Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Meeting an amazing achiever at Somaiya Ayurvihar

A few days ago, I was at Somaiya Ayurvihar, with my daughter, who was there for a checkup.  Assisting Dr. Radha Verma were many of her resident doctors.  Among them was Zafar.
He grew up in Antop Hill in Mumbai, and grew up in difficult financial circumstances.  He was working since the age of 14, and used to carry TVs and other items people would need.
Now, he did his medicine at Sion and was now doing further work in surgery at our Medical College.
What a wonderful story of hard work and success.  I feel privileged that we have students like that with us, who I am sure will contribute to the making of our country.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Solar Concentrator at Nareshwadi

A few weeks ago, I visited our school in Nareshwadi (Dahanu), and saw the installation of the solar concentrator.  It was wonderful to see, sice after the installation, we are now saving 200 kg of firewood a day, and all the food for the hostel kids, the dal, the rice, and the vegetables get cooked through steam, from the heat generated by the concentrator.  A simple idea, suggested by Sandeep Shah of N A Shah Associated, and implemented by ATE (Anuj Bhagwati and Vishal Sardeshpande).  There are 500 students living in the hostel, and this is wonderful, that we can create an energy system that reduces our costs, conserves the environment, and comes together in a spirit of making the world a better place for all of us.  Thanks to all that made this happen.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

At the PAPSAC Conference at Harvard

I was invited by Professor Ray Goldberg, an 88 year old powerhouse, who wants people from Industry, Government, NGOs, and Academia, to create a better food system.

This is the second time that I have attended the meeting of PAPSAC, as it is called.

There was a wealth of discussion on making healthier food available to all in the world, in a safe and sustainable manner.  Members of PAPSAC spend 2 days discussing and pondering over these issues.

What struck me, is the amount of time and energy that US food system spends in making sure that the food is safe, and that there is no contamination.  Whereas, we here in India, routinely avoid eating certain kinds of food, since we are not aware as to whether we will suffer from the eating of the same. Or that we hear about contamination of food so often.

The Department of Nutrition at Harvard, publishes a super website, on what makes a nutritious meal.

And they do research on diets all over the world.  One study they did, was the comparison of the traditional Tamil vegetarian diet, and the negative effects of introducing 'fast' foods on the public health.

There was another initiative, wherein, doctors are now prescribing fruit and vegetables for certain ailments, as opposed to medicines.  The University and some NGOs, are actively requesting doctors and hospitals, to incorporate, what we call 'naturopathy', into their prescriptions.

And very interesting websites, on the global burden of disease.

Our institutions must also bring together teaching, research and active engagement to make our environment a better place.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Taking a Heritage Walk in Mumbai

Last Sunday, we took a heritage walk in Mumbai, along with my Harvard classmates who had come to visit India.  The walk was led by Sarthak, whose passion was heritage.

What a wonderful walk it was.  He took us through just a few hundred m walk around Kala Ghoda, and there was so much to learn.

On Gerald Aungier, who offered various business incentives, which attracted ParsisGoans, Jews, Dawoodi BohrasGujarati Banias from Surat and Diu, and Brahmins from Salsette.  They came to make Mumbai, the business capital that it still is.  On inviting one and all.

On the planning of the city.

About the open giving of Cawasji Jahangir.  So much so, that he was also called Mr. Ready Money. Always ready to give money to a worthy social cause.

Or the giving of David Sassoon, who came from Iraq, against the religious persecution of the Iraqi Pasha, and earned his wealth here, and built the Sassoon Docks, and also the training institution, which is now called the David Sassoon library.

Or the Rajabai tower, constructed by Roychand Premchand, so that his mother did not need to strain herself to see the time, when she had to take medicines.

Or, the building of Flora Fountain, the Elphinstone College, the Institute of Science, and the city itself.

Or the coming together of the people who built Art Deco buildings in Marine Drive, when the land was reclaimed.  They decided on a common visual language, for harmony, for the city.  Not trying to outdo one other for themselves, but for the city.

Everyone should do the walk, and to learn about the big heart that we once had.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Libraries, information, knowledge and all that

Last year, I attended the meeting of the Cornell Council, of which I was a member.  I attended the talk by the Head Librarian of the University, when she explained, that libraries were the gateway to knowledge, and opened a window of information, opportunity, and that the task of the librarian was to enable the search of the student and teacher, as they looked for knowledge.

