Purposefulness, Passion, Perseverance with belief are key ingredients to Success

Jan 13, 2009. 3:30pm. I entered the temporarily erected air-conditioned tent that was huge and ready to accommodate over 1000 people. This was nothing compared to the tent of the inaugural session where 15000 people were accommodated, including over 100 dignitaries – prime-ministers and presidents of various visiting countries, industry leaders like Ratan Tata, Ambanis, Mittals etc…on stage. I am talking about Vibrant Gujarat, the annual summit that happens in Ahmedabad wherein Indians (Gujarati’s predominantly) from all over the world and also the governmental heads of the nations which have seen significant contribution from Indian Community assemble every year. The session that is about to commence is that of Human Development and Social Infrastructure sector, one of dozen such sessions on various areas of development. I could see eminent personalities of various institutions in the areas of Health, Education around, a few were there to address the gathering, and many more were there to ink an MOU with Gujarat Government to contribute in the development of Gujarat, by executing a few projects.

Decisive moves in 24 hours – IWS way convinces Gujarat Government

Decisive moves in 24 hours – IWS way convinces Gujarat Government

In a few minutes the MC of the event, a pretty elegant lady civil servant, started calling the organizations that have been selected through a stringent process for their abilities to contribute to the growth of the vibrant state of Gujarat. There were three columns in the arena. The left most was to be occupied by the representatives of the invited organizations for the MOU signatures. First row filled, then the second, then came the name of Career Launcher Education Foundation. I went and occupied the second seat in the third row. I just introduced myself to the gentleman sitting to my left. To my surprise, he was the director of NIFT Ahmedabad and he had come to sign an MOU wherein they are going to help artisans of Gujarat. My eyes fell on a familiar gentleman in the row ahead. I went and wished him, and he pleasantly reciprocated and recognized me as I had attended one closed door meeting of IIT-IIM alumni body a couple of years ago. Then this gentleman was director of IIMA – Dr. Bakul Dholakia. Here in this conference, he is heading an entity that is setting up a university.

The session commenced with addressing by a few gentleman including a couple of ministers. The one that impressed me most was that of Dr. Devi Shetty, Narayana Hridayalay in Bangalore. Here is a gentleman whose endeavours of heart operations and transplants save 40,000 lives every year. He is also going to sign an agreement to set up one of the largest hospitals in Gujarat.

Vibrant Gujarat MOU signing for Schools

Vibrant Gujarat MOU signing for Schools

Then the time for signing MOU’s came, there were four tables with secretaries of the government ready to sign and various names to be called. Mr. Narendra Modi entered the tent to a thunderous applause and took the designated seat on the stage, while people started signing the MOU’s in front of him. In a while the MC announced the name of Career Launcher Education Foundation that will undertake setting up of nine schools in the state of Gujarat for a project worth of Rs. 176.85Crores over the next four years. I headed to the table, signed the docket, exchanged, and headed to shake hands with the Chief Minister. A new page in our movement added.

Sreeni stepping out of stage after interacting with Mr. Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat

Sreeni stepping out of stage after interacting with Mr. Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat

It was momentous occasion for every mentor and every facilitator of our school movement. I was just a signatory representing our movement. All the wonderful work done thus far has yielded this result.

Every thing started in the month of October in one of the education sessions at CII, where I met a resident commissioner of Gujarat government in a session I spoke in. At the end of the session he asked me whether we will be interested in setting up schools in tribal districts of Gujarat. I readily shared our interest. After a few interactions, that were very positive and developmental, the government created a committee to head to one of our schools to observe and evaluate our institution.

Jan 02, 2009, 9am, the two-gentlemen team landed in Indore and immediately started the day at the school with the very first event of the day, morning assembly. They were taken in by the whole atmosphere, that I could see a great amount of appreciation on their faces. At the end of the assembly one gentleman asked Smita whether we allow parents in the assembly?!! To his surprise he discovered that all the elegantly dressed ladies who had so many children on their laps and shoulders where mentors and not parents!!

Children take responsibilities every week - in the kitchen at IWS Indore

Children take responsibilities every week - in the kitchen at IWS Indore

We let them lose with a broad agenda for them to select and evaluate. They interacted with a couple of mentors; they went and sat in the classes to observe; they entered the kitchen to see what is happening; they dined at the same time as children and noticed how mentors were interacting and facilitating children make choices and eat responsibly; then they sat through and observed from sidelines a QCT (quality Circle time) of class 3 wherein children were airing, sharing and resolving their personal differences amicably and promising to make a behavioural shift that will help the class. They spent time in the mentors room and were impressed with the co-learning that happens along with usage of laptops.

