Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Happiness and Tolerance - Maithreyi Venkataraman

Joy Of Learning program will inspire you by using examples of where the
values are already being used by children and adults in schools

An Unhappy Student

Happiness is the most fundamental emotion for a person. If one needs to be happy, they need to learn to realise their distinctive qualities have a sense of self-respect, accept the limitations of their capabilities, and feel joyful.

To learn anything, the learner must be receptive to learning. They are interested and feel inquisitive to know more. There are various ways wherein we, as mentors, make a difference in the lives of the varied students we are a part of. Feeling truly happy makes the student feel receptive and open to learning.

I would like to share a student I have met in my 12 years of experience. This student helped me gain a perspective and confidence that with empathy and understanding, we teachers can truly make a lasting impact on the life of students.

My first interaction with this 15-year-old - The first day I entered his class, among all the mixed curious faces trying to craft their own impression of me – was with a new teacher in their school who had come to teach them English. This one boy was staring out of the window; he caught my attention as it seemed like a challenge to make him willingly turn to my class.

Days passed, and yet this student seemed to remain unhappy, never interested in the class. Despite all attempts at different kinds of activities, nothing seemed to work. Even getting more minor marks made no difference for him.

Determined that I wanted to make this boy happy, I set up a meeting with his parents to understand the reasons for his state of mind. This interaction gave me an insight into the child and his mentality that also helped me understand his actions.

He was a brilliant student but would never respond or participate in class. He would not pay attention as he had grown to believe that other than the two subjects that interest him the most Science and Math, all other subjects were just a waste of time.

Hence, he would remain unhappy in all other subjects. I started talking to the boy and explaining how all subjects are integrated with one another. It was indeed not a one-night wonder. It took months, but there was indeed a gradual improvement.

I included activities where he spoke of the subjects he loved, and happiness started setting in with his interest. Soon by the end of the year, he stood as the highest scorer in my subject and most importantly, he was a very happy boy who had learnt to associate life with his studies.

My learning from this experience, which I wish to share with my fellow colleagues, is that we may form impressions of our students as mentors, but we should never judge them. We must know the reason behind their behaviour. We will certainly be able to help the student and make them happy.

An Intolerable Student

“An intolerable student”, the term itself, I feel, should never be an impression in any teacher’s mind about any student. However, the fact also remains that we all face such an adverse issue wherein we may have to encounter such behaviour in a student.

I cannot share a personal experience as I have never ever categorised any of my students as intolerable or unmanageable. Hence, I shall share my general viewpoint on the subject.

There may be many ways a teacher may label a student as ‘Intolerable’. They may be exhibiting very inappropriate behaviour in class towards their teachers /peers.

They may be disturbing the class to the extent that it is impossible to continue teaching in the class.

There may be innumerable complaints against this student from a teacher and their classmates, and no amount of counselling / or any other strict action aiming to rectify the student’s behaviour seems to change their behaviour.

Any behaviour or issue can never be diagnosed, judged or handled without knowing the reason behind those actions. The reason should not be seen based on any one particular act. Still, other situations and scenarios that might have happened earlier, both at school and at home, should be considered.

A child who is over-pampered at home or a child who has no listener at home will exhibit behaviour to gain attention. Usually, this kind of behaviour reflects a negative outcome.

E.g., The over pampered child has grown to believe that whatever they do is acceptable and may bully a fellow classmate. The child yearning for attention has been raised to think that if they just usually speak, they may never be taken seriously; hence, gaining attention will adhere to inappropriate behaviour like bullying a child. Therefore, the action of both the children though may be the same, but they both cannot be handled in the same manner.

Some of how we can handle the children are first being good unbiased listeners. All children need someone to listen to them without judging them. This will develop their confidence in the teacher; once the bond of trust sets in, the journey of rectifying the child’s behaviour will be very smooth and, most importantly, effective.

My suggestion to all my fellow teachers is never to give up on any child but to give them your time, patient listening, understand the reason for their behaviour and not judge them just on their superficial behaviour. We, teachers, have this innate ability to make that impression in the minds and lives of our students, and we surely can be their guides who will help them become better human beings. 

