Thank You Mr Shrivas – A Govt school teacher with a difference

We three musketeers – Balbir Bora, Soumya Sen and yours truly visited Bundelkhand – Tahsil Rath in district Hamirpur, Uttar Pradesh to see firsthand the yeoman’s work being done by an NGO – ‘Srijan Ek Soch’.

‘Srijan Ek Soch’ was started by Prabhat Saxena, the first IITian from Rath. He is driven by the single thought – how can bright students from Bundelkhand be helped to get into best educational institutions. His passion and focus infected many more like Ravindra Gupta and Vinay Gupta (both from Rath) who have joined this mission and in 2022, 8 students including a girl from Rath were selected to join different IITs/NITs.

Our visits to schools where ‘Srijan Ek Soch’ works was a fantastic experience where we witnessed the kind of change in students and teachers who have enthusiastically joined and are supporting this endeavor. The sparkle in their eyes, the confidence with which they spoke and interacted with us was a testimony of the cliché I have heard many times – mera Bharat badal raha hai (India is changing).

However, this post is not so much about Srijan (I shall write another) but about our own (including mine) mindset. We believe instinctively (without any data or evidence) that teachers in govt schools are not dedicated and are not focused on children’s development and education. We also believe that there is one-way traffic of students between govt school and private school and students are continuously migrating from govt schools to private schools in large numbers.

I realized how wrong I was when we visited Primary school, Turna. Head of the school, Mr Om Prakash Shrivas is a simple unassuming personality and outside the school, he may be taken as one of villagers. He has no airs about him. He is a shining example of dedication and focus. When he joined as head of the school eight years back, the school had about 90 students. Now enrolment has shot up to 240. The school is also an exception that it has 10 teachers. But, the school has only five classrooms and no space for additional classrooms.

When we were brainstorming to find a solution how to get additional classrooms, he suggested that a large plot of land adjoining the school is available and the owner may be persuaded to sell it at a significant discount to the market price. He had earlier discussed it with the teachers and they would contribute from their salary which will add to about 50% of the cost. He also will be able to persuade villagers to chip in but it may leave some balance amount. We told him to go ahead and we shall figure out how to bridge the gap but the land should be acquired.

Post our discussions, we shared a delicious meal – a part of mid-day meal scheme. Normally, school is visited by a safari karmachari every day but he was absent that day. When we enquired about the lack of cleanliness, Mr Shrivas was deeply embarrassed but what he subsequently did was a classic leadership lesson.

He took a broom and started sweeping the premises and not unsurprisingly, teachers and children soon took over. Later on we learnt that he also frequently leads the safai abhiyan is the village with his broom.

Incidentally, this was the only school from where more than one student was selected in Gramin Talent Search Exam conducted by Srijan Ek Soch.

Kudos, Mr Shrivas, you made our day and changed my mindset.


Paying it Forward

I am fortunate that I have always had great teachers and mentors who have encouraged, nudged, sometimes pushed, advised and even shouted at me to help me improve.

I feel a great sense of satisfaction if I am able to pay forward and help somebody and I try to grab as many opportunities that I can get.

I have been visiting my alma mater – Laxminarayan Institute of Technology – regularly since many years and conducting soft skills workshop. I am fortunate and grateful that my batchmates cand friends have supported me and joined me at Nagpur to make these workshops possible and successful.

It was that time of the year once again when six of us readily accepted the invitation from LIT to visit and conduct the two-day workshop.

Our sincere thanks to the director Dr Mankar and HoD Dr Bhanvase who spared no efforts to make the workshop participatory and successful. We have committed to support the college in whatever activities and initiatives are planned to help the students further.

Youth in Rural India

Why do educated youth leave their villages and migrate to cities? What can be done to improve village ecosystem and support grassroot organisations? How do we strengthen govt school system in villages so that rural talent gets to know the opportunities? How to harness and channelize the energy of youth in rural India? How do we get educated youth from villages involved in developing the villages? Can motivated, well-intentioned youth from local community bring about sustainable social change?

Questions and questions. These were some of the questions in my mind when I visited Mera Gaon Meri Dunia (MGMD) team based at Nagda – a small town with population of more than a lakh near Ujjain. Nagda’s claim to fame is the GRASIM plant that manufactures Viscose Staple fibre.

