Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Teach for India to startup : How, why, what?

I write this on one of those nights when sleep eludes. Despite multiple attempts, drifting off to a sound sleep is looking like a far fetched dream tonight.

Lying in the dark waiting for the sleep to take over is not my favorite pass time. But interestingly this acts as a perfect setting for contemplating and finding some answers.

One of the questions that has been asked many a times and definitely demands answer is why did I startup after Teach for India fellowship? To an outsider, this might look like an outcome of severe mood swings but as the person closest to this decision I can put forth my very valid case.

Teach for India is not just about teaching. It's a life transforming experience. And this statement is not an exaggeration at all. There is not just one being whose life is transformed but many because teaching for India is a collective effort.

When I entered my class of 60 students for the first time, I was quite confident as I was armed with a training. Two weeks in the fellowship and you realize that the training just got started. Every single day, every uneventful moment was a steep learning curve. 60 different characters to understand and manage at an age where their character is getting moulded. In hindsight I think it was a huge responsbility. Good thing that the magnitude of this responsibility did not struck me back then otherwise there would have been a lot of baggage to work with, which is never good. In a pretty disguise, this responsibility tagged along and the bliss of the ignorance led to creativity, dreams and reaching for the stars : not alone but with a spaceship full of 60 odd 10 years old.

What my kids achieved in two years indicates that I proved myself to be useful but what they did to me is invaluable. They made me patient, empathetic, team player, leader, teacher, dreamer, believer, achiever and a better human being.

I say this a lot in many of my conversations that my kids equipped me with all the valuable lessons, I needed to learn and all the necessary skills, I needed to have to startup. I never did an MBA, I don't need to and yet management comes naturally. Starting up was the most natural choice.

Inspiring, brainstorming, finding solutions, getting a team together, implementing while being resourceful and creating a dent in the universe is the order of the day.

I didn't give my 2 years to Teach for India, it gave me my 50 years.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A yielding unsettled night

I am back.
Actually I am unable to sleep.

Usually I come back very late from office, drained of all energy, exhausted to the core. I am not able to keep myself away from the bed and as soon as my body touches the coziness of the bed I drift off to a sleep full of dreams ( yes, I am a big time dreamer).

And then there are some days when I come early and happily try to sleep so that I can get up early, fresh as a daisy and all those good things associated with getting up in the morning (which, frankly, I don't agree with). So my reason of sleeping early is to sleep for more hours!

But such nights, without fail, turn out to be a big disaster. I end up tossing on the bed, desperately trying to sleep, silently praying for the silence of the night to engulf me and take me to my beloved land of dreams. AND I fail miserably. I always start talking to myself, sometimes giving speech, sometimes having a conversation, sometimes telling stories and sometimes singing songs. Now it sounds crazy but who isn't crazy? Who can claim confidently that they are perfectly, absolutely normal?

Now these are two extreme ends of spectrum : Blissful sleep and disturbed awakened moments. But what if I want to choose one of them. Which one would you prefer? First one, maybe.

But sometimes it is good to have those tossing on the bed, frustrating, unsettled nights. I'll just talk for myself but these are the nights when I hear my voice again singing songs that I loved as a child. I end up introspecting which is so difficult to do in the noise of Mumbai. I reprimand myself for not doing something which I should, I commend myself for doing something praiseworthy. I get time to think about my work, long lost friends, enemies, places I visited, add stuff to my wish list, revive personal goals, forgive and forget!

I am writing this after spending 3 hours of such a night and did I use the word 'disaster'???  No, no something good always comes out of such nights - today it's this blogpost after 11 months!!! And along with this a resolution to which I may or may not stick but what's the harm in trying to write one post every week.

A night well spent!

Good night!