Facilitating to be responsible, faciliting India of tomorrow

Facilitating to be responsible, faciliting India of tomorrow

They enjoyed the art class, they were surprised at the ingenuity of the sports teachers’ way of engaging children with varieties of innovative games in a small playground through usages of tyres, nets, poles. They spent time in understanding all support systems and process – transportation, finances, purchases, stock handling etc. They were surprised at the level of technological facilitation, including parental interaction over SIS; it is almost a paperless institution. By the end of the second day, one of the members pulled out a file to say that I had brought a long check list to evaluate, surprisingly we found we got much more that what the list stated.

It will come as a surprise to you to know that, most of the mentors or staff of IWS Indore, did not really know who the two gentlemen seen around the corridors and classrooms for the two days were, unlike most other institutions that I know off, where a big announcement would have been made in advance to maintain decorum during the visit of dignitories!!! Most of the school team in fact realized the identities and gravity only after the Gujarat team left. The Gujarat team had a lot wonderful things to share about an environment that is a vibrant one promoting learning not only among children, but for every individual in the school. They wrote their feedback in the school visiting diary.

While parting, to head to the airport on Jan 3rd evening, they shared that they were delighted by the whole visit and that by Feb first-week we would get a call to visit Ahmedabad to take the matter ahead. To our utter amazement, the call came on Jan 7th, saying that we have to reach on Jan 12th to sign the MOU as the Chief Minister and the secretary of the department want it to be signed during Vibrant Gujarat. That is how I landed in that Air Conditioned tent in Ahmedabad!!

If all goes well, we will have ‘community enabling centres’ at a few locations that goes beyond just schools and also many more schools may get hooked onto our endeavours, as the preliminary interactions indicate, during the recent visit to Gujarat by GP and Sachin!! We have to move into the execution mode very soon.

Join me in congratulating the entire IWS team at Indore, headed by Ms. Smita Rathore, the entire CLEIS and school team at Delhi, the technology team, the finance team supporting the endeavours and also the vocational team under Arindam that played an important role in the interactions and followups at Ahmedabad, and finally every member of the Career Launcher family.

Hurray!! We are set to facilitate the Governments!! We are set to facilitate the larger communities. Let us Deliver, Let us make a difference to every child of this nation.

Looking forward to your comments… that will help me to ‘swamanthan’ more, leading to learning.

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Do you have a Resul or Rahman, Lata or Loveleen, Anand or Abhinav around you?

Joy Ho ! This morning has been one of the most inspirational mornings of my life, not only because of the Oscars that Pookutty, or A R Rahman / Gulzar have won for the first time along with Danny, Kate or a brilliant Sean Penn, but also because, the endeavours like that of Dr Subodh and Satish of ‘Smile train’ that brought smiles to ‘pinkies’ of the country, got recognized. It inspires me to look around and respond, to dedicate my life to bring smiles to fellow human beings..

As ‘my manthan’ continued, it struck me that our movement, Career Launcher, is in the right space of facilitating children, as there lies enormous potential in every child…..just look at the tremendous contribution the children have made to the success of Slumdog….or looking at each winner of the Oscars, where they began their life and where they reached. When I researched a little more on each of the winners this morning, I came across this uncanny resemblance to their rags to riches stories…aka Slumdog..Facilitating the Children

Let us facilitate the uniqueness to blossom

Resul Pookutty

Hailing from a small village of Vilakkupara in Kerala’s Kollam district, which didn’t have electricity for 17 years of his early life (ironically Vilakkupara means ‘village of light’), went on to graduate from FTII Pune in 1995 and win accolades for films like Black, Amu, Saawariya and the latest, Gajini among many of his films. Thankfully, Slumdog Millionaire happened for the world to recognize the extraordinary talent. He wins BAFTA and OSCARS apart from Cinema Audio Society (CAS) award for best sound mixing for the film. The first Indian Technician to win the Academy award went on to thank for “The history being handed over to him.”