MGMD was started by Nageshwar and Vasudha about five years back. They now have an enthusiastic and committed team of 12+ persons. I have been in touch with Nageshwar for the last two years and was keen to visit and understand their work. MGMD is currently working in 10 villages around Nagda where youth from these villages work with schools and local communities.

I spent about nine hours with MGMD team and I am impressed by the passion, commitment and small wins that this young team called ‘Sparsh fellows’ has achieved in the last less than one year of operations. It was an invigorating exchange of ideas under a tree in the lap of nature next to a large pond. Heavenly!

Key indicators like attendance at school, learning levels, communication skills, confidence level of students have shown a significant improvement. Sparsh fellows (incidentally, all 10 fellows are girls) shared that the last one year has been a transformational year for them.

While it is a bit early to say whether MGMD team will succeed in its mission of bringing about a sustainable social change in these villages, my personal take is that their direction is right, their focus is sharp and with support from the outside world, chances are very, very high that they will succeed.

A lovely winter bright sunshine day was well-spent with MGMD team. It was great learning about the villages, their challenges as well as the opportunities. Personally, it was warmly fulfilling and it reaffirmed my faith in youth of India. Hope to visit Nagda again in not-too-distant future.

Godspeed MGMD team!

Anganwadis and An Unsung Hero(ine)

Anganwadi plays a crucial role in early childhood education. Till now, it was given low priority by the policy-makers. Anganwadi workers – mostly didis, were grossly underpaid and were not even considered govt employees. Anganwadi workers have also been used (like govt. school teachers) for anything and everything besides their core responsibilities. Thankfully, their remuneration has been recently ‘corrected’ in most states.

New Education Policy has laid a greater emphasis on pre-primary education and talks about integration of anganwadis with primary schools. This should hopefully correct the situation and pre-primary education would get its due importance.

However, this is not about govt policy.

I was in Dehradun visiting anganwadis and interacting with didis, children and their parents last week with Meraki team. Meraki has been relentlessly working in Punjab and Uttarakhand through their unique Digital Parent Margadarshak Programme ( DPMP) in this space. Their video-based play/activity approach has resulted in greater involvement of children as well as their parents.

This was my first direct exposure to anganwadis. My bookish knowledge gleaned from newspapers and other media had painted a fairly dismal picture in my mind. Five hours spent with Anganwadi didis, children and their parents forced me to revise my opinion.

And, one person who did more than anybody else for the change in my mindset is Meena Verma. She is cheerful, dedicated, cares for children, their parents and her fellow workers. She is self-taught, keen to learn and acquire new knowledge and skills.

What I found remarkable in her were following three attributes:

  • her positivity to take on any challenges and her solution-orientation
  • her planning skills (that I have found lacking in many managers)
  • her anticipation skills and ability to think and execute on her feet without getting bogged down

Parents who I met and interacted appeared to be genuinely fond of her due to her helpful nature. Through her regular interactions, she has subtly but surely nudged the parents and children to take ownership of their learning and become more confident.

For her team members, she was a source of encouragement and new ideas. She nudged and pushed them to improve the involvement of children and their parents

It was an energizing visit.

Mera Bharat maange more Meenas!

Thank you Meena and Meraki team!

You made my day!!

My encounter with two D & D

Today is the first of August 2022.

One year back, my life went topsy turvy.

I was feeling a bit tired for some weeks and going by the way my pants were sliding down from my tummy, err.. paunch, it appeared that I had lost weight about which I was in two minds whether to be happy or alarmed.

Lady-of-the-house (LOTH) suggested to do the routine medical check-up as a precaution, and I duly complied. Our practice of annual medical check-ups had been suspended due to covid for the last two years. My daily walk had also stopped thanks to covid. I was never very particular about my health but had no major health issues till then. I hate to take medicines and luckily was not required to take any on a regular basis.

When the reports from Dr Lal’s Pathology arrived, it sent shockwaves through me and the household. My HbA1c level was 14.5 (corresponding to sugar level of 369 mg/dl) which indicated severe diabetes. Thankfully, all other parameters were more or less ok. The house was now converted into a battle zone.

