Wednesday, November 02, 2011


I know that I am extremely sensitive person and when I get upset, whatever, the reason might be, I just can't concentrate on anything and am totally disturbed. Any sort of excitement which I might come across is short lived as there is a cognitive dissonance and I tend to realize that I am not happy and I cannot enjoy that moment because of something which happened in the past.

This took a toll on my immune system. Last year, when I was going through such a phase, I had a terrible cold which lasted for more than 3 weeks, my voice was hoarse, I coughed a lot and was very weak. I just couldn't take it anymore. Trying to introspect as to what went wrong with my health, I cogitated over ways I could strengthen my immune system. I kept thinking about my patterns of illness and stress and realized that they both were related. Every time I get stressed, I fall sick and the illness lasts longer debilitating me.

I still remember the day in fall, last year, how sick I was. The school had just started and I was having an extremely difficult student to deal with. Every day I would go home thinking of what else I could do to help the student and myself, as that was the only way I would feel better. But, it did not feel right that I was blaming myself for everything. I asked myself " Why am I sad?" I immediately got the answer. However, I knew I had to find a solution to the problem. So the next question I asked myself was "What will make me happy?". Thinking about the latter helped me immensely. Gosh! I felt great when I thought of all the things which could make me happy. Those thoughts motivated me to think of possible solutions for my stressful situation.

Asmall shift in my thoughts and restructuring helped me cope up with my situation. I use that strategy every now and then when I feel low.

Most of the times we are wandering in search of answers, relief from problems and some solace from external sources. Hardly do we realize that each of us have the intrinsic power to achieve what we want.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Need for self-realization

So do they still have caste system in India?
Why do they have that in India?
Which caste do you belong to?
Yes, I like India you know? Buddhism was founded there. I am a follower of the teachings of Buddha. I know a lot about India.. The caste system too.

These are some comments I get when I mention about my country. Everyone who is aware of India will be aware of caste system in India. Another interesting thing is that though Americans are not aware of the number of Indians in their country, they do know about caste system. They might not even locate where India is on the map but would be able to talk about caste system. This is not just the case of the students but also the teachers. They have half-baked knowledge about this system but talk about it very confidently. I was getting tired of explaining them that caste system was not present in the ancient ages. But it was a creation of the middle ages wherein the divisions created as per the knowledge or skill of a person were supposed to help the society. The ones having extensive knowledge were revered and had the task of creating great literature. The ones who were strong and aggressive were given the responsibility of guarding the country/territories. The one who were shrewd were trading and opening businesses. The ones who were did not have nay of the above were there to provide services to the people by doing menial jobs and manual labor. However, these divisions were based on the individual skills of a person but later were passed to the progeny. No one ever mentions that when they talk about caste system in India. Many of them still think that this country is full of snake charmers and bullock carts.

Any ways, I am not writing this to criticize the western media but to reprimand our fellow Indians. I had never in my life experienced and discrimination with regard to my caste/creed/religion. We never decided friends based on their caste /creed/religion. I went to a convent school wherein I used to frequent the church in our campus during the exam times. We as a family used to visit the thombs of some great muslim saints and have a cook out there. Never did we think about segregating ourselves. I never understood why the western media was always writing about the negative aspects of our culture more often. It didn’t make me feel good.

Any ways, during my previous visit to India, I decided to spend some time at my in-laws place. I was astonished as to how prominent role a person’s caste and religion plays in his/her daily life. It was crazy. People liked to mingle with people of the same caste. Even winning elections was a challenge for the ones belonging to the lower castes. You are supposed to befriend a person of your caste and also marry someone from the same caste. It was very bad. I was depressed about the situation.

So who was right? Me trying to defend my culture and my roots or the western media who only potrays the negatives of a culture?
Well, I do not know the answer for this but I for sure know this:
We Indians need to stop this discrimination against our own brothers and sisters. Why do we do this to our fellow countrymen?
Why do you think Indians are more prosperous in other countries than in their own country ? Why can’t we apply our secular attitude towards people of different castes? Why are we so competitive against our own brothers and sisters?
Why do we like to segregate ourselves and destroy our country?
Why are we not progressing when we have great brains, a very ancient civilization with great treasures, a huge manpower, a democracy with all the powers vested in all the individuals?

Open up your eyes.

Why? Why? Why?

