The happiest day, the happiest hour

By Priyanshi Mehta

(This gentle tigress has a factory inside her brain which takes in words, mixes emotions and churns out beautiful poetry and prose. In this poem, Priyanshi has tried to dabble in the Shakespearean style when most little people her age run away from Shakespeare! Keep reading the blog for more from this fantastic poet/writer)

The happiest day
The happiest hour.
My seared and
blighted heart
had known. The
highest hope of
pride and power.
I feel had flown.

Of power! said I?
Yes! Such I ween:
But they have
vanish’d long, alas!
The visions of my
youth have been.
But let them pass.

And pride, what have
I now with thee?
ANother brow may
even inherit.
The venom thou
has pout’d on me -
Be still, my spirit

 

Surbhi Soni’s magical sojourn in Shishuvan

Surbhi Soni, B.Ed student from K.J. Somaiya Comprehensive College of Education, Training and Research, was in school from 16th to 18th Jan 2013.  Here she shares her thoughts about what she felt about us:

I, Surbhi Soni, am pursuing B.Ed from K.J.Somaiya Comprehensive College of Education, Research and Training got an opportunity to take my practice teaching lessons in a wonderful school – ‘SHISHUVAN’.

The following that surprised me or I can say was magical were:

  • Students given so much of freedom to express themselves that they come up with doubts and don’t hesitate to ask their teachers because teachers are like friends for them.
  • Students call their teachers by name (just like their friends) still they respect them a lot.
  • Though the school environment being casual still the students are more disciplined than the other school students where I have been.
  • Students are like an open book for the teachers which help a teacher to make the student go in a right direction.
  • Students are nurtured under the skillful teachers who come up with creative and innovative ideas which generate learning curiosity among students.

Curriculum followed by Shishuvan School will make students smart rather than a book worm.

Thanks to the faculty members of the school for giving me such an opportunity.

The value of Values – Parents and Teachers we have much to do..

By Archana Nataraj

(In this article, Archana, a Shishuvan parent and frequent blogger writes about how teachers and parents have the responsibility to help children understand values and ethics. She wrote this article for her blog, which you can visit by clicking here.)

As India continues to seethe in fury after the rape, so many new dimensions of this issue have been thrown in to the fray. I saw a good round up in the Hindustan Times (click here to read)

To me, a lot of this deals with the parent and teacher responsibilities. In Ignited Minds, Abdul Kalam says “If parents and teachers show the required dedication to shape the lives of the young, India would get a new life. A proper education alone can nurture a sense of dignity and self-respect among our youth .These are qualities no law can enforce – we have to nurture it ourselves”

But is todays’s education system equipped to shape the impressionable minds? Is there a focus on values in education? Before the nuclear family became dominant, every home had a grandparent who had the time to sit down and indulge the young in a story. I vividly recall my grandfather telling me the simplest of the values of Unity is Strength in the birds flying off with a hunter’s net story. Later my mother used to narrate these stories of Karna ,explaining the tough choices between choosing to be a true friend or choosing those who were your brothers in blood only. Or the generosity of King Sibi or justice of Birbal.. and the list goes on.

Today, these are all considered passé..only in books. The Character ethic as Stephen Covey calls them- integrity, industry, courage, patience are all replaced by quick fixes..Personality skills, public speaking , “image consulting” are the order of the day. Not that these are not essential in todays fast pace competitive life but they are secondary…But where is the time to preach these priorities? As a parent of two, in a nuclear family.. as much as I try , our night time Bath –Book-Bed Routine often goes for a toss and it is often ends in “Go to bed else you will be late for school”.

Which is why it is so so important for the schools to also focus on building character? Children spend a lot of time in schools and if the teacher is skilled in enough, Value education can and must be included in school. Talk about the need to be honest and truthful, to rush out there and help even if means missing whatever you set out to do. It upsets me that these two young lives lay there naked on the road until the cops came.. no one rushed to a hospital , no one even covered them…No one is even talking about this question.

