Saturday, November 24, 2012

#11 : Bhumi : The Joy of Volunteering

Before I start writing about my experience with Bhumi, I have a long list of people to thank. For start, Ramya, Thank you for introducing me to such an wonderful organization, it was a life changing experience, Next, Lokesh, the center head of the center (PVR School) where I first taught computers, Vaishnavi (Chennai )  for sending me off to Kanini Program though I asked for MAD (SO now, Thank god you sent me off there!), Rajkumar, Thank you for pulling me in to the Kanini HR team and last but not the least, Jaishri, my biggest support in Kanini HR team & much more than that. And then there are a loooong list of other volunteers who have helped me & from whom I have learnt a lot from (Sownaj,Nirmala,Doc, Malli,Bhuvanesh,Prem,Shivani,Avinash,Venkat,Vaishnavi,Aakansha,Arun,Krishna,Syed,Ishwarya,Saranya.....Phew! lots more people to put down!)

 Hang on! I am missing something right? ah! Yes. The Kids! How can I forget them at all in my life! The kids at PVR & PBC-Mambalam { bad that I couldn't spend a whole academic year with them, thanks to growing up & Responsibilities that come along :( }I don't know how much knowledge I imparted but what I got back from them seems to much higher in comparison  as far as I know.

So this is how it all began. Ramya, my classmate at college told me about Bhumi. I signed up after a  year after she told me ( Thanks to my parents thought I was a kid myself, what would I go teach kids that too with my not so good Tamil ). I got a call for the orientation. I was kind of scared. After all, it was something new to me and I am not the kind that talks much one - on - one (Public speaking has always been a piece of cake for me ). I reached the place early ( Even before the Bhumi volunteers came). Vaishnavi (Chennai) came in carrying a big pile of news paper. I wondered if they were going to make us read it & test our accent or something like that. But it turned out we had to use the paper for a fun game of dressing up. After all the fun, they got down to business, The mapping. I had asked for MAD( Speak Out now. The English Program) but unfortunately I wasn't able to find suitable classes. So they sent me to Kanini. I was literally horrified. My Tamil was restricted to normal talk ( I studied Hindi & Moved with Hindi speaking friends much till school). But then the Kanini volunteers who did the mapping assured me that I could Manage.

And so Kanini it was at PVR School (Greenways road)!

 I started classes on September 12 (Unforgettable because it is was Lokesh's Birthday that day and I didn't wish him as I was a bit scared of him back then). I stepped into a small room with 3 working systems & 12 kids, Lokesh introduced me to the kids. I went expecting quite kids who would sit in rows & listen. But alas! They were a bunch of Hyper active kids jumping about the benches. They bombarded me with questions, Akka unga peru enna, neenga enna pannaringa, neenga Lokesh anna frnd ah! I just went dizzy ( The nice kind of dizzy! My god those kids were  so innocent!). I answered all their questions. MS Word was being taught. I observed Lokesh taking classes & decide to follow the way he does. As time progressed I got really comfortable with the kids. But one thing I learnt was Preparation is the key to effectively handle the kids. I still remember, one day I was handling classes all alone ( That was a time! Phew! 38 kids all alone! But then it didn't continue like that for a long time. Normally there was at least 2 people to give me company). I hadn't prepared for the class. We were looking at Filter options in MS Excel. The kids as usual started asking me all sorts of questions & I had to tell I would get back to them. One kid said, "En akka neenga thoongitingala unga teacher class edukumbodhu?! adhan unggalukku idhu theriyala" I just burst out laughing. Then I realized, with these kids its better to come prepared for all sorts of questions ( *Sighs* I never asked so many questions to my teacher! These kids are Hyper!) The below Video has my kids in class

P.S. Don't get fooled. They were calm only for the camera & it took the Video team quite an effort to calm these Hyper Active Kids down!

One academic year got over. I got the hang of it and started with the next set of kids. That was all together a different challenge as we were implementing the NIIT syllabus which had a very different structure & a more professional aspect in terms of examples. Though we were trained by NIIT instructors ( I learnt a lot in that Webinar. I even considered a career as a teacher :P), we kind of found it hard to teach as the kids weren't acquainted with business examples. But we did manage at the end of the day.
Then came along Kanini quest! Again I went expecting strict "competition " environment. It turned out to be complete contrast. It was fun all the way. Interacting with volunteers & meeting other kids. 
When was the last time you played Ringa Ringa Roses? When was the last time you played Hide & Seek?
Well, I got to do that there in Kanini Quest.
My PVR kids made a sweep. We won in almost all category - Kanini  Quest '11
Kanini Quest 12' - We didn't win much. But participation is what matters &  looking at the creativity  of other kids ! It was Amazing!

Finally, My shift to the new center, PBC- Mambalam. The kids there are even smaller (7th,8th,9th Std) & Sharper. This center has girls too (PVR was all brat boys). The kids in this center are very knowledgeable & talented.  I remember a Kid answering quite a difficult question of mine. I asked the kids to tell who was a major competitor of Microsoft's Windows OS. I gave them a hint : Apple. One kid just stood and replied its called Mac. I was simply amazed! He was just studying 8th Std in a corporation school.  I didn't know what Mac was till 11th std ( I studied in a "CBSE"school! School has nothing to do with what you are! Illustrated by this kid) Sad that I am not able to continue taking classes :( 
The Kids at PBC- West Mambalam ( Lots missing in the picture!) 

