Wednesday, 26 November 2014

For My Mother, My First Teacher

She taught me to read and write. She taught me to love. She taught me to live. She taught me to be me.

My mother, who was a teacher to thousands of students, in her 35+years of teaching career, was my first teacher. She will always be my teacher and mentor, wherever she is.

I am not sure how good a student I have been, but I will continue to try. Because she also taught me to learn, and keep learning always. Learn from my mistakes and learn from others' mistakes too. Learn from my failures and learn from my accomplishments too.

It was in 1998 when I wrote my first "book", aka my doctoral dissertation. All 200+ pages of that book were dedicated to my parents.

Years passed and I wrote many things -- essays, book chapters for academic volumes, articles for academic and other journals, print and online magazines.

And then the time came to write another book. It gives me a very special joy when I open the first few pages of the advance copies of my newly released book, ABC's of Indian National Education and see this:

 To my Mother, my first teacher

Dear readers, I am happy to share that my book on Indian Education is now available for purchase at Amazon, where you can also read a brief overview of the book. And don't forget, you can always contact me, the author, for any thoughts you may have about the book.  

Regular readers of the blog may recall the A-Z series I did on Education in the month of April. This came together as a result of those blog posts, so my sincere thanks to all the readers of that series who encouraged me to think beyond the blog. 

I was fortunate enough to get some generous endorsements for the book from some esteemed teachers, colleagues and writers:
This book is a call for an educational approach that values the Spirit and builds upon India’s timeless wisdom of a life-affirming and living spirituality.  
Dr. Jane Brown
  Faculty Emerita, Antioch University Midwest, Yellow Springs, Ohio, USA 
An educational policy bereft of the grand civilizational values of India reduces citizens to humdrum workers aspiring to nothing more than material security. This book provides the grounding essential to make Indians not just masters of the knowledge of the external but keen pursuers of knowledge eternal and internal.  Literally covering the issue, from A to Z, Dr. Mehra lays the groundwork for rethinking and re-framing India’s educational policy.                    
Dr. Ramesh Rao
Professor, Columbus State University, Columbus, Georgia, USA 
This book speaks of infusing Indian education with the Indian spirit. While it is inescapable that children have to pick up future careers, the author is opposed to making education strictly careerist, where childhood is suppressed and learning becomes mechanistic, soulless and joyless.    
N. V. Subramanian
Editor,, Writer on politics and strategic affairs, Novelist, Delhi, India 

This book compels us to take a closer look at some of the fundamental issues regarding Indian education. Presenting the arguments with a modern approach, the book is deeply influenced by Sri Aurobindo's insights into the essential spirit of Indian culture and Education. All those interested in the future of Education in India and elsewhere will find it thought-provoking.
Kittu Reddy
Sri Aurobindo International Center of Education, Pondicherry

Click here to order

As I look at the book jacket and flip through the pages I see some errors, and after the first few minutes of self-criticism I remember what my mother always used to say -- 'now that you have finished your work, let it go, don't think too much about it, nobody can get it all right, learn from your mistakes and move on.' 

And so with this book done, I move on to other projects and other works, remembering her love and with full assurance that she is blessing me from wherever she is. My mother, my first teacher whose love for learning and teaching inspired me to do my best as a teacher, remains the reason for my passion for Education.

I wrote this book in gratitude and memory of all my teachers — past, present and future — who have shaped me into what I am today.

I offer this to That One Teacher who is Present in All.

Linking this with ABC Wednesday, T: T is for Teacher

Friday, 14 November 2014

Current Events 3: Silenced Voices

Due to a technical mishap all the reader comments and social media shares/likes have been lost on this post.

A new post in the series - When a Picture Leads

A special post on the occasion of Children' Day

I was 13 when they came and shut down the carpet factory my father and his brother had built, just outside the basti. Twelve people were working there. They said, no children allowed. I and my two cousins were the only children, my cousins were 12 and 15. One other boy, to make tea and clean the place. I don't know his age. The children should go to school, they said.

But I didn't want to. I knew reading, writing and numbers. I wanted to learn weaving from my father. I wanted to use my artistry and make new patterns, bring more income for our family. But they shut down the factory.

Who decides what children like me need?

Now I am stuck in this shanty they call a school. No teacher ever comes here. Some other people come, give us free food and leave. I don’t want free food, I want to earn my food, also earn some more to help my father. If only I could learn weaving from my father, who learned it from his father. But they shut down the factory.

One day a lady from that big school in the rich colony came to my school-shanty and saw me drawing a pattern. You are good, you should practice more, she said. And gave me a sketchbook and a set of coloured pencils. I took them home. I drew some patterns, even used different colours.

The nice lady came back after two weeks. I showed her the sketchbook. She was very happy and told everyone in the class to clap for me. I didn't understand. She told me that some pages from my sketchbook will be put up on a wall in the mall in the rich colony so people there can also see my drawings.

But I will not be able to see them, I thought. I didn't tell her that I never go to that mall. Nor do my friends from the basti. She took my sketchbook.

I didn't want to see my drawings on that wall in the mall. What will that get me?

I wanted to see those patterns on the carpets. Carpets that I will never weave now, because they came and shut down my father’s factory.

“Help the poor while the poor are with thee; 
but study also and strive that there may be no poor for thy assistance.” 
– Sri Aurobindo, Thoughts and Aphorisms
Top post on, the community of Indian Bloggers

To see previous post in the series, click here.
To see all posts in this series, click here.

