WHAT Exactly I TEACH

Aside from conducting specific workshops in Fiction & Non Fiction Writing, I also see students at my home. These students range from kids in Junior School through till College. What do they come to me for? A vast majority of my home-students come for a mix of things as part of a student-specific program that adds up to overall confidence building. The program, that I try tailor-make to each individual student’s requirements and unique personalities, contains some common elements; however the focus and the way the program is structured, varies from student to student. It is an amalgam of Writing (business communication), Public Speaking, some basic Body Language, Etiquette and Manner, and a host of exercises that endow students with vital Soft-Skills that come in handy through their Professional as well as Personal Lives.

Because Parents and Students often don’t understand at the outset what exactly I teach, I am sharing a typical Lesson Plan of mine which is as follows: 

TOPIC TOOL SESSIONS
POWER to CONVINCE Email Writing

Reply Writing

Discussions of Various Scenarios

2
POWER to CONVINCE Proposal Writing 1
POWER to PRESENT

PUBLIC SPEAKING

Speech Writing

Speech Watching

Speech Delivering

3
POWER to ANALYZE Review Writing

Identification of ‘Aspects’

2
POWER to PRESENT SOP Writing

Building a Story

2
AWARENESS Current Affairs

Tips & Tricks

Apps & Resources

1
PUBLIC SPEAKING/CONVERSATION

PUBLIC-INTERACTION

Power of Listening

Power of Appreciating Opinions

Group Discussions on Several Topics 2
BODY LANGUAGE Sitting, Standing, Talking, Gestures, Dressing 1
INTERVIEWS How to take an Interview

Mock Interviews

2
Table Etiquette  How to sit at a dinner table

How to use one’s cutlery

How to cut and eat food

How to ask for something

How to conclude the meal

How to use the napkin

1
Leadership, Management Organize yourself

Time Management

Calm

Inclusive

Decisive

1
COMMUNICATING an IDEA

+

SELLING

 

(combines Analyzing, Convincing, Presentation)

ADVERTISING

Explanation

Developing a Brand

Research

Developing an Advertising Campaign

2
DEBATES

(test Presentation, Clarity of Thought)

JAM (Just a Minute)

Longer Debates

Prepared + Impromptu Debates

 

3
GENERAL CONVERSATION Dos Donts

Greetings/Salutations/Sign Offs

1
CAREER-DISCUSSION Another Way of Getting Kids to THINK

Advice/Aptitude/Reasoning

1
RECAP Last Session Recap/Questions/Doubts etc 1

 

Each Student is different but what is common is the absolutely non-negotiable need to come across as Confident, Self-Aware and Articulate individuals in an increasingly competitive world where there is little else except one’s winsome personality to separate one from another. My interaction with students aims to instil in them, through a combination of Writing & Speaking Exercises, the Power To Communicate effectively and confidently.

 

A Boarding School Education

Two decades after my own Boarding School education finished, I’m still regularly asked – “Should we send our kid to boarding school?” I suppose people feel that I can offer them a unique insight into the world of residential schooling, one that perhaps eludes the vast majority of folks who attended regular day-school. Perhaps they’re right. And then perhaps, it really comes down to common sense.

That a boarding school education can be infinitely enriching. That it can expose a young mind to limitless possibilities of self-discovery. That it can liberate a student from many conscious or unconscious constraints. These are foregone conclusions. Ones that most people are aware of.

Having said all of this, there is one insight I can offer. And that is, that for all the wonderfully exploratory benefits of a boarding school; it is NOT necessary that these will prove to be assets for each and every child. Boarding School is a testing environment. People used to believe that as long as a particular boarding school does not have bullying, it is well and good. But even WITHOUT bullying or ragging, it is STILL a testing environment. It is a space where a child needs to be strong-willed, self-confident, and self-driven. If there is a child who is extremely attached to home, isn’t particularly self-motivated; chances are that the atmosphere a boarding school offers will not sit well with that student. In the best case scenario, that student will go through the motions (years) at school not benefitting at all. The worst case scenario could be much more tragic, with the student developing many complexes and issues, that might become permanently embedded!

