Mr.Ramnathan at the age of 75 was on the terrace of his house in Puri in Odisha.
That was the evening of October 2019. The Sun had just set. The twilight was making the entire atmosphere pleasantly golden. He looked above in the sky. A lot of stars were glittering. A few were bright enough to catch attention but many were twinkling with their might to get noticed.
“What are you looking at Sir?” Satyavrata, a young boy, his student, broke the thinking chain.
“Oh, Satyavrata! I was looking at the stars. They are of varying luminosity. But all are trying to shine as brightly as they can.” Ramnathan said.
“Have all members gathered?”
“Yes Sir. They are in the classroom.”
“Am I late today? Let us go.” Ramnathan started climbing down the stairs. Satyavrata followed.
In the so-called classroom, 7-8 students had occupied chairs.
Ramnathan pulled his chair near the whiteboard.
“Sorry boys, I am a bit late. But I was lost in thoughts observing the beautiful evening sky and looking at the innumerable stars.
Anyway, what is the topic of discussion today?”
“Hope and reality”, one student.
“But Sir, we would like to know the thoughts you were lost in. Today, we would like to listen to your thought process. Could you share them with us?” said another student.
“Oh. Nothing much. Looking at the number of stars, I remembered our UBUNTU group’s overnight trips to nearby places to watch meteor showers and stargazing.
Forget about it. If I start talking about my UBUNTU group in Mumbai, it will be very difficult for you to stop me. “
“No Sir, today we want to hear about your UBUNTU group of Mumbai.”
“Children, you are not aware of what trouble you are inviting.”
“No Sir. Please tell us about your Mumbai group UBUNTU.”
“Okay then. Let me start.
****** THE SKY AND HORIZON
After winding up my professional activities and entering the new phase of life of retirement, I found teaching, sharing my knowledge with the younger generation, an easy way of engaging myself in somewhat serious activity. There were several young members in the vicinity who were seeking some senior person as their friend advisor. I initiated my activity by helping some Engineering students in English speaking along with clarifying some doubts in technical subjects.
Well begun is half done. And it started. I was meeting youngsters from the nearby areas who were anxious about the medium of instructions for higher education which was different from their schooling medium. I was more than willing to help them out by making them conversant with English, the new medium. Also, some youngsters who had got their degrees by adjusting to the new medium of instruction during college education but were finding it difficult to communicate in the office environment, wanted my help after their working hours, after 8 in the night. I was ready for this also. I had kept the fee a meager amount of Rs.100 per month. Every 3-4 months I was getting a new group of 4-5 students some doing commerce, some studying Engineering and some struggling with their communication skills in their working place. We named the group “UBUNTU”
They all were at different stages of youth, from different backgrounds with financial conditions varying within a narrow bandwidth. All of them had dreams in their eyes, aspirations to win over the entire world. Their parents struggling to provide education to their wards with the hope that one day their progeny would have enough strength to face this world to be successful.
But the fire in their heart was of varying degrees. Some of them came with the idea that by just attending the class they would be mastering the language and hence would ride the success immediately. They were not ready to put in the necessary efforts. Whereas there were many with a burning desire and ready to take all kinds of challenges to conquer the battle. Their emotions had frills of love and respect for the seniors-be their parents or a well-wisher like me. What we call culture was evident in abundance. Their roots were in Maharashtra or U.P./ Jharkhand.
Periodically, I used to have tests to assess their performance. The student getting the highest marks was appreciated by a chocolate or a small souvenir. Even an outstanding performance in the class period would earn a bar of chocolate. The prizes used to be divided among all students inculcating the idea of sharing with others.
I was getting impressed by such students who were looking into the future with realistic vision and were trying to get ready with all their weapons sharpened. The number of such persons was not small. They all were falling in the category of strugglers and I was willing to help them whatever I could with my limited ability. I was getting entangled with the shaping of the lives of these crusaders.
I remembered, Nebula often called the Star Nursery is the region of the space, in which, from the remnants of an age-old star, new stars begin to form. A group of brightly shining stars is identified as Constellation.
****** CONSTELLATION – I
That day Amar, a bright, young boy in the last stage of teenage, who had worked with me in my electronic gadget producing setup, approached me with Yesh and a group of 5-6 students to get some help in English as the medium of their post S.S.C. education was English whereas they had studied in Marathi so long. They had difficulty understanding every subject. They could not speak even a single sentence in English, correctly. But they were keen to achieve something in life. The goal was not fixed but was something higher.
