Hitesh Ramchandani is an inspirational speaker from Singapore. His parents are originally from Rajasthan.
When my colleague Sakhi John told me about his plan to spend 100 days in India and interact with 100,000 people, I grabbed the opportunity to invite him to Deepalaya School on 21st August.
I believe that a school should not be just a place to impart bookish knowledge. It should also provide opportunities to the pupils to meet people who really can inspire them.
I realised that Hitesh was indeed a person who could help turn over a new leaf in the lives of our students when Principal CP Davis and I received him.
Hitesh began his hour-long speech interspersed with video and audio presentations, by asking the students to hold their breath for 90 seconds.
And then he asked those who could succeed to raise their hands. Many of them raised their hands.
He called two of them to the stage and gave them a copy each of his autobiographical book Better Than Normal (Fourth Dimension, 248/4 Vashistha Marg, Raja Park, Jaipur – 203004)
He told the audience why he asked them to hold the breath for 90 seconds. When he was formed in his mother’s womb, he was in an upside down position.
And when he was born, his legs were the first to come out into this world. As the hospital staff helped him in the process, his brain did not get oxygen for 90 seconds.
The result was that he became a case of Cerebral Palsy. A doctor told his parents that he would not survive for 24 hours.
“The doctor who said this died while I am pushing 26”, said Hitesh as the students gave a thunderous clap.
He told the students how his parents decided to admit him to a normal school, not a special school for the disabled.
“Of course, I had to suffer a lot. My co-students bullied me, girls kept aloof from me and I became a recluse”. That was long ago.
“Today I have girl friends with whom I go for a meal alone. If I meet a girl with whom I feel I can spend the rest of my life and if she also believes so, I may even marry her”.
He narrated an experience when he took part in a race while he was at school. While all the participants completed the race in a few minutes, he took 24 minutes.
One of them even taunted him, “My grandmother would have ran faster!” That was a snub he was not ready to accept. He began to run and the next time he finished the race in 11 minutes.
“I was not a Milka Singh but I proved that I could be “better than normal”, which was the theme of his speech.
He started his speech with a claim that one thing he dreaded in life was public speaking. He reconciled himself to the fact that he was a Cerebral Palsy case and he would never be able to speak in public.
But his cousin and manager Vicky Vaswani and parents had other ideas. They took him to a speech therapist who trained him in public speaking.
Today Hitesh is so confident that if you ask him any question, he will provide a cogent answer without any stage fright.
He told the students how he took part in football matches in countries like Germany and Austria. Initially, he was told that he would not be able to stand for long, let alone run.
Hitesh has disproved all such claims. He invited four students — two girls and two boys — to the stage.
He wanted each one to do push-ups on the stage. As the students started counting, the maximum that they could do was 30-35.
Then it was the turn of Hitesh, he removed his jacket and shoes and started doing push-ups in a much more rigorous manner.
Hitesh stopped only when he crossed 51. And that too when his cousin asked him to do so.
He told them that if he could do 51 push-ups it was because he had confidence in himself. They too should have such confidence.
Hitesh narrated the stories of Edison, who failed thousands of times before succeeding in inventing the electric bulb.
Abraham Lincoln was a total failure as a student, lover, politician and family man till he won the Presidential election and became easily one of the greatest presidents of the US.
He wanted our students to have confidence in themselves so that they could do Better than Normal.
While welcoming Hitesh, I described him as a great “motivational” speaker. A motivational speaker is one who can motivate. Motivations do not last long.
Hitesh is an inspirational speaker, not a motivational speaker, as Vicky Vaswani corrected me.
Every student wanted his autograph and I feared that he would be “mobbed”. No, it was not fair to keep him longer at Deepalaya, as he has a target — “Inspire 50 million people by the year 2050”.
He wants India to be a Better Country than Normal. If he can succeed, why can’t we as a nation? I wish Hitesh Ramchandani all success in his endeavour.
