Meghna Ghai Puri: Inspiring Lives to Accomplish Dreams
Meghna Ghai Puri, President, WWI

Every teacher we have in our life plays a significant role. They are our driving force in our journey towards success. A Teacher is not necessarily the person who teaches us in school or college. It can be any person who gives you valuable life lessons.

With changing times, education has received a broader sense to it. Learning of all kinds like, cooking, acting, dancing, etc. have a variety of courses and colleges to choose from. One such course is Filmmaking.

Film making has been a course of passion and enthusiasm. It is not every day that we see or hear someone who is learning or wants to learn filmmaking. One passionate Filmmaker Subhash Ghai founded Whistling Woods International (WWI), a filmmaking school located in Mumbai, to pass on his knowledge to the upcoming generation of filmmakers.

The President of WWI, Meghna Ghai Puri, has been a constant and strong pillar in the journey WWI’s holistic growth. Immense energy, passion and perspective has gone into bringing WWI to life. Let us learn about the journey of Whistling Woods International from, Mrs. Meghna.

Kindly brief us about you and your journey since the beginning of your career. 

I had just finished college education in Business Management from Kings College UK, when my father called me back to India to start Whistling Woods International (WWI). Avery successful filmmaker of his time but always a teacher at heart, he had always dreamt of building a film school.

It was a promise that he had made to himself when he had first started working in the industry, to provide a formal platform to the talents of our country. I knew how passionate he was about this and returned to India to help this dream blossom into a reality. And, of course, somewhere along the way, his dream became mine as well.

How do you describe yourself in one sentence?

I would say I am a compassionate and empathetic human being. I like to help people and see the joy in their lives. It makes me genuinely happy to see others happy.

What is your source of motivation & inspiration that drove you to become an educator?

My father’s dream and passion to build WWI for the next generation filmmakers was the paramount inspiration for me to get involved. Having an ethos of creativity around me since my childhood and then pursuing a Business Management degree somehow joined the dots for me. I realised that managing an institute of film, communication and creative arts was the place for me.

Tell us about the challenges you faced to withstand the complexities of the educational forums. 

I would like to mention a quote by Joshua J Marine that I really love. “Challenges are what makes life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” The past decade has shown me how life’s challenges must be accepted and dealt with courageously. I feel strongly that challenges always lead to opportunities. And in my entrepreneurial journey of 20 years, I find this to be very true.

In an industry as dynamic as ours – keeping abreast with growing trends can be very challenging.

For instance, not just staying in sync but staying ahead of times, with technological advancements. Being an educational institution, we have embraced this challenge and are focussed to stay ahead of the time. Students associate with us to attain education and be able to carve their niche in the industry; hence, it becomes very crucial for us to stay in balance with new technologies, ways of working and new academic advancements as well.

In this way, our budding talents can adapt to the change they aspire to bring. So, at any given point of time, WWI is always 6-8 months ahead of the regular technological advances. Secondly, people management also possess its own challenges. It takes a lot to groom and retain good talents and most importantly to ensure they stay passionate about the professional goals.

In addition, we also faced a major challenge that led us to being forced to vacate our campus. Fortunately, we stayed in positive spirits and continued doing our best. Just like the lotus blooms in muddy waters, my entrepreneurial journey has been just like that lotus…we have been able to thrive amidst all the chaos.

Brief us on your perspective about the current scenario of the educational sector. 

Indian education system has the potential to be completely reshaped by newly introduced technologies, processes, and services. However, we still have a long way to go before we are able to fully utilise these new systems. Though, owing to the current Covid-19 scenario, we have embarked on this journey of revolutionised methods in the education sector. Teachers need to inculcate digital skills and be trained to effectively implement new teaching methodologies in their classrooms.

The existing technologies available to schools need to be upgraded and modernised in order to allow the integration of new technologies. And students need to be made receptive of new learning techniques. Only once all these steps have been accomplished, will India truly benefit from this latest industrial revolution.

The biggest recent development in the Indian education sector has been the Draft National Education Policy (NEP) 2019. The introduction of new educators is bound to have a net positive impact on the sector. Their arrival will be accompanied by an infusion of funds, allowing for world-class teachers to be recruited and trained. Significant investments in infrastructure are always required for new endeavours.

Private players also bring with them the experience of the real world, which I feel is very important especially in the times today. This is vital in a creative field like ours and Whistling Woods International has already adopted and successfully carried out this model for the past 14 years. I believe we should view it as a boon and complement traditional means of education with their learning rather than viewing them as threats.

Another key development, both in India and across the world, has been the advent of e-learning. E-learning and digitisation have opened new and exciting pathways within the education sector allowing a vast number of people to attain knowledge and qualifications.

By incorporating the latest technological advancements, the factors preventing access to education have been stripped away – costs have massively reduced, geographical distance is no longer a concern, and overcrowded classrooms and lack of qualified teachers have become issues of the past.

Whistling Woods International has always been at the forefront of advancing the education sector, and we have done so in this instance as well with the introduction of the WWI Virtual Academy. Our pioneering e-learning platform offers video-based courses across multiple creative fields.

Through the melding of technology with our unique teaching methodologies, the WWI Virtual Academy allows aspirants from across the country the opportunity to explore a career in the creative arts through a flexible, state-of-the-art curriculum.

Which people or books have had the most influence on your growth and why?

My father has been and remains the most influential person in my life. I have learnt and continue to learn so much from him. Also, for the past 10 years I have been reading books by Buddhist philosopher, educator & President of the Soka Gakkai International – Dr.  Daisaku Ikeda. President Ikeda has been at the forefront of founding schools and universities based on the Buddhist concept of Humanism under Soka Schools & Universities. The purpose of Soka Humanism is the endeavour to educate children to become happy first. Success will follow.  I really believe that this is the only way to build a better, more peaceful society. So, books by President Ikeda have really had a deep impact on my thinking as an educator and I wish to bring that through my work at Whistling Woods International and in education.

According to you, what are the essentials of being a good educator?     

President Ikeda says “Education is to ignite a flame. When teachers burn with a passion for truth, the desire to learn will be ignited in their students’ hearts. When teachers are excited about culture and beauty, the creativity of their students will leap up like a bright flame.”

A good educator influencer apart from being compassionate and dedicated needs to possess a passion for learning themselves. They should strive to be a role model for children, while willing to put in efforts and never give up on them.

As it goes without saying that educators, be it teachers or parents, are the most important members of our society. They have the ability to shape positive and inspired future generations. Apart from making children future-ready, a good educator molds a purpose in their life. They inspire children to dream bigger, while helping them to push their limits and creativity, enabling them to enhance their potentials.

What advice you would give to the new-age educators? 

“Education can make the invisible visible in the same way that empowerment transforms powerlessness. Education that can spark that transformation, that can ignite one’s passion, is education that can transform the world.” – Maria Guajardo, Dean of Faculty of International Liberal Arts, Soka University

The role of educators is one of responsibility as you set out to empower the next generation of students. If you approach being an educator as the calling of your life, inspiring and creating future greatness, the satisfaction received is exponential, while serving a higher purpose becomes contagious.

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