Sunehari Yaadein by Mr. A. K. Bhatnagar
I have very fond memories of Navayug School and I will be less than candid if did not credit this wonderful institution for what and who I am today.
My journey at Navayug dates back to the year 1976. The most admirable thing about it is that it offers equal opportunity and encouragement to students from all walks of life to succeed in their chosen career. Another distinguishing feature is that it focuses on the overall development of students; encouraging them to take up academics, sports and cultural activities with equal vigour. Our Cricket and Football teams were amongst the best in the state and our theatre plays like ‘पैसा बोलता है’, ‘जोंक’ etc. could impress even the most seasoned play wrights.
However, the most important thing for a teacher is respect from his peers, students and staff. This, I received in abundance and shall treasure my entire life. The bond that I share with my students from all batches is precious and always makes me nostalgic. I would like to sign off, with my best wishes to Navayug School to carry on the good work and continue to build wonderful and successful careers
Following is the response of Mr. A K Bhatnagar to a Questionnaire sent to him by Dr Ram Vriksh, an Ex- Navayugian
RVS: Sir, please tell us about your journey as a teacher, and how did you reach Navayug? What prompted you to join Navayug?
AKB: I started my career in education at Vikas Vidyalaya Ranchi as a counsellor under the leadership of Mr. J N Dar. Inspired by Mr. J N Dar, I left Ranchi and joined Navayug as a counsellor cum guidance teacher on 20th October 1976.
According to Mr. Dar Vikas Vidyalaya was white elephant (for the rich) whereas Navayug School was a Jasmine flower. He asked me to join Navayug and enjoy the fragrance.
RVS: There were a good number of Government schools in New Delhi, besides a few very good private ones, when Navayug came into being. What according to you was the exact purpose of starting this school?
AKB: To provide Quality education to the have not group of Delhi state. It was an experiment by LG on behalf of Mrs. Gandhi.
RVS: You were the Psychology teacher at +2 level, besides providing the students the much needed counselling. You were in possession of all the details (viz. their IQ, personality traits etc.) of each student on the rolls of the school, during a particular academic year. What is your opinion about the students? Were they really gifted and above average? If so, how did the school in general and the teachers in particular contribute to bringing the best out of such students?
AKB: I was appointed as a counsellor-cum-guidance teacher. It was my fascination towards psychology and conviction that psychology should be taught if not to everyone; at least to students at higher secondary level. I approached CBSE through principal to introduce it as an academic subject at +2 level in Delhi. I succeeded and psychology was introduced in CBSE curriculum.
Being a counsellor it was my duty to maintain cumulative records of all the students. I called it students Janma -patri which included all demographic physical and psychological data of students and all sort of anecdotes which I kept very systematically.
I knew my all students through these cumulative records and I shared appropriate information with the principal and teachers from time to time, helping the principal, teachers and counsellor unfold the potential and creativity of children.
My friends among the faculty often envied me for this treasure-trove which I maintained through parental counselling sessions and my home visits on every day basis.
RVS: What discussions you used to have in the teacher's room or with the Principal? Was it any different from what you would have had in your previous schools?
AKB: My discussions were mainly focused on the basic issues relating to children. I always explained to the teachers the cause, why a particular student was not doing well or why he was so rebellious, why a particular child was so quarrelsome or defiant, why a particular child should/shouldn’t be punished for a particular behaviour. Many people perceived my approach as a way to be popular. It was actually always based on my cumulative record data. Which gave me an insight into their behavior.
RVS: As far as I know, Late Mr. J.N. Dar was the founder Principal of Navayug. How did this happen? Was he a natural choice for the post?
AKB: Mrs. Prasad knew Mr. J N Dar from Netarhat and Vikas Vidyalaya. She was very much aware with the magic of Dar sahib. So it was a natural choice.
RVS: Mr. J.N. Dar was instrumental in giving a concrete shape to thousands of Navayugians, who were fortunate enough to join the school as young students, during his tenure. As he was quite aged, and almost a fatherly figures to most of the teachers in the school, can you please tell us, if he had any impact on the growth and grooming of the teachers as well?
AKB: He was a friend, philosopher and guide to most of the teachers. Today I will share with you a little secret that there were a few teachers who neither liked him nor approved of his approach. He was my mentor. I will give you an example:
When I joined Vikas he said “Ajai! Don’t work in the school as sanitary inspector who always gathers garbage. Be positive with children,’ It was a Mantra to me.
His belief that “गुण ग्राहक बनो”was fascinating to me.
RVS: There used to be a lot of emphasis on languages, sports, cultural activities, debates, and such other extra-curricular activities. What impact did it have on the students' overall growth?
AKB: He believed that teaching is most effective, when imparted in child’s mother tongue. He always emphasized Hindi as a teaching language but he also insisted that children must be proficient in English. As it would help them in their career development.
He wanted that children should be fearless, smart and tough. He was always careful about the well-being of children.