In this season of festival, the Sambhav Project had organized a small Celebration on 11th August to inculcate the values that a festival brings with it. We had invited some of the eminent personalities from Inner Wheel Club. Fortunately, we were honored by the presence of Ms Achala Dayal, and Ms. Shobha Dayal who were accompanied by President of Inner Wheel, Ms. Sarita, Ms. Shikha Pal (Manager Program) and Ms. Babita Joshi (Program Executive, FADA Project). The Event commenced at 10:00 a.m. with a spiritual Lord Krishna Aarti that was initiated by Ms. Achala Dayal, followed by the staff members.
An introductory speech was given to give incites about the significance of Independence Day and Janmashtami. Further to bring in the zeal of patriotism, we had a melodious singing performance by group of 05 students. The Patriotic song, “Hum Honge Kaamyaab” was just not sung but felt by every heart that we always have the hope to rise and shine in the days to come. The Celebration ended with a group dance performance on the song “Mayya Yashoda”, which was a marvelous performance.
At the end, refreshments were distributed amongst everyone including the guests. Everyone appreciated the zeal of the students who participated in the celebration.
The awards function (held on 19th August) at the Deepalaya School, Kalkaji Extension, New Delhi, was an eagerly-awaited event. And when it was combined with the Investiture Ceremony it became a greater function.
There were over a hundred founded prizes for those who did well in studies, sports and cultural activities. And these prizes were instituted by our sponsors in the fond memory of their loved ones. The chief guest on the occasion was Shri Gourab Banerjee, a senior Advocate of the Supreme Court who became “senior” at the young age of 36. He was for some time Additional Solicitor General of India. Law runs in his blood as his father was the Attorney General of India. He has been supporting Deepalaya for the last 20 years.
Dr. Virender Sehgal, Ms. Indirani Mukherjee, our sponsors and relatives of Ms. Sarita Goswami were also present on the occasion.
Mr. A J Philip welcomed the guests.
This year, two new awards were instituted. One was “the Dr John Koodathinal John Prize for English” instituted in memory of the founder-director of the Biblical Counselling Trust of India. It consisted of a cash prize of Rs 2,501 and a medal.
The prize was given to the best student in English in Class XII by Smt Annie John, wife of Dr John.
The other was “The Perumalkovilgramam Ranganatha Nataraja Iyer Prize for Sanskrit”, instituted by his wife Janaky Natarajan who lives in Ahmedabad. He died 26 years ago. He was a simple man with a very large heart. He played a key role in the success of his niece who is now a senior IAS officer.
The prize was given to the best students in Sanskrit in Class VI, VII and VIII.
Out of the three winners, two belonged to the Muslim community.
The prize consisted of Rs 2001 each and a medal. It was handed over to the students by Smt Elizebath Philip as Smt Janaky Iyer could not attend the function.
The students presented a rich cultural programme that made the function quite unique. While speaking on the occasion, Mr. Gaurab Banerjee motivated the students. He said that people like us would donate once in a while but you are the heroes and leaders in the making.
There were students who won more than 5 prizes. The proud parents were finding it difficult to even keep the prizes arranged. The function ended with a vote of thanks to the guests. Mr. Banerjee was felicitated with a lamp. The guests, students and their parents enjoyed the event thoroughly.
Despite having limited resources, our staff in the learning centers and schools, celebrate national days with a lot of enthusiasm. Independence Day was celebrated at all the locations on 14th August except Deepalaya School, Kalkaji Extension, Gusbethi and Deepalaya Childrens’ home, where flag hoisting was done on 15th August. There were children dancing, singing patriotic songs and speeches. Here are a few snippets:
Deepalaya Sanjay Colony Learning Center: The 71st Independence Day of India was celebrated in Sanjay colony Learning center with a lot of excitement and hope. The children put up a spectacular program consisting of Speeches, talks about the significance of the Day, their dreams and aspirations for the future. There were patriotic songs presented with actions, dances and plays. All were excited and wanted to come upstage and present their thoughts. The teachers too sang different thought provoking and songs of bravery for the children. The highlight of the day was Ms Shanti (the Russian Art teacher) singing “ echak dana, echak dana, dane upar dana…….”. It will be a day to be remembered and cherished by the children for days to come.
