Anu’s friend, Seetha

So what is it about, Seetha, I ask Anu intrigued. She takes in a sip of  tender coconut water, allows it to linger in her mouth,looks around languidly, her glassy eyes stuck on the wedding photo I had hung up on the wall the day before. That’s you!!! she cries  rolling on the floor, well almost. I pick the newspaper, roll it up and whoosh!!! She ducks!!!  Hate you!!!

But what about Seetha, I start on a note of tenderness a few seconds later.

Hmmm,Seetha… she was my aunt…Was???!!!!  Is my aunt, corrects Anu.

When Seetha, a devout newly wed, entered the pooja room one evening at her in-law’s place, she was told bluntly that it was not for her to enter. Why???The MIL explained, actually, we are of a higher level, you see. We have got deeksha, my son, my husband and me. We are of a higher level than the Brahmins. So you cannot enter.

The next day when the devout son, the poojari emerged at 11 Ó’ Clock after the morning rituals,Seetha stood up to help him.No, No said the MIL, my son he needs me all the time. He can eat only what I cook. He is so used to me, you see.And she rushed  ahead, pushing Seetha sideways,you see,he has to see me before he goes to office, otherwise its inauspicious!!!

Perplexed, Seetha stopped two things straight away pooja and seeing off her husband.Anyways, she thought its better for the MIL to do the seeing off, as it is he utters the unutterables every time he steps out of the house.It seems the MIL even advised Seetha not to sleep with her son as it would tire him.

Mothers!!! I sigh.

Indian Mothers!!!

Wait, there’s more. When they go out the MIL pompously would sit next to her son and even eat from his plate. But wouldn’t Seetha object? Could she not do something??? Yeah, she could but some are born stupid, Anu shrugs off her aunt’s lack of defense.

And she grew used to living with people of a higher level, is it? Yes, what else.

A few years later Seetha picked up some skills in baking, started her baking classes at home and this gave her some confidence. But the loneliness continued .Eventually she approached the court for separation. These days she stays with her parents. But the husband??? I hear his mother is frantically seeking new alliance for him. I am sure, she will succeed. Its never too old for a man , is it?

She should have been smarter, I say .I somehow dislike people who cannot put up a fight for themselves. Your wish, Anu shrugs walking  off.

As always, her observations gets me thinking.

I look at the photo hanging on the wall, what about it made her laugh like that?

E learning, learning anytime- Competent Communicator- Project 7

How was your day, asks the mother to her little one coming home from the kinder garten ..guess what , says the boy. .IT WAS A DRAG .. They…. don’t even have a WIFI!!!

Welcome toastmasters to the world in which we stay disconnected to those nearby   in order  to stay connected to those  far away.

Welcome to the world where you can only think of using a PPT to drive home the point The Powerpoint is  dead and gone!!!

Welcome to a world where your kid will know about the Indian independence struggle, greek mythology, the Mahabharatha .. thanks to the game  he plays all day.

We have come a long way .. very long way indeed

From the gurukul system to the modern guru koool system!!!

Where the gurus and sishyas are literally  cooling off their heels in the cozy confines of their rooms

Whether you are scatter brained, a slow learner or a smart student, there is  E- learning for you…

So What is E-Learning?

Learning conducted via electronic media typically on the internet. Successful e learning they say depends on the self -motivation of  the individual to study effectively.

Perhaps that explains why having registered for 3 courses on the E- learning platform Edx , I could not complete a single one and also why my good friend Neelima sailed through her course in Data Analytics  on Coursera.

It also explains why the average e learner is 34 years of age

Here are some more e learning facts:

82% of e learners are under graduates

81% of them are already employed

Over 40% of  fortune 500 companies use some form of educational technology today

Companies which use E-Learning have 50% chances of boosting their revenue.

Kavita Bose of the University of Botswana writes in her paper  on E Learning  that it offers flexible- time and location approach. It helps learning to take place anywhere physical or  virtual .

It is a boon to those who are hard pressed for time , are disabled or for some reason cannot attend regular classes at a specific time  and location. And in many cases its absolutely free .  All you need is a data card!!!

The catch  however is that the  learner  needs to be self – motivated and independent.

What it overlooks obviously is the fact that learning is also a social experience… .serious learning happens for many not by way of  texts but through  the informal learning experiences ,shared spaces  and experiences.

I spent a long time teaching students to appreciate for instance, the bravado of Lochinvar who whisks away his lady love, while at the same time cautioning them to keep their eyes off their  friends in the classroom.

One of those  fun- in-retrospect  moments for me  was  when I discovered  a mobile and this was in 2009 in grade X, in the classroom in a pair of  socks worn by  a student of mine  and triumphantly handed it over to the Vice Principal . Two days later the boy asked, so  mam, you kept it for yourself .. don’t bother .. mein naya le loonga.. koi baat nahi..Really!!!