I realized the problem and started coaching basic English speaking along with casual sessions of Engineering subjects too.
*** PROMINENT STARS OF CONSTELLATION – I
Yesh was bubbling with enthusiasm. smiling, full of initiative. sensitive dared to take unconventional action/decision, confident. But he needed to understand the value of his words.
Vikas was a serious, gentle, a bit diffident boy. He valued his words and was dependable. An ideal friend or family member. But needed to be more confident.
Akshay Salunkhe was well-focused, serious, with a lot of initiative. He needed to be empathetic and had to get out of self-centered thinking.
Akshay Salvi was well behaved, well mannered, and was having the necessary initiative.
Sagar Rawool was a sports enthusiast with an extraordinary memory. A boy with a lot of potential but ridden with diffidence and lethargy.
I wanted their dreams to come true and their life on the proper track.
I started helping Yesh with Engineering subjects. Used to spend time reading his books and trying my level best to explain the technical subjects. Teaching speaking English was going on. But Vikas along with Yesh entered our family. We both I and wife Vidya had accepted these young souls as our own. We missed them very much whenever they did not come to our house when they had gone to their village or were busy with college affairs. I was worried about their future.
That day Yesh arrived a bit late. With a frown in control of his pleasant face appeared very funny to me. I knew something had gone wrong with him and this loving, ever-smiling boy had got angry.
“Why are you late today?” I showed up my authority even though it was very
difficult for me to control my chuckle.
“Sorry, Sir,” Yesh muttered with a grumpy face.
“Yesh, what is wrong? Why are you so angry?”
“Nothing. I am not angry.” The crabby look indicated that his words were not true to his emotional state.
“Don’t lie, Yesh. Tell me the truth.” I continued digging for the root cause of the upset of this sweet little boy.
“Bhai slapped me without any reason. I had not done anything”
The fact came out. I could not control my smile. Bhai, his brother elder to him by 3-4 years had ascertained his seniority.
“Oh! That is why my sweet Yesh is angry. You must have done something wrong. After all, he is your elder brother.” I tried to pacify him.
“No. I did not do anything wrong.”
“Okay. He misunderstood you. But does anyone get angry with his own brother?”
“It hurt me so much.” I saw his cheek was still red.
I gave a gentle rub on his face.
“Such things do happen sometimes. But forget about everything else and now let us start work on the properties of the database. Did you do the homework I had given you yesterday?”
“I had studied. But don’t remember anything now.”
“See, your anger has wiped off all your efforts. “
I opened the book on the database and started reading each line. After every line, I was translating it into Marathi and made him understand what it meant.
***FINAL SEMESTER AND FULL INVOLVEMENT
Meanwhile, the semester results were out. Most of the boys managed to get through but Yesh had 3 A.T.K.T.s(Allowed To Keep Terms for further studies with an additional chance to attend the tests along with the new semester). I decided to pull Yesh out of this problem.
So I started to have separate sessions on the weekend mornings. Intelligent that he was, he picked up and performed sufficiently well and cleared the next semester along with the pending A.T.K.T.s.
I got in contact with the parents of a few selected students. And surprisingly, they appreciated their wards’ association with me and handed over full reigns to me to mold them.
Fathers of two students had expressed their annoyance over their sons sleeping till late every day during vacations. I started coaxing them about this. A regular dose of good habits of waking up at reasonably early hours was not having the desired effect. I used a trick. I started waking them up by the notification tinkle by sending messages reminding them about the current main task of their life, passing out the final exam of their diploma with good marks. The initial response was of irritation. But I did not budge. My initial message sending daily at 8:30 in the morning, I started preponing every week, slowly I reached up to 6:30 and then at 6 a.m. After a few months father of one student called me saying apart from the behavioral change in his ward, he observed that his son had started getting up at 6. He sincerely thanked me for this change. I was elated.
They got their diploma and they decided to go for an Engineering degree. Their excellent upbringing by their parents had strengthened their decision-making power, I was just witnessing their actions. I was appreciative of their struggle. Their parents were ready to extend their support to their wards for further studies. They joined new colleges and got involved with their college activities. Their visits to our house were regular though reduced considerably. The busy schedule of college, the submission load did not permit them to visit us frequently. But whenever time permitted, they managed to squeeze in a hurried visit to us. The critical final year of graduation in Engineering was very hectic for them. The project work execution was testing their endurance limit. Whenever we met I saw to it that I patted them for their hard work. A few words of appreciation comforted them. My own Engineering qualification carried some weightage and that helped me to guide them whenever they were looking up for some advice. Finally, they got their degrees and their focus was shifting towards appearing for entrance tests, aptitude tests, interviews, etc.
