Sandeep ‘Sunny’ Jadhav is the first Indian to be awarded the 2018 Victorian Father of the year. You will know why.
Having just won the prestigious Victorian Father of the Year (2018) award, Sandeep ‘Sunny’ Jadhav, 49, is coming to terms with his new status – that of a universal father. His youngest daughter Sachi, 13, says he gets recognised at the local mall and other places these days and she couldn’t be prouder of him.
In fact, Sachi and her sister Khushi (15), both students of Ivanhoe Grammar, have a hand in this. Sachi says when they got the nomination form at school for ‘Father of the Year’ they wanted to give it a crack. “We talked about how he is in the army and always helping others, how he has a unique personality and always encourages people to try new things, how he values team work and mentors students – that’s a big passion in his life, he loves and enjoys doing it. So we thought he would be a great candidate.” Of course they weren’t sure if he was going to win knowing there were hundreds and hundreds of other applications of equally deserving fathers.
This August, when the family received a phone call announcing Sandeep Jadhav’s win, their happiness knew no bounds. Each year, the YMCA Victoria in association with the Father’s Day Council of Victoria announces the Victorian Father of the Year. This is the 62nd year the Victorian Father of the Year has been awarded.
Sandeep, more popularly known as Sunny, is modest about this recognition. Helping is second nature to him. Born and brought up in Nagpur, he completed his Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and acquired multiple Master’s degrees in systems engineering, management and IT. He worked at multinational companies in a few cities in India including Mumbai and Delhi before lecturing at the University of Nagpur. Teaching felt like a very natural calling as he mentored junior students during his college days, particularly those who came from vernacular mediums for whom English was a bit of a challenge. “I used to explain to them the complex engineering concepts in plain simple English on how things work.”
Perhaps, it was also a trait he imbibed from his father, now a retired government servant. Sunny recalls how his father would leave notes for him whenever he travelled. That quadrupled his confidence and learning. He would go on to do the same for his daughters and mentees.
A great lover of cricket, it was watching on television the Benson & Hedges One Day International cricket at MCG in 1986 that Australia as a country fascinated him. Incidentally, India beat Australia to lift the World Cup. He recalls the blue skies in particular and thought to himself, “This is the place I want to be.” Cricket, he says, was the motivating factor that pushed him to Australia. Ten years later, in 1996 when the opportunity came, he migrated on a skilled visa and was located in Sydney for the initial years working again in various multinational corporations including Siemens. However, one thing that never left him was his willingness to teach others. So he started coaching children of his friends and neighbours.
Marriage happened and his first daughter Khushi was born in 2002. It was the year he would also join the Australian Army as an electrical engineer; he still serves in the capacity of Lieutenant Colonel It is a profession he serves with pride with his family based in Melbourne.
Today Sunny mentors soldiers, officers, juniors, his children and other kids around Victoria during his free time. A big proponent of Lean and Six Sigmas, Sunny says it is all “a continuous process of learning, relearning and unlearning even for me.”
Sunny’s coaching is purely voluntary and he focusses mainly in the area of science and mathematics. “My wife Kiran works on my schedules in terms of availability as I travel quite a fair bit for work and helps put right people in the right spot. Sometimes I teach at home, sometimes at Ivanhoe library or even at the schools. Place is not the problem. They know me and call me all the time.”
Even the weekends are compromised in terms of family time but it is something they have no qualms about. Quality time is more important than quantity, avers Kiran. His voluntary teaching has grown on a big scale, so there are a lot of group classes they conduct at Ivanhoe library, their main hub. “We advertise beforehand about our availability, then pick up a few VCE topics or choose main topics that people have difficulty with. Sometimes if there is someone who wants individual attention, we do spend time on a similar needs-based group,” says Kiran, whose job is to reschedule.
“I work on the Pareto principle of time management. The great Italian economist had stated that roughly 80 per cent of the effects come from 20 per cent of the causes. I am a master of that technique. It is as simple as that. It is all about efficiency and effectiveness in terms of how hard you work,” reflects Sunny, adding, “We have to work smartly in terms of time. If 20 per cent of your effort is not generating 80 per cent of the effect, if it is not adding value, challenge the status quo. If you cannot think outside of the box, make the box bigger.”
Sunny attributes his teaching capabilities to the amalgamation of experiences he has had in Indian and Australia. “When I studied engineering in India we were very good at the theoretical concepts, when I came here I had the opportunity to see those concepts in action, which was a very pragmatic approach to the study. I was able to marry those two beautifully, that’s how I am now able to mentor and coach young generation.”
Kiran, who is a teacher herself, believes that Sunny’s success with coaching people lies in the fact that he is a great story teller. Sometimes the class would run into hours but the students would maintain pin drop silence from the start to the finish and show no sign of boredom. And it is because children sometimes have different powers of absorption. Some might not be able to retain information through the use of numbers but through drawings or pictures and some through stories. “So we develop narratives and storylines around, say, fractions or even statistics,” says Sunny.
Currently, Sunny has around 200 mentees under him. But in the past 16 years that he has been mentoring in Australia, he can proudly be credited with inspiring and teaching thousands of students and professionals some of whom are now successful doctors, engineers, pilots and so on. “And that excludes my soldiers,” he laughs, adding, “We nurture them, they are like my kids. The way the technology is advancing – we have to upskill them.”
It is very rewarding, says Sunny, to see the joy on the faces of children and parents. “I draw my energy from these kids and it is just amazing. When you see this boy or girl learn stuff and say ‘thank you Sunny, now I got it’, it’s very satisfying.”
No doubt the joys of giving reverberate in equal measure. When Kiran fell ill in 2005 and was rushed to hospital at 2 am for four weeks of unexplained fever, Sunny found out the doctor and the radiographer looking after her were both his ex-students. The joys of seeing your students doing well is a tremendous feeling, says Sunny.
So where does he draw that selflessness from? Sunny says partially it is the army training and values of teamwork, mateship, respect and courage that he has to demonstrate and lead by. “If you look at the army job and the mentoring, you feel good about it; it is also good for others and good for greater good as well.” The other part of the inspiration is drawn from his own parents, his wife and when the children came along.
Clearly, he is driven by the philosophy that shared knowledge is power. “I learnt that quick and early. Knowledge is power, yes, I understand but when you start sharing it, it has multiplying effect. It changes people’s lives and you feel good about it.” But he also tells his mentees that he can equip them with the skills and knowledge, but they have to bring in the attitude and the values regardless.
Kiran says Sunny has brought a lot of positive attitude to her life and they share the same goals and are on the same path of community service.
The girls are simply in awe of their dad’s work ethics, which is “seeing things from a different angle and from a different point of view with a ‘just do it’ attitude that leaves you feeling very accomplished”, says Khushi. Younger sister Sachi considers her father her best friend. “I would like to follow his footsteps, maybe even go more than that.”
With his disarming command of knowledge and patience, Sunny lives up to the award he has been bestowed with. While it is incredible being a father to two beautiful girls with the responsibility to look after their physical, intellectual and spiritual health, he believes he has other roles to play as a fatherly figure and one that is not restricted to his children alone. “I am passionate about it. I try and put in the same investment in others I mentor.”
The Jadhavs as a family are truly exemplary. And cricket still remains their binding factor!

By Indira Laisram