Yesterday, I was so happy to see, that our IT team, has made it possible for students to use our library page, to look for information.  For books, ebooks, new, and journal articles.

And students across the campus will be able to borrow books from any Somaiya Vidyavihar library.

Now, for us to be able to create an environment to be able to take advantage of the same.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

On meeting two young girls near Churchgate station, and their dreams

Last week, I was at Churchgate, outside a restaurant, where I met a young 14 year old girl, who was selling some goods, as a hawker.  I asked her, whether she went to school.  She said she did, but she sold these toys to make a living.  I asked her, what she wanted to be, when she grew up, and she said that she wanted to be a doctor.

Yesterday, I was there again, and say a young girl selling flowers.  I asked her, if she knew the young girl, who wanted to be a doctor, who also sold toys there, and she repeated to me, that she was that very girl.

I got lost in the 'debate' that you are not the girl I met last week.  That was someone else.  After I left, I realised, that although she may not have been that girl, she was like her, in the sense that she also had dreams, and dreams of becoming a doctor, and all she was doing, was trying to persuade me, that she wanted a future too.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

On listening to Joseph Stiglitz on Inequality

Last week, I was in Vienna, attending the convention organised by the EPCA European Petrochemical Association.  They had invited the Nobel prize winning professor Joseph Stiglitz, to deliver the keynote.

It was a wonderful talk.  He spoke about inequality, and borrowing from the title of his own book, 'the price of inequality'.  He mentioned that inequality was increasing, and that it was not just the the rich were getting richer, but that the poor were also getting poorer.  Dr. Raghuram Rajan also referred to similar issues in the lecture that he gave on our campus, on the occasion of the Foundation Day.

This was interesting, since it went contrary to the theory that the rising tide lifts everyone.  He said, that one of the solutions was to try and see that everyone gets an opportunity to do well.

I feel very proud, that part of the mission of Somaiya Vidyavihar, Somaiya Ayurvihar, the Girivanvasi Pragati Mandal and the Girivanvasi Education Trust, is to provide that opportunity. Whether in health or in education, or in creating livelihoods.

Our help a child program ( really works to find those who have promise, and ensure that the world does not lose them.  Similarly, we are trying to provide opportunity to so many children in our rural schools.

In a presentation by 2 Cambridge University authors on education in rural India, they reflected that girls did very poorly.  In our schools, our girls do so well, in school, in academics, in sports.  No matter what background they come from or their financial poverty. They are rich in spirit and in the will to succeed.

Our privilege to be of service.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Lessons from Bill Gates talk in Mumbai

I heard Bill Gates in Mumbai last weekend.  It was connected to giving and philanthropy.  He made some interesting remarks from which there was much to learn.

1.  When asked about the use of his funds in perpetuity, he said that Melinda and he would like to spend the funds in their lifetime. They wanted to see that money being used for maximum benefit, for the causes they thought were important to serve.  In response to what about 'future funding', he said that he hoped that in the future too, there would be other donors that would set aside money for noble causes, and they were not the only donors.

2.  On how he would like to be remembered?  He said they wanted to cure those kinds of diseases, which after their cure, people would not remember that the disease even existed. So, how would you remember a person who funded the cure of a disease, if you forgot even about the disease.  Or sanitation, either you have toilets or you don't.  After you have them, the new generation does not remember what life was like without it.

3.  On what he would he behind for his family?  He said, he wanted his children's feeling of self worth come more from what they earned themselves, than from what he left them in inheritance.

Amazing thoughts.
Much to learn, and much to imbibe. 

महानगर - by राकेश कौशिक

On our Foundation Day, I quoted the first few lines from a poem written by Rakesh Kaushik, महानगर,

It is an interesting poem, that refers to the insensitivities that a city cultivates.  Where nobody is a friend.

I hope, that at Somaiya Vidyavihar, we build people, so that they are sensitive to one other, their community, their society, and ultimately, the whole world.

I referred to Sahir Ludhianvi's poem, जिन्हें नाज़ है हिन्द पे वो कहाँ हैं ।
and that, we will strive to build in our campus, those that feel for our country.  And that our founder, Shri K. J. Somaiya's favourite motto was:

न मानुषात् परो धर्म  - There is no religion greater than service to humanity.

Let us live up to those ideals.


Here is the poem.