The group started discussing what type of job they should accept. There were 4-5 areas in I.T. such as Development, Maintenance, Marketing, etc. Somehow, a weird idea of accepting only development jobs rejecting any other discipline was getting a stronghold in the group. I openly disapproved of this idea and tried to bring them to the reality that except Akshay Salunkhe and to some extent Sakharam, nobody else was suited for the development jobs. I thought Yesh was fit for marketing whereas Vikas would sparkle in maintenance. But this choice had to be exercised only after they were in the mainstream. For the first job, they should be willing to accept any type of IT-related job. Fortunately, this idea got acceptance in the group, and very soon they were part of the IT industry.
Unfortunately, the intake of campus interviews was drastically reduced. Akshay Salvi passed his aptitude tests and was selected by TCS. Yesh also succeeded in getting some position in a company offering I.T. related services to other companies. Only Sakharam and Vikas were left without a job. My feeling was either they were not seriously putting in effort or they had different ideas about themselves. They did not discuss with me their interviews, preparation for aptitude tests, etc. Whenever both of them came to the house, they played UNO or chatted on various topics but in Marathi.
Once unexpectedly, I got an arrogant response from Vikas. I was upset. I fired him left and right. I presumed he would not talk to me anymore. But I thought it was my duty to bring him to the right path. The next day, I called his father and told him what transpired between me and Vikas. He was very much supportive of my action. I was relieved. After a week Vikas gave me the news of his getting a job. A few days later, even Sakharam was employed.
In came another group of diploma students joining degree college. Our intimate network was getting wider. Some more students were attending the class. I was trying my level best to remove the taboo of the English language. And then one day, a ‘fire ball’ came in to enquire about the class timing. That was Laxman Dabholkar, a first attempt CA achiever. I was floored to read his dreams in his eyes. They seemed to radiate the vibrancy of youth. The stumbling block in the path of his goal was his weak English. He was hell-bent on removing this obstacle and starting his own group offering consultancy services in accountancy to smaller companies that could not afford to have their own accounts departments. The blaze was so powerful that I offered all possible help in my capacity. The focus of his goal was so sharp that the objectives looked absolutely bright. Laxman etched his special position in the ranking of my students. Another gentle, soft but also impressive student was Sanket More. Disciplined, decent character in the final year of Engineering, Sanket also had a sufficiently high position in our ranking. He later passed out his graduation, got a job in a smaller group, and slowly but surely started climbing up the ladder of growth. Laxman and Sanket both shifted their residence to Mira Road. Their visits to our house started reducing. But our bond was intact. I used Laxman’s services for my professional activity. He was in touch with us more than Sanket.
Soon there was a frill of tension attached to my thrill of seeing ambitious boys on the proper road of conquering higher goals. One of the boys, Ramesh had started an affair with a girl, Nalini. I envisaged the derailing of Ramesh from the path of achievement. I warned Ramesh in plain words. He assured me his relationship with the girl would not hamper his main target. I was deeply disturbed and tried my all to dissuade Ramesh from this dangerous path. But he was firm on both the promises. I had later, after 5-6 years, conceded to him of my utmost pleasure for proving me wrong. Ramesh was sailing on waves of a successful career and then only married his teenage love, Nalini.
After a year’s close association with these boys, yet another group of Engineering students from a neighboring area spoke to me for some help in English conversation. They had the same problem as the first group. Their schooling in vernacular languages, some in Hindi and a few in Marathi, was posing difficulty for them in expressing themselves in English, the medium of their current education.
This was a bigger group. And everyone was with a different shade of behavioral pattern. They all had got admitted into Engineering colleges meant they all were above the ordinary level. A genuine difficulty very common was due to a change of medium of instruction. Their inability to exhibit their brilliance in college studies was making them unhappy. I had a cursory check of their intelligence level and I was impressed. But like the constellation – I, they too were unable to speak even a single sentence, correctly.
To initiate speaking in English, I told them to talk a few lines about their favorite bird. None of them could go beyond expressing the color of the bird, about the beak and the wings. I provoked them by saying “that sounded like 4th standard children”. They all felt a bit humiliated. “I can understand the problem with English. But the total absence of imagination! Boys, your efforts to learn English have to be supported by good imagination. And I guarantee, you will make rapid progress.”