So, when it comes time to send you ward to boarding school, it is less the advice of other people, less the reputation of a school, less your own enthusiasm as parents that should determine your choice – and more your own child’s disposition, of which, you should have a clear, objective, un-biased perception and assessment. ONLY if you feel that your son or daughter can ‘handle the pressures’ of a competitive space where one has to work immensely hard to carve out a niche, should you take the plunge.

Like I said at the beginning, while people may be able to present many advantages and disadvantages of a boarding school education, it is for you as a parent, to really judge what you realistically feel your child is best suited to. And if that means sacrificing a boarding-school education to preserve his or her well-being, so be it. It can be a life-altering education but it can unfortunately also be, a scarring one. So THINK hard before you commit your child to it.

Teach Without Prejudice

Over the past five years, I have taught at many schools, colleges and institutes. Some have been well known, others start-ups, and still more have been extremely modest places. I have been advised by many people to ‘choose’ the places I teach at, and organisations I associate with, CAREFULLY! Why? Because if I associate with ‘lesser’ institutions, the ‘good’ ones will not want to have me!

THIS, I find preposterous. While I realise that most of this advice comes from well-meaning people, from a place of genuine care and concern; I REFUSE to ‘select’ the places I teach at on any ‘basis’. I reject the notion of ‘strategising’ a career of an Educator. Teachers MUST go where they are needed – no matter the size, stature, status of the organisation. At least that is what I firmly believe. If all good educators ran along to teach at the ‘best’ places, who’d be left to teach elsewhere?

Teaching for me is about trying to reach out to the most number of students. A vital part of that pursuit is to interact with students through a multitude of engagements. This automatically means that instead of being permanently tied down to one institute, I give myself the freedom of ‘visiting’ several institutions, engaging in various ways be it workshops, long-term programs, with entire batches of students, with individuals through one-on-one classes, and even through online teaching. This vast spread of teaching-vehicles allows me to have students who represent a wide range of age, social standing, geography, demography, and inclinations. And that is what keeps my teaching fresh, invigorated, and of course, allows me to reach more people.

Knowledge can only grow when shared. And when you share, you don’t discriminate. If indeed there are people or organisations or schools or colleges that feel I am not to be ‘touched’ because of my prior or ongoing associations with any individual/institute, that’s just too bad for them!

“Education is the foundation upon which we build our future”, and the future belongs, to EVERYONE.

Bistro Quaint – Nestled In Goodness!

Cafe Quaint at the Jawahar Kala Kendra has served as a huge respite for both Anuja & I. It does our kind of food, yummy, low-on-spice yet high-on-flavor (a concept that seems lost on the vast majority of Jaipur), in a setting that is the right mix of cafe & homey, just right! Naturally then upon catching rumblings of a possible addition to the line-up, we were rather excited.

Bistro Quaint threw open its doors about a week back. Anuja and I, with our mum and daughter made it there to lunch, just yesterday. For those familiar with the city, the Bistro sits in the heart of Jaipur’s toniest – C Scheme, just a stone’s throw from Governor House in Civil Lines. Occupying part of the first level of an upscale designer collective called Studio Hermosa, Bistro Quaint has neatly positioned itself, both in terms of a strategic catchment as well as moving slightly further-up the culinary ladder.

Appropriately, the valet dispenses with automotive duties and one is ushered up the tiled stairwell from within the boutique store. The delightfully appointed, albeit narrow passage reveals the Bistro.

Beautiful. Simple yet sophisticated. Easy yet elegant. Comfortably classy. The ambiance is inviting, the decor, modern while referencing the classical.

 

The space offers seating for about twenty and additionally, has a small but utterly charming balcony section that offers a few alfresco lovers a sweet spot.

To the best part… The food. The menu is simple. It is reminiscent of Cafe Quaint though it has been supplemented well by some newer, exciting options. Perhaps the most welcome addition is a dedicated Vegan Menu. Not only will this appeal to a growing number of Vegan diners and people with increasing food-allergies, it is also a masterstroke in a city where a large number of people favor vegetarian food.

We ordered a bunch of things. A vegan Pesto Penne, a vegan Avocado Tartine,  some Waffles and a Four Cheese French Toast.

