Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Benign effect of Nature at the Induction Workshop

We had a wonderful Induction workshop in the school which lasted three days from 27-29th. of October 2012. We had a wonderful time at the stay back which included many activities. We had group activities, meditation exercises, and also an excursion to a spot where members of the group did  rock climbing. Throughout the workshop we were close to Nature, and this had a most calming effect on all of us!
The picture of this pyramid, its reflection in the water and the rising sun seemed to have a rather calming effect. Notice also that the reflection is so accurate that if the picture is inverted, it would be difficult to guess which was the right side up!
This pair of Ducks seemed to exude an intimacy which seemed to be most touching and thought inspiring!
On the way to the adventure site a number of Harleys parked at the roadside sent our hearts racing:
Yes, and on that rock climbing exercise, this was one brave member:
Sri knew what we were up to but never revealed anything before hand!
This beetle seemed so intent on eating the petals of the flower that it seemed not to see me!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Shortened product lives might impact on our ability to maintain long term human relations!

Is our tendency to change personal products leading to an adverse impact on our ability to maintain long-term human relationships? Are we being driven by market forces in our lack of ability to maintain long term relationships with other human beings?

Gone are those days when you bought a a car to last a lifetime, or a fridge that lasted fifteen years, a cooler that required an A.M.C. but lasted ages! Then you bought either an Ambassador car, or the fleeter Premier Padmini, and did they last! They just didn’t seem to perish! That Godrej Almirah, that  ceiling fan, and that Weston T.V. set, well they sure did last. Today however, the life of most products is very short, products are not meant to last, rather they are meant to be replaced from time to time, and some mobile phones might even be replaced every six months! Is it because our attitudes have changed, we have become more restless, more impatient, and constantly look for change, a lack of constancy, an on-going unstoppable drive for more, and a general dissatisfaction or discontent? If the answer to these questions is, ‘yes’, then it means we are verily and truly stuck in an ever spiralling vicious circle of hunger for change, a spiral that is moving steadily inwards!
What then is driving this change, this desire for  newer products, this sense of discontent, and where will it finally lead to? I remember, the first digital camera that my school purchased was a two megapixel Kodak Easy share camera. It drank power with great thirst, and could take about 28 photographs on the internal memory alone. The Camera cost about Rs.10,000/- that was the early 2003.This camera became obsolete very fast with the Megapixel race, and the advent of the Lithium Ion battery which lasted longer. Sony came up with its Sony Cybershot range, and the ‘W’ series  were expensive! My first personal Digital camera was a W-30 Cybershot and it had a max. resolution of 6 MPs.Coming at a cost of Rs.14400/- it was no cheap deal. Today you can get a 12 MP for as less as Rs.4000/- with a carry case, charger and memory card!
Cheap products might have better features, but then they do come at a cost, that is, their build quality might not be as solid as earlier, but then if they last you a couple of years and you can pass them on, then wouldn’t they give you a sense of satisfaction till they last? Yes, you bought an Ambassador car to last a life time. Your children grew up with it, and they even got driven to their marriage venues in the venerable, member of the family! The Car had a sentimental value and the very thought of selling of the family heirloom was a sacrilege! Today, one would have changed five or six cars in a life-time, perhaps more with the result that one wouldn’t develop an emotional relationship with them! With products becoming obsolete so fast, it seems as if we are driven by the fear of lagging behind, of becoming Aunts and Uncles, and we want to show others that we are not ourselves becoming obsolete!
Is this trend of changing personal gadgets and products from time to time good for our mental health? I would dare so no! This lack of constancy, consistency, and lack of attachment, even if it is with personal gadgets and objects can make us fickle minded, unable to maintain long term relationships with people who mean the most to us! Couldn’t this habit of using and discarding personal objects lead to a tendency of discarding partners , a tendency to get bored with one’s so called beloved ones? I fear that this is what we might be heading to; a life devoid of commitments, a life of one night stands, a life with “no strings attached” a life where you don’t have to carry the baggage of emotional attachments! It seems to be very clear that we are being driven by market forces to change personal products constantly, and this is spelling a corresponding lack of constancy in personal relationships with other human beings! An increase in the number of cases of divorce, an increase in cases of infidelity, and increase in cases of wife swapping might all be the result of our being a target of market forces! Today we are facing more and more problems in maintaining long term human relations.
Propaganda techniques that drive market forces keep reminding us to change products,  the bandwagon technique suggests that if we don’t jump the bandwagon then we will lose the race! If we are not able to build an emotional connect with our gadgets and products that we have spent so much money, then won’t we in turn lack the ability to build an emotional relationship with those who matter the most to us? The answer might be frightening enough!