I had heard about Dr Dixit and his work on diabetes reversal through my batchmates at IIMA. So, the first stop was to contact Machchhindranath and Bhaskar who had benefitted from it. Both were shocked to know about HbA1c value but assured me that it can be brought under control using Dr Dixit’s recommendations. My aversion to taking medicines was a factor that attracted me to Dr Dixit diet and lifestyle.

Bhaskar put me in touch with Dr Hadgekar who asked me to get some more tests done, e.g., fasting insulin, ECG, Fundoscopy (eyes) and Neuropathy for extremities to check whether there were any other complications. Fortunately, all the test results were normal.

He suggested that I change my lifestyle as per Dr Dixit plan and should have

  1. Two meals per day – start with dry fruits – 5-10 pieces of cashew, almonds, pistachios, walnuts etc. Follow it with a bowl each of salad and sprouts and then one bowl each of dal and vegetable (no potatoes) with 2 chapatis. Avoid rice. In addition, have an egg or paneer every day.
  2. Basically, low carb and high protein diet. No restrictions on quantity.
  3. No food/drink other than water (other than two meals). If essential, can have a cup of black tea. Can have milk as a part of meal if so desired.
  4. No sugar in any form
  5. No fruits
  6. 4.5 kms brisk walk in 45 minutes

And of course, no medicines.

And, no money to be paid to Dr Dixit/Hadgekar!

I started following this new routine diligently. Few others, who had tried these recommendations, had problems like headache, acidity etc. due to change in eating routine. Luckily, I adapted to the new lifestyle without any major trouble. Earlier I used to eat thrice a day, which was now reduced to twice a day @ 10 am and 7 pm. I found it difficult to walk 4.5 kilometers in 45 minutes initially but gradually, my pace increased.

I was being ‘strongly’ supported as well as strictly monitored by the LOTH. LOTH and I went through all the videos on Dr Dixit on You Tube and read/watched about reversal of diabetes and intermittent fasting by authors/speakers like Jason Fung, Gary Taubes, Katherine Brewer, Joel Fuhrman, Pradeep Jamnadas and many more. We plunged into whatever material was available online.

From our armchair research, we were reasonably convinced that I was not taking any undue risks by not starting on medicines to keep the diabetes under control. Further, it appeared that I should be able to control the diabetes with Dr Dixit regime.

Since family support was 100%, I was able to resist temptations and urgings of my sweet tooth. Albeit some sacrifices had to be made. Going-out-to-eat stopped. After all, which restaurant will serve me a meal at 10 am or 7 pm? I had to restrict myself to just one modak on Ganesh Chaturthi and two spoons of shrikhand on Vijayadashami. And I ate alone most of the times, due to my odd meal timings.

So, did it work out? You bet it did!

At the end of first month, HBA1c was down to 11.1 which gave a boost to my resolve to continue the new lifestyle. It fell further to 8.6 at the end of month two and 6.4 (corresponding to sugar level of 137 mg/dl) at the end of month three.

I was now a pre-diabetic!

Since then, I have continued my lifestyle almost as rigorously and have now resumed travelling. I have figured out that my meal one can be the breakfast at the hotel when we travel out of Delhi and meal two can be an early dinner. So, travelling out is no longer a constraint but I still miss eating out with family.

My HbA1c is steady for the last 9 months at 6.3 and I feel energetic. Rest of the health parameters have also remained ok.

Some sacrifices appear to be a permanent feature now! No mangoes except a small piece of Alphonso and three whole grapes in last one year! Sigh!! But it is a small price to pay.

I was 88 kilos with 42” waist two years back when Covid struck. I am now 72+/-1 kilo and 36” waist. This did result in spending a minor fortune in buying new clothes since none of the older clothes fitted me!

When I ‘retired’ 8 years back from a ‘paying job’, I had made a bucket list of things to accomplish. It included an ambitious target of achieving a waistline of 36 inches. I am not happy with the way it has been achieved but achieved nevertheless!

This, hopefully, is the end of my encounter with one D – Diabetes. But my relationship with the other D – Dr Dixit lifestyle will continue for the rest of my life.

Thank you, Dr Dixit, Dr Hadgekar, Bhaskar and Machchhindranath.

Government School with a difference – part 1


Shaheed Hemu Kalani Sarvodaya Boys School, Lajpat Nagar is one of schools that has witnessed a metamorphosis in the last 3-4 years. Shaheed Hemu Kalani was one of youngest freedom fighters who participated in Quit India movement and was killed by British raj before he completed 20 years.

