Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Solo Educator

This guest post is by Anurag Behar – Author Bio is at the end of the post

David Horsburgh came to India in 1943 as a part of the Royal Air Force. He spent some of his leave, in what must have been an unusual pastime for an RAF person, in a small island village near Chittagong. Amid the waterways and paddy fields, he could see the village school. And he thought that was what he would like to do in life: to teach in a village school.

In 1950, armed with a college degree from England, Horsburgh returned to India. He lived here till his death in 1984.

In 1983, he gave an interview to Rosalind Wilson, editor of the children’s magazine Target. Wilson asked him: “The general scenario of the education system in India … if it’s so grim, where do you have breakthrough?”

Horsburgh replied: “I do not know what the answer is to this. I can only say, I am going to sit in my little village and try and produce what I think is very good education. Some children, perhaps educated in freedom—no fear, you know, not being competitive, being much aware, etc.—perhaps they will find solutions, which I cannot find with my background and my conditioning.”

In 1972, along with his wife Doreen, Horsburgh had started Neel Bagh. A hundred km from Bangalore, just off the road to Madanapalle, the school was not in the midst of waterways and paddy fields. But it was what he had set out to do.

The school had about 30 students, aged 3-20, all from the villages nearby. Some were mad about Shakespeare. They would learn philosophy, aesthetics, music appreciation, carpentry and pottery. This was in addition to the usual mathematics, geography, physics and so on. There was a lot of emphasis on learning languages: English, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi and Sanskrit.

This eclectic, seemingly eccentric curriculum was just one facet of the deliberate design of Neel Bagh. The methodology, the culture, the physical environment and the community were all integrated to build a place where education happened as it should.

The students would learn together in groups, but at their individual pace. The teacher would only facilitate the setting up of suitable learning situations. The focus would be on problem solving and concept formation. The students would engage in real-world activities, in reading, in discussion and in critical thinking. Almost all students were first generation school goers.

In short, Neel Bagh was the kind of school that we can only imagine.

Three years after Horsburgh’s death, faced with numerous financial and regulatory hurdles, his son Nicholas (who also worked at the school) handed it over to the Krishnamurti Foundation. The premises have subsequently passed to another organization that runs a school there with great care. But Horsburgh’s Neel Bagh ended in 1987.

His bar would open at 8.45pm. In the long history of the British raj, surely there were other Englishmen who would have spent their Indian nights at their bars set in incongruous rural settings. So did Horsburgh, but along with an intensely debating bunch of “student teachers”, who interned with him. The bar would continue what had started in the morning “seminar”.

These would-be teachers went through an intense education at Neel Bagh. Horsburgh would invite them from all over India, and later built a house for them with his own hands.

Some of these “student teachers” whom I know went through this truly remarkable teacher education programme. When you talk to them, the intellectual rigor of the experience and its absolute immersion shines through, as it does in their work. It changed them forever.

Horsburgh’s small school showed that what should be done in education can be done, both for teachers and students. He ran the wonder that was Neel Bagh, largely supported through the royalty from the hundred-odd books that he had written (some with his son Nicholas) and with debt.

I visited the premises of Neel Bagh earlier this year. It looks lovely and well kept. The houses that Horsburgh built are still in place. For one of those “student teachers” who accompanied me, every nook was infused with memory and meaning.

On that afternoon in Neel Bagh, I felt Horsburgh had proved himself wrong. He did have the answer to Wilson’s question. It lay in his producing the best education he could in that small village.

That has made Horsburgh a pole star for us—a star that guides and inspires breakthroughs—in this “grim” scenario. His legacy is alive in his books, his “student teachers”, and many more that he has influenced.

He is also an answer to another eternal question that faces most of us one day or the other: “What can one man do?” The least we can do is to sit in our little village and produce the best education we can.

Anurag Behar is CEO of Azim Premji Foundation and also leads sustainability initiatives for Wipro Ltd. He writes every fortnight on issues of ecology and education.

Originally published @ http://www.livemint.com/2011/05/04221729/The-solo-educator.html ; Re-published with permission – Courtesy Anurag Behar

Nischala’s Blog-o-Rendezvous with ANGELA MAIERS

About ANGELA
Angela is the founder and President of Maiers Education Services, a consulting firm headquartered in Clive, Iowa. Her company provides just-in-time consultation services to schools, organizations, and individuals seeking to use technology and social media to leverage human capital and production goals.

Under Angela’s direction, schools and businesses within and outside the education industry are implementing the proven practices that accelerate their desired outcomes.

To her credit, Angela has been involved in several national and global initiatives centered on education. She is also a TED speaker ; and has also been a keynote speaker at several events across the globe.

Three of my favorite blogs of Angela are below:
12 Most Important Ways to Let People Know They Matter
12 Most Genius Questions in the world
12 Most Innovative, Inspiring and Unmissable TED Talks

The RENDEZVOUS
I was thrilled and honored that Angela agreed to do this rendezvous with me. Primarily because if there’s one TED Video which made a REAL DIFFERENCE in my life, it was Angela Maiers TED Video on YouMatter . And of course, the fact that she is probably one of the most respected educators across the globe…

As a part of the Education Special Series that I am running on my blog, I conducted this Rendezvous with Angela to get her insights and views on education, the evolving face of education and what it means to be an educator?

Nischala: Hi Angela.. Thank you so much for your time and agreeing to speak to me today in spite of your hectic travel schedule. Truly appreciate it! My first question is really around an observation that I’ve seen in your profile. You call yourself an “EDUCATOR”  and not really “TEACHER” as most people I know call themselves? What in your view is an educator?
Angela: Nischala – Thank you so much for reaching out to me. That’s a great question and the difference is really subtle. But educate really means “To change the mind”. And the reason why I call myself an educator is because my goal whenever I enter a classroom or interact with students is how I can elevate their thoughts and make a lifelong impact so that the minds of students are stretched.  And the fact is that once a mind is stretched, it never really goes back to its original state. It then grows evolves and stretches itself further!

And from my experience, most good teachers do just that! But many teachers deliver just what they know. So if you are in their classroom, you can sense that the message that they really relay is this “I know this… this and this.. And as I share that with you.. you listen and learn and of course do as I say”. And there is teaching here, but there is no LISTENING from the teacher.

And in my view, education is about teaching, listening and learning… So education is really about “WE”. You come into my classroom as ME , but really leave as WE.. So WE are smarter together.. And the focus of an educator is to enable empower and elevate each other.

Even if you look back in time at history and revolutions of the globe, most transformations have been due to the power of communities – people unite and learn together, thrive together and survive together!

The focus of education has to be on our ability to listen, learn, change yourself, change the community and change the world! And change really is a positive impact or difference that you or anyone can make

Nischala: That’s a really wonderful way to put it Angela. So can you elaborate a little on the many roles you played as a part of the Education System?
Angela: I’ve been part of the Education system in the USA for 14 years. And during this tenure, I have been in all parts of the system and played several roles. Right from a teacher for pre-schoolers, to 8th standard students to Under Graduation to Graduation to School Administration to Higher Education to eLearning. So I have a very good understanding of the many nuances of education system and I have learnt tremendously in each of these roles – By my experience and most importantly, from my students!

