Back To School!

Over the weekend of 3rd May ’19, my own alma mater, The Doon School, invited me to conduct a Writing Workshop with boys from middle-school grades. Needless to mention, I was delighted to be back at school.

Wonderful as it was to return to my old stomping-grounds, it wasn’t ONLY nostalgia that made the visit and the interaction with the students exciting; that I have now been actively teaching for nearly six years, have poured tremendous hard work and passion into this pursuit – it was a huge validation of my work and efforts to be called by Doon.

I must share that my observations of the boys currently studying at the school filled me with pride and immense hope. That here is a school that is clearly doing many things right, because in a long time, I haven’t had the chance to communicate with kids that are as sharp, perceptive, intuitive and enthusiastic, as this bunch. It is almost a given for old/ex students of an institution to say, “It was much better in our time.” I am happy to report that Doon seems to have changed dramatically, though, for the better. The systems, infrastructure, facilities, the standards of boarding and lodging, it all seems exponentially better than it was when I was a student there. And let me make one thing perfectly clear – there is NO romance in enduring bad food, and poor living conditions. The vastly improved pastoral care and general environment is palpable, most noticeably in how happy and content, even kids who have recently joined, seem to be. This is most heartening.

Of course, to return to the institution that instigated my own journey of self-discovery, to now aid, in some small way, the potential discovery of a new generation of Doscos, is deeply fulfilling. Somewhere in my subconscious mind, I think I’d decided that I’d return to school only if and when I had a compelling reason, a meaningful contribution to make. This workshop has proved to be that ideal reintroduction.

It has been a moving and exciting weekend, Back to School! 🙂

A Legacy Of Learning

When I was a student at boarding school, now over two decades ago, my teachers told me that there wasn’t a single day that they didn’t learn something new. These were masters we idolised, worshipped, poked fun of, at the same time, revered. To have them confess that they did not know it all, was a revelation.

Of course, this confession was long forgotten. Relegated to a deep recess of my memory, until recently, when I, the accidental teacher, stumbled upon the very same realization. And from that crevice of my mind’s labyrinth, these words from my own teachers, revealed themselves.

Teaching has been a cathartic rebirth for me. For someone who was firmly set in a media career, doing well, then became disenchanted and decided to shift tracks, unsure of what the alternative would be; I’d go so far as to say that teaching has fulfilled me, completed me, in a way that perhaps not even music could (my first love that never quite materialised). My fortuitous foray into the world of teaching has reacquainted me with myself. It has given me purpose, pride, and ignited a passion that probably always existed, only it was dormant.

That I have no formal education that qualifies me to teach, a fact sometimes held against me, I feel is my biggest advantage. It does not colour my approach to my work. In fact, I hardly perceive it as work in the first place. No training, no career-long teaching experience, are facts that have, in fact, granted me a great sense of freedom and liberty. My interaction with my students is spontaneous, freewheeling, spirited. In turn, their’s with me is uninhibited, uncensored, unfiltered. The way I plan, and un-plan my workshops and lessons benefits from a similarly open and experimental ethos. There is a destination but how my students and I reach it is random, interactive and, on occasion, emancipating!

I have come to realize that to be an effective teacher and an inspiring mentor, the person can not feel or act ‘above’. That there MUST be a genuine openness to learn with each encounter, each interaction. That students in fact, in many cases, teach the teacher more, than the teacher does, them. Teaching then, is a legacy of continued learning. A process that is infinite. A pursuit that endless. A calling.

STUDENTS, Create A Profile!

In an era of intense competition, students find it difficult to stand out, to stand apart. Its like each individual is lost in a maze of ‘sameness’, as if just another, among a bunch of red apples! The irony is that we are all unique, peculiar, wonderful individuals, despite which, we seem alike. So what can young people do, to communicate their ‘uncommonness’?

I always encourage people from middle school right up to college graduates to undertake a Profile Writing exercise. This is a simple little 250 to 300 word document where one talks about certain basic information about oneself – Name, School/College, Grade/Year. This is followed by stating 3 Areas of Interest/Passion. And then, really expanding on these 3 areas of interest by devoting the following 3 paragraphs of the profile to these interest-areas. One paragraph each for one interest, with details about Where, When, How, and Why that Interest first began. Any Achievements in that area. And any Learnings/Lessons/Realizations (about oneself or otherwise) during the course of experiencing/pursuing that particular passion. A concluding paragraph that talks about any Current Pursuit that the reader might find interesting, followed by a final sentence on Future Plans, which could be firm, or approximate.