तुम्हारे पास जो भी आता है।
उस पर
तुम्हारा ही रंग चढ़ जाता है।
तभी तो
जब एक मनुष्य
कूड़ेदान से लिपट कर
जूठन से अपना पेट भर रहा था,
पास से गुज़र रहे
मुझ पर
कोई प्रतिक्रिया नहीं हुई।
मैं भी
दूसरे हज़ारों राहगीरों की तरह
चलता रहा।
मेरी आँखों ने उसे देख कर भी
अनदेखा कर दिया।
मेरा दिल पत्थर का हो गया।
और थोड़ी देर बाद
उसी कूड़ेदान से
एक कुत्ता भी
अपना पेट भर रहा था।
तुम कितने महान हो।
तुम्हें कुत्ते और आदमी में
कोई फ़र्क नज़र नहीं आता।
दोनों की भूख
एक ही कूड़ेदान से मिटाते हो।
तुम कितने समदर्शी हो।
विशाल अट्टालिकाओं के साथ हैं,
एक तरफ़
पाँच तारा होटलों में
थिरकते कदम,
रंगीन शामें,
डिस्को, कैबरे,
पानी की तरह बहती शराब,
और दूसरी तरफ़
भूख़, गऱीबी,
फ़ुटपाथों पर पड़े लोग,
कालीघाट पर
ग्राहकों की राह तकता
रोटी के लिए बिकता शबाब।
ये कैसा नशा है तुम्हारे नाम में
कि आदमी
फ़ुटपाथ पर, झुग्गियों में,
मुरगी के दड़बों से घरों में रह कर भी,
गंदगी, प्रदूषण, भूख, ग़रीबी,
हर दु:ख सह कर भी,
तुम्हारे ही गुण गाता है।
तुम्हारी हवा में
ये कैसा ज़हर है,
जो आदमी को आदमी नहीं
एक मशीन बना देता है।
चेहरों पर
झूठी मुस्कानें चिपका देता है।
हमदर्दी, प्यार, अपनापन
शब्दों को अर्थहीन कर देता है।
तुम्हारी धरती पर
पाँव पड़ते ही
इंसान बदल जाता है।
तुम्हारे पास जो भी आता है।
उस पर
तुम्हारा ही रंग चढ़ जाता है।

The link to the same is here:

Thursday, 18 September 2014

On the visit of Raghuram Rajan to Somaiya Vidyavihar

It was wonderful to have Dr. Raghuram Rajan to commemorate the foundation day of Somaiya Vidyavihar.  He saw our student innovations and gave away the awards with the patience that they deserved.  

He spoke at length about growing inequalities, and the absence of any innovation of the type that occurred in the early 20th century.

He spoke on how the routine jobs are being 'automated' leading to loss of jobs and opportunity, and the non routine skilled jobs are being paid even more.  That is leading to greater and greater inequality.

In many ways, what we are trying to do, is to address these inequalities.  Our work at in providing scholarships to those students who are needy and promising, ensures that they have opportunity, that they would have otherwise not had.  

Similarly, we are trying to provide education in rural and urban communities.  Recently, in a meeting if our Sakarwadi school, our member Mr. Saudagar complained, that after we nurture students until the 10th, society loses them, because they have no bride to take them to college. 

With that inspiration, we have now decide to apply to te government to allow us to expand our offering until the 12th in these schools.

Similarly, in our K. J. Somaiya Vocational training institute, we have tried to attract students from the Pratikshanagar slum, where we also run a health centre in association with the Ramkrishna Mission.  Bhanupriya, was one such student from Pratikshanagar, who graduated from our program, and is now part of the skilled workforce in a company in Mumbai.

He also mentioned on how we need to do major innovations.  These should help transform productivity, and provide opportunity.  

I think innovations should be such to also provide solutions to the problems plaguing society.  Such as water, food security, health and livelihoods.  

At nareshwadi, we are trying to engage our Environmental Students under the guidance of Rajendra Singh (waterman of India) to help make more water available using traditional techniques.  And to work with other organizations to help in sanitation.  

We are trying to add to livelihoods by providing a jasmine growing Programme, and now planning to create a extraction plant and sell te same to international companies such as IFF.

Hope that we can make the world a bit easier for others.  As Sureshbhai had posted a poets words:

माना के इस ज़मीं को गुलज़ार न कर सके 
कुछ खार तो कम कर गये गुज़रे जिधर से हम

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Banking for those who are not served

Last month, when in Dahanu, we were celebrating the opening of our new school building, and the success of our Jasmine growing programmes in the villages of Divshi and Ghadchinchla.  This Jasmine programme started when our young hostel students, who wanted their mothers to stay at home instead of leaving to earn daily wages, asked Patricia Gokhale, if she could think of something. The Jasmine is what she started.  THe villagers harvest about 2 kg per day.  At about Rs. 100 per kg, each home is earning a supplementary income of Rs 200 per day.  And over 300 mothers stayed at home, with their families.