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Courage is a rare but vital commodity

We are all born courageous, yes we are! When humans come out of the womb of the mother they are filled with courage by default. Logic being, they are coming out from the safety of the womb to an utterly cruel world. The invisible injection injecting this courage is unbiased and every child has equal level of courage at the time of being born. This courage remains at the same level till the child is capable of hearing and understanding the stories that people around them tell. And with this ascends the fears. For every child this fear is unique coming from the precautions their family takes to keep them safe and sound. Some may fear dark, coming from the horror stories of venturing into a dark room. Some may fear old men/women, coming from the spine-chilling stories of that person stuffing you in their huge backpack and taking you to the unknown land. Some may fear animals, coming from the scary stories of them biting and you having an incurable disease or even death.
Then arrives the bed time stories, ironically called fairytales, in which without fail there is an evil queen or a witch or a wicked magician who is out there in the world to destroy the good. And slowly as per individual perception, children start developing fear of different things.
The next vital stage of life, school, has its own horrors. From homework, difficult subjects, heartless teachers, bullies to high expectations of parents, all start constructing a pyramid of fear inside people. Our mind starts racing swiftly to keep ourselves safe from these evils of the world and everyone finds their way of living with these fears.
Slowly growing with fears, the fears growing exponentially within us, we land in the real world. Mostly this is the time when people come out of the safety net of family, are out on their own and trying to prove the purpose of our life (Yes, that’s the perception that we all have a purpose). Life becomes a battle with these fears because now they are your environment, all around you in college, office, with friends and even out in the streets.
Sadly, a lot of us give up to these fears and lead a miserable life or just end it. But that is a different topic.
I have dealt with kids and constantly deal with adults. Kids are braver, still ready to fight courageously, indifferent to the consequences. Adults, somehow, have lost all courage. This is not a generalization. 

We are all like 'Courage the cowardly dog'

We all try to put forth a brave face but inside we know that our world is breaking down. A lot of us wish to do so many different things and we blame the shackles of society. We want to raise our voice against widespread injustice but we keep it to ourselves, cajoling our inner being by the statement “we have better things to do”. A lot of us don’t see any meaning in what we are doing and have far forgotten that purpose which was de facto some years back. We fool ourselves into believing that this is the right way. We get lost in the world of Gucci, Louis Vitton and call it success. We get lost in finding ourselves and call it taking the road less taken. And writing this I feel that either way the world and we are hopeless.

The only way to come out of this hopelessness is to be courageous. To follow what your heart says, to stop following the well drafted directions of the society and make rules of our own.  How many of us can really stand in front of the mirror, be honest to ourselves and say I am living my life my way? (Mind you! this takes courage) Self help books do not help, the only person who can help you is YOU. If ever your heart says I wish I could do this, try your best to do so. If ever your heart says I wish I had done that, its never too late fellows.
One mantra that has so far helped me is that I constantly fast forward my life and think that I don’t want to end up as an old lady, rocking on a rocking chair and telling a neighbour I wish I had known this before or I wish I had done that before. I want to be the heroine of my life and not the victim.
Thanks to the people who ensured our safety when we were toddlers, I am on my feet and still toddling. But it’s fine as long as all are toddlers. We were pushed out of the womb so we have to fight and probably find that umbilical cord that injects the courage in us with which we were born.
“A ship is safe in the harbour, but that’s not what ships are for” – William G.T. Shedd

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Why should you read? Coz its not just cerebral.

“...reading has as many functions as the human body, and... not all of them are cerebral.” 
I’ve done a lot of thinking on why people say that they don’t have patience for novels. As someone who is always reading something, has read hundreds of books and refuses to go down in her grave before reading a zillion more, I find this statement intimidating, confusing and discomforting. Earlier, I used to abhor people who would use this statement but my two years in Teach for India have made me empathetic and understanding. I am able to put my feet in shoes of others and try to see where are they coming from.
So after a lot of discussions with non readers, observing them, learning about their way of reading (whatever they’ve read) I’ve been able to craft a reason why people say that they don’t have patience for novels.
Life makes sense only in the real world, in our surroundings and in our day to day actions. When people read novels they read it as the story of someone else, written by someone else. They take reading as a hobby or as an extra curricular activity. My understanding is that it should become an integral part of your life for that particular time.