I don’t understand it. Whenever I hear the song “Vandemataram” (any version), I burst into tears. This August, I was in Ongole, attending the Independence Day parade. I was seated just beside my mother-in-law very much in the VIPs’ isle to witness the national celebration. It was a hot day and I needed my shades. The parade kept going on and there was a running commentary going on in my mind some times criticizing the programs and some times appreciating them. However, every time they played the “Vande mataram” song I was unable to hold it together. I just burst into tears. It was good that I had my shades and no one noticed it. But I had to try hard to stop myself.
While there was a presentation by some group, I started analyzing myself:
What is wrong with me? Why am I crying? Is it because I feel so strong about my motherland or is that the song is so emotional that it can make anyone cry? Well, I don’t see anyone crying? Then why am I doing it?

It was tough situation. I was close to the performers. To top it all, my mother-in-law was sitting beside me. Gosh! I did not want her to notice that. I don’t want her to feel sorry for asking me to accompany her in the celebrations. I didn’t want photographers to click me and make a big deal out of it. You know the paparazzi? Aren’t they crazy some times? Hmm.. What should I do now?
I kept thinking and then an idea struck me. Of course I can do that! I have been having a running commentary of the whole program in my mind trying to criticize/appreciate the different shows. I decided to put in my entire mind on that rather than the song.

I made up my mind and waited to see how my strategy worked. There were these group of kids who sat in the sun for almost 2 hours listening to the never ending speech of the minister and lined up to perform. They might have practiced the steps for days in advance but they barely had 8 minutes to perform. Wow! There you go. Now I can debate on this when they play “Vande mataram” I will be so obsessed with the argument in my mind that I will not have time to cry. Great! I was happy. So I kept working thinking about it till the next group came to present theirs. The dance and the performance of the kids was so good that my mind stopped arguing and got into an intense observation mode. Seems like the organizers did not mind the performance stretching beyond their allotted time. And, as part of the choreography and the steps, they at last played the “Vandemataram” song.
Ohhhh! I couldn’t stop it. My eyes were filled with tears. Now I had to stop them from crossing their boundaries. I immediately started batting my eyelids to dry them up and thinking about the previous performance. The group finished their play. Great! “Good” I told myself. However I was not happy that I could not be myself. I was also not happy that I started acting the way I used to act when I was 6 or 7 years old. I could not see the actors on the screen in sorrow or despair and I would burst out crying like I was the victim.

I remember how I cried and cried and cried when Kamal Hassan was whipped by his uncle in the film Swathimuthyam. My cousin continued to tease me till I was 22 or so. Well, if you remind him of that movie now, I am sure he will start chuckling again. Any ways, so I was now determined to control my emotions and let go off the sentimental feeling towards the song. As the groups kept performing, I tried to engage in their dances or their steps or kept running a commentary in my mind. Most of the times I didn’t have to do that, as they did not play the song. BUT they did play it at least 5 to 6 times. I was able to control myself whenever I diverted my attention to the other things. I was happy. The show was almost coming to an end when a huge group of students came forward to perform on different patriotic songs from the bollywood movies. It was a feast to watch those kids perform in the scorching heat. They were looking so cute dressed up in different costumes. They played some of the old songs and the new patriotic songs. The students moved to those tunes and acted accordingly. It was a feast to the eyes and my mind. It was soo good! Oh no! I couldn’t hold it. I again burst into tears. My tears rolled down the cheeks. I wiped them out and tried hard but couldn’t hold it. Well, I wanted to make sure no one was looking at me. Surprisingly everyone was so involved in the show that they did not notice me. I was able to cry for a few more minutes and wipe my cheeks off the tears.

GOSH! This time I cried when they played other songs. Why am I so emotional towards patriotic songs? Is it a manifestation my patriotism or the nature of these songs on the emotions of a person? I know I love my country but why should I cry? I kept debating about it my mind again. Pretty soon I forgot everything and got back into my routing.

Today while browsing through some of the blogs, I came through the “Vandemataram” song again played using different musical instruments and sung by eminent artists from India. And of course! it was composed by A. R Rehman. While watching the video, the picture suddenly blurred. I knew there was nothing wrong with the screen but my eyes were full again. Tears rolled. I let myself watch it without any inhibitions. I cried and cried and cried.
After calming down, I still don’t understand why I was crying?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Teaching is an art, which can be mastered with time. You need a combination of knowledge, patience, and the experience to be a good teacher. In my seven years of teaching, I learnt the secret of teaching. I am sure that as time passes by, I might alter or even change this equation. However, so far, the above equation has helped me to be a successful teacher and a more confident individual.