Gyanhsree School, Noida
Happy Teachers JOL Cohort 2022
Learning Forward India Academy

Saturday, May 14, 2022

An Unhappy Child - Preeti Mahajan

My experience with the values of Happiness and Tolerance in the classroom.


The child was quiet and passive in the class. He did not interact much with his classmates and teachers. He was slow in his work and understanding; he was also quite irregular in attending school. 

Diagnosing the problem 

i. The child was politely asked about his family, parents, daily routine, and likes and dislikes. After a friendly interaction, I learned that both his parents were working and hardly spent time with him. He is the only child. He takes tuition for all the subjects and depends on his maids for everything. He doesn't want to come to school also. 


It was pretty evident from his behaviour and from the interaction with him that the child was in an unhappy state. You always remain sad and depressed. The child was counselled the parents were called and informed about the child's psychology confidentially. Individual attention was given to the child by the subject teachers. Parents also took time out for their children. Positive reinforcement and acknowledging the child's efforts brought a change in his behaviour. 


The child has started taking an interest in school and school activities. He has started interacting with his classmates and his teachers. Now he has become a Happy child; he is seen spreading happiness all around. Consequently, there has been a positive impact on his studies. 

Advice to the educators to instil happiness and tolerance among the students. 

1. Make the environment happy tolerant, and respectful for everyone. 

2. Use comments to shape the child's behaviour. 

3. Right counselling at the right time. 

4. Make the child feel memorable, safe and loved. 

5. Make learning exciting and enriching. 

6. Practice before you preach.

JOL Cohort 2022

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Happiness and Tolerance - Welham Boys' School

Reflection pieces 

1. An Unhappy Student

A while back, I came across this “unhappy student”, who I want to stay anonymous, so let’s call him X; clearly, the math teacher in me never fails to keep hidden. X’s parents recently separated, and he was living with his father, stepmother, and a step-sister who was almost as old as him.

X used to come around like a miserable, troubled kid who preferred to stay alone. He often cried and complained that he didn’t have friends and wanted to go home. Repeatedly refused to have food and acted stubborn as he was pampered by his grandparents at home. After discussing with his parents, we learned the scenario and that he felt unwanted and unloved because he was sent off to a boarding school whilst his stepsister wasn’t. Whereas his father just wanted him to have a better future, a higher sense of independence and self-awareness. Instead, his parent’s divorce created emotional turmoil and insecurity for him.

I felt the best way of overcoming this emotional barrier was through communication and creating an atmosphere where he felt wanted and comfortable sharing his feelings. That was not enough; we had to channel his energy into different things so that he could get distracted and becomes emotionally healthy again. We enrolled him in several activities like guitar and vocal music, which were his interests. That opened up various opportunities to perform on stage and build up confidence.

Love, care, patience, and empathy have made him a happier kid than he was initially. He has not opened up about his feelings yet, but I respect that and give him space, to grow more confident and content and time to reflect upon himself. It wasn’t just me battling against his emotional demons. It wouldn’t be a fair fight; it was a united team effort of the House-Mother, teachers, tutor, House-Masters, and parents, who did everything to mend and give direction to him.

2. An Intolerant Student 

Bob Keeshan was right when he said, “Parents are the ultimate role models for children. Every word, every movement, and action affects. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than a parent.”

Children who witness violence between parents may also be at greater risk of being violent in their future relationships, and it becomes a part of their personality. I had seen such a case myself. 

Keeping the kids’ identity hidden and calling him Y, he had joined the school on a particular recommendation in the middle of the term, which was very unlikely. That was enough to draw attention to him, but he still managed to do that, as he used to hit and abuse other kids. He was a challenging child and had significant anger issues. By addressing this issue and taking the parents in the loop, we discovered that Y’s behaviour resulted from the domestic violence that used to take place at his house. 

The school took this sensitive matter very seriously, and firstly, his hostel was changed until he was comfortable and settled. Secondly, they changed the faculty that dealt with him to those staff members who knew and understood the matter in depth. Everyone showed patience and calmness, which slowly changed him, and even a little of his good behaviour was encouraged and appreciated. 

His way to cope with his anger was to hit people, i.e., he let his feelings out ‘physically’; now, our challenge was to channel his anger and frustration and give it direction. Thirdly, we introduced him to drums; this turned out as an excellent escape for him, gave him something to focus on, distracted him and in the end, he turned out to be one of the best drummers and became an asset to the school. 

