Friday, August 18, 2017


“A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination,
and instill a love of learning.”
-  Brad Henry

 ‘A TEACHER BY DESIGN OR A TEACHER BY DEFAULT?’ This is how I have captioned my session tomorrow. A reputed college in the city has invited me to conduct a session for its senior college-teachers… some eighty of them, of which about sixty are Ph.Ds. And, yes, about 60 to 70 percent of the teachers are female!

A female, always, makes a better teacher… Any dispute on this?

Most of us have tender memories of our earliest teachers… Invariably all of them female teachers. Mine was a teacher by the name Satvavati. She made our lessons so dramatic with her stories and songs…

One late evening, a cow was returning to her home through a jungle. A hungry tiger came to attack her. She was the ideal dinner for the hungry tiger.

 “Master,” the cow cried before the hungry and fierce tiger, “I know you are hungry and need me for your dinner.” She continued, “But, please be little kind. I have my little child at home, who is hungry and waiting for me to come and feed. Please allow me to do it… I promise to you that I will come back and offer myself for your dinner.”

Obviously, the tiger did not believe the cow. It said, “You think I should believe you? Remember, I am not a fool.”

“Trust me Master, I will not go back on my word.” The cow pleaded. “Have mercy on my little child… I will return to you after I feed and send my child to sleep.”

“It is hard for me to trust,” the tiger announced. “I will not let you go.”

“Please my Master… for my little one’s sake,” the cow kept pleading, “Trust me, I will come back to you. I will not break my promise.”

“Alright then,” the angry tiger roared, “remember, if you break your promise, I shall have your child too along with you for my dinner. Understand?”

The cow thanked the tiger and headed towards her home.

After feeding its child and sending it to sleep, the cow proceeded back to the tiger. By now, the tiger had already concluded in his mind that the cow would not return. So, when he saw the cow back before him, he was shocked! “It is unbelievable,” he exclaimed in his mind, “What a rare species is this!”

“Master, I have come… I have kept my promise,” the cow said gently. “Please take your dinner.”

The tiger’s heart melted at this. “No, I cannot do that with you. You are too good, too honest to be harmed.”

“My Maser, it is late and you must be hungry,” the cow cried, “please take me for your dinner.”

“I am moved by your honesty, O the truthful one,” the tiger repeated, “Please go back to your little one.”

The cow, too, was touched by the tiger’s gesture. She thanked him profusely and returned to her home.

By a strange co-incidence, this amazing teachers’ name was ‘Satyavati’. She taught us is 1st or second standard… some fifty-three years ago! There have been moments in my life when I have been tested on my loyalty, integrity and commitments. I will not say I have scored ten on ten in these tests. But, yes, I have fared very, very well most of the time. It really makes me feel good…
Females do make good teachers, sir. They do.

Last week, a mother of a thirteen-year-old boy was here. She was remerging her own third-standard teacher, back home in Indore. I encouraged her to write about it so that I could share it on my blog. Here it is…

Mrs. Veena Sangwan was her name… It still rings in my ears, giving me a touch of sweet and affectionate memories.  

I remember clearly…  I was in the second grade, all of 6 to 7 years. She would call me a parrot, because I would talk nonstop.  I was her favourite...Why I wouldn't be? I did all that she wanted us to do… She made every effort to make us warm and I felt the warmth a little more.

I remember, in the third grade, she taught us how to make sprouts of grains. She had asked all the day-scholars to make and get them, and we had a party in the class. When I see grown-ups, not knowing how to make them, I silently laugh at them. This was the lesson she taught me at my tender age and she taught it so well.

Going to the school backyard for a picnic and playing educational games was all fun. The day would start and end in a jiffy. How happy I would be in the morning while packing my bag! The thought of being around her presence made me cheerful. Vacations were over… and happily we went to the fourth grade. Slowly I realized how much I missed her… The sense of belonging was gone… Sometimes I would see her in the corridors and blush with happiness and so would she!

So, tomorrow, when I will be talking to all our ‘city’ college-teachers – very highly qualified – I will surely talk about our ‘village’ school-teachers… who taught us with their ‘heart’.