Ah! I forgot one more thing. The much awaited & most unforgettable event of the year - Nakshtra ( Previously called Siragugal -2011 ) . Well, I have no words to describe that event. The smile that was on each children's face just made my day! So many talents. I simply felt I missed having such a platform to exhibit my talents. I was a bit jealous of those kids, My god! Face painting , Singing, Dance, Art & What not! Highly talented these kids were. No matter where they were from. I got a chance to meet lots of other volunteers & not to forget the RJ/Columist Bosskey ( How can I forget him! He was pulling my leg badly!), Cricketer Balaji, Singer Karthik. 
Nakshtra 2012 - Was a bit of disappointment as rain played spoil sport & we had to postpone day 1. But day 2 was still fun though I missed out a lot as I was sitting at the registration desk.  Though I did catch up on the Dance contest, which as usual was brilliant!

I would be making through injustice if I don't write about the HR & KPI activities that I was a part of. I don't know how effective I was as an HR making sure all the centers had enough volunteers to take classes. But I do know one thing for sure. Being in the HR team helped me have an easy transition from college to Corporate world ( Especially when you join a company where you don't have your class mates coming along ). I learnt a lot on handling people & the importance of working as a team. 

To sum up, Bhumi & those kids were the best things that happened to me. It feels like for the first time in life I did something useful. 

Change Today! Change Tomorrow!


Sunday, November 18, 2012

#10 : My Life & Music

Been long time since I blogged. Thanks to long hours of travelling to work. I seem to have time only to eat,work,listen to music & Sleep. The 'Listening to music' activity is my favorite activity of the day. Honestly its not an " activity " . Music is a part of me, A part of my life. Music is what got me writing this blog post. I watched an video by the great composer A.R.Rahman, called " An Invitation".
Catch the Video here
In that Video Rahman Sir asked what is good music to you ( Not sure of the exact wordings). That got me thinking & Eventually putting down my thoughts to paper (um...Blog!)

Ever since I was born I have been listening ( Technically Hearing would be an apt word) to music. Yes, I know you would ask how the hell do you know that?! Well, my parents have always kept up the " Tradition" (& they still do ) of starting the day with Carnatic music renditions by Smt.M.S.Subbulakshmi , Dr.M.L.Vasanthakumari & a long list of other great singers. I never had much of an exposure to Film songs till the age to 14. Then when my circle of friends changed my exposure to music expanded. I started listening to film songs, Instrumentals, Opera Music & what not.

So what's the point?! How would life be without music?!
Well, for a start, I would be a really bored & lost person. Then my temper would be as hot as sun. I just can't imagine life like that.
Then the next question is, why not sing?! The answer is simple enough. Like all parents, my parents also got me a music tutor & I learnt singing at my own pace for a year. Then we shifted to another locality & I joined another tutor who felt I didn't have that right voice to sing. I got discouraged and quit. Well, what more could you expect from a lost 12 yr old ( Must have told that to me now I would proved I can sing too, with a little voice training). So I just stopped singing & my voice degraded & I lost that pitch. But then that's okay. I am happy as long as I am able to listen.

Listening to music. Note : Its music. Well whats the difference. Not much. Song is Music + Lyrics. So when I mean I listen to music ,I listen to that instrumental playing no matter what the lyrics are. Call me strange or queer. Yes, I might not understand what the song is all about but it'll be on the loop if I like the " Music". WHY?! simple. The music affects me in a way. In a good way.
Especially compositions of A.R.Rahman & particularly the ones rendered by Singer Hariharan & Rahman Sir himself. I am simply mad about his compositions. He compositions never cease to amaze me!
Of course I do love songs rendered by Late  M.S.Subbulakshmi & Mr.Unnikrishnan.
But the majority of songs that come out now days are simply unfit to be spent time on. Though there are rare good ones that come out. All I hear these days are " noise".  Its not that I am against fast numbers ( Come on! There was a time I used to listen to Metal music, Stopped it now. It wasn't going well with my ears! ) or the Kuthu songs. But just that it could be better.

Well, Hang on. A.R.Rahman's composition are an exception. Call me Biased. But that's a fact. He is only composer to be doing consistently well. I am not simply saying this just because he has won two Oscars. If you ask him Oscar for Jai Ho?! No Bad choice. There are list of other songs that deserve more than Oscar. My personal favorites being Pachai Niramae ( Alaipayuthay), Pudhu vellai Mazhai (Roja). The list is long.
Now coming to the answer for Rahman sir's question. What is good music?

The human mind & heart are a pair of Monkeys. Our thoughts keep fluctuating from good to bad. Good music is the one which makes this Monkey sit in a place. Calm it down & make it think. The music is working if it brings about a good change in you. And I believe to me A.R.Rahman & few others' composition have done that to me. Made me a better person.
That's my take on music!