Nischala: That’s great to hear.. I think such a diversity of experiences makes you understand the system really well inside out… So moving on, there’s always a lot of discussion around the “literate mind” and “educated mind”. What in your view is the difference between an “Educated Mind” and a “Literate Mind”?
Angela: This is again a subtle difference.. But really you must have a Literate Mind to have an Educated Mind.. And by educated what I really mean is this:
One is an ability to understand the world around you.
Two is an ability to convey what you know, see, hear or read.
Three is the ability to rally around others towards a specific message or cause. And that’s where the real power of the web lies – To engage with people across the globe to take action.  So earlier, education was a power and privilege. But today with the power of the web and availability of free information to everyone it has become a human right!

Nischala: That’s a very interesting response! You’ve been associated with the education sector for more than two decades now? In your view, how has education really changed?
Angela:  The fact is that the world has changed in past few years in ways beyond imagination! But the reality is that the education system has not adapted in tune with this pace of change and this can prove detrimental to the system and society at large in the long run.

From my experiences what I observe is that the education system is really holding on to age old best practices than embracing the next practice – as relevant in today’s context! In fact, some of the best practices of 100 years ago can actually be classified as a malpractice today – Not just in the context of education but any discipline. For e.g: In Healthcare, the way you treated illnesses 100 years ago cannot be applied today!

And the fact is that many schools have virtually the same structure, systems and practices as they had 50 years ago. And that is not OK for the system and for society at large!

Education should really focus on learning continuously – both students and teachers! And even though there are several passionate teachers and educators who are waging daily battles to ensure that they do the best possible for their students, the systemic problems are hard to work around!

And the reality is that education cannot anymore be about sharing and building a Body of Knowledge in individuals. It has to go beyond that as this knowledge is free and available for everyone to consume! It is no longer really about content – But the focus of education should really be on :
1) How to build and mold a CHARACTER?
2) How can you enable an individual to be CONTEXTUALLY relevant?
3) How to enable the BEST possible performance for an individual?

Nischala: That’s interesting.. So can elaborate a little more on the connection between the world of the web and the world of education?
Angela: The ecosystem of education is hierarchy driven. So the higher you go in this hierarchy, the more “elite” you are considered – and you are a member of “The CLUB”. And you earn a spot here for what you know or rather what you are known for.  So if you get an “A” in university, you keep an “A” for the rest of your life. And one is not honored adequately for your contributions back to the system, to your students and to society.

While the web is a completely different ecosystem – It transforms and challenges the fundamental premise of everything – including education. The world of the web really nurtures the entrepreneurial spirit – It really does not look at your degree, but values your pedigree. So as an educator, you need to be open-minded to get off your pedestal and embrace the web. And let me tell you that it’s not easy to get an “A” in the world of the web.. And if you do, you need to work hard to retain the “A” – It’s a continuous journey; not the end to the means!

Nischala: That was such an interesting and insightful answer. So moving on, what is the role of parents in EDUCATION?
Angela: Interestingly, the role of the parents has really not changed. All parents what the BEST for their children – And this has been constant 100 years back and will probably be the same 100 years from now.

But what one should recognize is that the reality which many parents fail to acknowledge, accept and adapt to is the mind-set that what worked for me will work for my children. And the answer to that is NO! So the traditional school of thought is that you need to study to be successful! The point is that the measure of success in today’s world is different from what it was 50 years back. And so it is a rude awakening for many parents when they see that their children successful very early in life (and also possibly with limited formal education in many cases) – Way beyond what the parents ever achieved for a lifetime! And the conduit of information on the internet makes it possible for kids of today to dream, conceptualize, create, build and also sell one / many products and services in the new economy.

I think the call of the time for parents is to constantly upgrade their own self-awareness on the changes happening around them and also support their children and the education system based on what is required to ensure growth and progress for their children

Nischala: Ok.. So I’ve been reading a lot about education for this series and have come across a lot of interest and acceptance of Home-schooling and its rapid adoption. So really what is home-schooling? What are the pros and cons of it?
Angela: Home-schooling is really customized personalized education. It really stems from a deep belief that the system of formal education available is broken or inadequate. So individuals / community provide the required education to children on their own. The underlying belief system is that education is really about experience.

Home-schooling has evolved to be a sophisticated network and with new technology it is becoming more feasible to home-school children. The earlier premise of the education system was that the teacher only knew and controlled the knowledge and its dissemination. But in the world of the web, information and knowledge is free and can be accessed anytime and anywhere. Also, the whole concept of just in time learning has disrupted the old premise of memory based learning.

In my view, it is a choice parents need to make. Data suggests that children who are home-schooled are as competitive in the world as those students who received formal education.

Home-schooling is evolving to an organized system and there is infrastructure to support it. It is definitely a huge responsibility on the parents and you need to be prepared for it – physically mentally emotionally and financially. Some children get home-schooled at the elementary school level, some at the mid school level and some at the high school level. For some it is a combination of home-schooling and formal school – So it is really blended learning!

I’m not advocating home schooling, but it is definitely becoming a serious contender to public school education. And philosophically, the premise here is that we are smarter together.

Nischala: That’s interesting to hear! So moving on, what are the 5 life lessons that every student should learn as a part of formal education?
Angela: Not five, but really 7. The real lessons are the lessons of character or Habitudes as I call them – And they are important for any learner, working professional, citizen or a global contributor.
1) Imagination is fundamental to learning and life. The world is built on dreams and has evolved based on collective dreams of those who dared to dream. All potential of world is due to dreams. And the web is the land of the dreamers!
2)  Curiosity is the most important attribute you need to keep alive. I have to quote Alert Einstein  here “ I’m not a genius, I am passionately curious” is what he said
3) It is critical to build and enhance your own self-discipline in life
4) Perseverance is critical – To succeed, you have to be tenacious to stick to your dreams and not take NO for an answer.  If you cannot dream, you dreams will never be a reality
5) Passion is really not about what you like or what is good.. But what you must do – And sometimes you may need to suffer for this.. But that’s what passion is all about
6) Adaptability – The world is changing at a rapid pace and in a blink of an eye, the context changes. You need to be inherently adaptable to survive and succeed in today’s world
7) Self Awareness is important – It is critical to learn with and for others. You need to ask yourself constantly “What is the value I bring to the table? What is my genius with respect to others? What are other’s perceptions of your role?” and the answers to these questions will show you the TRUE MIRROR, and several times burst your bubbles!

The key to genius is consciousness and conscientiousness.
You need to practice these habitudes and understand that in the long term these will define your success.

Nischala: That’s been a great learning for me Angela! And so very profound! So how do you bring in so much passion energy and excitement to your work and life?
Angela:  That’s a very good question! I am passionate about learning and am constantly in a state to embrace being an amateur. I am never worried about being an expert. And the distinguishing mark of an amateur is that he / she is in love with the discipline and with studying and learning..