To see previous Current Events stories, click here and here.

Linking this with ABC Wednesday, S: S is for Silenced

Monday, 10 November 2014

Cook Pray Love: A Remembrance

Due to a technical mishap all the reader comments and social media shares/likes have been lost on this post.

A new post in the series - When a Picture Leads

She would recite, in a very soothing low voice, almost inaudible, one of her bhajans whenever she was cooking. Or she would be doing her regular japa as she worked in her simple kitchen in her modest home in the city. Her food tasted heavenly, perhaps because of that. Everyone who ate even once in her home felt that 'special' taste in her food. It was not only their physical hunger that felt satisfied. Something else was being fed too. The real thing within, perhaps.

She wasn't into cooking anything gourmet or grand. There were no special recipes that she used. She didn't use any special spices or ingredients. On the contrary, the food she cooked was very simple and simply prepared. It was basic, vegetarian, Punjabi food for the most part, and that too without any hot spices.

She never hired any outside help for any task related to cooking, even when her children were small and needed a lot of attention and looking after. She managed everything herself, in addition to her work as a school teacher which she took very seriously. Her husband had some health issues and also needed much care and special attention. She would often need to cook special meals for him. Her lips moving silently in a prayer, she would manage it all by herself.

The house was also frequently filled with extended family members and relatives visiting from other towns. They would often stay for a few days. Or more. She smilingly fed them, made them as comfortable in her home as she could, and even packed lunches or home-cooked snacks for them when they went outside for sight-seeing or some other work.

When her children grew up, they helped her whenever they could and to whatever extent they could. Sometimes her children would get upset and ask her why she had to do all that cooking for the guests. Why they just couldn't stay in a hotel? And she would simply smile and say -- that is not how it is done. You don't bother, go and study, I will manage.

As she grew older she began to realize she needed some help in the kitchen, especially when her health started giving her problems. Though by this time the children had moved out of the parental home and the frequency of visiting guests had also reduced, she found herself getting tired frequently. She hired someone to help her with some basic food prep tasks, like chopping of vegetables or kneading the dough or some such thing. The actual preparation of dishes was always done by her. In that same prayerful mood.

Until the very last year of her life. Her failing health would simply not permit her to stand for more than five minutes without any support. And she was compelled to hire someone to cook for herself and her husband.

The children had always visited their parental home, as frequently as grown children do in a close-knit family. Those who lived in other towns would come and even stay with the parents for several days. But when her health started to deteriorate further and the diagnosis revealed a terminal illness, the children would take turns and come to live with her and their father for extended periods of time.

The kitchen was again bursting with activity as children and grand-children frequently visited. But she wasn't in the kitchen. She was however still very concerned with what was being cooked, and would give detailed instructions, in her frail voice, to the cook regarding how to prepare this dish or that dish. In just a couple of months, despite her failing health she had actually trained the cook to prepare almost everything as per her style.

And as the cook would get busy in the kitchen, sitting in the chair in her bedroom she would close her eyes and recite one of her bhajans or do her japa.

The food tasted the same. Almost. And satisfied both the physical and the other real hunger within.

Where was the magic? In her hands? In her love for the family? In her prayers? Or all?

Now that she is gone, the same cook still works in the same kitchen of her home. Cooking for one, her husband. Or for more when the children visit.

But there is nobody reciting the prayers, silently, while the cooking is being done.

Or maybe there is.

Far, far away. Or very near. Right here. Within.

Within the hearts of her children, her husband, all those who will visit her home and partake of something cooked in her kitchen, where she and her prayers are present. Always.

In all her acts a strange divinity shone: 
Into a simplest movement she could bring 
A oneness with earth’s glowing robe of light, 
A lifting up of common acts by love.

~ Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, Book VII, Canto I

Image source

To read the previous post in the series, When a Picture Leads, click here.
To read all the posts in the series, click here.

Linking this with ABCWednesday, R: R is for Remembrance, Recite

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The Voice that Quietens

Sometimes all you want to do is stay. Quietly.

Stay with the memories. Of that face, that smile, that voice, that presence. Because in that staying is where you find the presence alive and living.

Memories make you relive the moments, again and again. Reliving brings pain, the mind says. Yet, the heart wants what it wants.

Hush, you mind.

The heart doesn't want pain. The heart seeks healing. But it also wants to go back. Quietly. To that moment when the presence was there in physical form. In the form that you knew as yours.

You know that the form is transitory, it always was. The real thing within takes a new form when the old form is tired and weak and ready to leave.

But all that, the heart doesn't want to hear. Not in this moment when all it wants is for the voices to quieten. So it can hear. That one voice.

The heart wants only to hear that voice. Once again.

That voice with which you grew up, the voice that comforted you, the voice that corrected you, the voice that helped you see right and wrong, or right and right, the voice that helped you discover your own voice.

The heart wants that voice.

The mind says - you have that voice. With you. Saved. Listen.
The heart says - I know. I know that voice. Without listening. I hear it. It is.

The voice stays.

And so you stay. Quietly. With the voice. Because in the voice she lives.

In the voice is the healing. Quietly.

Lyricist: Gulzar, Composer: R.D.Burman, Singers: Lata Mangeshkar and Bhupinder

Photo credit: Suhas Mehra
Spiritual significance of the flower:Vital Protection
Surrender to the Divine is the best vital protection


To see all the posts in the series - "All music is only....", click here.
To see the previous post in the series, click here.

Linking this with ABC Wednesday, Q: Q is for Quiet