Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sea Dreamer

This post is named after a beautiful song by Sting/Anoushka Shanker

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GNYRMskc1Q&feature=kp

Loved where he says, how the secrets of moonlight will take him where the sun meets the water and sky breaks free. What a beautiful description of dawn!

My days are busy at work. But my parents' health continue to worries me. Feels so helpless sometimes and yet other times tries to give all the possible rationals to myself.

We have appointed a new principal at our school. She has done Vipassana too. Third in my office :-)

She is such a disciplined person. She is first one to come to school and almost the last one to leave. She doens't mind coming even on weekends too. She wakes at 4 AM and is there at school  by 8. She wears these beautiful cotton sarees that I just love.

My students are having some great time too with me! They don't mind studying Math all day with me and we tomorrow are going to have our first ever 5 hour Math class! They are far behind but they are smart. Kids always are! Of course, it means that I will have to put in some extra hours for other assignments that I have. But these students are amazing. While all my Ummmeed students were stud and rowdy, these kids are sincere and have just little naughtiness on their faces that makes my day brighter every morning.

As I sleep tonight, I dream for tranquility of the sea as described in this song. I want to wake up tomorrow for a new dawn, for a more hard working day, for ability to bear more pain and for energy full of worthiness.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Students driven learning

We often enter into classrooms where teachers are having a monologue while students are listening, making notes, writing down, solving. But there is a power in students driven learning. I am teaching IX and X grade students these days, just to support them in Math while schools are closed for summer vacation.

My students struggle with questions like 7x3 =21, or -3 + 4 =1.

I just did a quick thing today. Some students took the roles of quizmasters and others were participants. While the quizmasters asked questions like 7x5 - 8 x 6 and calculated the answers, the participants answered these questions in less than 10 seconds. The end result - stronger, motivated and confident students.

There were other feedback which I gave them - about how the scorer is more involved in the quiz then scoring properly, how the particpants gets nervous when a question is asked, how the winning team had a great teamwork behind them and how they can maintain calmness in a competitive environment.

The point is simple - "Be your own teacher and be your own disciple"

I am just there to help!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Despite the rains, we had a Math Camp

We organized a Math Camp yesterday evening in the neighboring community. The objective was to know our neighbors, spread a word about our school initiatives and have some fun with kids. Our team was working really hard. They got up at 4 AM to ensure the newspapers have the pamphlets, then they went on distributing the pamphlets, and then they were busy with all day with putting up a tent, chairs, tables, signboards, school banner, packing up gifts etc.

At just about 4 PM, as everything was set, it started raining! All of us thought all our efforts will be washed away. My team members faces were becoming long. But kids are kids! They started walking in. Their parents started bringing them in under the umbrellas. At 4.10 PM, when the rain was dripping down the tent, drenching us, we had around 25 students who were with us, ready for their first ever Math camp in the community!

And we started our quiz without getting worried of how much rains we still were going to get. Our scoredboard was too wet for writing, our papers were getting wet in a second but our students were ready and our quizmaster was ready. Our first quiz was a success. There were people looking from their verandahs and we had 15 more students walking in another half an hour, and next 10 in another half an hour.

What a spirit of the children! They can keep going, drenching in the rain under a tent, and still participating! We next asked students to learn more about our methods of teaching after they were finished with their quiz, and we got some motivating responses, right from, "Will we just have one class?" to "I never learned like this before". 

We ended around 7 PM in the evening, the rain stopped around 5:30, and we all knew that we are going to have an encore pretty soon, for our happiness and for the kids! :-D

Even the rains cannot stop us! 


Saturday, May 17, 2014

I can help - Resume, GMAT and Essays

Hey everyone,

I am writing this blog post as a way to reach out to people who are kick-starting their pursuit of Business Schools/GMAT.

So far, I have helped around 9 friends in the initial process who needed help in writing first few drafts of their resume and essays before going to an expensive consultant. After they had a strong foundation, I then recommended them to a professional admission consultant which helped  them with a final version. This saved them lot of money as usually admission consultants charge exorbitant prices for just one review or an hour of phone call. Also, it helped them to understand what is the application process about, how to approach essays, how to write a resume, and how to plan and study for GMAT without taking help from any coaching centers. 

