Thursday, January 27, 2005

I-D and R-D

What do seven 40-50 year olds, more than 2 dozen 20 year olds, 4 teenagers and a few others who refused to divulge their age, have in common? Hint: they were all Indians.
Well, none of them knew why we have a Republic Day after an Independence Day (some thought that the chronology was the other way around!!)! None of them and many others (a separate survey) knew what makes a country a republic. Well, the quest to know what makes a republic was mine too. Hence, I decided to search the web for information of various sorts, and as it happens often in the Life of Eroteme, one lead to another and soon I had nothing less than 27 pages open in front of me shouting out to get my attention! They all got it in the end (hard to say no to them).

What is a republic?
I am sure most of you would have started looking up a dictionary by now. I suppose it doesn’t matter. Based on one article I read, it seems the word currently carries a deceptive connotation. A republic has a charter. The state is ruled by that charter. There, in all likelihood, would be some elected representatives, but they are in their respective offices to carry out the dictates of the charter. Thus, the power of the elected body is restricted. The representatives, I gather, can also be appointed (as a sovereign would be) and need not be elected as long as the charter is upheld. The charter is something the people get together and create. So it is a representation of the people free will.

I am still not a master of the fine differences between a republic and a democracy, so if your next question is on the lines, “Silly fellow. He just described a democracy. No? Then what is the difference?” then I have only the following to offer as explanation, which I am slightly likely of getting wrong. If anyone can point out the error(s), please do so. There are so many definitions and explanation that I realized that saying “NO” to some of the pages would have helped! :-(

A democracy is a government of the people. A republic is a rule by a charter (by anyone who understands it). In a democracy we go by majority (simple) votes, even if the majority votes for something ridiculous. A republic adheres to a charter and considers a million times and might finally rely on more than a simple majority to make the decision. The inkling I get is that in a republic, things are a shade more intelligent and based on the opinions of knowledgeable people (all those in the republic must be educated about the matter at hand. Yeah, I can already hear that, “Sure, try educating all the people in India about any matter.” We’ll take that later, or go ahead and read Atanu Dey’s articles on achieving 100% literacy and see whether it can be applied here and elsewhere.).

So what was India between being independent and becoming a republic?
Well, she was free. Then they decided to start writing a constitution for her. I hear India has the longest constitution. Sure fire way to discourage anyone from following it. All the princely states were gathered under the “India” umbrella and the constitution was readied (checked and double checked) by Jan 26th 1950. Then she became a secular republic within the British Commonwealth of Nations. It would have been better, if the British waited long enough till the constitution was written and then we had one day as I-D and R-D. But, no, they rushed off with the urgency of one dancing on the corridors to the restrooms.

Do read this article about how Alexander Marriott gets bugged with questions about differences between democracies and republic!!

I hope that clarifies a lot. It did for me.

So what is India? A republic? A democracy? A democratic republic? A republic democracy (what on earth is that, its what some people call a representative democracy)?
I'll leave you to figure it out.... :-)

Do spend some time reading Plato's Republic (I think it was called Politeia).

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Of girls and falling in love...

I loved this quote (which I truly, figuratively, stumbled upon). I couldn't agree with him more.

I was about half in love with her by the time we sat down. That's the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty... you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are.
J. D. Salinger

Debilitated person exalted

I have been reading a couple of posts by Atanu Dey on the Nehru dynasty and another on his collection of articles against the image of Mother Teresa. Such articles and many others I read occassionally and forget to note, make me wonder: Why do we exalt people and find their debunking unacceptable? No seriously. We need to go into this earnestly. The recent ongoing case against the acharya of a well known South Indian monastary reveals the same trait at large amongst human beings. I supposed a good elephant, when it is in musth, is treated accordingly. The analogy stops there. People being people are likely to do things which is part of their system. Our main problem is in our inability to accept certain human traits as equally posited as others. We love people who are caring and giving and call them good at times prefering to leave out one of the "o", and the instant they do lie or cheat or steal we cover up for them and ignore all the evidence screaming out at us. Why do we tend to do this? There is no point running away to another mumbling to yourself, "I am not like that. Why bother?"

Here is my take on this:
Is it more our reluctance to accept the wrong doings of the godly-person or is it the disgust and associated shame in accepting our own short-sightedness? We hate to admit that we are wrong. When the good images of a person keep running back to our mind's eye and facts keep shouting out the flaws of a person, we are caught between the embarrassing scene of our admitting our lack of judgement and the chance of covering things up to save face. Most people prefer the latter and follow it in their own style. In personal relationships, we blame the other person for misleading us. We summon incidents when s/he was so nice and ask out aloud, "What else was I to believe?" and then follow it up with incidents and our own interpretations of the same and say louder still, "See? Was there anything wrong on my part? What else was I to do? I tried so hard, but..." In more public relations and cults, an organised cover-up operation takes place. Depending on the strength of the cult the phases of this operation take a colour of its own. Some are clever enough to adopt accepting to their lack of judgement and then using that to emotionally turn the tide in their favour by hinging on the human love for reaching out to the vulnerable and readily sensitive kind!!! Let's spend some time in running over our life and seeing the play of this conflict at various points in time. I suppose recognising this is sufficient work in moving towards the "solution".
So what do we do to avoid this? A couple of possibilities:
1. Don't exalt people (Reflected in the wonderful verse in the Tao Te Ching).
2. Don't debunk people. (I love this speech by Marc Antony)
3. Exalt when you feel the need, and debunk when you feel the need. (I am afraid I have nothing to cite here!!)
4. Don't exalt or debunk anyone. (Quite different from 1 and 2 above. Another verse from the Tao Te Ching)

Here above I have covered cases like one covers the truth table for a bivariate expression.

I was wondering whether the following suggestion is well taken. It strikes me as I write this post.
What if a person is taken as s/he is?
Coming to think of it, it pretty much matches the description in possibility 3 above (if you remove the frivolous tones from it). If a person does something good, you complement her/him and move on. If s/he does something which is punishable (as the then laws are defined in the state containing her/him and her/his crime) then punish her/him but do no rebuke her/his past good deed or start finding faults with it. Each stand as separate incidents. Presentism seems to do more damage than the good it promises (did it ever?). If the criminal does good, s/he loses his title of a criminal (why did s/he even get it in the first place?). Take a breath as it comes. So be it with a human being.

Bad Boy Good

In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time. --- Leonardo da Vinci (More about him later)

Sweet nothings...

Today I received an invitation from a good friend of mine. She is getting married in a week or so. One of the finest women I have ever known. I had the strangest relationship with her. We would strive to be formal, which we realised pretty effortlessly (but strife was evident in another fashion). We mostly interacted on academic issues and departed after a solution was reached or none seemed attainable at that point of time. She was a fairly good student. She had the whole department at her feet. I suppose she was and still is beautiful. (It is surprising how physical beauty blurs out when a person seems wonderful as a whole. I would never be able to answer "Is she beautiful?" about a person whom I have known pretty well.) The one thing I liked about her was that she kept to herself and only let whom she chose, close to her. Maybe it was an honour to be one of them (to a certain extent). She was aware of the effect she had on all the guys around her, but she never let that affect her persona. She was the same whether someone liked her or not. To some, her exterior was too cold and some even termed it as airs. I once asked her, "What is it? You think you are too good to involve yourself in these things?". She said, "No." That was usually the extent to which she would talk. She would never bank on the effect she had, and ask people to do favours for her. She was pretty self-sustaining in a spiritual (no, no. Not that halo stuff) way.

Through the course, our conversation was driven by necessity and purpose. In the final semester, we had a lot of time on hand and circumstances brought us occassionally to a table and let us talk. It was then that I realised that she was far from cold, quite sensitive on the contrary. She loved a lot of things around her and was quite childish at heart. For reasons that surprise me till today (an exalted Venus?) she never expressed interest in any guy. So many suitors around her and none worth her attention. She once told me playfully, "-----, none of them are good enough or the kind I would be interested in", and started laughing. I couldn't help see the sincerity and truth she held in that statement. It hurt slightly that she never considered me even close to her mark!! :-( She wasn't even keen on finding herself a guy. After we departed from our alma mater, we, surprisingly, grew closer and held wonderful conversations in which she let me into whatever she chose to reveal. It is difficult to let a woman as fine as her to the care of someone I know nothing about.
I believe she told me things she hasn't told anyone else (I asked her on a matter or two and she was very uncomfortable in admitting that. I never questioned her in this regard thereafter). I also made her do things she wouldn't have done for a million dollars. Like making her sing! I had to practically beg her to sing. No, she didn't have a good voice, but I simply wanted to hear it. And it felt nice to know that she would do something for me which she wouldn't do for anyone else. She had this song which she liked a lot. She would ask me to sing it for her occasionally. I have never refused her, her request. Once, a bunch of guys in a typical boyish fashion started clapping in the middle of the song to shut me off. I laughed at that and decided to stop (it was something everyone did). She turned to me and asked me to continue and later expressed disgust at the immaturity of those guys. I was surprised for a moment.
She is by far one of the only persons I have known whom I hold in an awe which has no tangible reasons. I had told one of my closest friends that I wanted two daughters, the older one, lovely, soft spoken, intelligent, deep, enchanting, soft tintinnabulations rolling forth as laughter, big eyes, patient, .... well, so much like this friend of mine. The second one must be a brat!
On the last day at our alma mater, I asked her to join me for lunch at one of our favourite joints. It was a lunch of which I have no recollection!
:-( On our way back, she told me something which caught me off guard. Nothing fancy but something which revealed her perspicuity of the world around her. I was touched to know that she cared enough to even notice and then let me know.
I sat back forlorn and at once happy for her while I read her invitation. She truly deserves the best, but I am yet to find a man who I can safely say, deserves her. I wish her the best for future.

