Samina Mahmood (July '99)
A few twists and turns off the main road is the tree-lined street that leads up to Oakwood Apartments in the 3rd Block. Perhaps, the best address in Koramangala. A property belonging to the renowned Prestige group, these apartments reflect the company they keep. Rather, the residents they house. Perfect settings for this very charming and modest lady. Whose smile could launch a million ships and yet, she goes about life in the shadows of the quietness that surrounds the apartment she occupies. Meet Samina Mahmood - our Personality of the month. Articulate, cultured, poised, well mannered - all the traits that command respect - you find in her.
Darjeeling educated, Samina did her English Honors, with Education as a subsidiary subject, from the famous, Loreto College. When she married and moved to Bangalore, she showed a leaning towards teaching and education. Besides, she also liked children. Persuaded by her husband, they set up a Montessori, in 13th Main and with 3 students, Head Start Montessori House of Children had its humble beginnings in a garage. A year later, her husband passed away, She was shattered. The suddenness of it all pulled the rug from under her feet. With 3 small children to raise, she couldn't allow her life to fall apart. She had to get a hold of herself, soon. She did this with grit, determination and a lot of personal sacrifice, so that her children would be raised with the best values and traditions that she and her late husband had aspired for.
A year after her husband's passing away, Samina met Geeta Nityananda, who joined Head Start. With her support and with the number of children also having increased to around 20, Samina was now focussed. Geeta took over the teaching part and Samina concentrated on administration, which included meeting parents. In 1991, with 50 children, they moved to new premises in 4th Block and in 1995, they had over 200 children, which meant that they had to occupy another building, as well.
Montessori's are not schools, as we tend to imagine. They are called "House of Children" because they are "their first home away from home." This is the concept inculcated by Maria Montessori, the 1st Italian lady to become a doctor. Eventually, she worked amongst handicapped and the underprivileged, before setting up Montessori's all over the world. The common theme being " Let the child be what he or she is."
At Head Start, Samina and her colleagues - who could be a 'Directress' or 'Adult', but never referred to as 'Teacher' - extend this concept with all the essence and flavor of these "Innovative methods". For these children in the age groups of 2 1/2 to 6 years, there is no chalk, no blackboard, no pencil and importantly, no homework. Instead, as Samina herself put it so emphatically," It's all about making the child independent. Make them feel they are important to society. More through understanding than through the conventional methods of teaching."
Samina's own children are personification of good citizenry. Son Riad, after completing studies from St. Joseph's Commerce College, has now started to get involved in Head Start. His first objective being to computerize the accounting systems. Her older daughter Farah has a creative bent of mind. Psychology and Economics didn't gel with her. The US of A was her destination. She got herself a scholarship, specialized in graphics from Illinois Wesleyan University and now works with webdesigners, Planetasia.com, in Koramangala. Samina's youngest daughter Alia has just graduated from St.Josephs College of Arts & Science with a major in Industrial Relations and is looking around for a career break.
A few years back, there was this desire to succeed that got lodged somewhere in Samina's heart. A cherished dream that she and her late husband may have written together in an invisible book called memory. Her achievements are aide-memoire of those dreams.
Soft-spoken Samina keeps a low profile. Preferring to be with what she likes best. Writing, reading, playing the piano and doing crossword puzzles "especially, the easy ones." John Milton, in Paradise Lost, Book II said, "Long is the way and hard, that out of hell leads up to light." Samina came through well, despite tough circumstances. And, all of Koramangala is proud of her.