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    Dated : Saturday, February 18, 2017

This is some

SPARSH: A New Found Love of Parents for Children

Decimating all the hurdles that could have stopped the endless run for excellence and creating a meaningful life, this Tinsukia born lady, Manobi Das Deka came up with a play school start-up with the aim of providing Sparsh a tender touch (as the name denotes) to the tiny tots in their initial phase of life so that they can gear up for the future. A mother of two, Manobi relates her upbringing with her children’s and with others’ children, and that is how she moves forward in taking Sparsh, a pre-school ahead – addressing all the minute details that other parents would consider as crucial & she, herself, finds them important for her children.

This ten year old play school has come miles en route to good education. But you can’t bet that it was an easy path. She started, struggled, hitched, stumbled, rose up and kept moving. Let us hear out her story.

Tell us a bit about the days before Sparsh happened to you.

My career in teaching began (even before I finished my studies) as a solution to have the financial security to support my education. Coming from a business family, I had a comfortable childhood and good education in one of the best performing schools of Tinsukia until my father was keeping well. Thereafter, a long grey phase crept into our lives when his health deteriorated, consequently demanding my mother’s (a homemaker) lead in all aspects of sustenance. She spearheaded the household, our education, and business to an extent.

I got a sports scholarship for HSC studies, further to which I wanted to pursue a career in medicine, but the financial stress swept it and I opted for Bachelor of Arts, in Tinsukia College. While I was preparing for B.A. finals, I got an offer from the Vivekananada Kendra Vidyalaya, Tinsukia, where I’d studied. Seven months of teaching the play school students was a great experience. I used to save money by walking, and developed corns under my feet. In 1999, I came to Guwahati for higher studies and I joined Cotton College with the savings I had from my pocket money. Half of my money was gone in the non-refundable fee for admission into Handique College, as I enrolled there initially before Cotton’s exam took place. So, I was left with a bare minimum sum for admission yet nothing for buying books and conveyance. I worked part time as a sales girl for trade fairs to earn the sum and support my studies. I enrolled in a coaching institute. To have a constant flow of income to support daily expenses, I started teaching.

I was staying with my cousins who were immensely supportive. My first trial for UGC was good so I thought of preparing well, but I never wanted any monetary help from them. Additionally, I thought that a hostel would be a better place to concentrate so I discussed it with the Amway India Pvt. Ltd. team, where I was working as a Product Trainer (part time) simultaneously, who assured me a hike the following year to be able to afford a hostel.

Meanwhile, my parents insisted for a wedding proposal as I was the eldest daughter of three children. At the same time, I got an offer in V.K.V. in Dibrugarh as a Higher Secondary English Teacher. My students were just five years younger; hence, I was scared and careful all the time. I wore saree to look mature and be respected as a teacher. I didn’t have many sarees, but I managed.

I used to hop on and off the public buses (with the ones Rs 10 for one trip instead of 18) to commute to the school that was 34kms away from home. Throughout my journey, I used to study to be ready for teaching. I also continued with Amway, and managed my stage-fright, by interacting with 500-600 people, one time. I gained a lot of confidence in the due course.

As post marriage, I was to be settled in Guwahati, I started applying for jobs and got lucky with an opportunity in DPS, which was about to be launched. My wedding was on 20th of April and the school was inaugurated on 21st, which was also my joining date. The principal was aware of my plight, but he advised to come over for an hour to join this historic moment. My experience in DPS has been worth treasuring. I left it as I conceived. When came to rejoin, Sparsh happened.

My entire story indicates blessings in disguise. Had I been well off throughout, then I wouldn’t have had such opportunities to learn & gather courage. I overcame my apprehensions of being pushed into no-way-out kind of situations.

How did Sparsh come into existence?

The first branch of Delhi Public School in Guwahati was established in the year 2003 by Gyan Sarovar Foundation, an Educational Trust created by a few eminent businessmen of Guwahati, at Ahom Gaon situated about 17 kilometres south-west of Guwahati city. Towards 2006, the Board members came with an idea of having a chain of pre-schools at different locations in Guwahati on a partnership basis, so that the young children can avail their formative education near to their home so that they are relieved from travelling the long distance and also to smoothen the process of their passage to the class I on completion of the pre-school tenure.

