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What Are We?

People often ask us whether we are an NGO or a commercial organization. They bluntly question whether we have a vested interest in doing “free” counselling. They want to know if we are propagating a religion or a cult, or are we clandestinely funded by some rich foreigners with shady motives. The answer to all the above is a vehement “No”.

What we are cannot be defined in conventional sense. Yes, we do provide free counselling. We never turn anyone away. We get perhaps 10-30 people walking in every day, half as many phone calls, and more than 50-80 emails per week. We attend to all of them to the best of our ability.

We organize two free lectures on all aspects of human behaviour every month. We encourage our students to take up independently any “business” offers that come to us. We give guidance and hand-holding to anyone who wishes to work in the field of improving or enriching quality of life.

We invite, nurture and encourage hundreds of volunteers to serve in different ways according to their convenience and as per their area of interest. We offer our retreat Manthan at cost price to anyone working for a cause. We lend our training hall to anyone who wishes to have a meaningful gathering, lecture or workshop.

More than anything else, we welcome anyone who walks in, if possible offer a cup of tea, definitely offer our emotional support or friendship….. and we allow them to walk away into their own world to seek their own path. A few of them do send us their thanks.

Can someone tell us what or who we are?

We grow human beings

If you see a plant nursery, you will only see tiny saplings. As soon as the little plant starts growing, it is transplanted in someone else’s pot or garden, and it continues its growth there, with the new owners getting the flowers, fruits or shade.

Banjara is a human nursery. We plant the seeds of self-awareness, wider and more meaningful thinking, identifying talent and goals. We nurture the thoughts and ideas in people’s minds. Then, as the eagle does in pushing out its eaglets from its nest, we give a gentle nudge, and allow people to soar in the wide blue skies – choosing which direction to fly towards, and at the speed each individual decides.

We counsel people pro bono for emotional and developmental issues. We guide students for careers by professional aptitude testing. We also play with the little ones and assess them for psycho-academic needs. We train people from all walks of life and all ages to become effective counsellors. We spread out in 10 different hospitals and help and support patients and care-givers.

We take joy in seeing each unique individual flying out of our little nest, and we provide warmth for the next egg to hatch.

Banjaras are nomads. They have traditionally roamed through countryside, living a simple life, gathering no wealth, bonding strongly within their ‘tanda’ or tribes, and providing their services to villagers wherever they camped.

Banjara Academy consists of Banjaras who wish to serve others in the form of Enriching Life Through Empowerment.

We provide free counselling, and we also want many others to carry forward our mission, so we train people from all walks of life to become counsellors. We have part-time classroom courses and online programs. We nurture individuals of any age, of any qualifications (and we never, ever hold ‘final exams’). If you wish to become part of Banjara family in any way, read our books, avail our counselling for yourself or for others, and what would make us most happy – become a counsellor yourself. It is not very difficult, ask us.

We believe in the mission……..

“Enriching Life Through Empowerment”

We believe that anyone can be trained in the vital fields of psychological counselling, life skills training and career guidance. Hence we have constantly been endeavouring to train as many people as possible, so that the ripple effect reaches out to as many people as possible. We have very convenient face-to-face part-time programs suiting people of all backgrounds and ages, and for those who cannot come and attend, we also have online programs.

The Joys of Volunteering !

It is said that if you feel pulled down, exhausted, or that life is not treating you fairly, the best thing to do is to reach out to someone who is worse off than you.

Our ‘Helping Hand’ volunteers are witness to this therapy since the past thirty years. If you wish to experience it for yourself, spend a couple of hours every week in a hospital giving emotional support to patients or their care-givers. You will feel so much better, and your life will become more meaningful. Contact us on 80-23535766, or talk to our coordinator Ms. Purnima on 9341972540, or just mail us, and avail an opportunity to give a better direction and deeper meaning to your life.

Find Reasons to Celebrate

As we age, a year looks shorter and shorter. When you have spent many decades in this world, the end of one calendar year and the beginning of another one becomes a minor ritual of holiday, party, shopping, and …..back to routine.

Sometimes we even become pessimistic about how life is going and whether we are getting a fair deal. Without doing so consciously we may start focusing only on the negative, and pull ourselves down further.

Some of us do make New Year resolutions that we will make our life better – but most such resolutions do not last beyond a few days or weeks.

I have a suggestion. The way you make a balance sheet at the end of the financial year, and based on the balance sheet you make a budget and financial plan for the next year, I propose to you an audit of where you stand at the end of each year. If you answer the questions truthfully and ponder over them for an extended period of time, you will realize that you actually have very strong reasons to welcome the New Year warmly. This is the questionnaire…..

Whenever you feel like, ask yourself these questions:

Are you……

  1. Serious or life-threatening illness

  2. Bankrupt or in heavy debt

  3. Failed or dropped out?

  4. Any major fight with close person

  5. Court cases, convicted for crime

  6. Clinical depression, schizophrenia

  7. Addiction to alcohol or drugs

  8. Cannot walk, see, hear

  9. Displaced from home, being oppressed

  10. Questioning your existence

If you have answered “No” to almost all the above ten questions, then it means that you are….