Friday, January 21, 2005

When the world conspires...

I had written about my trip in the car yesterday, and then I get information about this article from MIT's Technology Review:

And the day opened up...

What better way to start your day at work?
I got into my car and turned on the ignition. The dials gave one sweeping smile and looked at me deeply. The music system sensed my mood and played the "Quiet Sunset" (track from the Percussions of the World). An exotic blend of the wooden flute and drums. The volume was already set high, and the music enveloped my entire world for a long time. I stepped on the gas and slid out of the parkway onto the road. A smile was inevitable.
As I eased on the roads, my engine hummed along with the music that soothed my nerves. The flute notes were native and deep. Sounded a bit like the Chinese flute but far less shrill. As I quickened my pace on the road, a bunch of kids ran along the road. They had finished their morning game in the sand and cement bags that lined the new construction site. I hit the horn to warn them. They suddenly hurried to the flanks of the mud road excitedly, pigtails and foot-long skirts waving madly in the breeze. They stopped and turned around to smile and giggle at the car which gave them their sudden rush of adrenaline thereby making their day more eventful. Well, those big eyes in the small face which carried more happy teeth than I have ever seen, surely made my day. A small boy (wasn't more than a couple of feet tall)You dare not come close on the other side of the path stood arms akimbo trying to establish to the world around him and especially to the girls across the road, that he wasn't afraid of anything. I revved the engine a little and blew the horn again to watch him back off quickly and climb the sand pile before he resumed his earlier pose. The girls were quite impressed by him and were giggling and had started whispering in my rear view mirror.
The sun was warm and the rays seem to pulsate with the dum-dum......dum-dum......dum-dum of the bongos. The flute played along with the wind that lapped my face with teasing sunshine. I watched as most people hurried down the road towards work. The trees that lined the road were frivolous with the hopes from the day that lay ahead. Or was it simply the breeze playing amongst the green folds of leaves? A few flowers fell groundward. They would suddenly raise themselves in the air, like young women over a fence, thanks to a speeding car that passed close to them. I stopped long enough to watch the eddies of dust coloured with sunbeams, before I was reminded that not everyone following my car had the time for swirls and whirls!
Enjoy your tripThe road to my office is undulating and has many little hillocks to climb. What I liked most about the road that took me to office today was the synchronisation. Today the music and the road and the turns were all in harmony. The crescendo of beats reached at the top of a hillock rolled down as I drove down and moved into a medley of beats and wind instruments while I made my way turning and tricking meanders and labyrinths.
Nice way to start a day at work...

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

A dangerous place for conversations...

The bath is a dangerous place for conversations especially if you have only yourself for company (which is usually the case!). This is more so in the morning. I was running over a statement I had made many weeks ago. A fine lady asked me why am I so interested in anything Oriental (and when I say Oriental I include all Asian countries except some to the west of India). I replied in what then seemed to be a simple answer (I judge simplicity, sometimes, by the speed of response). I had said thus, "Well, the Occident didn't impress me with anything but technology."

Over the past year or so, I get to interact with many people who are not from India (and mostly from places to the west of India) and come to this place with the hope of seeing dancing snakes and taut ropes standing straight out of a silly basket. They are amazed at how livestock and humans share the same roads and lifestyles in many ways. They believe that nothing is possible in this country until we ape the West. I read an interesting article about this on Atanu Dey's blog, but beyond this there is no reason to liken this post to his. Its not just the non-Indians who believe that. Most Indians believe the same too. If a lad hasn't gone abroad, he really isn't that good, is he? If he doesn't work for an MNC, he really isn't that good, is he? He rubs shoulders with fair skinned gents? Aah he must be good. He uses four letter words (most of them)? Aaah, he is stylish. He knows about all the latest hip-hop numbers and how to place his hand on his crotch and pull himself up (ala MJ)? Hmm, really a hot find. I have nothing against this although I wouldn't recommend this to any sane human (Indian or otherwise). My pain points lie in 2 things:

1. Have we really always been a race of fools who were incapable of anything and hence need to ape, and are these non-Indians always candidate to maturity and wisdom?

2. Are we only going to ape what seems cool or hot (actually they are used to mean the same thing in most cases) or are we going to be sensible enough? Atanu Dey has a more first hand experience about this question out here.

Will update this post over time....

What follows is not a sorry excuse of pointing fingers at others or trying to establish that other countries are "bad". The following information has been provided mainly to help the reader realise that people all over the world, and countries all over the world have enough past and present that they are ashamed of. Sometimes it is presentism, and sometimes it is truly embarrassing. Whatever the emotion, the following information does not intend to serve as resource to poke fun at other countries or citizens nor justify our foolishness or feel excessively proud about what we were once upon a time. What we need to realise is that we are talking about human beings everywhere who are, unfortunately, not very different from one another. And for heaven's sake, this is not patriotism! If the reader is still unprepared, please read something else. Maybe a billboard or the details on a milk carton.

What are the usual points that Indians are ashamed of and foreigners are glad to point out (actually not all. The ones I know are wonderful people and very understanding)?

1. Bad spoken English.
2. No traffic rules
3. Poor public mode of transport
4. Weather
5. Poor reach of technology
6. Poor hygiene and quality of food on the roads
7. Horrible public administration (though this is commonly used, no one is very clear about it)
8. Child labour
9. Treatment of women

Will add more to the list above.

In personal circles, the following do crop up as something "that never exists in the West":
1. Caste systems
2. Maltreatment of women
3. Superstitions
4. Arranged marriages
5. Strict customs and traditions/conservative practices

Just as a feeler of what is going to come, nearly all of this exists in other countries as well. Any documentary about Europe on Discovery(Travel and Living) will tell you that very few of the natives speak English!!
Traffic rules are quite absent in India, and I am not going to deny it. But what are we doing to improve it? We aren't aping the West on this. We are ok with driving on the wrong side of the road, headlights in full beam (I am going to sue those car/SUV companies for even installing such powerful lights. Sunshine car my foot!), no helmets, no stopping at the god-forsaken red signal lights. And why-oh-why do we have turning indicators? But are we doing anything to improve this? Would you consciously take a longer route and make a U turn or would you stick to the sidewalk and drive on the wrong side of the road till the divider ends and then you zip across to the other side of the road? Lets ape the West on this. Come on, lets do it. They have something called discipline which we forget at the drop of a hat.
Poor public mode of transport is a problem for everyone.

Will continue tomorrow...

Koyuki San

This is an excerpt of an excerpt from a mail I sent to a friend of mine...

Have you watched The Last Samurai? Most girls I know watched it for Tom Cruise!!! So, if you like him, I am sure you would have watched it too. I really like that movie primarily because it deals with the Orient. But as I watch it more often (---- lent me the DVD) I like the Japanese actress more. Her name is Koyuki and she happens to be a model. Wonderfully simple features but she is so gracefully beautiful (not essentially good looking, but ...). There are 2 scenes when I really fell in love with her. There is one in which Tom comes over to her to let her know that he is leaving. She is washing her hair in the spring. She turns and sees him and the sheer pleasure of seeing him is evident on her face. Beautiful expressions. He excuses himself and continues to tell her what he has come to tell her. She slowly pushes (there is a better word for this action but I simply can't recall) her arm back into the sleeve of her kimono and turns. Fine kimono, fine hair, fine features. She notices that he wears his uniform and her expressions change, softly but quite marked. And he tells her that he has to leave. All she says is "Hai" (Japanese for yes). He tells her that she has been kind to him and he shall never forget her. She is quite in love with him now, but like a sophisticated woman of her times, she cannot acknowledge it. Class. When he says this to her, you should see the pain on her face. She says nothing and bows her head. I would have died then and there. Such grace, such finesse. What could I, but worship such a woman? In another scene (actually this precedes the one I described above), Tom apologises to Koyuki for killing her husband. She realizes that there was no fault of his, and she tells him that her husband did his duty, and Tom did his. She accepts his apology with a simple statement, "I accept your apology...". You should see the change in expression on her face from a casual expression (before he apologises) to sheer pain (when he apologises). Her face changes from marble (we need a word like marblesque in English to suggest the smooth texture of such a face) to pink to deep pink when her veins stand out and her breath is drawn in raggedly. You have to look hard to notice it. Remarkable. Finally her face relaxes and tears of joy slide down her face. Just one or two tears. She doesn't present herself in excess. Brilliant woman. Tom cruise was wonderful too, and I am surprised that he didn't even get a nomination. Every expression of her's is wonderful. You want to ever know who I would call a classy woman? Watch this movie, and watch for Koyuki
The word I was looking for (as I mentioned above) was "tucks". Nothing fabulous, but most appropriate. Tucks does have a very soothing connotation

Saturday, January 15, 2005

What an avid blogger really needs...

