Tuesday, May 29, 2007

the ultimate 'why?'

here's a mind exercise.

let's ask ourselves the question 'why?' for anything that we do... and when i say anything i mean anything.

why do i go to work?

why am i saving money?

why do i study/ go to college?

why do i aspire for greater things?

why do i listen to music/read books/cook?

... and so on and so forth....

and let us ask the same question to every response we come up with. where do you think this would lead us to?

would you arrive at some ultimate answer? what would be your ultimate answer? do you think each one of us would have a unique answer? or would we all have the same final answer?

watch this space for the answer :-)

(send in your responses and then lets see what we get.)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

schools - the great levelers

we mumbaikars woke up one morning to see the front page of the mumbai mirror screaming "Pissed off dad buys school for his kids" (you can read the full article here - http://www.mumbaimirror.com/net/mmpaper.aspx?page=article§id=15&contentid=200705250227128596aece596)

now, the mumbai mirror is not the kind of fare you would like to start your day with. but a headline like this demanded attention. especially for most people who are trying to get their young kids admitted in decent educational institutions.

most mumbaikars will agree that in mumbai it is easier to get invited to abhishek and aishwarya's wedding (http://www.rediff.com/movies/ashabhiwed.html) than to get your child admitted into a school of your choice! and for most people, no matter how important the whole world thinks you are, the entire admission process is a very humbling experience.

you learn early on in the process that you have to be ingratiatingly polite and smile at everyone in the school right from the 'chowkidar' (guard) at the gate to the all-important admissions coordinator who decides whether your admission form makes it to the short short-list or to the huge pile of rejects. that's assuming you have managed to get the admission form in the first place!

and if you are one among the majority with a reject letter in your hand (that's assuming the school has deigned to send you one) you dare not ask for reasons. you might believe that your child is god's gift to humanity but the school reserves the right to 'pooh pooh' your belief. in fact in most schools you would not even be able to get an audience with anybody in the school who matters. and even if you manage to meet someone, you can expect the person to feel mighty offended that you choose to question their evaluation process.

in fact the ego-crushing experience that the parents go through at most 'sought after' schools is so common that if any of the schools deviate from this attitude you begin to wonder if there is something wrong with the school.

after going through such an experience the reaction of people tends to differ widely -
1. some decide to buy the schools just to 'show them' and get back!
2. some are so relieved when they get the admission that they just want to forget the whole experience and move on in life. (some even undertake pilgrimages to the religious sites that they had promised to visit if they get the coveted admissions.)
3. some sagely analyse the situation to be a 'demand supply mismatch' problem and that this is something that one has to go through.
4. and then there are those few who truly believe that, in the long run, it doesn't really matter which school your child goes to.

and this is so very true. if we look at ourselves and people around us we see that most people shine brilliantly in life, irrespective of how good or bad their schools were. we personally know of so many great achievers who are from vernacular schools or municipal schools where we would never even think of admitting our children into. (i'd like to mention here that i am not, even for a moment, suggesting that it is not important to plan your child's education!)

i think it finally boils down to our own false notions, confusions and insecurities that reflect in the way we tackle this activity. we create these situations for ourselves by firmly believing that our children will get the best education only if they get admitted into a specific school. but education is not only about the 'pedigree' of the institution. there are so many other aspects that go into making for complete education.

do you agree?

"Don't just invest 'on' the child, also invest 'in' the child!" - Sw. Chinmayananda.

Friday, May 11, 2007

mom, i want to be a hair-dresser!

imagine if you were an indian kid from a middle-class family and had said something like this to your parents in the 70s or the 80s. they would have hit the roof and promptly got you checked by a doctor.

the only career options that were considered 'respectable' were engineering, medicine, software/ hardware (recent entrants into the list), law, civil services, bureaucracy/ government jobs, architecture, etc.

but in the last decade there's been a sea change in the jobs market and new job seekers have hundreds of options to choose from. many of these options would have been considered bizarre or looked down upon in the past.

so now when i look around me i suddenly find so many career options which suddenly seem to be not just acceptable, but also desirable by most of the youngsters today.

here's a list of some such jobs that i could come up with :

