fresh learnings encountered during the bumpy path,
constantly learning the art of selflessness and humility,
in moments of triumph,
holding the might and head high,
to fight back in adversity,
taught by our teachers,
O! Wise men and wise women of rare intellect,
I salute you with folded hands,
head in deference to your lofty feet,
my right place is beneath you,
core values of life,
witnessing your sacrifices,
smile on the faces of our teachers,
never say die and not giving up,
simple truth that not everyone can be teacher,
yet we are fine learners, free givers and capable of making difference to lives,
core values that gives inner strength,
to deal with the gigantic woes and weathering storms,
learning from everyone,
rich or poor,
elder or younger,
values shaping my life and destiny,
grateful my teachers
Happy Teachers Day
Today September 5 Teacher’s Day is celebration on the birth anniversary of Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan social reformer and a great teacher who became first Vice President of India and Second President of India.
A fascination for everything red symbolizing love and passion, picking the shirt spreadeagled among variegated hues outside Santacruz Railway station, splattered with the crowd in the drove of city life and making a beeline for the best deal. The expression of pride and the wonder of shopping therapy sending the mind into a tizzying spirit.
In those days, I was shuttling between Mumbai and Pune every week, staying either in a cheap lodge at Colaba or at a friend’s place in Mumbai Central, with one foot firmly entrenched in Maximum City. The Pune University final year results were delayed forever and gotta be in Mumbai at Kalina Campus to secure my seat.
To cut the story short, one gentle Saturday morning the sun glittered in Pune and wearing the prized red shirt, I booked second class ticket in the favorite train Deccan Queen to reach Mumbai. Monsoon is pretty much like a girlfriend with mood swings and the drizzle splayed over the blue sky wearing greyish shade. The mighty train dawdled on the track and ambled slowly with the rush of water running like steam. It grew furious and thundered at every passing second to vent itself and there was no way, the sky would miraculously keep calm. The train finally reached Dadar and it was quite a task to get out of the train with the violent water tapered on the station’s roof at ruffling burst.
A final call had to be made, hopping from Central Railway to Western Railway, catching the train heading to Santacruz with a backpack filled with clothes and documents. I still remained unscathed and dry. Mission was not yet accomplished. Finally, stormed out of the muddy station with feet splayed in a water patch and thrust in the BEST bus since there was no way to avert the water. Do or Die, I choose the storm like a valiant warrior. The Best Bus stumbled inside the University Campus at Kalina Campus with the rain showing no sign of slowing and made a water splash imagining it to be the sea. A feeling of being fettered by a devilish force and walking frantically towards the Department of Economic and driving inside the overenthusiastic water, fettered by the devilish force to land at the Department of Economics which was quite an achievement since the short distance to reach there felt like a lifetime. I walked past the long corridor and incapacitated by jeans stuck like glue, freaked out with droplet of blood making a plodding sound on the surface.
Few seconds were barely enough to recover my wit and realize that I’ve been fleeced with the red shirt what with the dyeing being washed by the rain. The lecturers acquainted with me were as shocked as I was with my blood-colored and stained appearance smeared all over my skin wondering whether someone roughened me. I was flitting past Swati Ma’am office and she gave me a threatening look. She is known to berate students who flocks to her cubicle at the corridor and once chided me with, ‘Don’t come inside.’ There was a sympathetic look on her face what with everyone thinking I’ve suffered bruises in the city. I sheepishly grinned and awkwardly spoke in a soft but gentle tone, “No! Sir! It’s this red shirt.”
It was past 2 p.m and already dying of hunger. The administration team was very helpful and friendly ensuring that I got a room at the ICSSR Guest House. By that time, the rain has stopped and respite for me after settling payment, hurtled past the door to remove the towel from my bag to wipe my hair resembling like the sheath of a knife and changing into warm clothes. The feeling of relief and getting a decent room after the turmoil of roiling in the rain is pure bliss.
The Kalina’s Gate campus belches out of the busy road and the unique Mumbai honking, the jamboree of vehicles, the wafting of unique city food flavor in array, from Chinese to Indian concocting a unique delicacy ensconced with pages flipping, the countless xerox shop lined up on the elongated road. The Chinese dish whipped in a huge pot we call dekchi in India and on the road pierces the nostril that makes for an exhilarating experience. I stuffed the food after minutes of hesitation. The evening was spent traveling in the local from Santacruz to Churchgate, wading past the road book stalls, grabbed Chetan Bhagat’s One Night at the Call Centre for 40 bucks, and sieved through two shirts which I got for 20 bucks in the dark. The hawker was in a tearing hurry to sell the shirts. Believe it or not, got an Allen Solly a perfect winter wear for 20 bucks and still wear it today.
