Saturday, June 6, 2009

I travel by BEST bus number 505 from chembur to bandra SV Road in the morning. This bus starts from Belapur culminating its journey at Bandra station.

On most days the driver decides not to stop the bus on enroute stops even if it is fairly vacant. If he is kind enough to stop, you realize that the first six seats (behind the driver) are occupied by employees of BEST!! The seats on the other side are reserved for the senior citizens and handicapped.

You resign and are mentally prepared to stand...but what happens??? the driver drives rashly and applies break every 5 minutes as a result of which you are swaying and bumping into your co passenger(both standing in front of you and behind you)...Its an extremely uncomfortable journey you end up reaching your place of work with your whole body aching. However you notice that the driver is smirking and enjoying the discomfort that the passengers are facing.

We do not grudge the seats reserved for certain categories (senior citizens) but are there seats reserved for BEST employees???

The scene repeats in the evening. The bus starts from Bandra bus depot. . . .there are about 100-150 people patiently standing in the the que and the BEST employees come and enter through the front door and ensure that they occupy the front seats. Imagine the feelings of the people standing in the heat for so long and not being able to get a place to sit!!

Despite protests to the driver/conductor and inspectors at the depot there is no action…they are mute spectators to the whole drama and they ignore pleas from the people.

BEST employees should not be allowed to break the line and enter from the front while the general public is waiting in the line for hours

There should be a cap on the number of BEST employees in uniform can travel free of cost in each route. BEST employees are allowed to travel free of cost in public transport but occupy seats only if there are no passengers standing

Alternatively BEST can run seperate buses for their employees so that we are spared of the daily ordeal.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Come…Let me help you!!!..You need help!!!

I registered as a volunteer for the “Teach India” project initiated by Times of India on the third day of the scheme being launched. I really loved the spirit behind the project and was looking forward to being an active volunteer.

I was allotted as a volunteer to Kotak Education Fund. I attended the first meeting in July in which about 15 to 20 like minded people from various professions were present. We had all opted for volunteering on Sunday mornings. So here we were together under one roof. In the adjoining room were a bunch of young 16-17 years old both boys and girls who had scored above 80 % in the STD 10 board exams and had secured admission in various colleges in the vicinity.

The project was ‘mentoring’ and each one of us had to ‘mentor’ the students on a one-to-one basis. We were supposed to help them learn ‘spoken English’ thus helping them to face the outside world. The thought behind this project seemed to be noble… teach them conversational English thus bringing them at par with their counterparts in college. This would also help them to have a level playing field in the job market once they had graduated. I am sure the officials at KEC would have had a number of brain storming sessions before launching the project.

My mentee was a boy who had just passed Std 10 with 86% marks. He had secured admission in good college in Std 11 and I was supposed to help him speak English, discuss various career options and generally boost his morale.

The actual scene…..I had one introductory session with him on 20 July and then a session in the second week of August after which I have had no sessions with him. For reasons best know to the concerned people, no sessions were fixed until Sunday the 16 September when I received a message from KEF…'Dear mentor we hope to see you on Sunday at 9 AM. Your mentee will be waiting for you'. My enthusiasm had died by now. I had really wanted to do something for children who have the capability but do not have opportunities. I felt I had not contributed much in that direction.
Nevertheless, I felt responsible to keep up my commitment. I reached the KEF’s office at 9.15 to be informed that my ‘mentee’ had not yet come but had confirmed that he would be coming. I sat down and patiently waited for him. I picked up the previous day’s ‘Mumbai Mirror’ and started solving the sudoko (the number puzzle) At around 10, a volunteer of the KEF informed that my mentee was on his way and would reach any moment. Simultaneously another mentor who was waiting was informed that his mentee was ‘sick’ and so was not coming. I kept myself engrossed in the sudoko to keep me busy. By 10.40 I had solved the puzzle but my ‘mentee’ had still not reached. I approached the volunteer and informed her it would not be possible to wait any longer. I had waited for 90 minutes! Believe me she was more than relieved! One person less to deal with!! The poor girl was under so much stress….explaining her stand and also narrating the steps that she had taken to inform the mentees. A number of volunteers were still waiting when I left at 10.45.
While going back home a few thoughts came to my mind
Do we ask the person if he needs help or do we ‘assume’ that he needs help and that we know the best way to help?
Just having good intentions is not enough…

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Count Your Blessings!!!

