Sunday, July 13, 2014

Didn't I take help from teachers!

I was thrilled to hear so many different perspectives from my readers - who are also very good friends of mine - on my article series on help and my article on schools, teachers & parents . Guess, only friends can drill you like this :-)

I have tried answering their questions here. Am sorry if this article looks / reads more like the official reply mails you guys are used to than a blog post!!

The questions are:
  1. Did you not have a bad teacher at all? Did you not go to a bad school at all?
  2. You have mentioned many teachers in your articles. Have you ever met them in the recent past to convey your regards to them, do they even know that you think of them so much?
  3. Did your teachers give you same kind of support ? in other words, were supportive all the time as if they were spoon feeding you?
  1. Why do you care so much thinking about them?  Till about end of your teens, you may listen to your teachers, your teachers may play a role in your lives.  Are you stuck in your teens, by any chance?!? (Wow!!)
  1. You have taken so much help and support from your teachers, school and parents. Taking help is not new. Why is it hard for you to accept help?

Here are my responses:
  1. I sure had bad teachers; not so cruel as described by Pe. Karunakaran in his article. But these teachers did not know how to connect with students, did not consider imparting knowledge as their responsibility. There was a maths teacher who never touched a chalk in the class! There was another maths teacher who wrote down from her notes even if there were glaring mistakes like 1=0!! But those were exceptions. They were not my role models. In such scenarios, I resorted to other teachers who will teach me properly. I went to a school that was not as supportive as my favorite school. They even tried forcing me how do I pray, whom do I pray to. I was stubborn on how and whom do I pray and won at the end!! I think that school gave me the strong will to fight anyone for my cause!! Sure, I agree if I had to go to this school before my favorite school I may not have had the confidence to fight them!

  1. I have mentioned about a few of my teachers in my articles; all of them know that their names are mentioned in my articles (of course if they are alive). They have reviewed and approved the content to be shared that way (a couple of them are my readers too!).  In fact everybody - teachers or others - referred to in my articles know the reference and are ok with the content. Only exceptions are Pe. Karunakaran, Director Mahendran, and Artist Manohar  Devadoss. In these cases the reference is to their articles that came in magazines!! Every single role model teacher who taught me knows how much I respect them; I have not written about all my favorite teachers yet. But they know! I visit them or call them even now! With most of them, I have the proximity to visit them any time of the day!!! With some of them even unannounced :-)!!!!

  1. Not all my teachers were similar in the way they gave me guidance. Same teacher did not give the same kind of support all through. None of my role models tried spoon feeding me, even if I tried to get spoon fed!! They all know when to support, when to push you to your own solutions. Some times they pushed me and some times they pulled back. I think, it comes with their instincts!!

  1. Wow! I was taken aback with this question! I do not believe that one needs a teacher only till end of teens! I do have my teachers even today! not because I am trying to pursue higher studies; even otherwise I have my teachers. They may or may not work in a school or college as "teachers"; but they teach me valuable lessons in life!! I believe they play a significant role in all our lives. Like our school teachers, they also instinctively know when to support and when to push. In the recent past, I got a critical lesson from one of my teachers that influenced my life a great deal. I am only thinking of the poem by Christopher Logue when I think of him… the poem goes like this… 

'Come to the edge.
We might fall!
Come to the edge.
It's too high!
And they came,
and we pushed,
And they flew. '

I did not want to go to the edge! I was stuck gazing at the sky, wanting to fly but without any move! On his support, I moved inch by inch towards the edge and finally flew! Of course, it was scary to move, the path was rough, sticky and smelly… many times I felt I should run back off the edge…  but then, the final flight is worth the effort and pressure! Without that careful push, I would not have even fluttered forget about soaring high! I wish you would change your attitude towards the support you can get from your teachers!!  I truly believe, I am what I am because of all of them! Each one of them!