In spite of the lack of all this excitement in an E- learning classroom, it is catching up across the globe and how???

India leads the chart of the   growth of self-paced  E-Learning by 55% ,China at a close 52% Malaysia at 41%  and so on

The Learning Management system market which was 2.55 billion in 2013 is worth 4 billion in 2015 and is estimated to be over 7 billion in 2018.

If you are looking for opportunities to learn, here are some e learning institutions   to look up:

EDX  founded in the year 2002 is run by MIT and Harvard – has  many useful  certifications and recently IIMB  has also started to provide courses on this platform.

Courses are available in many languages including Hindi and Urdu.

Other  E–institutions include Udacity ,Open Learning Initiative  University of Phoenix ,  The Open University etc .

If you truly enjoy learning , there’s E-Learning for you!!!

Let’s relearn , let’s E-Learn!!!

Over to you toastmaster.

Anu opens her pandora’s box

Anuradha is a pandora’s box,bristling with stories to be told, to be heard and in my lonely hours, she is my solace. So when she walks in authoritatively and takes her place in my front room, pushing a cushion here and a magazine there, I smile indulgently. It’s our soul space, mine and Anu’s. We know it and somehow the universe is willing to let us conspire and connives to bring us these moments of togetherness…

Anu is in a mood to reflect, she is agitated at her inability to react, to respond. Why is it that I am unable to give it as good as I get ? She asks me. I try to answer when she continues, its because , I have never voiced my opinion openly. I am always afraid of hurting, of using words carelessly.I tell Anu,it’s ok to speak up and cause hurt at times. But she nods saying , some where I picked up this idea of weighing words, of not causing hurt. That’s so good, I chip in. She says its not.

She tells me of how she got married, of how her parents in a frenzied moment, fancied a grand old man and decided to hand her over to the grandson. She tells me how her brother said she was being fuzzy when she objected and how she gave in.Has she always been so helpless,I ask concerned at her inability to exert her will. Perhaps,she looks down, until maybe recently…

Anu tells me that inspite of her misgivings, she gave her love,care and respect voluntarily. Then when her brother fell sick, she somehow felt small, it didn’t help that her parents considered themselves so too. It broke her heart to see them look after her brother in those 10 years of his suffering, on their own, without rest,with out care for themselves, anguished, worried ,perturbed. Even more so,it was difficult to see the boy lose his control of his limbs one by one, yet continue to dream of a normal life, of marriage, of having kids of his own, of going to work and  then feeling frustrated at his inability. She told me she hoped to set up a comfortable life for her parents and her brother and how his death was such a shock for her.

Anu looks at me and smiles when she says how she was reading aloud a matrimonial ad in the newspaper. Well-placed nurse,willing to marry anyone, age, caste, colour no bar..and how her brother chirped, I am ready.. write to her .. didi now..

That was one cheerful fellow,she said.

Anu looks at her mobile,gosh, my son is back from college.Catch you later!!! Off she goes,the busybody!

I sit thinking of Anu. Where is she heading?Good luck in sorting out your life,Anu.

One thing I know, Anu is not alone. Its a rare soul that is not perturbed by life’s surprises!!!


Rama got up from her seat went across to the other  team and started talking animatedly to a young man.  Her curly hair parted sideways, her beautiful eyes nicely made up, she always managed to turn a few heads whenever she got up from her place.

The young man stood up, his body language receptive, his wrinkled fore head clearly indicative of his desire  to help. After the exchange, he nodded his head, looked down and then smiled .He seemed to correct her about something and moved his hand to that effect. Finally his shoulders drooped  as he casually reached his hands into his pocket and let  her go with an assuring nod.She went back to her seat.

In another half an hour Rama was up again, heading towards the young man and he straightened his back and tilted his head to her. Presently he  got up from his space and walked towards her, his back  bent trying to catch her feeble voice.  Rama followed  her colleague’s  gaze when he suddenly stopped in his track  and saw her   rather plump chirpy colleague  stare hard  at him.

The guilt in the youngman’s  demeanour was instant and palpable. He looked sheepishly at the girl, turned to Rama with a dismissive shrug and walked away.Rama stood there for a few seconds, trying to make sense of what had happened. Later she stomped purposefully to her place and typed away furiously.

Self Talk not a Sign of Insanity

My attention was drawn to self talk when I saw a  young  Shreya battle her opponent in an inter school Squash Tournament. Go Shreya ! Go! the little girl kept telling herself as she fearlessly attacked her opponent who was also her senior.

During public performances, one notices people often talking to themselves sometimes non verbally with a self assuring nod of the head or any other affirmative gesture.

I am also reminded of a former  colleague of mine,Neha Bhagat who talked to herself in French. When I quizzed her about this she told me that there no other way to keep improving her command over the language. After all finding another person to converse in French was not easy. .