I sat at Marine Drive and lit a cigarette enamored by the sea water that sets a unique mood after the stormy rain has passed and gazed at the wet payment or road scattered with branches and leaves. Back to the room post 8 p.m and dozed on the bed only to wake up past 2 a.m. The rain was a lullaby putting me to sleep making and skipping dinner. It occurred that there was no cigarette left for which I craved. I took a shower in the cold weather and experiencing fleeting body pain so much for getting drenched. There was no way that I would sleep after crashing until the wee hours and finished entirely One Night at the Call Centre. What a thrilling Mumbai Monsoon night.
Silence is therapeutic and beautiful. The power to fob off anxiety hands down and no rush in being someone else or what we popularly call, People-pleasing. The whole masquerading of being super cool or pretend to flit with ease happens to the best of us and there is always the pressure to speak to just anyone at a party as if trying to clinch a race set against time. Who says that you can’t be yourself at a party!
This week was quite interesting and attended two networking parties, one for wine tasting and the second yesterday evening was a beach party. Both were work related to socialize, exchange business cards and be in touch with many important peeps. Guess what? I felt light like a feather and couldn’t be more proud of myself. A pressure has been lifted out of my head. I practice silence and enjoyed my drinks solo, spoke to a few people briefly unlike the long, mundane conversation animatedly over almost everything. The new Me is practicing silence and be on my own since I want to cut this pressure building on the head on ‘having’ to speak to everyone or be whipped. A walk to the beach with the drink and watching the gentle sea soothed me and brought a certain amount of serenity in choosing myself for company.
Many times, a constant pressure was built upon the head and this entire regret or whining on letting the chance pass of meeting X, Y or Z. But, not this time. I was with myself. One can always be true to the self in a place pocked with people and please stop this labelling of indulging with maximum people to feel joyful. Happiness is a choice.
This week has been an extremely awesome one. Call it what may, moment of happiness or happy coincidence but life surely has its own way to surprise in the unlikeliest way or place. Incredible joy happened at the wine tasting party on Wednesday. I was practicing mindfulness when someone waved to me from far, among the horde of people. Pretty much like Facebook wave, my hand responded with the sticker, waving back with a smile. To be honest, the memory was playing truant and couldn’t recognize the girl. She came to greet me after the presentation and realized that it’s my close friend younger sister which is a real shame since been to her house several times in the past. But, then people do change over time.
What she did is something extraordinary and reaffirms my belief that as humans we are all connected on this planet. My friend’s sister introduced me to an Indian girl married and settled in Mauritius where I am based. We started having a normal chat owing to our Indian connection and she stayed in Pune, the city I call my own. I was delighted and told of being there. The lady, A, asked which college. I said with pride, Fergusson College. A glint in her eyes and a smile surfaced. She happened to be my senior whom I was meeting for the first time. Much to the amusement on the face of the common factor, Sam’s sister H, we ended up taking the name of our teachers, right from Professor Lobo our much-loved Philosophy and Logic teacher, Bhalerao Ma’am, Abhayankar Ma’am at the same time and of course my Economics department that was quite a distance from the main campus, we call, Main Circle.
The feeling of getting back the flawless college days despite belonging to a different set of batch and meeting for the first time. Elixir of joy and exhilarating moments yet one bonding factor, the alma mater Fergusson College that couldn’t stop me from asking to be clicked together. Normally, taking pictures with people I meet for the first time is not something that I do. I can’t remember the last time was so happy and the talkative me just came alive like an electrified pole killing the introvert for once. No facade. We just need a strong connection that will jostle us into the mojo moment. Being Fergussonians helped us to break the ice and created the comfortable vibe since meeting someone for the first time normally takes a while to jazz and gel. What an incredible coincidence to meet a college senior in a different country other than India and something that wouldn’t dare to dream. The alma mater connects folks and comes as naturally to speak like long-lost friends. It holds true for people passing out of the same institution, I guess to experience this common thread. Now, I am tempted next time to get a jhola for A asked if I had one in college. It reminds me that I never did which is a shame for many Fergussonians slung the jhola on the shoulder.
I am a great believer in vibes and the energy power that has something in store for us. It whittle down to a personal choice on the kind of energy that we attract and on the day, I was practicing mindfulness and silence in a place filled with people, the universe chooses to smile at me, bringing unlimited joy which worked wonderfully on the spirit and mind.