We started with the basics of speaking English.
*** PROMINENT STARS OF CONSTELLATION- II
Shivam was a plump, pleasant boy bubbling with confidence. He was not bad in English conversation. In the group, Shivam stood out for his explaining power. Any point, any event, or even any idea would be explained wonderfully by him. This trait would help him to move up the ladder very quickly in his career. But he had to learn how to brief the matter. Not every time one needs all the details.
Rohit’s name I had registered in my mind as Rakesh. I took quite some time to address him correctly. He was a bit reserved and had a wonderful quality of empathy. His gentle and well-mannered behavior was enviable. An ideal family member. He was short on the initiative.
Pravin was a small-statured, bright boy. Ajay was also thin and short. But later he proved himself an “out of box” thinker, smart boy. Despite being metropolitan born, he had a very naive accent like a rural boy, But miraculous progress he made, and that drawback was forgotten very soon.
A lean, tall, Akshay Pawar was a little younger. He was full of confidence & ever smiling. He stood apart for a fantastic, rare quality of being concise.
Vishal Waghmode was yet another small-statured, thin boy. He was enthusiastic, confident, and intelligent.
Ashish Yadav was a brilliant, confident Engineer. Good boy overall but was self-centered. Needed to be empathetic.
Chandresh was one more pleasant boy. I found him disciplined.
Dilip was a lovable youngster, He was adventurous and imaginative.
Vishal Misra was a thin, always smiling boy. He was an intelligent but unfocused boy.
Nirav was yet another impressive teenager, bright and good at singing film songs.
All these boys were pursuing various streams of Engineering.
Antim was a delicate-looking, ever-smiling, a bit diffident boy studying commerce.
*** CHALLENGING TOPICS TO DISCUSS.
With their excellent response to basic English, we started discussing various themes, very soon. By triggering their imagination brain-cells created such a wonderful atmosphere that I used to wait for the boys to come for their class as much as they got hooked to this exercise. Rarely anyone remained absent for the session unless some assignment in the college did not permit them to attend the class. They used to think with all their imagination to put forth their point of view. For their grammatical mistakes, I was correcting them in a manner that did not dishearten them. The result I could see was amazing. Started with three sentences each on their turn, reached full five minutes talk with a minimum of errors. To think of topics to make them tax their brains was a big challenge for me. I was posing more and more difficult topics and to my surprise, each one had his own line of thinking and a 4-5 minutes speech with confidence was the easy outcome. The subjects to express their minds were given to them extempore and the thoughts those got revealed were electrifying. The friendly atmosphere in the class was enjoyed by each one of them. The discussions on various topics such as religion, movies, sports, world affairs, etc. with emphasis on astronomy, that being my own passion, constituted the agenda of our meetings. The subject “Gift to God” was discussed spiritedly. The lion attacking an elephant which is many times bigger than him was sighted as an example of courage, Sculptures were mentioned not only as a form of art but a flagship of our culture that would last for centuries, the love, at first sight, was dismissed as sheer infatuation. Independent thinking was the basis of all opinions.
*** DIVERTED FROM TAKING THE WRONG LANE
Once Pravin was lingering behind when all the students had left for home after the class.
I was surprised to see Pravin waiting for me.
“Yes Pravin, do you have any difficulty?”
“Not a difficulty in the exact sense. I want your guidance.”
“Okay. Tell me.”
“Sir, I am in love with one girl. I would like to marry her. But she is not from my cast. I am sure father is not going to agree to this.”
“What year are you studying Pravin?”
“I am in my second year.”
“How many years still more to get your final degree?”
“Two more years after I pass out my second year.”
“Frankly, This is not your age to select your life partner. You have not seen the world as yet. Also, you need to concentrate on your studies. This is your main task on hand. First, complete this assignment. Then you can think of choosing a life partner.”
“But Sir, I am in love with this girl.”
“Dear Pravin, you are at a stage when every other girl you will find lovable. But that does not mean you should select her as a life partner. Take my word. Control your feelings and concentrate only on your studies. After you pass out B.E., settle in a job then look at girls with the idea of a life partner. By that time your ideas about life would be somewhat clearer. Discuss with your parents and then go ahead with proposing to her. Certainly not now.”
I saw he was disappointed.
“Go home. Think over my suggestion and then come back to me.”
“Okay, Sir. Thank you so much.” Pravin left with his head down lost in thoughts.
