Dr. Abdul Kalam Azad- visionary leader, statesman, philosopher, educator

dr kalam2
APJ Abdul Kalam. Reuters

A true educator, Dr. Abdul Kalam Azad, former President of India, breathed his last on July 27 doing what he loved to do- interact with students at IIM, Shillong.

India has lost not only an educator in Dr. Kalam Azad, but also a thinker and an inspiration for all.  Among other adulations, he is called an igniter of young minds, a people’s person, and a people’s President.  He was an unconventional President who would break protocol and mingle with young people and the poor.

He has said “Dreams are not those that we do in our sleep.  They should be the ones that never let us sleep.”  He was known to be a visionary and a doer.  Once an idea was envisioned, it had to be planned out fully and implemented as soon as feasible and appropriate.  One of his biggest concerns was the future of India.

Born to a poor family with meagre beginnings and having gone through hardships, but rising to such heights in his studies and profession and the Presidentship of India, he always wanted to be a beacon of hope for disadvantaged and poor children.

India’s Prime Minister, Mr. Narender Modi, in his expose entitled ‘Bharat has lost its Ratna’ in Times of India, July 29, 2015, writes “Dr. Kalam Azad’s vision for the nation was anchored in freedom, development, and strength.”  Emphasizing the criticality of freedom, Dr. Azad espoused a freedom from self-imposed limits, outside pressure and all around close-mindedness by each Indian.  He stressed the importance of development and asked politicians to devote 70% of their time to development of their jurisdictions.  Finally, according to Dr. Azad, strength comes from understanding and it commands respect.  Of note were his most valuable contributions to nuclear and space, and education, science, and technology.  His special affection and concern for students young and old was much appreciated.

According to Maulana Wahiduddin Khan (Speaking tree, Times of India, July 29), Dr. Azad was a man of integrity and intelligence.  He emphasized the importance of mother, father and teacher in the development of beautiful minds in children in a society that should and could be corruption free.  He inspired the young towards excellence in all they do and to be a spiritual force in the world today.

Lots has been written on the late Dr. Abdul Kalam Azad and more will be still written.  Indeed, what a noble and humble man he was.  India mourns the loss of this great Ratna, but it also rejoices in the Marg he has shown for India and its citizens– of freedom, development, and strength.

Picture taken from: http://www.firstpost.com/india/former-president-apj-abdul-kalam-passes-away-after-collapsing-during-lecture-at-iim-shillong-2366030.html


Power and sizzle


outside bd 31.final2Without warning, it comes down

With such force sometimes.

That one wonders how it happens.

Just dark skies up above and humidity huge

And nothing else. Then, suddenly, a deluge!

My!  Avoiding it, I move over,

In my own verandah savoring my tea.

Heavy, and heavier, the downpour roars loud and clear.

Punctuated with the loud screeching brakes

And honking of cars, running helter-skelter.

My hair gets wet and ink gets smudged,

As I continue to write my thoughts, under my roof and shelter.

I have written on the rain in Kolkata often.

It never stops to amaze me – the fury, the strength.

The wetness, the cool breeze, and

Pools of water gathering on my second floor verandah.

Spikes of forceful rain bathe my chair which stands,

Now, alone, facing the volley, as I take cover.

In front, leaves of gulmohar tree wave to and fro

With the weight and the thrust of heavenly water,

Either with glee, smiling, or as if complaining

In awe of the might of the monsoon that comes annually.

Then, as if appeased, the deluge halts ever so slightly

And makes its way back into the clouds

Ending with a soft calm drizzle,

Until the next time, may be tonight or tomorrow.

When it decides to showcase its power and its sizzle!


Responsible parenting- what and why!

The other day, members of a school board were discussing problems and difficulties that children face these days and how we can help.  That evening I read an article on “The Art of parenting to bridge the generation gap”, by Swami Parthasarathy, in the Times of India, July 17, 2015.  The gist of the column is that children have boundless energy and ways of thinking that are at variance with adults’ traditional views and expectations of them.  Most parents want to control the thinking, feeling, and actions of their children so that they may grow up in predictive ways that are commensurate with parents’ expectations.  The restrictions they pose unfortunately work in creating, in these children, the need to either rebel against authority or to withdraw into passive obedience.  These two possible outcomes are negative and cause conflict in the homes and lives of these families, schools, and society.  As the author says, one solution to bridge the generation gap and avoid problems, is for parents to be good examples and role models for their children to follow.

I liked the article and agree with the sentiments expressed.  What I want to add to the message and as a discussion for the school board that expressed their concern about their growing children in school, are the following two points.

  1. It is good to be good role models for our children. What does this mean? This means much more than just a career or a list of outward behaviors that we want our kids to emulate. It means that we live a life with values that uplift us, that keep us moral, trustworthy, honest, sincere, hard-working, kind, etc. That is a long list, isn’t it? We also want to model good behavior in terms of respecting elders, the young, the poor, the hard working, public spaces, inside and outside our homes, public furniture, etc. Positive attitude goes a long way in achieving success and being positive with our family, our work, our children, workers inside and outside our homes, friends, and even negative people, can be very instructive and therapeutic for our children to see, practice, and imbibe. What I want to stress is that generally, we like our children to be good students and to do well in their careers, but we tend to forget that all these other aspects of ‘being’ are equally, if not more, critical.
  2. Next, I want to emphasize one more thing. When we were growing up, that was a very different time than now. What with all this technology at our disposal, the different pressures of conforming to the ideals of young groups of friends, and media and film portrayal of societal values or lack thereof, times have drastically changed. Traditional parenting style was to tell the child what to do and to expect complete or near complete obedience from them. Parents generally knew what was good for their children and even now, we probably know what may be more appropriate for our children. But, is that always so? Our children are exposed to many other ways of being, thinking, feeling and behaving, many other types of careers than we had options for, many other types of relationships than what we knew, and generally many more choices than we ever could dream of. So, nowadays, with information being readily available through smartphones, laptops, and tablets, children have greater aspirations for themselves than we can imagine and they are much better informed than we could ever hope to be then and even now!

