Archive for the ‘Teacher’ Category

A case has been filed against Indian singer Papon for kissing a minor girl on a TV Show. Pix from the internet.

When it comes to any kind of incursion into a child’s personal space a child will always look up to the parents for protection and it is any parents’ duty and utmost obligation to ensure that. But when a father says that it is perfectly fine for singer Papon to go ahead and kiss his 11-year-old daughter on camera because he is like a “father figure” to her – mentoring her in the TV show Voice India Kids – then there is something seriously wrong in our society.

Raveena Tandon rightly tweeted that the father might have been saying this under pressure from the channel. In fact, I feel that it could also be an ambitious father who doesn’t want to dash his daughter’s chances of becoming a singing sensation and he has accepted like many others that things like this “happen”.

The first thing that struck me after seeing the video (that incidentally I watched again and again to see if I am being fooled by a wrong angle that Papon later said) is if this is happening in front of the camera and is being passed off as chalta hain, then what must be  going on behind the camera?

See what I mean.

As a mother Papon’s behavior gives me the creeps. It’s not only the way he kisses the girl it’s also about the way he pinches another girls cheeks before that and in the way he puts Holi colours on the girls nose before he kisses her. There is something perverse about it.

When you see the video it’s all out there. I fear no amount of explanation can absolve him. That people instantly reacted on social media, that Papon had to step down as a judge on the show, that so many celebs denounced his behaviour and that a Supreme Court advocate Runa Bhuyan filed a complaint against him and the Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights is looking into the case, shows that India is changing. And for the better.

It was alright but not anymore

Recently I met this uncle who belonged to my father’s circle of friends. I refused to talk to him and just walked off behaving we never met. He had a daughter my age. When he got drunk his elbows would go haywire whenever he would go near any woman irrespective of their age. Our fathers and uncle who were perfectly aware of his behavior would tell us to stay away from him at all social dos. That’s the step they would take.

I thought if we had someone like this in our gang of friends behaving like this with our children, what would we have done? We would have definitely told a person like this not to party with us anymore. We would have never accepted behavior like this. That is the difference between our previous generation and our generation. The difference between the India we grew up in and the India our children are growing up in.

Don’t shove it under the carpet anymore

Child sexual abuse is the greatest reality in our society. Unlike rape, eve teasing or molestation, we don’t even know when children are being harassed, how it is happening and how it is scarring a child for life. The onus lies on us to be vigilant. We should teach our children from a very early age to differentiate between bad touch and good touch and they should be able to talk to us if there is any sense of discomfort anytime. Schools are also playing a major sensitization role these days.

Recently a family staying in our apartment building temporarily had two lovely daughters with whom my son became friends. They had an uncle staying with them who was pinching my 7-year-old son’s cheeks, maybe just out of affection, but my son did not approve of his behavior. I always look at it this way that as adults if we don’t like strangers touching us or disheveling our hair out of affection how do we expect our children to accept and enjoy it?

The next day I was stepping out of my house to have a word with this gentleman when my son came running home.

“Ma, I have good news. That uncle has left,” he laughed.

I laughed too. But I told him next time anything happens like this keep me posted I am there for you. I gave him a hug and he dashed off to play.

Women are predators as much as boys are victims

Child sexual abuse is not a gender specific thing when it comes to victims and abusers. Boys are as much at risk and women could be perverse too. There have been plenty of instances.

A report published in The Telegraph, UK says, “When Marie Black, 34, was given a life term in Norwich she was sexually abusing children for 10 years. She was at the centre of an “utterly depraved” sex abuse ring. Black organised parties where children were ‘raffled’ to people who would then abuse them.”

Women are pedophiles and they are into grooming minors too. Many adult men in India today will tell you about their childhood experiences with maids at home, neighbours next door or the aunt who often visited. It is harder for men to talk about the sexual abuse they have faced because there is always a tendency to laugh it off presuming boys don’t face it.

Do check out this video of Demi Moore kissing a minor then you will know what I am talking about.

 

We should never be embarrassed to confront people

 I have seen many times our elders were embarrassed to confront people and talk to them about this deplorable behavior because they were our close relatives, friends or some people important to the family.

I always believe it’s the faith and dignity of our children over anyone else so there is no embarrassment in confronting people.

Also as parents we are more aware now unlike our earlier generation. If I tell my mother that there was this uncle who was like this, she would stare in disbelief and say, “Jah! What are you saying?”

So when I was a child if a man in a public bus offered to put me on his lap because of a dearth of seating space in the transport she would gratefully plonk me there.

