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Exclusive: An interview with Rohini Bakshi, Founder of Sanskrit Appreciation Hour

A tête-à-tête with Rohini Bakshi, Founder of Sanskrit Appreciation Hour- a twitter community of 11.1k members that is dedicated to the Sanskrit language

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Sanskrit Language.(Representational Image). Source: www.siddhaika.org

August 20, 2016: Google search ‘Rohini Bakshi’ and tweets pertaining to Sanskrit Appreciation Hour will fill up your page. You’d also find special requests for a particular script translation, questions regarding sessions and many compliments. By the time you figure out what’s making the ‘twitterati’ go frantic, you’ll realize you are in a pool of tweets with eager disciples of the Vedic language. And by the time you comprehend how big SAH really is, well I bet by then you’ll already know the meaning of वक्रतुण्डं नमस्कृत्य गुरून् ज्येष्ठान् भवत। If you are skeptic about the reach of Sanskrit in 140 characters, you aren’t alone. To satiate the ‘eternal curiosity of our spotless mind’, reporter Karishma Vanjani of NewsGram called up the founder of #SanskritAppreciationhour, Rohini Bakshi herself.

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In a dimly lit room in the UK, she sits in front of her Surface Pro. We casually discuss Brexit and how everything is uncertain there but soon realize that with politics one could talk endlessly. Jumping onto the elephant in the room, we begin talking about the reason she started SAH and some of them were truly thought provoking in the true sense of the term.

Rohini Bakshi: If there’s a single prime mover behind Sanskrit Appreciation hour, it is the fact that for almost five or six years, I looked for a teacher to come home and teach me or a course that I could attend without giving up my job, but I couldn’t find one. Ironically, it’s only when I came to the UK that I had the opportunity to learn. Hence, to make sure that people didn’t suffer the way I suffered- I created SAH, an online hub for them to come learn. I call it suffering because if you really want to do something and you are not able to do it, it is suffering indeed.

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Rohini Bakshi
Rohini Bakshi. Image source: Twitter 

I listened intently to her tale realizing it was the teacher in her that spoke. Unsurprisingly, other than conducting #SAH sessions, she’s also a Sanskrit Teacher at Citylit London. She told me about her alternative life as a teacher.

Rohini Bakshi: Sanskrit urges me to call myself a learner more than a teacher because even till today there’s so much to learn and I believe in one lifetime it’s impossible to cover everything that Sanskrit can teach.

Type in ‘Citylit London Sanskrit sessions’ in Google and you’ll find students calling the 90-minute Sanskrit sessions with Rohini ‘a window into India’s past’. Moving back to her twitter community, the one founded in 2012 which is now close to a whopping 11.1k. These numbers don’t just include Indian inhabitants; they include people from Ukraine to the USA as well.

Rohini Bakshi (shakes her head): Let’s not divide the eclectic list on the basis of their nationality. With Indians, it’s the ‘bhakti’ part; the urge to know the meaning of the ‘shlokas’ they chanted as children. Everybody has the right to choose their own means to connect to their Gods.  I chose mine and just like me, there were Sanskrit enthusiasts out there who chose the same. Additionally, I found people who were also motivated to revive the language.

For the first few years, Rohini preferred to conduct the sessions herself as it was nothing but a labor of love for her. But for the community to thrive, the variety was a necessity. Today, experts are invited to conduct these sessions, but only the ones that check the list. She listed some criteria’s while talking about the credibility of these guest contributors.

Rohini Bakshi: Obviously, you have to know Sanskrit well, be able to justify your translations and answer any grammar questions thrown at you to be a moderator. Secondly, under no circumstances will politics be brought into the session. In my virtual classroom, if you may call it, I don’t want any ideologies to be mentioned or any religion to be insulted.

Spotlighting the apolitical bit, she mentioned an instance of a heated debate that crammed her twitter timeline.

Rohini Bakshi: A Muslim community member modestly questioned me about the mystery behind the two Sri’s in the name Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. As it was a Muslim’s involvement in Hindu spirituality, he was faced with accusations and criticism. Hence my blog ‘All about Sanskrit’, clearly mentions- ‘Your personal beliefs remain exactly that – personal.’

Lastly, after SAH reaching the apex of what anyone could imagine, there was an inevitable question I threw in regarding their aims. Are we here to reach a level where a teenager opens Twitter to check what’s ‘dude’ in Sanskrit instead of a shirtless Daniel Radcliffe picture?