Some snaps of the Effigies of Ravana just before being lit up on Dushera

A few hours before the effigies of Ravan were to be consigned to flames, I took out my camera to capture the the handiwork of artists who had put in so much time in designing these huge effigies of Ravan, Meghnath, and Kumbhkaran. Dushera marks the defeat of the trio by Ram. In India, Dushera is last day of Navratras, a period of fasting for all devout Hindus and on this day, everyone is in a festive mood, there are fairs everywhere, and of course those who have the time like to watch the burning of the effigies. These effigies, often filled with crackers are consigned to the flames erupting with the loud noise of the crackers inside, thus ending their brief existence, swaying before the wind. The first few snaps are of the effigies standing in an open field close to Leisure Valley Park, Gurgaon:
My second visit was to the Old D.L.F. area where there were even more colourful effigies standing resplendent staring haughtily towards the stands:
The most unique ones that I saw were at the Red-Cross grounds, they really had a leery look and seemed to have been designed really painstakingly!:

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Damdama Lake, Nature and Man, fighting for space?

Today, when we went on a picnic to the Damdama Lake off Gurgaon, we were disappointed to see that the water body had shrunk a great deal. The paths that have been made to connect some of the construction sites have in effect cut off the paths of the water body, leaving large tracts cut off from the main water body. I was saddened to see the dam left high and dry! Many years back, the dam used to control the flow of water. Now, it seems to be a testament to the fact that Damdama is drying up fast! Uncontrolled development in the form of reclamation of land has put a great strain on the resources of a lake that was once home to a large number of fish species including eels, Singhara, Malli, Patra, and Saulli (all local Hindi names of fish that swarmed the lake). Today, I visited the Lake after four months and noticed that the lake has shrunk further. Soon, it seems this wonderful lake will be lost forever, unless of course the authorities do something to save it before it disappears! In spite of the shrinking water body, some spirited birds have made an appearance, and I have tried to photograph them. These photographs are an impassioned plea to preserve this precious Natural Resource before it is too late!
A Perfect Landing by one of the Birds!
Well, I guess this bird must be wondering about where all that water has gone!
Throughout, one could see wild birds co-existing along with domesticated animals. They seemed to be at home with the buffaloes and the men working on various construction sites. There were people working all around and the birds didn’t seem to be bothered by them!
Unfortunately the photograph pasted below shows one of the water beds which is now completely dry. This water bed used to be deep under water, and today it is totally cut off from the rest of the water body because of a path made further on to connect one of the construction sites!

In the picture above you can see how part of the water basin has been cut off from the rest of the water body. Soon, there will be no more water here!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Purple Vestments

The one in purple vestments took me for a ride,
Dressed in purple he exuded a false spiritual royalty!
But deep down inside he was filled with human weakness.
He’d call me to serve his selfish plans.
And I thinking good, acquiesced!
Joined I as the head of an institution,
But from day one his wishes rang false and fake, and wrong!
Leaving a secure job I wished to serve my community,
But then my Lordship desired something else!
So left I a secure job, so to serve a higher goal.
Within the year’s end he told me to join a lesser institute,
One with a lesser strength, and of questionable import,
‘Cause he wanted to please his side kick and his son,
To join in my place! But did I realise and refused
To join for to do so would ruin my career!
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Sunday, 21 October 2012

Money plant-A poem about survival

A Poem about a brave plant that emerged a winner!

My brother-in law  and I  spied a  money plant  creeper crawling on
A wall, with leaves  so big, and darkest green in colour, larger than
Life! And we were  filled with greed  so to steal one  strand to plant
At home and watch it flourish and grow!


