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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Man’s obsession with history

PS:- When I say men in this article, I mean people

All of us love history, at least a little (unless you are still in school and are reading it in textbooks). There are some men who love it more than others. They will read an occasional book or two on interesting events, or watch an occasional documentary to go back in time. They are in awe of the intricate cave painting done by humans 50,000 years ago, or of the first republic that established by the Romans. Yet, there are some men who are incessantly obsessed about history. They know the history of the world. They read about it, think about it, discuss it, ask questions on things that don’t make sense, and thus go back and read, think, discuss more to find these answers. You know who they are. You have met them.

For the longest time, I could not understand why these men are so obsessed with history and historical figures. Could it be a general need to know it all? But then some of them don’t pay attention to the current affairs of the world at all. Like if it isn’t old, it isn’t interesting. Could it be the need to understand the differences in the world today, or reminiscence happier times when the power equations were reversed? But I have seen men from all over the world, and from all social classes with a similar obsession.

Could it then simply be the need to be remembered? Do these men dig into the archives to find names that stand out, because these names are their true heros, remembered over decades, centuries and millennia? Is the act of historical obsession another form of hero worship? Would that then explain men who value power being obsessed with politics? Or some who value money being obsessed with the biographies of billionaires? Might also explain women who value beauty being obsessed with the lifestyles of celebrities.
Seems simplistic, yet entirely plausible.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Only way to get over things is to realize that there is nothing to get over

"He died because of me... I did not say a proper farewell the last time I met him. I ran away to catch my train... without a backward glance. I knew he was sick, but I thought that he will recover. I thought we will speak at length the next time. When he was feeling better. When I had more time. He passed away before I returned. I should have stayed on and fought with him."
For 9 years, she believed he died because of her. Because if she was there she could have done something differently. She would have supported him. Helped somehow. Given a pound of flesh to keep him alive. It was her fault. She left. She could never forgive herself for that. She was someone you could not trust. She was someone who would run away from problems. Always.

Our worst traumas, our emotional disturbances, and the low points in our lives often have nothing to do with the root cause of the problem. Don't be indignant. It is traumatic to lose loved ones, to live through broken relationships and promises, to fail at something that means a lot. The reality of it is cruel. However, the reality is a fact. A word. An incident. A span of time. It happens. It is life.
In our minds though, it is a failing - a failing of the self that we construct carefully for ourselves, a failing of the false feeling of control that we have on our lives, a failing of us as the most important celebrities on our own planet, or on someone else's. We feel we failed, and we feel that the failure is significant. Something to get over. Something to fight. Something to fuss over constantly, in a bid to forget.

Have we really failed though? Have we? What is failure? If trying to achieve something new, and not being able to is failure - we did in fact fail. If fighting against all odds to get what you want is failure - we indeed did fail miserably. The truth however, is that there is no failure. It is our game. We created it in our mind. We played it and we didn't win based on our own rules. And then we never forgave ourselves for losing.

Did she create a game to fight for his life? Yes. Did her game mean that she had to be there by his side "fighting" with him till the end? Yes. And she did not do that. Simple. Could she have played another game? Yes. Could she have changed the outcome of his death? No. Would her guilt bring him back? No. Does her failing at her game mean that she is a failure in "life"? No. Does it mean she cant be trusted? No. Does it mean anything except that fact that he succumbed to a disease and is not an active part of her life anymore? No.

Is there anything to get over? No.

It really is that simple.

The day we lose the significance of what happened, the day we can talk about it in facts, the way we can brush it aside as reality, that is the day we truly "get over it". Everything else is a sham. A facade to cover a facade.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The sound of silence

I talk very little. I don't like to waste words. Talk seems unimportant, even conceited. What is so important that I have to say to the world that the world doesn't already know. Is this, that I am sharing, listening, asking, going to change the other person's life? Just a bit? At least for a moment?

They say words are important for people to get to know each other. Are they really? What does an empty exchange of words tell you about me? Am I sharing my fears with you? The thoughts that keep me up at night? Am I sharing my moments with you? Those that make me who I am? What does my last trip to a random destination really tell you about me? Except maybe what I can afford.

