Dr. Ali Khwaja
A REBEL, FREELANCER, WANDERER, BANJARA. Always carved out a life on his own terms, and went by the dictates of his conscience, making great strides of success sometimes, but also facing challenges and defeats with equal fortitude. This is the path he trod, sometimes creating a path where there was none. Two years at Casa Montessori in early life shaped a great deal of his character, attitude and ability to look at life rationally. Subsequently educated in Campion School, Elphinstone College, Institute of Science, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT Bombay), he was never a topper but always managed to get good grades without studying much, and indulging in extra-extra-curricular activities. Was conferred the prestigious President’s Scout title by President S. Radhakrishnan, stood as Guard of Honour for President Zakir Hussain while still in school. Was School Prefect, President of Debating Society, editor of school newsletter, and Director of Interact Club of Rotary International. Represented school in innumerable inter-school events. Published a book of poems before he entered his teens.
Despite being the son of an illustrious father, he earned all the money required for his needs and education from the time he completed school. He ran the Physics Lab for his Professor in spare time, represented Time and Life magazines in Mumbai, and took up repairs of very intricate imported lab equipment for government, research and educational institutions. Was an Income Taxpayer even as a full-time engineering student. While in IIT Bombay he fabricated exclusive electro-mechanical equipment for prestigious research laboratories, was elected Literary Secretary, single-handedly set up tabletting laboratory of the College of Pharmacy, Bombay University, and a unique anti-foam controller for the Indian Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Limited in Rishikesh. Was actively involved as a Director of Bioengineers Consultants and subsequently as Managing Director of Greenfield Fertilizers Pvt. Ltd., the first manufacturer of microbial fertilizers which were a boon in those days of acute fertilizer shortage in the country – under the guidance of Director General of Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI). He was selected by IIM-Bangalore for a unique leadership program along with CEOs of some of the top companies of the country.
Since he had decided not to follow in his family’s footsteps of government service, he decided to become a freelancer from day one. He set up a printing and publishing business, founded and edited a periodical for the city of Hyderabad and one for the Banjara community in their fight for recognition from the government. Subsequently moved into consultancy, with complete focus on the human needs, which led him to the field of counselling. Was instrumental in setting up a cement plant as its Managing Director. Going deeper into human welfare, he was trained by very eminent psychiatrists and psychologists, and he also holds a PhD in Behavioural Sciences. He was instrumental in setting up an NGO for the benefit of slum children and windows using the unique platform of collecting old newspapers from houses, and another to provide affordable housing outside the limits of the bustling metropolis of Mumbai. He had set up a unit manufacturing chapathis that can be preserved for many days and eaten by soldiers in border areas, using the technology provided by Defence Food Research Laboratories. Was nominated as Special Executive Magistrate in Bombay city which he turned down to not get restricted and to carve out his own path. Subsequently was at different times on the advisory committee of City Police Child Helpline, Police Commissioner’s Counselling Cell, Bangalore University Centre for Psychological Counselling, Kuvempu University Board of studies, Karnataka State Adoption Coordinating Committee, Association of People with Disability, Mental Health Network, World Federation of Mental Health, etc. though he prefers to give his expertise, inputs, support without seeking any position or designation. Was conferred Mentor of the Year by Guild of Women Achievers, Lifetime achievement award by Rotary and Information Resource Centre. Was honoured by M. S. Ramiah group of institutions and innumerable other educational institutions, Defence Institute of Quality Assurance, and by the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Indian Air Force. Was selected for the Sadbhavana peacekeeping mission by the Indian Army in Jammu and Kashmir.
Since more than three decades he has been conducting training programs and workshops for most prestigious government and private organizations (see list below) and is in great demand all over the country by a wide range of institutions. Over twenty years ago he devised a unique program to teach people from all walks of life and of all ages the human skills of counselling and emotional support. This course has no textbook, curriculum or theory, but has touched the hearts of thousands who have not only improved their life significantly but are consistently reaching out too many others not only in India but in other countries also. Banjara not only offers free counselling for anyone who walks in or calls up but also through email on its website. Tens of thousands of people send queries ranging from relationships and emotions management to suicidal feelings and crisis situations, and replies sent to every one of them. This is a completely free service manned by dedicated volunteers trained by Ali and his team. Banjara’s websites contain hundreds of his audio and video lectures which are logged into by people from all over the world.
His great-grandfather served in the British army and was awarded the highest gallantry medal in the 3rd Afghan war. He subsequently headed the Jails and Police departments in the state of Hyderabad. Paternal grandfather headed the Customs and Excise Department, and maternal grandfather (an alumnus of the prestigious IIT Roorkee and College of Engineering Edinburgh) served as Chief Engineer and Secretary of the PWD Department. His father, an IAS officer, was an anthropologist and a United Nations Fellow, who retired as Secretary General Administration and was also an acknowledged writer. His elder brother was an IPS officer who served as the Police Commissioner of Mumbai during the terrorist attack in 2008 and subsequently retired as Director General of Police. His elder daughter holds an M.Com, MBA as well as a Montessori Teachers’ certificate; while his younger daughter is pursuing her Ph. D. in Human Development.