Now if a stranger tries to teach my son swimming in the pool. I just holler to him firmly, “You can leave him alone.”

I recently realized that there are behaviours that we have internalized as given and do not protest. I was taught a very valuable lesson by a friend recently. I was sitting in his car when he had gone to get something from a shop. Out of nowhere an old man appeared and started relieving himself in front of the car. The usually shouting, protesting me just looked away, unable to react. My friend came and gave the man an earful and almost beat him up.

I realised sometimes we look away in embarrassment. Using abusive language in front of women and children is another passé in India but it’s high time we point out it’s unacceptable too.

We should use our instincts

Instead of relying on children to come with a complaint and then taking steps it should also be our responsibility to identify a potential predator and deal with the person accordingly.

Recently we had taken our son to a table tennis coaching centre so that he could join classes there. A gentleman took us around and introduced us to some of the mothers who were there with their children. Everything was fine we had almost taken the admission forms when suddenly this gentleman started talking about his surgery and started unbuttoning his shirt in front of all the ladies to show the scars of his surgery.

I felt this was grossly inappropriate behavior and I simply did not feel comfortable leaving my child in his care.

A peck needs to be taken seriously too

After watching the Papon video Farah Khan said it made her feel “uncomfortable”. This is precisely the point. Anything that feels “uncomfortable” is just not done. Period.

Uncomfortable is unacceptable and we should not wait for uncomfortable to turn into unbearable before we react.

Papon might be the fall guy in this case but this sends out a strong message to all those indulging in behavior like this behind closed doors. If you are discovered God help you!

 

 

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Jashodaben Modi

Jashodaben Modi

On the contrary I think she is a woman with a mind of her own. The reports that have come out in the media might say things like:  “the wife of Narendra Modi washes her own clothes”, “she lives alone and survives on a salary of Rs 10,000”, “she is waiting for that one call from Modi”, but if I have read right between the lines, she is a strong-willed woman, who has carved her own niche in her village in Gujarat.

What I gather is Jashodaben Modi did not sit in one corner of her home and cry over her fate when she was sent back to her maternal home by her husband at the age of 19. Instead she found her own calling. She studied and became a teacher. Her compassion and kindness is the talking point among her students, (many of whom belong to the Muslim community) and their parents.

For me Jashodaben Modi is a woman, who has had the guts to turn the circumstances in her favour and live her life on her own terms. Here are five reasons why I find her inspiring.

Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi

 

  1. She was not afraid to live her life alone: Her brothers said that they proposed remarriage to her but she rejected it. It is clear that she is woman who doesn’t think that the presence of a man is a must in her life to make her feel more secure. Only after retirement she has moved into a house which is located four houses away from her brother’s home, otherwise she lived in a different village.
  2. She is financially independent: All her life she lived in her own small rented accommodation and has taken care of her own expenses.
  3. She has made a difference in other people’s lives in her own small way:  She has been a passionate and loving teacher. She regularly visited her students at their home if they failed to attend school because of illness. The whole village of Rajosana, where she taught, came to attend her retirement function.
  4. She hasn’t used her husband’s power position to get favours: If she had wanted she could have gone to the press long before Open Magazine went knocking on her door in 2009. True Modi is a powerful man, but Modi is also someone who is surrounded by adversaries. Jashodaben could have used her status to her advantage, something she never did.
  5. Modi needs her now, but she doesn’t need him: Modi acknowledged Jashodaben in an affidavit filed before the Election Commission last week. To fulfill his political ambitions Modi had to do this but ironically if Jashodaben never acknowledges Modi as her husband it would not make a difference in her life. And come on, if the phone call from him hasn’t come in 40 years it would probably never come. A woman, who has fought the battle of life on her own, definitely knows that. But she is dignified enough to speak well about him in public and pray for his well being.
Julie Campos Farmer doing yoga on the Umm Suqeim beach in Dubai

Julie Campos Farmer doing yoga on the Umm Suqeim beach in Dubai

If you are on the quest for any kind of luxury you can be sure your pursuit will end in Dubai. In this emirate of the UAE you just have to name it and you get it – of course it will come with a steep price stag.

For instance I wanted the luxury of attending an yoga session on the beach with a group under the aegis of an able instructor, enjoy the sunrise, feel the sound of the waves as I close my eyes in my yoga posture and then finish off the session with a dip in the sea. Not that I am some kind of a fitness freak or hardcore yoga enthusiast but the whole thought of a session like this filled my being with blissful energy.

