Friday, May 9, 2014

Day 2 -You are on the path

Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own.  And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.


You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.

You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

No better way to describe any new journey that one is about to embark . Gives you the reality of what it would be like and the hope that at the end it would all fall in palce. And who better than Shaheen Mistri (CEO of TFI)to tell us. Listening to her speak about the tremendous journey of transformation TFI has had so far is like drinking a RedBull that energizes you and keeps up the spirit.

With all this positivity and stimulation the journey has begun,we are on the path and we were about to experience the first hurdle along the way. We had the task to connect with any child from a community  (slum settlement) we were taken to . So I enter the settlement with confidence thinking if I can talk to my 5 year old niece for hours why not this child. Like any settlement the houses were cramped, but for some reason the interior was cleaner and well kept than the exterior of the house. Whether they had the basic amenities or not I saw almost all of them had a dish attached to their roofs.

This activity was getting a lot of attention, we had everyone looking out from their houses.  Some called off their children and condemned them from talking to us. Some came to us and asked if were taking some kind of a survey. Well its not everyday they see a huge number of people walking in to their settlement and randomly picking up a child to talk to them. Had I been living there I surely would have been offended that people who had no business to be in the community decided just to walk right in and intervene. So I could understand why some of them resented us.
Looking around if I could spot any kid who wasn't taken by any of them yet, I came across a few women who were washing clothes at the wash area that was common to the entire community. Now this group was extremely friendly. I noticed most of them spoke only in Marathi, And I thought everyone in Maharashtra knew Hindi .They were smart and had already guesses where we were coming from and why we were at their community. One lady called out to all the kids and a bunch of kids looking really skeptical gathered around. I spoke to a few of them, most of the kids went to Marathi medium school. The ladies proudly introduced me to two girls going to an English medium school, they were the only two going to an English medium school in their community. Sangamitra and Anmeesha. Sangamitra's favorite subject is mathematics, yet she aspires to become a doctor. Anmeesha loves English because she can read novels. Though initially they were answering only to my questions they later warmed up to me after we played a game of dumbcharads and insisted I play kabaddi too with them.It was a great experience.I spoke to a few older gals as well I gathered most of the older girls had either dropped out for taking care of younger siblings or financial reasons, some of them were all happy and glee about getting married post their twelfth boards. College wasn’t given consideration, post twelfth they were more interested in working and being of use to the family financially. For obvious reasons money was the only thing that mattered. I would have loved to spend more time to get to know better but it was time to get back to our buses. The kids and the older girls were great hosts and told us atleast a zillion times to come back some other day. 

So I go back and sit inside the bus feeling all nice and happy and notice a lot of boys from the community stood near our windows and they tried to shake hands, some boys even tried to feel the hands and what not. The girls who experienced this was first in shock because they saw them as kids and never  contemplated them as a threat. The girls then shut their window which then resulted in us being stoned. They kept throwing tiny rocks at the bus until we moved out of the area.

 I was appalled. I imagined what would happen if these boys were in my classroom? I wouldn't want to go through such a thing. I sat in shock for the entire journey and realized. Things like this may happen and will happen. We all come from different backgrounds and cultures and it takes a lot of effort in letting go off them. Which is why doing what we do at TFI makes more sense. Along with academics believing that we can bring in set of values and condition the mindsets of kids by giving them the required access and exposure is very important.

Soon after this we headed to our Opening ceremony. If there is one thing that TFI does best its reinforcing the fact that you can make a huge difference. The session started with a video of deaf and mute children miming the National Anthem with the BG in background. I had goosebumbs for the first time while I sang the anthem. Starting with the anthem through the entire ceremony I was overwhelmed. The MAYA kids who performed, the father who spoke of why it makes sense to him that his daughter chose TFI over a corporate job, The fellow who gave a speech about her experiences, the kids who were participants of MUN conference, Shaheen's stories of compassion were all exemplary and reeked of the art of giving. But Akbar was my favorite, this little boy had the confidence of addressing a crowd of 400 people. And I know it takes a lot of courage to do that when you are just 12 years old. He shared with complete strangers how he, who hadn't spoken a single word of English today could articulate his thoughts in English even if it was not all grammatically right and had the courage to share it in front of everyone. But I was sad to know for someone like him who had the rigor  and aptitude to learn  wasn't admitted into another school for his eighth standard. TFI is hopeful they can help him and find out some school that will welcome him with open hands.