When will people really start talking to each other? Where does the stage end and reality begin? Cut through a facade, and it gets replaced by another. We want our lives to follow a script - a predictable arc, and facades allow us to string together a narrative of what our lives are about.

There isn't anything wrong. This is just one way of looking at things. But I do wonder, how life would be, if we all just said what we know to be the truth in our hearts. All the time. Would it make the world a better place, or will it plunge us into an unpredictable chaos? Well the latter I assume, but would that be more real than the lives we live. Does reality even matter? What is reality anyways except for a perspective?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Organizing the first Chess Jugalbandi Event in Delhi


The run up to the event had been rough. I had not been in integrity, hiding behind my busy schedule and travel, and the team was not empowered to run without a leader. When I got back from Dubai two weeks before the scheduled event date of 20th December, I realized that we did not have a venue or participants. I was tempted to give up at this point. I was annoyed with the team for not moving without me. I felt alone. “Nobody was ready to take up responsibility in my life.” “Why should it always be me?” “Why do I need to be responsible for everything?”
Over the next three hours of stewing, feeling dejected and introspecting in turns, it dawned on me that I was not empowering people in my life. I wanted to be important to them. So, I needed them to rely on me. They were doing exactly that, and I was resisting them for giving me “all the” responsibilities. I was doing the same with my Jugalbandi team. I hadn’t created the context of the event with them, nor had I created the right structures for them to lead their tasks. In reality, the team had immense potential. Each of the Jugalbandi team members had jumped in to support the event without any clarity on what it would involve, and was ready to give it his best shot. I realized that I was the problem, which was great because I could solve it.
Sunil, the founder of Astha and I decided to go ahead and announce 20th as the date of the event, relying on the team to pull it through. The team however still needed to be brought along.
I immediately called Rajkumar to fix the venue. He cut short the bureaucratic process to confirm it on the same day – “written confirmations and monetary advance payment do not mean as much as a man’s word.” We finalized the basement of the Knowledge Bus Global Preschool in Gurgaon as our venue for Rs.10,000. The next important task was to enroll participants.
Rajkumar is an international arbiter who has a chess academy in Ghaziabad and coaches students in Gurgaon schools. I had found his contact online as the arbiter and organizer of a previous chess competition in Delhi. I had proceeded to contact him on Facebook and met him once in Cyber Hub. He had instantly agreed to join the team. He saw the event as an opportunity to enroll new students and generate publicity for his academy, while contributing to the world of immensely talented visually challenged players. With Rajkumar’s connects in the chess community, registration of sighted players was a cakewalk. We prepared a deck on game rules, logistical details and price money (Rs.30,000) and he posted it on his Facebook forums. Within a day or two we had registered 50 sighted players.
Registration of visually challenged players however, was a different ball game. Till five days before the event we had none. “It all comes down to registering visually challenged players in the end. That is what will determine the success of your event.” - Sunil told me.
Shivangi had taken up the task of enrolling visually challenged players, but it was proving to be an uphill battle. Shivangi is a post graduate dentist, teaching students older than herself in a college in Rishikesh. She also happens to be my cousin. Shivangi did her post-graduation project with the disabled, spending hours trying to figure out the best ways to give them dental care. When I had asked her to support the project, she had instantly agreed, feeling energized by it. The problem at hand was that end of December is holiday season for some blind schools and colleges in Delhi and examination time for the others. Students from these institutes were thus back home in their towns and villages or were studying hard to excel at exams. One particular school even had their annual day on the same day as our event. To top this, a lot of older players were away in Mumbai for a visually challenged chess series. We had clearly not timed the event right, but now was not the time to think about that.