They have had little or no exposure to formal banking.  And the bank that they did go to, was a few km away.  

I spoke to Vishvaveer Ahuja, of Head of RBL bank, and we are delighted that he has brought doorstep banking to these villages.  The bankers go to the villagers, with handheld devices, and the bankin has started.

The neighboring villages are keen to know how this happened, and also desire to start banking

Saturday, 13 September 2014

On facilities, encouragement, and amazing results

A few days ago, I visited Sakarwadi, where one of our schools, Somaiya Vidya Mandir, and where many children come from very difficult backgrounds. This is where, we also started a sports programme a few years ago. There are about 500 students in the school from class 5-10. And, 60 students from the school are playing at the Pune Division level. In Badminton, Table Tennis and Hockey. Amazing, what a bit of facilities and encouragement can do!!! 10% of the school children having won in the Zilla, the district, and now at the Pune Division. Next step, the State level. And these kids are faring well academically too.

Foundation Day 2015

It was humbling to speak to all our faculty this past week.  We have over 1400 faculty, and I believe that over a thousand came together today, to celebrate our 55th birthday of Somaiya Vidyavihar.  It was the first time, that we had come together as all the faculty.  And to meet everyone together.

The idea came from Vijay Joshi, that why don't I address all the faculty together, and explain the vision of the Somaiya Trust, and what we are trying to do in the fields of education, health care, rural and tribal development, and the preservation of Indian culture.

There was so much energy in the room.  To see all of us together, in one room, in one place.

Thank you all for coming.  Thank you all, for being part of the Somaiya Family.  There is so much we want to do.  We cannot do it without you.  But with you, we can create the world we dream of.  

Saturday, 30 August 2014

On big learnings from small things

Just last Saturday, we were in Dahanu, at our school that we manage there.  There are about 700 children studying there, with about 450 in the student hostel.  Most of the children come from the Varli community.  What was great to see, that the some students were serving all the others.  They took turns in serving their friends.

I joined them for dinner.  

When food was placed in my plate, I asked Pooja, one of the students, whether she was going to start eating.  She mentioned, that only when all the students were served, and they said the prayer together, they would start.

That was so wonderful.  In our daily hurry, we sometimes forget these wonderful and simple habits, that inculcate a consideration for others, and a sense of community.

At the end of dinner, they cleaned their own plates.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Two of our School and Junior College Teachers spend 6 weeks doing world class research at Cornell

Two of our teachers, Beena Vazhapilly (K. J. Somaiya Junior College of Science and Commerce) and Vaishali Salunke 
(Shri Sharda English Medium School - Kopargaon) spent 6 weeks at Cornell University, learning about 
Science education, along with teachers from the USA, and working with Cornell Scientists doing some 
hands on, world class research.  They have just returned from Cornell, and have had life changing 
experiences.  I am hoping, that this experience will make them think deeply on how to transform our 
Science education, and also on how to encourage students to think 
of Science.

This visit was happened with the support and encouragement of Julie Nucci and Paulette Clancy, 
faculty at Cornell.  In February this past year, we had visits from Cornell researchers, and High School 
Science teachers from upstate New York.  We hope that we can continue this program next year as well.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

On unexpected results, and wonderful moments

This past week, when at Miraj railway station, I met Ibrahim Arabhavi, a traffic policeman who stopped me when I was walking to my train. He said that he had just won the silver medal in the triple jump a week ago (he meant to say a year ago, but in his excitement, he mentioned a week ago -, at the Torino World Masters over 35. When I further asked why he mentioned this to me, he said that he often came to Mumbai to practice at the Somaiya Vidyavihar track, to better prepare for his participation. It is amazing how the availability of facilities can make a difference in the lives of so many, who may be living so far away.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Our School and Junior Faculty will spend 6 weeks at Cornell University!!

