Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Who is the hero?

This is a riddle, actually a story .. a little longer one though. You would have to read through to the end and find out who the hero is!

His is a typical rags to riches story, epitomized in so many Tamil movies. He is the General Manager of a big manufacturing company now, very fluent in English, highly computer savvy, drives a nice car and visits foreign countries regularly for Business meetings. He however has not forgotten his roots and visits his parents every fortnight, who preferred to stay back in their village and not with their son in an ultra modern metropolis apartment.

Flashback to 2013 ... the eight year old boy (our hero) hails from a family so poor they struggled daily to meet even their basic needs. His father is a poor agriculturist, mother a home maker and he has a younger sister who dearly wished to become a doctor when she grew up.

Every morning, the mother takes the previous night's meal and makes a porridge out of it for the kids. The kids have that half-meal and leave to the school about 5 kilometers away. After the school is over, they return home and work in the nearby field for some time.

The odds seemed heavily stacked against them. The only beacon of light in their otherwise gloomy lives was the best-in-class education they received at the school. Math, Science and Computers are his favourite subjects. But he has to study only in the flickering lights of a kerosene lantern in an otherwise completely dark house. Of course, they do not have an electricity connection nor can they afford the power generators in event of a power failure.

That did not however dampen the boy's spirits. His scholarship is up for renewal and his sponsor had written to him congratulating on his recent grades & goading him to do well in higher classes too. That was fire enough to keep him going.

Soon, time flies by and he keeps writing letters to his sponsor every year. They have even met once or twice, with every visit the boy showcasing the talents he has been gaining. He soon completes his school with very high grades and gets admission to one of the most reputed institutes in the state. The person who sponsored his scholarship did not even dream initially that the boy will achieve such heights in life! He is so happy and tears of joy flow from his eyes on seeing the boy.

What happened to his sister!? of course, she too has been inspired like her brother and studied like him in the same school. It would be couple of more years for her to realize her dream of joining a medical college though.

Did you guess who the hero is?

ggrrrr ... I can hear the readers screaming "Stop! You do not have enough information about the guy? And did you just dare say 'best-in-class' education in a rural school?"

Yeah - I forgot to mention, this was one school and the only one common for 5 or 6 villages in the district. They charged minimal fees (about 10000 to 13000 rupees) per year for the education & bus facility.

"Ooh .. a school bus for door pickup at that cost and still I dare mention 'best-in-class' education!? How could that be?"

Well, the boy studied at one of the Isha Vidhya schools! :)

What you just read is not fiction - this is how a lot of rural kids live in our country. Most can only dream of an education, let alone a good one. However, in the last few years, about 6000 rural kids have come to receive this very light of knowledge in their lives thanks to Isha Vidhya!

They can now dream of a rosy future thanks to the really fantastic education at their school, complete with a huge library, computer lab, math lab, activity based learning systems, etc. You name some of the most advanced education techniques employed by some of the best schools in Chennai, I bet they have already been tried out or are under trial at the Isha Vidhya schools.

So - coming back to our question, "who is the hero?"

For readers still scoffing about the lack of information, it is not the kid. It is the sponsor who supported the kid through his education!

It would have cost the hero of our story, about 1.5 Lakh rupees over 14 years of education of the boy. But in most city schools in India now, parents pay that much for their kids' school fee per year! And is this cost too much for making an inspired Indian out of a rural kid?

I am running now for this cause - to educate rural Tamilnadu. I am participating in Chennai marathon on 1st December 2013, running for Isha Vidhya. I have made a promise that I would reach out to as many people as possible.

You, my reader, is a potential hero yourself! 'What can I do' you may ask. The real question is, do we really care to do something for kids who live like this or not. If you do, there are tons of ways to help. For starters, something so simple as allotting 200 rupees per week (is it costlier than a pizza?) aside for a kid's education. There are 52 weeks in a year and am sure you can do the math :)

No amount is small enough! Even 200 rupees, collected from 50 people, is enough to light the lamp in a child's life forever! Are you inspired to do something now? What are you waiting for?

Visit the link below and sponsor a kid's education online - you can pay as much or as little as you want!

http://www.ishavidhya.org/marathon/index.php?marathon=chennai2013

We have been sponsoring for two kids since the last few years. The joy and satisfaction we get out of it is untold! My picture from last year's Chennai marathon is here:

http://blog.ishafoundation.org/inside-isha/announcements/run-for-isha-vidhya-educate-rural-india

Hoping to see you all soon with my next blog on how the marathon was :)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Leadership 101 as a parent

There was intense pain but I could not show it on my face. My daughter was keenly watching me and I suddenly felt I cannot show the fear of pain to her anymore since she might also become afraid later. Nevertheless when a dentist puts in two injections inside your mouth and pries open your jaws for 20 minutes, it does pain - at least till the numbness sets in.