During all this, Y was regularly undergoing professional counselling offered by the school, which helped him deal with his behavioural issues and anger management. 

After a slow, steady progress and baby steps over 5 years, we successfully taught Y how to make friends, manage his anger, balance his studies and lastly, WE transformed him from an intolerant student to a ‘tolerable’ one.

Neelima Parmar, Vandana Sahay & Monika Gupta
JOL Cohort 2022

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Happiness and Tolerance - Jaspreet Kaur

 My experience with handling an unhappy student and an intolerant one.

Jaspreet Kaur
Kamla Nehru Public School, Phagwara
JOL Cohort 2022

Happiness and Tolerance - Nitin Sharma

 Happiness and Tolerance, what the two values mean to me and how I handled the situations fo an unhappy student and an intolerant one.

Nitin Sharma
Kamla Nehru Public School, Phagwara
JOL Cohort 2022

Happiness and Tolerance - Shalini Solanki

   Dealing with ‘An Unhappy student.’

I still remember a student studying in my class 3 years ago. I was the grade mentor of one of the sections of K.G. She was a new student in the school, and I knew nothing about her. I met her for the first time and made a perception that this child has some special needs and she is not able to understand instructions. She started coming to school regularly, and I noticed a similar pattern each day, like not eating her meal; after circle time, she used to stand near my chair without speaking anything, used to get shocked at any sound and would not make friends. 

Every day during circle time, everybody used to have free discussions about their likes/ dislikes, favourite person, place, problems etc. One day, every child spoke, she was quiet, and even after motivating her, she chose not to speak. I thought of giving her some more time. That day she came to me and asked me to write a letter to her mother. When I asked her what to write, she told me the entire story that her mother was living in London and expecting another child. The mother couldn’t come to India because of her work commitment and medical issues, and this child was not able to go with her father because of some visa issues. For 6-8 months, she stayed without her mother.

Every day this child would come to me after the circle time and share her feelings. She would come with a piece of paper every day with colour pencils and used to dictate her letter. She wanted me to draw her mother with her baby sister and some gifts. Surprisingly, she would keep all the letters with me and not take them home. I got to know about the root problem. After speaking to her father and mother, we started working together in a similar direction, where we gave her enough time to speak her heart out. Her mother was advised to speak to her every day and explain that soon she would be with her mother. On the PTM, I handed over all the letters from Aadvika to her father for her mother.

She was an entirely changed child and used to participate in all the activities, laugh, make many friends, and improve her academics. Finally, she went to London, but the habit of discussion in circle time activity continued. She would call me from there frequently to discuss her new school and life.

My advice to educators:

To be patient
Never jump to a conclusion
Make a habit of changing perceptions
Give time to your students
Trust students- sometimes they know more than us
Respect their feelings and be alert to their silence
Teachers have a magic wand that can make desirable changes

Dealing with ‘An Intolerant student.’

I had a student in my class who was very bold, talented, outspoken and intelligent. She had a problem agreeing with others. She would go to any extent to show her disapproval. If she was asked to share anything, she would run from the class, not eat anything or sit on the floor. Even in the class assemblies, she wanted a solo role without anything scripted. She would listen to no one in the school. Parents also had a similar opinion about her. Once, another teacher in my class said her ‘no’ to check her work first and asked her to wait for her turn. This student punched the teacher in her stomach. 

Now we know that she will not be handled by anyone this way. So we started avoiding her behaviour for some time after speaking to this student’s parents. When she used to sit on the floor to grab attention, we would praise her and say that we must respect her choice; she is more comfortable sitting here. When she used to disagree to share things with her peers, we stopped insisting she share, and after a few weeks, she realised that everybody was sitting in different groups and working, and she was sitting alone. When she insisted on participating independently, we would tell her that we do not have such roles with us, and she would have to wait for other assemblies to experience them. We used to share stories related to her problems during circle time, where indirectly, she got messages of loving, caring and sharing.

Gradually, she was a changed girl totally. Now she realised that she would have to give consideration to get the respect. She started loving her teachers, and she made almost everyone her friends. She participated happily with the entire group on an annual day. She is a changed and happy child now. Her parents are pleased with the changed personality of their child; they always wanted to see her.