Two of our faculty, Vaishali Salunkhe (Sharda School in Kopargaon - and Beena Vazhapalli (K. J. Somaiya Junior College of Science and Commerce -, have just reached Cornell University, to spend 6 weeks there, part of a US NSF Funded Cornell “Grass Roots” GK12 summer program at Cornell, where they will have the opportunity to engage in original research on bio-energy related projects, to listen to daily energy-related seminars and will be encouraged to share their teaching experiences with the Cornell PhD students in the program.

We had invited graduate students from Cornell, and K12 teachers from upstate New York, to spend time with us. In return, they have invited 2 teachers from our institution to spend time at Cornell.

We have chosen one teacher from our Junior College in Mumbai, and the other from the School we run in Kopargaon. We are really excited that they will learn in such an enriching environment. We are thankful to Program Director Julie Nucci, and Professor Paulette Clancy from Chemical Engineering, to invite our teachers.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

On Giving, and Giving Quietly

Last week, a Well Wisher visited the K. J. Somaiya Medical hospital, and donated a dialysis machine. On seeing the service provided, he volunteered to provide another 5-6 machines so that the service to the poor could be expanded. He did not want to be named.

This adds in capital, to the operating assistance we get from another donor, who is also very quiet giver, who subsidizes the cost of dialysis to the poor. As a result, we are currently able to provide dialysis care to those who cannot afford it, at under Rs. 400 per treatment. What wonderful examples of giving.

I think, that we should celebrate such examples, since the world needs more role models of those who give, rather than those who simply 'make'.

As the Dalai Lama said last week, that our education teaches us today, to spend more time following that which is limited (material goods), instead of also spending time in cultivating that which is unlimited (the power of the mind). We need to make, but also, from what we make, to give back to society.

There is a beautiful saying in Sanskrit:

शतहस्त समाहर सहस्त्रहस्त संकिर

Earn with a hundred hands, but give with a thousand.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Incubating ideas and the Fablabs in Barcelona

Proud to say, that the Somaiya Vidyavihar entry, 'Ecomappers', through our incubator RIIDL, has been chosen as one of the winners at the Global Fab awards. Congratulations to them. They will be going to Barcelona next week. See more about the competition at

Gaurang Shetty and Dhiraj Gehlot will be going to Barcelona to participate in this. THe whole idea is, how do we create an environment, in which teaching, the classroom, the world around us, seamlessly come together, so that we can Research, Innovate, Incubate, and Design (RIIDL) a better world for all of us.

Friday, 27 June 2014

On meeting Yogita (student of Somaiya Vidya Mandir, Sakarwadi) and her husband

Met Yogita, a student who passed out from the 10th standard, from our school, Somaiya Vidya Mandir, at Sakarwadi.  This school is located in rural Maharashtra, and much of the community that comes to study here, are quite poor.

She stood first in the school.

She was married early, but still went on to pursue her diploma, and now wants to do engineering.  I asked her, what she would like to do next, and she mentioned that she would like to join the civil service.  Amazing.

And her husband, a polite and small farmer, was there, behind her.  Supporting her.

Too often, we here stories about people being obstacles.  Here was a quiet man, fully supporting and standing behind the dreams of his wife.

Monday, 16 June 2014

On Dr. Mrs. K. Shankarnarayan

I have just returned from Bangalore, where I went this morning,hoping to see Dr. Mrs. K. Shankarnarayan, our Founder Director of Buddhist Studies, before she 'left'.  But she had passed away already, in the morning.

I have known her since the K. J. Somaiya Centre for Buddhist Studies was founded.  It was the same year I joined my father in the family business (1993).  In the past few years, after my father's passing, I had worked with her more closely.

In the past few weeks, there was a particular occurrence that I would like to share.   I mentioned to her, that we would run a competition for a new building for the Centre for Buddhist Studies, and that we would ask His Holiness to lay the foundation stone when he came to campus.  She came back to me, and said, that it would be better to have a building that would house all the three centres, Bharatiya Sanskriti Peetham (Hindu Studies), the Jain Centre, and the Buddhist Centre, along with the centre for Interfaith Dialogue.  She did not have to volunteer to add these centres in this new building, the new building, as I had suggested was for her centre to keep.  But she generously suggested, that the building house all our centres of spiritual learning, and that learning spaces would be better used, if shared.

What a wonderful memory, and what an example.

His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, laid the foundation for the new building 'Sanskriti', when he visited us earlier this month.  

Saturday, 7 June 2014

His Holiness at Somaiya Vidyavihar - Post 1

It was amazing to have His Holiness The Dalai Lama on our campus for 4 days and 5 nights.  