While there may not be any immediate practical use/requirement for this kind of a write-up in a student’s curriculum; young people should view this more as an opportunity to Introspect and get to know themselves well. Undertaking the Profile Writing Exercise compels a student to dig deep, question oneself, and ultimately, know oneself better. It brings about clarity of thought, of purpose, and of a direction for the future. At a time when young students scarcely have time to breathe; this exercise forces them to pause, reflect and discover themselves – likes and dislikes, their learnings, and can provide a significant guidance in planning ahead.

Now to the matter I began this piece with – that it helps communicate a differentiated personality. When one is applying for colleges, or jobs post college, even though you may not be asked for a write-up such as this; supplying the reader/organization/college/company with a Profile of yourself will, in most scenarios, be appreciated. First, it will ‘humanize’ the student and provide a glimpse into the candidate as an actual person (rather than just another on-paper CV or Resume). Second, it will give genuine insight into the candidate as a unique individual. Both vital to communicating a winsome personality.

I strongly urge students to undertake this little exercise. And for this, I leave you with a SAMPLE Profile to get you started. All the best 🙂

SAMPLE PROFILE

I am Karan Malhotra and I currently study in grade 6 at the Asian World School. I would say that my three main interest areas are Swimming, Science, and Music.

When I was just seven years old, I told my father I wanted to learn to swim. He would complete the entire length of the swimming pool at Jaipur Club in no time, and that always amazed me. That summer my parents enrolled me in swimming classes and I learned how to swim. I learned an important lesson through swimming. I realized that to do well in anything in life, one has to work hard and be disciplined.

Science has always fascinated me. Like swimming, my passion for science developed at a very early age. When I was just five my parents got me this Doctor-Set game which I used to love playing. As I grew older, I watched many videos on channels like National Geographic and Discovery which made me even more curious about science. At school, I always take part in the science-related activities and enjoy doing experiments and building things. It is one subject I think I will want to study for a long time to come.

My parents and my grandparents love music. I too developed a keen interest in music and my parents got me a great guitar instructor with whom I soon learned many melodies. This talent was appreciated by my music teachers at school as well and I am a proud member of the school orchestra. Listening and playing music makes me feel calm an inspired.

These days, I am really working on a Solar Powered Rocket for a Science Exhibition. I hope to become a Scientist working in Aeronautics in the future, while still continuing my swimming & music as hobbies.

Make Pudding, Make Merry!

Christmas is a time for familial bonding, love and cheer. It is a true celebration of all that we hold dear. It is also a time when we ought to reflect on all the great things we are blessed with and be deeply grateful.

I remember so vividly, when I was younger, my mum would have the gardener bring out the real-life Christmas Tree we had growing in our garden, plant it into a large, beautiful pot, and have it occupy pride of place in an alcove of our living room.

This was followed by the our joint ritual of tree-decoration. It was a fun project that we undertook together, each year. And the process of the tree’s ornamentation itself, symbolised to me, the true spirit and meaning of the festival. It brought us closer together. It made our bond even stronger. The fact that we ended up with a beautifully embellished Christmas Tree was the bonus. The real fun and festivity was in the act of doing-up the tree.

I must confess that some of this bonhomie and spirit of togetherness has been lost in recent years. I see a growing number of parents and children ‘celebrating’ Christmas yes, though the method has changed. It seems to have become more about being out-and-about, at fairs, festivals and carnivals where one shops, eats, and makes merry. And while that is a perfectly legitimate way of spending the holiday, it does tend to miss out on a personal essence.

My hope and prayer this Christmas then is for parents and children to return to a more innocent time. To do some activities at home, together. It could be anything. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate tree. You could play some games together. Make a New Year Card with the family. Or better still, make Pudding!

Merry Christmas & lots of love!

Why Your Child Should Be A CONFIDENT COMMUNICATOR

Wanted to share an Article of mine that was recently Featured in the Indian Express… It talks about the essential skills of communication that young students need in order to make a mark for themselves.