Basically what we need is a way to record our thoughts as and when they occur and then with least effort transfer them to our blogs...

Recording our thoughts as and when they occur is best done using a microrecorder (this is the one I have, not the best but decent enough). What we now need is a software to translate voice into text and then post it to our blogs as a draft. When stored as a draft all we need to do is edit any minor errors in the translation (voice to text).

Not sure whether this already exists, but seemed worthwhile putting it down. Maybe someone who reads this might implement it.

Contrasting views on philosophy

"Let no one be slow to seek wisdom when he is young nor weary in the search of it when he has grown old. For no age is too early or too late for the health of the soul. And to say that the season for studying philosophy has not yet come, or that it is past and gone, is like saying that the season for happiness is not yet or that it is now no more. Therefore, both old and young alike ought to seek wisdom, the former in order that, as age comes over him, he may be young in good things because of the grace of what has been, and the latter in order that, while he is young, he may at the same time be old, because he has no fear of the things which are to come. So we must exercise ourselves in the things which bring happiness, since, if that be present, we have everything, and, if that be absent, all our actions are directed towards attaining it." —Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus

If God had meant us to do philosophy he would have created us. -- Marek Kohn

....or are they?

The Book of Nothing

This book by John D Barrow, is quite an interesting book. I am still reading it although my mind isn't readily attached to the book. A little too mathematical and sometimes purely historical. With a title like that I would expect something semi-philosophical. But alas! not much of the book contains that. The quotes sprinkled generously throughout the book are a cheerful read and some made me grip my stomach while I read them and rolled off my chair (well, nearly rolled off). A poem called the "Prayse of Nthing" (nope, no typos in that) was mentioned in the book. So I googled, but couldn't find it. Here it is nevertheless...

Nothing was first, and shall be last
for nothing holds for ever
And nothing ever et scap't death
so can't the longest liver
Nothing's so Immortall, nothing can,
From crosses ever keepe a man
Nothing can live, when the world is gone
for all shall come to nothing

A lot has been written about nothing. The most interesting tale of nothing is found in this verse from the Tao Te Ching.

Still more to come about this book that I am reading. Or I just might have nothing to say...

Friday, January 14, 2005

Why I love not a woman?

I love this poet!! Ha ha ha ha!!

They smile then laugh a little so,
Burst into sweet giggles before the run.
Rings in my head and wants to know,
Why not I love a woman?

Skirts & tassels & all that fuss,
Flowers in tresses & hair in ribbon.
Deck their selves & ask me thus,
Why not I love a woman?

Such gaze in which the sun does bask.
Greys or browns & filled with fun,
They stop me in sleep, in wake & ask,
Why not I love a woman?

Their sweet caress with lips so pink,
Bosoms which leave my soul undone.
As I hold each close to me, I think,
Why not I love a woman?

You grab & ask with earnest true,
Why not love one o' these women?
I do , I do, I swear, I do,
Not one but all these women!

Listen.. Shush... Just listen

It is difficult for me to listen nowadays. I sit back and hear so many voices, some belonging to a face and some whose face I will never see. The head is a bantam house which is home to the voices of the world. And beyond...

The incessant conversations in my head are growing to be painful and are verily, the reason why I am alive. I do not wish them away, nor do I see them helping me in a tangible manner.

Pray tell me what am I to do while I sit back and let the voices speak? Currently, they are all speaking together and helping me type this out.

Aha! got it. Now I got it...

Don't listen to me... I have a lot to listen to, myself.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


Jisse pyaar karte hain, us-se keh nahin paate.
Jahaan ki kushi chahen, kuddh de nahin paate

Urdu Poetry

A few nazms (not ghazals. For a note on what makes a ghazal visit this page).

Har dukh dubo ke jab mudhe, saamne tum aaye (mudhe => turn around)
Ishq ke aseeree se nikle, ke saamne tum aaye (aseeree => imprisonment, captivity)

Story 1

This is a story I wrote long ago. Honestly, I had forgotten that I had written this one. I was rummaging through my collection of files and archives and chanced upon this and a few others. I will be posting these without editting them, as I wish to same the initial works as they are (however pathetic they might be). I remember it was Hemingway who said that the initial draft is nothing but excrement! Here goes...

Started off as a story before getting transformed into a dialogue...

And the world goes round & round & .....

It was late in the evening . We had to go to Mr. Dwight's birthday party . I never liked parties . They were too noisy & usually too crowed.So I thought a quarter hour rendezvous with my solitude could ease out the party-time blues. I loved walking on these jagged rocks with waves lashing around for attention. They would get in between these rocks & swell to meet. If you acknowledged their eagerness,they might return, if you didn't they would recede & return nevertheless. I always wondered about the relationship between the rocks & the brine.Were the waves beating the rocks & foaming into Schadenfreud laughter or were they running across endless miles of watery landscape to meet their earthy friends, their zest broken down only by the steadfast friends who greet them in their entirety. May be every wave had a different relationship with each rock & the beautiful sun watched over them. I loved the sunset. It brought back the energy that my day's work hungrily consumed. I had no favourite spot, but usually sat atop the rock on either side of which, there were rocks. It was like a natural throne. The waves rarely reached my throne. I moved towards it & noticed a person at a distance sitting alone. His back was crouched, but he faced the sun. The only thing familiar about him was his fishing cap. I walked up to him. He didn't hear my footsteps or he chose not to. I bent a little & said,"Mr. Dwight?" He turned around, slowly and said,"Andy, what a pleasant surprise. What made you come down here?"

A: Wish you a very happy birthday, Mr. Dwight. I was just strolling & couldn't help but notice that you here all alone. Aren't you supposed to be at home getting ready for the party ?

D: (Smiles & pats the ground besides him ) Sit down Andy. Parties are a little too crowded.

A: (Waits for a few seconds) So, how does it feel to be 75, Mr. Dwight? Must be a wonderful experience.

D: (Breathes in deeply) Yes, but I wonder if it was worth waiting so long. (Smiles at me ) 'Tis heavy stuff for you, son, lets just watch the sun set half way & leave.

A: If I am not probing , what is it, whose worth, you wonder about?

D: Whether it was worth living with these people I know, whether it was worth being what I have been. Whether these 75 years have been worth the wait for 75 years to complete.

A: Why do you wonder? If you are happy right now,don't you think it must have been worth it?

D: (Smiles at him) That is a very interesting thing to say. You have a little poet in you. I watched you while you watched the waves. You have a different way of looking at them. But when you grow older you might have to stop looking at them the way you do now. The people around you take a lot of your time. Do you like the people around you?

A: Yes, a large portion, I would say.

D: Why is it that you don't like the rest?

A: Some I disagree with & some.....

D: On what grounds do you disagree with them?

A: Some are liars, hypocrites, unethical & the like. I couldn't like Johnny because he smokes & tries to force people around him to take it up, too.

D: I think 99% of the human race is crazy. They say something & expect something else.

A: Quite true ( but I noticed he wasn't listening to me)

D: They live according to their convenience & talk of ideals. They beat their child for being dishonest,but are ready to furnish a false medical certificate so that the school pardon's their child's absence. They talk about compassion & understanding but are to engaged in the super bowl or the soaps to give it to their near ones. They taboo sex but okay it between a married couple. They are so judgemental & feel that the conclusion is more important than the subject over which the same is drawn. They call a group, fanatics, & burn down their establishment. They pick at the person's personal life to prove him incapable of the position he holds in his professional life. If you say," It was wonderful", when it wasn't then you are a liar; when you say,"I didn't like it", then you are rude. You know something is correct, but you are not supposed to adhere to it. You speak honey and sugar, people love you no matter how ridiculous your statements were; you speak straight sense then you are bitter and hard-hitting.