As children all of us indulge in self talk. This primarily helped us to grapple with situations which our tiny brains could not comprehend. It was our way of assuring ourselves. As adults though,we look down on self talk. In fact ,we make fun of those so called’absent minded professors’ who keep talking to themselves.

I have recently discovered the benefits of self talk. Do I talk aloud too? Yes,sometimes. But it has been a great tool of self- healing for it not only  helped me understand  myself  but also to handle some very difficult situations. It keeps me company, keeping loneliness at bay and helps me take my decisions carefully after a long drawn out inner dialogue.

In fact, it has helped me be intact, string the pieces together and in general be a happy self. To me,self talk is a positive internal dialogue which is usually in silent mode. But,if you give yourself a little time to act out the dialogue between you and your soul, self talk can genuinely turn into soul talk, that will ensure your inner state of well being.

Go ahead,enjoy being with yourself 🙂

Bridging the Skill Gap in India: NSDC

Velu the Welder is an educational aid created by TCS IGNITE in order to create interest in this profession which has a huge potential in India  and abroad with an earning potential ranging from 15,000 to 1 lakh a month. It is estimated that India faces a deficit of 2 lakh welding professional as of now.

Studies say that by 2022 the country will face a deficit of 10.3 crore skilled workers in the infrastructure sector, around 3.7 crore in the auto sector and 1.3 crore in the hospitality sector. The numbers are huge and calls for immediate and large scale efforts from the  public and the government alike .

An active National Skill Development Corporation is encouraging  a private-public partnership to address the issue. The government aims to skill 500 million Indians in a span of 10 years which means 50 million every year. This translates to around 4 million vocationally trained   and 1 million engineers every year.

Given the scale of  target  and action the state has got into to achieve it , it is  shocking  that there is  little or no effort put into  creating a pool of certified trainers at the government level. Apex government bodies train a measly number of 1,200 trainers a year. If you look at the infrastructure for training, it’s not impressive either.  The country’s largest and arguably the best training facility is in the Infosys campus at Mysore. It has a seating capacity of 14,000.

Restoring pride in acquiring skills will come when schools learn to  look beyond  syllabus. How about allowing every student pick up a skill of his choice and learn it along with regular subjects?  At one of those rare educational institutions  where skill development is given its due, that is Daly College, Indore, I met students who proudly claimed to excel in carpentry, sculpting etc. Yet the variety is limited. Would schools consider gardening, plumbing, painting, beauty courses as well for skill development?  Then  probably ,we will have a generation that values skills and those  who have them.  Then maybe  a farmer or a mason  will receive the same social status as  a doctor or an engineer.

Yes, efforts are on.  However, a serious attitudinal shift has to happen in the society. What APJ Kalam did to teaching as a profession was raising its value by several notches through his self- proclaimed pride in the job. This has to happen to several other professions. Then perhaps, a father would not protest when his  “highly educated ”son  chooses to become  an Ola cab driver!!!

The tyranny of notebook

Anu takes hours to complete her notebook.She is in fourth standard and loves her Science teacher. Every time a lesson is taught,she creates a visual based on it in the notebook. She takes hours on end to sketch and colour her master piece. Next day, she is sure to get a good or very good from her favourite,Latha Miss. Anu’s mother complains how she will learn only from her notebook,those  answers dictated by the teacher. Anu refuses to do anything that her Latha Miss has not  asked her to write down in her notebook.

Sheathed in brown paper, Pokemon adorned, with neatly filled pages ticked in red -the note book is a constant companion to any school going kid in India. Its sometimes his pride and at other times the cause of his embarrassment.

As integral as the note book is to the student, so it is to the teacher. To the teacher, the notebook, that of her students is usually a reason to celebrate when she happily goes around sticking those smileys or those golden or silver stars in them. Sometimes its her nightmare and causes her much distress especially when her(students) notebooks fail to live up to the mark of a good teacher.

The parent is also wedded to the notebook  if his  child is not good at copying down. Then you see him standing outside the classroom, fervently copying down stuff from the notebook the teacher has given to him -finishing his son’s incomplete work.

Notebook is certainly a document for the teacher to inspect,for the mother to agonize over, for the Principal to catch hold of to shake out those hidden skeletons from the  student’s/teacher’s cupboard.

Much thought goes into what goes into a notebook.First the teacher prepares  copious notes which she puts up on the black board and then is copied down by the student.The transfer of knowledge  ends with student writing down what he learnt as it is in the exam. The answers are marked, results are declared and an academic year comes to an end.

Text books come and go but the tyranny of notebook thrives!!!

We can  never expect to have an Ahmed moment in schools  because here in India, we dont allow children to be original. Our insecurities stop us from allowing our children chances to explore,to venture out, to fall, to fail and then to rise.