And I don’t think I will ever reach the stage in life when I can say “I’m DONE”. And even though I’ve been in the education sector for 2 decades, I find myself saying everyday Oh my God! I know nothing about X, Y and Z… And I love the process of discovery, learning, asking questions, observing others, listening, growing and being part of others growth.. And the truth is that The more you know, you realize how much you don’t know

Nischala: But does this not put undue stress on yourself if you keep saying I know NOTHING!
Angela: You know that it such a profound and wise question. And I’d love to answer it with all honesty. Looking back, it was the most freeing feeling when I figured out that I don’t know everything there is to know and that I don’t have to know everything. And it was only at that moment that I finally accepted and embraced WEness instead of MEness.

So I stopped going into class as the teacher, but really entered as the lead learner. Also, I don’t call myself CEO of the company, but the Chief Learning Officer – So everyday my focus is on learning. And it’s not really about what I know, But how I came to know it which is important to me

Nischala: Thanks Angela for this honest answer. So my BEST QUESTION (in my view) of the Rendezvous is how can anyone be a life-long learner?
Angela: I think as an individual you should focus on problem solving and problem learning. And this evolves along the way. The TRUTH of the WORLD as I discovered in my journey as an educator is that there is genius in everyone and the power of the world is in the collective genius.

The trend that I see around me is it’s become fashionable for everyone to be an expert or guru; and that’s great! But the minute you / others call you a Guru, the learning usually ceases or reduces significantly.

So you should be committed to learning and be really transparent in What I know and What I don’t know. And if you don’t know, try to figure out the answers. And the better smarter and more efficient process should be embraced for anything in life. You don’t have to be perfect, but try to be the BEST you can in a given context!

Nischala: So Angela.. What has been the BEST moment in your life as an educator?
Angela: Being around young kids (say 4 year olds) where every experience is new. And to watch the amazement and wonder in their eyes when they experience something for the first time. And I get to watch and witness the genius of the world every single day through their eyes, questions, thoughts, ideas, laughs.. What is more amazing and wonderful than these precious moments with the genius of the world! Trust me – They are the BEST, most SATISYING and WONDERFUL moments of my day and my life – The moments which give me the passion, drive, zest and joy to contribute and do my bit and the best I can!

So what I do is that I invite students daily to join me on a roller-coaster ride where I watch their breath being taken away.

Nischala: That’s so beautiful Angela. You know I would love to sit through a class of yours to be a student and have you take my breath away :).. So any other message that you’d like to share as a part of this Rendezvous?
Angela:  :). You are welcome to join my class anytime you are here.  So as we conclude, a couple of key messages I’d like to end with are:
1) It is important to live life like a child. And the reality is that children have so much to teach us.. If only we are open to learning! Simply because children are the embodiment of learning. Every single thing a child does is learning. And if you closely observe children, you will understand what I mean!
2) Ask brilliant questions.. See the wonder and genius in yourself and the world around you!
3) The most powerful words at work, at home or in life are You Matter
4) Practice the Habitudes
5) Live life in awe – Every moment is unique precious and wonderful!
6) Adaptability should be your second nature
7) Self-discipline in mind-set and disposition leads to constant improvement
8) Encourage everyone to be a TRUE EDUCATOR

Education has to be 360 degrees. Education is not about entertainment, but it is about engaging minds in conversations. And really, learning has to be mutual between the student and the teacher

Nischala: Thank you so much for your time. It was an absolute pleasure and I have enjoyed this learning experience. Best wishes for your continued efforts and contributions in the
education sector. The world definitely needs more educators like YOU! You Matter!
Angela: Thank You

The Lessons of Life NO SCHOOL really TAUGHT ME

I have always been an ACADEMIC STAR – Right from Nursery School way up until my Management Degree. Over the years, I gained knowledge on a wide range of subjects, upgraded myself on a great number of skills, accomplished several things, and achieved several successes in many dimensions of life………

Today, as I step back and ask myself if I learnt the Most Important Lessons of LIFE from the educational institutes I went to… Honestly, the answer is NO..

So, what are those Lessons of Life that NO SCHOOL really TAUGHT ME?

1) How to be a LIFELONG LEARNER?
We all learn a lot from the schools we study in.. But do they teach us how to be a LIFELONG LEARNER? Probably NOT! I figured this on my own and I guess it’s the same for many of you. Continuous focus on learning is absolutely VITAL in the journey of life – You have to make it a personal PRIORITY and focus on LEARNING all along the way. Only then is life exciting, enriching and evolving…

2) How to COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY?
“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” By Tony Robbins
Effective Communication can sometimes be the ONE and ONLY thing that can help you in your transition from Good and Great in anything in life! And while there is no mantra for you to be the PERFECT COMMUNICATOR, the following definitely help:
i) Be clear on what you want to convey – Most times, the problem stems from here!
ii) Try and gauge you’re audience profile and  moderate your communication message and style accordingly
iii)  Aim for short and simple messages – They ALWAYS work!
Does any school really teach you this? Probably NOT!
Would it help if they did? Absolutely YES

3) How to deal with CHANGE?
The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change” – François de la Rochefoucauld..
The reality is that life teaches you how to deal with change – usually based on experience (Many times the hard way, And sometimes we may NEVER accept the change!).
And do we learn how to deal with CHANGE at school? Probably NOT!
But had someone taught you ways to identify potential changes and deal with them, would it have made life a lot easier? A re-sounding YES!

4) How to build and nurture RELATIONSHIPS?
In the journey of life, if there’s one thing which will help you sail through the trying and difficult times; it is the quantity and quality of your relationships – both personal and professional. The BEST part is that it’s never too late to start – So you can build new relationships or revive old one’s today.  And then of course, you’ve to nurture them along the way so that they grow with you!
And did any school teach me this? Probably NOT! I figured this out on my own.
Would it help if someone taught us this? Definitely YES!

5) How to manage your PERSONAL FINANCES?
Personal Financial Management is the most important dimension which will determine the quality of your life today and into the future.. And formal education definitely enables you to earn.. So who taught you how to manage your money better? Who taught you how to invest and re-invest? Who taught you when to exit from an investment?
Did your schools teach you this? Probably NOT! And the wealthiest people I know figured this out on their own.
Would it have been a boon and blessing if some school had taught this to me? Definitely YES!

6) How to handle FAILURE?
Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” By Winston Churchill
Over the years, I’ve realized the following about failure –
Failures are vital for life,
Failures are definite in life,
Failures are definitely stepping stones….to your chosen destination
And the reality is that no school really teaches us how to accept, deal with failures and learn from them!
Would it have been easier to deal with failures if some school had taught this to me? Definitely YES!

7) How to deal with LOSS? 
In the journey of life, we all deal with many kinds of losses – Loss of people (temporary and permanent), Financial loss, Loss of jobs, Loss of friends, Loss of peace of mind, loss of health, loss of … And we all find many different ways to deal with these losses.. Some losses we may NEVER be able to come to terms with.. And some we find our own ways to deal with…
But did any school teach me how to handle LOSS? – Probably NOT!
Would it have been useful if some school had taught this to me? Definitely YES!

