Teachers we love

May 07, 2012, 07:07 IST | Malavika Sangghvi

I was never one of those lucky enough to be taught by the late Shirin Darasha, neither did I send my child to her school, but I was part of the first Buddhist meditation workshop she attended many moons ago

>> I was never one of those lucky enough to be taught by the late Shirin Darasha, neither did I send my child to her school, but I was part of the first Buddhist meditation workshop she attended many moons ago (which I am told led to her lifelong interest in the subject) at a mutual friend’s home.

So recently, when I read columnist blogger and photographer Gautam Patel’s moving tribute to her on her demise I was reminded of my encounter with her: she was — like all extraordinary people — a wonderful mix of contradictions: powerful and profound and child-like and unafraid to express vulnerability.

In his blog ‘A prisoner of Agenda’ Patel, who was taught by Darasha as a student at Bombay International School and then got to know her all over again when she became Principal of the JB Petit school, which his daughters attended writes: “Shirin Darasha wasn’t just a teacher or even just a principal. She was the teacher and the principal, completely sui generis, nonpareil, like no other. From Bombay International where she was a teacher she came to JB Petit as the principal.

Her appointment to that post was a gigantic leap of faith, an especially enlightened call well ahead of its time. She transformed that school in ways that people did not think possible, often battling alone and against formidable odds, and turned it into something very special, very unique.”

It is a measure of Darasha’s impact that UTV’s Zarina Mehta, who is not only one of media’s brightest and most powerful women but also its nicest attributes a lot of her success to her former principal.

“The American system of education in school is so pathetic that when I came here, (after my dad’s posting abroad) I did not know how to read or write at eight. I was enrolled in JB Petit High School for girls and that is where I changed completely. It was the most nurturing, fun and fabulous place to be in. Our principal, Shirin Darasha , was the most fantastic principal anyone could ever ask for. She taught us to question everything. She opened up education for us and made it meaningful,” she said to an interviewer some years ago.

As I said, though, I did not know Darasha in her role as teacher, I too, have had many inspirational teachers in my life.

And so, I invite readers to write in and tell me about the men and women who transformed their lives.  

Birla’s spanking new office
>> He has always been known as an aesthete, whether it’s for his support of the arts or his personal collection of paintings or his elegant bungalow on Carmichael Road, a throwback to an age of graceful living, so naturally Kumar Mangalam Birla’s new office being constructed on the site of the old Satyam Shivam Sunderam cinemas and designed by Hafeez Contractor is being looked forward to by those interested in design and the environment.

And whereas this diarist is not a fan of high-rises on the whole and not too keen on some of Contractor’s more futuristic looking tall skyscrapers, she is an absolute fan of his design of the Rajneesh ashram in Pune and his path-breaking work at the Hyderabad biz school. Mumbai needs its iconic structures and from what we’ve heard Birla’s new office is going to do the city proud. 

A chip off the old block
>> No sooner has she put her holding company Dolt Creations on the map while simultaneously giving Shining India some exquisitely well washed and ironed clothes with her Pressto!, chain of dry cleaning shops. But now, a little bird tells us that Radha Kapoor who has obviously inherited her father Rana Kapoor’s (CEO and MD Yes Bank) business dynamism is all set to bring the legendary US art school Parsons to Mumbai.

Kapoor, herself an alumnus of Parsons (she studied fine arts with a major in communication design) has also set up Brand Canvas in partnership with one of India’s finest ‘eyes’ Alok Nanda, to enhance wall interiors. Parsons, if it does come in to India, will be a game changer in the visual field. Think better graphics, funkier architecture, and more eye-popping installations. We like!

Don’t Think Twice.. it’s alright
>> This week will see us hotfooting to the Blue Frog where poet, artist, RJ and aspiring producer Mukul Deora will be presenting his tribute to Bob Dylan in the Bard’s 50th year anniversary.

Incidentally, Bob Dylan has been very much on our minds: Dining with the lovely Namita Panjabi, the lady who gave Indian cuisine its international legs, with her clutch of fashionable London restaurants Amaya, Chutney Mary and the Masala Zone franchise, tells us that the wind blown bard rolled in to Amaya last week for dinner.

Whereas we are still awaiting news of what the celebrated chronicler of urban angst put in his precious mouth, we are in knowledge of his dining companion. “He was with a tall beautiful blond,” Namita tells us. *Sigh*. That’s the sound of one heart breaking.

The face of Maharashtra
>> Our favourite wit Sylvester da Cunha sent this in response to the news item that Madhuri Dixit is alleged to have asked for Rs 9 crore to be Maharashtra’s brand ambassador. Hmmm… we think as muse she inspired Husain more.

‘A lady renowned for her grace 
Was asked for the loan of her face.
She cooed, “Oh, I will
In fact it’s a thrill.
Just drop nine crores off at my place.’ 

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