Five days before the event, we pressed the breakdown button on visually challenged registrations. Shivangi and I called more than 30-40 blind schools in Delhi asking for registrations. We also contacted Kaul ji via Sunil to help connect to blind associations. Kaul ji is a Padma Shri Award Recipient and the Secretary General of All India Confederation of the Blind. He knows all big and small organizations working in this field in Delhi, and was kind enough to send Chess Jugalbandi invites to a lot of them. Rajkumar also knew some blind schools and reached out to them. He also reached out to the Haryana state chess association to call for entries. Finally, with a lot of collaboration and team effort, registrations started pouring in. On the day of the event, we had 28 visually challenged participants.
The final major task was that of raising sponsorships to fund the event. I created a campaign on Ketto and started sharing it with my friends on Facebook, encouraging them to share it further. I also mailed half of my office with a request for donations. Funds came in from totally unexpected quarters. My friend Abhimanyu’s friend who is a promoter in Salasar Group saw the post and reached out with contributions. Colleagues came forward to donate money and share about the campaign. Old friends, whom I hadn’t met for a long time reached out with encouragement and funds. My brother and husband’s friends contributed. Shivangi’s college colleagues contributed. My dad reached out with CSR funds from his company, even though I never asked. Bit by bit, with a lot of push from many friends, we raised a total of ~Rs.80,000 for the event. A major part of the contributions were spent on prizes, venue, food, conveyance (for visually challenged players), arbiters’ fee, and chess boards. Other expenses included table rentals, printing of banners and certificates, clock rental, stationary, water, etc.
There were many other volunteers who helped pull the event to its conclusion.
Vijay, who runs a blood donation helpline in Delhi managed the event and supported the visually challenged players with his amazing team of volunteers. He also ensured media publicity by getting Sunil’ interview aired on FM radio.
Siddharth from the marketing department at Bain & Co (my workplace) helped design and print the banners and certificates.
Rajesh, who works with Genpact as a senior consultant helped capture the event with his camera.
My brother Nishant, who is a General Manager at Jindal Steel & Power helped organize tea, snacks, and lunch for all participants. Thanks to him we were continuously well fed with pav bhaji, matar kulcha, aaloo poori, patties, samosas and tons of biscuits and chai. He also helped manage the logistics on the day of the event, with my husband Aditya who is the founder of Toko Innovation Studios.
The event went wonderfully, like a charm. Visually challenged players were excited at getting an opportunity to compete head on with sighted players. Sighted players were overwhelmed with the ability, skill and determination that visually challenged players exhibited. Many sighted players lost games against visually challenged players. A young sighted player with a FIDE ranking in 1000s, choked when telling me how the event had moved her, and how this was the first time she was experiencing such a competition since she started playing 8 years ago. Mothers of sighted players who had accompanied their children almost wished that their children would lose against the wonder of their opponents’ game. What started as a chess competition quickly turned into a window between two different worlds, the confluence of which was touching and inspiring. Everybody wanted another event of the kind very soon. Everybody left richer than when they entered the room.
For me, the event for an expression of who I want to be as an individual. I want to create possibilities for others. I want people around me to move beyond the ordinary to the extraordinary. I want them to realize their potential and soar, and in their flight I find my bliss.