A: But there still are the people you love.

D:(Looks at me as if I slapped him). Love? Son, people play around with that beautiful emotion too. They expect to be loved in return. They are not interested in whether they truly love X, they want to make sure that X loves them, too, and accordingly might continue to "love" (draws quotes in the air) him. If they can't accept that they are just another very good friend of X, they run away, withdraw, stop talking and interacting with X or worse still, call him discriminatory and other names. So why shouldn't he be? Doesn't everyone have strata of friends? And why should you expect to be dosed in the privileges X offers to his closest few? Aren't you supposed to earn it? People are lazy.
They are not prepared to work on relations. They just want them to fall into place & expect it to be ever-rosy & beautiful. They take things for granted & then when things worsen, a wiry haired shrink tells you that things need to improve. Can you believe it? People go to shrinks & marriage counsellors & child specialists (I think he meant psychiatrist), whom they meet for the first time, to solve problems they face with people they have known for a considerably long time! People are satiated by quick-fix solutions & that's why buildings come crashing down but the Pyramid of Giza stands arrogantly upright. People aren't interested in relations; they are more interested in names; mother, father, girl-friend, boy-friend, husband, wife, son, daughter,etc. The depth is gone.
(Takes a very deep breath).When I was a kid my father made me feel what fatherly love is & I loved him & revered him like any son would have. When Robby was 12 he tells me, "Dad, relax, I'll manage it from here." My job was over. But being a father wasn't a job to me. I wanted to be with Robby everytime he won a race & everytime he fell down. I wanted to help him out with his homework & learn the new stuff. I wanted to meet his girlfriend & not by chance. He thought I was denying him his freedom & independence. So I gave it to him the way he wanted it. Twenty years later he tells me that I never seemed to have time for him. And today he goes out and buys the cake. Why? 'coz that's what a son is supposed to do on his father's birthday.
These books and talk shows have made things so stereotypical that spontaneity is restricted to those kids in high school whom everyone call "coooool". People try to do things & match them with the ideals in books and mags. "If your score is between 24-29 then you are a caring spouse, if it is between 20-24 then you are fine enough, if it is between 16-20 you are on the edge, if it is below 16 your marriage needs counselling. Contact the phone number below and get an appointment immediately". People are crazy enough to score their lives. But against what? An upper score set by a god-knows-who with a dainty degree from god-knows-where? People are no longer interested in living.
They just want to perform. They just want to top their SATs, the GREs, have an ideal girl-friend, get a 6 figure salary, marry an ideal woman, have beautiful kids, make them top their class. They call this ambition. Why? "You have to give up something to get something" or "You can't do this if you really want that" could be some of the replies. If everything has to be done exclusively then people should brush their teeth on Monday, bathe on Tuesday, breakfast on Wednesday, lunch on Thursday, dine on Friday, go to work everyday as that is their ambition, maybe talk to their kids & spouse on Saturday & sleep on Sunday. This is as ridiculous as giving up on things to achieve something else. Trust me, people are crazy.
Then there are these cults & religions all man-made but treated like the Truth. They would kill their loved ones if it was protocol to their religious faith. Don't do this, don't do that. This has to be done & that may or not be done. You have to go to the Church on Sundays & say your prayers. Why can't I say them at home? Can't i just talk to God? Why doesn't any religion teach us to try understand ourselves & people around us? We are supplied with orders like "Be nice to thy neighbour" and "Give to the poor" & not "Understand your neighbour" or "Empower the poor". "The seven sins" are proclaimed in nearly every religion. Why are they called sins? Just because our sense drive us to them? So, if it is so natural, why call them sins at all?

A: Maybe 'coz we lose our control & sense to them. Maybe 'coz if we spend too much of our time & energy on them we become less productive to society.

D: Firstly, why do you wish to be in control? Who is this "you"? Is it not your senses & your mind that manifests as your ego & wishes to be in control? Hence you are released from the bondage of some senses by being enslaved by another. Secondly, how productive is a saint or a priest? Why aren't they called sinners? Just 'coz they talk big stuff and have embraced ascetism? Aren't they more interested in talking about Jesus or Jehovah or Allah or some Hindu God? Are they productive? So why blame a man who indulges himself in food whenever he can or never refuses a sexual favour? Why ostracise them? Thats why i call them hypocrites. But it's okay if he has sex with his wife 10 times a day, but even once with another woman then he is an infidel. Give me a break. Sex, hunger, thirst, rest, shelter, raiment and money are all basic wants and cannot be sullied by the narrow-mindedness of the human race. People are just not able to get out of their confusion & don't seem ready to, as this confusion awards them a sense of security. So be it with daily life. You get into a party & everyone tell you that X is so good & nice & caring & understanding & the works. If you interact with him/her & realise that all this is just a mask, people call you jealous and a jerk. Criticism is entertained as long as it doesn't challenge the person's stance. Once it does, you are castigated. People are not interested in discussing the truth & vivisecting it. They are merely interested in opinions and gossip. As long as you are nice to them they are nice to you. You do anything that is correct but against them then you are an aposter. Principles take a back seat. Everything is romanticised (I wonder if there is such a word, but I didn't want to interrupt). You cheat then you are wrong; if you cheat X 'coz he cheated you then its quits. The biggest hypocrisy is the tobacco industry. They sell cigarettes after telling you that they can kill you. Its like stabbing you after informing you that it could be fatal. And the government insists that they warn you & its illegal if they don't! A whole big bunch of buffoons.

A: If I am not being rude, Mr. Dwight, what is it that you expected out of this world & its people? Maybe then you might realise which is plausible & which isn't. Idealism is beautiful but not always practical. Somethings happen not because that is the correct way, but, because they were supposed to happen that way.

D: You believe in destiny? (I just shrug). Maybe you do, maybe you should, maybe everyone should. But there are quite a few things that do not rely on destiny for their existence. Things like virtue, ethics, morals, humane traits. I wish to rationalise on these issues. It might be destiny that Robby & I couldn't share a relation like my father and I did, but it isn't destiny when it comes to him acting like a goody-goody son today. That's hypocrisy. And then ....

A: Aren't you being stereotypical yourself? You want a relation between two people viz. you and Robby to be like a relation between two different people. When people don't have standards in their life, they resort to books & talk shows. Its just a different frame, but the underlying motive is the same, isn't it?

D: Very good, you are right. I fell into the trap myself but I did try to give that relation its rope. I gave Robby & the relation what it wanted & not what I wanted to & hence i feel i can shift my scrutiny to the underlying emotion or the absence of it.
You wish to know what i expect from this world? Nothing much, just honesty & simplicity. No pretense, no ideals, no beckoning the truth & ignoring it 'coz it is unpleasant, no conflict in the mind, no confusion, no fervid urge to judge people, no fanatic drive to make the world nod to your words, no denying love to an orphan, no act of putting people on pedestals & later debunking them, no rushing after money & status by selling your near and dear, no reaching the top and kicking the ladder which let you climb, no waiting for the person to greet you first, no words which you don't mean, no expectations of sweeter words to render false intentions, no hopes for someone to love you, no score books, no talk shows which teach you how to live, no acts done because they are supposed to be, no hesitation in doing what is correct and heartfelt, no agreeing to what everyone says merely on the grounds of democracy but for the truth in their statement, no acting caring because it impresses people around you, no expectations and hence no disappointments, no conditional love, no blindly unconditional love, no cheating on someone, no ambitions, no fanaticism, no groupism, no segregation, no loss of interest in simple things, no glorification of small things, no hype; in short, no hypocrisy. I suppose this is too much to ask of this world.

A: I guess it is. I think the approach, hence, could be changed. Instead of expecting this of the world, one should tune oneself to live up to this. I fear the world will never achieve these. If it did, people will make these their ideals, expect them from everyone else, expect them to happen but not be able to accept the consequences. It is a vicious cycle.

D: (Standing up and dusting his trouser seat). See, I told. One wonders whether it was worth spending 75 years in this cycle.

A: Look on the bright side, Mr. Dwight, you get to meet people from such a variegated collection of background, psychology, attitude, shapes & size. It is impossible for the intelligent not to learn & unlearn from these events of interaction.

D: (Looks at me). True. I am not sure whether 75 years were worth it, but this evening & definitely this conversation has been worth it all. It isn't what I expected, & which didn't happen, that disappoints as much as the complacency in the human mind towards all that we discussed. I guess you are right; the world will never change. It will just go round and round ....

The sunset was never more beautiful, the air never so crisp. Was it just today or the import of the conversation? I refuse to realise.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Not quite a post...