Working in Boston Public schools has been a good experience. The academic year 2006-2007 was a very successful year for me as an Educator. Though I did taste success as a teacher in India, it was a start from the scratch for me. Teaching in the US is no way similar to teaching in India. Hence I had to learn new aspects of teaching, assimilate the culture, practice new methods, inculcate the knowledge I gained and be patient for the results. Apart from all the above, I also used my previous experience of working with children in India to help understand the students better.
Last year it was a fresh start for me in many ways. New place, new home, new school system, newly married and a need for a new visa. My patience, persistence, knowledge to deal with new situations helped me succeed.

Being on the H1B visa, I was not allowed to work till I got my visa transferred to my new work place. It took me a month and a half for me to get that done and till then I decided to volunteer in my own class. Though there was a substitute teacher in my class, I decided to do everything.

Experience had taught me that students need some time to get used to the new routine as well as the teacher. Too many teachers mean too many transitions and too much confusion. I had already experienced a disaster last year and I didn't want that to be repeated.

Though I had to spend 3 hours commuting everyday for nothing, I decided to be patient and continue going to school. My day at school started at 8:00am and ended around 5:00-5:30p.m.

I set up the routines, tried to know the students better, used every opportunity to reinforce the positive behavior and also correct the wrong behavior. The group of students I had was very outgoing. They craved for attention and loved visibility. Among them, some were notorious for their hyperactive/disruptive behavior. However, at the end of the year they turned out too be more mature, more grounded and more learned. Though the students looked "smart" for the visitors, it was challenging for them to sound out the words, write a few sentences, solve simple problems in math and comprehend simple texts. Since they loved visibility and fame, I decided to use it as the main reinforcement for the students to succeed. Even a small piece of work was displayed outside the classroom. Every opportunity was used to praise the students in front of the visitors and they were given short- term goals to compete and improve at their own pace.

Thus, I started out with students who hardly knew to write a sentence and ended with students who could frame sentences and spell phonetically. Some could even write meaningful sentences and a paragraph. Moreover, in math, I had 4 of my students reach the benchmark expected of average second graders. I was really proud that 4 of my students out of 10 knew to solve math problems at their grade level. Their confidence levels grew and they loved to come to school. They loved challenges and got involved in the process of learning.

Sometimes scaring the kids is also good:). I had warned the students that if they did not try hard they would be retained in the same class for the next year while their friends would be in third grade. They really worked to do better.

Experience + Knowledge:
Most of the times I had to deal with aggressive behaviors. Having an incremental system of good consequences and bad consequences helped immensely. The students were held accountable and got the consequences they worked towards. Since every behavior had a consequence, it shaped their behavior. They learned to do what was good for them and tried to avoid and if not control themselves when not so good. At the end of the school year, the principal was invited to give away certificates for students who fared very well. Even the students whose performance was average were also given a graduation certificate.

The students enjoyed it the most. The piece of laminated paper with their names on it became their valuable possession at that moment.

Patience + Knowledge + 2*Experience:
Thus, my decision to work without pay was a good one. My knowledge of how to deal with problem behaviors and students with special needs helped.
To top it all my previous failures, my previous experience of dealing with children, knowing what they need and how they react, helped me immensely.

I hope to carry this formula of mine to have more successful teaching years and to help more young people to their maximum potential

Friday, April 06, 2007

"We make a difference. What do you do? "

I remember when I was young, I was often asked the question, and “So what do you want to be when you grow up?” My answer would be a doctor, engineer, airhostess or a teacher depending on my mood, the people who influenced me at that time or what I heard from my peers. However, as II grew, my thinking, my values, and my passion to serve the society helped me decide a career. Though the profession itself was challenging, I also had to work hard to get accepted by many of them for what I was doing. Though it does sound ridiculous, the truth is that not many revere teaching profession and teachers.

