Monthly Archives: July 2013
We reached the garden. You saw the gigantic metal giraffe painted in red and yellow and green. Colours designed to attract every little soul who entered the garden. Without warning you left my hand and ran to the giraffe. Before I realised, your feet were on the first rungs of the bars that made it up. And you started climbing. I don’t really know how tall that thing was. But to my fear numbed brain, it seemed at least 10 feet high. And there you were… a tiny little thing, just past your second birthday, trying to climb up as fast as you could.
I wanted to shout and call you back down, when I caught your father’s eye and he just shook his head to stop me. I understood what he meant. We had made a pact that we would never stop you from exploring, from learning by doing. We had promised ourselves that we would give you the freedom to grow, to fly, to touch the sky. And now that it seemed that you were actually trying to reach for the sky, I could only stand there paralysed with fear, watching you as you climbed higher and higher. And as you reached higher, all that I could think of was that it was a longer way to fall. I had visions of broken bones and worse.
Dad in the meantime positioned himself beneath the monster, encouraging you and telling you where to place your feet. His presence there gave you the confidence to go right to the very top, secure in the knowledge that Daddy was there to catch you if you fell. You finally reached the top and squealed with delighted laughter. I could not help but laugh with you, as tears streamed down my face.
You climbed back down with Dad guiding you and the minute you reached the ground, I swooped you up into a hug that hid all my anxiety. And then so sweetly and innocently you asked me, “Mamma, why are you crying?” I answered you with what I now realise was the truth, “Because I am so proud of you.”
I managed to read the book The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything over the weekend. The book, written by Ken Robinson, talks about the importance of finding the one thing that you like the most and then pursuing it passionately for a fulfilling life. Paul Graham more or less says the same thing in his famous article How To Do What You Love.
Robinson’s book triggered a number of thoughts in my mind. It is full of examples of people from various fields, including sports, dance, music and entrepreneurship; the people who made it big. When I was reading about these people, I found an unmistakable similarity among all of them. They all wanted to live a meaningful life. They all wanted to achieve something. They were also determined to put in the efforts, and were passionate about the things they chose to do.
What separates these people who are so full of life from the ordinary people is not that they found their element as Robinson puts it. I think it’s the zeal for perfection and the passion for life and the passion for everything that they choose to do is what makes them extraordinary.
Our education system is designed in such a way that most of the students hardly get an opportunity to try out anything in their school days. It also defines a very linear path to success. Perform well in academics, go to a decent college, get a degree and you will get a decent job. It is only after college that people realize that it doesn’t work that way. You need to have much more than just a degree to not only get a decent job, but also to live a decent life.
Our society fosters a false notion in children’s heads that to succeed in life, you only need to clear exams with good marks. Forget extra-curricular activities, even learning and understanding of subject matter is considered secondary. Independent learning is not encouraged. Students are provided ready-made notes, have tuitions outside schools and are taught formulas to clear exams. This approach proves very dangerous as students remain weak academically as well as do not develop important life skills such as communication skills, critical thinking, or appreciation of art.
I agree with Robinson that you need to find where your interest lies and then pursue that interest for a happier life. But I do not agree that this interest is innate, or it can not be created/manufactured, or that we can not have multiple interests. As a child, I was not exposed to either reading or writing. But I still developed an interest in them. Most of the people who go on to become artists have a natural interest in those arts, along with the talent of course. But I also know many people who develop an interest after they get exposed to something. One of my friends took up Fine Arts because his uncle told him to. Before that he had never thought of it as a career option. But in his fourth year in college, he said that he was really enjoying it, and liked the idea of pursuing a career in it. You develop an interest in things as you dabble in them.
I think having an interest is secondary to developing a passion for something, because it can be manufactured (provided you have talent and have taken enough training for that particular thing). What is important is the positive approach to life, zeal for perfection, being open to try out new things, open to learn new things and not caring much about the conventional definition of success. Life does not have a final goal (Death can not be a person’s final goal. If it was, everybody would have committed suicide). There is no such thing as an ultimate success. We can only have short term goals. But it is very important to enjoy the process as we strive to achieve them.
When I used to write ads, working as a copywriter for India’s oldest advertising agency and even when I wrote my book, I always felt that I could have done with technical training in writing. While the west is choc-a-bloc with writing courses offered by individuals, institutes and universities, India is sorely lacking in them. Most established English writers in the country who have had any training in writing, seem to be trained in the west.
As with everything Shiksha Power aims to do, to fill gaps in education is a major goal. From teaching people how to communicate for growth in the corporate, to teaching children to express themselves effectively, we try to teach people things that will make their life more fulfilling and sometimes, even easier. When a lot of people started asking us to teach them to write, we came up our Creative Writing Programmes.
Creative writing is a vast area of expertise. It takes years and years for people to hone their talent and create their masterpiece. Yet, it is not a skill that is meant only for a few gifted ones. The advertising industry taught me that writing, like management skills, physical skills, can indeed be taught and sharpened. When I met Sunita and saw the way she taught kids to be natural at expressing themselves through the written word, through poems, stories and essays, we thought, why can’t we bring this to adults?
Our first venture into this area was our extremely restorative Residential Creative Writing Power Camp at Igatpuri (Check the photos here). The sun, mountains, chilly mornings, starlit skies and a lot of writing even by people who had never written earlier made sure we were going to continue with our creative writing programmes for adults as well as children.
When a lot of people who could not attend the residential camp asked us to have something in the city, we came up with the One Day Poetry Writing Workshop. We held the workshop in V.G. Vaze College, Mulund, Mumbai on July 7. Many college students and professionals participated in the workshop enthusiastically. It helped them learn the tricks of poetry writing and gain confidence as well.
We plan to have more such programmes in the future. If you want to organise one for your college/institution, please let us know. We also have a twelve session Poetry Workshop Pogramme called Poetry Sundays for 10 to 14 year kids at JustBooks Library at Hiranandani Meadows, Thane.