  1. This is an interesting aspect I was not thinking about! Hmm…  If I got support from all my teachers and schools all through my life  (from first standard till today), if I accept that the village I grew up helped me learn what I learnt and openly acknowledge all these, why am I finding it hard to accept help! May be all the help I got from my teachers were available to all the students, nothing specific for me and that is why I did not feel uncomfortable or may be because, I did not ask for it but it was given! I will introspect and post it a later point in time!! I will be glad if someone can help me find a convincing reason for this!!

Saturday, July 12, 2014


கிட்டத்தட்ட, நான் "சுயம்பு. Is there anyone" என்ற கட்டுரையை எழுதிய அதே நேரத்தில் தான் திரு. பெ. கருணாகரன் அவர்களும் தனது மண்ணில் முளைத்த நட்சத்திரங்களை எழுதியிருக்கவேண்டும். நேற்றைய புதியதலைமுறை இதழில் பள்ளிகளை, ஆசிரியர்களை பெற்றோரைக் குறித்து எழுதியிருந்தார். என் கட்டுரையின் களமும் ஆசிரியர்களும் பள்ளியும் என் பெற்றோரும்தான். நான் குறிப்பிட்ட அதே விதத்தில் தான் சுயம்பு என்ற சொல்லைப் பயன்படுத்தியிருந்தார்.  ஆனால் அந்த கட்டுரையில் தான் எத்தனை வேதனை! சுயம்பாய் எவரும் உண்டோ என்ற தொனியில் நான் எழுத, சுயம்பாய் வளரும் வலிமை எல்லோருக்கும் வாய்க்காது என்று அவர் எழுதியிருக்கிறார்!! 

ஒரே கருத்து, ஒருவருக்கொருவர் பரிச்சயமில்லாத (அறிமுகம் கூட இல்லாத) இரு வேறு மனிதர்களால் ஒரே நேரத்தில் ஒரே வார்த்தையை மையமாக வைத்து ஒரே நாணயத்தின் இரு பக்கங்கள் போல எழுதப்பட்டிருப்பது மிகுந்த ஆச்சர்யத்தை அளிக்கிறது! எனது பள்ளியின் மேன்மையைக் கொண்டாடும் அதே நேரத்தில் அவர் விளக்கும் பள்ளிகளை நானும் உணர்கிறேன். 

கட்டுரைகளின் சாராம்சம் ஒன்றுதான்! தனி மனிதனின் வாழ்வில் பள்ளிகளும் ஆசிரியர்களும் பெற்றோரும் ஆற்றும் பங்கு அளப்பரியது! நம் ஆசிரியப் பெருந்தகைகள் இதை உணர்வது மிகவும் அவசியம். வேறு வேலை கிடைக்காததால் ஆசிரியப்பணி ஏற்கும் அவல நிலை மாறி எழுத்தறிவித்தவன்/எழுத்தறிவிப்பவன் இறைவன் ஆகும் என்று உணர்ந்து செயலாற்றினால் என் கட்டுரையைப் போல ஆசிரியர்களை, பள்ளியை நினைத்ததும் பெருமிதத்துடனும், அன்புடனும் மனம் கசிய எழுதப்படும் கட்டுரைகள் மிகும். அதுவே சிறப்பு மிகுந்த சமுகத்திற்கு அழகு!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


One of my friends runs a site that allows people to share any of their life experience as long as it is women centric. In a focused group meeting to increase the traffic to this particular site, there was a suggestion to highlight the top three articles read by max number of people in the home page to help the visitors to understand what kind of site is it.

I was a silent observer in this meeting because my experience with UX design and marketing is very limited! However something inside me was not convinced because of a few unrelated articles in the site. Though the initiative is all about leadership development, there are also articles on some unrelated topics only because they are all either written by women or there is at least one woman involved in that experience.  It is pretty much like my blog, where I write on topics that represent my ideals, my reflections and my experiences. The only connection between articles is they are all my experiences or views.

So I decided to review the 'performance' of my top three articles to understand if they truly reflect what kind of site is my blog. I took a look at the stats provided by google from the time I started writing blogs. To my surprise and as an answer to my unconvinced feeling, I found two out of the top three articles to be no where close to what I am.