However, teachers play an important role in building the society. But these same teachers do not receive enough respect and gratitude for all they put in their work. I had to face many challenges to become a teacher. My credibility was questioned several times. Even the very educated who themselves were involved in some type of social work or the other, condemned my profession. Even more, according to these same "social entrepreneurs" working with students with special needs who they label as "mad" is the cheapest job one can do. These words are from those who have degrees, who are from "educated" families, who "seem" to be involved in community activities and care for the society more than anyone else but still do not have any respect for the "teaching" profession.
According to many, teaching is not a career or a profession but is an option, which a less intelligent or less capable person takes up.

My question to all those educated illiterates is that where did the doctors, engineers, astronauts, entrepreneurs or whatever emerge from? Where do they go to acquire those skills and improve themselves? Are they born with those abilities? How many in this world are what they are without their parents (who are also the primary teachers) or their teachers? If no one passed on the knowledge to the next generation or even to the ones who they knew, would we be what we are today? So why are those people who pass on their knowledge, values and skills mistreated? Why are they not given a better status of not the best status in the society?

My question to each and everyone out there who disrespect teachers or who do not believe in teaching profession is,“ We make a difference. What do you do?”

A note to everyone who visits this blog: Stay away from it if you don't have anything to comment but do not use it as a thrash can to dump in nonsense

After a long time when I return back to my blog I discover that someone had left 6 comments on my last blog Shradhanjali ( An ode). None of the comments written were related to the blog and were nonsensical. I am very infuriated and feel like someone has committed a blasphemy. I feel so because the blog which was littered was dedicated to my uncle whom I revere and love a lot. This is utter disrespect towards others feelings. Seems like the spammers or the hackers ( call them anything ) do not know how to attract audience towards their blogs and use all types of stupid mehtods to get the attention.

This is a sincere plea to everyone:
You don't need to leave any comments if you don't have any.
Dnot visit my blog if it is boring or you don't find anythign interesting in it.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Shradhanjali ( An ode )

Originally uploaded by swapna bolleboina.
I was completely shocked and couldn't recover from it for a week. My uncle (Mom’s sister's husband) was no more. When I woke up in the morning, I was surprised to find a missed call from my brother. He usually calls me in the late mornings or evenings. I was surprised to see his number on my cell phone. My heart started pounding. The other day I had talked to my Pinni who informed me of Babai in the hospital. Is it about him or anything else? Why should my brother call me so early? Is something wrong? I had too many questions running through my mind. However, I returned his call and could not control my emotions. Babai was no more. His kidneys, liver and pancreas, all failed at once. I couldn't move from the bed and inspite of Ram consoling me, I was so depressed and could not think of anything else but cry. I wanted to make a quick trip to India but knew I would not be able to make it to have a last glance at him.

I could never even in dreams think of Babai collapsing due to health problems. He was a very health conscious. Babai's day started at 4:00am in the morning. He would go for a walk, return after an hour, have his bath, eat his breakfast, pack his lunch and leave for office by 5:30 am. A strict vegetarian and a teetotaler, he was a great devotee of Sri Shirdi Saibaba. After he was diagnosed with diabetes, he had a very restricted diet. In spite of his busy schedule, he would make it a point to visit my grandma every day, check how she is doing, if needed help someone lese in their family affairs, run errands and make time to relax. He would participate in SHAKHA and was actively involved in a lot of community and social work activities. Every Friday, he had to visit the temple and would fast on that day. However, he never imposed any such rules on my aunt (Pinni) or his kids.

Being the oldest son of his parents, he and my aunt had the responsibility of getting 4 of his sisters married. Both worked hand in hand to get everyone settled and always had room to help others who needed them.

He had a very unique style of socializing which everyone loved. Though he was a person with a serious disposition, he would never shy away from greeting a new person or taking the initiative to talk to them. Slowly through his mild smile and very soft talk, he would build up a rapport. His harmless style of approach won him a lot of friends and acquaintances.

He was very instrumental in helping me reach my goals and in all the important decisions which I made after I came to the US. It was a routine for me to make to make a call home and a call to my Pinni and Babai every weekend. Though he did not have much to talk about, Babai, like my dad used to enquire a lot about what I was doing, the people, climate, living conditions and everything about the US. He wanted to make a trip to the US to visit us. But it is unfortunate that he left the earth in his fifties.

I hope to follow his path and will try to inculcate his ideals of helping everyone in need, being focused, sticking to my roots and following a simplistic lifestyle. I pray to God to help his soul rest in peace.