RVS: Besides teaching Psychology and functioning as the School Counsellor, you also took a keen interest in dramatics. We still remember how you helped your team enact एक सिपाही की मौत and created wonderful lighting impacts with the help of a torch. On the eve of the play you had taken great pains to stitch curtains for the auditorium dais, so that the play could be enacted. Did you ever realise what impact all these gestures had on your students?
AKB: Inspired by Mr. J N Dar, I always perceived Navayug as my family. My family too was a part of Navayug. So much so that my wife and I both-served Navayug children as my biological children. My commitment to budgeting trekking, dramatics and other cultural activities was on account of my meticulous nature and integrity. It was my natural behavioura I would like to believe that in some little way I was able to inspire children who worked hard through the night to prepare back- drop always improvising. Whether It was my commitment in the trekking events or in the plays like “सिपाही की माँ’, “पैसा बोलता है”, “पर्दा उठाओ- पर्दा गिराओ” or “दिल्ली की कहानी” I was always well supported by many like Ravindra Tanwar, Trilochan and others In shadow plays especially we were very innovative.it was manifestation of children’s motivation and unfolding of their creativity.
RVS: Mr. Dar himself took a lot of pains in improving our pronunciation. We still remember the long assemblies when he would make us repeat after him those Urdu words English was made compulsory on the play-fields and in the dining hall. We used to enact English plays, in order to improve our command over the language. Creative writing was also encouraged. What do you feel was the purpose of all these measures?
AKB: Mr. Dar believed in the bi-linguistic approach. Since he wanted his students to respect their mother tongue and through it a culture, with roots in a five thousand year old civilization while at the same time attain excellence in both written and spoken English. For practical reasons he had a great fascination for different languages.
RVS: Mr. Dar used to hold long assemblies and tell the school about numerous things that he knew. We were made to sing songs in different Indian languages. Did all this serve any great purpose?
AKB: It was realised that children of Navayug needed to be exposed to information and given a value systems with a. world perspective so that they could perform their role well. Therefore it became the avowed duty of the school to fill the gap. And the concept of long assembly was born in which the Principal, teachers and many times delegates from various countries and eminent personalities working in various specialized fields provided valuable thoughts to the children which definitely influenced their cognitive and affective development on the one hand while broadening the perception of children. On the other
RVS: We used to have long discussions on our school's motto in Sanskrit as well as in English. What was the motive behind all this? Did it help the students shape up their future?
AKB: तमसो माँ ज्योतिर्गमयः
शिक्षा का मूलभूत उद्देश्य मन का अन्धकार करके ज्ञान का प्रकाश लाना ही तो है। अन्धकार के अनेक उपागम हैं: अशिक्षा,अज्ञान,अंधविश्वास, अभाव , दारिद्रय, अपनी क्षमता के प्रति अनभिज्ञता आदि मन के अंधकार से जुड़े हैं.
भारतीय संस्कृति मैं ज्ञान की देवी सरस्वती हंस पर विराजमान हैं क्योंकि कैलाश- मानसरोवर के हंस हिन्दू पुराण (Hindu Mythology) के अनुसार नीर क्षीर मैं भेद कर लेता है, अर्थात उसमें विवेक है.
हम नवयुग के बच्चों को Intelligent नहीं बल्कि बुद्धिमान बनाना चाहते थे अत: सर ने तमसो माँ ज्योतिर्गमय पर बल दिया.
RVS: Navayug used to be a theme school, which aimed at bringing up such students who would stand apart in a crowd and steer the society to new horizons of humanity. How do you react to this?
AKB: First fifteen batches realized this goal and produced stars of Indian Civil Services, Technology, Management, Journalism and what not. Today we can see Navayugians occupying top places all over the world, so dreams have been realized
RVS: Apart from academics, a lot of importance was assigned to extra-curricular activities in the school. This must have been something different from what used to happen in the other schools those days. We used to have the best choir and Bhangra group in New Delhi, and had numerous performances on various locations. The school hours used to be quite long and the teachers were required to work for longer hours. We as students, really enjoyed participating in all those activities. How did you as teachers feel about it?
AKB: Although we aimed for the overall development of children; there were practical issues that needed to be dealt with. Mr. Dar being a pragmatic person in his approach was aware of the family back ground of Navayug children. He knew that as the majority of the children came from weak socio- economic background they often suffered from various problems like Low aspiration, poor communicational skills in dealing with contemporary society and lack of external smartness. We always focused on these issues for betterment.
RVS: Games and Sports were an integral part of our school life. We have vivid memories of those long stretches of the PT and Parade that we used to have. Were all these activities a part of the ideology and philosophy that went behind starting Navayug?
AKB: Games and sports, like swimming and water polo; adventure activities like trips, excursions and trekking etc. were all an integral part of this school. Navayug was an activity focused school and that’s why it provided quality education. A full-fledged film was made and in Shankar’s weekly a full magazine was published on Navayug at that time.
RVS: Mr. Dar used to live right in the school premises. What was the purpose behind this?
AKB:It was pre-requisite of Mr. Dar’s appointment so NDMC permitted and allotted a part of the school only as his residence.
