. Imitation really is the greatest form of flattery!

I’ve spoken about this at length before,  so I will try and keep the ‘lectury’ part of my post to a minimal. We MUST expose our kids to passionate, eccentric, inspiring people and teachers. The reason people mimic their masters is not because they want to poke fun at them. Quite the contrary. It is because these sometimes mad, quirky, selfless, nutty-teachers gave us life lessons that have become invaluable.

Here’s saluting the ‘imperfect’ teacher. Because life’s imperfections, can not be taught, by perfect people!

A Pint of Nostalgia

That’s my grandfather holding me in his arms. My grandfather, my dada, MY DADU… My most favorite person in the world. To whom I owe my happiest memories, my world view, my inner light. I was lucky enough to have him around till I was about 13 years old. And those 13 years, each moment spent with him, have gone on to hold me in good stead, even today. Every time I am down, I just have to think about him, and I feel better. Why? Certainly not because of the gifts he showered me with (he hardly did, he was a man of extremely modest means). Not because he gave in to my whims and fancies. Not because he indulged my wants and desires.

Simply because he was THERE. In spades. He spent ALL his time with me. I remember he’d tell my grandmother he was going to the office and promptly make a u-turn and drive to our place instead, spend the office-intended 9-5 with me, and return home, updating his wife that he’d put in a solid day’s work! He wasn’t lying 🙂

Why am I sharing all this? Because I think today, as young parents, we have replaced some of that vital TIME with gifts, money and maids. A child has little or no concept of money. When my grandfather made me boats out of the ‘jibbi’ that one uses to floss one’s tongue, and ran them in a small tub using ‘kapoor’ to propel them; or when he put back any toy I had broken with the enthusiasm of a child; or when he took me to Ram Mandir and sneakily bought me a silly little orange bar, then washing my tongue frantically before entering the house to erase the orange-evidence of sin – I was in seventh heaven. He’d made my day. He’d made many of my days. He’d made 13 years of my life, unforgettable!

I just took my daughter to my maternal grandparents’ home in Calcutta. My own childhood at that home, with that set of grandparents, brings back similarly ecstatic childhood memories. And to see my 7 month old daughter Krisha with her 91 year old Great-Grand-Father…. Just priceless….

Anuja and I are trying our best to give Krisha a lifetime full of Happy Memories. With us, with family, with friends. An unending suitcase of nostalgia where the only excess is LOVE…. Here’s to creating beautiful, human, happy, fond memories!

Expose Yourself!

As all you regular readers/visitors are aware,  I’ve been unwell for the past 8 days now. But for the sake of blatant self-promotion, I feel obligated to do this post 🙂

I do apologize however for brazen sarcasm and a lack of my usual writing finesse. Somehow, this extended illness, and my ‘ill’ luck of being in Calcutta (rotting in bed without being able to do anything I had planned) has manifested in a complete loss of humility!

Jokes aside though..

For most anything in life, it is probably a good idea to try, before we opine. Many people for instance, who are opposed to non-vegetarian food (not for religious reasons I must clarify) shun it, without having tried it. My point being – unless we EXPOSE ourselves to different experiences, things, places, facets – how will we EVER KNOW what is OUT there?!

That is where the Short Workshop comes in. I’ve been holding them for a while, broadly in the area of Writing & Communications. And I’m delighted to share that my latest one, coming up in December, is at my own favorite Media College in Jaipur – TOSS (The Open Space Society).

Its JUST a week, modestly priced, and will offer you a PERSPECTIVE on Fiction Story Writing. A peek. An insight. An orientation into this enigmatic, fascinating, creative, cathartic world.

Check out the details on the TOSS Facebook Page. And Jaipur, come,


Woman Up!

There are initiatives and then there are movements. The rather aptly named Woman Up Summit that is to make its debut over the first few days of December ’17, seems to be, to my mind, the beginnings of what can become a huge movement. A coming together of Women from all manner of professions, social strata; uniting to share their stories, journeys, inspirations, struggles, triumphs – to serve as guiding lights in a world where genders, roles, and rights, are being redefined.

I feel proud and privileged to be part of this esteemed group, and in some modest way, contribute to this larger cause of EQUAL RIGHTS, something I have been a staunch proponent of, in recent years.

You have all read my posts about how I always try to bat for ALL (genders), be it in my writing or my teaching.

I urge you all, especially Jaipur, to come attend WomanUp, experience WomanUp and show your support. Its going to be fun, informative, inspiring, and above all, LIBERATING 🙂



What Qualifies Someone To Teach?

In India, in order to teach, a B Ed Degree is mandatory. I present to you, with no disrespect intended to the millions of teachers who have secured their B Ed Degrees, an alternate scenario. One where, in my limited experience, the engagement, enthusiasm, participation and learning of a class of pupils, has little or nothing to do with the teacher’s ‘qualification’. I teach from Primary School all the way up to College and beyond. And I have found that EFFECTIVE teaching demands a few KEY elements…

  1. Earning Trust – For a teacher to earn the trust of a class, is vital. But this has two big prerequisites. One, that the teacher student relationship be given TIME to develop. Two, that the relationship itself, CAN NOT be based on FEAR. There will be NO trust building in that case. There is a fine line between FEAR and RESPECT. And I believe it can be maintained.
  2. Entertaining Education – We live in a world where students have access to an array of ‘instant entertainment’ – be it youtube, online games, social media sites/platforms; all on their cell phones. THIS is what teachers are competing against. So in order to ENGAGE students, a TEACHER must be an ENTERTAINER, a PERFORMER.
  3. Cultural Context, Similarities – In order to ‘connect’ with students, teachers should be able to ‘speak their language’ – literally, metaphorically, culturally. Unfortunately, because of how most of our society is structured, our teachers and students belong to completely contrasting universes. So where then, can be the commonality? How many teachers will be able to have a chat with a student about Bieber? How many students, will be able to identify with a teacher’s last family holiday?
  4. Respect Students – Respect can not be demanded. And it is certainly not one-way. A teacher today is living a fallacy if he/she thinks that the teacher is some beacon of knowledge and the students are empty vessels. A teacher HAS to respect a student intellectually and individually. I learn everyday from each student of mine. But if a teacher is closed-off to that notion, chances are there will be very little engagement.

I have been teaching for not TOO long now. But I have made some observations that have been corroborated time and again. That a teacher NEEDS to know about what he or she is teaching, and along with that, know the students’ world. And in that world, no B Ed is required!