The top most blog is "Can Drum stick grow in a container?".  This is my first ever blog and only one of the two blogs I wrote on gardening. I am not an expert gardener and this article is not a good representative of what I write on. Second top is my reflection on life "Duryodhana vs. Yudhisthira" and is a good representative though it was only a momentory thought I never remembered to follow. The third article is "பயமின்றி வாழும் கலை". This is also a not a good representative of what I write on. This is one of the first few articles. Because I did not know what to write on, I picked up a random article that came in a magazine around that time, wrote it in my style with a few additions from my observations on the translation! I was neither dealing with my own/ anyone else'  fears nor reflecting on the feeling of fear in general!! If the article I read had triggered any thinking about fear, this blog post would qualify to be a representative. this one is a mere translation! 

Hmm… This is another proof that metrics can mislead and/or drive wrong behaviors if not designed or captured carefully!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Accepting help gracefully

Some time back, I wrote a series of articles on Pain. Looks like, now it is going to be "Help". The difference as of now, I was replying to a friend of mine in the earlier series; in the current series, it is my own surprise realization! It started with Tuesdays with Morrie; continued with கடன் பட்டார் நெஞ்சம் போல்; latest in this series is this article!!

I was applying Maruthani (Mehandi / henna) last week . On the first day I applied it on my left hand and the next day on my right hand. While doing so, it suddenly struck me that I was more comfortable on the first day not only because my right hand knew how to apply perfectly but also because my left hand knew how to position itself and move fingers in such a way that it becomes easy for the right hand to apply. My right hand had tough time adjusting the fingers to enable easy application of the henna. I am a right hander!! My right hand could not get pampered because of its inability to accept help!! Hmm… 

Since recognizing this, I was wondering if it was only me who felt this way with accepting help. Today, I decided to write on the topic - can we accept help at all without feeling reduced. After writing the above paragraph, I just looked up the net to see if anyone else had difficulty in accepting help. Wow! There is a whole lot of people who felt it the same way!! The most interesting one was on wiki how! When I read this blog I was pleasantly surprised that I was thinking quite a number of points mentioned!! There were shockers too!! Interesting read!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

சுயம்பு! Is there anyone!

There was an interesting article that talked about how men attribute their success to their skills while women attribute it to the help they got from others - family and friends, colleagues, opportunities given and even luck.

When I look back, while I acknowledge my strengths and abilities, I too feel that the support, guidance I got from all my mentors played a larger role in my life and the surroundings I grew up with helped me learn what I learnt.

I grew up in a small village with about 500 families in southern Tamilnadu - a typical Tamil Village that had a temple in the center with roads running parallel, and a river flowing in one side of the village . A place very close to the western ghats, with opportunities to enjoy the beauty of the clouds crawling over the blue mountains, trees that showered abundant flowers! Such a safe place that my parents did not have to worry about me and my friend spending our time under the big sacred fig tree (அரசமரம்outside the temple or Jasmine tree (பன்னீர் மரம்in the sub-registrar office making bouquets out of the grass flowers & tree jasmine flowers… This village had a library at a walkable distance, very close to my school - for that matter every thing was at a walkable distance and there was nothing much to worry about safety of girl children. My school had a library too. It was a perfect setup with less distractions - way too less distractions than that were present in a city!

Life was moving at the right speed! There was something to work on every day! There were monthly tests for all subjects, quarterly, half-yearly and annual exams and a series of competitions all thru the year - in recitation, elocution, essay writing, quiz, hand-writing - all  in both Tamil & English;  and all fine arts like dance, vocal (all forms classical to folk), handicrafts, sewing etc. !  All of these set of competitions were conducted on various topics by different organizations - school had its own set of competitions, Trust established by Poet Bharathi's family, Trust by old students, Vivekananda Kendra, Thiruvalluvar Kazhagam, District Science Center repeated the entire set of competitions on topics suitable for their objectives. This made me comfortable with public speaking, writing, celebrating the victories, failing in spite of best efforts and performance,  accepting failures gracefully while taking victories as a stepping stone, helping others handle their failures without feeling guilty for winning them; more than all this I learnt about a huge varieties of topics that were needed for life. I learnt to enjoy different art forms, subjects and life as a whole!