Though he is not physically present, his impeccable nature has made him immortal. He will always remain amidst us.

Profile Lake

Originally uploaded by swapna bolleboina.
My husband and a couple of our friends visited the White mountains in New Hampshire. We got onto the trail of the white mountains which was a very easy and fun filled walk. There were quite a few interesting sites around the white mountains of which I was completely enchanted by the " Profile lake". It was a very peaceful place ( though located just off a highway) which dragged you into it's serenity. As you can see in the pciture, not only me, but everyone who visits the lake would like to sit there and spend some time staring into the distant hills, splashing some water around and taking in the fresh breeze.
I couldn't resisit myself from taking this picture of our group, who were hypnotized by the lake's calm waters. I love this snap a lot as it had a lot of depth in it:)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The never ending chase

It’s been long since I blogged or even had a look at the other fellow bloggers work. It would be silly to say that I was very busy but I cannot say that I was lazy either. A lot of transitions and adjustments took place in the past 3 months. A lot of issues needed to be taken care of. I had to focus on many personal and professional components of my life. At times everything looked like an ordeal and at times, I felt I exaggerated the situations. My confidence dwindled and I got lost. But as usual, got up from where I fell, wiped the dust, forgot the pain and continued my chase.

A chase, which is never ending and that keeps evolving my personality. Constant analysis of my thoughts, constant evaluation of what makes me happy or worried, constant rethinking of how to fix situations around me. Seems like a never ending task. However, sometimes I do feel I have made a lot of progress. But at times, I also feel I shouldn’t have to redo everything since I already knew how to do it right the first place. I was just meandering and then getting back to where I should have been in the first place.

I think it’s all a process of learning. A process wherein you repeat your mistakes, make new ones and use your old solutions to solve them.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A lazy transition

I feel so terrible when I realize how lazy I am. Though I am not much an outdoor person, I do like to be mobile and always engrossed in something. But it is an irony that though, I hate being lazy, I am most of the times doing much less than I can. Of late things have been moving at a very slow pace for me. Making arrangements to relocate to MA was not that tedious a task but a very nagging and boring experience. I had been busy packing up my stuff, cleaning up my apartment and making plans to move to MA. I was stuck in my apartment all day. My eating and sleeping habits changed. I ate two times a day and slept at 4:00 am in the morning. Glued to my laptop, I would keep searching for jobs, checking my emails every 5 minutes, working on packing off my stuff, calling friends to donate off my belongings and then watching the news on T.V. The only fun thing was talking to my hubby on the phone who would call me every now and then. The whole day I would feel soooooooo lazzzzzzzzzzzzzy. While weighing my baggage I found out that I gained 10 extra pounds, which made me feel more miserable. After few hours of research, Found out that I need to consume only 1200 calories everyday and burn more calories to reduce my weight. Well, this helped me to get over my laziness as I started working out. I felt much better and was glad to see my tummy flatten a bit.

Apart from the above I was making plans A and B to dispose off (or rather donate) all my belongings. I was really amazed at the stuff I accumulated in 11 months. Though I maintain a very simple and Spartan lifestyle, I was really surprised at the number of things I accumulated. Gosh! I gave away a small truckload of stuff and I still had some left in my apartment for my neighbor. I had packed 7 boxes and mailed them to MA. My checking baggages were 15 oz. overweight and my back with my heavy backpack. I made sure not to open my stroller as I had stuffed in a lot of things and it would not close if I opened it.
So the last few days I had some more activity and I was glad for not being stationary. However, after I checked in at the airport, I started feeling bored and lazzy again. Oh how I wanted to get rid of it. I took out my Ipod to listen to some songs, but that did not last for a long time. Then I decided to visit a nearby store with all sort of fancy candies. I was lured but my calorie chart shooed me off from buying anything.

At last after the 6 and half hour journey, I landed in Manchester. I was so relieved to see my husband. I liked the cool weather of New Hampshire. After arriving in MA, I was able to make it to some interviews, and be busy a couple of days. The rest of the days, I still feel lazy. Though I do engross myself in cleaning up the place, cooking new recopies, watching the latest on Middle East crisis and checking my mails, I feel so lazzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzy and boring.

I have been making plans to visit the gym and again work on my weight but I am soooooooo lazzzzzzzzzzzy. Well, it's time I do something. I am going to break the ice today and make sure I become more organized.

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