I came forward to collaborate with Gyan Sarovar Foundation to launch the school as proposed, and this was how the Sparsh group of Montessori schools came into being effective 2007 with the first branch of the School at Zoo-Narengi Road established by me as the Headmistress. It was inaugurated by Haider Hussain, Chief Editor of Pratidin; Dolly Bora, the then Mayor of Guwahati; and Mr. Kailash Lohia, Pro Vice-Chairman of the Gyansarovar Foundation. The Second branch was established in Six Mile which was also later handed over to me.

The name ‘SPARSH’ was coined by Shrimati Chandralekha Rawat, Principal, Delhi Public School, Guwahati, which signifies ‘Tender Touch’ in imparting formative education to the tiny tots.

The School celebrated its Five Year Excellence in 2013 with a colourful programme of song and dance mostly performed by the students, parents and the teachers. The same year, we also got our trademark certificate, followed by the R (regulatory compliance) certificate after a few years. Depending on the success, Sparsh has launched its primary section named ‘Sparsh High’ with effect from 2013, at the campus of Zoo-Narengi Road which has now become a full-fledged primary school having classes up to standard V. We grieve the fact for not having the support of Gyan Sarovar Foundation with us, so we decided to approach resourceful senior citizens of Assam to lend a hand of guidance. They wholeheartedly agreed to volunteer, and their guidance has helped us steer through these times.

What hurdles you had to go through initially? Where did you pull the funds from?

Yes, primarily there were apprehensions about my job, schedule, and financial security. But I was confident enough to cope up. In case of Sparsh, initially, I had to do a lot of homework in terms of establishing the brand name; assessing the market and its value; promoting it; preparing a curriculum; et cetera.

We also faced a lot of apprehensions in the beginning, since there are established competitors who guarantee continuation to higher classes, while we have classes until fifth grade.

Why you chose to be in the education industry over other trades?

It has been 18 years of teaching so far & I’m delighted with it. There are no critical thoughts about other professions, but I strongly feel that one learns every day while teaching and multiplies the wisdom. I haven’t become a teacher by chance; but by choice. By choice, I have been in the education sector for a decade now.

Early childhood care and development is another aspect that catalysed my choice as it plays a crucial role in shaping a child’s future. The developmental activities during the initial years can make or mar the prospect of a child.

Lot imbalances in the mental and physical health afflict a child in the initial years, and if we don’t take necessary care during their early phase, then their developments are unlikely. Approximately, one of 80 children is autistic, and the sad part is, there is hardly a miniscule point of awareness about it. However, if a favourable environment is created for them, they can be treated and cured.

This aligns with my ambitions as I’m looking at their growth and development (from a holistic point of view) as my way towards the self contentment.

Which other organizations you have collaborated with to support your goals?

We are working with NIPCCD (National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development) in order to take care of the special needs of the children.

What methodology does Sparsh follow in achieving what it envisions and aims to?

Sparsh is consistently trying to impart quality education to the budding talents, combined with multifarious programs of child education, such as learning by doing, value education, nature study, know your country, etc. in addition to academics and co-curricular activities keeping in view the objective of men making and nation building. The process of learning is like an ever flowing river bedecked with the opportunity of applying new methods of teaching to cater to the needs of the changing times & the environment. Our primary aim is to make them culturally sound: being aware of the history and beauty of the land; and exposure to the real situations so as to have a clear perception. This is what, breathes through generations. Secondly, we ensure that discipline is maintained in all aspects to ensure quality learning, like the more you take care of the sapling, better it grows as a tree. Learning by seeing and doing is more effective than reading. Therefore, we celebrate each and every festival. These days adults go out for having a good time during the festivals due to which the authentic roots fall behind. We ensure that children know about the festivals, to promote secular feelings. We also conduct quarterly parents-teachers meetings. Wherein we discuss the developments of a child’s attitude and learning meticulously, and advise the parents to listen and spend some time with their children to make them feel important and secure.

Long back, I had started an art school at Sparsh branch, with a handful of children, but now we have 90. It runs under the guidance of a famous speed artist of Mercedes launch, and (Kings XI, Punjab) IPL Fame, Robin Bar. We also participate in different events to promote the talent.