The was he connected with all of us was superb, and even more so, was the way he connected with students.  The questions they asked, and also the questions we all asked, reinforced my feeling, that our education system, weak as it is is, only focuses on the vocational and skill aspect of eduction.  And it does little to address the emotional or psychological aspects of learning.

Students, and indeed all of us, are in need of guidance and teaching.  His emphasis on compassion, and the cultivation of patience, was particularly motivating.  He mentioned that the cultivation of patience and the elimination of anger, are things that have to be worked on.  Continuously.  

His emphasis, that we must separate the actor from the action, that we must view the actor with compassion, but if his action is wrong, then the action deserves a counter.  But never to develop an ill will towards the actor.

Lessons similar in many religions, but he connected and communicated beautifully.  He asked us to investigate everything, then experiment, and then, only then if it makes sense, to accept.  And that our beliefs in the concept of a creator, or Brahman, or no creator (or anatman), were our personal business.

Thank you for your guidance.  This was his third visit to Somaiya Vidyavihar.  We hope he comes again soon.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Rotary helps us start a new and modern blood bank

Yesterday, we inaugurated a new and modern blood bank at the K. J. Somaiya Hospital, Somaiya Ayurvihar.  The Rotary Club of Mumbai Queen's Necklace gave us all the financial assistance to buy the equipment necessary.  We are grateful to Sanjiv Mehta the President of the club, the Om Kher Charitable Trust, other members of the same club and other Rotary clubs or their support.

We hope that this facility will be a much needed service to the people of the city and beyond.  In keeping with our tradition, the service will be available to those who cannot afford at very reasonable costs.  

I was reminded of my grandfather, who had said, that if the work is worth doing, then go ahead and do it, the means will follow.  Even then, it is difficult to take that leap of faith.  When Sanjiv Mehta came forward, and said that his club would lend full support, I remembered my grandfather's promise.  If you find purpose, means do follow.  

Sanjiv Mehta echoed the same thoughts in his speech, when he mentioned that similarly,his members came forward to lend support to him, as he built on the vision of his past Presidents.  

Lata Subraidu, the District Governor also spoke beautifully.  

Sendurai Mani, Co Director of the Metastasis Research Centre of M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas Spoke on the public health causes of cancer, and what measures we could take to prevent the same.  

Sanjiv Mehta was the first blood donor.  Followed by Anita Shantaram, and later by Sendurai Mani.  What a way to inaugurate the blood bank.

Dr. Niyogi, our Dean of the medical college echoed the service mission of Ye institution. My grandfather always quoted न मानुषात् परो धर्म  - no religion other than service to mankind.

Thank you all.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

On lifelong learning

Started the Somaiya Centre for Lifelong Learning a couple of months ago.  Supriya Rai really helping wonderfully, and shouldering the responsibility to get it going and keep it running.

Ten years ago, when in Cambridge MA, I had a chance to take courses at the Cambridge Centre for Adult Education (Ten years ago, when in Cambridge MA, I had a chance to take courses at the Cambridge Centre for Adult Education (, where so many interesting courses were taught.  And in the same manner as Amrita and I started Kitabkhana (after seeing wonderful bookstores all over the world),  We have now started the Somaiya Centre for Lifelong Learning.

In the past few weeks, we have started a course on Yoga, Tai Chi, Spoken Sanskrit, the Upanishads, A study trip to Patan and Modhera, Sailing, Photography, Spanish Literature, and much more.  In fact, Justice SriKrishna delivered the last lecture on the course on the Upanishads.  What a treat, and what an honour. 

I am myself taking a course in spoken Sanskrit.  My sister and nephew are also taking the course.  Professor Pendse is wonderful.  Really enjoying the course.  I hope I can speak Sanskrit fluently some day.  What a language!!

The Somaiya Centre for Lifelong Learning is located on the second floor of Somaiya Bhavan, Fort, Mumbai.  Above Kitabkhana.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Dean Soumitra Dutta, Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University visited Somaiya Vidyavihar earlier this week

Although he was in Mumbai for only a few hours, Dean Dutta made it to the Somaiya Vidyavihar campus, and spoke to the students and faculty of the K. J. Somaiya institute of Management Studies and Research.  

He described how Cornell is spearheading the creation of CornellTech, in New York City.  Mayor Bloomberg invited Universities to put forward their idea for winning a 10 acre parcel of land, on which to create a hub for education, innovation and entrepreneurship. Msp as to create a Silicon Valley type of environment in New York City.

