A lifetime is full of memories which are pleasant as well as stressful. Our brain can be attuned to remember the ones which bring a smile to our face and block out completely or partly the ones which are unpleasant. In between all of these are those moments which are tough and demanding both in terms of one’s time and peace of mind. Years ago, when I was expecting my son, I desired for the wait to be over. I was advised to savour those moments because once a baby comes into your arms the stages of gruelling and strenuous moments remain and continue forever, as the baby grows; only the nature of issues keep changing. The tricky instants, till it starts to talk and communicate, are exacting because each goo and each gaa must be interpreted right or else one ends up with sleepless nights, a huge amount of experienced ‘I-told-you-so’ from elders and a truck load of motherly guilt.
The later stages are no better for either it is about a particular kind of school bag or some shinning pencil or a silly whistling candy which someone would have managed to get, before them, from another land. Or a dinky car model or a Harry Potter wand which if not had, would spell the end of their teeny-weeny life’s happiness. Or then maybe some branded t-shirt or shoe which was hard to find in our dear country despite an economic boom. After this stage it was about watches and phones. In between somewhere it was about where they can go to eat and dine and have their birthday party. Almost always it was about something, with studies being the last on the list. Consumerism had corrupted an entire generation. Thus, when I was complimented throughout my son’s growing years about him being so level-headed, I took the compliments easily but knew within, how much of a tightrope walk and how much of a time investment and an huge amount of my ‘mom-lore’ had been done to achieve the results which everyone saw. I am happy with the result and extremely proud too of how God has been kind to help me keep my bearings and help my child to turn out thus.
Once this part is done and taken care off, comes the part of planning for their future. What, how, where of a higher education. And here starts the landmine field – each person you encounter, every nuance uttered, each iota of information is more confusing than the first, next to you, behind you, in front of you. As with many parents before, with and after us, we decided to educate ourselves first about what this rigmarole is all about. As we looked for information, visited universities first-hand, frazzled about a critical exam back home and endless known and unknown anxieties, a chance meeting with some entrepreneurs in one of my hubby’s official meetings led us to an overseas university and college education expert firm. So, armed with our million doubts all penned on paper, our trepidations and dreads all listed out in our minds, all known and unknown alarms & forebodings alert as red flags, we descended at their office one morning. The counsellor assigned to us was a vivacious and smart young woman who was most courteous as she ushered us into an office conference room. We started with what we knew and what we were clear with, which was miniscule. But as the hour progressed, we saw a huge amount of hope at the end of a dark, confusing tunnel of university admissions abroad for Ms. Haritha, Education Counsellor and now Senior Consultant at SI-UK, a British Council associate walked us through the procedure’s landmine with such suaveness and expertise that it did not seem intimidating at all.
She explains to me, saying that “I feel the final choice of shortlisting a university & a course or the program is crucial because that is the deciding factor for a student’s career and all their future investment of time & money for the next couple years of their life. Most importantly of getting the desired course keeping in mind the QS, FT Global raking list.” I can totally relate to this aspect & the anxiety as a parent, for you do not want to be making a wrong decision or choice. No wonder, Ms. Haritha stands out amongst others. Feeling the urgency and worry of the student and the parent in such a scenario and dealing with it with empathy and responsiveness along with approachability is something which is often missing in staff which deal with such situations. Most only keep the commercials in mind. I am an educationist and cannot underestimate the effect I have on my students – if I am receptive to their learning needs and have an awareness to understand their difficulties. As I converse with Haritha about this she shares with me a beautiful and touching anecdote about her time in the southern city of our country – Chennai many years ago. Ms. Haritha’s love and passion lies in creating and using her hands for making attractive and useful things. “During my days in Chennai, I used to run Hobby classes of Art & Craft. Language being a barrier, I used to communicate in English. Upon some of my student’s insistence, I started Spoken English classes at home which became an instant hit. Mostly young girls and ladies were my students. Amongst them one such student was Ms. M. Kavitha. After she finished the course, I floated her CV in my son’s school, La Chatalaine Residential School, Alwar Thiru Nagar, Chennai. She started her career in 2008, and today she is an English Teacher for High School, acquiring more skills on her journey with the school. We are in touch and best friends till date.” Lovely!