And yes, open up. Be ready to challenge your boundries..Sex cannot be taboo.. Answer the questions your children ask.. don’t brush them away.. It may not be the whole details but it has to the truth…Whether it is good touch and bad touch told to my three year old or a brief two lines answer when my dear 6 yr old asks why is that eunuch begging on the road wearing women’s clothes?

The influence of popular culture is another thing that the school and parents can address. While I can wish that a successful heroine doesn’t need to a Chikni Chameli item number or the switch the channel and grimace when my 6 year old daughter sings öh la la la.. ab mein jawaan ho gayin”.. Do we have the guts to face it head on and explain why it is demeaning to women? Discuss why the hero taking law in to his own hands is not ok? Why it is not ok for the hero keep eve- teasing or passing derogatory “mard” dialogues? A debate in class may be just the nudge that is necessary to bring out half baked ideas and questions that young boys and girls may not have had the courage to ask anyone.Then may be a young girl wouldnt die by letting a boyfriend poke her with a screwdriver to abort a pregnancy

My kids go to Shishuvan : a school that includes gender equality in its mission. Both boys and girls wear the same kurta and full pant uniform.. that declares loudly.. that in the school we are equal students. As a girl, my school uniform does not curb my freedom to play or even sit in any way I want . In the light of the current rape case, I salute this step..whose complete value even I did not appreciate until last week. The same school also had a debate for older kids on love stories.

This is the kind of change we need. A need to focus on where we lack and then bring it to the forefront , clear any misconceptions and keep a dialogue open ..As parents and teachers, to our students and children ….we need to build strong minds that even when subjected to junk from the world around can make out that it is junk .

Like one of my favourite lines from the movie “The American President” with Michael Douglas

Lewis Rothschild: People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They’re so thirsty for it they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.

President Andrew Shepherd: Lewis, we’ve had presidents who were beloved, who couldn’t find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don’t drink the sand because they’re thirsty. They drink the sand because they don’t know the difference

READERS Are LEADERS Who RULE The LIBRARY

By ILP

(Indrajit Laurence Panjabi, or ILP, is the latest addition to the Shishuvan family. As the Librateur (ILP prefers this word than ‘librarian’) of the Middle and High School library, he wants to share his love for books with students, staff, parents and alumnni alike. His self-introduction is a must-read followed by the main article.)

This be Indrajit Laurence Panjabi aka Indrajit / Laurence / Mr P / IP / ILP ~ But Most Certainly Not Never IPL !!

A Librateur since 1984; A Zodiacal Cusp on Winter Solstice; and My Credo is ~
The Difference between Information & Intelligence is The Ability to Select / When in Doubt, Always Refer to A Book / If it’s Not in The Dictionary, It’s Not in My Vocabulary.

Born in London (UK) but breathed English Air only for the 1st Six Weeks of My Life; and the only other Foreign Countries visited are Bhutan (1993) & Sri Lanka (2011). ILP has visited the following Indian States & Union Territories (Clock – wise from Maharashtra) ~ Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, NCR / New Delhi, Punjab, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kasmir &Ladakh, Uttarakhand / Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Andaman Islands, Kerala, Lakshadweep Islands, Karnataka, & Goa.

My One Dream Destination is Hyderabad, Sindh in Pakistan (Land of My Ancestors).

ILP does NOT keep a TV at Home; ILPrefers to Read & Listen to Music.

ILP is affiliated to BNHS & IAYP & YMCA.

………………………………………………………………………….

DISCOVER YOUR LIBRARY

A Library can help You in at least two ways. It’s a good place to find an interesting story – book to read. It’s also a useful place to find information.

Library Books are divided into two basic groups , Fiction & Non-Fiction. Books of Fiction are arranged alphabetically by the Surname of The Author. The Book LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel would be shelved under the letter M .

Non – Fiction Books are arranged by their Subjects and are given a Subject Number as per The Dewey Decimal Classification System .