If only our leadership would encourage us, or only help create an enabling environment where we could accomplish so much more.

He mentioned that Cornell University has created one program, where the School of Management, Engineering, and Computer Science will have one admissions, one Programme, common faculty, and one administration, to create a degree without 'boundaries'.  He mentioned that their faculty will not sit in traditional cabins, but in open offices, and will also be required to teach in local schools.  He further mentioned, that entrepreneurship as a subject is being elevated to the same status as traditional feldspar such as marketing, finance, etc. 

When he was asked, what distinguished a USA MBA Programme from an Indian one, he mentioned that Indian programmes had younger students. And almost very little international students and/or faculty.  He added, that to have more meaningful interactions in class, and to get a greater sense on the global world we live in, we should also have class composition that is older, and more international.

In the future, he felt that MOOCs would threaten lower quality programs.  He felt that good education would have to be high quality, and delivered at a big scale. 

It was great to have his perspective.  He really liked our campus, and promised to come back and spend more time.  

Saturday, 29 March 2014

EdX offering a course in Hindi

Wonderful to see that EdX is offering a course in Hindi.

I have often maintained that, education must be available to all.  And that English should be an enabler, and not a barrier.  And that the teaching of many subjects, can be independent of language.

I see too many students studying in our Marathi, Kannada or Gujarati medium schools, learning their subjects superbly, and being able to articulate the same.  The move towards 'semi english', especially in rural areas, for the teaching of science etc, actually harms the students in the manner that, they can then not explain well in any language.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

His Holiness The Dalai Lama will be teaching at Somaiya Vidyavihar

His Holiness the Dalai Lama will be spending 4 days with us at Somaiya Vidyavihar from 30 May till the 2 of June, this year.  He will be lecturing on 'Living, loving, laughing and dying - the Buddhist Way'.  We are organizing his teaching along with Nalanda Shiksha.

This is his third time on our campus.  He had inaugurated our K. J. Somaiya Centre of Buddhist Studies.  We are privileged that he will spend time with us, and teach us, guide us, and simply be there with us.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

On our school in Sakarwadi

These are pictures of our Somaiya Vidya Mandir school in rural Maharashtra (one of four that we run in rural Maharashtra).  Where school children come from predominantly Dalit backgrounds.  When I was there earlier this month, I met Ashok Rohamare, who mentioned that his college always wanted students from our school, since the students were good in academics, sports and music.  That they were well rounded, and talented.  Our students have excelled in sports, and have participated at the state level in Badminton and Table Tennis.

All we have done, is create good facilities, and we have very good staff.  Recently, the local Government sports officer, who had herself made it to the Indian national hockey team from difficult circumstances, said that she would herself help coach our students after she saw our facilities, and the students' drive and motivation.  It is so wonderful that we are getting this support and encouragement.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

On the inauguration of the Somaiya Ayurvihar - Asian Institute of Oncology

न त्वहम् कामये राज्यं न स्वर्गं ना पुनर्भवम् 
कामये दुखतप्तानाम् प्राणिनामार्तिनाशनम् ।

This was the thought that Shri K. J. Somaiya, our founder, my grandfather, had when he founded Somaiya Ayurvihar.  The shloka says that he longed not for kingdom, and not for heaven.  Instead, what he desired was to keep being reborn, to alleviate the sufferings of all living beings.

And it was on this basis, that the K. J. Somaiya Medical College, the K. J. Somaiya Hospital, the K. J. Somaiya Nursing College, K. J. Somaiya College of Physiotherapy were started.  The aim and dream, was to create an institution of service, of research, and of medical and health education.

Cancer is a disease that is affecting many among us.  Many of us know of cancer having affected someone in our friends and family.  The causes of cancer, the treatments, are being studied and addressed globally.  My father, Dr. S. K. Somaiya, dreamt of creating a health city, an Ayurvihar as my grandfather had termed it, here in Mumbai.  

The Somaiya Ayurvihar - Asian Institute of Oncology was formally inaugurated yesterday by Hon. Home Minister of India, Shri Sushil Kumar Shinde.  He spoke of our long association with, his earlier visit to the campus, his journey as a cancer patient, his subsequent and complete cure, and his life spent in service.  He gave a very moving and personal inaugural address.  