Pic.: Avinash Mantri

Thursday, August 17, 2017


Every year, many people approach me regarding admission in a school or a college. Because I have been in teaching profession for over thirty-five years, here in Mumbai, they assume that I must be able to influence some Trustee or Principal – whoever it is – to help them get admission for their kin or kith.

But, I am very bad in this job!

Yes, I have taught thousands of students over these years, and, in the process, I might have come across many school Trustees, Principals and teachers. But, I haven’t sought any favours from them. Very, very rarely, when I have sought a favour on someone’s behalf, it has not worked out. So, I have learnt to sincerely communicate about my drawback in this respect and, rather, encourage them to try on merit, wait with patience  - even to remind them saying that they should not mind sending their children to whichever school or college available to them. “Boards, schools and colleges make no big difference.” I keep drilling into their heads, “Your child does.”

Am I trying to escape or am I trying to be too philosophical?

None of the two. I am trying to be ‘practical’… sensible.

The only time I had sought favour for myself was when I was a new-comer and struggler in Mumbai. I lived in my uncle’s house and I had no job. In desperation, and with a fearful state of mind, I remember visiting a well-connected gentleman (who happened to be relative of one of my friends). Now, this gentleman was truly ‘gentle’ and he truly wanted to help me. So, he kept sending me, with his reference, to some employers… But, thanks to my low self-confidence and fearful state of mind, I got rejected everywhere!

Which meant: I was not destined to work in that fashion… with low self-confidence and fearful, state of mind. I was destined to ‘find myself’ and live an authentic life!

Since then, I have been very, very discreet about seeking or entertaining favours. If we really deserve the seat, we will get it. That’s my firm belief. If we do not get it in the particular school or college, we will get it where we are destined to get… and, all that we are supposed to do is: make the most of it!

This year, too, two dear ones approached me for seats. “Can you talk to so and so for FY BMM seat in so and so college?” The first one said. “Do you know anyone in so and so college for FYJC admission for my grand daughter? She hasn’t got online admission in any of the colleges she wanted to join.”

I confessed to both of them about my drawback in this matter and I gently advised them on the same lines as I always did… “Do not panic… all will turn out to be good… Good Karma pays…  Keep patience… Keep trying… Keep hope.”

Two weeks ago, the BMM boy called up to tell me that he got admission in his desired college. And, last night, the grandfather of the FYJC girl called up to tell that she got admission in her desired college, too!

Now, how would you explain this phenomenon?

Perhaps, years later, when this BMM boy and FYJC girl will look back, I hope, they will surely smile with confidence and happiness.

Pic.: Niyothi Lobo

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


Years ago, there were these two popular books - ‘How to Read a Person Like a Book’ (by Gerard Nierenberg) and ‘Body Language’ by Allan and Barbara Pease. It was the time when people – particularly youngsters – were obsessed with reading about their Horoscopes… Linda Goodman’s books – ‘Sun Signs’, ‘Star Signs’ and ‘Love Signs’ were a rage during this time. This was also the time, when people – yes, particularly youngsters – were found obsessed with reading about the Body Language… right from the way you used your hands to the way you sat, walked, slept and even blinked or frowned – yes, everything about your body was supposed to mean something, say something.

A few decades later, today, I do not see many people hooked on to these kinds of subjects the way they did once… Linda Goodman, Gerard Nierenberg, Allan and Barbara seem to be authors of another time... This is New Age… People seem to be obsessed with new stuff!

But, I still tell young ones, who come to meet me, about their handshakes. “Come, give me a ‘Good’ handshake,” I insist when I sense no life in their handshakes. “Give me a gentle handshake… not very tight and not very loose. When your handshake is too tight, you come about as very dominating or aggressive… and, when it’s too loose, you come about as too submissive, skeptical or indifferent…. Give a gentle, confident handshake.”

Anything ‘old’ or ‘new’ about this advice?

This world did exist thousands of years before Linda, Gerard, Allan and Barbara.  It will continue to exist for thousands of years even after you and I go. But, the subject – ‘How to Read a Handshake Like a Book’ – will never be out of use.