A R Rahman

Allah Rakha Rahman, ever humble musical genius, hailed the almighty (Ella pughalum iraivanuke – All glory is to god) while accepting his double-Oscar. AR Rahman, who took the responsibility of the family at the young age of nine, dedicated his Oscar to his “loving” mother Kareema Begum, who was seated among the audience at the Kodak Theatre, by saying “Mere paas maa hai.” He went on to say, “I always had a choice between love and hate in my life. And I chose love and I am here.”

Though Rahman never had an opportunity to get proper education in his life, his genius compelled London School of Music to invite him to spend a couple of years in the campus, where he honed his western classical music along with his phenomenol grasp of Indian Classical Music. He returned to work with gurus like M S Vishwanathan and Illai Raja, before bursting on to the tamil film scene in 1986 and on to Hindi film world with Roja with Mani Ratnam, then followed some exceptional music in Bombay, Rangeel, Dil Se etc..

Resul Pookutty paid tributes to AR Rahman, saying that “He is a superlative sound engineer with mastery over technology working on desired sound and texture. He makes notes while listening to story narration itself.” He said that his Bafta and Oscar are courtesy A R Rahman.

PNK Naveen Kumar, who plays flute on Rahman’s compositions, Keith peters, the Bassist, noted percussionist Sivamani, Carnatic singer Unnikrishna all had to say only one thing “He is very humble and, gives respect and credit to every musician he works with”

A R Rahman, a spiritual soul, visits regularly a small Sufi Dargah in Nagore in rural Tamilnadu, and his composition in the movie FIZA – ’Piya Hazi ali, piya hazi Ali piya Hazi ali piya ho’ was inspired by the renditions at the Dargah.

Danny Boyle

Boyle was born in 1956 in Radcliffe into a working- class Irish Catholic family. His parents had wanted him to join the clergy but he decided against it much to the gain of the world of cinema. From his humble origins in a working class family to the glittering stage of the Academy Awards, Boyle has sure come a long way.

He began his career as a film director with the 1994 movie Shallow Grave after spending over a decade in the British theatre scene. The film was a psychological crime thriller which also marked the debut of actor Ewan McGregor. Train Spotting, a film revolving around the life of a group of drug addicts in recession-hit England, brought repute for Boyle. The film developed a cult following and was at the 10th spot by the British Film Institute in its list of Top 100 all-time British films. 52-year-old Boyle has never shied away from unconventional subjects for his films be it druggies in Train Spotting, zombies in 28 Days Later or futuristic astronauts in Sunshine.

Boyle won his first ever Academy award after being adjudged the Best Director for his Mumbai-based potboiler Slumdog Millionaire. The film had already won Boyle a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for ‘Best Director’ along with the top award at the Director’s Guild of America awards. His act of re-designating the talent director as Co-director of the film shows his humility and honesty in acknowledging fellow contributors.

Meanwhile, Boyle’s family including his father and twin sister Maria continue living in his native Radcliffe in the house where the now celebrated director grew up.

Dr Subodh K Singh of ‘Smile Train’

Smile Pinky by American filmmaker Magan Mylan is the other India-based film (documentary) that won Oscars this morning. Eight-year old Pinky had stopped smiling, even stopped going to school because she was ashamed of her cleft lip, a deformity 35,000 children are born with in India every year. Then this year, The Smile Train arrived in Pinky’s village and her world changed forever.

”She tried to smile but she was in a little pain so she couldn’t. But her eyes were saying so many more things. She looked at her face and then at my face and I think that is the best gratification I can get,” said Dr Subodh K Singh, Plastic surgeon. “This Oscar will bring the problem of clefts centrestage and probably change the lives of thousands of Pinkys who are still living with cleft lips,” said Satish Kalra, Director, The Smile Train.

I am sure all such “Trains” moving around the country will continue to bring smiles to more human beings. I wish to anchor a couple of such trains..

The past one year has seen a flood of accomplishments by Indians on the world stage – the three Oscars here to go with Vishy Anand and Abhinav Bindra in Sports are definitely bound to inspire scores of children. As A R Rahman summed up in his acceptance speech, “It is just a great starting point.”

Every child is Unique, and we celebrate this uniqueness. We, as a movement in education, are in unique position to stroke the imagination and talent of the impressionable young minds and hearts to facilitate their dreams come true. Come, let us make it happen.