In this school, old, dilapidated buildings have changed to renovated structures with proper flooring and nice furniture. The school has a lot of greenery and trees and a nice playground. It now looks like any good school that parents would be happy to send their kids.

Besides visible improvement in infrastructure, the school has also been active in enabling children to develop their talents and skills. I was told the story of two boys who were mostly absent and hardly attended any classes. They lived in the nearby basti that had a cluster of jhuggis. The family earned their livelihood by making large size stuffed toys – horses, elephants, camels etc. and the children helped by selling the same at traffic signals.

When this was found by the school authorities, instead of punishing the boys for not attending the school, they had a novel idea. It was agreed that the boys would come to school and make these stuffed toys and they will be allowed to sell it. They also agreed in turn to teach interested children how to make these toys and attend classes.

Unsurprisingly, this win-win initiative not only helped these boys to complete their studies but also helped in developing budding artistic talents in the school. Now this kind of teaching-learning and talent/skill development has been institutionalized and children and teacher learn from one another.

It was a treat to visit the arts lab! One could see the making of the stuffed toys in its various stages. The students have also made a number of drawings, paintings, collages, sculptures etc. Now the school has become known as ‘Ghodewala’ school to many people for the most popular stuffed toy made by its students is the horse.

While we were in the drawing lab, there were melodious sounds from the next door. To our raised eyebrows, the answer was – music room. The school has full-fledged music room. Both music room and arts lab encourage multi-grade learning and interaction. Our curiosity took us to the music room and within no time, a small group assembled and treated us to some lovely bhajans sung by the students.

It was heartening to see the deep interest, care and pride of the school authorities including head of the school and the teachers who have encouraged innovative and entrepreneurial thinking and actively support students to develop their talents.

Enlightened educators believe that education is not limited to books and academics but is about all round development of children. It is heartening see that some schools do believe in it.

Saajha Sharenet 2018: An evening with Saajha family

Most public (govt) schools in India are more or less synonymous with poorer infrastructure, shortage of teachers, and students who come from lower socio-economic strata. This is evident when one looks at these schools that are in the

outskirts of Delhi. In most of these cases, parents are uneducated and do not fully appreciate the importance of education. Consequently, parental involvement in children’s education is either very low or non-existent.

Saajha ( works in strengthening the parent-community-teacher-school interfaces using school management committee (SMC) as the vehicle.

I attended ‘Saajha Sharenet 2018’ yesterday and what an invigorating experience it was! It was ‘Saajhedaari’ in action!

It was evident while talking to the parents (most of them were mothers & members of SMC of the school in which their children were studying), that there is a growing awareness of the importance of education and their rights as well responsibilities as a parent and a citizen.

Ladies who had almost never ventured out of the house, who had obediently and dutifully followed the dictates of their in-laws and husbands are now asserting and confidently demanding good quality education from teachers, school and govt. authorities. They are also the driving force in mobilizing community and collaborating with school to improve attendance, reduce truancy and making the school as ‘Swachh Shala’. On occasions, SMC members are pitching in teaching students when there is a temporary shortage of teachers!

While Indian constitution says that it is ‘of’ the people, in case of a govt. school, it is a refreshing and heartening change that parents and community have started believing and practicing that govt school is ‘our’ school and ‘we’ shall actively partner with the school to deliver quality education to our children.

Kudos to Saajha and to Delhi government!

School education in Delhi is finally getting the due importance after decades of neglect. While, ‘abhi bhi Delhi door hai’, each of these empowered parents are the new catalysts that will continue the transformation in coming years and the so-called ‘demographic dividend’ will not be a liability but an asset!









Sudhirjee, you made my day!

The day did not start well. The Uber I booked kept me waiting for 10 minutes and when I phoned, he said that some urgent work calls him and he cannot pick me up.

I then boarded the autorickshaw from which a passenger had just alighted after checking with the driver whether he is willing to take me to my destination in Vasant Kunj. He said yes and told me that his meter is not working and could I pay whatever is the just fare. He had had bad experience earlier that day with a customer and he was being careful.

When I asked him why doesn’t he get the meter repaired, he mentioned that he will get it done from his regular mechanic at the end of his day at 5 pm. His choice of English words and phrases and accent made me curious. On further querying, he shared his story.

