An interview with Dr Nidhi Gupta & Megha Bajaj
Miraaya Holistic Growth Centre is a premium, one-of-a-kind organization, whose ‘soul’ purpose is to prepare children to be life ready and not just exam ready, through classes held at its home center or through associations with schools and preschools.
Miraaya also supports the holistic health and wellness of adults through one-on-one online sessions and corporate packages. Miraaya has been co-founded by three dynamic pilots: RAJESH CHAUDHARY, a chartered accountant by profession and a philanthropist by choice, DR NIDHI BAJAJ GUPTA, an acclaimed physiotherapist and healer who has been a Life and Leadership Coach to many across the world, and MEGHA BAJAJ, an award winning author, film writer and revolutionary educator.
Miraaya was graced and launched by Mahatria on 26 September 2012, and since then it has won several awards and recognition nationally and globally, including the two sisters being included in the most inspiring 50 women in India by UK-based ‘We Are The City’.
Q: What do you most love about teaching? What is a highlight of your teaching career?
NG: An aunt who comes home to visit once in a way will always notice how tall a child has become – something that people who see him daily miss. I feel like that when I meet students once a week at our center, or once a quarter at schools. I am able to observe them objectively, and lovingly help them to develop their strengths and work on areas that need improvement. I love the fact that I can actually help a child, and initiate a transformation that may help him throughout his life. To be that mentor, that guide fulfills me.
One of my students was going through a complex about her looks as she was dark-skinned and the other children at school teased her. When she shared it with me, I wanted her to get over it in a very beautiful way. Along with various worksheets and stories focused on growing in love with self, we also brought in two rabbits to class – a white and a black. Children had to interact with them and share their experience. I asked this girl if the color of the rabbits made a difference. She very thoughtfully said, “I now know, teacher, it is not the skin but what is inside that matters!” I felt a rush of love, pride and happiness that a key lesson had been learnt that day.
MB: I was a very unique child, more of a thinker, very creative, and socially a little dyslexic. Even though I was studying in one of the best schools in Mumbai, and I am very grateful for all that I learnt there, a part of me felt very lonely and misunderstood growing up. Either I was considered very shy or very arrogant. My growing up years made me realize how important it is for each child to have a mentor, a life coach, someone who can love and accept them as they are and at the same time push them to be better than they are. Since I didn’t have one until I found my spiritual mentor, I felt that I should be that anchor in many kid’s lives and they shouldn’t go through what I did and waste so many years finding themselves.
Seeing our students’ blossom
– shy ones finding their feet,
over confident ones finding their level,
compassionate ones feeling
even more for others and themselves,
creative ones finding their channel,
has been deeply satisfying.
We had a student who looked really good, came from an affluent family and was very intelligent too. This had made him slightly arrogant and we could see he was talking down to other kids and they didn’t like it. We did a story in class about eggs, and how one of the eggs had started believing that he could keep jumping from the sofa and nothing would happen to him but, alas, even he broke. In a very loving and experiential environment we were able to convey the point to him. Seeing that knowledge within him – that yes, I should be confident but not overconfident – made me happy.
Seeing our students’ blossom – shy ones finding their feet, overconfident ones finding their level, compassionate ones feeling even more for others and themselves, creative ones finding their channel, has been deeply satisfying.
Q: What are your views of the mainstream education system? What changes are urgently needed?
NG: I think mainstream schools are doing the best they can. The only thing is there is so much to focus upon in terms of academics and meeting curriculum needs that I do feel a child’s EQ (Emotional Quotient) development should not be hindered and affected. I feel an urgent change that is needed is to ensure that there is an hour devoted each day at school purely for life readiness. We cannot assume this is something a child will pick up along the way.
MB: Schools are doing good work – and some are doing great work. There is an overall increase in awareness of the importance of holistic education and development of a child. My main concern is that with a teacher to child ratio of 1:20, or in some schools 1:40, how will the teacher know each child intimately and deal with the myriad of issues that crop up within him? I see Miraaya as a great fit with schools, as our focus is holistic development, Emotional Quotient development, forming of roots, and developing a sense of culture and pride in where they have come from and hence where they are going.
Q: What are the challenges you face at Miraaya?
NG: No organization is perfect and Miraaya has a long way to go. We are always in a state of learning and bettering ourselves. We are a team of very passionate people who love children, and love working with adults for healing, but our business acumen needs a lot of development. We have brought on board some industry experts to help us with this in 2018.
Q: Are there any alternative or progressive methods at Miraaya? Why this name and what does the name mean?
NG: Miraaya makes use of a lot of mindful techniques that aim to make a child become aware of their inner world. Nature, relationships, animals and plants all form an extremely important aspect of everything we do. Unlike schools that have a certain curriculum to follow and deadlines to meet, our focus in only on the development of the child’s inner being. We often spontaneously tweak or modify our class to meet a certain key need in a child, something that a normal school cannot do, even if they wished to. Much more than skill sets we develop attitude, which helps a child across all areas.
We make use of VAK (visual, audio and kinesthetic aids) in our classroom and hence the sessions come alive for students. We also use mind maps, soul charts, ‘getting to know the one within me’ diagrams and worksheets to make learning fun and exciting. After every class, the entire team sits and discusses the growth and progress of each child and we actually have a book where detailed notes on each child are made. These are shared with parents if they wish to meet us and discuss. The name Miraaya comes from Mira who was the epitome of devotion. I had a successful clinic in South Mumbai and was pretty hunky dory as a physiotherapist. Starting Miraaya was a huge leap of faith and it was an expression of my need to work with children and make them life ready and not just exam ready. I don’t regret a moment.
MB: While I love a lot of our methodologies I would say our worksheets are extremely unique and special. Designed to bring out the best in each child, they have been created by writers who have a love for English, for life and are leadership coaches who have an experience of dealing with a myriad issues children face globally. They also keep in mind the needs of parents and children on day-to-day issues. Miraaya can become a part of any school across the globe – and we have already seen more than 25,000 students experience Miraaya at schools and benefit greatly from it.
Q: Any interesting case studies and positive student experiences?
NG: I can quote examples from each day – as so many tangible and intangible changes are a part of our lives now. One that comes to mind is that of a little boy who had developed a lot of aggression and used to hit other children. Instead of telling him not to hit or making him feel like he is not good enough, I asked him to touch my face gently with his hands, telling him, “Hands are made to love.” I would put his hands in the soil and encourage him to do gardening, telling him, “Hands are made to create life.” I would encourage him to paint and tell him, “Hands are used to have fun.” Slowly and steadily he fell in love with his hands and himself, so the hitting just dropped off on its own accord.
His mother who was at her wits end recently sent me a mail from the US saying it used to be embarrassing to take him to be with his cousins as he would beat them, but this summer he has only patted them, taught them how beautiful hands are and what all we can do with it.
You can help them overcome certain
self doubts and fears,
you can create an environment for them
where they believe they are champions,
and can keep helping them
fall in love with learning.
MB: I had a student who believed she couldn’t write well. Each class, we opened her mind a little, sat in nature, allowed words to become a medium for her to express her thoughts and she actually went on to publishing a short piece in a national newspaper. The happiness I saw in her made me happy.
Our lives have been filled with these little miracles and it is so fulfilling to know you can change a child’s ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can’, you can help them overcome certain self doubts and fears, you can create an environment for them where they believe they are champions, and can keep helping them fall in love with learning.
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