I feared I might not post today. No more.
After completing school, a student must be allowed to explore different possible fields in order to get a fair idea of what lies beyond hearsay. The entire society in which she lives must help her see the different facets to an occupation. From the glamorous version that visual media portrays to the mundane side the man who truly occupies his day with work. After that 1 mandatory year of free flowing travel (it really is a travel), the student must be able to convince herself and a panel of educators (comprising teachers who are familiar with the student) about the line of study she wishes to pursue. If the reason is banausic, fine. No harm. At least she should be clear about it. Idealism kills more men than reality ever conceived of doing away with. Once things are clear, then the student should pursue the field of study. After completing the course, another year must be spent in working at different places as an apprentice before being fully employed. This helps establish things on a more solid ground. Oh! my god, she lost 2 years of income!! 2 years in a career's life time of around 40 years. That is 2/40*100 % or 5% (I like 5%. Its the same key without and with the shift key depressed). That's fine. You will be 95% happy. Do I hear a solution which can give me better results than that?

But does society really care about giving the young an interesting life? Does it really care about making their life a true joy so that people around can also be happy?

Money & status decide a lot. Is this inevitable? Is this how it should be? Hmmm. Need to think about it.

And I never planned on writing more than the 1st line... Hence, the title.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Don Quixote

I would add more to this post which carries the title of one of my favourite books (although I can only read the translated one) and characters. The reason for this post lies in the contents of the previous post. Quixote is pronounced Kee-o-they (don't emphasise too much on the th of they). Would be hurt if someone read the previous post as Don quick-sote!! Actually not. If you did read it as Quick-sote, humour me and re-read it as Don Kee-o-they!! :D I am a pain, ain't I?

Nimbus Nimbus

hahahahahah :D
We need more guys like this. Honestly. What would the world be without such guys? I think we should have a campaign where every school student (definitely) and anybody else (would it be correct to say "any body"?) should take ownership of a tree or a rock or something which is a part of nature and take total responsibility for it. They should be given full permission to sue anyone who tries to harm what they own (like a chattel?). Insurance policies should also exist for these! hahahaha :D wouldn't that be cool? Don't let your dog near by tree. What? Urgent? Who cares? Take it to your rock.
Read this article which I read in The Hindu. Score tied for The Hindu. One horrible article balanced by a classy article. I am sure I will find a lot more of horrible articles, but then hey! let's be impartial.

Claiming the clouds

By Vladimir Radyuhin

MOSCOW, JAN. 7. There is a latter-day Don Quixote on the horizon. A Russian lawyer has claimed ownership rights of all the clouds across the world — in order to protect them from pollution. Vladimir Osipov, from the town of Yeisk in Russia's south, has sent to the governments of 150 countries an official notarised document declaring this.

Legal experts said it was evidently an unsustainable claim. But they admit there is a loophole in the international law governing natural resources. "Rivers, lakes and other natural resources belong to the state on whose territory they are situated," said Vladimir Lygin, a lawyer. "There is a need to draw up a law banning attempts to claim private ownership of such things as clouds."

I spoke to my mom. Please publish it in the news...

Attached below is an excerpt from an article in The Hindu. What has the world come to? My mother is ill, I go to see her (why am I "going" in the first place; wouldn't I be there beside her anyway?) and that makes news. Oh! my gosh!! he actually visited his mom? That is so benevolent of him. Have you ever seen someone like that? Actually caring about their own mom? He must be an angel. Oh! I wish I had a son like him.

Actually, why bother?

Soon we should have headlines with the following content:

PM's wife made food for him.
TN Chief Minister visits her son in the asylum.
Leading Bollywood actor holds his wife's hands. Admits to it too!
Leading daily editor brushes his teeth with his left hand.

What is it? We don't have enough matter which counts as news? Or is this really news?

Jesus H Christ!!! Save this world. Busy? Okee. Anyone else ready to do the job?
Read on.

Naidu calls on ailing mother

By Our Special Correspondent

TIRUPATI. Jan. 6. TDP president and the former Chief Minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu, accompanied by his wife Bhuvaneswari called on his mother, Ammannamma who is admitted into the ICU of the TTD-run SVIMS here after she suffered a massive heart attack yesterday (who admitted her?).

He stayed nearly 30 minutes (that's a lot of time! He must have missed out on half the things he wished to say against YSR) at her bedside and talked to her briefly (aah! so they admit that 30 minutes was a brief period?). "She recognised me (after all you did find 30 minutes for her. This is the least she could do. Or the most?) and talked to me a few words before she slipped into semi-consciousness," he told (why, oh, why? I don't go around telling the mediapersons that my mom made gajar ka halwa today and she recognised me before serving it to me)waiting mediapersons outside the ICU. Besides his close family members, noted cardiologist and Director of the Hyderabad-based CARE hospital, Dr. Somaraju, who is the family physician of the NTR family, also accompanied Mr. Naidu from Hyderabad apparently (What on earth? Apparently? Someone help me out here.)to examine an ageing Ammannamma who is an acute diabetic and a renal problem patient.

Is this what India has come to? I always thought that out here children take care of their parents by default (usually out of love) and definitely do not make an exhibition out of it. Someone goes and checks on their mother and that becomes news? I have had relatives who had elders hospitalised. For heaven's sake, they would stay in the hospital, not visit for 30 minutes! Of course, people would take turns but nobody visited. Those who did were visitors not relatives (definitely not the immediate family).

Friday, January 07, 2005

Painful pleasures or pleasurable pains?

The following is not for the weak hearted nor for the prude. Please bear this in mind as you nevertheless read on (with the first sentence having piqued your interest in lieu of warning you).

It is surprising that there is a thin line between pleasure and pain. Sometimes it is clear that something is painful, but most often I need to rephrase that realisation to "painful for so-and-so". Individual perceptions of pain and pleasure are discriminated by a very thin line, which, now, not-so-surprisingly has a good deal of broken points where both mix well into a heady concoction. Breath easy while you try to recollect the various times in your life when pain seemed so pleasurable. Many a virgin has confessed to this on her night of consummation, many a well shaved face has been party to this after a dab of cologne across their visage, a close few admit to the sense of relief when the sphincter stretches painfully in the morning after an entire night's inactivity, the careful tongue which pushes out the lower lip till the skin cracks and then eagerly runs over the chapped and bleeding lips, women who delivered handsome lads and lissome lasses admit to this as well (although they did not enjoy the earlier portions of the labor pangs, they seemed to have queerly liked it when it reached its zenith as the child’s head popped out) and what I have read at places about the sexual preferences of some where pain and pleasure are better not sieved out. I remember reading it on a Linux system (late one night when day and night don't make sense). I had decided to take a break from the computer and play around with the fortune commands (try $>fortune. There are various options that can be given to fortune depending on the installation). "fortune –o" was always the favourite amongst the bored! In one of them I remember reading a justification for bondage! Very interesting. It said that when the individual is at her/his peak and the muscles throughout the body tend to contract, the inability to do so (due to the bonds) heightens the pleasure immeasurably. At least it made me sit back and think (and I had planned on giving my brain a rest!) and I stopped hitting on the fortune commands. Another place where I was presented similar fare (though this time I was repulsed by what I saw) was in the General's Daughter (John Travolta and Madeline Stowe, I think). I remember the movie Anjali (Tamil and pretty old) where Revati begs the child to continue hitting her if that was the only means by which she (the kid) would touch her (Revati). Why did I think off all this? Last night I poured a few drops of medicine for my eyes and it stung badly, but it felt nice. Maybe, because I thought that the sting was proof that it was being effective, or the silly pride that my eyes can withstand such sharp pain. God knows. But it felt nice, and I settled in for a night's sleep filled with wonderful dreams (did you know that all our dreams are seen in colour? No, not technicolour). When a couple (not necessarily a married one) split, there is some point in time when either of them wish pain for the other so that they get a chance to be there to assuage the ravages of that pain. Wishing pain for another in order to realise pleasure for both? This is not to be likened to the emotions at play in a vindictive mind; a vindictive mind clearly wants pain for another, and might not be appeased even after that is meted out to the other. A woman finds great pleasure in knowing that her man still pines for her, while she might or not admit that she is privy to similar pangs of separation.
Would pain, then, be a decision, conscious or otherwise? So ask it of pleasure, too.