Friendships sometimes start in the most unusual ways and when one looks back it seems unbelievable and sometimes even implausible as to how one would have ended up striking-up a conversation, getting along and becoming friends. Yet each of us has these stories. I am telling mine!!
As I spoke and interacted with Ms. Haritha during my son’s university admissions, each session with her made me respect her more. She was so approachable, would understand my anxiety or my fears or my confusion just like a family member would and very soon she became our go to person for every little doubt or query. She saw us through the mountainous official jargons and in-between-the-lines rules and made things clear for us in so many ways. While we interacted and collaborated on this, I happened to share my Blogs with Haritha and soon the respect for each other grew. She always appreciated my work and writing, and I started to understand and get to know her better. During one such chat she shared me some interesting details about her son’s school – La Chatalaine Residential School (http://www.lachatelaine.info/) – for the interested souls!) of Chennai. I was so intrigued that I went on to the school’s website and asked my husband’s batchmates better-halves and they seconded what Haritha had shared with me. I was so pleasantly surprised, when she mentioned it to me, that such an oasis of learning existed amid our educational swamp wherein schools fall over each to advertise an ordinary trait through marketing falsehoods and jargons and teams which may or may not believe in the professed thought process. As she saw my interest aroused, she elaborated the interesting facts about the school: “In this school there are no books, textbooks or a heavy bag, or food and water to be carried by students. All they must take/have is one long notebook divided into 5 sections with different subject titles. Worksheets are given as a part of practice session & homework. CD’s are given to children with all lessons in Audio – Visual form. A musical Instrument or a sport to master is mandatory. The timings of the school are from 8am to 2 pm which automatically means no endless wait for the school bus in traffic in peak working hours – early to go and early to come back! There are NO WALLS in the corridors, all classes have GLASS WALLs, so that when the principal goes for her daily morning rounds, every child can be seen and monitored (sans CCTV)!! Phew, her list just did not seem to end, and I was left completely flummoxed and open-mouthed!
It only proved something I have always believed in and tell people, each time I am told that such and such idea or thing is not possible to do or implement. Where there is a will, there is a way! And believe me, the school has a long history, so one cannot be dismissive and say that these were ideas which were around. Nope, they would not have been…. this is called being a visionary!
I am charmed when the small yet important details about schools and schooling were enumerated by Ms. Haritha. So, I asked her the next fundamental question of whether she herself had any exposure to schools as a teacher anytime (apart from her classes). I was pleasantly surprised when she revealed that, she started her career with Kotwal school prior to leaving for Chennai. “One of the amazing facts is that this is the school which was started by Ms. Kotwal who introduced Montessori Education in Hyderabad. I can never forget Silu Mam and Bapuji Mam who were my mentors.” She explains that they were the first batch of students from St. Ann’s School, Secunderabad. Haritha continues to tell me that, “After I returned to Hyderabad, I got an opportunity to work with Dell International in Hi-Tech city, Hyderabad where I was a part of the EMEA SMB process and from there I moved on to become an HR Manager in an IT Recruitment firm.” She tells me that after this she took a sabbatical from work for a couple of years, as looking after her kids was her priority. She now works for the International Education Sector and was with Australia since 2016 until 2020, which is when I met her and from 2020, she has been working for the UK Destination with SI-UK, a British Council associate.
It is no wonder that Ms. Haritha has that empathy, that sensitivity, that accessibility and sincerity because she has been a teacher herself. Such valuable lessons for all of us. Some countries make a stint in their military a compulsory requirement for all their citizens. I guess teaching in a school for a fixed amount of time should be made compulsory for anyone joining the government jobs – for starters that is one employer which is probably the biggest in India. This way we can ensure an empathetical realisation of the difficulties and the trepidations involved in this profession along with a responsibility which weighs extremely heavily on the shoulders of those who shape the future generations. Then probably as parents and as gyan pundits and an indifferent populace, we would be more supportive, more considerate, more disquieted (at the educational stagnation in our villages and in low-cost private schools along with the government schools), more participating (in wanting to bring about change), more obligated ( to ask for accountability from the political setups), more alarmed (at the small percentage of children in our country getting a quality education)….my list is endless and wishful thinking too!