So, the next day took we a knife  hidden in a roll of paper on our
Morning walk, and when no one was  looking, stepped with care,
And cut off one  strand of  the robust bright  green money plant!
We carried our prize with great pride to watch it grow.
One strand I took with me to plant at mine own home, the other
One gave I to  my brother in law. But  alas! His  did away wither,
While mine did  languish and  shrink  till all that remained
Was a  rotten  stub poking  from  the pot!
And I wept to see how  this robust  plant had withered away,
In spite  of all  the  care I  had lavished  on it;  for to be away
From its brothers and sisters had robbed it of all its will
To live. So I left it, though I watered it oft!
Then one day did I  see  a bright green leaf poking from the
Rotten  stub,  and  then  another, and another, and then lo,
Behold, a tiny green plant emerged from the rotten stub,
Full of life, reaching out to the sky above!
So do I salute  the spirit  of  survival  in a plant separated
From its kith and kin, and from the almost dead emerged,
One so robust, a testimony of the spirit of survival,
A lesson for the weak, if a plant can emerge from
A dead stub, so can you from a life of defeat!
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Saturday, 20 October 2012

Why don’t they want to study in school?

Toying with Education

Just the other day, an ex-colleague of mine was lamenting about how difficult it had become to teach a bunch of kids in classes nine and tenth and how they just didn’t seem to be interested in any lesson being taught. He went on to say that his students wanted to do just about anything but learn! I couldn’t help but smile at him seeing how worked up he was, and it showed that he was really concerned about the situation! He went so far as to say that he was determined to so something about the whole situation! When I asked him what he had planned out, he replied that he had thought of talking to his students to drum up some words of advice to his students.
After a few days, I called my friend and asked him if he had had any progress with the students, and he told me that had talked to his students about the Guru–Shishya tradition. He went further and told me that his students accepted that they were not paying attention in class because their minds were not in studies, they were just not interested in studies, they did not want to write anything, and they wanted the home work to be posted on the net. The situation had become rather uncontrollable, what with one of the boys taking up to whistling in class and making noises of barking dogs, and another rather creative bellow of a buffalo! It was interesting to note that there was a rather effective synergy between the students when it came to creating noise, probably with the express purpose of showing that they were in charge of the class and that teaching could progress only if they wished to learn! My ex-colleague later told me that no day passed without complaints from other teachers. The complaint was common, the boys did not let any teaching take place, they went to the wash room frequently, suckled on their water bottles all the time like little babies feeding from milk bottles, when they laughed, they laughed for no reason at all, and their laughter was like no other laughter, it sounded like a forced laughter, and often sounded like a bark or a cry of despair! He went on to state that the teachers had become fed up, and that some of the lady teachers were even close to tears!
During this period, I had begun reading a rather fascinating book titles Divasvapna by Gijubhai Badheka (the famous Gujarati teacher and educationist) in which the principal character happens to be an enterprising teacher who wishes to undertake experiments in Education. After getting the required permission from the Education Officer, he takes  up the teaching of one section of class four in a primary school.  The book describes the various disappointments and embarrassments he had to face at the hands of his pupils. The descriptions about the mischief of those boys studying in class four seemed to find an exact match in the descriptions that my ex-colleague had given me about his students who were studying in class ten. The only difference was that they were classes apart, Gijubhai wrote about students studying in an elementary class while my colleague was complaining about students studying in class tenth. I wonder if students of class tenth, (that he was teaching) had not perhaps regressed to an earlier age as was evinced by the type of mischief they resorted to! After all students of class tenth are much older than students studying in class four, so what then was making these students of class ten behave like students of class four? I told my ex-colleague to read Divasvapna  which I gladly leant to him although it was the English version, and he was a teacher of Sanskrit!