  1. Healthy

  2. Financially comfortable

  3. Educated

  4. Have good personal relationships

  5. A free citizen

  6. Have good mental health

  7. A person with full control of life

  8. Physically fit

  9. A proud Indian

  10. A person with a meaning in life ! So……

Celebrate the New Year, celebrate 2020 and celebrate Life !

We love children !

The more we care for them, the better will our life be when they take over the world. While we believe in overall development, building life skills and values in the young, we do understand that academics and grades do play a significant role in their progress. To help students through the challenging time of exams, we will be available for free counselling on all weekdays in the coming months. We also offer the following:

Short, crisp and practically useful video clips on all aspects of facing exams and studying well, which are categorized into:

  • Where to study

  • When to study

  • What to study

  • How to study

  • Why study

We are not Tailors

We do not alter either ladies or gents. But we do endeavour to help them to alter themselves. We believe in the individuality, the talent and the creativity of every human being.

Through counselling, mentoring, training and nurturing, we help people, from children to senior citizens, to find better meaning and purpose to their life

We provide free counselling, we train people from all walks to life to understand human behaviour, to help others and help themselves in the process.

Every Life is Valuable, and every human has potential. At Banjara we do not differentiate, we do not judge – we look for the good, for the hidden potential. We provide free counselling and emotional support. We do not tell others how to run their life, we believe in our mission “Enriching Life Through Empowerment”, and we welcome everyone to join us on this road less travelled – in whatever way you would like to walk with us.

If you too wish to become a Counsellor, do get in touch with us

Great thinkers and those who sought greater meaning in life always walked on the Road Less Travelled. At Banjara, we are always looking beyond the beaten path. We believe in each human being’s potential, and we believe in Enriching Life through Empowerment.

We do not propagate any theories or cults, we do not consider ourselves wiser than you. We learn and change at every step. And if we find that there is no path going towards the beautiful sunrise, we create one ….. and we invite you to walk – not led by us, not to lead us, but to walk hand in hand with us, doing our little bit to create a better tomorrow for everyone.

Our doors are open to those who wish to learn more about life, seek support or give support.

Everyone needs a helping hand some time or the other. That is why our service wing, ‘Helping Hand’ reaches out unconditionally to anyone who needs emotional support or counselling, free of charge. We work through our two centres where anyone can walk in, and we do utmost to put a smile on their faces. We also have volunteers on the help-desks of 10 major hospitals of the city.

We invite people from all backgrounds who wish to get trained as counsellors or life skills trainers, to gain practical and professional expertise through part-time courses. We offer dozens of simple practical and economical books on all aspects of human behaviour. We have a quaint little ‘Gurukul’ for children who need help in getting back to routine or overcoming special needs. We assess students and others for career guidance through Aptitude Testing.

We don’t work from 9:30 to 5:30, we just walk in to welcome you, to exchange experiences of life, and to convert challenges into opportunities.

We Enrich Life through Empowerment

In an increasingly digital world,

If you wish to enrich your life, need counselling, wish to get yourself trained practically to become a counsellor or life skills trainer, read our very practical books, get your child assessed, become a part of a family of hundreds of volunteers, or just spend some time away from the stresses of life, do get in touch.

Look deeper into your life !

Whether you have been happy and contented so far, or whether you have been through many ups and downs in life, the best thing to do now is to reach out to someone who is worse off than you. Experience the joy of giving of yourself – something that is inexhaustible. Stop for a moment and think how nice it is to bring a smile on a tearful face, to share a light moment with someone who is pulled down.

If you have 2 or 3 hours to spare in a week, please join us to become a volunteer (no long-term commitment required). Meet other people who look beyond mundane and routine life and get a deeper insight into your own life. We welcome people of all backgrounds and ages. Contact us on 80-23330200 from 9:30 to 5:30 any time, or just mail us, and avail an opportunity to give a better direction and deeper meaning to your life.

Role Reversal

Close relationships change so significantly over a period of time. This is most obvious in the parent-child bonding. A small baby needs 24/7 attention from mother, a toddler needs parents around him all the time, a teenager tries to avoid his parents and only be with his friends, a young adult may have either a love-hate relationship with his parents, or start taking responsibility for them.

At midlife the roles may slowly reverse and the child starts becoming the parent.

The greatest change happens if a parent becomes old and infirm and unable to care for himself.  That is when the clock seems to have taken a complete circle and it is as though the parent has become the toddler or the baby.

How do you deal with the situation?

Boosting self-esteem

For Parents and Tea­­­chers:

Here are a few important tips to parents and elders, that should be followed as far as possible at all times:

Never compare your child with a sibling, cousin, classmate, or any other person.  Motivate and encourage him, but not by talking about others’ success.