Since I have known Haritha, I had not got down to ask her the how and what of her life. My Blog series “Down Memory Lane” helped me to get to know those sides of my friends which often gets a bit ignored, not deliberately, but because friendships are built on such wonderfully diverse platforms and rationales that sometimes the small intricate details mean or seem superfluous. Ms. Haritha is an Economics Postgraduate from Osmania University with an Oracle DBM certification. She bashfully tells me that she belongs to a humble background and her father was a retired government employee who worked in commercial Taxes Department for Telangana state, while her mother is a Teacher. Now we know the reason and the origin of her love for being around kids.
Haritha proudly reveals, “We always had discipline in our routines and life all thanks to my mom. She made us understand the importance of being punctual and doing work on time. Finishing the task in the assigned time was always and should always be a priority – is what her mantra was.” Haritha was always encouraged to try sports and pursue a hobby. She smiles as she recalls that there was not a single summer when she was home, “it had to be either in the YMCA or else in some crash courses.” She continues to rue that though she tried her luck in several exams, yet destiny wanted her to be with kids and relieve the stress and tension of innumerable parents and students. Ms. Haritha has lived in the southern cities of Chennai and Bangalore and has finally made Hyderabad her home.
Working with people and in organisations always teaches us valuable lessons. Each day one interacts with several individuals whose approach to life and situations makes us aware of our own behavioural pattern and reactions. It always shapes our mind-set and approach to situations in our workplace. It is wonderful if we find inspiring individuals at work and in life who are not just visionaries but also catalysts of bringing about human behaviour change. Haritha recalls as we discuss this, that one of her best colleagues till date was Dr. Norman Sinclair, a Scottish national settled in Melbourne. Dr. Norman Sinclair worked as a Professor for several prestigious universities including Latrobe, Deakins, to name a few. She remembers with much respect and fondness: “I must admit I gained a large amount of knowledge on Team handling, etiquette in emails, time discipline, maintaining integrity at work, keeping intact the morale of the team – my list is endless”, she recalls. “He was an inspiration indeed and we worked on different projects like quality control & efficiency projects. He now runs his own financial risk management firm in Australia and he definitely remains my most favourite person to have worked with”, she concludes. Precious lessons indeed, I would say!
Despite what many people thought, many working professionals were working the same hours except they were doing it from home with increased responsibilities of work and home all falling on them. So was the case also with Ms. Haritha and like many others who kept their sanity during these difficult times, she too, tried her hand at new recipes, and watched quite a few old film classics which were always on her wish list. She even started to learn the keyboard online. Wow!!! She firmly states that, “I feel making time for ‘Me time’ was one of the best choices I have made during these times of unprecedented lockdown and chaos since this was something of a faraway dream till now.” Could not agree more – we as the anchors our homes forget that we need to take care of ourselves too. Way to go!
As I chatted with Haritha sometime back, after she loved my small work of art, she shared amazingly simplistic but lovely hand painted art of village life captured candidly and straightforwardly on canvas. It was her grandfather’s work of art she revealed. Breath taking!!!
I did not take long to ascertain the streak of creativity which Haritha keeps on enumerating about her passions and her love for art. It runs in the genes, no doubt, for when she reminisces and wistfully tells me that, “My utmost happiness lies in creativity – whether a mural, or a colourful Rangoli or even some innovation in cooking (which sometimes backfires!) or in exploring new destinations & walking the unknown path – wanting to experiment in life” I am not surprised at all. For her mantra of “YOLO– you only live once” is self-explanatory and for someone who has made many a dream a reality for others, I wish that her journey of “self-exploration and finding out which role suites” her best takes her to her own world of dreams!!