He retired from defense services some six months back. His wife also works in defense ministry and will retire after a year. His two children – daughter is doing Ph D in Maths and son is doing LLM.

Looking at my puzzled face in the rear view mirror, he clarified that he got bored doing nothing after retirement and his love for driving and travel prompted him to do auto driving. All three family members are totally against this adventure and have prohibited him from parking the auto in front of the house or driving in the neighbourhood. He therefore parks the auto at a petrol pump and drives home in his car which is exchanged for the auto at the petrol pump.

He works for 4-5 hours a day which says is sufficient exercise for the body and ensures sound sleep at night! He is planning to start coaching of Physics, Chemistry & Maths for AIEEE soon for 2-3 hours a day to keep his mind occupied.

Meeting you Sudheerjee wiped away my frustration with Uber driver! You made my day! Whenever my 61-year old bones feel tired, I shall think of you!

My encounter with Income Tax


Amongst the various topics, very few evoke a more universal negative emotion than taxes. Even the renowned scientist Albert Einstein had apparently remarked in exasperation that the hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.

I have been singularly lucky so far that I have not had any major problems with income tax guys in the last so many years. But, law of averages finally caught with me. Benjamin Franklin was not wrong when he said that nothing in this world is certain other than death and taxes.

I was following up with tax authorities to allow me close a bank account opened u/s 54. I must have sent about 6 letters to the tax authorities at Hyderabad where my earlier income tax assessments were done. But, it was that classic, “apply, apply, no reply”.

A close friend suggested that I use e-nivaran, a new portal opened to register and resolve grievances of tax payers. I wrote to them expecting nothing much. But, shock & awe was in store. I received a call from income tax officer asking me to visit their office at my earliest convenience with necessary documents so that they can issue the requested clearance.

This was my maiden visit to any income tax office. While I have seen many govt. offices at various parts of India, I was pleasantly surprised to see the income tax office located at civic centre in Delhi – lifts were clean and work noiselessly like any large corporate office. In the waiting area outside officers’ cabins, plush sofas are provided for those who wait for their turn. The whole office is centrally air-conditioned. Each desk had a computer that was working and was being used by people. It did not look like any govt. office I had seen and I have seen many.

The income tax officer was very polite and went through my papers carefully and thoroughly. He had some doubts about the earlier assessment orders passed and consulted his boss, the ACIT. I was called and informed that earlier assessment was incorrect and I need to pay some additional tax which they will calculate and inform.

While on one hand, I was shocked that I am being asked to pay additional tax for an earlier year, I was also surprised that how the earlier assessment did not identify the mistake. Anyway, when I consulted my CA, he agreed that I need to pay additional tax.

To cut the long story short, I paid the additional demand and was promptly handed over the clearance letter.

The interactions with each member of the income tax department was fully professional and courteous. I had heard of many horror stories and have personally experienced apathy and neglect in many govt. offices across the country. So, this experience was like a breath of fresh air. I sincerely hope that my experience is not an exception and govt. departments and staff in other offices also become more responsive to public and live up to what they are – public servants.









PLU (People like us) and PLT (People like them)

Jug Suraiya used to write about Taploo and Paploo from Lajpat Nagar(LPN) in TOI while writing about People like us (PLU) – the so-called middle class and People like them (PLT) who are not like us/others.

In Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous story “Silver Blaze”, the key clue is that the dog did not bark helps to solve the mystery. Sherlock Holmes refers to this as a negative fact, a fact that did not occur.

The recent murder of public-spirited Ravinder Kumar, very clearly a part of PLT, being a not-so-well-to-do e-rickshaw driver brought home a similar ‘negative fact’.

While there was widespread outrage including candle marches and vigils when a model was shot dead some years back, there were almost no such protests by PLU to express their indignation in case of Ravinder.


Was it because he was a part of hoi polloi and was not a part of more privileged / prosperous PLU?

Was it because the incident happened in some backwaters of North Delhi and not in fashionable parts of South/Central Delhi?

Or was it because Ravinder objected to some people urinating in public areas which is not a ‘cause’ PLU would like to be associated?

In any case, this apathy is sad. An often heard phrase ‘Saanu ki’ appears to be gaining ground!

Will the PLU pay heed?