The next time we met was after one week, my ex-colleague told me that he had read the book in a couple of hours, and he came to the conclusion that education had become rather dry and uninteresting. He advocated the concept of joyful learning, but then expressed his apprehensions about experimenting too much at the senior levels especially because of the amount of syllabus that had to be covered. Story-telling could help ease stress and perhaps created the right atmosphere for the lesson, but then it should have to be done in such a manner so as not to distract the students from the lesson in hand! Moreover, the comprehensive continuous  formative evaluation or C.C.E. would have to be taken into account before launching an experiment in teaching methods!When students reach class tenth, then grades give way to marks, and C.C.E. gives way to paper and pen modes of evaluation. This is a rather abrupt transition for students of class eleven which leads to a sense of confusion. However, to get back to class tenth and the difficulties my ex-colleague was facing, after he did some in-depth study he came to the conclusion that there were many factors contributing to the rather disruptive behaviour of the students in his class. One major factor was that some of the children had a very bad schedule for the whole day. One student was allowed by his parents to stay awake till 3:00 a.m to “study” according to them. Another student had to go for coaching and had no time for rest. Yet another issue dealt with the fact that very few students played with friends at home because of their hectic coaching schedules, so they liked to catch up with their social activities at school , where their classmates were their “friends!” One student played with the two pet dogs at home, and the parents thought that was all the company he needed at home! The advent of formative assessments, in which most children got good marks with the least of study and preparation had made the students rather confident about passing on to the next class! Some of the students even confessed that they came to school to have fun and socialise with their friends, because they studied at home, and their parents had hired tutors to teach them at home! Unfortunately, in spite of C.C.E., parents are forcing their children into a rat-race, and though formative assessments have reduced the burden of paper and pen tests, what happens at home however is that the child continues to go to coaching institutes, and the child continues to attend tuitions. This has resulted in the chid becoming  a victim of stress of studies and so he tends to resort to disruptive behaviour in class. This is aided by the fact that most of the students feel the same way, they are tired, exhausted, stressed out, and cannot take in any more studies! Although our policies try to take away the stress from learning, the pressure that parents put on their children to get better marks, and to aim for premium careers has meant that the rat-race is still on! My ex-colleague commented that  “joyful learning can only be achieved when there is a partnership between parents and the school, where parents trust that the teachers are doing their best and not resort to the excessive burden of coaching and tuitions.
An in depth study of various innovative techniques for making class room teaching more effective lead to the identification of the story-telling method, simulations, use of toys, showing of movies, and experiments. These however are subject specific. While experiments are done mostly in pure sciences, simulations can be used in sciences, computer education and social sciences. Story telling, and roll-playing can be used in languages and almost any subject! While, no doubt, these methods are interesting and innovative, there is a danger that they might lead the student away from the topic, they might make the student over-enthusiastic in the method itself and not the topic of study. While experiments can be conducted  in the lower classes till fifth or sixth, we tend to adopt the more traditional methods of teaching or pedagogy as we progress towards the senior classes because of the time bound syllabus, and the need to clear concepts within a specific period. By the time students reach twelfth class, the penultimate class at the school level, they have to be equipped with skills to fend  for themselves in  the wider world, the world of competitions and the world of marks. To be successful their concepts should be clear, they should be confident about taking challenges, they should have enough awareness and knowledge in their respective subject areas. It is expected that they should be able to spell correctly, do mathematical calculations, and know about the world they live in!