I was delighted that Pravin thought of me as his confidant and looked for my guidance. I was happy to have such a relationship.
*** NARROWLY ESCAPE.
Meanwhile, I got shocking information about a very good student Dilip.
Dilip was intelligent, well-behaved, and valued the social norms. But that day something wrong happened.
At around 11 in the morning, the neighboring girl Sunita was looking at Dilip expectantly. Dilip realized Sunita wanted to say something to him. Seeing that nobody was around, he went closer to her.
She, in a subdued voice, said, “My parents are going out after lunch. They will return only in the late evening. Shall we meet at my house?”
Dilip was astonished. He politely rejected the offer. “I am also going out for my work after lunch.”
“Come on. You have the entire vacation to do your work. But this opportunity of meeting in solitude will not come every day. Please come to my house to solve my difficulty in maths at around one p.m.”
Dilip was tempted. He agreed.
At around one, after lunch, Dilip saw Sunita’s parents leaving. After a few minutes, he picked up a mathematics book and avoiding all eyes entered Sunita’s house. She closed the door after him.
“What is your difficulty? I will explain how to solve the problem.” He said in a muffled voice.
Sunita came closer to him. Took his hand in her hand. Dilip pressed it slowly.
And next moment there was a knock on the door.
Both of them were startled. Dilip moved close to the table and took the mathematics book in hand. Sunita slowly opened the door. Her father rushed in muttering “ I forgot my wallet here.”
He saw Dilip sitting at the table.
“What are you doing here?” he asked Dilip.
“I have come to help out Sunita in mathematics” Dilip.
“With doors closed?”
“Yes father, to avoid disturbance in studies.”
Sunita’s father was very angry. He slapped Sunita which made a loud sound.
Dilip was frightened. He picked up the book.
“And you, get out immediately.” He pushed Dilip out of the house.
”If I see you here next moment, I will break your bones.” He shouted which could be heard outside. The immediate neighbors realized the graveness of the situation.
Dilip quietly ran out and entered his own house quickly and closed the doors.
The next moment the news spread in the nearby area.
I could not believe such a cultured, sweet boy would succumb to this adolescent pitfall.
That alerted me of the dangerous period of adolescence. Fortunately, my favorite student Dilip was saved from the undesired aftermath.
***FINAL YEAR PROJECTS
Though these boys had stopped attending class, our group meetings continued.
2-3 years passed by. Their English was improving along with confidence. Our bondage was getting stronger.
I was witness to my young friends struggling, struggling hard to complete the different tasks of college studies. On weekends when colleges were closed, they used to play cricket, football the whole day as recreation.
Once I expressed my annoyance over some message which was going viral on the social medium, on the present education system. The speaker in heat of condemning the present set-up made a sweeping statement that all the students in the final year of Engineering, buy out the projects from experts which they are supposed to do themselves. I was very much upset with this remark. During the next session of our class, I openly criticized the speaker saying this was a direct insult to many students including my students who struggled hard, very hard to complete the project in stipulated time.
My students were happy that there was somebody who valued their efforts and sincerely appreciated them. Our bond got still stronger.
*** INDICATION OF INTEREST
One day one of the girls, Revati came to me and told me that she liked a boy, Nirav from another batch. She had given him a note indicating her love for him. She was waiting for his response. She asked me whether that was a wrong deed. I told her that was certainly a wrong action. That was not the right age for them to get into love matters. Nirav was in his final year of Engineering and he had to concentrate on his studies. I advised her not to go ahead with this idea. And to my surprise, the next day the same boy, Nirav confided in me to have received the note from one girl about her interest in him. He further added that he had responded to her indicating to her that he considered her as a good friend but did not have any interest in her from that point of view. I took care of not revealing the other side of the matter to each one of them. I was so happy that Nirav had put an end to the matter that could have otherwise created a complicated situation. The innocence was getting maturity level.
*** NATIONAL FESTIVAL CELEBRATIONS
To trigger their creativity, organizing talents, and an opportunity for speaking in groups, I planned two national festivals celebrations every year. 15th August and 26th January were getting popular amongst my students – current & past both. The entertaining and brain-teasing games such as scrambled words, scrambled sentences, etc. were organized to increase team spirit. The emphasis was on speaking English and enforcing pride for the country.
On every occasion, the best performing student was felicitated. I used to invite some recognized personality who was an achiever in his field, such as Yusuf Lanewala, D.Dinesh, D.Roshan, Deepa, Mr.Roda, etc. to give away the awards and share some words of wisdom with the students. It was appreciated by each one of them although the awards were not of any significant monetary value.