What if we could go back to our ancient Indian culture, the Vedas way of learning embedded in the age-old practice of Indian civilization? Actor, author and celebrity Sonali Bendre Behl in her book, ‘The Modern Gurukul’ shares her parenting experience with son Ranveer where she blends the ancient tool of wisdom in the modern practice of upbringing and education with the right values in a world increasingly characterized by the rat race, obliterating the holistic approach of creative learning as well as the growth of physical and spiritual in the quest for knowledge. The book or if you want the parental technique or experience is a down-to-earth approach not just to new age parents but also adults since Sonali offers fodder for thought and triggers discussions where everyone irrespective of age or marital status can learn so much from this Modern Guru Cool.
The Modern Gurukul is an innovative book. It is a modern guide about the ancient wisdom percolating throughout the years, about learning, our rich Indian wisdom laden with quotes that reinforces an unflinching belief on never say die attitude, getting knocked down and picking up the thread. I could personally relate with the quotes at the start of every chapter to be cherished all the way. First and foremost, the Vedic system is very easy to understand with an open mind, right from Shravana (hearing) manana (thinking) and nididhyasana (meditation) making for an interesting analysis blending with the modern teaching methods as rightly pointed out by Sonali. An interesting argument is put to the fore where both the author and her husband Goldie, being products of a modern education system confesses on losing marks for being innovative. No one is a bad student, she argues. Truly said. What’s the point if an education system fails to pursue its lofty ambitions of innovative, creative and inclusive education?
Education is all about human behavior. Tamil literature Thirukkural is counted among our richest literary work spanning over 5,000 years bearing the imprint of Thiruvalluvar. Sonali has picked a few of the teaching methods of the scholar that goes a long way to transform relationships between a parent and child in an open and transparent manner. It’s a guide that everyone must not only read but implement in daily lives.
Leading by example is something that Sonali as a parent advocate and there is an anecdote that brings a smile on the face on how she did push-ups in a restaurant when her son came to ask about it. This goes a long way in spreading the cause and need of democratic parenting for gone are the days where our parents wielded a stick to force children to comply with rules.
One of the experiments with modern parenting which I particularly like is when Sonali hinges on one fact about grandparents not being surrogate parents. I have often observed many parents ‘dumping’ their children on in-laws. There is a respectful difference between being a support system and surrogate parent. She writes on the need for parental duties and of course, it’s a tightrope where conflicts with grandparents are bound to happen. It’s an attitudinal change but the author drives a strong point on making it a must to sit and discuss on diverging views, advocating the need not to let ego takes precedence over contrasting views. A difference of opinion cannot hamper a relationship where a lot of investment is being made. It’s a huge thing to learn in the age of social media where divergent views be it politics, films or arts can destroy relationships.
There are several interesting ways to go about parenting right from packed snacks which are unhealthy and an absolute No, something we don’t realize and watching films together with her son. Of course, screening of a film by parents is a sine qua non and encouraging creative games to ignite the mind remains an important aspect to bring up children.
What works in the book and particularly the current theme is the lack of filter and the honesty in approaching the various challenges, as enunciated by her friend on going crazy to maintain work-life balance, advocating of compassionate method calling for respect, flourishing of the child’s individuality, involvement of both parents, father and mother essential for upbringing. Sonali speaks honestly on vulnerabilities, her struggle with postpartum depression, the importance of ‘ME’ time after childbirth and the need of not holding on to guilt. This is a major lesson where we tend to carry burden in the heart and the trick lies in apologizing. It happened to me when I lashed out at Mom once and apologized to let go of things after a year. I really like the part when Ranveer goes out-of-the-way as a sensitive soul in caring for his ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ or grandparents. This is what the right values are all about.
The child-like quality in Sonali as a parent comes to the fore during a trip to France and Berlin to experience holiday from a kid’s perspective. One can imagine the fun quotient that brings parents and children together, letting loose and provides enough ground to reinvent. I particularly like the part about silence being the best companion in a place pocked with people to converse or for that matter, the art of saying No. One doesn’t need to indulge in people pleasing in a party swarmed with people, something that I am practicing.
Since it’s a personal account with parenting and relationships, it’s hard to find faults but I wished the book could be longer than the 200 odd pages for there are so much that Sonali could have shared with her readers for them learn.