The Only Subject ( Author ) to have An Exclusive Number is WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (822.33); where 800 represents Literature , 820 is Literature in The English Language, 822 Drama in The English Language & finally 822.33 .

The Number for Indian History is 954 (Ancient India 934), and Geography & Travel in India is 915.4; with extended digits for the different States, Union Territories, and even important Cities of India.

The DDC System divides All Knowledge into 10 Main Classes, which are further divided into 100 Divisions and 1000 Sections.

Given below is An Outline of The 10 Main Classes ~

000 / Computers & The Internet, Libraries & Encyclopedias, Newspapers & Magazines.
100 / Philosophy & Psychology (Astrology, Dreams, & Ghosts)
200 / Religion; with Emphasis given to The Bible, Christianity & Roman Catholics, and Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, & Other World Religions all pooled together in 290.
300 / Social Sciences; which includes The Environment, Politics & Governments, Economics, Law, War & Peace, Education, Trade & Commerce, Transportation, Folk & Fairy Tales with Myths & Legends
400 / Languages & Dictionaries, Thesauruses, Glossaries, Etc
500 / Pure Science; Mathematics, Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Botany & Zoology / Flora & Fauna, including Avi – fauna.
600 / Technology, or Applied Science; The Human Body, Inventions, Etc.
700 / Arts & Crafts, Architecture, Movies, Music, Sports & Games
800 / Poetry, Drama, Prose Lierature, Essays, Quotations, and Humour
900 / History & Biography, Geography & Travel

The Number assigned to Any Non–Fiction Book is known as its Call Number.

The new “Talk” you need to have with your kid TODAY – talking to kids about social media and internet

By Archana Nataraj

(Archana is a Shishuvan parent who believes that communicating with your child is the one of the most important aspects of parenting. In this article, she talks about how parents can help their children have a safe internet experience. She wrote this article for her blog, which you can visit by clicking here.)

Happy Birthday Internet. As per today’s First post article , on 1 January, 1983, the computer network officially began its technological revolution when it fully substituted previous networking systems and began using data “packet-switching”, the new method of linking computers which then paved the way for the arrival of the World Wide Web. (Click here to read the First post article). Thirty years down the line, our responsibilities as parents are suddenly growing at an exponential pace as the internet technology scales new heights.

Why? Everything is just a GOOGLE search away. Sitting here in Mumbai, I know exactly what my friends in every part of the globe are doing..Vacationing in Brazil, checking in at the airport or sipping a coffee at the Starbucks outlet in San Jose… a Facebook update tells me all that I never even wanted to know. Even the thoughts in my mind are not mine anymore, an urging prompt on Facebook tells me to update my status or may be just a 2 line Tweet? Done with that?.. let me post some more on My Whatsapp messenger..

Keeping our kids safe online now has become supremely important. But unfortunately many parents are not tech savvy enough to even be aware of what are the dimensions of danger here. Predators of a different breed lurk here ..Child molesters, identity thieves and even cyber bullies lurk in these woods. Here are some simple starters:

  1. Talk to your kids about privacy setting on Facebook or anything they post online. Unless explicitly set to a custom list, your friends’ friend and the rest of the world will be seeing it.
  2. Teach them to ask: Would I show this picture to my family? Would I speak like this with my close friends? Often children who would never utter such words find it perfectly ok to type it away to an inert computer screen. Explain to them that portraying something you are not will attract an audience you would not like to be seen with.
  3. Stop checking in at every place and giving away where you are or going to be at what time. Revealing your location on Facebook is meaningless and totally unsafe. Always think in terms of “Will I scream this loudly standing in front of my house?” .. posting online is just that!
  4. Be your child’s friend : literally and figuratively..Add a child friendly name without a photo and add yourself to your child’s friends list (the idea is not to embarrass him but to be aware). Be a cool parent.. it means not freaking out and losing control but to slowly and steadily be a true best friend to your child. Like a good cop, bad cop routine, it is very important that the child has at least one parent he can go to without fear of being punished without being even heard out. Emphasise “Families are forever, no matter what”
  5. Tell your child not to respond to anyone they haven’t met in your presence. Tell them not to respond to any messages that are mean or that in any way make you feel uncomfortable. Explicitly tell them it is not their fault, no matter what they were browsing.
  6. Most important, if they decide to meet a friend they met online, they need to inform you and go with a friend to a known public location or ideally just call him home in your presence for snacks! That should automatically weed out those with vested interests.
  7. If you are walking on the road, don’t be compelled to listen to music or chat on your phone or tweet or check your email… just walk…being aware will help you realise if someone is following you and the alertness will help you respond.