A prolific writer, he has written over a hundred very simple, readable and affordable books and booklets on all aspects of human behaviour and continues to be published in some of the most reputed publications of the country (see list below). He has made it a mission to give unconditional support to the brave warriors of our armed forces and has been conducting lectures, workshops and seminars, other than 1:1 counselling, to both Indian Army and Indian Air Force. He has been invited to places in North India, far North-east and various other military stations in different parts of the country. He has a room full of mementoes, ceremonial caps and certifications conferred on him by the Defence forces. Through all these wide experiences has remained grounded, simple and humble. He goes only where he is invited and can serve a cause and does not look for a financial gain of any sort, or even recognition/appreciation. All his rewards come from the heartfelt and touching words people convey when their lives have been transformed with his support. Books: he wrote a novel “Seema” that was published by the doyen of Indian Publishing, Mr. P. Lal of Writers Workshop, Calcutta.
Wrote a popular handbook for lay counsellors “You too Can Reach Out” and a book on “Prevention of Youth Suicide”, a handbook for senior citizens “Life Begins at Sixty” and a workbook for children and parents “Daddy, Mummy, Let’s Book”. Edited books on Life Skills, Learning Difficulties and Understanding Today’s Child. Has been continuously writing books and booklets on all aspects of human behaviour and has over a hundred such publications to his credit so far. He is a prolific writer and has been published in all the major publications of the country including Times of India, Indian Express, Asian Age, Deccan Herald, DNA, The Telegraph, Vijay Times, Readers Digest, University News, Fauji India, Education World, Freedom First, Asian Journal of Ethical Management, Complete Wellbeing, Femina, Savvy, Women’s Era, Alive, etc. He has written regular weekly columns in Deccan Herald, Indian Express, Indiainfo.com, Bangalore Weekly, The Better India, City Reporter, Salar Daily, Kaigarika Varthe, and many others. He is honorary Correspondent of various publications like Ability and Success, Parent Edge etc. Edits and publishes a group newsletter “Banjara Life”, focusing on civic life, human behaviour and personal development. He has been interviewed on various TV and radio channels several times, including Doordarshan, ETV, Chandana, TV9, All India Radio, Rainbow, Gyan Vani, and many private FM stations.
(Current and Past)
Governing Board Member of INSA (International Services Association) Member, Advisory Committee, Bangalore University CPC Member, Board of Studies
Kuvempu University Member Board of Studies
Advisor to Indian Medical Association
Advisory Committee to Police Commissioner of Bangalore
Secretary of the Karnataka State Adoption Agency (ACA)
Coordinator of Karnataka Chapter of Family of Disabled (FoD)
Convenor of the Mental Health Network
‘A’ Class Trustee of Alcoholics Anonymous
President of Bangalore Chapter of Alzheimer’s and Related Diseases Society of India
Founder member of Karnataka Association of Psychiatric Disability
Hon. Secretary of Association of People with Disability
Consultant to various educational institutions
Member with full voting rights in World Federation of Mental Health
Panel resource person for Inter-religious Harmony Movement
Visiting Faculty: Defence Institute of Quality Assurance, other prestigious Army and Air Force training institutions, Income Tax Department.
Conducts training programmes, workshops and seminars for public and private sector executives, gives lectures and presents papers in various regional and national conferences. Has been invited to IIM, IBS, IBM, Cisco, VM Ware, ACT, ISRO, and innumerable other reputed MNCs, NGOs etc.
He is in demand as a prolific, lively and humorous talker on various topics of human interest, and is regularly invited to Rotary Clubs, RYLA, teachers training programmes, parents groups, senior citizens associations etc.
He is on the regular panel as a resource person with various national and prestigious institutions such as Rehabilitation Council of India, National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development, Judicial Academy, South Indian Banks Staff Training College, NIMHANS, M.S. Ramiah Hospital, to name just a few.
He has developed unique and forceful methods of training to reach the heart and to bring about a significant change in attitude, towards greater effectiveness and harmony. Counselling - his first love Trained by two eminent practising psychiatrists and Befrienders International (Good Samaritans UK) initially, he has established himself over four decades as an empathetic and effective counsellor for problems relating to the workplace, interpersonal relationships, family, parenting, stress, depression, etc. Has been the Secretary and driving force of Helping Hand, a unique voluntary organization that provides free counselling and emotional support in 10 major hospitals of the city, and two counselling centres. Trains and motivates over 300 volunteers in this mission. Has trained thousands of counsellors for various organizations in Bangalore and many other cities. Has taken the lead in the formation of self-help support groups for various issues such as single parenting, disability, old age, single women, etc.