I checked if this is possible in Dubai. It is. Some five star hotels offer sessions like this on their private beach for prices between Dhs80 and Dhs150 a session ($22/Rs 1,200 and $40/Rs2,250 per session). I wasn’t sure if I was ready to part with that kind of cash to bring to life my yoga-on-the beach fantasy.

Then I read in the magazine Aquarius that yoga instructor Julie Campos Farmer, through her organization Fields Of Yoga, offered such a class at the beach at Umm Suqeim 1 on Saturday mornings and, that too completely for free. I tried to read the fine print and thought there must be a catch somewhere, a donation expected maybe. Nevertheless I shot an email to the given address and got a warm reply from Julie herself asking me to join the next Saturday session and I very happily noticed that at the end of the email it was written:

Timings:  7:00-8:15am (please plan to arrive at least 5 min early)
What to Wear: comfortable clothes that will allow you to bend and stretch. Bring or wear a swim suit if you would like to join us for a swim after the practice.
What to bring: a bottle of water, a yoga mat and a towel
Rate: Free!

Yoga session in progress

Yoga session in progress

I have been to the Jumeirah Beach many times but never to this tiny tranquil patch at Umm Sequiem 1 next to the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club. As I stepped on to the beach the 7am-sun created a lovely warm hue on the inviting blue waves that met the azure of the sky in the horizon. I could spot the Burj Al Arab in the distance. The collective sight made me feel grateful to the bedside alarm clock, for a change.

Julie, a Yoga Alliance (200-HR RYT) certified teacher, who has done her training in Goa, greeted me with a warm smile and didn’t seem to be judgmental about my love handles. She gestured me to take a place at one of the mats that she had placed on the beach. The session had already started and she was instructing those attending the session with gusto.

Take it easy if you can't do a posture is what Julie says

Take it easy if you can’t do a posture is what Julie says

There were six other people in the class, five women and one man, who followed Julie’s moves with precision and the instructor on her part, did her level best to assist her students. My eyes kept drifting to the tranquil setting. I saw two men set off on a kayaking adventure oblivious to the yoga session in progress on the beach. Then I spotted the lone speedboat in the distance and a woman emerging from the sea in a bikini just like Ursula Andress. I closed my eyes and the sound of sea lapping on the shore filled my ears. I breathed a fulfilled sigh. I couldn’t believe I was getting all this for free.

The setting was absolutely tranquil

The setting was absolutely tranquil

Kayaking enthusiasts in the backdrop

Later when I asked Julie why she didn’t charge for this session she answered in her inimitable simplicity, “Dubai is a place where people are always pursuing wealth. I have a studio at home where I charge Dhs50 per session but I thought Sunrise Yoga is a great way of doing something worthwhile for which you don’t charge.”

Julie’s morning session is often attended by as many as 15-20 people. “I have regulars and first timers. My sessions are open to everyone – from a labourer to a well-placed person. I have had regulars, who have been on business trips and taken the taxi straight from the airport just to be in time for the session. I have had whole families trooping in with three generations in tow, and there have been women dragging along their unwilling boyfriends, who have later admitted that they enjoyed the session immensely.”

What about tourists? “This is a great way to explore Dubai,” says Julie adding, “I often get emails from tourists much before they land here telling me to book a place for them at my beach yoga session.”

Julie started Sunrise Yoga in January 2012 and apart from the summer break – which she will be taking after two weeks because it will get too hot to practise yoga in the open and she will be travelling to her home in California also – she is always the first to reach the beach and lay out the mats. “There have been days when I have had only one person attending the class. I am alright with that too. Actually the turnout depends a lot on how people have had their Friday nights,” she smiles.

Yoga reaches its crescendo when Julie does the headstand and asks us to try. I, of course, prefer to stand and watch while one of the enthusiasts, who has been doing yoga for 25 years, gives it a try with a bit of help from the instructor. The session ends with a prayer as Julie says, “Let’s thank god for giving us this lovely place to practise yoga, for giving us health.”

I did my own small prayer though, thanking god for bringing me this amazing experience, this luxury for FREE.

Here’s how Julie did the headstand:

Step 1

Step 1

Step 2

Step 2

Step 3

Step 3

To enjoy yoga on the beach email Julie at: fieldsofyoga@gmail.com

(Photographs: Amrita Mukherjee)

Apart from our parents and immediate family the people who have the greatest influence on us are our teachers. But as we move on in our life pursuing higher degrees, careers and our ambitions we tend to lose touch with our teachers, who have had such a great role to play not only in our academic life but also in the way we think.

