Sunday, February 27, 2011

Agrawal Classes - an iconic educational brand

In every one's life there lay a turning point that changes the course of one's life journey. My life had many such moments but first such event that set others to follow was an 'Admission to Agrawal classes' at Harganga Mahal at Dadar TT. Those days admission to Agrawal classes was more important and prestigious than securing an entry to university affiliated college. They would announce qualifying bench mark for admission. You fill up the form, pay the fees and get enrolled.

What was that magic formula that made Agrawal classes so successful? I can think of few. They never taught fundamentals of any subject nor did they make any attempt to let student assimilate the purity of a subject. Instead they went on solving questions. The basics were automatically unfolded during the solution that was explained step by step. The objective was simple : Get good grades than burn your energy on overall knowledge. They had mastered the weaknesses of examination paper setters - of being lazy and choosing questions from past papers - sometimes not even changing the numerical. Every question in the exercise book was listed with the year it appeared. Some questions kept on repeating periodically over 20 years. This was a perfect recipe similar to ‘horse racing’ or ‘matka’ punters who placed their bets based on the past results. I used this technique to the fullest. “Smart Not Hard Study” was their mantra. In my SIES College, I never passed any exam paper. But who cared? Yellow and Parrot green colour A3 size question book of Agrawal classes was enough to get through engineering. The list of yearly rankers printed behind this book read like a list of Wimbledon winners. It was fun to see the names of colleges that appeared frequently. Xavier’s, Wilson, Elphiston, Ruia and SIES figured most with few exceptions of KC, Khalsa. Ruparel and Parle era started with our batch and it continued its glory thereafter.

Agrawal classes would now be closed and this institute would now be of bygone era. Prof Agrawal – the owner – mentions that shift in education system from intermediate science to HSC diluted the quality of competitiveness. I agree with him. Inter science was like a test match, while HSC is like a one day. One gave a space to recover from mistakes and tested endurance while other left to luck or chance. Apart from structured problem solving techniques ; discipline and regular exams kept students skills polished. If one were to miss an exam, one would be barred from attending two classes. Once I was thrown out for being next to ac, settings were changed by someone from the previous class and I was thought to be a culprit. Rare occasion in my life of being punished for no fault. Most of the time it was otherwies. Even after three decade and half, teachers at Agrawal classes stay sharp in memory. Their personality, vivid character and teaching styles have influenced in some way or other in my working life. I can think of some of these great names.

Prof Karkhanis - he would pick up a chalk, break top rounded part, throw them in the corner and start writing trigonometric equations. Often attired in brick red half sleeve shirt and thick bordered square spectacles, with erect stance he would seamlessly go from one question to another. Prof Dheer - elderly between two Sardars.He would teach physics and make sure to poke at SIES college professors. Those who studied at SIES would heartily reciprocate while others would wonder about his rambling. Prof Mohinder was the other Sardar . He was smaller in stature and wore nice coloured turban. The taller Sardar prof wore turban like a truck driver. Prof Shetty - curly hair tall person taught coordinate geometry in an easy manner but once I saw him exploding when backbenchers were up to some mischief. Prof Kalra - some called him Khanna. He looked more Russian and had penchant of wearing new ties with short length that suited his height. Rumour was he got free ties from Milan shop downstairs to promote their ties. I believe Prof Kalra went on start his own classes in Vile Parle. Prof Pai – He taught physics in his sharp authoritative tongue and as much enjoyed doing roles in TV and movies. Prof Katre taught algebra and with his shining bald head and small height was most noticeable among all prof. Prof Agrawal , the owner came just once but his innocuous white attire personality made me wonder the reason of his being successful than other flamboyant professors.

I had scored 6 out of 100 in physics exam of SIES while scoring over 70% in Bombay University. Just the same year Bombay University had changed the rule that everyone would be qualified to appear for university exam irrespective of the results at college level. I knew I would make it to engineering with the magic of Agrawal classes and I made it despite HSC guys taking half of the seats.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Shivjayanti and Golf

What time Shivaji Maharaj was born ?
I asked my car driver who warned us about facing road traffic due to Shivajayanti celebrations. We still went ahead from Oxford Club to MG road in search of golf kit. We didn't encounter any wild celebrations but did see statures being garlanded or decorated. Akshta is familiar with Shivaji calling him 'fighter man'. MBIS had holiday y'day. Wonder if they did so as Shivjayanti came on Saturday.
We are getting familiar with environs of Oxford club and hopefully we would acquire enough skills to have a consistant wild swing to see the ball take long aerial route. Now it's all random hits. We bought Wilson golf kit and in the shop had chat with riped Sardar who was passionate about golf and its benefits. Another young kid of 8 year old came and asked for Golf kit. Akshta got her club with set of plastic balls. Now she needs green turf to practise in the garden.