It was a lazy Sunday morning. I had decided to relax since I had had a hectic weekend.
But that was not to happen….My maid did not turn up…..No amount of coaxing her can motivate her enough to inform me about her absence in advance. I usually empathize with the maids. I always feel that emergencies may confront them just as they could to anyone else. But my maid never informs….even if it is a pre-planned leave…it is always made out to be an emergency by spinning a convincing story. I was ANGRY!!! My plans went phut..I wanted to chill and here I was without a maid and soiled utensils waiting to be washed!
I had no choice so I stomped into the kitchen and decided to start with washing.…I was still angry so the utensils were thrown and they clanked and cluttered. As I was performing my task, I started thinking….A few thoughts that came to my mind……
Thank GOD it is a Sunday so I’m at home. What if I had to come back from work and do this?
Thank GOD I have free flowing water in my tap. What if I had to wash with water filled in buckets?
Thank GOD I don’t have to do this on every Sunday.
Thank GOD I do not have guests today.
Thank GOD I am physically fit to perform the tasks

And I could have gone on and on counting my blessings…..Suddenly the frown disappeared and I was smiling and humming away a popular song and actually enjoying the task. I completed all the remaining jobs with a positive frame of mind.
The outcome of this was ...The job was done much better than what the maid would have done.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Parents' Let's Reflect!!!

A 10 year boy studying in Std 4 who is generally very vibrant and chirpy came to my room today. Surprisingly, he looked very listless and unhappy. He was also trying to hold back his tears. It seemed that he wanted to share something with me but was hesitant. I offered him a glass of water and gave him the choice to share his thoughts when he was comfortable.

After some deliberations, he shared that he was disappointed since he was not chosen to participate in the story telling session. His teacher had rejected him over the other three children in the selection round. He strongly felt that his story had a moral as per the requirements and that he also narrated the story with ‘good’ expressions. The boy was visibly upset and indignant at having been rejected in the elimination rounds. In his anxiety he spoke very fast and it took me some effort to understand what he wanted to convey.

In order to ease the situation, I asked him to narrate the story that was rejected. He willingly obliged and I appreciated his story, diction and expressions. I then asked his opinion about his ‘opponents’X, Y &Z. How had they fared? By now, he had regained a little bit of his original spirit. His eyes lit up and he said ‘Very good’
'So how many marks (out of 10) would YOU give them?'
He said he would give X and Y full marks (10/10) and Z would get 9/10.
'How many marks would you give yourself?'
He thought for a while and said 8/10. There was silence. I thought he was retrospecting.
Then he fumbled
‘I know they should have been selected, their stories were good and they said it well’ I’m OK with that but………….but what? I asked.
But my mother will be very angry…. He again thought for a while and said…she will be sad…she will feel v bad.
Why? I was taken aback. ….
Because she will say that I practiced so much but still I was not chosen. Why did I not say it well? She helped me to learn and my father selected the story. He will be VERY ANGRY.
All emotions had come back as he probably visualised the scene at home after he broke the 'sad' news. So what will you do? I asked? ‘I will not tell her that I am not chosen’ he replied promptly…in a tone indicating that that was the only obvious thing to do……. ‘I can’t tell her’ he reiterated shaking his head with lines of worry on his forehead.

But is that the right thing to do? I prodded. Instantly he said ‘No’ and shrugged his shoulders as if to say I know its not the best thing to do but do I have a choice?

It so happened that ultimately he did participate in the story telling session since they required one more student but I was left with a few thoughts.

1) Children can be very logical…when explained in a logical manner, they understand and accept even if the verdict is against them.
2) Children learn to speak lies in order to avoid unpleasent situations and continue to speak lies if they are successful in their venture.
3) Children do not want to disappoint their parents…..or do not want to face their criticisms or snide remarks for not meeting THEIR expectations or fulfilling THEIR desires.

All of us well meaning parents….We need to WAKE UP

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Media Menace!!!

Two little girls around 10 years of age came to me this afternoon. In fact one of them had brought the other girl who looked very frightened and worried. Her eyes were red and swollen indicating that she had been crying for long. She was full of emotions and could hardly speak. Her friend informed me that she had been crying all morning because she was convinced that the world would be coming to an end tonight at 10 PM. She had watched the news report on a popular TV channel last night! A few other children joined us and animatedly started describing what was going to happen tonight. One boy with all his wisdom declared that the earth would have big black holes which would suck all of us. Another imaginative child announced that the universe would be destroyed because the sun would land on the earth. There were lots of comments and counter comments passing back and forth. The influence of visuals, the media and the dramatic performance of the anchor of the TV program was so strong that it took me quite a while to convince her that there was no truth in what she saw or heard on the TV. When I probed a little she expressed that she was worried because her father returned from office at 10 in the night and what would happen if the hole in the earth sucked him? The poor girl was so worried that she hadn’t been able to concentrate in class. I suggested that she could reach home and call her father and ask him to reach home before 10 tonight . She had probably not thought about this possibility and her face broke into a smile showing her cute dimples. There was relief on her face and she went to class. After an hour or so she came back smiling and said ‘Thank you miss I am feeling so nice and I am not feeling scared any more’