Rohini Bakshi: It’s already happening and I have been getting queries regarding cool tattoos in Sanskrit more often than one could imagine. Like I said, it started fortuitously and took on a life of its own. We have already started various spin-offs. One of them being ‘Sandhanam’ which literally means ‘joining of’ and it speaks for itself; it’s a non-profit service that we provide which connects people anywhere in the world via Skype to traditionally trained tutors in India. If you speak Tamil then we have a Tamil speaking tutor for you. To correct the imbalance in the remuneration, the entirety of fee by the student goes to the tutor directly for his sheer hard work. Secondly, we’ve moved into a book. Yes, a book based on Sanskrit Appreciation Hours will be releasing this autumn; it will be an Independent reader. Hence, staying true to the DNA of our program, we are enabling people to learn Sanskrit, one way or the other.

She ends with the line-‘ Nobody owns Sanskrit, nobody is the boss of it and we are here to serve it in our way’. A statement we completely agree with. We wish her forthcoming campaigning efforts prove to be fruitful and the hashtag beckons all Sanskrit lovers around the world.

– Interviewed by Karishma Vanjani of NewsGram. Twitter: @BladesnBoots

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EXCLUSIVE: Vishwanath Sanskrit Vidyalaya in Delhi is trying to keep the Cultural Roots Alive in Students through Sanskrit Language

What makes this Sanskrit School different from others?

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Chintamanni Vedpathi with students
Chintamanni Vedpathi with students. Youtube
  • Vishwanath Sanskrit Vidyalaya  is one of the oldest Sanskrit Institutions in Delhi
  • Students wear white dhoti and shirt, they greet their guru or teacher by clasping their hands together
  • The Sri Vishwanath Sanyas Ashram takes care of the student’s  food by providing them with free food and they also stay in hostel free of cost  

New Delhi, August 30, 2017: There is a school in Delhi away from the overdose of technology and westernization. This school is trying to strengthen the roots of Indian culture by giving the gyan (knowledge) of Sanskrit to their students.

Reporter Kritika Dua got in touch with the teachers of Vishwanath Sanskrit Vidyalaya– Jai Prakash Mishra and Rajendra Sharma to know what is so special about this Delhi-based School. To get the taste of the pattern that this school follows, she spoke with students- Virender Tiwari and Pushpendra Chaturvedi who shared some interesting anecdotes about the school.

This Sanskrit Vidyalaya is one of the oldest Sanskrit Institutions in Delhi, where classes begin at 11 am and end at 4.10 p.m. The school has produced many Sanskrit scholars in the past and it is run by Sri Vishwanath Sanyas Ashram, which is located just opposite to the school.

On entering the classroom, you can see students wearing white dhoti and shirt, students greet their guru or teacher by clasping their hands together and sit on the carpeted floor while learning at the Vidyalaya.

One of the teachers at this school, Jai Prakash Mishra said, “around 55-60 students stay in the hostel, rest of them come from other areas in Delhi to study here. The ones who stay in hostel come from different states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Rajasthan.”

Entrance of Vishwanath Sanskrit Vidyalaya, Delhi.
Entrance of Vishwanath Sanskrit Vidyalaya, Delhi

Students having interest in learning the ancient language of India are welcome in this school, no matter which part of the country they belong to. The only requirement is to be a good shisya (pupil) – he should be serious towards education, ready to lead a disciplined life and should be hard-working.

Mishra added, “the Sri Vishwanath Sanyas Ashram takes care of the student’s  food by providing them with free food and they also stay in hostel free of cost.” There are 10 teachers currently in this school.

Volleyball Court in School Playground
Volleyball Court in School Playground

The students play Volleyball and Cricket in the school playground though there is no sports teacher in the school. Rajendra Sharma, Hindi teacher said, “The students here can get the education -9th class and 10th class called purva madhyama, 11th and 12th called uttar madhyama, till graduation called Shastri though they get a post-graduation degree from the school. The degree they get is from Sampurnanand Sanskrit Vishwavidyalaya (SSVV), Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh as the school is affiliated with this university.”

The School teaches other subjects apart from Sanskrit like Hindi, history, science, English literature, English Grammar, law etc.  Sharma told about his expectations from the students, “Our students are preserving Indian Culture by learning Sanskrit. I wish that they have a bright future ahead.”

ALSO READ: Move to Make Sanskrit Classes Mandatory Raises Ruckus in Assam

The students of this all boy’s school have short cropped hair which is sometimes shaven heads with tufts of hair at the back. They are rooted in Indian culture which can be seen through their behavior, good manners, dressing and talking sense.