  • Do not undermine the self esteem of your child by making derogatory remarks about him. Statements such as “Why were you born?”, “You will never achieve anything in life,” “See how horrible you look, anyone will think you are a beggar,” “If you don’t pass your board exam, get ready to go and become a peon or a coolie,” can leave a permanent mark on the psyche of the child.
  • Do not make him feel unloved, unwanted, and thus making him insecure. Threatening to send him away to a hostel or to relatives, threatening to walk out of the family, or even threats of suicide, can make a child feel very guilty that he is not capable of winning his parents’ love.
  • Do not value him based on his marks or success. While it is understandable that every parent wants the best for the child, remember that some children just cannot excel academically despite their best efforts.
  • Listen to your child – encourage him to talk on any topic without inhibition. Particularly make him talk about how he “feels” in different situations.  Never ridicule or put him down when he says something wrong.
  • Give him emotional support when he is facing anxious moments like exam results. Reassure him that regardless of the outcome, you still love him and accept him unconditionally.

Unhappy with course you selected?

Dr. Ali Khwaja

Some students have very clear goals, lofty ideals and high benchmarks – most common being to get into IIT, National Law School, NDA or MBBS.  The competition being so high, barely 1% of the aspirants actually get a seat.  Even very capable students miss out if they develop stress or are not keeping well on the day of the exam.

Those who have Plan B ready and have made a list of their preferences in descending order, manage to move on to an alternative course. But many students select a particular course in a college they like (often based on what others have recommended), and then realize within a few days or weeks that they have made a wrong choice.  It could be because of the subjects, the teachers, the college ambience, or a fear that that particular course may not get them a good job.

In such a situation, you have three choices (1) continue with the course and somehow complete it even if you do not get very high marks, and plan what you would do after completion, including moving on to a different field through post-graduation or entry-level work experience. A university degree never goes waste, even if you change your field, and a strong foundation would have been laid to move into something which you truly desire (2) continue with your studies planning for entrance exams to get into a better institution next year. In this option if you do not get your favored choice even in the second attempt, you have not lost out and can go through the balance years to acquire the degree you are in (3) drop out, spend the year gaining in-depth knowledge of alternative careers and colleges, doing internship and short on-line courses in the field of your choice, and making a strong effort to get into a very good institution. In the third alternative, you should be very focused and spend the year fruitfully.  I have known students who have dropped out, wasted the year directionless, leading to bigger disappointment in the next academic year.

The essential factor in making choices is to understand and narrow down to your long term career goals, based on not just interest but on a combination of multiple-intelligences, personality traits, specific skills, social and commercial acumen, concentration and attention span, general knowledge and academic capabilities – which taken together determine your aptitude.  Then it becomes much easier to select courses that are most suitable to you and there will be no regret.  I have counseled students who selected a course such as engineering under peer or parental pressure and then felt that they could not cope or are not sustaining interest.  In frustration they dropped out and blindly took up a general course like BBA thinking it will be much easier, without knowing where it is leading them to.  Such students rarely carve out a rewarding or meaningful career in the long run.

Choices in courses and number of colleges and universities have expanded significantly in the past few years, and there are innumerable options in each field including technology, health care, life sciences, social sciences, communication, creativity etc. Detailed and careful selection can ensure that any mistake or wrong decision can still be set right.  The important factor is to select based on your capabilities, and not get influenced by what everyone else is doing, or where there is apparently good ‘scope’.

Completed 10th Standard?

Similarly, those who have completed 10th need to take a decision regarding their academics for the first time in their life i.e. to opt for science, commerce or arts, which combination of subjects, and which Board of study.  Some are very particular about a specific college, but either do not get a seat there, or are disappointed once they start attending classes.  More or less the same principle applies here. Explore whether it is still possible to change optional subjects (which should be done based on your aptitude as mentioned above), change college if admissions are still open, or go through at least one year and explore deeply to determine whether a change is required and for what reason. Taking a year off should be done only as a last resort, and with a clear goal of how that year will be spent meaningfully to ensure you move in the right direction.

One wrong choice need not mean the end of your dreams. If you do not succumb to frustration or depression, immediately start exploring alternatives, and take a calculated decision, you can perhaps move into a better and more rewarding career path.

Ali’s Notes:

“The greatest sin is the one which I don’t commit”

Give a thought to the above statement. Talking about values and principles, many of us inevitably have double standards. We hide or justify our own shortcomings, and we easily condemn others for their mistakes when we are confident that we do not commit the same. If I do not drink alcohol at all, then people who drink are “drunkards, antis-social elements.”  If I am a strict vegetarian, then all who eat non-veg food are inhuman and cruel.

At times it helps to look inward. I may have been fortunate to lead a comfortable life so I have never had occasion to ask favors from others, cheat or let down anyone, beg or borrow. So it is easy to look down upon those who are unfortunate, who have faced many setbacks in life, and who have had to cut corners to make ends meet.

Let us be more understanding towards those who have had trauma, challenges and hurdles yet are making the best of their life.