My advice to educators:
  • To be patient
  • Sometimes a different approach can work
  • Share stories indirectly catering for the problem
  • Give time to your students
  • Trust yourself and your capabilities
  • The child is a clay container. Mould the way you want.

Shalini Solanki
Gyanshree School, Noida
JOL Cohort 2022

Happiness and Tolerance - Jyoti Tadiyal

Submission for Session 1, Joy Of Learning module, Happiness and Tolerance.

Jyoti Tadiyal
The Doon Girls' School
JOL Cohort 2022

Happiness and Tolerance - Roopa Bhattacharyya

We, as educators, have to make a happy class. Extract from the child what we want. I have not had any such experience of an unhappy child or an intolerant student in my teaching career. However, if I did, I would do the following:

1. If I find an unhappy child in my class. I will first examine the child’s behaviour under the Johari Window, as shown below. 
2. Adults may have a primarily hidden self as they can play act through life – pretending to be happy when they are not. But a child cannot do so. Therefore the child is unhappy because of one of the following reasons or a combination of the following reasons:
A) Circumstances at home
B) Circumstances in the classroom
I. Behaviour of classmates
II. Behaviour of some other teachers
III. Behaviour of self (class teacher)

3. So, the first thing I have to do is examine my own behaviour to see whether I am making the child unhappy. If this is not the case, I have to closely interact and interview the child (in the most friendly manner possible) to pinpoint the root cause of the child’s unhappiness, whether it is because of the classmates/ some other teacher or domestic issues or a combination of two/three of the above reasons.

4. Having pinpointed the root cause/causes, I have to take the following actions:
A) Change my own behaviour (if that was a contributing cause
B) Council the parents if the circumstances at home were a contributing cause
C) Council the subject teacher if they were a contributing cause
D) Interact with classmates if they were a contributing cause and device
activities/games where the classmates will be enthused /invigorated to co-opt the subject child in the games/activities.

Educators can also act accordingly for an unhappy child.

Let us try and understand what and who is an intolerant child. An impatient child believes that they are right and all others are wrong. This kind of a belief can emanate from one of the following reasons:
1. A psychological/ philosophical belief that propagates supremacist behaviour.
2. Delusional belief that I am always right.
3. Nurture by the parents to believe that their child is always right.
4. A self-defence mechanism to overcome adverse situations where the child starts off by believing that they are always right, and then it becomes a part of their nature.

As a teacher, I have to first pinpoint the root cause of this behaviour to overcome this. However, what happens in real life is the following:
A) Withdrawal – the teacher avoids the student's behaviour and takes no action.
B) Smoothing – the teacher emphasises areas of mutual acceptance and tries to create a healthy and conducive environment within the classroom.
C) Compromising – the teacher tries to compromise between the intolerant child and their victims. This makes the situation within the classroom more conducive.
D) Forcing – the teacher forces a solution to the conflict situation because they have to get on with the teaching.
E) Confrontation – the teacher interacts and interviews the child to discover the root cause of their behaviour. Then the teacher addresses this issue and removes the root cause.

The choice in front of teacher #1. Confrontation #2. Compromising #3. Smoothing #4. Forcing /Withdrawal

Educators can also act accordingly for an intolerant child.

Roopa Bhattacharyya
Ahlcon Public School
JOL Cohort 2022

Happiness and Tolerance - Laxmi Kant Bhatt

Almost every student becomes angry at some point in school. After all, anger is a normal human emotion. It is not a problem if a student becomes mad if he expresses his feelings appropriately. However, it is a problem if he says his anger in a hurtful way to peers or is disruptive to your class. A student who displays angry outbursts can throw a classroom into turmoil. He can also trigger intense feelings in you. Your challenge in working with a student whose emotional temperature often reaches the boiling point is to control your own emotions and those of the student. So to ease those feelings, we should consider talking to the students and settling their problems without frustration to maintain a healthy balance and relationship between the teachers and the students.