Finally, last but not the least… teach them the beauty of being offline, unplugged. This may mean a huge change in our own routines as an adult. With the influx of internet on mobile phones, no one is actually present where they physically are. Whether seated at the dining table, we are constantly replying to emails on their blackberries or reading the latest ezine on the iPods or just chatting away on the mobile phone while walking the child home…PLEASE STOP.

Talk to your kids everyday and at every opportunity about everything. If you are reading the morning paper at the breakfast table, share it with your child according to the child’s age. If you see a news item on a boy who went missing, tell your child what he needs to watch out for . If you see a rape victim ensuing from Facebook friendship, point it out to your child. As you drive, if you see cell phone towers on the side of the bridge, point it out to your child and explain what they are. If you watch a movie together, have a debate about the characters and their decisions. As a dinner routine or a night walk post dinner every single day, check in to your child’s day.

Once while I was feverishly cooking and packing three lunches in the morning ,my three-year old asked me “Amma, are you too busy now?’’ ..I stopped. I realised those were my words..I had dismissed him away at some time when he was pestering me in the kitchen. And at the age of three.. he had noted it in his mind..that I did not have time for him when I was in the kitchen. I paused and turned off the gas and sat down on my knees. I looked in to his eyes and said “Amma is never too busy for you”

Let us be there for those that are so precious to us, so that we are not the last to learn what is happening in their lives.

 

Other Links

http://www.firstpost.com/india/on-new-years-eve-17-year-old-raped-by-facebook-friend-in-delhi-575748.html

Nature So Bizarre – 3

In ‘Nature So Bizarre’, our on-going series on Biodiversity, Katie Bagli introduces us to the wonderful world of flora and fauna – believing that the more we know them the more we’d want to protect them. Here is the third post in this series.

(Katie has many hats that she dons at various times. When she is not leading nature trails as a BNHS Volunteer (since 9 years), she is reading books (authored and illustrated by her) to children at major book stores. She is also one of the founders of the NGO ‘Save Rani Baugh’ where she has gathered many supporters to save many precious trees from being axed in the name of re-development. She loves children and is always ready to visit Shishuvan as a resource person, author and nature lover.)

The Able Dancers

Whirligig beetles

The Whirligig Beetles spend most of their time on the surface of water, feeding on floating detritus. If alarmed, however, they begin to dance in circles rapidly swaying their bodies sideways, rather like a jig, hence the name ‘whirligig’. Sometimes, to escape predation, they dive underwater, carrying an air bubble under their hid wings which helps them to breathe. Their compound eyes are divided; the upper half is adapted to see above water and the lower half to see under water.

The Shy Feather dusters

Feather Dusters are marine worms that encase themselves in tubes made of mud. They have a head of very fine feathery crimson tentacles which are used to draw food from the water towards their mouth and also serve as gills for breathing. They look beautiful when they fan out their tentacles hence they are also called fan worms. But they are very shy and of a nervous temperament. With the slightest splash or even if a shadow is cast on them suddenly, they simply withdraw into their tubes. The fans come out again very slowly after quite some time as if they are unsure of their safety.