Musings on a Super Saturday

Anuradha comes in exclaiming about the super Saturday she spent with her daughter. Why does everything about you have to be super? I ask annoyed at her obvious glee. It is what it is , is her cheeky reply.

Anu loves going out with her daughter.She tells me often about the rare soul connect, they share. I change the topic to something more general.It’s not something I like to listen to, mothers raving about their children. Their children, as if the child is a personal achievement, not an individual, a showcase, a trophy.

After 4 unsuccessful attempts at birthing a child,my tolerance of mothers’ paeans to their children, has worn out. You how it is, every tom and jerry in town who does not know me is very concerned about my childless state and is willing to dole out advises aplenty. From offering of a cradle to Lord Krishna, to feeding orphans, to visiting a litany of holy places and holy men…the list is endless.

For the past 6 years,me and my partner in crime have practiced almost every trick in the book and consulted every  known specialist to no avail. It was especially painful when the first time, I gave birth to a still born in my 9th month. Answering phone calls and  listening to woes of a greater intensity  was all that I did until we finally decided to keep the ‘good news’ to ourselves.

There after the struggle has been there but it somehow brought me and my spouse closer. Today we accept the situation. In fact, he has suggested adopting a child. I have agreed too.

Maybe now, I will have more patience to listen to Anu’s stories….

A Corporate Love Affair

Petite and fair,she did not have to struggle to get noticed even in her diminutive frame. It was but natural for one to want to look at her again and  again . She knew it too…

In awe  of  her super awesomeness, her over the top confident ways and the fact that luck did seem to favour her again and again,he dithered between friendship and love finally settling for hatred tinged with jealousy.

She enjoyed his company and looked for ways to spend more time with him. Sometimes when he smiled, she tried to read more into it.

Sure as she was of everything else, of this one man, she had no clue. Did he like her, did he more than like her….the thought troubled her with its uncertainty. Ask she will not, after all, why would she care??? But know, she wanted to.

At tea time in the cafeteria when they ran into each other and exchanged pleasantries, she always wanted him to stay a little longer so that she could strike a conversation with him…what did he do after office? what does he like? Small talk …

When it came to her profession however, she knew she would not let anyone pull her down, not even him. If he gets an increment,she too should. If he wins an award, then she has to …rather it was the other way.She had noticed that it was after her name had appeared on the office notice board  that he seemed to work longer,stretch himself thin to please the boss.

When he won the award next time, it did not matter to her, she had done that already, moreover, she was pleased at his jealousy.It was a compliment.

But then what changed, I ask.

A lot, she said, hurt writ large on her face. All along I have been fighting within myself, to go closer to him or not, but there he was brewing hatred, spewing venom and spreading rumours about me. What I had achieved in my profession was entirely on my merit and hard work. I never knew he was so jealous of me that he wanted me out of the organisation. I did not know that behind my back others were joining  hands with him.How could they??? I did not ever anticipate this!!!

Yes, I am competitive. I am pushy, ambitious but I was in  love too, well ! almost.

Why??? Why did others want me out? Why did they dislike me so much that they put their entire life energy to get me out. I don’t understand, she nodded in disbelief. I leaned forward but she didn’t need any consolation. All she wanted was  a letting out.

Gravitating towards meditation

Wasn’t that some mind blowing experience,says Anuradha, her face glistening. I am about to ask her about the latest facial when she lets me into her secret. You know what, says she,I had never thought of meditation. I  had thought that its something my jobless husband did for three to four hours in the pooja room, because well, he is the lazy,lethargic kind. The kind who loves the state of inertia  so much that mountains fail to move him. Amused, I look at her with that definite nod, which says tell me more.

She continues, life is not easy you see, lekhs, when you are running around running the family,literally, when the other party has just put his hands up and expects you to get things done,everything from earning, to cooking, to getting provisions, to managing kids, to finances and even his grumbling mother.It can’t be easy, right? I nod encouragingly,I have enough sense not to interrupt Anu, when she is in full steam…My life, my way was not exactly unknown in my times, but then, I never had courage,nor encouragement to venture out earlier. Now that I have kinda decided that the remote control of my life stays firmly in my hands and that no body, nobody who has nothing to do with my happiness, will  cause me any unhappiness, I am freer, happier and yes, more adventurous.  So I decide to go, to go to a session on meditation. Then they say connect with the womb!!! I am curious, what’s that now??? I  had thought that that  bag was now useless, having done its part and had never thought of it, not like I think of my poor heart, for instance. I expect  nothing but I experience something strange….Interesting, I think  and sit there with my eyes closed, enjoying that feeling.It is my first experience of such a kind and definitely not my last. Why did I not know this earlier?, Anu sighed.

I looked at my beloved friend with a renewed respect. A gentle breeze blew and as she reached out for the coffee cup, I stared at the lonely rose in my flower garden. It seemed to say something…..