Everything was quite delightful. Attributes that one always appreciated of the food at the cafe – Freshness, Lightness, continue, with an added dash of culinary sophistication. For us though, the scene-stealer was the French Toast. Ayesha and Twinkle, the tour-de-force behind Quaint, have elevated this humble European staple to an altogether higher level. The secret, the Brioche that they bake themselves.. The heavenly bread makes each bite into the French Toast a momentous event. An absolute must-have.

Although we didn’t get a chance to sample dessert, the home-made Sorbet and Gelato beckoned, big time.. Next time..

Bistro Quaint is such a welcome addition to Jaipur. And though it seemed a tad more expensive than the Cafe, the quality of food, the variety of dishes, the ambiance, and the location of the place itself make it all worth it.

I suppose for Anuja and I personally, what is most admirable is the two ladies, Ayesha & Twinkle, both of whom, to us, are emblematic of a new generation of brave, driven, motivated, go-getters who are changing the mundane culinary discourse of the city. We always wanted to do it, never had the gumption. It is so incredible to see that Ayesha and Twinkle do 🙂

While we Wine & Cheese, the Arts Bleed!

Watching an interview with the Director and Lead Actor of the film Manto, I sensed my own expression change from delighted to indignant. Nandita Das and the brilliant Nawaz informed the interviewer that Manto is in fact, the first film based on a Writer from the subcontinent. The FIRST! Isn’t that a crying shame?

Is this not symptomatic of an inherent divide that exists in our society? Let me give you an example of my own observations in this regard. The space between the old cafe at Jawahar Kala Kendra and the relatively new Cafe Quaint in the same establishment isn’t confined to just ‘one floor’.  People sitting on the ground level seem to be infinitely more engaged and concerned with real issues that plague the world. They are the artists, the thinkers, the sayers, the storytellers, the speakers, the truth-seekers. Unfortunately, they are NOT the opinion-makers. Because opinion in India is fashioned not by fact-seekers but rather by the money-makers, the kind that DO NOT sit on the ground-level eatery at JKK. They’re the ones who visit Quaint on the first floor. Before you think I am deriding a people out of some prejudice, I too, am part of the latter. Ever since the ‘plusher’ eatery opened, I haven’t even had a whiff of the old coffee house! And so, we ‘influential’ lot, that pretends to be concerned with the world’s problems and with a society’s sickness, ONLY pontificates. Our ruminations must be cossetted in luxurious ambiance, bathed in lush light, showered in the right mood, accompanied by a glass or three of the finest, not realizing that as we take tender delicate petite bites of the hor d’oeuvres, it is in fact the very fabric of our souls that we are nibbling away at.

Why else have we the elite not been able to ensure that our Artists & Storytellers have cities, towns, streets, buildings named after them? Why else does India shun our own greats, a list so long and shamed it is embarrassing. Why else do these artists & creators adopt other countries and nationalities? Why else do we the opinion-makers never seem to discuss what REALLY matters, sweeping all our dirty secrets under beautifully hand-woven carpets?

There run two parallel universes within our world. One of the Artist who finds the truth, however heinous and ugly, and tells it. Just like Manto, the artist, even today, holds up a mirror to society. But we, the trend-setters and jet-setters of society do not want to acknowledge our reality. We want to embellish, correct that, entirely skew the truth using layers and layers of ‘selfie filters’ that we don’t only apply to photographs but indeed to our entire lives. We want to see ‘pretty art’. ‘Why should art not please the eyes when it’s primary function is to find pride of place in our swanky new homes and offices, especially hand-picked by our fashinable interior decorators?’ This IS the maxim. THIS is the rudimentary, perfunctory, convenient and ‘likable’ definition of the Arts that we have come to form. One that dilutes the very essence of art. One that kills its reason to exist.

Being in our positions of power and influence,  we have perpetuated a similar dilution across the landscape. Our music is now a filtered-down, weak, soul-less expression of similarities. Our films tend to pander to our most abridged feelings. Our stories glorify the banal and sidestep any meaningful life-essence. In this fancy overcrowded factory that absolves us from any deep reflection, producing instead brands that become the talking-point; we have created a fake world that is both intellectually-limited and presents a severe paucity of truth. I dare say, very soon, we will have canvases hanging with just the Brand Name of the ‘coveted’ artist on our walls!