Fish that go fishing

Deep near the ocean bed may be found the Angler Fish. One of the fin spines is modified into a long rod that dangles above their head ending in a tassel that produces light. This serves the purpose of a fishing rod with bait at its end. The light attracts other smaller fish that are immediately gulped down by the Angler. Another strange feature of this fish is that prefer to walk on the ocean bed using their fins rather than swim.

A Grotesque Disguise

Many insects are known for their camouflage and disguise to avoid being detected, but the Tortoise Beetle takes the cake. Its larvae cover themselves with a medusa of their own faecal strands to make themselves nondescript and thus avoid predation. If, by chance, some of the faecal strands break off and a part of its body is seen, the repair work begins without delay and the patch is well concealed once again. To anchor these strands in position the larvae has a two-pronged fork-like protrusion rising from its abdomen.

A Pentopus or a Hexopus?

If you were to examine all the Octopuses in the sea you would be surprised to find that some of them have fewer than eight tentacles – perhaps five or six, in which case they should be called ‘Pentopus’ or ‘Hexopus’. This is because, when under stress, they have a tendency to chew up some of their arms! Over a period of time they regrow the tentacles.

Women Deserve Better

By Sini Santosh Nair

(Sini teaches English to eighth and tenth graders at Shishuvan. She was acutely disturbed by the gangrape and murder of the young woman in Delhi whose tragedy is inspiring people all over India to take a stand against  all forms of violence against women.)

Around a fortnight ago, I was attending a language workshop in ‘Parle International’, a hotel in suburban Mumbai. The workshop was for teachers and there was a clear majority (females). I met an ex-colleague there and started speaking about work and other things. We were chatting and the conversation drifted to the home-front and that is when I enquired about his family. He said his wife is happily managing his house and kids and very sarcastically added that he would not like his wife to be out of his house. I was not surprised because I have encountered such conversations even before. I had to respond though. I was upset but put a smile on my face and said I felt sorry for the way he thought.

Two years ago, one such afternoon I was having lunch in our staffroom along with my ex-fellow teachers. I happened to taste food from an ex-colleague’s lunch box. I loved the food and asked him to pass on my compliments to his wife. He smiled and very proudly said that females are best at cooking due to which he has asked his wife to do his duties at home. He also said that he does not like having females around him even in his workplace. Another incident still etched in my mind is when two colleagues at my previous workplace were celebrating the birth of their children. They treated us and happily announced that it was a boy and their worst fears had not come true.

All the examples have only teachers involved. If teachers can have such belief systems, what can we expect from others? We all belong to families where at some point of time we have felt the invisible divide based on gender. When children are born, the first question is about the gender and the celebrations depend on the answer.

When my beloved niece was born, I reached the hospital with a boxful of mithai as promised to my sister. While I was beaming with joy and distributing sweets, her father-in-law asked me why was I so happy? I have always heard my elders saying that an experienced person speaks wisely but on that day I found him lacking sense. I simply walked out of his sight. Every girl is welcomed with worries about her future; she is always considered as a responsibility; she is always told to learn skills which would help her in the home she would live in after getting married.

When are we going to learn to call her and treat her as a bundle of joy, as someone who can light up the darkness with her unconditional love and her ability to give? Why is it so difficult to look at her as an individual? Why is it that she has to learn to live under the male security shield? When would humanity understand that if she has been bestowed with the strength and ability to bear a life and give birth to it, she can very well live a life of her own? Why should she be told that only under the protection of a male, be it her father, brother or husband can she have an identity? Are these notions not injected into the boys in every household?

The culmination of all this is the belief system that boys have at a very young age. A female is always shown and proved to be inferior in every way possible. Even Hindu festivals don’t give an egalitarian view of the society. Raksha Bandhan inculcates the value in males that they have to protect their sisters. Protection from what and whom? Aren’t we teaching our youngsters that their sisters cannot protect themselves thus lending them the thought that they are superior? Every single ritual is presided over by males.