1. rj (radio jockey)/ vj (video jockey)/ dj (disc jockey) - some of these people are celebrities in their own right
2. physical instructor - this species has suddenly become a rare commodity and a status symbol for any celebrity worth his/her salt!
3. dietician - i could never decide what would cost more - the fees quoted by these dieticians or the esoteric foods they recommend.
4. hair dresser - is it the hair dresser who starts a new fashion trend (after a few accidents and experiments) or is he/she following the trend?
5. fashion designer - their clothes are like abstract art. each creation is apparently trying to communicate something but it sounds like all greek and latin to my ears!
6. yoga instructor - the new-age instructors don't teach good old yoga, its 'power yoga' or 'pranic yoga' or 'swaroopa yoga', etc.
7. vaastu/ feng shui consultant - unlike god who opens a window when he shuts a door, this consultant will close a door (no matter which direction the door in your house faces) and ask you to open another one elsewhere!
8. masseur - the star of this tribe is most definitely on the ascendant. you suddenly have spas, therapy centres, wellness clinics and other variants springing up in almost every street corner.
9. animator - all those hours spent in doodling in school or vandalising the desks with your creative outpourings while waiting for lectures to end are suddenly being highly valued!
10. accent/ voice trainer - earlier you would have been considered 'stuck up' if you spoke with an accent; now it could land you a well paying job!
11. event manager - in school you organised a picnic, in college you planned the annual social, and now at work you are organising everything from award ceremonies to office parties or product launches.
12. dance instructor - who would have ever imagined that you could make a successful career teaching people the salsa and the samba?
13. speciality chef - the food they cook never seems to affect their weight; and some of them get paid a lot more than you and i
14. online game master - they get paid for playing online games on the job!

but i think moms will take some more time before their eyes become moist and they jump up with joy when they hear you announce 'mom! i finally know what i want to be, a hair-dresser!'

i am sure there are more esoteric options i have not listed here. you know any you would like to share?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

cooling our collective heels!

i was away with family on vacation for about 10 days. we covered wyanad, coorg and hassan. we had 2 other friends (with their families) with us on this trip. (for a photo album click here http://picasaweb.google.com/ckguruprasad/TripToWyanadCoorgHassan)

here are a few thoughts/ tips/ ideas i wanted to share with you.

1. when you are planning a vacation with kids, its a good idea to team up with friends who also have kids in the same age-group. makes for a much better quality time and far less trauma than if you were to do it yourself.

2. coorg is a beautiful place with largely virgin, unspoiled landscapes. there aren't too many resorts or hotels unlike in most other 'tourist destinations'. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kodagu)
we opted for a 'home stay' with a wonderful couple - geoffery and kalpana muthanna. (http://www.indianbeat.net/index.php?option=content&pcontent=1&task=view&id=62&Itemid=113)
this meant we lived in their beautiful, spacious house in the midst of a 40 acre coffee estate adjacent to the cauvery river. we could go bathing/ swimming in the river. we did not choose the option of 'mahseer angling' or 'rafting'. we were introduced to many plants and trees including the sandalwood, rose wood, coffee, pepper, vanilla, the fiery 'gandhari' chillies, and so many more!

we also went to the 'dubare elephant reserve' which is a training camp for elephants run by the forest department. here you can bathe the elephants, watch them being fed and also go on an elephant ride.

the 'tala kaveri' or the birth place of the kaveri river was being renovated. this is a very important pilgrimage destination for the local coorgis and even tamilians. (http://images.narian.org.uk/image78.html)

3. our next destination was hassan in karnataka. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hassan,_India)

the chenna keshava temple in belur (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chennakesava_Temple) is a 'must visit' place. the temple is an architectural marvel and the sculptures adorning the temple are exquisite.

4. on our way back to bangalore on our last leg we stopped to visit the gomateshwara bahubali statue atop the vidhyanagari hill at shravanabelagola. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shravanabelagola)

we had to climb more than 600 steps cut into the stone hill to reach the temple at the top. standing at the foot of the 58 feet tall statue is a humbling experience.

all in all, a wonderful time!

and now, back to the grind and the grime of mumbai :-)