Anand Ganu: Namaste, Dr. Sudhir Ambekar. I thank you on behalf of Garje Marathi Global for sparing time to speak with us. Your exceptional journey will be truly inspirational to GMG members. Can you tell us about after leading so happening life how are you keeping yourself busy, now?
Sudhir Ambekar: I am currently retired, and tutor high school mathematics and college entrance exams SAT and ACT. I continue to teach Marathi in the school that we started as a community service in 1986.
Anand Ganu : How was your childhood?
Sudhir Ambekar: I was born on June 7, 1944 in Mumbai. My father was an automobile engineer and worked for General Motors until it closed down in the early 50’s. My mother had an M.A. degree, and stayed home to raise five children. I have an older brother. Two brothers and a sister are younger than me. All except me have settled in India.
When I was 10, my father took a job in Hindustan Motors near Kolkata. I did all my high school education in Hindi High School in Kolkata. My only exposure to Marathi was what we spoke at home and the letters that I wrote to my grandparents in Mumbai. In the school, I studied primarily Hindi and English. We had some excellent science, mathematics and Sanskrit teachers whom I still remember. They have had a lasting impact on me. After high school, I went to IIT Powai and did B.Tech. in Mechanical Engineering.
Anand Ganu: Why did you decide to come to USA?
Sudhir Ambekar: After graduating from IIT, I worked as an engineer in a small manufacturing company in Thane for about a year, then came to Berkeley, California in 1966 for higher education. Some of my classmates were already at Berkeley. They made the transition easier. I worked as Teaching Assistant and Research Assistant to pay for my education at Berkeley.
After completing D.Eng.in mechanical engineering in 1970, I was married to Pradnya Wadgaonkar. My first job was at Bell Labs in Illinois. Later in 1978, I moved to Connecticut to work for ITT. In 1981, I moved back to Bell Labs in New Jersey, a company I retired from in 2002.
Anand Ganu : What led you to start Marathi Vidyalaya ? How many years you are running the Marathi Vidyalaya and how was the journey so far?
Sudhir Ambekar: Our two daughters, Jyoti and Deepa who were born in Illinois, were young school age children when we moved to New Jersey. Pradnya had spent most of her life in Pune, was instrumental in getting me back into Marathi. We wanted our children to speak Marathi. At Pradnya’s urging, we rounded up some of Marathi friends and started Marathi Vidyalaya in 1986 with about eight children. For many years the venue was our home. Later as the number of children increased we moved to our local library and then started rotating to students’ homes. The number of students now is fifty. The school is held in a temple in Parsippany, New Jersey on alternate Sundays.
Our Marathi school is the oldest in the U.S. Over the years it has received awards from Marathi Vishwa – Marathi community organization of New Jersey. We have also received an award from BMM – Bruhan Maharashtra Mandal. The most gratifying achievement is that two of our students got foreign language credit for Marathi in their very reputable undergraduate college – this may be a first. They told the college management that they knew Marathi and passed the Marathi test offered by the college.
Anand Ganu: Can we talk about your family and their contribution to Marathi Vidyalaya?
Sudhir Ambekar: My wife Pradnya, deserves most of the credit for starting Marathi Vidyalaya. She played a major role in coordinating and managing this operation and still consults with the team that manages the day to day operation of the school. Since I started teaching, I found out that I love teaching. As a result, after retirement, I became a certified high school teacher in New Jersey and taught for several years. The Marathi school also got me into writing. I quickly realized that teaching Marathi in this country needs to be quite different from the way we were taught in India. It is like teaching Marathi to American children. I simplified and re-wrote many stories for teaching children here. In the early years, I wrote many short plays which our kids staged as part of Diwali celebration. The plays were written with the ability of the kids playing the characters in mind. The parents get a lot of credit for organizing and producing the plays. The tradition still continues. The plays are now written by other enthusiastic parents. The children have a chance to learn Marathi and be on stage, an opportunity that children often do not get.
The grandparents of our kids who often visit us, compliment on our efforts to teach Marathi, especially since, they say, it is de-emphasized in Maharashtra. Children who are reluctant to learn Marathi initially often realize the benefit of being multi-lingual. The school is now operated by a very dedicated team of people. I have no doubt that it will continue to flourish.
Our daughters live nearby. Jyoti is an executive in a reputable New York bank. Deepa is a New York state criminal judge. They are both married and have rewarded us with two grandchildren each.
The Marathi school has formed lasting bonds among families and children – a very gratifying collateral benefit.
Anand Ganu : Running Marathi Vidyalaya must have been very demanding. Did it affect your professional career?
Sudhir Ambekar: My first job was at Bell Labs in Illinois. Later in 1978, I moved to Connecticut to work for ITT. In 1981, I moved back to Bell Labs in New Jersey, a company I retired from in 2002.
In my engineering career, I have presented technical papers at many professional organization meetings. I have published two books – SAT Winning Strategies and ACT Winning Strategies. They are available on Amazon. I write regularly for ‘Rangadeep’, Diwali publication of Marathi Vishwa, and have received editor’s choice award multiple times. I have published a collection of these articles in the book – Amma America Maata.
Anand Ganu: Dr. Ambekar thank you for sharing your story with GMG family. I am sure readers will learn lot from this interview. On behalf of Members of Board of Director of Garje Marathi Global I request your guidance and blessings for our mission. Your active participation will be of immense value to GMG. Namaste.