An incident of ninth graders promoted to class 10th.
Every student in the class decided to do rigorous practice for their board exam from the beginning. The children were excited about their Maths classes, but we know that children have different abilities in a class. When I started teaching, two and three children started asking fundamental questions from the beginning, which slowed down the class's momentum. My advice to children is always to work on their basics before coming to the class. Some students seemed unhappy and did not speak in the class the next day. One of the students stopped asking any questions, and the other student started troubling and disturbing the classes. This continued for 2 or 3 days and was a little unsettling for me because I want my students to grow immensely and equally. I approached the students outside of the class and asked them if something was wrong or if something troubling them. They, too, replied they were not able to understand Maths. I understood their problem and replied, "Don’t lose faith. I will help you take extra classes for you both to reach the class level and ensure that you score good marks in your exam”. Slowly and steadily, the children seemed to be getting the concept and were happy to see themselves go with the flow of the class. 

Laxmi Kant Bhatt
The Doon Girls' School Dehradun
JOL Cohort 2022

Sunday, May 8, 2022

The School System Is Doomed For Failure - 2: Soham Anand

Originally posted on Facebook, some edits were done by our team.

It is incredible how young mature today physically and emotionally may be mentally too, but intellectually and spiritually, they remain starved.

We hardly had any exposure to the type of current generation in our times. We barely knew about sex in school. It was only in university we got to know some details about it. There wasn't any question about drinking or smoking. The word drug was restricted to drug and chemist stores.

Today's kids have sexual exposure even before they step out of teen. They are at ease with drinking, smoking and drugs. By sixteen or seventeen, they are grown up men and women. And if one goes to have physical relations, drug consumption and tobacco at the same time while in school, of course, the schools are bound to be doomed. 

Pressure from society, the school environment, the amusement industry, and social and digital media are instrumental factors for physical maturity. They help one grow physically at an astonishing speed. By the time they are 35, they are burnt out and spent force. The body starts showing signs of decay and deterioration, and they hit the pills. 

They neither have a childhood or a girlhood, continually at bay, in an exceedingly cooking pressure state of affairs. 

The human mind has to grow gradually and mature quietly to carry on and live a wholesome life. The process starts at school. Alas! It is just the other way around today.

There is something very sublime, rather an innocence, associated with schools. One learns only when one is vulnerable and innocence intact. We've lost that innocence today.

Our schools sound senseless and hollow, fated to be doomed without that innocence and sublimity.

Send part of the post

- Soham Anand, Dehra Dun, India. Originally posted on Facebook for friends and teachers.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Bookstores of Dehradun! - L. Aruna Dhir

Sitting on the anvil of my new Book release – my debut in non-fiction – I decided to visit a couple of Bookstores in Dehradun, the still beauteous Valleytown that sits cradled in the bosom of the Shivalik foothills of the great Himalayas.

At one time, in my not too distant past, Dehradun was a place of academic thrust and a host of literary activities. I remember discussing magazine features with Brahm Dev, whose majestic Astley Hall Watch Shop – RK & Company had been a meeting ground for several luminaries in the field of literature including the indefatigable and timeless Ruskin Bond. I recall Brahm Uncle sending me off to the abodes of established writers and Hindi language poets, who had made Dehradun their home, for relaxed yet highly entertaining interviews. I also recollect being invited to the prestigious Doon Club to participate in Kavi Sammelans – Poets’ Meets – that were often held on Sunday mid-mornings.

Since there was a paucity of time on this visit – one that I was making to Doon after a gap of three long years – I decided to drop into two bookstores, which were at a necking distance of each other and easily accessible to me.

The first was The English Book Depot and the other was Natraj. Both stirred within me a whirlpool of memories. Remembrances of my growing up years in Doon Valley – those sanguine days of childhood and young adulthood – came flooding back, flashing through my mind like a motion picture.

The English Book Depot, owned and run by the Dutt family, is perhaps the prettiest Bookshop in Dehradun. Opposite Gandhi Park, it is located on the left-hand side of the swankiest nook of Rajpur Road, a little before the red light crossing spilling at the edge of which stands the over 100-year-old – but recently renovated – the building of Central Bank.

