Sunday, September 16, 2007

Over a cup of tea

The other day I visited the home of Gowri Gopalkrishnan – I was featuring her in my column for a local newspaper. Gowri, after marriage, spent 20 years looking after her family. She would have probably remained a housewife if it were not for Rajesh, her eldest son. He sensed her ability to become a good teacher and encouraged her to become one.

Enthused, Gowri completed, through NCERT, a crèche and nursery training management course at the Asan Memorial School in 1986. Rajesh was not wrong – she bagged the gold medal. After a year at Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Gowri joined PSBB School, KK Nagar, in 1988 and continued there for 17 years, eventually handling the English lab in the primary. She obtained B.A. and M.A. degrees and completed B. Ed. and M. Ed. as well. In 2004, she passed the integrated skills in English (ISE) course conducted by the Trinity College, London.

After retirement in 2005, Gowri has been teaching communication skills and providing accent training in various organisations such as 24 /7, Aviva Life Insurance, Hyundai and CADD Centre. Her association with PSBB, KK Nagar, continues – every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, she teaches students conversational English. Gowri has been associated with Everonn for a while now, teaching English to college students in rural India, through satellite.

Madras-born Gowri’s father Rao Sahib K. Ramunni Nair was assistant finance secretary in the Madras Presidency. The youngest of nine children, Gowri’s childhood memories are of her garden home in Sarangapani Street, T. Nagar, and of playing ‘Dhappa, I Spy’.

Interview over, I chatted over a cup of tea with Gowri’s husband V.K. Gopalkrishnan, a chemical engineer who has been a successful businessman, and Rajesh, who now runs Turning Point, a counselling centre for children and adults in Ashok Nagar. We got talking about various things – changing times, the lure of the IT sector and its pitfalls, the affordability of the middleclass, and where India is likely to head in the future. Taking part in the conversant was Madhav, Rakesh’s son. He seemed to know the family history well and occasionally refreshed the memory of his grandmother.

Rajesh mentioned the case of a youngster whose life had turned to shambles, thanks to sleepless nights and long hours of work in the IT company he worked for. There was hardly anything Rajesh could do to help; all he could suggest was that the boy be taken to a psychiatrist.

Talking about the growth of cities and towns, Gopalakrishnan is convinced that agriculture would remain India’s mainstay. He quoted the example of Punjab where farmers have adopted the latest methods of farming to heap a rich harvest. According to Gopalakrishnan, Punjab now contributes 21 percent of the country’s GDP, from 0.8 percent decades ago. A sort of miracle brought about by enterprising Punjabi farmers.

The future, Gopalakrishna said, would see the growth of towns in suburban areas across India. So, perhaps, by 2040, you would see less of poromboke land or unused space as you travel outside the cities. It might be like driving through Kerala today, where one village or town follows another, where most of the land is used for agriculture and cultivation and little lies unused.

Our conversation also included dogs – the Gopalakrishnans have had several pet dogs over the years. They now own a German Shepherd called Whoopie Goldberg!

The Gopalakrishnans live in Ashok Nagar and can be contacted at 24892283.

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