However, there is a danger here. If we start reading too much into other people’s body behavior, we will only end up being stupid… even neurotic.  This morning, while coming to work, I met two senior citizens… Both were doing their morning walk together. “Good morning sirs,” I greeted exuberantly offering my hand to one of them first. “Good morning sirji,” he responded with even more exuberance. Then, I offered my hand to the other. I could feel the ‘lack of interest’… and I didn’t hear even a whisper in response!

Now, the first thought to come in my mind was: “Why did I offer my hand to this person in the first place?”

But, by the time the thought faded, I could see a smile blooming on my face. “Come on, don’t read too much into a senior citizen’s handshake,” I found me reminding myself, “Shake off your heavy head and move on!”

Too often, this world can be a better place – with least complications – if we stop reading too much into other people’s smiles and handshakes. Our heads can be much lighter, too.


Pic.: Khushboo Gulrajani

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


By the time I publish this Post on my blog, the national flag across our country – in every nook and corner that is – would have been already hoisted. The National Anthem and some patriotic songs, some snacks or sweets to children… maybe some games… with that would conclude our 71st Independence Day celebration. We will not be able to change our ‘old ways’ of living even till the flag is descended before sunset…

Our ways haven’t changed… “I am an Indian… and all Indians are my brothers and sisters,” this pledge is only confined to the tricolor pole or our children’s’ textbooks.

Am I proud to be an Indian?

Yes, I am.

With all the good, the bad and ugly that my country offers me, am I still proud to be an Indian?

Yes, I am.

I do not like chest-thumping at all. The patriotic feeling, just like the feeling towards my parents and spouse, should be left to my bosoms. I know, it is ordinary citizens like you and me make this nation… I know, we had the fortune of being born on this soil… I know thousands of selfless souls have sacrificed their lives for us to be able to enjoy the fruits of freedom today… I know I am blessed to co-exist with my country men who belong to so many different faiths, who speak so many different languages, who follow so many different t customs … eat so differently… dress so differently… and, even pray so differently. That is the fortune and pride, I truly feel, that make me a fine Indian.

Need I stand on the hill-top and thump my chest: “Hark, hark, I am a proud Indian?”

The other day, I watched the young anchor of one of the national televisions cornering a hardcore nationalist. The debate was on making singing of ‘Vande Mataram’ compulsory. “Sir, can you sing two or three lines?” The anchor kept pushing. And, obviously, the hypocrisy was exposed on national television!

I can sing my National Anthem and Vande Mataram in one of the finest voices and flawlessly. The fellow next to me may not know the words or the tune. Will that make me a better Indian than my fellowman?

Why this arrogance? Why this intolerance? What is being ‘proud’ about such patriotism? In what way will that attitude of mine contribute to my nation’s well-being?

When I was a small boy, I heard this Jesus’ parable which has always guided me about my reverence to God and my Nation…

Two men go to the Temple to pray.  The first, a Pharisee, thumps his chest out of pride and power. (The Pharisees considered themselves as pure and pious… Followed the Old Testament   and God’s Commandments by the book.). Standing by himself, so as not to be contaminated by the sinners around him, he prays: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income’ (Luke 18: 11 & 12).  His prayer extols his own virtues.  He addresses God but boasts of his own righteousness.  Four times he uses the word “I” making himself the subject of his own prayer seeing himself as superior to all. 

In another corner of the Temple, tucked away at the back was a tax collector... (In those days, Roman rulers hired some local Jews to collect the taxes. The Tax collectors used all kinds of means to collect taxes, indulging in cheating and arm-twisting, in the process earning a bad reputation for themselves). He too is standing far off because he sees himself as unworthy of coming into the presence of God.  He too beats his chest but for him it’s an act of contrition and repentance.  Looking at the ground he prayed a simple prayer of only 7 words, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”  (vs. 13) God is the subject of his sentence while he is the object.  He knows his need for God’s forgiveness.  Jesus ended the parable saying, “I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other…”   (vs. 14)

(Ref.: Rev. Sabrina Ingram… ‘Chest Thumping’)

I have forgotten to say many of my basic prayers of Catholic faith. When everyone around me – in a church or a prayer gathering - says those prayers, I stand there with my head bowed down absorbing in the meaning of those words… But, the fact is I have forgotten those words and I do not intend to make any attempt to learn them ‘by-heart’ all over again…

Does it make me a less Christian? I get comfort in the parable of Jesus. Only that is enough to make me feel how ‘Christian’ I am.