Hindu mythology too propagates that women have always been the victim and hero-worship always belongs to the male class. Males are always venerated as they are always the saviours. I do not disagree that the female form is worshipped too but how many of us find the divinity of the same female form when a girl walks by? How do the manifestations of Goddesses whom we worship become objects of lust? Why isn’t it noted that during Navratri it is the same form that we bow down to? When I was a young girl, my Punjabi neighbours used to call young virgins on the ‘Ashtami’ day as we were the forms of the Goddesses but once puberty sets in the same Goddesses are sidelined. I asked my teacher one day – Why was it so? Because in all the pictures of goddesses, they looked like grown up women and not like girls.

Rituals have always confused me because they all have conditions applied. I always wanted to know what is the Shiv Ling all about? I approched my elders as usual but got no response. I set on a quest to know and found out that it is the erected penis of Lord Shiva and the base is the opening of the uterus of Goddess Parvati. Our rituals never teach children about the fact that the union of a male and a female is not the act alone as it is the creation of a positive energy and it is this that we worship in temples.
When this day marks the end of a year and the beginning of another one, let us all reflect and snuff out those actions and thoughts from our beings which knowingly or unknowingly have resulted in the creation of so many mental blocks in each one of us.

 

That Heaven of Freedom, My Mother

By Dilip D’Souza

(Dilip D’Souza is a writer and journalist, and father to two wonderful young people, one of whom studies at Shishuvan – Sahir D’Souza of Std. VIII. We are grateful to Dilip for his help in securing permission to post this article on our blog soon after it was published in Mid-Day on December 30.)

My daughter is nearly nine years old, and I think about what lies ahead for her, over the next several years. I mean, everything is possible, on a spectrum from leering to making comments to groping and all the way to the horror the six scums inflicted on a young woman in a Delhi bus. Everything.

I think about that, and I feel almost physically ill. I know about some of those things, because … well, let’s look at it like this.

One question to ask in the wake of this Delhi atrocity is — is there a single Indian woman who has never had an unpleasant encounter with men, involving one or more entries on that spectrum I mentioned above? I don’t know any such woman. I challenge you to find one. But asking that question only gives us a second one to ask as well: is there a single Indian man who can honestly say he has never indulged in one or more entries on that spectrum above?

I know I can’t. And that’s why I know, very personally indeed, about some of the entries on that spectrum.

So if I want my daughter to be safe as and when she grows to womanhood, that’s either a hopeless fantasy or — I have to think if I live in this country — an ideal we can aim to reach. The greatest tribute we can pay to the young woman who suffered that nightmare in that bus is to work towards a time when, a place where, it will never ever happen again, to any other woman.

We may never arrive at that splendid promised land, but we can take the road that leads in that direction. The road, after all, is the point.

And we can start on that road right now, with a code of conduct each of us will follow, every day, all the time. Here are just five excerpts from my own such. You can use them yourself, or think of another code for yourself. It may be different, but here’s the thing: follow it.

> I will not pretend to “worship” women. I will treat them, simply, as my fellow human beings.

> I will not let my sense of masculinity be defined by how I “protect” women. But I will stand up to those who seek to intimidate anyone, women included.

> I will not think of women, or things they wear and use, as “weak”. I will not taunt a man for his weakness by calling him a woman.

> I will shun families who welcome a son with joy, but a daughter with sorrow, or at best, indifference.

> I will raise my son and daughter as equal in every respect; even more, and to the best of my ability, I will raise them to be strong, caring, thinking human beings in their own right.

There’s plenty more to say on those lines, but that’ll do for a start.

My dream, in following such a code, is that every woman in my country has the security and freedom that every man like me does, that every man like me assumes is simply the way things are. It’s what Kavita Krishnan of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, in a speech that’s now viral on YouTube, called “bekhauf azaadi”: the freedom to live without fear. And in following such a code, I yearn as Rabindranath Tagore once did: Into that heaven of freedom, my father, but my mother too, let my country awake.

(Note: This article first appeared here: http://www.mid-day.com/news/2012/dec/301212-That-Heaven-of-Freedom-My-Mother.htm)