[Pardon me for using the word blind instead of visually challenged, which I personally find more appropriate. However, most such schools and associations in Delhi refer to their community as the “blind”.]
Event pictures here - https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153830403631974&type=1&l=708dd6cc47

Monday, April 15, 2013

Nothing worthwhile to say


After a point, you cease to reach out to the world. Your life seems to be confined inside yourself, your thoughts and your emotions. Then suddenly in spurts you come in contact with the world, view it like an observer, try to understand it -- and then give up to return to your paradigm. The world is a beautiful place with trees, flowers and falling leaves. In the midst of this you feel an emptiness. Aimlessness. You search for the meaning of life only to have to be forced to create one. You reflect on what is really important and if anything really is important. You create new plans, you create things to look forward to... but your mind keeps reeling. It is so meaningless after all? You feel like laughing out loud. You feel like mocking yourself. You realize the absurdity of it all. Then you feel a calm engulf you. Your heart is silent and so is your mind. They have nothing worthwhile to say.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Why do we need an Education Revolution community?

I formed this community to reach out. I am in search of people who believe, like I do, that our education system needs to reform. I am looking for people who have a nagging feeling that it is not worth spending 18 years of our life and then some more, studying things that might or might not have any bearing on our lives, who believe that we have narrowed down the definition and path of success so much that children start getting slotted as successful or unsuccessful from the age of 5. I want people to take a step back and think if we are doing justice to our children and their children by not teaching them to think on their own and survive in this increasingly complex world.

My intention is not to make you agree or even to ridicule the system that has got me to where I am today. What I am trying to say is that our world is changing, its needs are changing and our systems need to change too. We don’t need factory-produced mass manufactured workers. We need innovators and creators. To survive in the ever-competitive world, our children need to learn to fail, they need to learn to think out of the box, to get along in teams, to create goals and achieve them and to communicate their vision powerfully as leaders of tomorrow.
In general, this community aims to target basic problems in the education system like high teacher absenteeism, high student absenteeism, poor teacher-student ratio, high student drop our rates, poor average scores of students in assessment tests, poor infrastructure in most schools, lack of emphasis on extra curricular activities, lack of customization of syllabus to rural and regional needs, lack of vocation training courses, poor teacher training, lack of student and teacher feedback system, lack of technological use and interactive tools to improve understanding of basic concepts, lack of teaching by experience and experimentation, lack of education about environmental and other societal issues, lack of opportunities for building careers in most fields except for a few selected ones, lack of training in basic life skills such as overcoming failure, creating possibilities, communicating with people and listening to people and lack of parent education.

However, the real question is – what should an ideal education system for the 21st century look like? How exactly would an education system that solves all above problems be defined?
This is the question that bugs me continuously. This is the answer I am seeking. This community was formed in the hope that by gathering bits and pieces of changes in education across the world, we will piece together the ideal education system. The hope is not of an overnight miracle, but that of making those small changes and taking those small steps that will lead to a transformation in education, as we perceive it today.
For this, I need your support. I need you to add people to this community who can support this cause. I also need you to help me collate the amazing work being done on education from across the world. You could post these links in the community. You could also share information about the existing problems in education systems. But, most importantly, I hope that you will share your idea of an ideal education system that we can pass on to our children to ensure their happiness in the world that we are creating for them.

VISIT educationrevolution.in for more details..

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Why Revolutionize?


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As a kid, I loved hovering around trees. My mom advised me not to pluck leaves and flowers from tress at night. She told me that trees too need sleep.  At the age of 8, everybody in my class laughed at me, when I repeated my mom’s advice to my science teacher Ms Rita. When I was 3 years old, I colored an apple black. My teacher laughed when she saw my notebook. Later my brother  teased me about my ‘lack of common sense’. Guess what? When I was 14, I saw black apples, especially produced with extra iron content half way across the globe. Growing up, I did not play much with the kids in my locality. I didn’t read any  books except my course books and I didn’t watch enough TV. As a result, I scored very well in my exams including standing third in the city of Mumbai(Bombay). I  thought I knew a thing or two about the real world. But time would teach me better.

When I started interacting with the real world, I quickly realized my  lack of general knowledge and current affairs. What however was not so apparent was my lack of creativity, social skills and life skills. I did not relate well to people. I could not understand how things worked on my own. I needed to read about everything. My observation was poor. I simply didn’t know how to educate myself through experience and observation. I couldn’t deal with failure or the ability to dissect things down to their core.

Slowly it dawned on me what I had missed. If I had played enough, I would be able to get along with people, be healthier, sportier, and good at strategies and would also learn to deal with failure. If I had read enough fiction, I would be able to think of the unknown and the unheard, firing my imagination to the next level. If I had noticed how my mom makes butter or dusts the carpet, I would use science and not just learn it. If I had watched TV and read enough books and magazines, I would know how the real world works. I would know that wars have nothing to do with peace. I would know that foreign aid has nothing to do with aid. I would know that friendly relations between nations have nothing to do with friends.  At the age of 21, I understood what I had missed out on.