Tomorrow at Bohemian restaurant there is a promotion on wine with Mediterranean food. That would be a welcome change after Teppenyaki,Izakaya, Sake,Sochu.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Back in Pune

Two disturbing news stir my early morning in Pune. First, Steve Jobs reportedly heading towards terminal stage and second Bahrain defense clamping the protester in the city. Being next door to the country and being Sunni regime, Saudi shall use all their might to crush Bahrain protesters. Iran across the gulf with Shia population will do everything to support Bahrain Shiya majority population. Bahrain can be flash point for middle east turmoil and USA would have tricky situation. Support democratic movement or regime that's been supportive to USA.

I saw Femina issue and was impressed by the quality of contents, print and photography. Rs 50 per issue indicate their robust ad revenue and subscriber base. One of the 75 reasons for being happy in marriage is "couples sleeping separate". Old people who have married long time, sleep separately. They are secured in their relationship and undisturbed sleep is vital for their longevity. Japanese by culture use separate beds. Here is the most common reaction from some of the couples who are happy in marriage. " I’m actually the snoring culprit in our family and we too have different comforts in sleeping, he likes it steamy warm, I need a fan, he likes to watch a different TV show, he gets up earlier than me, etc. It just works."

ANA business jet brought me from Tokyo to Mumbai via Fukuoka. Capacity of 36 passengers in all business seats, we were just 10 passengers along with four crew. It was reading time all the way. Famine, Fimfare, Times, Economist, Time and Japanese newspapers. Handheld movie player didn't have much choice but clarity of the screen did tempt me to rummage through some movies.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tokyo to Narita via Wara Wara Izakaya

Ordering food over i pad connected by wi fi is a new novelty that I saw in Japanese restaurant. Screen is almost like an ebay or amazon with items listed with price and photo. Staff is limited to ferrying dishes. There is an SOS button that can ask for assistance. However , one is not sure if an order is recieved and how soon it would be ready. Perhaps next version shall have this in future. Food was good at Izakaya near Tokyo station . Edamame,Sushi, Yakitori was delicious at Wara Wara 藁藁 (わらわら) Izakaya.

David Beckam look a like dad tending his daughter - coloured african - was a cute sight at Crown Plaza at Narita. She was of same age as that of Akshta and equally energetic but once on b'fast table, she was well behaved letting her dad feed her. Wonder when Akshta would emulate her eating habits and manners !! Loss to Hilton Osaka was gain from Crown plaza at Narita . Item was Jacket hanger.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Japan in winter

Anupam Kher once commented about an incident that changed his behaviour as a acting professional. This happened at Chennai where he had gone for a movie shoot. He was sitting in a studio that was stuffy and warm in the Chennai sultry Summer. Being used to privileged lifestyle accorded to movie actors , his tolerance level was low and so were his vagaries. He was in a foul mood of being subjected to such discomfort in the Chennai summer and heat . But soon he noticed Amitabh Bacchan sitting opposite him in attire of ‘ Shahenshah”. He was wearing no less than 1o kg of heavy armaments but wihout any grimace of any complaint. He asked Amitabh how could he manage this. Amitabh just smiled and said this is part of the profession. I too was impressed by this incident narrated by Anupam Kher and have consistently tried my best not to get perturbed by external comforts as long as they are not result of a shoddy workmanship or poor attitude.

I am flying over China somewhere close to Kuming at 35ooo ft. Travel from Tokyo to Mumbai would take almost 13 hours and it was a mystery why would it take extra 4 hours. Small aircraft, against the wind and stop over at Fukuyoka were the possible reasons. This business jet with all business class and just 36 passengers and four crew members appears more like a restaurant than a public transportation.

Yamazaki Single malt is smooth . One of the best I have tasted so far. I did it on bullet train from Osaka – Yokohama and soon had another one at Odate in the company of Minako and her manager. Ms Minako was stern but a perfect manager to take control of her customers. Her manager was smart and more sociable. This was my first experience of ‘ modern geisha’ where combination of charm, attentive skills are put to best to make stressed business executives relax and enjoy the company.

I had no inkling that three days of my stay in Japan would let me witness the beauty of winter and snow. Shiba prefecture had lovely setting of lake Biwa and Chinese buffet spread was exquisite. As we reached Otsu factory in Shiba prefecture, snow flakes started sprinkling and as we went to North part of Japan – in Akita prefecture – it was snow all over. My early memories of snow was in Akron, Seattle and Iran but nothing would match the one what I witnessed in last three days in Japan. Clean white snow flakes, good visibility, clear roads made the journey enjoyable.