Tag Archives: kenya

A Turn At The Age Of Fifteen

An Africa saying is: ‘The River may be wide, but it can always be crossed.”

Well, I have sailed from Bombay in India to Mombasa in Kenya. I have not crossed a turbulent river, I have crossed the mighty Indian Ocean.  A measureless bridge between India and Africa.  And I have sailed through on the wings of my parents’ initiative to take me back home with them.  They wanted to take care of me, to bring me ‘back to health’! 

My small, delicate frame and underdeveloped body must have given them the impression that I was ‘sickly’! I, who had never been sick at the Boarding School!  Had, occasionally, pretended to have a tummy-ache, or ‘fever’. We, girls had recognized a bush in the garden that would temporarily raise the body temperature. All an excuse to be pampered in the sick-bay by two kindly nurses.  And a reprieve from the daily drudgery of the school routine. In exchange we were well-rewarded with nourishing porridge, rich and sweet, milky with raisins.

I was, in a mysterious, excited way, glad to be going back home. To get to know my family again. I had even forgotten that I had a family – outside my friends and the community of the Boarding School, since the age of five. 

For now, my ‘new’ original family gives me some misgivings. I expect many challenges. I eagerly want to see who I would consider as my friends.  After all, at the school, I had many friends to hold hands with, to guide and support each other trekking on the Himalayan hills of Mussorie and Dehradun.  I had climbed trees to throw red, ripe, luscious mangoes to be caught and relished by my friends.  The uplifted, eager faces bursting in joyous glees! 

But since the moment, I had lost the friendship of my close friend Neeta, I never was keen to have one special friend, with whom I could share my heart’s secrets. And trust me, as a growing teenager, there were many questions or answers which you share with only in a cozy, trusting relationship of a special friend.  After all, I did not have a mother or sister or father to confide in, to feel I could trust their judgement, in good faith.  

On board the ship for fifteen days, with my Mother and Father and my three brothers and two sisters, I had come to appreciate the family bond. My siblings’ joyful escapades and games on the deck, the intimacy, the trust, the reliance on each other – all in a joyful setting!  It was beautiful revelation to me: This is what ‘family’ is! And this whole is my family! My very new family.  And my very own!

But with queasiness caused by the rock and rolling ship, sailing through the Monsoons in the Indian Ocean, mother was busy day after day, taking care of father and me- the two who had succumbed to sea-sickness. I felt weak, sickly and unsteady on my feet.  A concerned mother’s constant care, her worry of limited choices on the ship’s menu that I might find palatable, and retain to get some nourishment – kept her awake. I felt sorry to be so much trouble to my new-found mother. It also felt wonderful to be nursed by a ‘real mother’. 

One morning, she woke up with a sudden realization that the ‘Gujrati’ menu of sweet and sour lemony Curry and rice, ordered from the Gujrati P.C.’s Kitchen, might just be the dish that I would relish enough to try.  And more importantly, to hold!  In small doses, of course. To her great relief, it worked. Father and I had often been reluctant to try the first morsel. Throwing up liquid, in the absence of food, was a torturous experience.  Now, we were slowly regaining strength.

After twelve days of ‘rocking and rolling’ on turbulent waters, we sighted palm trees of the island of Seychelles, at last. As the Monsoons abated, my queasiness eased.  My younger sister Toshi, who had been my support all through this new turmoil in my life, was smiling again.  

I looked forward to find a safe niche within that circle.  Looking for a friend, who I could confide in, satisfy my needs in my new home in Kenya. I felt blessed in my newly structured life. My loving sister’ support, mother’s nourishing hand, gentle father’s constant concern and medical advice to mother for my care during the voyage, I was hard pressed to decide.

Who should I choose as my Best Friend?   

 

Raising A Rennu: What Parents Should Know

Genius Kids founder Rennu Dhillon says our greatest fear after death is public speaking — unless we make some incremental changes in our education system while we’re alive. 

“Confidence is critical,” Dhillon says. “You have to learn how to take control of your life. Compassion, communication, eye contact — these are the kinds of soft skills that we as parents and teachers need to instill in our kids today.” 

Her personal odyssey — long before she became a Bay Area education mogul, Radio Zindagi talk show host, and community activist — is its own story of confidence and coming into one’s own. Dhillon grew up in a tightly-knit Kenyan suburb, much like our Bay Area cities littered with extracurricular activities and educational pursuits. 