“Confident Communicators Stand Out” by Kartik Bajoria

 With an estimated 500 million young school students, India has one of the world’s largest student-populations in the world. In our cities and urban centres, a vast majority of these students share aspirations and goals. What they also have in common, unfortunately, is an equally impressive roster of scholastic as well as extra-curricular achievements. I call the situation unfortunate very consciously. All our young wards are trying to outdo each other while at school, and after graduating. There are only a finite number of ‘good’ indigenous colleges, and with rising cut-offs and an increasing number of applicants to a similar set of colleges abroad; it is almost impossible for a student to distinguish himself or herself from their peers. This high-pressure and performance-packed atmosphere has necessitated the one and only facet of a student that will make them stand-out, and that is, to be Great Communicators!

Start Writing Young

 As parents, educators, and guardians, it is essential that we develop in our young wards, the ability to express themselves clearly and effectively. This begins with learning how to Write well. Writing, contrary to popular belief, is much less about using big fancy words, and more about communicating a person’s thoughts, succinctly. If we can get young students into the habit of writing from an early age, we will empower them to express their true thoughts.

At School

Writing will enable students to communicate ideas, opinions, and their vivid imaginations beautifully at school, which will directly help them in performing better in various subjects ranging from English to History, Geography and the like; also as they become senior, it will aid them in articulating their feelings clearly and convincingly in a slew of situations. Say a senior student at school is to organize a carnival at school. Knowing how to write well will enable that student to communicate with possible sponsors through emails, with potential exhibitors through presentations & proposals.

After School

Later still, while applying to colleges abroad, a process that requires students to write detailed essays about their lives and goals; instead of seeking the immediately identifiable help from Academic/Admissions Counsellors, they will be able to articulate their own thoughts and stand an infinitely better chance of admission acceptance.

Start Speaking Young

 Similar to Writing young, we owe it to our children to get them to start speaking from a young age. Most children of course do that naturally. What I mean specifically is Public Speaking. The sooner we can organically get our children to interact with, and express in front of groups of people, the more self-confident they will become, the less self-conscious they’ll be.

At School

 At school, this habit of Public Speaking will manifest in a student being able to participate in, and do well at various activities such as Debates, Drama, and Quizzing, which will ultimately add to that much-needed collection of Extra-Curricular Achievements, vital from a College Admissions standpoint. It will also be a skill that will always help a student make a great first impression, be it interviewing & interacting with dignitaries who visit school, or while hosting important events at school.

After School

Being a confident Public Speaker will make any student post school stand in great stead as the person will be able to break-the-ice instantly in many new social situations. Starting with being Interviewed for College Admissions, to then being at a new college and making friends instantly – being able to speak well in public will prove to be the marked difference between that individual and scores of others who may even have better credentials but people will remember the one who spoke well & confidently.

How?

One might wonder how one can get one’s child to become that great communicator. The answer is actually rather simple. Expose students to good writing, and to people who speak well. I always propagate that as people responsible for bringing up a new generation, we should embrace technology. By exposing children to videos of people who speak well, impactful speeches on various online platforms, we give them a sound foundation upon which to build. This initial orientation combined with a great communications workshop can transform the way a student expresses and will ensure that your child stands apart, and proud.

 

 

 

The ‘Write’ Fit

As many of you might know already, I am conducting one of my holiday-time workshops during this Christmas-New Year school-break. I thought I’d quickly explain in a few brief points, the key features of this Creative Writing Workshop.

  • The Workshops will be for children between 8-12 years of age
  • It will serve as an Introduction to Creative Writing
  • We will begin with absolute basics of Sentence Construction
  • I will introduce the basic concepts of Fiction Writing
  • We will watch Short Films to understand Fiction/Story Writing better
  • We will also learn about Non-Fiction Writing
  • Things such as Essays, Summary Writing which are needed at School
  • Each piece of Writing the students write will be Read Aloud on Stage
  • In addition to Writing Skills, this will give students practice in Public Speaking
  • Ultimately, the Workshops aims to build Writing as well as General Confidence

The workshop will span 6 sessions of an hour each starting 26th December till 31st December from 5:30 to 6:30pm at the Wonder Years Play School in Vaishali Nagar.