A tribute to MSS and Kalki Krishnamurthi

This is an extremely beautiful song penned by Kalki Krishnamurthi and rendered beautifully by M.S.S. She was always wonderful, but some perverted thinking of mine always strove to find flaws with the greats or those who have been hyped to be great. I have always been dispassionate about Aishwarya Rai, Brad Pitt, Harry Potter (would you say that the series is better than the ones created by Enid Blyton? There was greater variety then and far less hype.) and closer home, Sachin Tendulkar. It annoyed me much to exalt one person while there were many greats in the fields. So it was with my perception of Thiagaraja as well. Have you heard the works of Bhadrachala Ramadas (I suppose he was also called Bhakta Ramadas)? Out of this world. His passion was brimming in every word he employed (do try listening to Eteeruga nanu. I shall paste the lyrics of that song someday). And what about Oothukaadu Venkata Subaiyyer? Yaar ennai chonnalum anjaathey nenjamey is by far his finest piece and so amazingly beautiful to hear. One can sing it with all the dearness that one can conjure and it would still fall short of the devotion, which the poet transformed into ink and words. But neither Ramadas nor Subbaiyyer attained the exalted status of Thiagaraja. Why, pray, tell me why? I suppose I will always be the warrior of the underdogs, I am sure they don't care about being exalted and they definitely wouldn't care to know that a warrior exists for them. I do not despise the famous; I merely wonder why? I got to know more about MSS after her demise, and I grew to respect her more than I could any singer (I still don't like her pronunciations. She doesn't do justice to the lyrics).

I haven't employed the popular "zh" to represent the "y" (as in yonder). I use "yy" (merely to differentiate from "y") itself as I have never understood how, in the beautiful earth of the creator, did "zh" (also used in Zhivago) every produce the same phonetics as "yy". A note to the reader, if Tamil is not your mother tongue, then you would benefit by practicing this syllable. Do you know Marathi? They have a "yla" which has similar idiosyncrasies as this Tamil "yy". Lets give it a shot, nonetheless. Say "yonder". Notice that the tip of your tongue brushes at the base of the incisors of your upper jaw (it would sound silly if they were touching the ones on the lower jaw!) before it produces the sound of "o". Try saying the same word without moving your tongue. Please don't speak aloud, as people mistake experiments for early signs of lunacy! Now, move the tip back to the roof of your mouth and repeat the magic word; I mean yonder. The sound that is produced now when you saw the "yy" is the one to be used at most places where you find a "yy" in the song below. By the way, listen to the song first (whether you are Tamilian or not). Corrections are welcome. These are what my mother could grasp from the tape, and I am no master of this language to correct her (though by asking her the meaning of every word, I managed to get her to correct it herself).

Malaipoyyudhinile oru naal, malar poyyudhinile //twice
Kolai kiligaludan kuyyilgal, konjidum velaiyile //twice

Maalaikulavum maarban maruvil, maamani pol mugathaan //twice
Vel ondru kaiyil yenthi, yennaiye viyyunguvaan pol viyithaan //twice

Neela kadalinai pol en nenjam, nimrnthu pongidavum //twice
Naalupuram noki naaninaan, yaar ingu vanthaddenben //twice
Aalilai mel thuyyindru bhuvanam, anaithume alikkum //twice
Maayan marumagan yaar ennaiye, velan murugan enbaan //twice

Chandiran ven-kurumbum mugathil, sanchalam thondruvathe
Bandham illaadhavalo pudidhaiy thodarnthidum uravo
Mundhaippiravigalil unnai naan, muraiyinil mananden //twice
Enthan uyyirrallavo kanmani, yenintha jaalamellaam //twice

Ullam urugidinum oovagai, ootrupperugidinum //twice
Kallaththanamaaga kankalil kanna yyeyya viyyithen
Thulli mayil veeran mohana punnagai thaan purinthaan //twice
Thulli arugil vanthaan en karam, mella thodavum vanthaan

Penmathi pedamaiyal avan kai, pattridu mun peyyarnthen //twice
Kann viyyiththe yeyunden thuyara kadalile viyyunthen
Vanna mayil yerum perumaal vanjanai yeno seythaan //twice
Kangal urangavo akkurai kanavai kandileno
Malaipoyudhinile oru naal, malar poyudhinile

A painting of MSS inspired from a picture in the Sunday Review article that carried the photo. Need to still add the finishing touches...

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Vladimir Nabokov and words

I wanted to write about something entirely unrelated to Nabokov. But I shall stick to this author in this blog entry merely to provide space to the non-existent reader of this blog, to catch his breath which he has run out of while being rammed with views on pedagogy. Back to Nabokov; I like his sheer passion for words and he takes the least pains to hide it. He writes to please himself more than anything else. The words he chooses (even in some of the translations of his Russian works) are grand and consciously intended to make the reader intoxicated while he innocently consumes each sentences after another in the world Nobokov weaves with a passion I find waning amongst recent authors. Authors of the present world prefer commercial success and find solace in banausic pursuits. I do not discard their works as pablum. No, I don't, for I am yet to understand the ellusive import of their words. Nabokov introduces images with a deceptively childish insouciance, that the reader is forced to accept the truth of the inceidents related. He is definitely a master of his craft and he presents it with a deliberation that is at once interesting and redoubtable. I am currently reading The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov (available for review at ). He is also famous for his novel Lolita (available for review at ), which has supplied the much necessary name for pornographic sites dealing with young women (more like teenagers). It is unfortunate that his work has leant itself to such use (or abuse), but how could we expect a crafty writer as Nabokov to indulge in sortlege, and predict the coming of the internet and its employment as a means of spreading thrills to a bored and unoccupied public. He might have opened the doors to a new cult of writers who hinge around providing cheap pleasure as a means to fame and money as much as we could blame the Godfather (visit and search for cat or visit and read through it.)for a growing number of cats being kept as pets. Anyway, if you love words, Nabokov can delight you with a wonderful spread that would you leave you gasping for more.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

An eye red and shut

Why do they call it a Madras eye? Not sure. They could have called it a communist's eye for the commonality in colour. But then hey! whatever they call it, I got it. Feels a little "ughh" but reason enough to give me a break from office. I realised that I hadn't really utilised the holidays that my company gives me! No that doesn't necessarily make me sincere, but it does make me silly for not having used them!
Yesterday, I had a nice conversation with a friend of mine (let's call her S). S is not in the technical software line of business (as I am), but a lot of software is mere common sense. Surprisingly, very few people understand that. They think being a software professional is knowing C, C++ and/or Java or some other language and an operating system. Whatever! We were discussing how developers and QA need to work together. Phases of each person's work should overlap with that of the other. That is how good software has to be built. Doesn't seem to happen in many places (definitely not in both the companies I have worked for). Things in the corporate world seem so simple and straightforward, but people insist on turning face away from the solutions and making thing complicated. I don't know why. Security in insanity?
Won't be able to type more as my eye starts to hurt. I read Kazuo Ishiguro's An artist in a floating world. Its nice and the style of drifting is at once interesting and irritating. The narrator (Ono) is in the midst of a dialogue, when he suddenly takes you 20 years back and narrates an incident form where he goes a few years ahead, and then again back. It can make you think, "Gosh! What's the point? Out with it!" But I like it, because I bought it as well as because it is a nice style, like a freely moving paint brush on canvas.

An interesting article by Jiddu Krishnamurthy

I suppose most of my blog contents would contain material pertaining to pedagogy, corporate behaviour, philosophy, the Tao Te Ching (pronounced Dao Day Jshing. Couldn't get the correct phonetics on the last word), the world and a few other things I cannot think of!

I read this wonderful article by JK. I must mention how I came across the works of JK. I loved to write for a very long time. Not sure when it all started. I was told that my father and my younger uncle loved to listen to JK's speeches. I regret not being around and old enough to enjoy them. I was never involved myself. After my father expired in 1997, I got a computer which he had paid for on the day of his death (but never got to see. I still use that to type out this blog). I had typed an essay/article (what is the difference between an essay and an article?) and sent it to my younger uncle. He replied to the article by asking me whether I read JK. I said no (because I didn't). He said, "Your style of writing is a lot like his." I was not impressed, because I didn't know whether that was good or bad. I was all of 18 years then. I decided to read his works. I read "Truth is a pathless land" and said to myself, "here is someone who is very clear." Till today I respect JK for his clarity. Whether he is good or not or whether he is the wisest, is of little concern. What matters is what he had to say. In short, JK's words entered my life then. I read him on and off, never really very fanatic about what he had to say.

With my recent growing interest in pedagogy (I loved to teach and I have taught at a couple of places, but that isn't pedagogy) I read whatever (related to education)I can get my hands on. His essay/article/speech on "The School" was a fine piece. I kept marking relevant portions and drawing smileys near lines which, ... well made me smile. Here is a summary of it...