The spirit of all the TFI members and the enthusiasm that was filled in the auditorium was just so infectious. I did miss my family and my friends back at home, because a moment such as this I would have loved to share with all of them. But for now it just feels I did the right thing and truly everything in life happens for a reason.

So Step with care and great tact 
and remember that Life's 
a Great Balancing Act. 
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. 
And never mix up your right foot with your left. 

And will you succeed? 
Yes! You will, indeed! 
(98 and 3 / 4 percent guaranteed.) 


Monday, May 5, 2014

Day 1 – FLAME

After Travelling down the hill and engulfing in the beauty of the mountains and the lush green golf club that I saw on the way  I finally arrived at FLAME institute and wished it dint have to be summer. For this place would have been heaven in the winter.

A not so familiar place, 300 complete strangers, scorching heat, a lot of hustle-bustle happening around, these factors are enough for somebody like me to feel like Alice in wonderland. LOST.  I have no qualms jumping into situations like this, its post the jump I have issues with. To connect with people I don’t know, to bond and develop relationships, it is just not something that comes easily to me. I will take my time. And it is just day1 so I try and think there is no need to be apprehensive. I’ll make friends eventually.
Anxiously I look around, some smile, some seem as lost as I am, some have animated conversations with others, some are talking to a bunch of enthusiastic kids. Having entered into what felt like an oven, all I could think of was gulping down something down my dry throat & eat something to appease my growling stomach.
Having done both, I felt better and geared up for the next obvious thing-REGISTRATION. I move from one procedure to the other and after about 6 long exhausting hours (the heat was getting to me) I finally complete the registration formality and make my way into the TFI family. I WILL TEACH FOR INDIA.

Later in the night at dinner I looked around again and thought, most people here are so warm, bubbling with energy and welcoming be it the new fellows, TFI staff and even a few kids who had accompanied the existing TFI fellows. Coming from an IT background this is something you don’t find. If you don’t know someone they wouldn’t stand smiling at you. The chances are they will stare at you top to bottom like you are a statue and move on.

The kids especially came to all the tables conversed with everybody. At their age I would have shrugged my shoulders if strangers asked me questions, and been coy and ran away from them. (I still might) The confidence these kids have amazes me.

So by this time I had met a few fellows, got to know where they come from and found it quite intriguing that there are people from all walks of life. A lot of them like me have quit their IT jobs because staring at your computer and being locked in a small cubicle just wasn’t enough, Bringing life to characters sketched for animation movies wasn’t fascinating enough, For some it was time to give back after having taken a lot, to be useful post retirement, and some of them are here just for the sheer joy they get out of being with kids. I thought they all looked so vibrant and their brightly lit eyes carried a hope that they are here to be a part of a revolution and will be making a huge difference.

The feeling hasn’t quite sunk in for me yet, but today I go to bed with a lot of uncertainties as to what is in hold for the next few days. Will this training be enough for me to handle a class? Am I really going to change my kids in the classroom? Does this really mean anything to me? Am I good enough for this responsibility? What is next post two years fellowship? Will the next few days answer these concerns? I don’t have the answers but I remember reading “The birds of hope are everywhere, listen to them sing”. I am being hopeful to figure them out. WAITING IT OUT WITH PATIENCE!! 

Friday, March 28, 2014

The future is dark

Akhil knelt on the field and touched to feel those cracks that clearly were formed by drought over years. They were so rough that he felt it could cut into his soft skin. He looked up to where his parents and grandparents were standing and went running to them. He ran into his grandmother and hugged her by the legs. She looked down and bent down to reach for his face, beads of perspiration trickled down along the sides of his small face, wiping them off she asked him “Remember the picture I showed you from my album of those lush green fields, and a canal running along the sides? Well decades ago this used to be that place.”
 Akhil turned to those fields and looked back at his granny in bewilderment. “Same? But this place is so dry Grammy, and so hot, look I can squeeze out at least a bucket from my tee”.  He was twirling the fabric around his tiny fingers and trying to show how much water he could squeeze from them.  
“The ground is so cracked up; I can feel the dryness in my throat. There is no sign of life at all in this place. I don’t like it here. Let’s go back...Pleeeeaaase.”  He ran into the car, turned on the air conditioning and decided not to step out. Akhil’s dad too followed and decided to give his wife and her parents some private time.