These activities brought forward the qualities of leadership, team spirit, planning, organizing, and public speaking. The first year it was constellation-1 who managed the show under my guidance. Later the new candidates took over and some great performances came forth. The constellation-II sparkled. As the years passed by, the younger stars had a glittering contribution. Constellation-III performed exceedingly well. The senior members such as Akshay Salunkhe, Rohit, Akshay Pawar, Antim guided the young lot with enthusiasm and active support.
***RECREATION ON REST DAY DURING EXAMINATION.
Then the final semester exam was declared and the day approached very quickly. The boys were happy that there were two days off between each paper.
And the first paper was over. They returned home and relaxed. The next day which was off, I casually contacted one of them to find out how their study went on the “off day”. I was shocked to know that as part of recreation, they played cricket and football the whole day. I could not control my temper. I called all of them in an hour. All of them came after getting freshened up. I asked them about their timetable of studies during those critical hours. They had planned to study only the next day morning. I pointed out their serious mistake. After the play the whole day, they were so tired that they needed rest the whole night. The most precious time was thus wasted. I suggested they have some other type of recreation that would not exhaust them physically. So they could use more hours to study and get ready for the next paper. That convinced them and they promised me not to play exhausting games during the ongoing exam. We both departed on a happy note.
The following rest days between papers were spent more sensibly. And the immediate effect was felt by them.
The final Engineering exams got over. But the campus interviews, aptitude tests by various companies did not allow the students to relax. Group discussions, extempore speeches, mock interviews were being conducted under my guidance and each student was sharpening his weapons to conquer the battles.
In a matter of 3-4 months, most of my students got placed in good companies. A few of them had to undergo specialized training arranged by the companies.
Akshay Pawar after an initial struggle was going through the process of seasoning so that after some time a strong, sturdy structure would be seen by the society.
****** CONSTELLATION – III
Some more 7-8 students, a mix of boys and girls, with the hope of receiving some help in their studies joined. Most of them were studying commerce and some science branch of graduation. I started a new batch.
With the same enthusiasm, I started understanding them and trying to teach as per their standard and the need. They were taking interest and I attempted to raise their level. I got a satisfactory response from a few of them.
Abhijeet Chandurkar had a sharp memory and tremendous confidence but had some complex about very insignificant matters.
Anamika Pandey with her splendidly disciplined approach in maintaining her class notebooks stood out. She also impressed me with her ability to write poetry in Hindi.
Jyoti and Soni Paswan, the two sisters attending higher secondary school classes, were very sincere in everything that came their way. Jyoti who was a slow starter to express herself when her turn came, slowly made such tremendous progress that she was selected as a group leader in her school class. Soni also made remarkable progress in school.
Two more Engineering students who were not part of other Engineering batches need special mention.
Sampada Phatak was a very active, confident, intelligent, determined student. She had some medical problems, fought with all odds without losing confidence, and overcame all the hurdles that came across her. She had a struggling life but was ready to take any challenge. She also maintained her hobby of writing poems albeit in Marathi. After getting her B.E. Electronics, she was settled in the teaching profession. Needed a stroke of luck then.
Shivnath Yadav was yet another crusader. A fitness freak could lift 100kg. had BE in instrumentation but could not be part of the mainstream. He chose to give serious attempts to UPSC exam. To my dismay, he was very low on confidence.
Yash Ambre, Antima from the commerce stream and Manoj preparing for I.A.S. position were impressive. They actively participated in National Festival celebrations.
There were a few, a bit senior, married students who had a burning desire to get familiarity with English while executing their family responsibilities. Among them, conspicuous were Vitthal, Nadeem, and Lubna, all having two children. Nadeem even occupied the best student position in ranking for the season. Lubna stood apart for her fighting spirit against all the hurdles of life without losing courage.
These students had a spark in them and my job was to set fire, intense enough to make them noticeable. I was getting exhilarated to see their response and this new group was getting closer to me.
With the second Constellation, a nice bright boy of 12th standard, Anurag attended the class. He tried to the best of his ability to be on par with the Engineering boys in speaking English. Jovial he was, he used to brighten up the atmosphere of the class. But his efforts were falling short of the expected level. He continued attending class with the following batches also. Once his elder brother Dhananjay came to the class with him.