The best thing about The Modern Gurukul is just it doesn’t limit itself to parenting but offers lessons and wisdom from an individual’s perspective in not following the crowd but learning to approach life in a systematic manner laden filled with rich observation about everyday struggles or confusions that we often face. Sonali’s book is an honest attempt in unpeeling the layers of parenting where ego has no place and the key is to constantly learn as new challenges are slung at us. A highly recommended book about child like qualities and be one in the company of our young friends. Sonali Bendre Behl is truly inspiring as a humble, down to earth and gentle human being armed with compassion in the way she tackles life yet remain grounded to her roots and traditions. I have learned so much from the book and The Modern Gurukul should make place as a sacred text for parenting and relations.
The first KFC opened at Kalyani Nagar, Mariplex mall in Pune. It served us piping red-hot and smoking chicken. We went on an exciting spree and couldn’t wait to storm for dinner one Saturday evening. After all, we rarely go to that part of the city. Post dinner, I sunk into realization mode how much ice-cream is not something to love and this whole enjoy it before melting is crap.
I was in for a least expected surprise the time we ordered the food at KFC. Now, what I call double whammy! A random conversation with the restaurant manager who invited me to visit the kitchen that was quite a PR guided tour explaining how health is taken care of, not compromising on safety and cleanliness norms. The KFC team explained to me the entire process on how the chicken is prepared, water pressed and oil soaked from French fries making sure that the stuff wasn’t oily or detrimental to health. We know the story right! I almost forgot my friends who were looking for me and Adi found me inside the kitchen wearing the cap. Apparently, KFC opened earlier but was closed for political and cultural reasons in the city, Adi told us. There was a need to send a message across that the brand is not flouting norms or taking the city people for a ride. I enjoyed the chicken to the hilt. It’s another thing that I am off KFC unhealthy stuff nowadays.
After the sumptuous dinner, we sat on the stairs outside the mall during the dark and hot evening, lighting a fag. It was such a satisfactory ritual in those days. Smoking after dinner. Puffing helps to digest the food and enjoying every fucking moment by justifying every indulgence. Obviously, the girls and dudes were dying to have ice cream at the sight of the Kwality parlor. I wasn’t too keen and went suddenly into silent mode. Not a huge fan of ice cream then. The drab look on my face read uninterested and bored. Adi inched closer to me and asked, “So, no ice cream?” Pat came my reply, “Hate it, man.” He nodded, “I am not too keen”. I dunno the exact reason of professing hatred for ice cream and in fact, watching them relishing the ice cream but resisted the sudden craving.
Nights in Pune are quite fascinating. But, sitting alone at home was a pretty boring affair after reading, smoking and killing time. I was alone in the flat and felt something was missing. After all, I whined the entire day at Savera our college hang out, having coffee and plodding aimless from FC Road to JM Road and back to the flat at FC. The rain wasn’t helping the tired soles and crashed at home. I bought a book on the road stall and slouched on the mattress to indulge in reading but couldn’t buckle the mind. On a whim or fancy, I left the apartment and walked to Savera that was a good stretching for five minutes.
The day was unforgettable. It was almost 10 o’clock and after leaving home dawned upon me that was wearing a short. I kept walking and saw the usual suspects, Tootoo, Sane and a handful of people sitting, smoking and sipping tea on one of the tables. A huge crowd, from family to students and bachelors, swarmed to Savera for dinner and tea that gave the place a homely but colorful feel. This image will never disappear from the mind. I stopped at the panshop for another cigarette. The smoking zone juxtaposed to the entrance was separated from the pavement by a thick bush of bamboo, wedged out by the people making it a pathway forgetting about the entrance. I wriggled my way between the bamboo leaves and walked towards the gang, saying something that made them leap as if suddenly hit by electric voltage. “Kya re bhai log!”
The folks turned to me with serious faces, froze for seconds and broke into a raucous laughter. Tootoo told me, “Don’t do that again” with a beaming smile on the face. Cigarettes were exchanged before everyone went off. My ‘bhai log’ became a regular joke at Savera that gotta be told to everyone and was greeted by the same with the entire gang whose bubble I burst. Listening to Tootoo telling in Marathi to everyone was so much fun with his art of description and reenactment of the scene exactly like it happened.