My reason for doing all of this is simple - that I have enjoyed doing it in the past and my friends enjoyed drafting their applications/resumes with me and they were successful also in schools like Kellogg, Wharton, Stanford etc.  But since I did it only with my friends, I am not sure how it is going to turn out to do with people I don't know yet!

But I feel like giving it a shot! So just email me at mukaam2014@gmail.com if you are looking forward for a help like that and we can set up a skype call and start!! I haven't thought about any costs yet and right now I am doing it just to get myself busier!

Thanks for reading through the post and looking forward to helping!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Keep Moving

I think I am going into writer's block again. No lucid thoughts as such.

I have come back to Hyderabad and joined work. It is an exciting place. And I have picked a new project. That will keep me occupied. That is all I intend to do. Stay busy and occupied. And  keep moving.

Later.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Finality

It is one of the most difficult posts that I am going to write. Because today, I am talking about the a finality that I have to accept. When I read Ayn Rand years ago, what stuck me most was this quote:
"I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine"
If you have read the book, you would know that it doesn't mean an individual has to be selfish. It means that every moment of your life should have a purpose that is of your own - if it means that you are serving others, you are serving yourself and that is because you want to. You don't say I am living for the purpose of x, y and z person. As soon as you start intertwining your life like this, you lose what your soul is meant for.
I have a difficult decision to make. My parents are not going to get better. I cannot understand what they are going through the illness and I have no clue what is the right course of action for me to do except knowing that my life has a purpose and that purpose needs to be achieved. My sister and mine most important 20s have spent in hospitals for our parents. I am not complaining, but the fact is that I have seen shopping malls lesser than hospital in last couple of years. We have practically done nothing beyond keeping up with our jobs and that too we have just managed. No exploration or travel or vacation that we could plan.
Our relatives makes us feel guilty for not quitting our jobs and living with our parents or taking a holiday which is not for our parents. Our parents are in no position that they can help us build our lives. We have to take care of it - our career, our financial stability, our future and all the successes and failures. Destabilizing our individual lives and career. Is that the answer? Leaving our parents alone - Is that the answer? I really have no clear cut solution to this problem except knowing that there is severe urge within to stop living like this. To live in scare of running across the country any moment, to have uncertainty of death every third or fourth month, to spending all our holidays and vacations in mending and caring for our parents. What does the dharma says? Do our duties? Isin't there a duty towards ourselves. To be happy, to live life fully for ourselves. Is life not meant to be like this?

I worked at Teach for India and people think that I wanted to do it for social service. NO! I did it because I found it meaningful for my life and my intellectual capacity. I helped my parents not as a duty but as something I wanted to do. that was a life choice. But now, when things are beyond my control, when the only reciprocation to my parents' situations is helpnessess, I feel like quitting from the choice that I made. I have started feeling the more important justice will be to give more emphasis to my life and my sister's life. Those battles are still on. Those battles I can still fight and can still won. To not become  middle-aged women whose only important impressions of life are its struggle and misery. I sometimes feel I have already reached my middle age. I don't act or behave like other 28 years olds at all. Well, I never acted or behaved my age but suddenly in last couple of years, I have aged faster than years went by.

I want to live for the purpose of life.


Friday, May 9, 2014

Perseverence

I am back today again. To be able to write, doesn't happen often with me. In the past, I have either opened, drafted and never posted or never wrote beyond couple of sentences. I have more drafts than actual posts. So, it is a mercy to be able to write and wanting to post too.

I want to share with you one very inspiring talk from Ms. Anu Aga. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbfvZeyeBhE

I've met Anu Maam during my Teach for India fellowship. We happened to talk about my father and she told me her struggle through life. Her face was radiant with glow and shine of a saintly woman. I had wondered how at 62 someone can look this beautiful and bright. She has a voice that will instantly make you affectionate towards her and yet there is a sense of authority and leadership. There are few people in this world whose words stays with you forever, even simple words. Their mannerism and sense of speaking is everlasting. My interaction with Anu Maam was like that.  I have talked to her four-five times. And every time I have come across her, my respect for her authenticity, despite her being such a great public figure, has grown manifold.