Don’t get me wrong though. I am proud of everything I got and everything that I chose to do with it. I am thankful for the very best in education that my parents provided me. But that is my problem – Is this was what the very best of education provides?. We can’t even comprehend what the very worst provides, where 1 in 3 teachers in governement schools have not gone to school for the past whole academic year. Our education needs reform.

VISIT educationrevolution.in for more details
Will be continued… :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Right to Education

A good resource on Right to Education act - http://www.facebook.com/update_security_info.php?wizard=1#!/rteindia

McKinsey Research in Education

How does a school system improve?

New research suggests that common sets of interventions can help systems move from one performance level to the next, without regard to culture, geography, politics, or history.

http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Public_Sector/Education/How_does_a_school_system_improve_2713

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Purchasing lessons for schools

Districts that improve their purchasing processes can capture significant savings.

http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Public_Sector/Education/Purchasing_lessons_for_schools_1350

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The economic cost of the US education gap

Gaps in academic achievement cost the US economy trillions of dollars a year. Yet there is reason to think they could be closed.

http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Public_Sector/Education/The_economic_cost_of_the_US_education_gap_2388
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Attracting and retaining top talent in US teaching

Only 23 percent of entering teachers come from the top third of their graduating class. What would it take to do better?

http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Public_Sector/Education/Attracting_and_retaining_top_talent_in_US_teaching_2673

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Promise Center

Visited the promise center yesterday near Banaswadi Bangalore. Absolutely loved the place. It is made of clay bricks. The nursery looked like a house more than a school and surely the children felt at home too. Seeing the Steiner kindergarten in reality was a dream come true. Spoke to the founder Lalitha for a long time and she explained the concept of Steiner education to me. Makes so much sense. The education system must reflect the nature of man and follow the natural process of growth. May all children go to a school that they love to go to. Would love to see the school evolve to include all grades upto 12th. Right now its only till standard 1. However there are Steiner schools in Mumbai and Hyderabad that have classes till grade 10th. Also met a few happy parents and the other teachers - Jyotsana, Usha and Gopa. The Waldorf teacher's community in India, although small seems to be growing fast. There is an IPMT conference in Bangalore from 12th to 18th December which has a separate series on Waldorf Kindergarten. Wish I could attend! If only I had known earlier. The school was a dream come true. Wish I have a similar one some day :)



Monday, November 29, 2010

Right to Education

The Right to Education (RTE) Act threatens the very existence of about 300,000 budget schools. Their fate now rests with the states, says John Samuel Raja D ....

http://www.peerpower.com/et/2927/Notice-Period

Friday, November 26, 2010

Helping young learn media arts

http://www.youtube.com/user/streetsidestoriessf

Community colleges in Tamil Nadu

http://www.thehindu.com/education/article907549.ece

Teaching through computers

The Concord Consortium has  amazing simulations and models that teach basic concepts. Must try!

"The best part about it? Hundreds of our resources are free, research-based, and available for you to use today. As a non-profit organization, we’re committed to quality science and math. And we’re focused on showing the world how technology can lead to better learning."

http://www.concord.org/about/information-for-teachers

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How Technology is Improving Education

Don Knezek, the CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education, compares education without technology to the medical profession without technology.
“If in 1970 you had knee surgery, you got a huge scar,” he says. “Now, if you have knee surgery you have two little dots.”
Technology is helping teachers to expand beyond linear, text-based learning and to engage students who learn best in other ways. Its role in schools has evolved from a contained “computer class” into a versatile learning tool that could change how we demonstrate concepts, assign projects and assess progress.
Despite these opportunities, adoption of technology by schools is still anything but ubiquitous. Knezek says that U.S. schools are still asking if they should incorporate more technology, while other countries are asking how. But in the following eight areas, technology has shown its potential for improving education.

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Read more -  http://mashable.com/2010/11/22/technology-in-education

How we learn - Ted Channel !!

http://www.ted.com/themes/how_we_learn.html

Five dangerous things for kids

Tinkering School