Nupur Sandhu has a near perfect resume to her name. From an army brat to an army wife to defining herself as an established person in our country, she definitely has come a long way, but for her, this is just the beginning.
The woman whose idea of relaxing is writing a book has achieved laurels both in India and abroad.
2017 proved was a busy year for her – “I was invited to attend the first Asian Voluntary Summit in CEBU, Philippines, in October. Was invited to address the students of Amity, Dubai’s Psychology and Tourism Department, on Face the Face beneath the Face, in November. I’ll also be travelling to Japan in December for a kids camp from Iwate area, that was affected by the Tsunami”
Having worked more than fifteen years in fields of education, behaviour and career counselling, writing, therapy and much more, Sandhu still doesn’t hesitate to learn and grow in her professional career.
A serenity surrender therapist now and the facilitator of an important workshop for the same, her schedule keeps her busy, but a quick phone call with her just a day before her trip to Japan was more than enough to get the story behind her journey and her views on the current status of children in our society.
Her professional life as an educationist began with a teaching gig, back when she was in college, “I was invited by the school, where I had done my 10th from, to teach nursery kids.” After graduating college, Sandhu spent some time in the world of public relations with a job in a prominent IT company.
One of the most significant events in her life as a teacher was starting her own primary school in Jalandhar.
Sandhu said, “After a lot of experience as a teacher and principal, I realized that good education should reach the doorstep of all children.” Keeping that in mind, she opened a school that was easily accessible to the kids in the villages neighbouring the city.
“Because there weren’t many good English medium schools in Punjab’s villages, young children have to travel a lot; travelling for hours isn’t convenient. Keeping that in mind, I opened my school.”
Becoming a school counsellor was the next chapter in her life that helped her grow as a person and understand children better.
She was invited to be a school counsellor in Faizabad Army School, even though she didn’t have any experience or degree in the field, “they said that I generally linked with people very well. When I was working there, I realized, this was my calling. Counselling isn’t just linking with people, it requires proper therapy to be used with them.”
She suggests that cognitive behavioural and rational emotive behavioural therapy should be adopted when dealing with developing students.
She narrates her experience in one of the cases where she was stuck, “A boy came to me, and he had some pimples on his face. He had been bullied by his classmates.”
That’s when she realized simply counselling or talking to him wasn’t enough. “I needed to go deeper into the study of counselling and psychotherapy. That is when I did my PG diploma in child guidance and counselling, from Delhi.”
Considering the current climate of students in school, a follow-up question was asked – should counselling be considered as a necessity in educational institutes?
Her response, “It is mandatory, every school must have a counsellor. Especially in higher grades like 10th and 12th.”
It is necessary for schools to have a proper career counsellor. But don’t most schools already have that?
She says “Generally I have observed that in many good schools, the psychology teacher is given the job of a counsellor. That is not done. Children want to keep these conversations private, as they might reveal certain secrets when they are vulnerable.”
“Whenever you share some deep secret with a stranger, you may not want to face that person for some time.”
According to her, details of such sessions shouldn’t become the talk of the staff rooms. A psychology teacher, who’s also teaching students, should not be the school counsellor. She explains, “There should be a career counsellor or a behavioural counsellor, working in every school.”
If you weren’t paying attention at the beginning of this story, you may have missed out the point that stated ‘writing’ in her experience. Yep, Nupur Sandhu is also an author.
“I decided to pen down some true stories of brave children.” Her inspiration for writing these stories came at her daughter’s birthday party, “When my daughter was growing up, in one of her birthday parties, during a party game, I realized that all of them are living a superficial life. They are all into Barbie dolls or computer games. They couldn’t relate to heroes like Rani Lakshmi Bai or Swami Vivekananda”
Kids felt our brave freedom fighters were from a different world. “Kids were self-centred. That was the time I realized I needed to share such stories of brave youngsters with children, especially my daughter. That there are children like you, who enjoy the same shows as you do, play with the same toys as you, but when the time comes, they put their best foot forward and help others.”
Sandhu explains, “So bravery is not in our strength, it’s in our thought process. It isn’t linked with age.”
Some of these stories based on real-life incidents were also written by her father back in 1983, “I just wanted to carry on his work and that’s how I wrote my first book.”
Her book was even appreciated by ex-chief minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit.
Her answer clearly suggested that kids should not be superficial, but think about our developing children today. A generation that grows up on the internet, lives on social media and communicates through hashtags. Don’t you feel it has actually gotten worse?
“I have a different point of view on this. I have observed this very closely. Ten or fifteen years ago, fast food chains and mobile phones were just entering our market. Children were more into a superficial life. Now, I find that kids are more evolved. Even if they are into brands or gadgets, they are also focused on their careers. They are quite open about it. There is still peer pressure, where we do more than we should to stay in a group. That can be attributed to our low emotional quotient.”
She explains, “Emotionally, our kids are becoming hollow. But at the same time, I feel they are more focused on their careers.”
Talking about students and their careers, came up another simple follow up question. A question that doesn’t really strike our minds but is a part of our reality. Students in small towns and big cities have different beliefs when it comes to their careers or future.
“In small towns, mostly towns like Jalandhar and Ludhiana, most kids are from a business background. The plan is to study for the certificate and join the family business.”
Her explanation on the matter goes further, “they do not have the exposure they need. Neither the school is ready to give them that. They are brought up in the cocoon of a safe and comfortable small city that most kids fail to get out of and get ahead in life.”
Sandhu recounts her experience that relates to this particular subject, “I recently met a girl who graduated from a prestigious boarding school in Mussoorie. When she cleared her 12th, she had no idea what she wanted to do. In the name of career counselling, she had just been told about different careers.”
Just like that student, many other kids in our schools don’t get the necessary training or exposure required by a teenager to decide which career path he/she has to pick. We do what we are told or pick what’s trending on the job market.
We now shift the focus of the story to her life in the army, as a child and as an army wife. She says, “Both lives had their pros and cons, I can’t say which is better, because, I was able to settle down and get comfortable in both lives quickly and easily.”
“When we were in Cantonment, we had some privileges that we took for granted. You tend to miss those when you move out.” She adds, “But, the army did help me adapt to different environments and even though living outside cantonments, was an eye-opener for me in the beginning, I was able to settle down.”
Life outside helped her grow, she got to meet people from different backgrounds and learn more about the outside world.
In all her experiences and works, there was one force that was always there to support her – Her family.
Sandhu claims, “Without family support, you cannot move forward. My family has supported me in all my endeavours.”
She remembered an instance that clearly sheds some light on the situation of families in our Indian households, “When I joined rotary and got into social service, I was the only woman in my club of men. Men used to come to the events with their spouses, so when I became the secretary of my club, many women told me whenever their spouses had to do something for the club, they had time, whenever they tell them to do something for home, they didn’t.”
This simple incident inspired her to write her second book, ‘Vinegar and Honey For Perfect Harmony’.
“The book not only highlighted Rotary International’s annual theme, Peace through Service, it also brought the topic of marital relationships forward.” She points out, “I wrote that service begins at home. You cannot be a good social worker if you are not taking care of the basic duties at home.”
Her most recent venture – a story that was later adapted into a play titled, In Her Shoes, has been selected for Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, Mumbai. Apart from that, her short film, where she worked with NCC cadets to highlight the issue of saving water, Wakeup call before we fall, is another work of creativity by the enterprising mother.
Nupur Sandhu’s incredible journey as a teacher, counsellor, writer, and as a mother, shows that age is just another number and it’s never too late for an adult to learn something new and grow in life.
If you wish to know more about her inspiring journey and leave this beautiful page, click here and know more about her.