The tall, old trees lining this patch of road, the ornate, vintage-in-design, wrought iron grills on the low running wall that demarcates the area from the main road, the cobbled pavement by the road, and the gravelled pathway outside the shops – it really makes for a neat, clean, nice-looking setting that has held on steadfastly, almost obstinately to its glorious past. While new shops with their newer wares have sprung up, this area still is the closest we can get to the Doon of the 80s.

Years back when the Dutt family had let out the front of their Store to Barista, I was sorely upset.

“What the hell were they doing?”
“Why were they doing it?”
The little ignoramus, I ranted inside.
Today I am hugely glad and relieved that they did so. The scion of the family, recently, told me that the move allowed them to stick to their original passion – that of running the Bookstore even in these harshest of times where hundreds of bookshops across the world and our country have been forced to down their shutters.
I also now think that letting a swanky Coffee shop set up their business at the head, while the Dutts have taken the Bookshop into the womb only to make it more expansive, well-lit and beautifully laid out, not only heightens the appeal but was, indeed, a smart move.
You know, grab a cup of coffee, maybe a slice of cake too and then saunter in to spend a luxuriously decadent morning lost amidst a boatload of books – from the old lieutenants to the new arrivals.
Or step into the Shop on a hot afternoon, letting the ACed interiors help you beat the sweltering heat – that is only becoming more severe with each passing year, robbing the valley of its cool weather tag.
Go first into the Bookstore, pick up the books you want to browse through, take permission from the genial, gentle owners to bring them into the Barista area, order your favourite Iced tea or frappé and lean back into the plush sofa. Don’t rush yourself – the Bookshop owners won’t – relish the words that paint a picture on the canvas of the book, soak in the imagery, and transport yourself to another land returning ever so slowly to the present moment and time.
Then get back to the Shop, thank the owners for letting you visit your little fairyland without having really flown anywhere; and then make a purchase. Always make a purchase. Buy a book, without fail!
With this little act and with a fraction of an amount, you would spend on a pizza, invested in the Book, you come away enriching yourself, getting yourself a lifelong companion and helping those who are passionate about their work and life goals stay in business. It is a win-win!
If I am visiting Dehradun in monsoon this time, as I always used to, I am heading straight to the English Book Depot, to go meet the Dutts – both Aunty and Sandeep – buy the book(s) I have been yearning to read, step back into the coffee shop, grab the window seat and indulge in two of my favourite pastimes – that of losing myself within the covers of a book and intermittently watching life walk by in its myriad hues.
The sight of raindrops falling on a bed of grey gravel stones, the droplets hanging down like diamantés from the paisley-vine intricate patterns on the wrought iron grills or sliding down the clear window panes sometimes in straight lines, on other crisscrossing and merging into tiny little pools – there is something decidedly romantic about this nature show.
The cocktail of smells makes for a heady experience too – the fragrance of freshly minted paper, the aroma of coffee beans, the wafting scent from a bake that the barista heats up for you, even petrichor – it is a perfume that you bottle up and store in the attic of your mind.
This time around, as I breezed past Barista and strode to the Bookshop, I met Aunty manning the desk. One has always addressed her as Aunty, for as long as I can remember. And she has looked just the same – elegant, with a pleasant disposition, a ready smile and sitting straight on her spine. Her silvery grey hair and diamond studs in her ears have added to her gracefulness.
On the afternoon I visited, she and a distinguished-looking gentleman – I presume him to be her Son – were having their tea and refreshments. Even before any other word could be exchanged, Le Husband and I were invited to join them for a cuppa. Immediately, the tin of cookies was extended to us with the jolly-natured nudging –
“Do try one? They have just been sent to us by friends in Hyderabad”
“You’ll like them. They aren’t too sweet.”
The gesture took me back to the halcyon days of yore. When an all-permeating, generally nice feeling, easy interactions, friendly exchanges defined our daily lives.
Now scoffed as small-town values, it was these attributes that allowed the human in us to shine through – you know the qualities of always extending a hand, readiness to exchange a smile, engaging in polite, friendly chatter without an ulterior motive.
It reminded me of the time when you would request your neighbour to mind your child because you were out running an important errand, and they would happily oblige. When you would be only too happy to lend a bowl of sugar to the Alice living next door, not without inviting her to have a cup of tea with you before she left! Lives were leagued – both joys and sorrows – over those little bowls of sugar.
I lament the loss of those days, those values, those times when life was actually lived and shared and not rushed and sliced through.
The Gentleman I met at the English Book Depot is Sandeep Dutt, who incidentally is an Author, Entrepreneur, Mountaineer, Founder of Learning Forward India Foundation, Ambassador Hundred.Org, Ambassador Vurbl.Com, Chairman Bhadrajun Artisans Trust, Owner of The English Book Depot and National Director of The Duke Of Edinburgh's International Award.
But the lofty titles sit lightly on him, with just the pride in his work and the sparkle of his passion beaming through.
“So, who is selling well these days Sandeep,” I ask him.
“It’s always Ruskin Bond who sells in high numbers. Some other titles sell well too, like the recent book by Stephen Alter. But we don’t get many footfalls sadly, as is the case with most bookstores,” he shares.
Then he picks up a book from a rack and tells me how this is his third book. “I write mostly on education and learning.”
“I run a YouTube channel Sandeep – The High Priestess of Hedonism. I would love to chat with you on it. Would you like it? Do you do online conversations?” I ask.