So drawing lessons from the way I enjoy reading - 
1) I get immersed into the book completely. I perceive the story as that of mine. For me it is not reading a book but living a different life, after all, life is just playing the characters in the script written by the almighty. I read in bed because reading is right in the middle of consciousness and dreaming. You can guess the dreams that I see based on what I am reading.
2)  I love authors who take their time in developing a character, explaining it patiently to the readers. This is the reason I am a fan of classics. It takes time to understand the characters, to slowly fall in love with one of them, to start despising one of them, to feel sorry for one of them, to give up on one of them, to get suspicious about one of them, to feel the anguish of one of them. And after knowing each and every character well, I associate myself with one of them.  
3)  For both the above mentioned things to happen, it is also important to realize that you need to forget that an author named XYZ has written this. It is vital to have the feeling that you are reading your own different life, not pre written but happening as it moves on.  I appreciate authors for their penmanship, for the words that they use and for the beauty with which they describe the most banal things of life. But that’s about it.
4) Why is important. Books are not just stories, characters and plots. Books are invaluable lessons for life. Each book is strengthening your beliefs or questioning your strongheld beliefs. Even fictional books, in very subtle and artistic ways, throw intriguing and speculative thoughts at you. The only way to become wiser with each book read is not to note the intelligent quotes from them but to question and let your mind stir. Every book should change something in you. It can make something in you stronger or just break something strong in tiny bits.
5)  Last but not the least, we are all scared of being alone. We are all scared of leading a boring and not so happening life. We are glued to social media peeking into life of others and wondering that why is our life not as exciting as it seems for others. We are all scared of dying with regrets, of things that we wanted to do, of choices that we wanted to make. Books are an antidote for all these fears. One is never alone when in the company of books. Books transport you to a different land, give you a chance to lead a different life. Pick up any book which will take you to those unexplored areas and live the experience. Grow old without regrets because it might be difficult to decide the course of your life but you can decide the kind of book you want to read.
“In books you travel, not just into other worlds but also into your own”
Read as much as you can because there is no better asset than to read and no better experience than to read. Fall in love not once but everyday, be dramatic not once but everyday. And you will realize that your real world will inflict less pain on you because you will always have the fictional world to go into and enjoy every bit of it. Don’t be a third party observer while reading, take part in the events of the book and you never know in the quest of figuring out a fictional story you might figure out yourself, discover your true identity because we all know that in our mind our own image is bizarre.
Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.” – Anna Quindlen
-     If even 10 people pick up the habit after reading this, my work is rewarded.
-     If you want help in figuring out good books to read follow this link
          Written for a greater cause. XOXO J

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

All we are is contradiction!

I am a person of contradiction. Actually we all are but here I can just speak for myself. 
I call myself an ambivert. Sometimes I can't be happier than being in the company of a group of people. I face no problems in having conversations and usually come out as a social person. But within a fraction of an hour I feel like running away from that group, find a place that I can call my den, just think about whatever I want to think. I struggle in starting a conversation and despite being taken as a social person, 8 out of 10 times I fail to build a long term friendship/relationship.
This confuses me everytime.
There are days when I just grab my purse and leave the house for nowhere. Usually I end up in a crossword, cuddled in a corner with some random, unheard book. Today in one of these "date with myself" visits I was having a pretty successful date. Read a quarter of "Growing up Bin Laden" and had a juice and munchies. Extremely satisfied with my lone trip I was on my way back when coming down the escalator I saw a man in Gloria Jeans, sitting alone, reading a book. 10 tables around him were occupied and none of the occupants were alone, except him. Three floors down, I couldn't help turning my eyes from him. A zillion of thoughts ran through my mind. The one that struck me was "Oh! Poor man. He is sitting alone. Doesn't he have anyone to give him company?" I was shocked to hear my thoughts! I wanted to reprimand Miss Pankhuri Shrivastava's thoughts. But chose to remind her that she was also alone, reading a book and sipping juice. She has been blessed with good friends but she was doing so by choice.
This surprises me everytime
People choose different things. Sometimes their actions mirror your actions but if you are not wearing that dress at that time you prefer to criticize it. And this makes me think we are so complicated. Everything in the world except humans can be defined by a definition but for humans the definition changes for every different person. A far more complex issue is that even for one person the definition changes every minute.
Sometimes I want life to be simple but at other times I love the complexity.
This amuses me eveytime.
In short, life is all about Confusion, Surprises and Amusement.
At peace for now