8) How to THINK?
How you think about yourself, people and the world is eventually reflected in how your life eventually turns out. And hence, it important to create and fuel positive, powerful and purposeful thoughts!
Again, did any school teach me how to think? Probably NOT!
We all come across specific teachers, mentors and guides in our life who make us realize the importance of the RIGHT and POSITIVE THINKING! So, would it have helped if someone taught me how to think? Definitely YES! And the earlier, the BETTER!

9) When and How to say NO?
If there’s ONE thing which many of us find hard to say, it’s these 2 simple letters – NO. And try as much as we want, we simply can’t get ourselves to say NO! [Wonder why? – May be we exhausted our quotas of listening and saying NO during childhood ;) ].. And when you say YES to everything, life is steered through a course which you don’t necessarily like. Personally, I really felt truly LIBERATED when I started saying NO!
Did any school teach me this? NO!
Would it have helped if they did? YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

10) How to cultivate and enhance SELF-DISCIPLINE?
Anyone I know who achieved anything worthwhile in life will vouch that one of the key reasons was due to Self Discipline. And yet! Everywhere I look around, I see that Self-discipline is a dying virtue today.. Sad but true! Along the way, I figured out a way to be self-disciplined about the things that were important to ME!
Did any school teach me this? NO!
Would it have helped if they did? Of course YES!

11) When, How and How Much to JUDGE?
If there’s one activity which many of us indulge in on a regular basis – It is that of passing JUDGMENT! We judge everything – People, animals, nature, trees, flowers, food, weather, technology, automobiles, organizations, institutions, governments, policies, movies, books, products, services, blogs,…. and of course OURSELVES! 
Its almost as if passing judgment is a need in life, a part of life and way of life.. And what I’ve realized is that passing JUDGMENT is probably one of the most time consuming and energy draining activities you can indulge in – especially mentally and emotionally! And if you step back and ask yourself “What do you really get after passing JUDGMENT?” … NOTHING really!..
So the point is this – Does any school teach you if you are qualified to JUDGE? When, How and How Much you should JUDGE? Probably NOT!
Would it have helped if someone taught you this? Of course YES!

12) How to LET GO?
The one inhibiting factor in your growth and progress in life is your inability to Let-Go: Especially of your past and of your fears. And many of us are never able to let go of these…
Does any school really teach you How to let go? Probably NOT!
Would it have helped if they did? Of course YES!

13) How to EFFECTIVELY manage your TIME?
Over the years, I’ve come to believe that you’re most precious and valuable ASSET is only your TIME! And yet, we don’t respect and value it enough – Both our own time and time of others! When you begin to value your time, you begin to effectively manage it – And then the sky is the limit to what you can do in 24 hours of the day!
Does any school really teach you this? Probably NOT!
Would it have helped if they did? Of course YES!

14) How to master the art of PRIORITIZATION?
Clarity on your Top 3 personal and professional priorities at any specific point in time will eventually determine how much you can get done and how well you can get them done.

Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” ― Stephen R. Covey

One of the most effective ways to figure out your priorities is to write down the list of tasks and ask yourself if any of these will take you closer to your goals – personal or professional. If yes, then they should be HIGH on your PRIORITY list. And the reality is that it takes time to figure this out..
And the reality is that no school really taught me how to do this!
Would it help if they did? Absolutely, YES!

15) How to give and accept COMPLIMENTS?
I’ve observed that many of us feel inhibited and shy to give compliments to other’s – We’ll probably think about all nice things to say to others; and then let it pass. Just because it’s out of our comfort zone!  The thing about compliments and human beings is that I’ve never heard of anyone ever tell me that they’ve had enough of compliments! – It is never enough! After all, who does not like to listen to good things about themselves? We all love it..
And then, many of us don’t know how to accept compliments – Some shy away, some run and some hide :). For starters, a simple Thank You is good!
Does any school really teach you this? Probably, NOT!
Would it help if they did? Of course, YES!

16) How to give and receive FEEDBACK?
Giving and receiving feedback is both a skill and an art. One which many of us fall short of – In terms of the timing, setting, the words and the expressions!  And the point about feedback is that the way a feedback is articulated can make or break a relationship of a lifetime!
Does any school teach you how to do this? Probably, NOT!
Would it help if they did? Absolutely YES!

17) How to feel INSPIRED everyday of life?
A daily dose of inspiration at the start of the day does wonders to your thoughts, your feelings, your actions and your deeds! But rarely do we all feel inspired everyday of our lives! The point is once you recognize that a daily dose of inspiration can make a DIFFERENCE in your life, you’ll begin to ensure that you draw in from sources of inspiration as a part of your everyday life.
Did any school emphasize the importance of daily inspiration and how to get it in your personal context? Probably NOT!
Would it have helped if they did! Absolutely YES!

18) How to be HAPPY?
What I’ve figured out is that Happiness is really a CHOICE; and I figured this out on my own – And this is probably true for many people in this world. Hence as of date, I’d like to believe that everyone is really the Chief Happiness Officer of their LIFE! Once, you start playing that role, HAPPINESS becomes a way of LIFE
And did any school teach me how to make this CHOICE? Probably NOT!
Would it have helped if someone did? Absolutely YES!

19) The art of asking QUESTIONS
Asking Questions is both a skill and an art. I’ve seen too many people ask too many questions and they also get the answers. But what do they do with the answers! NOTHING! – Sad, but TRUE! I think its really important to ask yourself WHY you are asking a QUESTION – There has to be a reason, else why even bother ask! And then ask the RIGHT QUESTION to the RIGHT PEOPLE; and then do something about the RESPONSE!
And does any school teach you the art of asking QUESTIONS? Probably NOT!
Would it have helped if someone did? Absolutely YES!

20) How to solve a PROBLEM?
Problem Solving skills are probably the most important skills that anyone should build, develop and enhance in the journey of life. Simply because you never know when and what kind of problem can engulf you at which stage of life.
And a lot of schools definitely aim to lay the foundation for problem solving, but is it strong and good enough to take you through life? Probably NOT
Would more focus and rigor on PROBLEM SOLVING skills help? Absolutely YES!

21) How to deal with a CRISIS?
You never know when a crisis hits you – can be personal or professional. And crisis could mean anything related to your own health or the health of a loved one or a financial crisis or a loss of employment or …. And when a crisis hits you, your life turns upside down – Your mind and emotions probably spiral in dimensions which completely catches you off-guard! And the thing about dealing with a crisis is that the more you delay any positive and constructive action, the LARGER the CRISIS gets!
And does any school teach you how to deal with a crisis? Probably NOT
Would it have helped if someone did? Absolutely YES!