Sports was also part of the curriculum. I enjoyed Kho-Kho and tennikoit  with interest but played other games like Kabadi, volleyball, shot-put, javelin, discus throw etc. just enough only to clear the tests!

Every week, there was one period dedicated to literary association, moral instruction and cultural activities, in which students planned, managed, presented the whole event. The events were organized in the typical "school day" format - starting with a prayer, welcome address, presidential address, association progress report, dance, song, speech, skits, puzzles, quizzes, vote of thanks and national anthem. students played as MC, key note speaker, president of the event and conducted all cultural items. It taught me how to plan for an event, conduct an event, how important are backup plans and of course different dimensions of team work.

Can I say, only my efforts, intelligence and ability taught me all these? Of course there were students who did not use these opportunities, my will & ability made me grab these opportunities. But can I say it was only due to me! I had opportunities to be with wonderful teachers, I learnt quite a lot from them about subjects and life!

My first mentors are my parents! They lived a simple life and helped me learn all that is needed for life. I remember going to post-office  at the age of seven to buy stamps, inland letters, postal cards etc.. I started buying daily vegetables around the same age. I was learning without even knowing that I am learning. when I was 9 years old, I started going to banks for getting the withdrawal slips, updating the passbook, submitting the cheque book requests on my parents' behalf. I remember the bank staff used to make me repeat what I want multiple times! I used to think that they do not understand and developed patience to explain multiple times… later I realized that they were enjoying a small girl (I was shorter than my age girls and looked like 7 years when I was 9 years) asking for such stuff :-)! Many of my classmates did not even know these terms even at the age of 20!

I wanted to learn Indian classical dance. There were no classes in my village. The only option was to travel to a nearby town that was about 20 kms away. I was eleven years old. Not many kids of my age traveled alone in buses those days. My parents let me do it with a carefully designed KT plan :-) the first weekend my parents came along with me, next weekend I traveled with someone following me without my knowledge as a fall back, from the third weekend I traveled alone. As a next step, I traveled to places like Coimbatore and Chennai alone. Now I can travel alone to any part of the globe! Of course I was bold enough to venture into this but they wanted me to be independent. I know many women of my age, my economical, social, educational and professional background,  who cant even travel 50 kms alone! I don’t know if I got this ability only because of my own boldness!

None of my dreams and ideas were rejected as ridiculous or stupid even if they were. I experimented with a plant, watered it with blue ink mixed with water to see what my science teacher taught me was right. I had a glass bottle with layers of sand, gravels of different size, soil and water and waited for it to become a rock! I was 8 years when I did this! Every morning I checked this bottle and complained to my mom and dad that it is not changing to a rock! They both were science teachers, they could have just told me that it would take millions of years for a rock to be formed this way and it needed a lot more  pressure; the water I had on top of the bottle will not be sufficient. But I would have forgotten the lesson!

Not only that, I when I chose computer science as the main subject in graduation, there were no known safe professions for women in India for computer science - at least, it was not known to my circle of people. My parents could have forced me into other subjects or into teaching profession! So I do not think it was only due to my ability to take a risk based on whatever I had read about computers from the magazines and newspapers! It was also due to my parents' care to give me the freedom to experiment!

I agree that it took effort, courage and will from my side. Without that they could not have taught me all this. I did not learn to swim and ride a bicycle in spite of their efforts to teach me these skills; I could never overcome my road fear and fear of drowning & choking. While I recognize the importance of my own abilities and effort, I am hesitant to attribute my successes only to myself!

Recently one of my colleagues described how he learnt everything on the job! His experiences were pretty much like mine! But he was attributing his learning to his abilities more than what I would have done! May be, our brains are wired differently and the article is right in generalizing it based on gender!!!