So, it is in this context of a dental visit that some of my thoughts here on how my kid is learning from what am doing stepped from.

There has always been this quote from Sadhguru on my mind - "When a child has come into your life, it is time to learn and not teach". I thought I understood it well but am not sure anymore now! There seem to be a myriad dimensions to this one statement.

One aspect of it was the literal meaning that I took. I started observing how she learns from life and it has never ceased to amaze me from then till now as to how the children 'sponge-absorb' things & events from around them. Yes, we do teach her a thing or two as she feels necessary. In fact, Abi has been doing most of Isha's coaching with me watching from the sidelines. I have been more of a passive teacher so far for her. But the compulsion to push her academically is not there in us to the extent I see in so many other parents.

Today, Abi was talking about a long discussion she had with Swami Suyagna from Isha Foundation. I was asleep at that time and when I woke up, she narrated a gist of it to me. Unconsciously at first and then in awareness tears started flowing down my eyes because I felt touched by the deep management science that Swami was bestowing on her. Bearing a slight jealousy for the honour showered on her (of course she fully deserved it!), I kept listening.

Soon, a thought came in that what Swami spoke about leadership, mentoring, coaching, managing, etc. applies not just to corporates but also to me as a parent! After all, if making another Abirami or Rajasekhar is tough enough at office, imagine how tough it is to bring up your child to your potential at least. And Sadhguru says your child should dare to do things which you have not even dreamed of!

It was then that I suddenly realized Isha naturally prefers to do what we do at home very intensely, like me cleaning the house or Abi's dedication to Bhairavi or drawing for that matter. I certainly have to do better than what am doing in grooming her from now on.

An experiential realization dawned on me that leaders exist at all levels. Every one is a leader in their own right and they have a dedicated group of followers, whether they know it or not. What kind of society we will create in future clearly depends on how leaders of today, which is basically everyone, exist & influence by example.

I definitely feel the need to dig deeper in me to find the necessary integrity & courage to lead my life better and keep that striving for constant improvement burning.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A novel worth our time ...

I honestly did not think I would break my blog silence finally, for writing about a book, rather a sequel. Yes, I had been intrigued initially by it but when I laid my hands on the sequel, I just could not put them down and read them through over 3 nights and some parts of the days as well.

I am talking about the Shiva Trilogy by Amish Tripathi. I am writing this right after closing the final book, The oath of the Vayuputras. Till about mid-way through the last book of this series, I was actually happy that I have finally stumbled upon a brilliant classic from an Indian author. Am I retaining that feeling after the completion, am not so sure. One thing is sure though, it was a heart wrenching tale of how Sati sacrificed herself and the events which happened post that. May be I am being so sentimental and melodramatic here, but having been immersed in it straight through, the pain of Sati's death still lies heavy in my heart.

Puritans of Indian History and Mythology may balk. But as far as I am concerned, the good things about this series are:

1) It introduces a lot of characters from Indian mythology, even if in different contexts than what you would know of them traditionally
2) It puts up the perspective of how the caste system originated (and everyone now knows how it degenerated)
3) Indian Rishis, now worshipped as Gods, have been clearly treated more as scientists who had a spectacular understanding of this universe, but human at the same time
4) The length and breadth of Indian Geography is discussed in such wonderful detail
5) The way the author portrays scientific advances made by ancient Indians is truly commendable. Today, a substantial portion of that has been proven true although the timelines
6) Even the description of weaponry used in ancient times in such detail has been brilliant

The Legend of Shiva, starting from the moment he is shown as a man fighting for his tribe, till his death, showing him at various inflection points in his life rising above rest of humanity around him, is simply superb. It shows what every human is capable of, if only we have the conviction to find out the truth for ourselves.

Overall, it is a brilliant conception, a smart introduction to ancient Indian sciences, a humane story of struggle for power vs truth and has been told that way. It tends to drag a bit through the dialogues, the philosophy and the war sections, but those have been critical sections as I see to introduce the readers to ancient Indian way of living.

A word of caution to the readers though - you have to read it as if you are reading a novel, which is what I presume the author tried to present. Do not read it from historical accuracy perspective and find faults with it.