Monday, February 20, 2012

How blessed 'THEY' are???

I love India. I love every bit of Indianness in me!!!
I love saree, kurta, choodi and bindi. I love colours. I love festivals : crackers of Diwali, euphoria of Holi, dance of Ganesh Mahotsav, smoke emanating from a burnt Ravan, the 'eidi' of Eid and not to forget the grandeur of Indian weddings!
Yes, I love all this despite the fact that I am an environmental activist, I get irritated by noise pollution and abhor the stupendous amount of money splurged during weddings!
If you know me you will find it difficult to accept that I love 'paan' and more than that I love 'paan ki peek' :P
ohh yess!!! I love spitting the red fluid :P
I am amused by the madness of crowd and entertained by the rib-tickling ads pasted all over the local trains in Mumbai  like "Laabh ki 100% gurantee. Kisi bhi prakar ki pareshani jaisi ki prem vivah, manshahi shaadi, pati ki daru, sautan ka dukh, court mamla, dhanprapti, film me safalta atyadi ke liye miliye baba bam bam ji se !!!(vashikaran me maahir)" ROFL!!!
We are a country of crazy people for sure and we have valid reasons for all the above mentioned craziness...
But there are certain things which beat me and after a lot of contemplation I accept defeat.
The thing that made me write this post is "Why do we think that an eunuch is blessed?" Just because they are different from us?? Why don't we budge even a little and give a penny to a blind beggar but we hurriedly, without fail shower all the change in the purse on a begging eunuch!!!
They are not blind, they are not handicapped, they are not demented. In my opinion they are well capable of working and earning atleast as daily labourer. I don't blame them because they are a largely ignored community. Their rights to work and live a normal life have been violated with impunity. They are spread all over the country but there population is uncertain as there is no provision for this gender in the census form because they neither belong to the male nor the female one.
They've always been projected as a dark and sinister group of people, to be avoided at all costs. There is hardly any empathy and humanity while giving alms to them.They are a close-knit community who appear to care little for social acceptance but looking at some of them going around begging in the local train I wonder "Do they not get hurt when people make fun of them or laugh at them because God made them the way they are? Do they not wish to participate in elections, be members of parliament, be a part of other decision making bodies of the country? Do they not desire to express themselves on various platforms? Will they not love to be educated, develop themselves and live the way other communities live in our society?"
If we think they are blessed then are they not blessed enough to deserve these common rights???

Friday, September 30, 2011


I saw a very rosy dream
Not about you not about me
But a dream in which a rose tells me
 “you are a rose, I believe, please justify your rosy name for me?”

Sitting in a room with roses all around
Red, pink, yellow and white
I think how to justify the name 
How to win this rosy little game?

“Let’s write a poem full of roses,
A poem where each sentence smells of roses.”
The red rose raised a brow,
And I started the rosy little work…

What a rosy fragrance is in a rose since its very birth
Undoubtedly it is one of the most beautiful flowers on Earth
Thinking more the realization dawned that a rose is a rose is a rose
What more could I have said about a rose?

A red rose symbolizes passion and love
A white rose soothes with the peace of dove
A yellow love whispers friendship and concern
But a black rose is unlikely to return!

Reading my rosy little poem
I find a rosy way to beat boredom!
Then I see in my dream the poem reaching the press
And Miss Pankhuri bowing down gracefully, with her cheeks full of rosiness!


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