One rainy day, I was walking off Deccan and flitted past a line up of shops on FC when an old lady whose dusky face wore a long vermillion on the forehead and the palm holding a thali smeared with Kum kum powders and lamp to bless people, singing bhajans in exchange for money. She approached me with a benign smile and sprinkled the saffron color on my head, promising to shower blessing that would make me marry a beautiful girl soon but in exchange for coins. I was nonplussed and told her, “Bai! Why don’t you work rather than doing this?” She took the form of an angry Goddess and started pushing me on FC Road. I told her to stop but armed with fury she kept pushing me as if I made a crime by telling her something. There was an uncle at the ice-cream parlor whom I knew and always chit-chatted with me was first amused but sensing the seriousness of the situation stormed out of his shop to shield me from her. The perk of being congenial with everyone and not showing attitude, except this one! If that wasn’t enough, there was a boy who must be some 10 years old and always seen walking on the elongated FC Road would whip himself constantly on the tiny back in exchange for a dime. It was quite interesting to see him accompanied by parents and he ended up hurting himself in jest as if playing his favorite game. Religion is a commodity on sale.
The final year in college, I turned into a guide and remember meeting this newly married lovely coupled A and S who just shifted to Pune. We were part of the same gang and the coupled was pally with my mates that made it natural for us to gel together. During the day A had some work outside and S was getting bored sitting in Savera, gulping countless coffee and smoke when I took her for a guided tour of our sprawling Fergusson College campus from the library to the Science, Economics and Maths Department. She was reminiscing about her TISS days in Mumbai and hostel life during her post grads. She enjoyed the FC trip so much that she excitedly told A when he came back in the afternoon about how I took her around. Sudendhu bhai gave me another name on that day, Raju Guide. I knew where it came from that we confused it with the Feroz Khan’s film Reporter Raju. So much for the perfect and hazy days.
Post-script: Savera was closed down on December 31, 2012.
The buccaneer hostelite days in Mumbai, caressing the belly belching out like flat chapatti after a sumptuous thali and lighting a cigarette on a heavenly lazy Sunday. Windstorm South Bombay days was a regular affair. Simpering at the sight of the next door chicks slithering to our residence for a meal at the mess was ecstasy. Eyes waggled and fluttered like the wind spurting at the sight of hot chicks parading past us with the boys flashing a naughty grin.
A glimmer in the sky and clouds wafting past Marine Drive. Trains chugged slowly at Churchgate Station. The hostel was sandwiched between the two lovers at the iconic C-Road. The rain lost its spark and the weather sweltered, flies hovering above the head like a helicopter. It neared almost 11 pm that was quite a usual sight to see the boys hanging past the gate and the road watching girls, cars and gaping at the apartments facing us under the shade of the sprawling Gulmohar trees lingering on both sides of the road.
A mysterious and strange shade engulfed the sky. The cloud’s brightness faded, sending a pall of gloom and confusion on doomsday wrecking havoc on earth. Dark cloud and grain of water bobbed up. It looked like a signal straight from the sky. In the nick of time, ferocious rain wore its might like the splatter of arrows descending and wringing the pavement, road and hostel entrance with water. The short man sporting a thick mustache has suddenly disappeared. Harry or Harria Babu was our saver who lumped on his bicycle early morning and evening time to sell cigarettes, sometimes on credit to save us, holding a behemoth bag like Santa. A cat and mouse game at the sight of Mumbai police driving on C Road was a sight that often amused us. We couldn’t see him and dashed in the heavy water to take a risk. No luck. No fag. Only water.
No choice for the smokers and unthinkable to spend the monsoon night inside the room without fags. I was a chain smoker in those days and so were many of the tribe. Wearing the garb of a warrior on the sleeve and chucking the umbrella that has more chances of twisting and bending with the potent rain, I trudged like Mahatma Gandhi in my rain walk, stopped by friends on my trail and gave me money to get them cigarette at the panshop.
The weight of wind and rain hit me like a force, trusting me right, left and back as the eyes had a harrowing time facing the dark night. It felt like a miasma. The breeze at Marine Drive whistled loudly. I looped past ITC hotel and treading valiantly like an injured war hero, spinning in a circle to finally reach my destination.
Water percolated on my hair and felt like a tree assuaged by the water, percolating on the hair and face to kiss the lip, mistaking it for an intimate cuddle. The panwala winced at my sight as he picked his money and filled the boxes with single sticks. The battle was far from over. I waggled my way back and trundled, the skin hardened and pricked, shivers caught in the rain’s thrall, making a short sprint, took a breath and skittering as the feet dripped in and out of the sandals, kissing the water. The friends were grateful thinking I am the latest version of Shaktimaan but couldn’t conceal a smile on me turning into a wet puppy. A monsoon moment to be cherished. I lit my cigarette and pour myself a coffee harking back to take a sip of Monsoon.