Friday, 19 October 2012

An Invocation to my Muse - A Poem


All day do I wait for my Muse to grant me inspiration,
For I gain no idea to write a poem, ‘cause of a life of
Hectic work dictated by  a life of recognition and need!
So this be a poem to invoke my Muse to inspire me,
With thoughts so fine that they rise on the tide of
Wind. A life of routine inspires me not  any more!
So sit I gazing at a life devoid of bird-song, adventure
And excitement! So we need leisure and  poesy in a world
Of ugly shells of un-built buildings which dot the horizon!
We all live lives so uninspired that we seek rainbows and
Green glades in a world of honking cars! But alas! Sounds of
Of birdsong fade away in a world so dry!
Alas,  that my muse refuses to meet me so, the smog and
Noise  drive her away from a world devoid of
Leisure and song where rainbows fade away into dust!
I pray to my muse to visit me, promising that I will
Write a poem of rainbows and flowers red, but she tells me
That flowers don’t bloom and rainbows don’t appear in dust and smoke!
In a world where noise ‘n’ engines rule, flowers
Wither and rainbows fade! When people don’t appreciate
Colours so bright, life passes away in shades of grey!

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Sunday, 7 October 2012

“Suffer the children to come unto me, and forbid them not”.

The above words taken from the book of Mark-10;13-16, express the essence of today’s sermon as delivered by Revd.Sunil S. Ghazan. The reflection, “we do not choose our children; they are given to us just as other members of our family. Children are generally considered to be innocent and don’t have an image to project, unless we push one on them. they express joy or disappointment readily. Our perception of children has however begun to  undergo a change down the ages. We, as mature adults often expect our children to behave like adults, often scolding them and telling them to behave! The famous line by a famous poet, “child is the father of man” suggests exactly where we have gone wrong! We cannot enforce our ideas on to our children because they bring “intimations” from the Almighty Lord. It is the message that the child brings to us that we should learn to appreciate. The fact that children are still being born proves  that God still has faith in Mankind and is sending children with innocence  to counter the  cruelty on this Earth. Moreover, it is only when we become as children that we can expect to be admitted to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Parenting has to face greater challenges than  before because of the fact that  children have  more exposure to technology and  dissemination of information making them perhaps more informed than their parents. Many a parent will recall being tutored  about the features of a new smart phone by their children! Gone are the days when children obeyed the instructions of their parents unquestioningly. This is not because they are rude or bad in nature, it is just that they want to know why they should not do a particular thing! Parents often don’t have the patience or time to explain the why and the wherefores! The shift from a joint family system to a nuclear family system, the need for both parents to work to supplement the family income, the increasing demands from children for new clothes, a rising cost of living, the need to maintain a good standard of living have all affected the relations that exist between parents and their children. Parents are short tempered and impatient with their children and ready to scold them even for small things!
The book of Mark 10:13-16 describes how some parents brought their children to Jesus so that he could touch them and the disciples  scolded them, and we are told that when Jesus, “saw it, he was much displeased”.  Jesus went on to tell the disciples, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” The supposition is that the Kingdom of God will be open only to one who is, “as a little child”. It  is not great learning, or wisdom, or abilities that entitle you to a membership in the Kingdom of God, rather it is the innocence of a child, and an unquestioning faith that that matter. The lack of prejudice, pre-conceptions, and conceit are the characteristics of childhood. In spite of this parents try to impose their ideas, their failed aspirations, and they set up unrealistic goals before their children. This subjects their relationship to great stress! What, then is the alternative  before parents?
Should parents, then adopt a Laissez-Faire attitude towards their children? The answer is a strict, no, no! It is all about letting the child bloom to the best of his or her abilities by learning to appreciate the individuality of the child. Parenting as such should include spending time with children, guiding them in a tactful manner, reading to them from the scriptures, setting example before them, convincing them to do things in a particular manner, explaining to them why you don’t want them not to do something, and being child-like before them-a tough job, no doubt! The book of Proverbs makes it clear that children have to listen to the instructions of their father, and to follow the commandments of the Scriptures. Proverbs 4:1-5 reads, “ Hear, ye children, the instructions of a father, and attend to know understanding.For I give you good doctrine, forsake not my law. For I was my father’s son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom, get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.”
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Saturday, 6 October 2012

Propaganda Techniques and Consumerism–how are they affecting our lives?