Rahul Shukla, a 9th class student said that he can recite shlokas perfectly and wants to be a Shastri when he grows up. Vishwanath Sanskrit Vidyalaya has branches in Haridwar, Varanasi, Shimla, Kolkata, Mount Abu, and Bikaner.

Virender Tiwari (19) is pursuing graduation from this school and here the B.A first year course is called Shastriya Pratham, and he will become a Shastri after he completes his graduation. Tiwari said, “my experience has been extremely enriching in this school so far, all the knowledge I have of Sanskrit is because of what I have been taught here.”

Pushpendra Chaturvedi completed his graduation last year, now he lives in Dilshad Garden and is a priest in a temple. Pushpendra said, “I came to this school in the 9th standard, this school did a lot for me and I have fond memories of this place. I want to pursue B.ED and become a Sanskrit teacher.”

He talked about the ex-principal of the school, Ram Sarmukh Dwivedi, 95 years old Mahatma. He was a Sanskrit  Scholar and had in depth knowledge of Sanskrit language, literature, and ‘Ved Puran’. The current Principal of this unique Sanskrit school is Dr. Brahmachari Balram.


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12-year-old Indian-Origin Boy Rahul Wins UK Child Genius Show

Rahul clinched the title by answering a question on 19th Century artists William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais

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Child Genius show
Indian Origin boy wins Child Genius show. Pixabay
  • A 12-year-old Indian-origin boy from north London has won the Child Genius show
  • He clinched the title by answering a question on 19th Century artists William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais
  • Rahul’s chosen subject was Edward Jenner’s medical innovation and methodology in 18th Century England

London, Aug 20, 2017: An 12-year-old Indian-origin boy from north London has won the Child Genius show broadcast by UK’s Channel 4, the media reported on Sunday.

Rahul, who lives in Barnet, beat his nine-year-old opponent, Ronan, 10-4 in the programme’s finale on Saturday night, the BBC reported.

Rahul, who has an IQ high enough to be a member of Mensa, the world’s largest and oldest high IQ society, fought off competition from 19 children aged eight to 12 in the week-long show.

He clinched the title by answering a question on 19th Century artists William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais.

In the final, Rahul’s chosen subject was Edward Jenner’s medical innovation and methodology in 18th Century England. He and Ronan both scored 15 in their specialist fields.

Rahul said he was “extremely delighted to win” and congratulated Ronan and the other contestants, the BBC reported.

He had impressed audiences and quizmaster Richard Osman in the first round on Monday by answering every question he was asked correctly.

Rahul’s father, Minesh is an IT manager and mother Komal, a pharmacist. They entered him into the competition and called his success a “phenomenal achievement”. (IANS)

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Indian-Origin Doctor Manish Shah charged with 118 Sex Offences in UK

The doctor, Manish Shah, is also charged with one count of sexual assault on a child under the age of 13

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Indian-origin doctor in UK
Dr. Manish Shah charged with sexual assault. Wikimedia
  • A 47-year-old Indian-origin doctor in east London was charged with 118 sex offences, including one assault on a child under 13
  • Shah is out on bail and is due to appear on August 31 at Barkingside Magistrates’ Court in London
  • The charges announced today follow a long-running investigation into Shah, who has been bailed several times after first being arrested in 2013

London, August 3, 2017:  A 47-year-old Indian-origin doctor in east London was on Thursday charged with 118 sex offenses, including one assault on a child under 13, by the Scotland Yard.

Dr Manish Shah, from Brunel Close in Romford area of the city, is accused of 65 counts of assault by penetration and 52 allegations of sexual assault, the Metropolitan Police said.

The doctor is also charged with one count of sexual assault on a child under the age of 13.

“Manish Shah has been charged with 65 assault by penetration, contrary to Section 2 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, 52 sexual assault, contrary to Section 3 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, and 1 sexual assault on a child under 13 years, contrary to Section 7 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003,” the Met Police said in a statement today.

Shah is out on bail and is due to appear on August 31 at Barkingside Magistrates’ Court in London.

ALSO READSexual crimes against women are highest in UP

“The NHS (National Health Service) has a dedicated number for any individuals who may have concerns or questions. They can be contacted on 0800 011 4253,” the Met Police said.

The offences are alleged to have occurred between June 2004 and July 2013 and relate to 54 victims.

The charges announced today follow a long-running investigation into Shah, who has been bailed several times after first being arrested in 2013. (IANS)