A Decade…

This December the 12th my wife Anuja and I will be married a decade. It seems like a lifetime together, and I mean that in the most positive sense. I’d like to think that the times, good and bad, that she and I have endured, have made us stronger, closer, wiser.

The reason I write this post is not to paint some fantastical, Utopian image of marriage. Quite the contrary. It is to share that, like any relationship, wedlock most of all, needs tireless work, effort, and patience. The fact of the matter is that every individual is intrinsically unique and different from the next; for two people to cohabit is in itself a tall ask. Then if those two people happen to be man and wife, things get trickier still.

Love, the way one came into it, the way one experienced it at the beginning, the way one perceived it and defined it, changes. It changes dramatically. There comes a point in every relationship when the inexplicable romantic-rush mellows, the madness lessens, and a new status quo is established. One isn’t necessarily with one’s partner for the feverish, weak-kneed whirlwind one experienced initially. It really comes down to companionship. Friendship.

Of course in our case, the scales are heavily tilted in favour of Anuja being the overwhelmingly resilient one. Having said that, really speaking, there are just two or three factors that make a marriage stand the test of time – Mutual Respect, Friendship and Shared Life Goals.

If there is genuine respect for each other, for one’s work, ethics, principals, and an understanding of why the person is the way he/she is; chances are that the relationship will beat the odds. I think both Anuja and I respect one another for our good qualities deeply. I also feel that we recognise one another’s shortcomings at a very real level but understand and appreciate that as human beings we are bound to have limitations, and that these limitations aren’t a reflection of who we really are. In fact, it is our better traits that are emblematic of our true characters; the individuals we have grown into, despite our circumstances (past and present).

Friendship I’d reckon is at the very top of this list. We absolutely LOVE hanging out with each other and I can safely say that there’s nobody else either would rather be with. We can make each other laugh. We share a cultural context. We speak the same ‘language’. People talk in a derogatory light about the ‘friend-zone’ – I happen to think that if one is friends with one’s life-partner, there couldn’t possibly be a better scenario!

Finally, and both Anuja and I have said this often – the whole ‘opposites attract’ paradigm is terribly overrated. It certainly doesn’t work in the long run. Two people who decide to spend their lives together must have a shared basis for doing that. Certain key philosophies, opinions, outlooks have to match. How to bring up one’s child.. What the couple wants ultimately from life.. Some vital shared interests. These are absolutely crucial to the longevity of a marriage.

As we inch closer to turning 10, I can confess that the lead-up to this monumental milestone has not been easy. Its been tough for me psychologically due to various (non-marriage related) reasons, and by consequence, for Anuja, who has had to endure a less-than-ideal, perhaps ‘absent’ partner in me. Having said that, this, like any other rough-patch, is a temporary, passing phase. What really matters, the things that really count, the truths that ought to be constants, still remain, very much alive. And I’m extremely excited by the prospect of what the next decade holds for us!

A Confident Communicator

We live in a complex, competitive world. A world where it has become immensely difficult to be noticed, and to stand out. For an entire generation of young students in senior school, busy preparing for their exams, applying to colleges, and charting out the future course of their lives; it is imperative that they find a way of distinguishing themselves from their peers. But how do they do that? Especially when a vast number of their contemporaries have similar or better grades meaning they are as academically accomplished; they have more compelling sporting and co-curricular accolades!

Really, the ONLY way then, is a student coming across as Confident. In his or her Public Presentation, that individual is able to create an impression of a Self Assured, Well Spoken, Aware, Driven, Sensitive, and Confident person. This ALONE, can be the difference between imminent success and abject failure. In today’s working-world, be it in one’s own business/work or in the professional realm; young candidates MUST come across as CONVINCING. Their Outward Personalities must neither contradict, nor fall short of their on-paper records. They must PROJECT & EXUDE Polish.

This plain yet vital truth is something I have been trying to make students as well as parents aware of through the past half-decade I’ve been teaching. The ABSOLUTE non-negotiable importance of a student cutting a first rate Public Persona & Image. And I am pleased to share that a many parents have seen sense and logic in my campaign and entrusted their wards to my care and tutelage – a responsibility I take extremely seriously. The results are plain to see in the form of many testimonials from my students on my website and my other social media platforms.