‘Only School that values Children more than the Books and Marks’- screamed a quote

IWS Raipur Launch – Building an institution with passion

Enchanting evening with children – The SCENE – Hariji in one of his exhalted moods with Bansuri (bamboo flute); while accompanists Sunil Avachat along with Vijay Ghate on Tabla were completely taken in by Hariji’s patience and interactivity with children, even while a few children were dancing on stage, and the audience was in a trance…. Kindly find the pictorial journey at http://www.flickr.com/photos/sreenivasan/sets/72157605950739257/detail/

Hariji with Future of India

Hariji with Future of India

I have been trying to facilitate Harpreet Dhody, who has been anchoring the Raipur school initiative for some time now, to take a call at the earliest, on the launch event of the new campus of Indus World School. This event would announce to the city of Raipur, that we are really thinking seriously and in a big way, to help parents facilitate their children have meaningful education. The season at Raipur for schools to create awareness and attract students starts in Novemeber. Finally, after a lot of interactions between the two of us, Dhody announced that Feb 01, 2009 was the D-day of the event. He had his plans and execution ready! In every interaction over the phone, Dhody reassured me. Yet, I could sense those butterflies in his stomach, that nervous energy.

The D-day arrived and I landed on the morning of Feb 01, 2009 at Raipur airport and directly drove to the school guest house (part of the school) by taxi at 7:30 am. In a few minutes Dhody arrived to brief me about the day. By the time I got ready and reached the welcoming area of the school (BD rooms), it was full of action – the spirit was like an army getting ready for the final assault, the attire was like baratis getting ready for the wedding. The six young interns – all of them engineers or doctors – were working shoulder to shoulder with the established – Sushma, Rani, Kuldeep, Akash and Shiv along with the mentors team headed by Hashmita under the able guidance of Dhody. Someone has stitched a movie together to show at the event, some one was confirming participations over the phone, someone was on his way with bouquets, someone loading daris, books, banners and tables on to the van. All were very excited of the evening. I could sense the confidence and the nervous energy too in the environment. I was thrilled to see the charged space.

The D-day was big. ‘Chote Sikandar’, the ‘celebrating talent’ event that has moved across the city, from colony to colony, over the last four weeks wherein children from over 2000 households have participated, was to culminate with finals scheduled between 3pm – 4:30pm. After an hour of break for hi-tea, the evening performances commence with children from the underprivileged, followed by felicitating parents of achievers by the achievers themselves, and finally the much awaited performance by Padma Vibhushan Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, fondly called Hariji in the music circles.

Incidentally Hariji, who has been a mentor and well wisher for the last 12 years in the journey of Career Launcher, was launching the third IWS campus at Raipur after Hyderabad and Indore. Dhody and I rushed to airport to receive Hariji, who was accompanied by other two friends of IWS [they have performed at one or other of our inaugural events], performers Vijay Ghate (on tabla) and Sunil Avachat (bansuri accompanist). Hariji was very delighted to see our schools moving to hinterland of the country, as he himself is very fond of interacting with children. [In another blog, I will talk about my intense interactions and experiences with Hariji].

By 2:30pm, the crowd started assembling at the venue of chote sikandar event, with Dhody in full flow. Mesmerized children eager to participate and enamoured parents handy to help the children and organization. The arena for the evening – an open lush green ground surrounded with large trees creating a natural ambience, getting ready with a posse of workers taking care of stage, speakers, lights and chairs for the expected 800+ crowd. By four, there emerged two Chote Sikandars who were to be felicitated by Hariji and scores of them who will be there to take their participation certificates.

At 5pm, the arena was buzzing with parents and children. All invitations had a mention that parents are welcome only with children! Dhody kept the audience on their toes with his brand of quizzing, all related to music and culture, trying to bond the audience with the event. The participation by the crowd was immense. Finally at 5:45pm, the performances by talented children from not so privileged families began – magic show by two kids, 10 and 12 year olds; and a dance by 8 member troupe – to showcase that ‘every child is unique and we celebrate this uniqueness.’ All the children assembled were uncontrollable. They were surrounding the performing children. It was a great start. We even had to announce that there will be a full performance of these talented children at our school on Feb 21!!

We felicitated the parents of the young education and culture minister of the state, Mr. Brijmohan Agarwal, as the minister himself was not able to make it on time to the arena because he was traveling with the chief minister on some cause.

