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21st December 2012: Remains of the day (the Mayans got it wrong)

Posted by on December 22, 2012
AR Rahman and Nita Ambani

AR Rahman and Nita Ambani

December 21st, 2012: So how did you celebrate the supposed last day of the world? I celebrated mine listening to a resplendent Nita Ambani talk, watching mellifluous AR Rahman sing and wonderful little children act out the history of India.

Today, Dhirubhai Ambani International School, the brainchild of Mrs. Nita Ambani and Mumbai’s premier educational institution, celebrated its 10 Anniversary. You might wonder, why at all, I feel the need to blog about a school celebrating its 10th Anniversary. I do that, because, this school is proof that when one dreams a dream that stretches beyond one’s personal gains, fame or fortune to include value creation for future generations, then it is time to acknowledge when that dream turns into reality.

Mrs. Ambani, who is a qualified teacher herself, says she always dreamt of giving the city of Mumbai a quality school that would pursue holistic education and set standards across the sub continent. The last ten years have already seen DAIS give world toppers in various subjects as also their entry into Ivy League universities.

Today the school celebrated 10 years of striving for excellence, 10 years of raising forward-looking kids in an environment that consistently exposed them to the rich Indian culture and strived to instill Indian values. Many of us who were educated in Convents, know just how insular we were from Indian culture. During our annual days, there was a token song or dance that threw in bits about India, if at all. I cannot speak for others, but some of my peers and I grew up to believe that all things Indian were ‘uncool’. This obviously did not go down too well with my military father who was and is a proud Indian. His insistence that I be acquainted thoroughly with Indian history, that existed outside of textbooks, came in the form of a not-so-subtle recommendation called ‘Discovery of India’ when I was barely 12. That book, without any great pictures, and fine print became my worst enemy in the house as my father insisted I read it every weekend. I wanted to read Archie comics and Asterix, Nancy Drew and Little Women over the weekends and not labour over this dreary tome.

You can fool most people some of the time and some people most of the time but you cannot fool someone who has made soldiers out of ordinary men. And so it was, that one day, he called my bluff and put me on jankers. My punishment was that I would have to sit and hear him read one chapter of Discovery of India, every weekend, for an infinite number of weekends.

I pictured myself on my wedding day where my father would be reading out the last chapter of DOI to me just before I took my final wedding vows around the agni (fire). My weekends began to appear dismal and all the stories of Bahadur Shah Zafar and Aurangzeb seemed like an endless austerity to me. One day, I would look back at those days, as a heartwarming memory, of parent child bonding in the backdrop of ancient and modern history. But I did not know this then.

Today, as the school took us through the history of India via a spectacular show that met Broadway standards, I revisited those weekends spent with my erudite dad, soaking in history. Arjun, Krishna, Chandragupta Maurya, Chanakya, Ashoka, Aurangzeb, Shivaji, General Dwyer, Bhagat Singh, Mahatama Gandhi, Dr Ambedkar…all made an appearance to a brilliant narration and much visual extravaganza. The story was simple: the world took advantage of us and divided us, but leaders with a vision and a lot of selfless love for the nation staked their lives to put us together as one unified India. Today our country is again under siege, but from the enemy within. Scams, rapes, murders, corruption….there is bad news all around. In a way, we have lost our independence yet again although not to the East India Company. We have lost our independence to a bunch of avaricious, self-serving Indians themselves. I must apologise for my rather lengthy digression for the point I was trying to make was about the significance of a school that is firmly rooted in Indian culture and values and a school that isn’t a mere ‘profitable project’ but a joyful place that inspires our children.

The piece de resistance of the evening was the unveiling of AR Rahman’s first solo single in over 15 years to exemplify how love can dissolve boundaries and bring people together. The singer-composer has joined hands with Nita Ambani, chairperson of the Reliance foundation, to promote his message of love. As the tunes of this hypnotic song Infinite Love, filled the arena in the dark of the night we were treated to images of hope and love of global brotherhood.

The finale of the evening saw 1200 children come on stage, a fine way of acknowledging each child’s contribution to DAIS.

As we drove back home, I wondered if I could slip in a gift-wrapped copy of Discovery of India under my Christmas tree for my nine-year-old.



One Response to 21st December 2012: Remains of the day (the Mayans got it wrong)

  1. Penny Kontakos

    I fully understand the bonding between father and daughter as I had a similar experience with my own dad who though he had fought in WWII for our Greece and even saved British solders in a German prison near our village and arranged a submarine to take them back to their homeland knowing full well he was endangering our own people. Also, just when he thought the war ended when Germany lost suddenly he was given a tommy gun to fight against our own people in the civil war between nationals and communists, behind them were the Americans and the Russians goading them on for power and what a heavy price we paid, his own young brother got killed in the north of Greece. But this did not stop him from teaching me to be proud to be Greek and like your dad he kept narrating me tales of how once the Greeks had travelled the world and left a mark in those foreign lands, and taught me the beauty of music and legends from there and said that even one of our people had brought an Egyptian bride many years ago. He taught me to love romance and adventure but still be proud to be a Greek. He would sing me songs of old but later as I grew up realised how close they sounded to the Indian tune. Because of him, he taught me to teach my kids to enjoy music and films not just from English and Greek but other cultures. He like many Greeks in diaspora made sure us kids attended evening Greek school after the day English school which was not just learning to read and write but to learn our history, our traditions, our dancing, songs and culture which is still carried on to even to the fourth generations abroad.

    When I came to Manchester I had awakened by the sounds in the Asian quarter which brought me the past of when my parents took me to the Greek cinema to watch Hindi films and listen to old Greek records which I later found they had been taken from Hindi films. Oh how I wished then my dad was alive as I know he would have been just as excited as me and knew there was more to it than what the history books do not write neither in India nor in Greece about how Hercules had gone to India in one of his many adventures and was known by his devotees there as Lord Krishna and even before him thousands of years ago our God Dionysus who we still celebrate the wine festival in his honour (we Greeks are such a funny lot as we are Christians but still keep some of our pagan traditions alive) was known as Lord Shiva or King Lord Indra (this is mention by our ancient historian Megasthenes). Even though my father only finished primary school he continued to read ancient work by our historians who not only travelled around Asia but also were born in foreign lands of Asia as we had civilisations in many parts once known as Mesopotamia and Asia Minor. It is a great teacher and a great parent who can induce into the child this love of where their roots are from and how deep they are so in their turn they can endeavour to become not only wise but proud of their ancestors who fought and kept their traditions and language alive whilst other civilisations like the Maya have disappeared with only some remnants left to remind us how easy it is for a great civilisation that had riches and science to crumble to dust.

    Alas, my only sorrow is that Greece is not ruled by our people today but our parliament is invaded by foreign powers in the form of three which we call the ‘Troika’ which are comprised of three groups who are the European Commission (EC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the European Central Bank (ECB) who have bought off our politicians which reminds me when I was doing Indian history in high school of the British East India Company did once to the Indian princes before Indian Independence, and these foreign powers (mainly bankers) are controlling our politicians like puppets on a string who managed to get us into debt over our heads and am glad I am far away so I don’t know what heavy prices my country is paying every day to them.

    So many theories about ancient civilisations of India and Greece are mentioned but no one will really know the truth as I know from day we are born we are philosophers which is not taught but ingrained in us from generation to generation, and this is what bonds the Indian with the Greek as we both love the arts and philosophy of life.

    Bless you and your family dear

    Penny Auntie

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