JK believes very strongly that the educator is of prime importance. If the educator doesn't believe in the relevance of what she teaches, then the child's freedom is in jeopardy. To feel the relevance and the unquestionable importance of right education is paramount. Authority has no place where everyone is out to learn. It is silly to have one lead another when everyone is dedicated to educating the young ones and ensuring the realise freedom. Administrative activity can be owned but that doesn't make one superior, as much as my paying the electricity bill of my house doesn't make me the boss.
Something that he doesn't seem to have touched upon is the necessity for holistic education. Where a subject is not treated in isolation but life is presented per se' and the student is drawn into the details of every facet of it, be it history, math, physics, biology, social behaviour, etc. Take a scene at a Bombay local railway station. Paint the entire scene to the children who are eagerly listening. Slowly explain the different things. Why is the kettle trembling when the tea comes to a boil? Why does the passenger run when he alights? How does the train run? A little imagination can go a long way. The children need to see everything in their life as one big event and not a historical event or a biological event.
One thing I agree, is the size restriction that should be placed on the class. Unless a teacher can comfortably handle more than 20 students, she should not be burdened with more.
Here are some excerpts from what I read:

It is only when we begin to understand the deep significance of human life that there can be true education; but to understand, the mind must intelligently free itself from the desire for reward which breeds fear and conformity.

Think about this. Don't agree or disagree. Just let it run its rounds in your brain. If it should be, its sense will come to you.

A school which is successful in the worldly sense is more often than not a failure as an educational centre.

Interesting. I agree that this might be too much of a generalisation, but JK is inclined to do so, although I am sure he could defend himself with a persistance that could drive you mad. I loved the following piece. What attitude!!

But who are the masses? You and I. Let us not get lost in the thought that the masses must also be rightly educated. The consideration of the mass is a form of escape from immediate action.

In building enormous institutions and employing teachers who depend on a system instead of being alert and observant in their relationship with the individual student, we merely encourage the accumulation of facts, the development of capacity, and the habit of thinking mechanically, according to a pattern; but certainly none of this helps the student to grow into an integrated human being.

So true. He says it very well.

To start such a school, they need not wait until they have the necessary means. One can be a true teacher at home, and opportunities will come to the earnest.

This has always been my predicament. I always thought that if I should implement my concept of a good school, I need sufficient finances. I decided to rethink that after I read this. Think about it. I would need money only if I plan on setting up a huge school where parents would vie to get their children in. But that doesn't mean that the school does a great job of educating the child. When I say educate, education and other related words, I mean liberating the child and making the child truly independant, not in a rebellious and pseudo fashion, but in a genuine sense of the word. To be independant would mean the freedom to realise truth for oneself without having to conform or accede to anyone's whims and fancy. So, if I am passionate about liberating a child, the campus matters not, the classy design of a uniform matters not, a high teak wood desk behind which I should rest my well poised self matters not. What does matter is that I connect to the child and liberate her in a true and absolute sense. Where the child knows no fear and enjoys living and the beauty around her. This does not mean that she would be useless in society and would not be able to earn herself a living. What it does mean is that, she will come upon a stream, maybe computers, maybe metallurgy, maybe medicine, maybe gymnastics, maybe journalism, maybe a musical instrument, maybe a brush, anything, which she will love with all her heart and make a career out of it, but unlike most others making a career out of a similar stream, she will not be affected by the ups and downs in it as she is in love with it, and such unpredictable variations in other's perception of her work do not affect her. When one is in absolute love of something, great success or abject poverty matters not. It is when one doesn't find that relationship with something, with beauty itself, that one seeks fame, properity and recognition. JK goes on to say...

The right kind of education should also help the student to discover what he is most interested in. If he does not find his true vocation, all his life will seem wasted; he will feel frustrated doing something which he does not want to do.

and then he goes on to say something which made me burst out laughing (yes, there is a laughing smiley besides it).

A boy may want to be a soldier; but before he takes up soldiering, he should be helped to discover whether the military vocation is beneficial to the whole of mankind.

I believe that the military and the armed forces is the most silly institution ever created by man. We keep saying we want peace and build an army and arsenal. I never heard of someone trying to keep warm by laying on blocks of ice! A lot more can be quoted from that article/essay/speech. Do read it for yourself.

It is available at:'the_school'.html

Monday, January 03, 2005

An essay I wrote a while ago...

Here is an essay I wrote a while ago as a submission to an essay competition organised by FJEI.



The most significant memory of school has been the sandbox we had in one corner of the school. It had all kinds of swings and other devices, which drove the adrenaline to my head. There was a railway track on one end of this sandbox (don't worry! there was a strong fencing that kept us in). Apart from the playing and the fun, I loved it most because I could return to the class pretty easily. The schools I studied in later had their playground pretty far away from the main building and things never seemed to gel in.
School is a place where reality can take a back seat, and can be introduced gradually, piece-meal. I do not mean that students should not be exposed to the real world. They should be, but the interesting part is that it is inevitable. The world of ideals is neither so real nor inevitable. Hence, the student should live the world of ideals before she is exposed to the inevitable reality of the world. I shall proceed to describe the school I have in mind. I have created elaborate plans for this school and pray that one day I shall also create the finances to make these plans real. Or come across a column in a newspaper asking me to speak my plans!

What parents need to know:
Parents need to accept that their child's future is a combination of the effort that schools put in and the effort that they must consciously exert at home and in places other than the schools. The school and the parents need to sit together and agree upon the different values being input to each child. This helps deprive the child of confusion. Mostly a child is exposed to one stream of belief at home and another in school. Values and opinions clash and the child is unable to choose one over the other or blend one with the other. It is vital that the effort in bringing a child to a level maturity, where she is able to make conscious decisions on differing grounds, be aligned at home as well as at school. Parents need to commit to the set of values and rules decided upon.
Parents also need to present their shortcomings (with assured non-disclosure from the school) on various fronts like monetary, social, domestic etc. This helps the school customize the treatment of their child. It helps if the school knows what can be expected from the family.
Parents should refrain from expecting to know the relative position of their ward on academic and other grounds. This point shall be elaborated further in the pages to come. It is important that parents do not request such information either from their child or from the teachers. Relative progress and relative performance is strictly confidential to the school and should not be disclosed by any member of staff.

School administration and sundry:
Fees shall not be charged (or some minimal maintenance charges levied). It is binding on the student to pay her fees once she is capable of doing so. If the student escapes from repaying to the school the school has not been able to infuse in her the value of giving and returning. In this case the school has not done their job and shouldn't expect any fees.
The school will hold ties with certain corporate offices which agree to donate liberally or take charge of maintenance of one or more components of the school infrastructure. E.g. company/firm/organisation A might accept responsibility for the procurement and maintenance of all the office "wood" like desks, cabinets, chairs etc. and company/firm/organisation B might take responsibility for maintenance of all electric fixtures. These ties will be non-obligatory and the school is not bound legally or morally to include children of individuals from such corporations in their roll. Special treatment shall not be awarded to children of individuals from such corporations once they are a part of the school.
All the staff of the school shall be included on probation and on the successful completion of which they shall be called "Educators".
All educators and individuals on probation will agree to conduct their sessions with the students in the presence of video cameras. These recordings will be used only in enhancing the educator-student relationship. The tapes are sole property of the senate of the school which comprises the principal educator, a group of in-house child psychologists and a few voted members from the body of educators. These tapes shall be used to capture best practices as well as honing the teachers' skills in presenting material during the sessions. All educators are strongly encouraged to record conversations with students so that their problems, complaints or issues are captured and can be worked on jointly. The issues might be controversial but the student shall not be/need not be made aware of the fact that many heads have worked on solving the problem at hand. The student and the educator taken into confidence shall be the only two individuals who will be directly interacting on the specific issue. It is nevertheless mandatory to understand these issues as they would recur and we could have a stronger understanding of the issue and be of greater help to the student.
Most classrooms will be collapsible with desks collapsing into the floor. This allows converting a set of classrooms into a large hall on a need basis.
School starts at 7:00 a.m. and end at 7:00 p.m. This relieves many parents of the guilt of not being there when the child returned home (say, at 3:00 in the afternoon). The child is also happy to see the whole family waiting for her when she returns. This also gives parents some time to discuss matters which they would rather not do so in the presence of their children.