22) How to show that we CARE?
Many of us care deeply about a long of things. But find it extremely hard to express this.. And the beauty about CARING is that it is personal, emotional, very specific to a cause and subjective to an individual. And while there are many ways to show that you care.. What is most important is that you demonstrate how you really feel in front of those who matter, and in a way that they understand!
And does any school teach you how to care and show that you care? Probably NOT
Would it have helped if someone did? Absolutely YES!

23) The REAL meaning of RESPECT
Many of us don’t really undertand what respect truly is. Both Self-Respect and Respect for others. And those who understand find it hard to translate this to action. And the thing about respect is that it has to come from within (So you can’t force yourself to respect someone), You’ve got to earn it and You’ve got to give respect to get it back! And the best explanation I’ve come across on RESPECT is No blame, No judgment, No criticism and No control – Very short but immensely profound!
And does any school teach you the TRUE meaning of respect and how to demonstrate the same? Probably NOT
Would it have helped if they did? Absolutely YES!

24) What and How to SHARE?
Sharing is a basic human need. On a daily basis, we all share several things with others – From smiles, to words, to deeds, to gestures, to moments, to experiences, to finances, to knowledge, to wisdom, to a laugh or a meal……. But as we grow, we forget what to share with others and how to share… And many times end up paying a price for this…
And does any school teach you what you should share and how to share? Probably NOT
Would it have helped if they did? Absolutely YES!

25) How to set and manage expectations?
From all my life experiences I can say that the primary cause for most problems in life is due to expectations – Rather our inability to set / re-set expectations of us and others; and then our inability to manage changes to these expectations over a period of time

You expect someone to SAY something; they don’t – You are UPSET and that triggers a chain of negative thoughts and actions from your end
You expect someone to DO something; they don’t – You are UPSET and that triggers a chain of negative thoughts and actions from your end

And the thing about negativity is that Negativity breeds Negativity – certainly, rapidly and quickly! And before you realize, negativity has engulfed your life..  Not a pleasant situation to be in!
And if you can figure out a way to set realistic expectations for yourself and others; and a way to effectively communicate these expectations, your life will be a lot simple, stress-free and positive!
Does any school really teach you to set and manage expectations? Probably NOT
Would it help if they did? Absolutely YES!

26) How to apologize?
A lot of problems in life can be solved if you learn to apologize – At the right time and to the right people (people who matter). All this requires is for you to say SORRY – Sometimes you don’t feel like saying it and sometimes you need not say it.. And no matter how you say it – Most times it’s probably worth it!  
And the thing about apologizing is that there is a time value to it –And so if you don’t apologize within a specific time, then chances are that the apology does not matter anymore – So people have moved on (or appear to have moved on) – and they either become indifferent to you or there’s too much emotional baggage they are holding on within which is not healthy for any individual or any relationship! The other thing about apologizing is that if you do too much of it – Again it loses its value both for yourself and those around you!
Does any school really teach you when, how and to whom you should apologize? Probably NOT!
Would it help if they did? Absolutely YES!

26) How to ask from Help?
If you think deeply about life, you will realize that it is probably way too complex, that there several things which are beyond your comprehension and it is mind-boggling in more ways than one.  And yet whether you think or not, you will find a way to live … And as you live and sail through life, you begin to realize that while being independent is great, there are times in life when things are beyond your control because of the inherent interdependency or dependency on others. Hence, there are times when it is imperative to ask others to help you in more than one way and for more than one thing!
And the reality is that for many of us, it is very difficult to ask others for help. We just can’t get ourselves to say “Please can you do this for me?”. And for many of us, asking for help is our first nature– without even trying or thinking. Both these extremes are not really beneficial for personal growth!
And so knowing when to ask for help and to whom you should ask for help is both a skill and an art!
Does any school really teach you when, how and to whom you can ask for HELP? Probably NOT!
Would it help if they did? Absolutely YES!

28) How to find your TRUE CALLING in LIFE?
Many of us sail through life without really finding our TRUE CALLING! And when you do, it’s sometimes just a little TOO LATE! Wouldn’t it be great if you figured this early in your life? Absolutely!
Does any school help you figure this out? Probably NO!
Would it help if they did? Absolutely YES! [Though of late, I’ve heard of several institutes across the globe enabling and facilitating this process of self-discovery! ]

29) How to live the PRESENT MOMENT to the FULLEST?
The reality is that the PRESENT MOMENT is all that you’ve got.. And yet many of us spend too much time holding on to the past, or looking into the future! The best lesson of life is to Seize the MOMENT and Live life NOW!
Again, does any school really teach you this? Probably NOT!
Would it help if they did… Of course.. YES!!!

30) How to BREATHE?
The most important requirements of every cell in the human body are Oxygen, Food, Water and how to excrete waste. Along the journey of life, we’re taught what and how to eat right, the importance of replenishing yourself with water and fluids and of course, we naturally eliminate waste from the body in one of many ways!
But what provides your OXYGEN? Evidently, it is your BREATH. And whether or not you realize this – The reality is that if you figure out how to breathe RIGHT – You’re life will be transformed. Simply because, breathing RIGHT ensure that there is optimal flow of “Prana” / Life energy within your body and that leaves you feeling more energized, active and of course, in control of your thoughts and emotions!
Does any school really teach you how to BREATHE RIGHT? Probably NOT!
Would it help if they did… Absolutely YES!!!

What about you? What are the Lessons of Life NO SCHOOL really TAUGHT YOU? Leave a comment to let me know

Nischala’s Blog-o-Series : EDUCATION

Education as a subject has been close to my heart for very many years.

Here’s one of the finest definitions of what education means : Education in its broadest, general sense is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people lives on from one generation to the next. Generally, it occurs through any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts. In its narrow, technical sense, education is the formal process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills, customs and values from one generation to another, e.g., instruction in schools.(Src: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education)

As I look back to connect the dots of my life, I can’t help but recognize, acknowledge and appreciate the difference EDUCATION has made in my life… Today, it would be fair to say that I am probably what I am primarily because of all the EDUCATION I received in my life – From my parents, teachers, family, friends, institutions and organizations I have been associated with and of course LIFE!

Hence, I am running a special feature on my blog dedicated to Education.. The schedule for the series is below:

22 June 2012 – The Lessons of LIFE no School really taught me
26 June 2012 – Nischala’s Blog-o-Rendezvous with ANGELA MAIERS
28 June 2012 – The Solo Educator by Anurag Behar
3  July 2012 – The Sandbox Manifesto by Angela Maiers
5  July 2012 – What to Teach by Anurag Behar
10 July 2012 – My Education is a result of my Experiences by Meeta Gangrade
12 July 2012 – Nischala’s Blog-o-Rendezvous with Prof.D.V.R.Seshadri
17 July 2012 – The BEST Education Blogs I’ve come across
19 July 2012 – In Search of Research : My tryst with Academia by Pavan Soni
24 July 2012 – Everything I learned in Kindergarten by Angela Maiers
26 July 2012 – Nischala’s Blog-o-Rendezvous with Dr.BINDU HARI
31 July 2012 – My Favorite Quotes on Education

This Series is dedicated to my FATHER!