“My mother, being the typical Indian mother that she was, enrolled me into practically everything from music, art, piano, and sports,” Dhillon says and laughs. “But my father, a medical practitioner and the local Deputy Mayor was very deep into politics. So one of the big things that he really wanted us, kids, to focus on was communication. They enrolled me into a drama school called the Little Theater Club at the age of three.” 

Dhillon’s childhood in Kenya marked the intersection of so many rapid changes, from an early wave of the feminist movement to political unrest in India following the death of Indira Gandhi. The young actress put pen to paper, drafting impassioned poems and letters for the local newspaper.  

“I was a very, very controversial figure in my town,” Dhillon says. “I mean, I was always expressing my views, especially when it came to women’s issues. And my dad didn’t even know half the time when I was writing to newspapers. It would only be when we would get anonymous phone calls at home threatening me about something that my dad would look at me and say, ‘did you write that?’ And I’ll be like, ‘yep.’ God, I caused so much drama at home.” 

Twenty years later, the outspoken Kenyan pre-teen, after completing her Pharmacy Degree in the United Kingdom, and Doctorate of Science,  launched into two very successful businesses of her own – a matrimonial dating agency and recruiting firm in the United States. She then ventured in Recruiting CEO’s for start up’s and went from hooking people and people to people and jobs. As a single mother navigating the labyrinthian American Dream, helping young men and women find love offered startling insight into the role of ‘soft skills’ within the South Asian American community.  

For Dhillon, the devil was in the details. From critiquing her client’s fashion choices to providing advice on eye contact and tone, she realized how the simplest features of personal interaction paved the way to success. Her experience as a dating coach and recruiter molded her vision when she opened up a Fremont-based daycare and accelerated learning center named Genius Kids. 

Unlike mainstream education programs, Genius Kids instills public speaking and collaborative skills in students from a young age. Founded in 2001, the organization quickly caught on among Bay Area parental circles. Dhillon’s effortless relationship with kids, paired with her knack of combining learning strategies with the latest technology, brought in more families than ever. 

“I think kids learn with smart and interactive technology,” Dhillon says. “We were actually one of the first preschools to ever introduce smart boards into the classrooms. Even the toddlers will come up on our stage, look at a screen, and point to the answer with their little fingers. These are our ways of teaching children. To stimulate students’ curiosity, I don’t want anyone memorizing stories in my classes. I want discussions. I want kids to tell me the story back in their own words — add their own flavor to The Three Little Pigs and use their own imagination. This is how we access a child’s voice and build on their confidence.” 

For the second time in her life, Dhillon embarked on a writing journey, this time penning a parenting book titled, Raise Confident Children: Today’s Kids, Tomorrow’s Leaders. The book has different sections dedicated to Dhillon’s ‘Cs’ — compassion, conflict resolution, charisma, control — the different elements that shaped her experience in both teaching and parenting.

“There’s a need to simplify parenting into its basic ingredients,” Dhillon says. “It’s not something that always comes naturally — especially now that we have all these distractions. The world was very different for my great grandparents, grandparents, and my parents. Now, we’re living in a crazy world — completely insane. And if you don’t prepare your child to be able to face a world of the unknown, your child won’t have any control over their life. So I’m a huge one for books. I’m always on the search for new material and information because learning never stops.” 

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, there may be no better time for Dhillon to release Raise Confident Children: Today’s Kids, Tomorrow’s Leaders. As lockdown restrictions force schools to adapt to a virtual learning environment, every parent must challenge their preconceived notions about testing, college admissions, and academic life. And perhaps there may be no better writer to release this book than Dhillon herself. As a woman who ventured across borders, within new industries, and into the lives of hundreds of children, Dhillon seeks to embody the very experience she chronicles in her book — a journey into the precarious unknown, where learning and adapting is always essential. 

“Don’t underestimate your children,” Dhillon says. “Let them pursue and find their path. And most of all, listen to what they have to say.” 

Stay tuned for Confident Children: Today’s Kids, Tomorrow’s Leaders, which releases on October 6th on Amazon! Click here for further details.


Kanchan Naik is a senior at the Quarry Lane School in Dublin, California. Aside from being the Youth Editor for India Currents, she is also the editor-in-chief of her school newspaper The Roar, the 2019-2020 Teen Poet Laureate for the City of Pleasanton, as the Executive Director of Media Outreach at Break the Outbreak. Connect with Kanchan on Instagram: @kanchan_naik_