Even during my last day of Vipassana, when the noble silence was broken and I get back to talking and making friends, I told one of the fellow meditator that people who have done Vipassana are breathtakingly beautiful and I mentioned Anu Maam to her. She replied by saying, "Now I know why you have come for Vipassana." :-)

Anyway, her perseverance to turn around her struggles is very inspiring. Her challenge was magnanimous and the way she turned it around gives me hope, a lot of hope to live life and to wait for better days. Of course the cycle of good and bad times never ends. But the way to get through bad days is by knowing that good days will come.

PS - I know I never fail to mention about Vipassana, That's the promise I made during my last day to myself. I never gave any money as donation. My service to Vipassana teaching was to tell about its benefits to more and more people.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Happiness is the truth

I thought I will write on the blog more regularly. But it took me another four days to come back. Not that I didn't try writing in between. But I wanted to write only if it is worth sharing.

Working from home is not easy. The discipline of going to work is lost. The efficiency drops down. You need a rhythm and a momentum. Really surprises me how novelists keep writing forever day after day on one desk isolating themselves from the world. But other times, I do relate to them. If you really are in the right frame of mind and momentum, you can keep working for hours without talking. And the work will be of a brilliant quality. I think I need both - momentum and right frame of mind. The fear is that once I have both, I will probably need to go back to Hyderabad. 

The caretaker we have in my parents' house demonstrates excellence in his work. He always remembers his work that he needs to do and he remembers to do them timely. He doesn't complain. He has humility that you really don't see often. He never reacts to any kind of agitation. If provoked, he responds with the right words very carefully. His wife is not that efficient in work or with children. He does the household work in his own quarters too. He is able to save money. What a clarity towards simplicity in life! And the best part is I see him contended. Always cracking some nice funny jokes here and there. I think working hard, not complaining, being disciplined, not being extravagant makes life worthwhile. Simple virtues and simplicity in conduct. Do we need anything else to be happy?

There are other things on my mind too. Will try to write back soon.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

When are you going back?

I began my day with having an Omlette at Caltex. My sister and I just love having Omlettes here. It has been a tradition for us to have Sunday breakfast at a small coffee shop. We usually have idlis in Hyderabad. Now it was the turn for Omlettes. I looked outside from Caltex. It has windows without windows panes. So, I can look at the street very clearly.

I see young men roaming around. My kids are like that too, I thought. In Teach for India classrooms, fellows usually refer to their students as "my kids" and you can hear them chattering on and on about "my kids did this" and "my kids did that". But my kids weren't really kids. They were these 18 year old young boys. And I couldn't anywhere be their "Parent-like" at age of 28. But funny part is, I still feel I was. Although I haven't been able to carry it through much after that. I still know what are they up to but haven't been able to meet them since June last year. Like this week, I talked to Ajay at around 9:30 PM. I was about to crash and he so nicely said "Didi, you sound very tired. Please sleep nicely. Have a good night." They were simple words but they had lot of care and affection.

Anyway, back to Caltex, When I was seeing all these young boys, I can't resist thinking how I have a familiarity with them. I can pick up conversation with them and can continue forever. For a 28 years old woman, this is really strange behavior to talk with 20 years old boys on streets like this. I guess I sometimes just miss being a teacher to my students. And other time, there is this desire to be still able to work with children like those. They are very special.

My mother and I sat in the porch in the evening. She was trying to explain to me lot of things like how my sister has said that she will take one of her paintings to US. That's a life size painting, It took my mom 5 minutes to explain this in a  simple sentence. But I know it means a lot to her that her children value her work.

It means a lot to her to see me married as well. She talked about that too. But then she added, Don't get married unless you are sure of your happiness. She dispense words of wisdom even though making a sentence is so hard for her. I could hear remnants of her own experiences there.

Finally, she looked into my eyes and asked, "When are you going back?". I said, "I am here". But that wasn't enough. I couldn't answer more or promise more.