The 7 Treasured Lessons from Corporate Innovation Experiences

I’ve been part of different corporate innovation initiatives from 2008 till date. And during this tenure, the most noteworthy change is that corporate innovation has transitioned from “Nice to Do” to “Good to Do” to “Must Do”…

Along this journey,
• I have had the opportunity to play a diverse set of roles and shouldered varied responsibilities – The key ones being a Business Owner to a Project Manager to a Business / Process Analyst to a Marketing / GTM (Go-To-Market) Specialist to Solution Specialist to Requirements Specification Owner
• I have interacted with a diverse set of individuals – internal and external to the organization {partners, analysts, customers (Diverse domains, Diverse positions in the organizational hierarchy [starting from the CEO to end-users] and from different parts of the globe}
• I have been involved in diverse kinds of innovation projects – from business to technology to process; each with a different team composition (2 to 20)

And the bottom line is this – Each of these initiatives achieved a different level of success.

How do you define the success of a corporate innovation?
The answer is simple and straight forward: The innovation initiative should generate the promised Return on Investment. If not, it is usually considered a failure in the business sense.

Going purely by this definition, I’d have to confess that some of the corporate innovation initiatives that I’ve been a part of were SUCCESSFUL and some were FAILURES…

Did we have cool ideas? Sure – We did!
Did we have a grand vision? Sure – We did!
Did we have a great team? Sure – We did!
Did we build what we set out to? Sure – We did!
Did we win business? Sure – We did!
Did we impact the organizations brand image in a positive way? Sure – We did!
Most importantly, Did we LEARN, GROW and EVOLVE? Sure – We did!

In this article, I will list the 7 TREASURED Lessons from the experiences in CORPORATE INNOVATIONS that I was a part of:
1) There are three distinct phases in the Innovation Life Cycle and each requires a different mind set
2) Your idea need not be unique; How you position your innovation makes all the difference
3) The Business Plan is just a baseline plan
4) When you start the GTM [Go-To-Market] activities can make all the difference
5) The first customer is the most crucial in your journey to success
6) Corporate Innovation should be a priority from the top
7) Internal communication and collaboration is critical to succeed

For full reading, refer to my artcile in the IIMB Alumni Magazine | Summer 2012 (pages 22 – 25)

Are you clear about your OBJECTIVES?

If there’s one key difference between those who achieve their objective and those who fall short it is this – Clarity on your OBJECTIVES!
Be it in professional or personal lives.. Clarity on your objectives is critical for achieveing success….

And when I say clarity, the following parameters are important:
1) Well defined statement for what needs to be achieved
2) A definite time frame
3) A measurement criteria, that is, how can you measure if you have achieved your objective?

In the PROFESSIONAL CONTEXT
We all usually have objectives defined for us.. But yet, many of us fail in achieving this.. Here’s why:
a) Many of us don’t spend enough time in understanding the objectives well enough through a formal discussion ; and hence a lot of detail is fairly ambiguous and hence we fall short in achieving the objectives. Also, in any work context there are tangible objectives which are well documented, and intangible objectives. The thing about intangible objectives is no one spells them out to you, but your organization / team / manager expects them from you – And hence, it is critical to spend time in figuring out the intangible objectives as well!
b) Many of us don’t have clear objectives at the time that we should have them, and hence there’s no way we will be able to achieve them within the stipulated time – Again, the focus is to ensure that you have your objectives clearly spelt out so that you are able to work towards achieving them
c) Many of us don’t have clarity on the relative priority of our objectives. So usually we end up with 5 – 10 key objectives for what needs to be achieved during a time frame (say a year). And usually out of these, achieving 2-3 objectives are non-negotiable – So if you don’t achieve these, it affects the overall assessment of your objectives. The others are important, but not so critical – And hence if you do achieve them, its great. But if you don’t, the impact is not as significant on the overall assessment of your objectives
d) One of the most common reasons why many of us fail in meeting our objectives is because we probably don’t have a plan on how to achieve them – Once you do create a plan on how to achieve these objectives, the probability that you will achieve them is significantly high
e) Last but not least, most of us don’t review our objectives and the progress made against these on a regular basis. So if you need to achieve an objective in 3 months – It helps to do a self-review periodically (say every week) to track your progress and where you need to focus your time and energy to ensure that you are able to achieve your objectives! Of course, if you can also schedule for a formal review with your team / manager, the interim feedback will enable you to make the required course corrections towards achieving your objectives

In the PERSONAL CONTEXT
In the personal context, what I’ve observed is:
a) Most of us don’t have any specific objectives on what we want out of ourselves. Most of us tend to go with the flow OR with the here and now OR with what others want / expect / need of us. The first and critical step to achieving your objective is to ensure that you define personal objectives for yourself – This will need some time and thought and introspection – But definitely worth it in the long run!
b) Even if you have personal objectives, the two areas where many of us fall short are – One, we don’t have a specific time frame and Two, we don’t have specific measurement criteria! And hence, we set up ourselves for failure!
c) Last but not least, we don’t set aside time out of our daily routine to work on achieving our objectives. One of the best ways to ensure you achieve you objective is to set aside some time on a regular basis (say daily 10 mins or weekly 30 mins) to work on achieveing your objective! And before you know, you would have made progress to achieve your objective..

Pause and Reflect
Are you crystal clear about your PROFESSIONAL OBJECTIVES?
Are you crystal clear about your PERSONAL OBJECTIVES?

Are you clear about your PRIORITIES?

Let me start by asking you 3 simple questions:
1) What are your Top 3 PRIORITIES at WORK today?
2) What are your Top 3 PRIORITIES at WORK for this year?
3) What are your Top 3 PRIORITIES in your PERSONAL LIFE?
If you know these answers and are able to express them in a clear and concise fashion, then CONGRAJULATIONS! You have cleared the first and most important step on your ladder to success…

Over the past few years, I have observed and interacted very closely with several people on the personal and professional front. And today, many of them have been phenomenally successful in their own right!
As I mull over these success stories, one of the common characteristic that I have observed in all these individuals is a PHENOMENAL CLARITY on their PRIORITIES…

So what did they really get right?

Firstly, they had invested time to identify and discover their personal priorities – At work, as a part of their personal life and then based on these two they had a list of priorities for a day – usually written down for ready reference. And these priorities were really aimed at taking them closer to their specific goals and objectives

Secondly, they were able to translate these thoughts into very precise and concrete words. So while they were clear in their mind about their priorities, they were also able to articulate them in very simple words so that it was crystal clear and very specific!

Thirdly, they were able to easily rank their priorities in an ascending order at any given point of time

Fourthly, they were able to translate these priorities into tangible action on a day-to-day basis

Fifthly, before they started doing any new task, they’d usually pause for a minute to think and validate the relative priority of the task on their priority list. If it figured low on the list, they’d delay work on it, and focus their time and efforts on the ones higher up on the priority list

And lastly, they’d invest time on a regular basis to reflect and review on their priorities to identify if there are any changes to this priority list!