RVS: Mr. Dar would check the detention work of the students being detained after school hours. Did he ever ask the teachers also to stay back till late hours and help him do this?
AKB: It was a routine for many teachers. I was always one of them.
RVS: Navayug had a day-boarding arrangement. The students were served breakfast, lunch and tiffin. The teachers invariably dined with the students. Did this have any bearing on the development, growth and grooming of the students while at the same time ensuring a balance diet to the young, under privileged and gifted students?
AKB: Community lunch, breakfast and tiffin provided to students served several purposes like providing nutritious food, developing a healthy community living and learning to respect food.
RVS: The school uniform comprised half pants and skirts, inter-alia. Even the grown up boys and girls were made to wear such uniforms. What was the reason behind this?
AKB: Answer lies in the vision that we had.
1) At that time all great schools of India under All India Public School Conference like Doon, Mayo, St Pauls etc. had the same pattern of uniform.
2) Moreover it was to make students rough and tough and provide an environment where everyone was treated as equal.
RVS: What according to you were the best moments you ever spent in Navayug?
AKB: I enjoyed every minute of my life in Navayug. I never saw anything in Navayug as threatening I accepted everything as a learning opportunity and enjoyed each moment .Every time I learnt of my students scaling new heights I was overjoyed. A holiday or any compulsory leave was a bad day for me.
Very few people know that my eldest daughter ANU expired at AIIMS in 1981 and that day there was a big event in the school. I was cultural activities in charge. All the keys were with me. Minister and President NDMC were the guest. My daughter expired at 6:30 a.m. I was alone in the hospital. I was in dilemma. First go to house and convey the tragic news to my wife or to go to school and hand over the keys to someone so that school should not face the embarrassment. Thank God! I went to school and informed Mr. R. Mohan regarding the tragedy and only then I went back home and started telephoning relatives & making arrangements for the funeral. It is now an old event occurred in my life and day I feel proud of the decision I took that day.
RVS: Please tell us about the other teachers, you happened to work with, in Navayug.
AKB: Navayug had history of great teachers who loved Navayug. I can name a few who dedicated their holidays and sacrificed the personal life for the schools betterment. Mr. Suraj Prakash, Mr. Suri, Mr. R Mohan, Mr. Sethi, Mrs. Ghosh. They are gems. Nobody will understand how much they loved School and the children. No one can forget the contribution of Mrs. Navathe and Mrs Wadhera for the name and fame of the school.
RVS:Please tell us about the non-teaching staff in Navayug, the office staff, the kitchen staff, the house keeping staff etc.
AKB: Navayug School functioned as a family till Mr. Dar was the Principal. From housekeeping staff who were later called Class IV employees or the Principal were treated as equal. In my opinion Mr. Kakkar developed Navayug as a school and later Mr. Babbar tried to modify it as a Public School. The functioning of Navayug as a public school posed difficulty to many and during the time of Mr. P.S. Rana who had many things in common with Mr. Dar, faced lot of difficulties to maintain the status of the school but the lobby operating in NDMC and inside the school was very strong and gradually school moved towards the status of a government model school.
RVS: How about the personal hygiene of the students?
AKB: Mr. Dar and Mr. Kakkar were very particular about the personal hygiene of children. Haircut, Nail cleanliness, cleanliness of clothes was taken care of because it was needed in Navayug.
RVS: Mr. Dar used to give a lots of useful tips to his students. Please tell us about that.
Sit Straight / Sit Up
Shake hands smartly
आँखों में देख कर बात करो
अगर कोई स्टूडेंट कहता था, स्कूल से बाहर चलो देख लूँगा. तो वे कहते थे, मैं तुम्हें पहले स्कूल में देखता हूँ
जो बिंध गया वो मोती
RVS: Mr. Dar would pick up the pieces of salad from the floor, wash and eat them up. Why did he do so? Can you please elaborate?
AKB: He had seen misery from very close. In Vikas, we saw tribal children outside the door of dining hall in search of roti and rice. They fought with dogs to get Roti. He always believed that food is God. It must be respected. He wanted to teach children respect for food.
RVS: Mr. Dar and other teachers joining Navayug in the initial years have had a lasting impact on the personalities of the Navayugians. They have fanned out across the globe and worship their Principal and the teachers like gods and goddesses. Any comments, sir?
AKB: I am a proud teacher of that lot. They are my most important asset. I want to preserve them.
RVS: What message would you like to give to your students? Are you happy and satisfied the way your students have grown up?
AKB: My dreams for most of the Navayugians have been fulfilled, goals achieved. The love and respect I have enjoyed from you children has kept me healthy because I enjoy this feeling of fulfilment.
I wish all happiness to the Navayugians. God Bless them.
RVS: Any regrets about the Navayugians?
AKB: The concern and emotional affiliation that you have for your alma mater is the result of community lunch & community singing. In the later part of my career i.e. after 1990, I very much struggled to restore these two things particularly community lunch and long assembly but utterly failed due to vested interest of many bent upon converting the school into an ordinary government school working from 8:00 to 1:45. It is a different story which is better left untold.