Tuesday, February 4, 2014

SEED Schools won the Battle of the Best Competition

What a way to welcome my 50,000 blog hits. Our school won the Battle of the Best competition conducted by Gray Matters India in Hyderabad against 120 affordable private schools. Last 8 months of struggling finally received a blessing!

Here is the story covered by The Indian Express this Sunday:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The magic of the old city of Hyderabad

The school was located very close to Charminar. After four months of being in Hyderabad, I finally got to see how Charminar looks like. As I looked over it, I remembered seeing Qutub Minar everyday for a year when I was in Delhi as Ummeed is located right behind it. And now Charminar gave me similar inspiration. The firmness of these monuments even if world around them is changing has always been a huge reaffirmation for me, to live my life that way, with firmness of being fair.

Passing by the crowded streets, broken arches and empty eyes of ever-busy shopkeepers, I remembered mumbling to myself, "Life is lived here as well. " We entered into the school and I met the children. Unlike my Ummeed students, who would all were rowdy, vocal and shouting, the children here were seemingly shy. The girls students' heads were covered. The teachers heads were covered too but they were using technology with so much ease. The sight was a unique combination of progressiveness and tradition. I looked unblinked at the teacher who was bringing so much energy despite her shy demeanor and traditional wardrobe. 

Later, we saw 10th graders girl and they all were standing around their science projects. They could not explain us much Physics of series and parellel resistance or any functioning of battery and power but they tried really well. I have always seen in any of the school I visited, students are always good. and I have come to a belief that we fail them, we don't make efforts to understand them and make them understand the way they would. All of these girls again had covered their heads as well. They sang beautifully an English song for us on principal's request. The lyrics of songs were, to our surprise,  unusually romantic. I guess the adolescence was kicking in and needed a channel but I fear the environment of old city wouldn't handle it with care. 

In their voices and their faces, I saw the beauty of India., and how much it calls to be protected and nurtured. It filled me with energy as I walk on this path, sometimes lost and sometimes brought back.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Spiritual journey of Vipassana

In the last week of October, I got an opportunity to attend a 10-days course of Vipassana in the outskirts of Hyderabad. Vipassana, a meditation technique, is about understanding how our mind and body interact, how our habbit pattern develops, how cause-and-effect happens in our lives and why it is that way, not by any intellectual discussions but by a very deep self-observation. Since the day I came back, I have been trying to explain it to people how it helped me understanding myself better but I have seen it is something that you can truly experience yourself and it is difficult to be truly explain it.

I am making an attempt to write about it below,:

I was silent for 10 days, uttering no word. I was having no outside connection to the world. I had nothing to read or write. This all was very difficult to accept and in fact, I didn't see any reason why we would do so. But I later understood by a very intelligent example. All our lives, we have been burning our fuel in certain way. We keep on giving wood to our fire and keep living like that. In these days, this is changed. We don't speak to stop giving reactions to anything and developing more chain of thoughts and karmas. We stop the wheel of our own life as we know it. We stop reading/writing/communicating because in these days we are there for our own self-observation, to see only one world - the one that is within.

I followed a very strict timetable from 4:00 AM to 9:00 PM for 10 days, attempting to meditate for almost 10 hours everyday. I was punctual almost every time and missed just twice. This was a huge jump for me as those who know me, know that I am bad with punctuality and regularity both. Vipassana  enabled me do this for the first time in my life.

For first two days, I felt like it was a mistake. It is not for me. i am a happy person and I am self-aware as well. So, for 10 days I wouldn't be able to do much. This myth of mine was shattered. In the first seven days, there were huge storms inside me telling me how miserable I am, full of deep unresolved agonies and contempt towards myself and others. I worked very seriously for all these days and saw these dissolve slowly as I got deeper into the technique.

Vipassana teaches about staying equanimous towards any sensation- that are eventually responsible for our cravings and aversions. We have 6 different sensations in our body and they are continuously present every moment. Through the technique, firstly I learnt to be more aware of my sensations. this awareness slowly deepened over the course of 10 days and I was able to understand my deepest cravings and aversions that arise due to these sensations. The aim then becomes minimizing these aversions and cravings because both of then eventually lead us to the wrong path of attachment and selfishness. But minization has to happen at the sensation level so that our reaction towards them get feebler and feebler.