While it is true that in the West, people can always exercise their right to question what is presented to them in the form of products, services, and ideas. Whether this freedom will survive for long is however doubtful! If Democracy  propounds the freedom of thought and the freedom to dissent , conformism however presents a challenge to the very idea of freedom.
In an ever growing consumerist society, propaganda techniques ensure that the tastes and choices of individuals are being moulded or shaped through an external stimulus! Propaganda techniques are very nicely used in the advertisements that we see on T.V. and hear on F.M. radio. Today the viewer is told what to wear, what to eat, what to drive, and what laptops to buy, it has come to a stage where propaganda techniques will soon be used to tell individuals what to think! Propaganda, which may include a variety of communication techniques aims at creating an emotional appeal to accept a particular belief or opinion. Endorsements by famous personalities have a lasting impact on impressionable young minds! The Bandwagon appeal, "everyone is doing it, so should you!" is another of the well known propaganda techniques used to advertise products. Some advertisements play on the fears of the target audience, like for example an insurance advertisement which plays on the fear of a tragic eventuality, loss of the earning family member, or a serious illness.
For all purposes of effective marketing, it is therefore essential that consumers discard their cars, computers, fridges, T.Vs., every now and then so that the market thrives. Today we live in a world where the latest mobile phone you buy becomes obsolete in a matter of few months, and then the advertisements kick in telling you about the exciting new features of a new mobile phone with the latest features!
Our whole life-style is determined by the advertisements we watch on t.v. or the advertisements we read in the newspapers. The rather patronising tone of “Uncle” used by one of the advertisements for a mobile service provider suggests that if you don’t use that particular service provider, then you are an “Uncle” that is, old fashioned. Such propaganda techniques do have an impact on the minds of different people! Take for example, another advertisement where a young adult is shown using a women’s fairness cream, a popular Bollywood Actor accosts him and tells him to use a cream for men, and he presents the embarrassed youth the male version of the fairness cream! Science however questions the efficacy of such creams and their ability to penetrate the skin. The skin, apparently is an efficient organ which does its duty rather well in protecting the body from germs and toxins and the so called Nano particles in beauty creams! Whether wrinkle lift creams and anti-ageing creams really do what advertisements claim is thus highly doubtful!
So  then, is our behaviour being modified by the advertisements that we see? I guess so! Propaganda techniques used by advertisers of different products are backed with extensive research and surveys into the popular trends, aspirations, desires, and secret desires of individuals. It is these secret desires that are subtly targeted by advertising companies! The desire to look fair, the desire to be popular, the desire to be able to be attractive to the opposite sex, the desire to be “cool”, the desire to be idolised by others, these are some of the hidden or rather secret desire that many individuals have, and it is these desires that are exploited by propaganda techniques!
Is it then, good to be entirely open to propaganda, external stimuli, and external suggestion? The answer is no! It is simply not good for the character, it robs us of the ability to make our own choices, it robs us of our individuality, it robs us of our right to self determinism! We are not slaves or automatons, and each one of us has his own perceptions, his own distinct thought processes, and we just cannot allow our children, and our students to be affected by what they see on t.v. or the internet without, at least being able to question the validity of what is being claimed by the advertisement.
What can we do to protect our young ones from becoming victims of this propaganda? First and foremost, we need to ensure that  our children are not watching T.V. serials,  incessantly, especially those serials which are highly addictive. Some serials are intentionally end in a cliff-hanger so that there is an urge to see the next episode! Indiscriminate reading of pulp-fiction which might have limited educational value, and T.V. serials  which cater to the more carnal and morbid emotions can be harmful! Parents should encourage children to engage in more creative activities like painting, playing musical instruments, taking up creative writing, participate in outdoor activities, take up  sports…etc. The development of rational skills, and  the questioning attitude can be promoted through the study of pure science. For all this to happen we need to teach our students and our children not to take everything at face value!
To conclude, therefore, does it make good economics for us as individuals to change our mobile phones every couple of months? Well it means good economics for the manufacturers! Do deodorants and fairness creams make us more acceptable in the society? Will they make us more attractive to the opposite sex? The answers unfortunately is, no! What will really make us more attractive is when we are able to think for ourselves, and show that we can make our own individual choices without being affected by the so called external stimuli! It is what we are, what nature has made us that matters, and not what we are told to do that matters!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012



Driving down the road, saw I bubbles bright,
As they rose  so magical so fair, I forgot
The heavy thoughts  that filled my mind,
Their magic sheer, gave me cheer ‘n’ joy!
I saw with childish glee how some  rose so
High; others in haste, burst too soon!
  Each  stood for  hopes and aspirations
Clothed in rainbows of colours bright!
Thus saw I bubbles of colourful dreams,
Of fulfilment and success! But, alas,
Some did burst, signalling the sad ends
Of rash decisions and aspirations quick.
However, bubbles are baubles that please us so,
Rising high they  bring smiles to pensive minds.
  Though their lives be short, they grant us
  Joy and pleasure if we stop for them!
Bright patterns of rainbows flash in the bright sun,
Inspiration to old and young alike,
Jostling and skidding like children free,
They bring smiles to sere lips!