“I have had one of the longest-running podcasts, shared on Apple, Spotify, and almost everywhere else,” he tells me, adding with a gentle smile, “Just Google me, Ma’am.”
His smile is genuine, his stance humble!
I talk about the state of other bookshops in Doon. There was one at Astley hall, towards Kanak Cinema Hall I try to remember.
“Book World,” Sandeep aids my memory. “And yes Natraj, close to us. We all are there, existing somehow, living off more on our passion than a business.”
I ask Aunty to subscribe to my Channel. She says a radiant yes and hands over her iPhone to Le Husband to help her with it. And she immediately takes me back to the days where trust existed between people, when we were not always circumspect and looking over our shoulder. Sigh!
I quickly committed to returning to The English Book Depot on my next visit, hopefully with my Book. I tell Sandeep I will pick up his title next time. And with that I say my goodbye to him and to Aunty, who holds my hand warmly before wishing me ‘fare thee well.’
As I step out on to the main road, and head towards our Car, I desperately look for the pavement magazine sellers who would once set shop on the cobble-stoned footpath.
In the 80s of Dehradun, cruising on my Maroon moped I would often make a halt at the two magazine sellers. They quenched my treasure hunt and provided me the prized stash I came looking for – Woman and Home, House and Garden, Seventeen, TEEN, Country Living, MAD, even RD and People – all international editions.
While sadly, I did not find the magazine sellers – who proved to be such delightful aiders & abettors in helping me weave my dreams – I still have my set of magazines, neatly stored in my Dehradun Home Library. An oblique consolation that! Talk about things we have been losing to the rush and ravages of time and the things we will hold on to, regardless!
On this visit, we were quite rushed off our feet. We were saddled with a big backlog of pending work. Three years is a long time for big and little jobs to pile up.
We were also hugely hot and bothered. Dehradun is, increasingly, becoming roasted in the sweltering April heat. It was an anomaly back in the day, but is so utterly and deploringly commonplace in the present time. That we have brought it upon ourselves is the harsh truth of the matter.
We quickly walked past the tea kiosk selling the rich, sugary, milky broth of tea and fried snacks – pakodas (fritters), bread pakodas and the like. The Tea Shop has been there for a long time, and it always caters to a thronging crowd of people. I was happy to note that the small, hole-in-the-wall Shop has stayed in business.
We made a left to enter the U-shaped womb that once housed Odeon Cinema. I may have seen just one odd film or two in that Raj-era theatre, yet it was such a significant landmark. Now long gone, having given way to new shops!
In a rush to erase our pasts – for whatever set of reasons, and create new entities, new identities, will there remain a time when we will recognize our own selves and our kind!
In the same old building with its arcade supported with tall columns, on the left still resides Natraj Publishers. It is called a little differently now I instantly make note – Natraj, The Green Bookshop being the new designated Sign.
It seemed that the time had come to a standstill here. The same look, the same layout of books and racks, the same place where the Owner’s counter had existed, I noticed with a sense of overriding nostalgia.
I meet the pleasant, well-mannered Shop Incharge, whose name I ask for and then promptly allow to slip away amid a string of conversation. But what remains with me is his sense of loyalty to the Shop, respect for his Boss – the Owner of the Shop, his cordial nature, his amiability with the customers and eagerness to serve, and his overall cultured demeanour.
He tells me Upendra Arora – the elderly, dignified Owner of Natraj Publishers – has just stepped out for a meeting and will return in half an hour, should I want to see him.
The good fellow wishes me luck for my upcoming book, gladly subscribes to my Channel and patiently answers all my little questions. I cheerily note that time has stood still in Natraj in more ways than one. The old establishment fiercely holds on to the old set of values, when abrasiveness, rude disposition, rushed brushing off, stepping on toes with discourtesy, heedlessness to customers – both paying and otherwise, and eschewing real-time living for life inside a 5inch X 2inch gadget had not yet kidnapped our sanity and sanctity.
I make a quick observation that here too the reigning deity is Ruskin Bond. It is not too difficult to register as the good-natured, affable Octogenarian author is everywhere – on standees, in posters, on bookshelves with rows after rows of author-signed copies of his bestsellers.
I thank the Gent profusely and mention to him I will be back. Soon!
I tell Le Husband we should be coming back on our next visit, and also drop in at the other bookstores – for pleasure, for keeping a date with memory, and for reliving those days that have stayed alive in a happy place in one’s heart.
As we drive past Elloras – the once-famous Doon bakers that eat of their past glory and St. Joseph’s Academy towards the Puma store – our next stop – I point out Saluja’s and Jugal Kishore & Co. to Le Husband. On our return drive to Clement Town – the home to our family Farmhouse – I point out at a row of bookshops on Dispensary Road. Scores of textbooks, geometry boxes, school bags, dissection sets and other paraphernalia have been bought at these, to make good of one’s formative years.
I think with the growing public outcry – at least in the right quarters – to save the trees and the environment; there must be another to save our bookstores.
Relics of our rejoiced pasts, keepers of our conscience with the jewels hidden within the pages of their goods, dharohar – heirlooms of our rich heritage, harbingers that herald a future of promise, of fortitude, of wisdom and of learnedness; and delighters of our collective hearts – for there could be nothing else as magical, dream-stirring, joyful as a good book!
I plan to start a series of pop-up free libraries where you can leave a book and pick one too! A few such dot the regions of the world where the minds are stable and the hearts in place; where the people crave as much for soul-feed as for food; where life holds greater meaning.
Would you like to join me in this! - Post courtesy LAruna Dhir on Facebook
First published:

The Schooling System Is Doomed For Failure!

For any education system to prosper, both the guardians and the schools must unite and co-operate, but this infrequently happens. The lack of sufficient support from parents is why the schooling system is doomed for failure. The massive majority of our population (parents) know nothing about education, but they all have an opinion. 

They don't step foot in school for years, even when repeatedly requested, but they believe they have all the answers. They no longer teach children good etiquette, respect, pride in work, cooperation and coexistence, etc. This they feel is the occupation of the school.

We frequently see children coming to school wearing precious branded watches and shoes, but they don't carry a pen or a pencil; let's not talk of geometry boxes and atlases, for it's not confined to dictionaries only.

Are the parents ever sure that the children have everything they need for school?

Are they ever sure that their children have done their school work?

Are the parents ever sure when they last attended a parents-teachers meeting? 

Are they ever sure when they last sat with their children to have a small chit chat? 

Are they ever sure that they listened to the teachers and that their ward is a disruptive influence? 

So when they say that the schools and teachers aren't working, they need to look within themselves and their homes. 

Teachers can't conceivably do the parents' job, and sure enough, this is what all parents want. 

Honestly speaking, when the parents and guardians don't shoulder the responsibility, things won't be better in school; they may be worse. After all, children reflect on what they learn at home. Our society and parents are so engrossed and preoccupied with their so-called work or their extravagant cell phones that they have too little or no time for their kids and parenting. They can no longer exert their authority. They forget that saying a 'sorry' or a 'thank-you' is learned at home, not in school. Schools only reinforce the values learnt at home.

And when they go wrong, which they often do, teachers and the schools become scapegoats. 

What a tragedy, what a shame!

- Soham Anand, Dehra Dun, India. Originally posted on Facebook for friends and teachers.

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