While Wine and Cheese is all well and splendid, it seems to have cost us dearly. What we value has changed dramatically. Who we value has shifted diametrically. In the process, we have displaced the real heroes of our times, our Artists. We have lessened ourselves for having done so. As Indians, we have done a huge injustice and disservice to our own history, one that used to celebrate, venerate, our creators.

“Teacher Don’t Preach” and other Pleas of a Student

Teachers, please don’t be preachers

Teachers, please don’t ill treat us

Teachers, we’re not all the same

Teachers, at least half-way, meet us

Teachers, we aren’t stupid

Teachers, don’t order us

Inspire us

Teachers, don’t scold us

Explain to us

Teachers, please see it our way

Teachers, it can’t be just your way

Teachers, make the class fun

Teachers, don’t hold up that gun

Teachers, we want to learn, we promise

But not from books, if we’re being honest

Teachers, share yourselves with us

So we too, can be ourselves, All Of Us

Teachers, don’t berate us

Instead, encourage us

Teachers, we want to love you

Respect you

Look up to you

Guide us

Politely chide us

But most of all

Excite us!

‘Teacher’

Teachers don’t teach, life does
Mentors don’t mentor, experience does
Educators don’t educate, exposure does
In classrooms fancy & simple
Ivy League or under trees
Intimate, Distant
Inside, Outside
Learning
Happens
Alone

Knowledge
Is imbibed by
Shared Consumption
A communal act
A collaborative endeavor

A teacher
Neither teaches, nor imparts knowledge
A teacher merely constructs an environment!

Some Hits, Some Misses

I am asked constantly by parents, “how will your classes benefit my child?” Simple question. Fair question. NO simple answer.

As an Educator, I’ve learned this. There are NO guarantees in learning.

First, a student-teacher relationship is like that of a person’s with his or her therapist. It may be the world’s most intelligent student and the most sincere teacher; unless a genuine rapport is struck, there will be negligible learning.

Second, it isn’t always necessary that ‘benefits’ of an education, or of an interaction, are Tangible or Immediate. Things that some of my teachers told me at school, I am only now realizing some two decades hence, are relevant.

Third, teachers today are functioning in an environment where students’ attention spans have greatly diminished. Add to this, the fact that the class HAS to be entertaining. Not just any plain old entertainment; we are competing with the entertainment-value that a youtube video provides! So unless a teacher can connect with a student in a manner that vibes with the student, there is limited possibility of learning.

In my modest five years of teaching, in groups and individually, I’ve had some great triumphs, where students have endeared themselves to me for life, and I’d like to think there is a perceptible change that has come about in them. Having said that, I have no qualms admitting that there are several students whom I have failed to engage. Students who, it would seem, have not benefited from our interaction at all.

In the teaching-game, like in life, you win some, and you loose some. But your wins keep you going steadfastly on your mission!

Liberty

I left in haste

That hateful place

Decades, chased

A taste, for distaste

Talents, gone waste

Negative space

A bitter paste

Nothing aced

Barely braced

Poison-laced

Hauntingly traced

Outpaced

A fallacy showcased

Now, finally, emplaced

A freedom, chaste!

That Funny Feeling…

Like Coffee-Mug rings at the table

Wishing never to break the pattern

Without explanation, beyond logic, it happenes…

That funny feeling presented itself to me, unannounced, unplanned for, uninhibited, with little warning, for a third time, some fifteen years ago. If you feel you have a choice, you probably DO. If you are compelled to act, then you KNOW. The magnetic pull of the feeling is undeniable. It jostles for every ounce of your attention, vying for every second of each minute.

You know how, when you turn on the shower in winter-time, and the water from the water-heater usurps the ‘cold’ portion of your tap? The feeling is like that. All consuming. You know how when you need to write an exam that you’re not prepared for and your mind is clogged with no other thoughts? The feeling is like that. Omnipresent. You know how, at the first hint of monsoon rain, the peacocks don’t stop dancing? The feeling is like that. All pervasive.

A delectable feast with contrasting flavors, rich textures, layered nuance and though surprising, challenging even in the beginning, ultimately, completely, absolutely satisfying. Satiating a soul that you realize later, hungered for something that wasn’t quite known, wasn’t very clear, wasn’t  clearly defined.

That funny feeling came to me some fifteen years ago, and hasn’t left me, even since 🙂