Hindu Vivek Kendra
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The smile train

Author: Sukhdeep Kaur
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: January 1, 2012
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/the-smile-train/894268/0

Introduction: In Chandigarh, a former banker is now working full-time to make children smile

She asks them to board the ‘trouble train’ that has destinations marked as happy, sad, angry and confused. Children from not-so-privileged backgrounds have the privilege to choose which station they want to get down depending on their feelings to situations she throws at them—a scolding mother, an angry teacher, a bullying friend.

Two months ago, when 39-year-old Sanjoli Chimni Pandey started her classes with a bunch of 10-12 children, all of them from poor families, seven-year-old Nagma, whose mother works as a housemaid and father a rickshaw-puller, disembarked at the sad station and her 10-year-old brother Ahmed at the angry station. Shivangi, 8, whose mother too is a housemaid, alternated between different stations. By December last week, the happy station has become the most popular destination. Among cards with smiling, sad and angry faces, they choose the smileys.

After 17 years of working at country’s top banks, Sanjoli quit her job as an investment banker in July this year to teach emotional intelligence—the art to navigate emotions—to children, teachers and parents. “While raising my 10-year-old daughter Ada and seeing other chidren around me I wondered if they were being equipped with basic life skills—the ability to manage one’s thoughts and emotions. “I went to Mumbai for a certification course of Six Seconds, a non-profit-organisation working worldwide on EQ. Back from the training, I started the Mind and Heart Foundation with three others of Mumbai I had met during the course. In the last six months, we have done free workshops for teachers, chidren and parents,” she says.

At present, the classes operate out of her home and the office from her garage but Sanjoli, now a director education for Six Seconds in India, says they will be moving into a nearby school for special children. But she reckons the task is too big to be handled alone. “We have to train volunteers, translate tools and programmes in Hindi for the chidren to understand. We have approached corporates to take EQ up as a corporate responsibility, NCERT to include it in the school curriculum and to the National Skills Development Council to acknowledge it a skill for enhancing salaries of teachers.”
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