Tenacity to live

Vivekananda says thoughts have lot of power. A sanyasin sitting in the cave just meditating and thinking, can transmit thoughts loud and clear to the world outside, beyond the wall of caves. I am hyperventilating thoughts these days - my thoughts are fast and deep. I  transmit very few things in my words, but I get reactions as if people are able to hear more than what I am saying.

We went to hospital yesterday. Papa had a small surgery for which the doctor incharge wasn't comfortable with. The risk was that of high bleeding. He repeatedly share his concerns and in fact postponed it by three days to wait for one medical parameter to lower down.But the cardiologist, who has been looking after the case for last two years, gave a go ahead. Our trusted cardiologist had to fly out to Australia for some medical conference, so we were left with an unsure surgeon. We waited for four crawling hours for surgery to happen. Meanwhile, I noticed other patients. Everybody is serious, not even a trace of smile on their lips. Hospital staff who has to serve all these patients, doesn't seem to be that sad. They have a genuine warmth. I think the profession teaches them the reality of life more closely and quickly, teaching them to embrace the fact  that misery and death are part of life.

When papa finally went in, my sister and I went for a coffee and a snack to let the hour pass. She could read my face and I hers. After an hour, I got the phone call asking me to come in front of the operation theatre. He doesn't say recovery room or any other place. But he says "Come in front of OT". That isin't a good news, we both say to each other and rushed four floors of stairwell, to finally find papa safe and comfortable in the recovery room. I text friends and family. Finished up all the discharge formality in next four hours and finally said goodbye to my sister who flew to US last night.

Papa and I came back home. He hasn't eaten anything. I gave him all sorts of options - from bananas to roti on the dhaba, on our way back. But he asks for a Shikanji. His desires of eating unhealthy food has never been satiated, I thought. I know some of my own wrong desires that have never been satiated too. So, I don't give him any lecture on how Shinkaji is prohibited and stayed easy on him. I buy him that and see him enjoying it till the last sip. Little mercies he has, I thought.

"His will has tenacity to live" our cardiologist tells us always, "and that is why he is living otherwise his medical state would have given up by now." I think Papa has lot of make-believe in his head. He never tells himself the fact of his body. He continue to live, like business as usual, and so he is living. He doesn't register it and that is why I think he could enjoy Shikanji like a healthy and carefree man. He doesn't fail to mention that how an astrologer recently told him that he will live till 70. It is such a contrast to what he has gone through at the hospital. Was he not contemplating anything at all? He continues to talk about BJP and Congress with the driver for rest of the journey while I am still hyperventilating my thoughts.

I came home and slept for 12 continuous hours, after a long time. Relieved that he is still around.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Hyderabad Blues

We flew from Hyderabad this morning. The day was normal. We had some quiet family time, talking about some relevant and irrelevant stuff. The environment in home is different from my life there at Hyderabad. The priority list is different. Anyway, papa's doctor has clarity of limited time he has. We all three sisters decided that now we cannot leave everything to the caretaker family we have here. One of us has to be stationed here.

I am not sure how we will work out that configuration. I was thinking if there is something called sabbatical in a start-up. I know my company is very supportive but at such a nascent stage they can't afford to have a dormant employee. So, I still have to work out those options. Both my sisters are stretching themselves as well.

After practicing Vipassana for so many days, practicing in presence of everyone at home is going to be little tricky. My younger sister used to jibe at me when I used to come out after an hour long meditation. And I know it just doesn't fit in my family culture. They find me peculiar anyway. But somehow this time around, i have stopped caring about the inferences and judgement of others. I am more closely connected to myself and have more control on feelings. So, there is a protected self which nothing can touch. So, after everyone had an afternoon nap, I did try doing some Vipassana. And I could sense a solidified energy level  here, not as lucid as we have in hyd home. At the Vipassana meditation center, of course the energy has lot of vibrations. But here in my parents place, the vibrations are dull. When my mom was fine, the house used to glorify with her three hours long effort of cleaning, decoration, praying and cooking. Things are different now. 

Things have changed long back. I accepted them too. May be I have fully realized now. And it is time to forge ahead keeping the mental balance intact.