Dhananjay was in the third year of Engineering in the I.T. stream. The stout, well-built boy appeared to be reserved and shy. He had very few friends in the locality. But I found him brilliant, a thinker, and gutsy. Slowly, he filled the vacuum created by the departure of earlier Engineering students after their graduation. He won the best student position and became part of our family. He introduced to me the concept of Artificial Intelligence. I started addressing him as Sir as he made my ideas about AI very clear.
*************** THREATENING DHRITRASHTRA – GANDHARI RECORD.
In the year 2015, we both (Vidya and I) were the victims of the epidemic of Dengue. Due to my earlier heart problem, I was advised hospitalization whereas my wife Vidya shifted to her sister’s place to be looked after by her sister. My daughter flew down from U.S. to take care of us and my students took over the responsibility of attending me in hospital particularly during the night. Employed students could not contribute to this requirement except on Saturday night. The students who were still in college managed amongst themselves.
The boys attending me in the night used to leave only after the Doctor’s visit the next day morning.
After the first night the next day morning, during his round-up visit Doctor found a young man waiting beside me. Doctor asked who this young man was.
I told him “He is my son, Akshay.” The doctor acknowledged and moved on to the next patient.
The next day Doctor, during his morning visit, saw another young man beside me.
The doctor gestured who that gentleman was.
My reply was “My son, Dhananjay.” The doctor smiled and went ahead to the next patient.
The following day, Doctor saw yet another youngster looking after me in the night. Before he could ask any question, I said,” we have decided to break Gandhari-Dhritrashtra’s record.”
The doctor had boisterous laughter and he proceeded on his duties.
After 6-7 days I was discharged and I returned home.
***************UBUNTU GROUP CHANGING COMPLEXION
15th August of 2016 was a bit different for UBUNTU group. The complete celebration of the occasion was managed by the senior group. To start with the members willingly contributed to the expenses. The itinerary was organized by the students. The games. the prizes everything was handled by them. At the end of the event, the balance amount was handed over to me with all the details of the account.
After the onset of the pandemic, each one of them carried out his responsibility very well. Yash Ambre joined the volunteering medical cadre risking his life against the unknown enemy Corona-19. On noticing the difficult financial condition of one of the students of the class, they wholeheartedly agreed to forward the balance amount of the collection for the celebration of National festivals, to him maintaining anonymity. Yesh and Vikas had culminated this act of common cause by adding their own additional amount,
Yes. My innocent students had now matured enough to come forward to the help of society with their might, in a difficult situation without any publicity. I was ecstatic.
Days, months were passing. After every 3-4 months new batches of students were made comfortable with English. But no other batch was in any way match to the earlier three batches.
Laxman started his own consultancy business with an office in Borivali. He married an equally ambitious girl Ekata and was proud of having her as his wife. Sanket got married to a very loving, unassuming, qualified working girl, Jyoti, having varied interests such as hiking, music, drama, etc. We had a short meeting with them during the corona pandemic. But even that much encounter had put forward their claim for the best couple of our class. Yesh Gawde announced his marriage in December of 2021.
Now in the clear sky, Constellation-I, Constellation-II, and Constellation -III were shining brightly.
AT THE THRESHOLD OF THE REAL WORLD,-1
He and his partner
He is such a sweet boy
Full of kindliness,
Always comforting others
With smile on his face
At no time upset in any situation
Never sad on any occasion
Ever prepared to help the needy
Perpetually ready to share happiness
With the dreams overflowing
Willing to share responsibility
Embracing big ambitions
Endeavoring to achieve them
He deserves a life partner
Spreading warmth in surroundings
Happy to share the feelings
With one dear to her
Every time finding joy
In everything that he does.
Supporting him invariably
Whatever he brings off
To gel completely with him
She should be capable of
In the ups and downs of life
She should sail along with him
A dolphin pair should point out
‘We must be like them’
AT THE THRESHOLD OF THE REAL WORLD,-2
The small little dream
From Kashmir to Assam, It is our Hindustan
But our entire family has to share a small room in one chawl.
There are so many buildings in Mumbai, Thousands of flats in every township
But how can we afford them when builders are demanding crores of rupees.
Our parents worked so hard through their lives, with aim of giving us better education
To enable us to win the most difficult fight of cut-throat competition
They have gulped many a dose of venomous
Taking them as nothing but innocuous
Their aspiration of a better way of life, we are pursuing
With hard work and efforts untiring.