I genuinely believed that the media –especially the Television has created a revolution in India. It has reached most of the villages and even illiterate people in the cities were aware of the happenings in the different parts of the country and the world. My maid would discuss the day’s important happenings with me as soon as she arrived at my house. She would emphatically give her opinion on every issue, would sympathize with the flood victims and whole heartedly criticize the authorities for handling the situation inefficiently. All this was the result of TV watching.Since I am not an avid T.V watcher, very often I would be ignorant about what she was talking about and hence had to just nod my head in agreement with a few stray general remarks. But I did get the latest news update from her. As such, I was very impressed with the power of the television and thought that it was playing an important role in influencing and empowering the masses. I was sure that it would play a very important role in India’s progress until I came across this girl today……
I had also watched the story of the ‘World’s biggest experiment’ the BIG BANG on India TV, CNN yesterday…so I was aware of the hype but had definitely not believed the anchor who I must say was highly dramatic both in words and actions and was trying his level best to convince his viewers. ..I can’t say if he himself was really convinced or he was a good actor. However he had succeeded in influencing the little impressionable minds.
I would have remained convinced about the positive impact of the television had I not encountered this little girl today. I wonder how many negative thoughts must have crossed her little head!!! I hope her father acceded to her request. It would surely have reduced her agony.

Friday, August 29, 2008



I interact with children ages 8 to14 as a part of my job

A boy studying in class 4 (around 10 years) seemed to be angry all the time. He was huge… much taller and heavier than his class mates. That also made him stronger than the rest of the class. He often got teased by his peers and that obviously made him angry. Since he scored over his peers in terms of his strength, he would get even with them by harming the little ones physically. Depending on his mood, he would either catch the child by his collar and bang his head against the wall or just lift a child and drop him down. The ‘culprit’ may have laughed at his awkward way of running during the games period or just refused to include him in the football team!!!Efforts to make him realize that the consequences of his actions could be fatal were futile.
After one such incident, he was sent to my room along with the little girl who was crying inconsolably…..she looked scared and shocked ….I’m not sure which feeling was more pronounced. She had laughed at him when he fell off from the slide while playing in the garden and he had twisted her hand to get even!!!
I thought he looked guilty…perhaps he was feeling bad since the girl was crying continuously interspersed with ‘See my hand it is so red it is paining he beat me etc etc’
Probably he realized that he had used his strength disproportionately on her delicate hands. He confessed that he had not imagined that the consequences would be so grave. In that vulnerable moment, he expressed that he usually lost control when he was angry and that he wanted to become ‘good’ Could I help him? I was not expecting this. Nevertheless I was impressed but I must confess that I was at a loss as to how I could help him since it was not my arena. I quickly thought about the strategies (to shoo away the anger) that I had given to my own children when they were young. All this while the boy and the little girl were looking at me expectantly…..
Then I came up with an idea and told him with all my wisdom ‘Whenever you are angry, clench your fist and say Om, Om, Om three times in your mind. Your anger will slowly go away’. I just could not think of anything else. He seemed to like the idea and went away with a promise to follow the strategy in future. The little girl had also stopped crying by then and she too seemed to approve of this idea. I also felt happy at having disposed of the matter successfully (I thought)
A few days later when I .chanced to pass by his class I noticed that a boy had opened my hero’s pencil box and scattered his pencils all over the place. He was very ANGRY!!. I waited with bated breathe and watched expectantly…what would he do?
He got up from his place, stomped to the centre of the class, clenched his fists and screamed loudly three times OM, OM, OM.There was pin drop silence in the class. A few boys hurriedly picked up the pencils and put them back in his box. The timid ones were taken aback with his roaring voice and were quietly scared. He went back in a huff and sat down on his seat seemingly satisfied with his performance.
He had followed my strategy!!! At least he had not physically harmed anyone I thought to myself.Every time I think of this incident, I cannot but help laughing loudly

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Grab every opportunity

Last year I was asked to attend a workshop on ‘AIDS AWARENESS’. It was not a part of my work profile so as a normal expected behaviour I protested.
‘Why should I know about AIDS?’ ‘Once I attend this workshop, I will be asked to take sessions for students and maybe teachers also’ ‘I will be detracting from my core profession of being a special educator’ and many more such thoughts came to my mind. I also voiced a few of these thoughts to the authorities but they went unheard and ultimately I had to attend the two day workshop. So I went for the first session in protest.
This was being conducted by the Maharashtra Aids Society and was a well planned and informative session. As the session proceeded, I learnt so many new things…it was an eye opener. We always think and believe that a particular issue does not concern us. We do not know anyone who is suffering from AIDS, what can I do about it etc, etc

But believe me after attending the session I learnt a lot and understood the gravity of the situation in India. I felt responsible for spreading awareness among teenagers (since I had access to them) who could become victims due to lack of awareness about AIDS. Surely we conducted AIDS awareness programs for teachers and students of high school(I volunteered to do it!!). Many young students came up with many valid questions and I was happy that I could satisfy their curiosity. Before attending the workshop,I was inhibited to talk about sex or any related topics openly. In fact I had never spoken about this to my own children when they were small.Fortunately they were science students and probably managed to gain information from their own sources. And here was me explaining facts to students without a shade of embarassment. I had surely benefitted.
But the most important lesson that I learnt from this ….Everything that we learn in life is never a waste. GRAB every opportunity to learn and make the most of it.