Ditto for my love and reverence towards  my county – India.

My hair stands straight when I hear Vande Mataram. But, the other day, when I heard that TV anchor challenging the ‘Pharisee’ – ‘Sir, can you sing two or three lines of it” – yes, I knew that the anchor was asking to expose the hypocrisy…

I know, the anchor would have never asked the same question to you and me, who get goose bumps all over our bodies when we hear Vande Mataram… without being able to sing a line or two from it. Leave alone the meaning of it!

A happy Independence Day to all …


Pic.: Internet
Video: YouTube

Monday, August 14, 2017


I am a die-hard fan of Sachin Tendulkar. I admire him for his game – cricket. He is a legend and he inspires millions all over the world. He comes about as a gentleman and least controversial. Hence, he is so highly respected. But, then, when the nation – the particular political class – bestowed upon him the highest civilian honour of our nation – ‘Bharat Ratna’ – I did not feel very comfortable. There are so many ‘Jewels of India’… I say so many, that Sachin would have shone much brighter without a ‘Bharat Ratna’.

It’s my view.

Our country – of more than 1.3-billion people – doesn’t have sprinters of Usain Bolt’s class. Jamica, Usani Bolt’s country - doesn’t even have a population of 28 lakh! Incidentally, Usain’s original passion was cricket. But, he went on to become the greatest athlete – the fastest man on earth. No one has matched his track records, just as no one has Sachin’s cricket-records. So, if Jamica crowns Usain with her highest civilian honor, so be it.

Honours and recognitions come from ‘outside’. They are decided by mortals – people like you and me – for the reasons and logic best known to them. Nobel Committee has never felt Mahatma Gandhi deserved a Nobel Peace Prize and our own civilian-honour Committee has never felt Amitabh Bachchan deserves to be called a ‘Bharat Ratna’.

The Sun has already set on Usain Bolt’s carrer as sprinter. There was only so much he could achieve, only so fast he could run… and, yes, only so far he could strench with his signature style. The end was very sad… I could feel the pain in my heart, “He did not deserve this kind of end,” I thought when he collapsed on the tracks in pain!

But, that’s how the so-called external success is. What goes up has to come down. The mighty empires have come and gone… The greatest mornachs and worst dictators have never stayed there for too long… The richest men and women on earth have just perished… But, the Sun, the Moon and the Stars still rule above us… They still shine, up there, without craving for ‘honour’, without making a lot of fuss… They simply do what they are best at - shine!

Why is this need in us – the humans – to be honoured by the world as ‘Successful’ or as ‘A jewel of the Nation’. Do we feel in our bosoms that blazing truth – ‘I am a jewel of this nation’?

This summer, my friend, Amit, wanted me to help his 9-year-old son, Nirav, to open up before others. “Sir, he is a sweet intelligent boy,” Amit told me, “but, he seems a lot scared… He simply doesn’t open up. Please help him.”

Indeed, little Nirav was a sweet and intelligent boy, very talented. He loved magic tricks… He would make videos of his little magic-tricks and upload them on YouTube. He was good in sketching and drawing. That’s Nirav’s way of expressing himself… just as how Sachin expressed on cricket grounds, Usain did it on running tracks and Amitabh did – and still does -  it on silver screen. Yes, Nirav has difficulty opening up before others… But, he does it his way. Every child ‘is’ special… Every child is a ‘Jewel’…

So, you,me and our 9-year-old Nirav – yes, are we all not ‘Jewels of our nation’?

I was just thinking about all these, today. Tomorrow will be our 71st Independence Day.


Pic.: Nirav Makhija

Sunday, August 13, 2017


“A book is the only place in which you can examine
a fragile thought without breaking it.”
–Edward P. Morgan

Why do people read books? There are many theories trying to explain why people do. One of them, as many think, is the old-and-tested. According to this theory, if a child observes its parents and grandparents at home reading books, it is likely to pick the reading habit.