We got our degrees, in IT, hoping to get placements in big companies
But as luck shifts its focus, the big firms started shrinking
Those firms which used to pick up candidates in thousands
Have come down to selecting only a few in tens.
How will we get employment with a good salary?
When will we be able to change our level of living?
When will we leave the present dwelling
where essential facilities are shared with many families
To enter a self-sufficient apartment of our own?
No. No. We are not frustrated. On the contrary, we are charged up.
Come what the situation may be, we will fight tooth and nail.
Maybe we will succeed in a start-up industry,
The internet making the whole world a local market and tiny.
We will certainly triumph, and accomplish our parents’ dream.
With our own self-contained house, parents will see our level shifting.
******CHANGE OF GALAXY
One evening Vishal Waghmode and Rohit Yadav came to me with smiles on their face. “There is good news from us.” Rohit said.
“Okay. Tell me.”
“Sir, we both got admission for MS in the U.S. ”
“Great. Where?” I asked.
“Vishal got in Texas and I got in Buffalo University. They have offered the courses as we wanted.”
“That is very nice. So when are you leaving?”
“We have to get a visa now. We have to join spring sessions.”
“That means just a month and a half left.”
“Yes. We will have to speed up. We will fly till New York together and then take different flights to our destinations.”
A week later, Akshay Pawar came with a packet of sweets giving news of his shifting to Chennai for a good post in a top-ranking company. He would leave in a month. Ajay received an offer from Dubai and he announced his joining within a month.
Soon, Vikas and Akshay Salunkhe were flying to Germany for their new job in Munich. Their joining date was just two weeks away.
A few days later Shivam came with some sweets for good news. He told me that he had passed out UPSC exam and he was posted in the Delhi I.T. department. He would be taking charge of his I.A.S. post in a month.
Antim couple of weeks later Abhijeet announced his selection in the IAS cadre for the Government of Maharashtra and he was posted in Solapur.
Finally, I heard of Yesh taking over a job in Finland. He was shifting there with his family in a matter of a month.
The fledgling young ones had taken to flights of great heights.
With so much good news of my students conquering some peak or other, the perturbing feeling was that they all would leave Mumbai very soon.
**************** NEBULA DEVOID OF BRIGHT STARS
It was more than two years that new students had joined English speaking class through some 7-8 batches. Still, the same old students were close to me. I was feeling very happy to see them climbing up the ladder of progress. But none of the fresh students was able to take their position. A vacuum was getting generated in the absence of earlier students.
My irritation over the void not getting filled up was noticed by friend Patnaik. He once asked me,
”What is bothering you? You are not the same as you were earlier”
“Nothing. But I am missing my sessions with my students which I used to enjoy most. There were a few youngsters who started with me as my students but slowly got so much attached that we had a very close relationship. I was teaching them to speak English, but they were interacting with me on various fronts. Crossing the age barriers, we had become thick friends. We were not just 2 or 3 but the number was around 15-20. And now slowly they have left Mumbai one by one. We sometimes meet online but the charm of getting together in person is missing”
“Oh! Only this problem? I have a solution. In a couple of months, I will be shifting to Puri in Odisha. You too come to Puri. I will provide you a small little independent house. After spending most of your life in Mumbai, now taste a smaller city far away from the hustle-bustle of this metropolitan. You will find good-hearted youth there. There also you will find many who need some experienced, kind-hearted person like you as a guide. And I am sure you will not miss your wonderful young friends from Mumbai. As you had struck a lucky lot of good, well-behaved students in Mumbai once, you will find well-mannered, polite, cultured students in abundance there. You will certainly enjoy their company more and more as much as they come closer to you. I am certain on that account. Now Ramanathan, tell Vidya Bhabhi about this suggestion and I am sure I will receive your call to book your air tickets to Puri.” Saying this Patnaik left the house.
*************** IN SEARCH OF NEW NEBULA..
I discussed with my wife Vidya, and we boarded the plane for Puri with my friend Patnaik. In a couple of hours, we were in Puri, the spiritual city of India. In Puri, we entered this house. Very soon Patnaik introduced Satyavrata to me.
And all of you know what happened thereafter.”
Mr. Ramnathan took out his handkerchief and wiped his eyes.
“That is the panorama of my UBUNTU group of Mumbai.” He concluded.
All the students got up with heavy hearts.
“Thank you, Sir, Thank you very much. We had a thrilling tour of your overwhelming experience. It was just great!”
“Sir, we will meet tomorrow at our usual time,” Satyavrata said.
Slowly all of them dispersed.