Surely the sight was not of any interest to the 8 year old boy. But his Grammy and grandpa were reminiscing in the memories they had once of this place. When they were in their prime they had hoped for better things to happen here, they were promised a better future and they felt miserable about how it turned out to be.  A place that was once the hub of agriculture, a place that once provided food for its neighboring states was now abandoned. There was no sight of any life even for miles; nobody could survive the wrath of nature.
Her thoughts were interrupted when her daughter held her hand and together they walked to her husband. “Appa I am sorry. I know it breaks your heart to see this place turn into a barren land. Surely you did your best, there was nothing you could have done had you and your family stayed back here. Look around everybody left. The place is a ghost now.”

Her father stood there thinking of his past. He remembered the same spot he was now standing decades  ago, his father and others from the community assembled for days together and revolted against the Govt , to stop a project that they knew would do no good to the place. They were fierce and the fire amongst the revolutionists was spreading to all the nearby cities as well. There were protests everywhere, seeking the suspension of the ongoing project that involved in production of methane gas. The govt had signed a contract to allow a private company to dig down the Cauvery delta region which was a rich source for lignite and methane.  The protests were held on one side and the project continued its work on the other.
 In spite of being warned that during the operation the release of methane could increase Global warming, in spite of knowing that to get to the coal beds they have to drill to depths below the underground water and that to extract the methane from the cracks the water will have to drained completely and this could create droughts and earthquake, and knowing this would be no more a fertile land , and that farmers would no longer have a job the Govt mercilessly gave them the license to drill wells that disrupted nature’s way.  

The wrath it has unleashed on these lands today, this is exactly what they had feared. A desert has its charm too, but this place was robbed of everything possible, it was now not even worth a rag to step foot on.
“It is getting late Appa.If you have finished going down the memory lane, let’s go.” said his daughter who was now starting to feel exhausted by the scorching heat. For one last time he looked over what used to be his farm, he remembered walking through the swamp mud and checking for his foot prints. But today even as a tear rolled down his cheek and hit the ground there was not a tiny impinge of it.

The END.

This is purely fictional. And I hope it remains a work of fiction. I hope my bizarre imagination of the future is never proved to come true. And that no family of ours have to leave their roots and migrate to a foreign land because of the fear that it would impossible to survive in a place that cannot provide for us.  This was just how I envisaged after reading this piece of article here .The coal bed methane project as of today is suspended. But if it were to take place, God save us. A lot of people put their heart and soul into discovering various other alternatives to produce fuel, which brings no harm to nature. They are discouraged; some are even put in jail(That’s another story). A little support from the Govt in encouraging and experimenting with these methods may help us a lot rather than investing in methods that only leads to destruction. Do take the time to read the article else find the key points below.
Key notes from that article:
  •  Landscape to extract Methane gas:Thiruvidaimaruthur, Kumbakonam, Orathanadu, Papanasam taluk of     Thanjavur district and Kudavasal, Valangaiman, Needamangalam, Mannarkudi taluk of Thiruvarur district.
·         Steps to extract Methane
It’s present between the pores or cracks or on the surface of lignite rocks. At Mannarkudi region, underground coal seams are found from 500 ft. to 1650 ft.beneath the ground water. To extract the gas, a steel-encased hole is drilled into the underground coal seams and dewatered through pumping, which reduces pressure and releases trapped gases up to the well head. By such methods, ground level water around Cauvery delta would go below 500 ft and underground water sources around the Mannarkudi area would also go dry. There are also chances for Earthquake and sink holes.
·         Adverse impact of the project
The company would identify area to drill wells, would need pipes to connect wells, build roads and compressor stations, need vacuum devices and bore well machines. It would need space to store all the required materials to implement the CBM project, which will make the mineral rich Cauvery delta a trash filled dry area. On the one hand, the destruction of ground water and on the other hand, the impact of salt rich waste water pollution will turn Cauvery delta into a desert. (Earthquakes, land retreat and other natural disasters have happened in the areas where Methane is taken, in the United States of America). Agriculture and the society dependent on agriculture will be ruined if this project is implemented. They are planning to extract coal from underground using this chance to their best.Disaster is not only for Mannarkudi, but also for entire Tamil Nadu.
·         As with all carbon based fossil fuels, burning coal-bed methane releases carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere and contributes to global warming.Methane is rated as having 72 times more effect on global warming than CO2 over 25 years, so there are significant concerns about the ultimate effect of CBM production.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