We all have had several teachers in our lives who have given us the wings to fly and have taught us to take on the world but there was one teacher who taught us how to love, and that was Jashodhara Hanafi. There is no denying the fact that some teachers in South Point School were more popular than others and she was one of them. There were plenty of students in our school, who had not taken a single geography class from her but they knew her, generations of students talked about her and if I may have the liberty to say so, she was kind of a legend in the long corridors of South Point High School, Kolkata.

Why? She was a brilliant teacher, yes. But as my friend Indranil Halder has written in his book Warrior In The Sanctuary, most students, especially the boys, had their eyes pinned on the silver key rings that hung from her waist and made a jingling sound every time she moved to write on the blackboard. The guys, who had made it a point to move to the front benches for her class, sighed with every move. The girls on the other hand were busy admiring “aunty’s” (that’s what we called the teachers in school) fascinating wardrobe of stylish sarees, her string of lovely danglers and her perfectly-plucked eyebrows.

When I look back and think of those geography classes I sometimes wonder, “Did she know what was really going on in the class?” To say that she did not would be insulting her intelligence. But she remained unperturbed, never got angry at the back benchers whispering, smiled and taught us chapters from the geography book that was impossible to forget.

She was extremely affectionate towards her students and this was something about her that I found more attractive than anything else. In a class of 60 it was not possible to arrange for return gifts when she was showered with so many on Teachers’ Day, but she at least tried. A gesture, I am sure, my classmates will always remember. She bought the entire class ice cream twice during our Class X session. Once, if I remember right, was on Teacher’s Day and the second time was on the last day of our Class X year. It was a small gesture but she was the only teacher to have thought about it. She watched us as we all devoured the popsicles and posed for photographs in our sarees (which we were allowed to wear on the last day) and obliged us as we wanted to click her too. She smiled, her dazzling smile, and looked at us lovingly, happy to have made us happy. My admiration for her grew manifold.

She continued to be my teacher in Class XI-XII. With time I realised aunty had an uncanny ability to gauge the mindset of the people setting questions during exams. If we prodded her for suggestions she would come out with it. But I often dared to take it too far. I walked into the teacher’s room during lunch hour handed her the geography text book and told her cheekily, “I will only study the parts you mark. So can you please mark it for me?” After a tiring morning session she was probably biting into her sandwich then but she would accept the book, and the boring task with a smile – her lovely smile.

I actually got into the habit of studying only what aunty marked, the rest I left out. So just prior to the geography exams during the Higher Secondary exams when I saw that my classmates were fervently going through a 20-page chapter of which I had just studied two pages, for the first time I felt a knot in my stomach. “School exams were fine. But what if aunty goes wrong this time?” I thought. I entered the examination hall nervous. There was one question from that chapter and it was from those two pages I studied. Till today I don’t know how aunty did it. But she did make my life easier by marking my fat books, a task she could have happily refused to do, because it did not come within the purview of her duties. But she always did it, with love and with a smile.

Actually Jashodhara aunty came to my rescue more than once. Although she never told me this herself, I found out. In Class X, the naïve and headstrong girl that I was, I got embroiled in something that I should have stayed away from. A female friend of mine was regularly writing love letters to a class friend of ours and he was reciprocating. But when his mother discovered the letters he washed his hands off the affair and put the entire blame on her. His father was well connected and ended up in the principal’s room with the letters and my friend was asked to leave the school. I was so upset about it that I actually confronted the guy for giving my friend so much grief. And the result? The guy went and told his father again and I couldn’t find my name on the first list of admissions in Class XI despite having the marks. Later I found out that it was Jashodhara aunty, my class teacher of Class X, who had stood up for me at the teacher’s committee meeting and ensured I got admission in Class XI. But she never for once told me about it.

After I left school I sent her a card every Teacher’s Day. But as the years passed by and I got tied up with our so-called busy lives there were years when I never realized when September 5 came and went. Till one day on a pre-puja shopping spree at a saree store I heard a familiar voice. Yes, it was Jashodhara aunty and without thinking, instead of touching her feet, I just hugged her. She hugged me back with the same child-like excitement. She was with our PT teacher Kabita aunty and both were indeed happy to see me. We exchanged numbers and I promised to call them and take them out for lunch post-puja.

A few days after puja I got a call from her daughter telling me she was no more. She had an accident on a holiday in Delhi. I had to hang up to take deep breaths and called her back. How did she get my number? “Mom had your visiting card. I found it. She always told me she really liked you.”

I hope she knew I loved her. She was one of the few teachers, who could love her students – unconditionally.

(I had clicked this photograph of Jashodhara aunty on our last day of Class X but thanks Arpita Mukherjee Mitra for scanning it and uploading it on Facebook. I have downloaded it from there.)