At 6:45, Hariji along with Vijay and Sunil arrived on the stage to a thunderous applause. As I had already briefed Hariji, we invited children to come on stage and occupy the space surrounding the artistes platform on the main stage. Over fifty children were accommodated on the stage. Hariji started interacting with children, asking them to identify the tune he was playing – ‘Vaishnava janato’, the aarati – ‘om jai jagadisha hare’.. . It was a unique experience for every one. Never ever any one had seen such an environment in Raipur. Hariji then started his performance with Alap followed by jhod, jhala….all along interacting with children and the audience, talking about learning, childhood, narrating his own life experiences with his patented humour. The crowd was enthralled. Occasionally a child on the stage will stand up and dance spontaneously and there would be an eye-to-eye interaction with panditji smiling and playing bansuri looking at the dancing child. It was a rare evening, once in a life time for many.

The evening ended with the minister, who had arrived in between, felicitating Hariji and his team. The stage was populated by children and a few parents, making the movement difficult for the minister. Hariji also felicited the minister with a shawl. Hariji, Brijmohanji and Padmasri Dr. Thapke, a noted physician who is also the vice-chancellor of the university of medicine, unveiled the Model of the IWS Raipur. The crowd was uncontrollable, Hariji was surrounded for autographs. Finally he had to be ushered in to a safe place.

The minister was so taken in by the entire evening that he announced that he would extend all help to the education movement of IWS and Career Launcher to reach out to children of Chattisgarh in every way. He said he would like to meet us. We are eagerly looking forward to impact in a much greater way.

After the evening ended, I had an opportunity to spend a couple of hours with Hariji, Vijay and Sunil. This was one more occasion for interaction about children and learning. (look for details in another blog).

I had to head to Dubai the very next afternoon, so I rushed early in the morning back to airport. I was very disappointed for not being able to spend more time with such a fantastic team at Raipur. I promised myself and Dhody that I will be back very soon for 3-4 days at Raipur.

While sitting on the flight, I was recalling the last one year journey of Indus World School in Raipur. As usual, to create awareness well in advance of launching the full fledged school at our own campus, we started last year by taking on lease a bungalow for housing the school – classes, Nursery to grade 2. Though we entered the city a little late, (only in February while all other schools were advertising since November of the previous year), by virtue of workshops for teachers of various play schools and schools in our campus, regular outreach workshops at colonies for parents and children, we created awareness. I am just picking a couple of impacting instances to relate our journey of few months..

‘The school fair of an FM channel’ in May 08, was one event of significance. We tried to convince the FM channel of how they could really approach the fair and even with all the services we wanted to offer, they somehow did not jump at it. The first day of the fair came. We had a 9X6 sq ft stall. We created counseling kits for every mentor, took a whole rack with books and play material for children. Wherever there were spaces for sitting in the arena, we had our mentors for counseling parents; in front of our stall we had arrangements for children to sit and read, telling stories, to scribble and paint. Our approach of interacting with parents by having individual counseling session on facilitating child’s learning, while taking care of children with story reading/telling and creative corners in the fair really took the fair by storm. It could be gauged by the fact that our stall and the space in front was milling with crowds while most of the stalls around, even that of well known brands that were established or launching schools were empty. One of the biggest schools that had a stall next to us threatened the organizers and vacated the stall completely by bargaining a space at the entrance of the fair!! By the end of the day, the CEO of the organizing FM channel came to us and asked us to anchor the second day of the fair!!

Another FM channel immediately gave us a whole of four hours on-air time to interact with parents and children. It created greater awareness. This channel went on to give a couple of more slots for our school during the year, when Col Gopal visited Raipur etc. They are keen to have a weekly slot for parental interaction!! Dhody and members of his team may soon become some of the most sought after RJs and Columnists of Raipur.

The impact of the activities that we have been doing through the year at residential colonies and at our school at Raipur, has created a great deal of enthusiasm in the community. We shall continue to reach out to the community, and I am sure the community will respond by making our school the most sought after school this very year and for years to come.

I see endeavours of Career Launcher as a movement in transforming education and facilitating the children of our vast nation. If we continue to be risk-takers; take ownership of what each one of us is expected of; be open to learn, interact and facilitate; be honest and committed to every child and the society around our existence, and keep innovating along the way, the future looks bright, as we will be able to continue to challenge the challenges in building this great nation.

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