Additionally, we also support under-privileged children. Every year on Children’s Day, we collect funds by selling, handicrafts; food, etc. prepared by parents and teachers, in a mela and donate it. Last year, we donated the funds to Shishu Kalyan Sadan, Jalukbari; Street Children School run by Rotary Club; and to an NGO namely, “HOPE”.

Tell us about the guiding team that has been serving as the backbone of the school.

Sparsh is privileged to have the team of three learned gentlemen as members of its Advisory Board. They are Prof Udayan Mishra, HOD, Department of English, Dibrugarh university (Retd), Mr Sawpon Dowerah, presently Rector, ICON Commerce college, Guwahati and Mr Tosheswar Saikia, Head of HR Functions, Indian Oil Corpn (Assam Oil Division) Digboi (Retd). Happy to mention, at no time the school is ever deprived of their mature guidance and advises in the matter of child education, School administration, problem solving and developmental aspects etc. For example, Sparsh had to recently undergo certain reorganization and this went off very smoothly mainly due to their astute leadership skills and wide experiences to steer through the process.

After all, Sparsh is basically an all women’s institution facing operational limitations at times. I have no hesitation to say, that the acceptability of Sparsh as one of the front ranking Institution for child education is largely due to the presence of the aforesaid three senior gentlemen amongst us.

How do you extend an arm towards women empowerment?

Except for three drivers and one accountant, entire teaching staff consists of women faculty only.  The reason behind this is that, we want to give the warmth of a mother through the teachings of a teacher, which any male wouldn’t be able to provide.

This is why there are more female teachers than males in the primary schools.

What are your plans expanding Sparsh?

Sparsh is going to complete ten years of its existence as a front runner in the field of formative child education and development during this year. The School celebrated its five years of excellence in 2013 with pomp and grandeur. Based on its achievement, Sparsh has launched its Primary section up to V, because we firmly believe that formative child education need to continue till class V uninterrupted to make the foundation stronger.

Meanwhile, we have been receiving feelers from interested parties about expansion either by ourselves or on a franchisee basis not only in Guwahati but elsewhere like Dibrugarh. The School’s Advisory Board is in favour of the plan in principle subject to excercising proper control mechanism to maintain the standard of education being pursued by Sparsh coupled with necessary resource mobilization as well as for spreading the concept of pre-school education combining with primary education up to class V.

We are moving in this direction.


Pen, Paper & Women

By Anurag Rudra

On the topmost shelf of my ramshackle bookshelf is an old, dog eared volume of Indian Poetry in English. Bought a few years back, the volume is edited by Eunice de Souza, one of our foremost women poets.

Like all cases of nomenclature, the term, I agree, is problematic. If Indian English Poetry wasn't mildly indecorous enough, at the cost of sounding risqué, we have to grapple with the added classification of Indian women poets writing poetry in English. Is she a woman or a poet first and what, pray, tell me is a woman poet? But consciously keeping aside the perils of being politically correct and semantically sound, this piece is a small peek into the fascinating idioms of the foremost Indian women poets writing poetry in English.

While Toru Dutt and of course, Sarojini Naidu stand out as the leading luminaries of a time, basking in the afterglow of the Bengal Renaissance, the buck was passed onto poets like Eunice Desouza who brought in a new sensibility to Indian English Literature, especially poetry. Their subtle, if not intricate understanding of their surroundings coupled with their poetic responses to their predicaments and realities lent a distinctive, credible touch to a new, emerging idiom.

Along with De Souza, if another poet has to be named who dominated this landscape as much with her verse as her persona, it has to be Kamala Das. Her lush, wild verse manifested itself with a subtle but powerful sensuality and an acute feminism, which carved for her the niche of an iconoclast. Indeed, Das' poems have garnered interest and considerable criticism greater than any of her peers and even her inheritors, if there are at all, any.

Fast forwarding to the post millennium scenario, we now have so many women poets who write with soaring confidence of their realities and expectations, who negotiate the fetters of patriarchy and the alienation of an increasing fragmented world through their verse. From the lyrical to the dexterously craft conscious, they have turned the tables on the white man's language and infused it with a shot of homegrown zeitgeist.