Deepalaya SDMC School: At the SDMC school, the day was little different as the children never celebrated the occasion at such a large scale. They were enthusiastic as their teachers have been preparing them for the last few days. The function started with welcome speech of Ms. Abha, project coordinator. She then requested the school Principal, Ms. Shameema Shakeel, Mr. AJ Philip, secretary & Chief Executive and Ms. Jaswant Kaur, Director CRM to hoist the flag. After flag hoisting, National Anthem was sung. We could see the pride that children took in singing the National Anthem. The program kick started with the tiny tots coming up stage showcasing different shapes. They looked so cute as they said, “I am a circle”, I am a triangle and I have three sides” and so on. Soon the children presented a group song and a group dance. What impressed the most was the speech given by Master Harshit, Class IV student. The boy was so confident as he spoke in flawless English and introduced the entire program. Shri A J Philip, secretary & CE, Deepalaya spoke high about children. He recalled his school days. Another activity that attracted everyone’s attention was the play “hamare moulik adhikar”. Even small kids might have understood that they have right to education irrespective of their gender and so on. The occasion was also used to distribute prizes to the winners of calligraphy competition held during July 2017. Some of the students who had 100 per cent and above 90 per cent attendance were also given awards to motivate others to follow suit. Towards the end, Ms. Abha Kapila, took a pledge that “I and my staff with the students of the school take a pledge. We are doing, we will do and we will be doing and surely will reach our highest learning goal.” Children enjoyed the function to the hilt. Their joy doubled when they got one choco pie, a packet of frooti and banana each.
Deepalaya Learning Center Gole Kuan: The day was celebrated with a great gaiety. Little kids enjoyed the day by waving Tricolor National flag, recited short poems & sang patriotic songs with their teachers. Students from IInd onwards sang our National song and a few patriotic songs like Taqat watan ke hum se hain, Hind desh ke niwasi, Ao bachcho tumhe dikhaye etc to pay tribute to our great National leaders, delivered speeches about some freedom fighters & their sacrifices. Students showed respect to our National Flag, they were told about the importance of the day & why all Indians celebrate this particular day with great pride. Students also drew National Flag and why it has three colours, prepared charts, decorated class rooms & the funnel boards.
Ramditti J R Narang Deepalaya Learning Center: Children, teachers and all the staff members of Ramditi J. R. Narang Deepalaya Learning Centre (RJRND) at Sheikh Sarai celebrated Bharat Parv from 18th July to 14th of August through various activities. During this period, children were informed about different aspects related to our country according to their age group. Different charts were prepared and displayed in the assembly area. Children were informed about the mythological and social significance of some festivals viz-a-viz., Teej, Raksha bandhan, Janmastami etc. Girls of ASHA and FADA unit actively participated in activities like making and colouring of Rakshasutra and National Flag. Mrs. Asha Narang (Ramditti J. R. Narang Trust) distributed sweets and Samosa on 10th of August among the learning centre children. The students of VTC (computer) and remedial units (class I-IX) enthusiastically participated in the quiz competition, held on 11th August. One pen and a pack of 250 grams of Matar Dal (donated by Mrs. Vasudha Bajoria) were given to each of them. Special assembly was conducted on 14th of August to celebrate the completion of 70 years of independence. Mrs. Vasudha Bajoria of Sadhna Enclave was present to grace the occasion as chief guest. Later her husband Mr. Mohit also joined the celebrations. She was very happy to see the sincere and active participation of the children as they performed patriotic songs, dance and recalled the slogans of our freedom fighters. A pledge was taken by all with a patriotic pride. A Class II student Arjun Kumar led this oath-taking ceremony. Light refreshments were distributed to all. The assembly ended with a vote of thanks from the headmistress Dr. Sangita Sen, followed by the national anthem.
Deepalaya School, Gusbethi: The day was celebrated with fervor. Mr. Manoj Kumar NJ School Principal, Mr. Inderjeet Kumar, headmaster and two of our ex-students Nazma and Sarila, who passed out 8th class, jointly hoisted the flag. Mr. Manoj Kumar gave the welcome speech. After that many cultural programmes were performed by students. Students sang patriotic songs for our great leaders and freedom fighters. The function ended with a vote of thanks by Mr. Menon.
The day was also celebrated by Deepalaya Loesche Learning Center, Deepalaya learning centers, North-west Delhi and Education on Wheels.