Very shortly, I will be able to announce a round-the-year Program where High School Students will have a chance to interact with me in Batches over the Weekends where I will focus on making them Effective & Confident Communicators – both in terms of Written as well as Spoken/Verbal/Oral Communication that will groom and prepare them to take on a slew of real-world (public) situations where they will need to present the best possible versions of themselves.

Through several activities and exercises including and not limited to Speech-Making, Interviewing Skills, Conversation-Making; the idea of this continuing-workshop will be to make students understand the importance of Public Image and give them the TOOLS to present themselves like WINNERS.

The world is a superficial place. There is no point brushing that under the rug. And in order to compete and succeed, it is NOT enough for students to achieve, just on-paper. They must come across, as such. As Confident Achievers.

How To Conduct An INTERVIEW

Interviews give us a glimpse into a person, the person’s thinking, their world-view and their opinions on important matters. They are one of our most human, real, and interactive ways of getting to know someone. Interviewing someone is a skill that requires tact and knowledge. It is a vital skill that is equally handy for school and college students, as it is for more grown up people.

Be it a ‘celebrity’ a student needs to interview on a school visit for a school-paper or publication, or a working professional is to interview a visiting dignitary to the office, or moderate an event/conference; the rules and basic requirements to conduct an effective interview stay by-and-large, the same. Here I’d like to share my top 5 tips to conduct a great interview.

  1. Research: One must research the Interviewee/Subject thoroughly. Most of our research nowadays is done on the Internet. There are however dangers to this kind of secondary research since the internet is populated with incorrect information. So while researching on the web, ensue that you use multiple sources/websites/platforms and check your information against many sources. Second, try to always read up previous interviews that your interviewee might have granted reliable media. And third, don’t just focus your research on the Person but also gain a deep understanding of the field/sphere/world that the interviewee belongs to. If you are for instance interviewing a politician, then ensure that you know, in addition to information about the individual, about the political party, the ideology, the history and the current context of that person’s political allegiance.
  2. Occasion: One must also be conscious of where and during what event the interview is taking place. If for example you were to have a Film Director visit your School over Annual Day, aside from asking him/her about films, it would be prudent and appropriate to ask the person about their opinions on schools and education as well. After all, that is the event, occasion and circumstances in which the person is present right. So always keep in mind the forum at which the interview is taking place and include the occasion by asking specific relatable questions.
  3. Be Polite: In an era where we are bombarded with interviewers who are rude, aggressive and persistent; it is always a more mature approach to be friendly, kind and polite in one’s interviewing demeanour. I personally don’t subscribe to the ‘pressure-tactics’ and coercive  interview style that many have adopted. Even if there is a question that you want to ask that seems uncomfortable or is being evaded by the interviewee, let it go, ask a few other questions, and then come back to it in a differently worded manner. Be polite and be kind. It always makes for a more immersive and meaningful interaction.
  4. Pre-Meet: It is always a great idea to try and meet your subject in advance. Be it a day in advance or even if it is just a short while before the actual interview; a mere ten minute face to face meeting between interviewer and interviewee helps break the ice, establish rapport and comfort level, gives the two individuals a chance to get to know each other a little and allows the interviewer to share the line of questioning he/she has in mind and ask for the interviewee’s consent. All this advance-preparation goes a long way in ensuring a smooth, honest, and free-wheeling interview that translates in obvious camaraderie on-screen as well as in print.
  5.  Conversational: Finally, keep the interview conversational. There are two human beings talking, not a machine interrogating another machine. Engage, listen carefully, and develop the chat organically. Often times we get so caught up with our predetermined questions that we forget to even listen, and irrespective of the interviewee’s responses, we surge forward with our line of questioning, irrespective of it making sense or not. By listening carefully, we give ourselves the freedom and liberty to stray from our script and ask questions that are more natural, ensuring that the interview is more instinctive, logical, and engaging for the two people concerned, as well as for the viewing/reading audience.

We seek interviews because we want a peek into the minds and hearts of well-known individuals who might just share insights that enlighten us. Because we expect them to open-up to us, we must in-turn treat them with the respect of being well-prepared, and well-mannered.