This Centre is an important step and collaboration, in the fulfilment of my father's dream.  The doctors of The Asian Institute of Oncology are acknowledged to be among the best Doctors in their field.  They are also known to be wonderful human beings.  A wonderful combination of commitment and competence.  Our collaboration helps further create a new synergy, through which Mumbai will get a brand new new cancer hospital.

This centre aims to be a world class centre for the treatment of cancer in Mumbai, and also In India.  In the future, we will create an independent building, solely devoted to the treatment of cancer.  We will aim to create a center that sets a new standard to service and care.  Through this collaboration, our students will get an exposure to the best interventions in cancer care.  We also hope, that many patients, who do not get appropriate care, for lack of access to services or lack of resources, get the care as dreamt of by our founder.  

Thursday, 20 March 2014

On Gandhi

I was reading the chapter on 'spiritual serendipity' in Arvind Sharma's book on Gandhi - A Spiritual Biography, and was curious to see Gandhi's quote: "It is my faith, based on experience, that if one's heart is pure, calamity brings in its train men and measures to fight it."

My grandfather was deeply influenced by Mahatma Gandhi.  And he used to always say, that if the work is worth doing, उचित, good for society, समाज के हित में, then proceed, even in the face of adversity and seemingly insurmountable odds.  And you would be then helped in the same manner as Gandhi describes.

He said that was the leap of faith that was required.  

I saw this at work, when I worked with him.  

Monday, 3 March 2014

Somaiya Vinay Mandir Alumni and the morning prayer

Vinay Mandir will celebrate 50 years in 2015.  I met many alumni last Saturday, to discuss how we ought to celebrate the year.  In the discussion, one thing they mentioned, was that they all remembered the morning prayer that they participated in (however grudgingly).  They said, that in times of difficulty, it was this habit that helped them through.

They said, that when they returned to visit campus, they remembered to visit the Badminton hall that was used for the prayer.  And since this discussion emerged when I mentioned that we were going to renovate the Badminton hall, they said that the sense of prayer and quiet that they felt when they entered the space, should be protected and celebrated.

What memories?  I wonder whether we can restart the tradition.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Happy birthday Kitabkhana

Today is महाशिवरात्री.  3 years ago on the 2nd of March (my mother's birthday) which was also महाशिवरात्री, we inaugurated Kitabkhana (

Happy birthday to किताबखाना  today and again on the 2nd of March.  Amrita and I thank everyone for their support and encouragement.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Immersion learning

Learning in the field.

This past month, more than 20 of our students, from Masters in Environmental Science and our Polytechnic visited rural Karnataka, to better understand the issues related to sustainable farming.  And sustainability that is financial and environmental.  And also social.  

The students learned to understand, that there is not always a right answer, and that much depends on the farmer's circumstance, the state of the soil, the crop, and the amount to energy the farmer can or desires to put in.

The students also learned, that they need to engineer, or build biogas plants that are easy to construct and operate.  And they will build such facilities for the farmers, as part of their final year projects.

They all want to go back.  

Great learning all around.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Starting a new Centre in Kutch

We are now going to start a new program working with Indian art and artisans.  There is such a beautiful sensitivity of colour, design, fabric, weave, all over the country.  We will be doing this in Kutch an start with Kutchi art and artisans.  Later, we will expand this to cover other regions.  

Judy Frater, who has spent a few decades doing this with Kala Raksha, will be the Founder Director of this institution. 

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Football at Somaiya Vidyavihar

Our team from Somaiya Vidyavihar defeated Bombay Gymkhana 2-0 to take first place in the F group of the 2 division of Mumbai District Football league.  Congratulations to the team, and the coach.  It is also amazing, that within 4 years of building a nice football ground, our team has started doing so well.  As a country, we need good infrastructure, and great teaching, and freedom.  Then - the sky is the limit.!!!!!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Nipun Mehta and servicespace

Heard Nipun Mehta of speak on cultivating a habit of generosity at the Indian Merchants Chamber, earlier this February, at a lecture organized by Pradeepbhai Shah in the honour of Amita Momaya.  

Nipun asked a simple question, whether any of us had ever been offered food by someone who had to borrow it, to make that offer of hospitality? And if so, what effect did that have on us?

I had been offered food, bananas in rural Karnataka, by a family, and they had borrowed them to provide me that hospitality.  अतिथि देवो भव 

I was shocked, that someone who had little, had in fact, a lot more than what I had.  So much more to give....

We started soon after that.

And that is still nothing, since we give only a small part of what we have, whereas they borrowed to give..