10 Day Challenge - Day 10

I am no big fan of confessions. If I haven’t done it so far, there is no reason I am going to do one now. But rules are rules right! When it comes to secrets I always remember the dialogue that Old Rose says in Titanic “A woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets.”I may or may not have secrets; If I do I am taking them with me to the grave. So I am not going to confess anything that is going to turn my world upside down. (I may actually not have any too, but I like to keep it mystique).  Mostly I am an open book, who prefers to choose truth over dares any day. I spent an entire day thinking what I should confess about, I got nothing.

There is one thing though which a couple of people in my life may already know about. It isn't a confession, because it isn't like I want to keep it hidden. It’s merely admittance of someone I once used to be. I may have been a bit of a snob in my formative years. Not because of any other reason, but I preferred to stick to people who I thought are like me. That is human tendency right? Birds of the same feather flock together. But today I feel bad when I realize I don’t recall names of most of my classmates. Trust me you don’t want to be there. That awkward moment when a classmate walks up to you and waves and you look behind you to make sure he isn't talking to someone else. Yeah,Embarrassing.  And then at college, I was no better.  For most part of my college I thought this is no place for me. I kept wondering every morning why I left city to come and learn at a village like this. (Tagorians, if you are reading, please don’t hate me. It was a long time ago!) I was uptight, judgmental and too shallow. Don’t imagine me as one of those characters in mean girls, things weren't so bad.It's not like I was the hottest chick in the block or the richest one too who thought little about everyone else. I just had a few reservations about certain people and didn't make an effort to know them.

But a lot has changed since then. College was the place that it all changed. And post college at work. I met a lot of people from all walks of life and made some great friends who have broken a lot of fallacy I had about them. A wider exposure to life has changed my outlook, in a positive way. I gathered life isn't to live superficially but to embrace everyone, or at least to give it a chance. I understood that we don’t have to be opinionated about people all the time, we could be wrong. Like they say don’t judge a book by its cover. A person shouldn't be judged by his background or appearance and sometimes not even by his actions. We don’t know what the circumstances must have been. I am happy I not a snobbish person who throws a lot of attitude, though my husband feels at times that version of me surfaces. Well change doesn't happen overnight. I am a better person today, trying to be better with each day that passes.

Finally the challenge is over! Phew. A few of my friends who have been following have been kind enough to appreciate my writings and I thank each one of you for it. It meant a lot to me and has kept me going to finish this. Thanks again! 

Friday, March 21, 2014

10 Day Challenge - Day 9

Feelings come and go like clouds in a sky. Like waves, you cannot stop them from coming but you can decide which ones to surf. Like they say “We might be the master of our own thoughts, yet we are the slaves of our own emotions”. Imagine a life without emotions. Wouldn’t it be like robots, a life without LIFE?  No laughter, No sorrow, No love? We probably then would be on a mad chase to find something to make us feel alive. Hard to imagine! And imagine no smileys around to express your emotions. I would spend all my time trying to gauge the mood of the person on the other end. I am a big time text person; I would rarely dial a number, if I can text. And an excessive user of smileys while texting.  Sometimes they convey what words don’t. 
So if I had to pick two smileys that describe my life right now, one would be excited smiley. The last two days it has been the most dominant emotion. A couple whom I am good friends with had a beautiful baby boy yesterday and all of us have been so excited and delightful for them. Right from Tuesday night we have all been anxiously waiting and annoying the father for hourly updates and after close to 24 hours we received the much awaited news! I wasn’t around when my niece came into this world, so this was like the closest experience I have had to the whole pregnancy and child birth thing. Truly it felt miraculous to hold the tiny one in my arms, and look into his eyes that had no malice, and had innocence written all over him. I have come to believe that a child is truly a blessing to a mother sent straight from God, in its purest form. It makes one realize that life is not merely function and utility but form and beauty. The happiness a baby brings along with its birth is unmatched to any achievement. When the mother put her arm around the baby and says the pain I experienced was worthwhile you understand that it’s the purest form of love. No amount of words would do justice to how touched I feel about the whole thing. Let’s just say it was like witnessing an incredible greatness and nothing less than a miracle.