Definitely, how we were brought up by our parents and taught by our teachers, I might add, is not the same as how we should bring up our children.  Would you say that we know what is best for our children?  Do we have a right to dictate our aspirations for them, to them?  In other words, do we have a right to stifle, or curtail, the creative ambitions of our children just to satisfy our perceptions of life and responsibility, and our ego?  Even if expecting them to be like us, seems like the right thing to do, there is nothing to stop society from galloping ahead and for our kids to be influenced by these pressures. Rather than let them sink or swim on their own and/or be at loggerheads with them, we could be more open-minded and develop and easy rapport with our kids.

What we as responsible parents could do is to expose our children to the life values, some of which I mentioned above, and to instill in them the confidence and positive attitude that will carry them forward in their lives.  What we can do is to guide and facilitate their development, offering them the tools, means, and our care, love, and support and be there for them when they need us.  Yes, we can surely tell them what we expect and hope for them. However, despite our sincere efforts to convince them otherwise, if our children have other aspirations and want to follow their dream, can’t we bring ourselves to accept that?  Sure, some of us will say!  But, it is hard to know what and how to be a parent that is sensitive to their children’s unique needs rather than be a traditional authoritarian one.

Being authoritarian and traditional is not bad, but there is a place and time for that style and it is best to try and tweak our attitude and expectations with the times.

Hopefully, I will be able to shed some light on this topic in my next blog.

Take care, happy reflections!

Starting off at the gym and learning vital lessons

‘Whatever we do, however busy we are, we must take care of our health’.  We all know this, but do we do a good job of following our own advice?

I have tried many times to eat right and to exercise well.  I am like a yo-yo that goes from a few days of good work-outs and eating right to a derailment that lasts forever of carbs galore and sedentary lifestyle.

Of late, I have started spending money on my health.  In addition to membership at my gym, I paid for a personal trainer!  I learned that I can work hard doing upper body and core strength exercises and those for my legs, biceps, and triceps. I sweat like nobody’s business, but who cares as I keep wiping the icky sweat that runs down my hair, forehead, back, neck, and so on.  Oh! I forgot to mention that I have to work double hard on the abs.  Yes, I toil at the gym because I have a 7-9 hour laptop job with no movement required of me for all those hours, not even to get out of my house!

Either I slog at the gym with the machines and cardio on my own or get bamboozled by my personal trainer into doing odd looking exercises, stretches, lunges and what not.  I decided I needed the whip, so to speak, at least for a little while.  So, I find myself at the gym, almost every day, but especially on the days that my personal trainer comes.  I have to- I am paying to be there!

As I went through a few months of personal trainer experiences, first with one trainer and then with another, I realized that I am learning a few lessons on encouragement, zone of proximal development, positive reinforcement, and negative reinforcement.  I am encouraged and worked hard, by the trainer, of course.  I am supported at times and challenged most other times.  I am given regular breaks so that I or my muscles are not burned out.  I am allowed to drink itsy-bitsy amounts of water so that the effect of my workout lasts longer.  The encouragement comes in all forms- ‘You can do it’ to ‘10, 9, 8, 5…’ (an intentional counting slip at times) or tricking me into doing more repetitions than I started with… all in a day’s workout.

I am a professor of psychology and education and am interested in learning about learning itself and teaching approaches.  What I suddenly realized while my trainer was pumping me to continue doing the bicep and tricep variations, when I was dying to give up, is that he was very successfully motivating me to believe in my strength and stamina to finish the routine.  Very artful!

Not only that- when it looked like I was going to give up my routine by the second or third repetition, and that I may just throw in the towel, there was a definite support given by making it easier for me to go through the required counts.  But, that hurt my pride to which I sometimes yelled – ‘Don’t help me’!  Now that I reflect on it – is there a lesson for us teachers in that? Would we need a student like me for that to happen- a compliant and dedicated student?

After each visit to the gym and a good workout, I do feel the effects of the workout – in pain, sweat, thirst, elevated pulse, and a wonderful sense of well-being.  I feel that I have achieved something worthwhile that hour or so in the gym for my health.

Hopefully, we can organize and provide a good mental workout to our students in schools and universities alike by offering them the challenges and scaffolding that they need.  The satisfaction of knowing that the new learning is worthwhile, relevant, timely and complete can make an awesome difference to learners in our classes.

Happy reminiscences!  More next time!

– Jagjit

Hello and Welcome!

Mother, daughter, professor, sis, life-long learner, gym-hopeful, and friend- that probably describes me- if you ask the right people!

Interested in healthy living, positivity and spirituality around us, leadership and psychology issues, motivational and discipline issues in school, and approaches to parenting, among many others, I am Jagjit Kaur and I am looking forward to sharing some thoughts in my blogs.