Pause and Reflect…
Have you figured out your TOP PRIORITIES for today?
Have you figured out your TOP PRIORITIES at work?
Have you figured out your TOP PRIORITIES for life?

Nischala’s Blog-o-Rendezvous with NUPUR BASU

Nupur Basu is the featured STAR in my Blog-o-Rendezvous Series.

ABOUT NUPUR BASU
Nupur Basu is an independent journalist, award winning documentary film maker and media educator from India.

For the last three decades Nupur has worked in both print and television journalism and reported and filmed extensively from different regions in the world like India, UK, Uganda, Switzerland, South Africa, Spain, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal ,Bangladesh and Afghanistan . She reported extensively on politics, development, gender, child rights, issues of livelihood, hunger, health and environment in print, television and documentary films. Her longest stints in print was with India’s leading national daily Indian Express (1982 to 1991) and in television, with New Delhi Television (NDTV) (from 1994 to 2006) where she was Senior Editor.

In 2010 Nupur was visiting faculty for the spring term at the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley teaching a course on ‘International Reporting: India”. She is an Associate Fellow at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) at Bangalore and also on the executive committee of the Delhi based Media Foundation. She is also on the Board of Panos, London.

Nupur has also made five independent documentary films between 1995 to 2008:
 “No Country for Young Girls?” (2008- produced by TVE ,UK and telecast on BBC World)
 “Lost Generations” (2000 – produced by TVE,UK and telecast on BBC World)
 “Michael Jackson Comes to Manikganj” (2000 – supported by Media South Asia and IDS, Sussex and Ford Foundation.)
 “Mothers of Malappuram” ( 1997 – produced by TVE, UK and telecast on BBC World)
 “Dry Days in Dobbagunta” (1995 – produced by TVE, UK and telecast on BBC World)- award for Excellence in Television at IAWRT Festival at Harare, Zimbabwe in 1997.)

Nischala: Hi Nupur. Firstly, thank you so much for your time. It’s indeed a pleasure and honour to talk to you.
Nupur:  Hello, Nischala. I am impressed with your patience and perseverance. You would have made a very good journalist – it is the hallmark of a good reporter to chase their story, till they get it.

Nischala: Thank you, for your kind words … So let me start this rendezvous with a subject and topic dear to your heart – Empowerment of Women. What does empowerment really mean?
Nupur: Empowerment of women is simply about giving girls equal opportunities in life to learn, grow and evolve. It is about instilling self-confidence and belief in their own strengths and capabilities.

Nischala: That’s an interesting response. So can you please elaborate on these?
Nupur: All of the above really start with making a daughter feel wanted and special from the time she is born. It’s about how you condition her to perceive a role for herself in life. In a fundamental sense, in our country, it’s linked to survival itself. As you are aware in India we have the shameful sex- ratio distortion due to a son- loving society. As per published data, 70 lakh girls (seven million) have been aborted in India in the last ten years alone through sex-selective abortions.

The situation has got worse year upon year. In the 1991 census, there were 945 girls in India to 1000 boys. Ten years later, in the 2001 census it was 928 girls. In the 2011 census, it is down to 914. Only in the state of Kerala the sex ratio is in favour of women. The Prime Minister of our country has described it as a ‘national shame’ but there is no political will to do anything to stop this genocide. The PNDT (Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technique) Act which makes sex selective abortions illegal was passed in 1994. After 18 years, the number of convictions for pre-natal sex determination is abysmally low- only 80 cases have so far resulted in conviction.

Aamir Khan’s recent episode of ‘Satyameva Jayate’ brought this into national focus. Let’s hope it helps our society break the silence on this national crime. I have editorially described it as a very positive effort and a missed opportunity for the national media. Here is the link for that article in the media watch website-The Hoot

Nischala: You have also made a film on this for BBC World on this subject- Tell us about it.
Nupur:  Yes, I made a documentary on this subject in 2008 titled: No Country for Young Girls? . In the film, the protagonist is 27 year- old Vaijanti , a young married women with two young daughters. Like lakhs of women in India, this young married woman too has been rejected by her husband and in-laws for giving birth only to girls. Ironically, Vaijanti lives in Agra just one kilometre from the Taj Mahal , the monument that symbolises eternal love for the world. When we started filming her story, she had returned to her mother’s house and was in a legal battle with the husband. The film begins with petite Vaijanti sitting alone on that lover’s bench in from of the magnificent Taj Mahal saying: “I grew up in the land of Rani of Jhansi and I wanted to give birth to my daughters… my husband threw me out of the house for that but I will fight for my girls till the very end” .  Princess Diana had sat alone on the same bench at the Taj and it had symbolised the end of her marriage with Prince Charles.

Vaijanti then leaves Agra with us and travels across the country meeting women from different economic backgrounds to find out whether she is alone in her suffering. From women ministers, to women construction workers to IT women CEOs- she meets them all and finds that she not alone in her suffering. One woman who particularly inspires her is Jasbir, a nurse in Ganganagar who was rejected by her husband and in-laws because she had triplets- all girls. She had resolved to work and bring up the girls and today they are three lovely 13 year-olds who are studying in school and who adore their mother. No Country for Young Girls? is a story of deep despair and utmost hope.

Nischala: Was the film well received?
Nupur: It was on BBC World as part of series called Living on the Edge and it had a worldwide telecast to good reviews. The very first day it was on the BBC website it had 87,000 hits. There is enormous interest in the subject as people cannot understand why a country like India which is supposed to have a vibrant democracy and wants to project itself as an economic powerhouse, should be eliminating its daughters in the 21st century. It is really mind boggling.  In the film an expert on Gandhi pointed out to us that “Gandhi would most definitely have fasted unto death if he had known Indian daughters were being killed in this manner“. Unfortunately there are no Gandhis in our country today who find this practice morally abhorrent. It’s really crazy that as a society we worship women goddesses – but we abuse women in real life.

Nischala: Has it always been this way ?
Nupur: Not really..thanks again to Gandhi, Indian women took part in large numbers in the Indian freedom struggle. By coming out of their homes onto their streets in thousands, to take part in a national political movement, they made a huge statement .  If this was the case in 1946-47, you would have imagined a rising graph of emancipation of women in free India in 2012. Sadly, as you and I know it, that’s not been the case. Although India had a woman Prime Minister in Indira Gandhi for double digit years, and although women are in power at the helm of politics in India even as we talk today – the President is a woman, the Speaker of Lok Sabha is a woman, the head of the Congress party is a women, the leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha is a woman, we have three women Chief Ministers-  yet, ironically, our elected MPs in the lower House of Lok Sabha refuse to pass the 33 per cent reservation Bill for women in Parliament .In January this year it was once again turned down in the lower house. These are the dichotomies we are grappling with as a society/nation.