My selective probing of this issue, however, does not afford me the courage to leave out to poets whom I have read with glee and adoration: Anjum Hasan and Nabanita Kanungo. While Anjum has successfully transitioned from poetry to fiction, I still remember with great fondness her first volume of poems, borrowed from a friend's collection. I read it on the way back to my hostel room, sitting on the last seat of an empty bus on cold, Guwahati evening.

Nabanita's poetry, of course, is a different story altogether. Infused with the horrors of displacement that she has inherited, it is personal, confessional, negotiating between identities of womanhood and outsider and deeply, brutally, honest.

So what are the different issues at play here? Well, apart from the overwhelming reality of being a poet, there is the question of expression in a language that was alien, but one that has become our own. It is also a question of articulating realities and responding to them from the vantage point of being a woman, nay, a woman who writes, nay, a woman who writes in English.

However, the poets in question, like their counterparts in fiction and in general, the arts, have negotiated these issues with remarkable felicity and with finesse and subtlety. They have engendered a corpus of literature that is at once, varied and plural and on the other hand, deeply conscious of the historical forces at play, right into the present day.

It is perhaps their maturity and a detachment from rancour and verbose wastefulness that has lent to their poetry a refined (not cosmetic) yet rooted ethos.

And, while their muses may be men or even women, cats or even the self, it is worthwhile to sample and appreciate some of the incredible work at our disposal, including the ones by poets writing feverishly now.

As far as I am concerned, I am content to retire to that old volume and while it includes both male and female writers, the title of the volume could not have been more appropriate.

It is christened Other Half Of The Sky.



Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Part V)

Powers of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC)and the Local Complaints Committee (LCC)

For the purpose of making an inquiry the ICC or the LCC shall have the same powers that  are  vested in a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure 1908 when trying a suit in respect of the following:

i. Summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person and examining him on oath.

ii. Requiring the discovery and production of documents.

iii. Any other matter which may be prescribed.

Recommendations to the employer after Inquiry

If the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) or the Local Complaints Committee (LCC) arrives at the conclusion that the allegation against the Respondent has not been proved, it shall recommend to the employer or the District Officer that no action is required to be taken.

But if the ICC or the LCC arrive at the conclusion that the allegation against the respondent have been proved, it will recommend to the employer or the District Officer, any of the the following  actions to be taken against the Respondent.

I. To take action for sexual harassment as a misconduct in accordance with the provisions of the service rule applicable to the Respondent  and  if  no such service rules have been made or  are not applicable to the Respondent then the following actions shall be recommended to be taken.

i. A written apology

ii. Warning

iii. Reprimand or censure

iv. Withholding of promotions, pay rise or increments

v. Terminating the respondent from service

vi. Undergoing counselling session

vii. Carrying out community work.

II. To deduct from the salary or wages of the respondent such sum  of money to be paid to the aggrieved woman.

In case the employer is unable to make such deductions from the salary of the respondent due to his absence or cessation of employment, the ICC or the LCC may direct  the respondent to pay such sums to the aggrieved woman.

In case the respondent fails to pay the sum, the ICC or the LCC may forward the order for  recovery of the sum as an arrear of land revenue to the concerned District officer.

III. If the ICC or LCC arrives at a conclusion that the allegation against therespondent are malicious or the aggrieved woman or any other person making thecomplaint has made the complaint knowing it to be false or have produced any forged or misleading document, it may recommend to the employer or the District Officer to take action against the woman or the person who has made the complaint.

The employer or the District Officer shall have to act upon the recommendations within 60 days of its receipt by him.

Recommendations by the ICC or LCC to the employer during the pendency of an Inquiry

During the pendency of the inquiry of the ICC or LCC, on a written request by the aggrieved wom-an, the ICC or LCC can recommend the following to the employer:

i. Transfer the aggrieved woman or the respondent to any other workplace or

ii. Grant leave to the aggrieved woman upto a period of 3 months or

iii. Grant such other relief to the aggrieved woman as may be prescribed in the Act.

iv. The leave granted to the aggrieved woman  is in addition to the leave that she is other-wise entitled.

The employer shall implement the recommendations made by the ICC or the LCCand send the re-port of such implementation back to the ICC or the LCC.

Nikita Barooah,

 Advocate Gauhati High Court


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Always go with your passions. Never ask yourself if it?s realistic or not.
— Deepak Chopra
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