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.