The other smiley would be thinking. I have been working on an assignment that needs to be submitted today and it is all about education in Finland and how they are the best, the key being excellent teachers. And how we can improve ours using their education model.  So my brain has been doing a lot of flip flops to come up with an essay. But I really do wish there is a change brought about in our education system. It saddens me that excellent education in India is only for the privileged. Even today it takes generations (or sometimes never) for one to break the cycle of poverty that affects his family, because quality education isn’t readily available. The figures show 90% of our children don’t graduate from schools. Disheartening!  I feel blessed and lucky to be in the 10%.  But something to worry about isn’t it? Especially when they say the future of the country lies in today’s children. Hmmm…

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

10 Day Challenge - Day 8

Ways to win my heart, turn offs, and now turn ons. What is next? It Feels like I am filling up my profile on a matchmaking website.  Ha! Jokes apart,When it comes to romance I am a big sucker for the Bolllywood types! I often wonder in real if one could fall in love so easily like those in Yash Chopra’s movies.  Sadly I haven’t experienced any ‘violin melodies playing in the BG’ moments but yes those moments when you fall head over heels in love with someone, when you feel butterflies in your stomach those I have.  And so reasoning out why should be easy. (I am obviously not going to tell you what really turns me on, you thought I would?  J )

    1.Mesmerizing Eyes: Not the blue eyed ones (though I wish I had dated someone with blue eyes), just the ones that look at  me and make me feel weak in the knees. The one whose looks could kill. Many a times we convey a lot through our eyes. That moment when your eyes meet someone’s and you can read a thousand words that go unsaid. (Well, you can always imagine 1000 words right; even if he has no clue his eyes are saying that ;)) Soulful eyes, with an intense look (I should read sincerity in it), will make me melt. (You should know this is all hypothetical alright, I can’t go melting anymore at just a look thrown at me now. Too late! Wink!Wink!)

    2.Good music, dim lights and scented candles: The stage is set, how about a few delectable munchies and cocktails to go with it? And someone who is witty. And someone who can strike up an intelligent conversation. Of course I mean one person with both these qualities!

     3.Dance to a melody: Salsa, waltz or Jive it takes two to Tango! It is okay neither have I mastered them, just swaying together to the song would do. I enjoy dancing and that’s when you will find me in the best of my spirits.

Jeez, thank god there is no fourth point; it’s a No Brainer what happens next! 

Make me drown with your looks and remind me why I love you,
Feel my hands gently, hold them tight and pull me towards you,
Make me laugh and show me a good time, I’ll waltz away with you into the night.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

10 Day Challenge - Day 7

The interest I had initially in this 10 day challenge is kind of wearing off on me. It feels like am beating around the bush. Nevertheless, I would like to finish it, rather than abandon it having come this far.

So do you need four ways to make me walk away in the other direction when I see you? Here it comes.

    1.Egotistical: Who isn't self obsessed? In healthy amounts it is okay. But I get annoyed easily when someone acts like they are superior and demean others.  This attitude just oozes out in every action of theirs. A definite NO NO for me.

    2.Superficial –Another character I can’t tolerate. I don’t see the purpose of putting on a mask and hiding behind it. Just doesn't work for me, I can see right through it but I may not call it. And then it’s a ‘NO ENTRY’ sign that waits for them.

    3. This one is tricky. Oversensitive – I feel like I am walking on egg shells and don’t know how much to tell so that they won’t feel bad. I don’t like a conversation to be like a battle, like I need to think about each word I have to say. I have a problem with people being Insensitive too. In this case I fail to connect. Finding the balance is the key

    4.  Violent, Aggressive, ill-mannered: Be one of them and I will not respect you. I detest such people and would just like to curl up in a ball and hide.