Education methodology:
The most prominent characteristic of the education imparted is absolute improvement of each individual. Every student will be party to her performance and the areas she needs to improve. She shall not be aware of whether she is first in the class or whether she is one amongst the top 10 students of the class. She shall be discouraged to work in comparison to other students. She will be encouraged only to improve herself on an absolute scale. If she is weak in math, she will be informed that she needs to practice more of solving problems with fractions, geometry etc. She shall not be told that she is weak and most of the class is ahead of her and hence she needs to work hard. This forms the basis for healthy competition, where an individual is only concerned about performing to their best ability. Each student's potential will be tapped to completion. This is not restricted to the academic domain. Sports, art and other in-curricular activities follow suit. We cannot hide the abilities of a child while at play. If she can play soccer well, she will show it. The educator needs to bring the child in alignment with her game of interest and talent. This might not be entirely possible in the academic portions of the curriculum as the child needs to be exposed to a variety of subjects during the formative years. Parents shall be made aware of the child's areas of strength and weakness on absolute terms and not using words like "she can't spell properly. Look at ABC's papers; he spells so well."
Parents and educators will discuss strategies for improving areas where the child is weak. If lack of interest is the major factor, then interesting ways shall be designed and will be implemented at home as well as in school. This serves as constant improvement of the presentation methodology of the subject. In-house psychologists will also be available for discussing strengths and weaknesses of the child. If this activity is not scalable, then we could abstract the concern to a generic level and discuss it with all the parents and not only the parents whose children exhibit the strengths or weaknesses.
Apart from these events where obvious problems are discussed, there will be periodic sessions held at different venues where all members of the school administration and parents will interact and review methodologies and other practices of the school. Final decision about the incorporation or exclusion of practices will be in the hands of the senate.
Students will get to interact occasionally with individuals from different walks of life. They might, say, meet with an architect and a scientist one month, a banker and a sportsperson in another month and so on. These personalities will be encouraged to discuss the entire lifecycle of their career or lifestyle. The students will be exposed to the pain and the fun that are part of a specific path. These sessions are designed to break myths about a lifestyle as well as reveal the lifestyle to those unaware of it. This helps students make an intelligent choice when they need to.
Punishment will be presented as an expected consequence of an individual's choice of action. Every student should be aware of what they will receive for the action they choose. Only constructive punishment should be handed out. If a student has not done their homework, then the student should be made to complete it after class by skipping a session that they might enjoy. What needs to be driven home is that work must be completed and certain sacrifices will be made when situations demand them. No physical punishment will be prescribed. In addition to the homework left undone, the student might be asked to solve more questions/problems in the subject. This ensures that the student finally benefits from the punishment, too. The student should also be discouraged from making excuses by discussing the cause of the problem and providing possible ways in which they could have indulged in whatever kept them away from completing the work, as well as completing the job. Fear of punishment should be removed. This is the first step towards inculcating a passion for truth. As a scholium, there will be no homework. All the work and exercise that the student needs to complete will be completed within school premises. If the parents desire that the student needs to return home early, then they take responsibility of carrying homework with the child. The work given to the child will not be monitored nor help provided. This will encourage individual thinking. No book or notebook will be carried home.
Annual programs should be held where educators meet and brainstorm about newer strategies. Training sessions for the educators should be held before the academic year commences in order to prepare them for the task at hand. This could involve subject related training, subject presentation training, evaluation training and others. Initially these could be done by an external body, but later it should be passed on and external bodies should be used only to inject a fresh stream of thought and ideas.
Every year the senate and a few others should interact with children from other schools in order to know what they want or don't want.
A few counselors, who are part of the school, will be part of different sessions on academic subject as well as part of the students' play time. This allows children to bond with someone external to their classmates and open up with their problems. These counselors could be educators who aren't occupied at that particular hour.
Once every 2-3 months groups of children from different levels (a.k.a classes or standards) will be taken out on excursions to places which reveal a different world from what the students are accustomed to. These might be villages, sanctuaries, industrial towns, etc. These excursions would last for 2-3 days. This will expose the children to different issues that exist in India but were never brought to their notice. The mix of student levels ensures different outlook to the same scene that they view as well as cross level interaction which is usually lacking in many schools. The spots should also be educative. Possible venues are coal mines, potter's village, technology parks, natural reserves, wildlife sanctuaries, etc.

With 12 hours a day for the child, we have enough options to include as activities and curriculum. Some are listed below.
Initial 3 years (post-kindergarten) will be focused on making the child enjoy coming to school. All the activities will be centered on making them enjoy. The other quality of the child that needs to be fostered is the inquisitiveness. This needs to be built during these putty years by pushing the child to explore why and how things happen around them. Moral lessons need to be provided as stories and plays enacted by students of higher levels. Truth should be presented as a lovable quality which makes everyone a better person. This cannot be stressed enough. The initial years in school should strongly emphasis the need to be honest consciously. This can be linked to the constructive punishment paradigm. These need to go hand in hand. The primary reason for deviation from speaking the truth is not truth itself, but the fear of the consequences of truth (usually presented as a punishment).
Apart from the moral education, children should be introduced to the need to imagine and create images of what they hear and see. Exercises like closing their eyes and hearing recorded sounds followed by painting them or writing about them or speaking about them would help them develop their creativity and help them in imagining abstract topics which they are introduced at higher levels. These exercises should be a part of every level in the child's life. They should become more structured as they progress through different levels.
Another value that needs to be inculcated is selfless work. Students should be encouraged to make notes and then drop them in a box. Then students will randomly go and pick up some set of notes. This will ensure that all students collect proper and complete notes. Such exercises will ensure that everyone works towards completion and satisfaction without much of a desire for credit. Sharing credit and placing the other person ahead of oneself in the list of credits are very important qualities for a healthy atmosphere, be it at work or at home.
Every student is responsible on certain days for cleaning and maintenance of the school. Making sure that the staff room has filled water bottles, cleaning of the premises, raking and mowing the lawns and other chores will be done by the students as well as the educators. This ensures that a respect for maintaining one's property is part of one's system. Educators will double up as monitors, to ensure that no accidents occur. Any machine being used will be only under the surveillance of the educators. Everyone including the principal educator has to perform these chores. Hence, the school shall not hire hands for maintenance of school property. Students at higher levels will be trained in more involving maintenance activities like polishing and varnishing wooden items, repairing electric points, etc.
On weekends or on some weekdays, students will be involved in teaching less privileged students from the slum area or from the economically backward communities. This trains the students in teaching and presenting their thoughts logically. They also get a chance to give back to society. A respect for what they have will also sink in.
Explorative and real world topics will be discussed before abstract topics are introduced. The higher levels will have their share of less intuitive subjects/topics (e.g. complex numbers and electromagnetism). At the lower levels every presentation will involve novel ways of presenting the subject with real objects and models and colours. Video presentations and webcasts available on the internet should be utilized for completing the picture in the child's mind. At the logical completion of certain subjects constructive projects could be designed to allow the child a chance to translate the picture to real models. The academic content of presentations at different level should be based on the criteria stated below:
1. Is this topic clear? Can this be modeled and picturised immediately?
2. Would it be easier for the preceding topic to evolve and fit into the succeeding topic?

These criteria will be used to decide which topic will be introduced at what level, as well as the order of introducing topics within a level. Innovation and creative thinking must be encouraged at every point.
Yoga should be introduced from the first day in school. The initial years should concentrate on making it fun and ensuring that the child's body stays supple and flexible. As the years proceed, the asanas should get stricter and more complex. The philosophy and ideology behind yoga should be gradually introduced.
The food provided to the children should be a balanced diet such that they get all the nutrition but nothing fattening or harmful in the long run. The idea of a healthy diet must be brought across as something healthy and fun and not as something boring and undesirable. The diet should go in tandem with the physical work that a child does. Serving food and clearing of tables are also part of the student's activities. Table manners and dining etiquette would also be part of this exercise.
Art should be an essential part of every level's education. Every student must involve herself in some form of art. It could be music (vocal, instrumental), dance, painting, sketching, writing, oration, pottery, etc. Certain educators known in their respective fields will be requested to educate talented students in their art form. This is essential for every student. No student will be turned out from the school without being adept at some art form.
The same would apply to sport. Every student should be encouraged to be competent in some sport activity. This can be board games or outdoor games. Video games are not included in this list!
There are other values that need to be inculcated in the child. These could include hospitality, patience, traditional values and respect for another person's tradition. These too should be a part of the curriculum in different and novel ways.
The most important part of the curriculum is developing analytical reasoning. Students should be involved in solving puzzles and real world problems ("What should we have done in order to prevent WW-II?"). Studying how things work, and the thought process behind many inventions in this world will help create a mindset for innovation and creativity. Puzzles should be from a wide range of subjects including math, logical reasoning, etc. General knowledge should also be presented to the students and quizzes held regularly.
The day should also contain slots where children get to surf the net (well monitored) as well as watch television (cartoons, Discovery, Nat Geo, CNN and BBC documentaries). Weekly movies for different levels should be organized. Not every week does every level get to watch a movie.
In the final levels at school, students are encouraged to investigate schools of philosophical thought and interact with select people in society who have been prominent in discussing philosophy. This would be an optional activity although some sessions will be for all.

All these fill the 12 hours at a wonderful place that we shall call school. Every day.

There are a lot more to specify and implement in a good school. What has been listed is where we start. What remains is to be evolved based on how these designs fit and fall into place.