The truth is that in 21 st century India, both in rural and urban India, many women are not safe in their homes, on the streets or at their workplace. Everywhere there are instances of abuse of women. Honour killings, dowry deaths, rapes of women and minor girls…the list is long and depressing. This is not restricted to specific communities or any particular economic segment. It is endemic, cutting across class, caste. It is as if the whole eco-system is conspiring to keep women down. And the political class and the judiciary is looking the other way. The nation’s capital, Delhi, has a skewed sex-ratio. When we had filmed in 2008 it was 821 girls to 1000 boys. If elimination of daughters through sex selection can happen in Delhi, where the Parliament and Supreme Court are located, it can surely happen anywhere in the country.

Nischala: So, what in your opinion is the cause of this abuse?
Nupur:  We still live in a feudal and patriarchal society in the 21st century. Having shiny metros and IT parks and glitzy cars does not make us modern. In No Country for Young Girls , women IT professionals (who comprise 33 per cent of the workforce- at least you all have breached the figure that Indian Parliament will not allow women Parliamentarians to reach) tell us that they too are still subjected to harassment for dowry and also harassed by their in-laws to part with their own income etc. A woman IT Manager told us on camera how the men in her section openly asked for placements to Dubai and the US, saying it will increase their dowry. The Burns Ward at the Victoria hospital in India’s IT city, Bangalore, used to have an admission rate of 90 women a month. Three a day.  As a journalist I have covered this and I can tell you that some of the cases are simply heart-breaking. Several women are burnt in dowry harassment cases. Another woman was set on fire by her husband ostensibly because she could not conceive after marriage – she had been married only for three months. The list of horror stories could just go on…

One huge problem in our system is that daughters are brought up believing that marriage is the be all and end all of their existence. Marriage should be one thing you do among various things in life. Not the only thing you do. It is this age-old- ‘ladki to paraya ghar ki hoti hain’ (the daughter is reared for someone else) which is the genesis of the problem. It is this conditioning that instils the feeling of inferiority and lack of self-confidence in girls. Adding insult to injury, this message is accentuated by the mass media. The gender stereotypes of a patriarchal society that we see in television serials, makes matters worse. And women are the largest consumers of these TV serials which are reinforcing stereotypes about themselves and it has an adverse impact on them.

Nischala: So any specific observations that you’d like to highlight based on your research as a journalist over the past several decades?
Nupur:  While urban India has benefitted from liberalisation, it is the poor – both urban and rural poor who have been hit badly. Just look at the canvas that we celebrate as India Shining – 840 million people live on less than 20 Rs a day .Ninety three per cent of India’s workfoce works in the unorganised sector and is not paid minimum wages, a large number of whom are women. Thirty-three per cent (one in three) of children in India are born low birth weight (less than2.5 kgs). In the year 2000 I had made a documentary again for BBC World titled- Lost Generations- in which I showed that the cycle of malnourishment of underweight mothers (some of them actually girls of 15 who had been married off) giving birth to underweight children. Research showed that malnourishment at birth leads to diseases like diabetes in later life among other problems. While looking at these children filming in rural Maharashtra, the title of the film came to us. We felt that these malnourished children, many of them girl children, have no future unless there are policies in place that help them – And these have to be proactive.

Nischala: OK.. These are interesting insights and perspectives.. Thanks for sharing.. Moving ahead, you’ve spoken a little about “financial independence” for a woman. Why do you think this is important?
Nupur: Financial independence is absolutely crucial. Lakhs of women are forced to endure abusive marriages because they have no financial independence. When I talk in colleges in India, I literally plead with women students not to see university education just as a ticket to a acquiring a husband. Instead think and focus only on your career ahead. Marriage should take place when they are ready for it and on their own terms. Marriage needs to climb down the priority list for women in India. A career and financial independence can ensure that to a large extent.

The flip side is that many a times when women do become financially independent, the irony is that many of them do not have control over their money. Their salaries are taken away by their husband or in-laws. This may sound really crazy, but it’s true. A multi-metro research conducted in India recently showed that working women in Delhi had the least control over their finances. Other metros too revealed this shocking trend. Kolkata was the only exception. Women there had control over their earnings.

Nischala: That’s a very interesting response.. And very profound advice.. So What are the three skills that women of today need to build?
Nupur : Well, left to a man a skilled woman is one who brings a huge dowry when she marries, obeys him and his parents, produces his sons, cooks and maintains the house well , entertains, works and hands over her salary to him at the beginning of the month. First of all we need the skill to reject this role for ourselves. Instead we need to build our confidence in ourselves, have the courage to walk down a different path and learn to negotiate life on our own terms.

Nischala: So any specific woman / women who is an inspiration for you personally?
Nupur: Women who have inspired me the most in my 30 -year journalistic career are poor women from rural India. The courage of these women in the face of such gruelling poverty, deprivation and an indifferent government is truly inspiring. Examples that come to mind are women like 60 year old Rosamma who led the struggle against liquor shops in the village of Dobbagunta in Nellore District in Andhra Pradesh . It was one of the most amazing grass-roots women’s struggle in India against the government’s cynical policy on liquor (reflected in a documentary I made in 1995- Dry Days in Dobbagunta). Women like Jasbir from Ganganagar who dared to go ahead and give birth to triplets-all girls- and bring them up as a single mother. The widows of dozens of farmers who had committed suicide as they could not pay back their debts. Even as we speak these women have to struggle for a livelihood so that their children do not go to bed hungry. Their resilience has left a deep impression on me and also left me feeling frustrated with myself, the government and the society I live in, for leaving them out in the cold.

Nischala: That’s really touching Nupur.. So if you had a look into a crystal ball and predict what will make a difference in India 50 years from now with respect to women in modern India… What would be your response?
Nupur: Crystal ball gazing is not my forte. But as a journalist since 1982, I have documented many trends in this country and I think you may not have to wait for another 50 years to feel the impact. To be honest- the dreams in the eyes of girls from towns like Ganganagar, Salem, Kanpur, Aligarh, Pondicherry– will provide the trigger for change in India in the next twenty-five years. Do you know that the rank holders in some of these places are girls from the government schools? They want to study. They have dreams in their eyes and are willing to work hard to make them come true. These girls will source the strength that lies within.

Nischala: Great to hear Nupur.. That’s really promising! Looking back at your own life, what do you think really made the difference to where you’ve come today?
Nupur: First I think it is how my parents raised me and my two sisters.  They made us feel loved and wanted and gave us the best education and opportunities. The one thing that my father drilled into us three girls was :  “Whether you marry an emperor or a beggar- you must be independent and stand on your own feet”. That shaped us to what we are today. Today, in the twilight of their lives, we three sisters try and do everything we can to nurture our parents. Choices of marriage were also on one’s own terms. I have been married for the last 31 years (it was a love marriage) and also have the most wonderful relations with my in-laws, despite all the feminist lectures I have given them over the years.

In one’s professional career, one always pushed the boundaries, innovated, never-took-short-cuts and believed in the old school of journalism that ‘good journalism can change the world’.

I believe that the personal is the political and have lived my life that way.

Nischala: Nupur, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts through your rendezvous.
Nupur: It was good to talk to you Nischala. All the best with your passion for blogging and your career in IT.

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