“There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world,” said Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, “Love of books is the best of all.” And, when the child observes everyone at home reading, when it finds itself surrounded by books, the chances of child taking to books are very high.

In my Tai Chi class, today, I was talking to R. Kannan. “Both, my wife and I, are voracious readers… Our house is filled with books everywhere,” he said, “Our two sons (14 and 12) have been infected with this habit from us.”

But, the interesting thing is the subject of books that fascinates each individual. Kannan’s older kid loves Sci-fi books and topics which seem out-of-this-world. The younger one, Kannan and his wife have different tastes!

Yesterday, I was on my way to Lonavala to conduct a training session for the Youth of an international organization. 22-year-old Gunjan was deputed to accompany me in the car. He was one of the core-team members. What impressed me about his boy was: he used a mobile handset that seemed almost extinct… A simple, basic phone! Yes, all through the journey, he was getting calls from and making calls to his fellow team-members and doing his job fabulously. He also was carrying with him a very thick fiction – ‘Catch 22’. He came about extremely well-informed and well-grounded young man. Above all, a young man with his head firmly planted over his shoulders… “I would rather prefer to spend my time reading books than wasting it on useless social media,” Gunjan said to me very confidently, “Life is better this way.”

Later, during the training session, I was talking to the young guns about the importance of distinguing our needs from our wants. I instinctively asked Gunjan to show his mobile phone to his friends. “Any one here has this kind of phone?” I asked. Obviously, none had. “My dear young friends, it takes real guts, real self-confidence, to make such choices,” I explained, “I am not trying to pit you guys against Gunjan… I am only trying to tell you guys, that by making this one choice, he has enough time in hand to read a fat fiction which he has carried today while coming for this camp.” Then I asked, “Has anyone else, here, carried a book?”


I wasn’t into reading till I was inspired by Prof. B.S. Raman to become a teacher. That was when I was in first year B.Com. I was miserable in English – reading, writing and speaking, all. I was, also, very scared to face an audience, due of high levels of social anxiety, fear of being judged and rejected. So, this was the time, when I dreamt of becoming a teacher and writer like my idol, I started reading… anything that made me feel good, anything that made me soar high… anything that calmed down my anxiety…

“You're never alone when you're reading a book.” Said Susan Wiggs. Yes, ever since I started reading – and writing – I have never felt alone. Rather, I have never felt lonely.

In books I have found my best friends… best guides, teachers, mentors and soul mates, even.

Coming back to the question: Why do people read books?

Only who read the books can tell.


Pic.: Niyothi Lobo

Friday, August 11, 2017


I have written about this before… yet, I am writing about it, today: The very thought that some people always think about me fondly… that they keep me in their hearts always… yes, this is a self-empowering and self-healing thought. I am very conscious of the fact that at every point of time, I am in someone’s heart… that they love me, care for me and accept me for what I am… This thought keeps me eternally hopeful, loving and loveable… even a lot fearless in life.

It is true, the other way around, too. There are some special people who I have kept in my heart, always… And, that very thought must be so reassuring and empowering for those people.

The beauty of this is, that we do not have to tell it from the mountain-top. This is a silent act of loving and caring… It reaches miles afar, it touches and you can feel it from oceans and deserts afar! These people do not ask you, “Why didn’t you call me on my birthday or anniversary?” Nor, do we ask the same to them. They judge less and find faults in us very, very less. We do the same to them.

Frankly, we need this kind of space inside us. Else, life would be too harsh, too heartless to deal with.

One such person called me a while ago. “What a pleasant surprise!” I expressed my joy on receiving the call from this person.

“Just wanted to hear your voice!” this person said.

A couple of birthdays, anniversaries, new years, and Christmases have gone by. Neither of us had greeted each other… But, yes, I always had the person in my heart… and, I am sure, I was there in this persons’ heart, as well…

It is just that, we need many in our lives like this… Who just keep us in their hearts and we keep them in our hearts… That’s enough. It doesn’t need validation… doesn’t need proof and broadcast.

“I just wanted to hear your voice,” is all needed.


Pic.: Aparna Deshmukh