Asha Sundararajan moved to the US in 1993 and had the perfect Manhattan life. Her husband was a successful banker; her two sons, Aditya and Arvind, went to good schools; and Asha herself had a job she loved, teaching math at a middle school.
Then, in 2005, Asha’s husband was offered a transfer to India — the global finance company he worked for was looking for an expat who understood the American work culture and could therefore head operations in Mumbai. The Sundararajans accepted and returned home.
Four years later, Asha, who has a Master’s degree in education from Columbia University, set up Children’s Technology Workshop (CTW), with a staff of 10 facilitators.
The programme, based out of a residential building in Juhu, helps children develop their spatial reasoning through design and simple structural, mechanical and electrical engineering exercises.
“I had initially considered introducing the programme in malls in the US, so that children dropped off in play areas could learn while their mother shopped,” says Asha. “But when I did the math, I realised that the programme would cost as much to run in the US as it would in India, but in India I wouldn’t have a mortgage to pay and I wouldn't need to constantly worry about saving up for my children’s college tuition.”
While the first three months were slow, because the concept was new, Asha had 450 students by the end of the first year, and got 4,000 applications last year.
The one drawback in India, says Asha, is that teachers take time to learn how to bring out the best in a child without telling them what to do, but rather by letting them discover it themselves.
“There are also virtually no conferences for educators and teachers, no platform where we can get together and share our ideas and
experiences,” says Asha, who travels to the US regularly to attend math conferences to keep herself updated with global education practices.
“And I miss the museums,” she adds, laughing. “But when I think back, Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken comes to mind. The road back to India happened by chance, and now life here too is perfect.”