 Everybody likes being happy and everybody hates anger. We also intellectually understand and accept that both are impermanent then why it is so difficult for us to follow this virtue of staying balanced when either happiness or sadness comes? It is because we have been able to intellectualize it at the conscious level but not at the sub-conscious and sensation level.  Through the technique, at least for final two days, I got closer to staying equanimous because I started understanding my sensations, my body and mind reactions, my feelings and my habbit patterns. When that happened I could sense a free flow of energy all over my body, followed by purification of feelings and eventual calmness.

Of course, in 10-days no one can get enlightened and no one is able to eliminate attachments and aversions completely but a seed is sown. Beyond that, It is up to the individual to walk the path and keep on knocking door of truth, love and compassion.

Vipassana also teaches you to see things as they really are. When I entered the course , I read this line so many times describing Vipassana that I actually couldn't understand what this could possibly mean. What it means is that you start seeing anything in your life very objectively, in totality, not from your own persective - that you have been seeing zillion times but in completion, from every possible angle. You stop being angry or happy by developing this understanding. You don't bring your emotions and ego in between. You see them as they happened and not how you have been thinking they happened. Only by experience one could see what it really means.

In the end, I could definitely say that this technique gave me more stability and firmness to mind, develop strong determination and ability to understand self and others at more real level than I  have been seeing before. It is upon me now how I can sustain myself to walk on this path. After all, everything is impermanent.

Monday, September 16, 2013

What I want to do with my life?

Seven years ago, when I graduated from college, I was a disillusioned youngester with dreams larger than life. I was immersing myself from Ayn Rand to Mahatma Gandhi to Bhagwad Gita. I was following the course of CAT, GMAT, Software Job, MBA.I was inclined to know myself and see what I am made of. I was inclined to see the world through different lens - from what Mohammed Younus gathered to what C.K.Prahalad envisioned.I was ready to take up the challenges which my job didn't give and I was ready for a life which a regular paycheck destroys. But I was on a course that couldn't lead me there. I took a plunge towards those inclinations.

And those inclinations have lead me here today, the course of my life has taken me to critical milsetones - Tata Jagriti yatra, Teach for India and then the most destroying of all - Ummeed. Each one was at a higher degree of toughness, at a stage where you could not find time to amuse yourself with illusions of the world but to take decisions and live with them, to take a call which could become life-long regret or life-long gift of understanding of self. There were quick decisions, harder conversations, harder situations on one side and a country which demands and needs blood and sweat of its countrymen on the other.

When India became a free independent nation, our founders had a difficult time to give our 200 years old fragile country a stable kick-start. As a result we spent a lot of our time, resources and energy in stabilizing the Nation through industries and agriculture. The key pillar of education lacked the implementation which could have given us integrity and sovereignty at much higher degree than our agrarian and industrial polices could ever had. I feel that the baton has passed on and course of my life has challenged me now to pick that baton and walk without stop.

I visit schools, I meet people. I meet labor and the corporate, the migrants and the native, the CEO and the principals, the venture capitalists and the destitute of this country. I get fired up with the possibilities that exist in front of me, when I meet them,where they should be and could be and how the Nation could be built. I feel the need to fulfill the mission that I have started in my life, a need to reach every mind of this country and harness the potential and immense power that exist in a brain of each child of the country, to build that character and good judgement, to build that critical thinking of how a man should live in relationship with oneself, family, environment and nation

What gives me confidence were my effort for redemption. My students at Ummeed have been going to school regularly. I left them without a teacher to hold their hand, or lead them to success, but they have been thriving on their own. It gives me a power within of expecting the world to succeed sooner or later. I feel my students and I taught one thing to each other - huge amount of resilience and endurance. They have survived and I have survived facing the battle in which I could have failed them. 

I now work for one goal - to reach to every possible brain that could build the Nation. i want to see the children I touch, to work for indigenous development of India and its future. Every project that I pick for my two schools, I aim to bring that degree of critical thinking and awareness with the teachers, the principals and the children. I want to gift each child my labor and my service. I want to gift each teacher the power that they haven't unleashed yet in changing the life of the children on a different path. I want to bring to each principal the wisdom of running the institutions in a true entrepreneurial fashion. I want to reach out to every possible person who can help me in my mission. 

I know what I want from life. Long back ago, I used to think my dreams have gone. Dreams never go. I know my dreams and more than that I still have some fire left to make them a reality.