Wealth Vs Knowledge

The time has come when we must try to resolve the oldest ever debate which happens to involve two representative goddesses of the Indian pantheon – Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and Saraswati, goddess of knowledge and learning.

Though great debaters invariably conclude that the virtues of the goddesses complement each other and one cannot exist without another, a casual look at the world around us seems to present a different picture.

The moneyed are preferred in just about every walk of life. People are eager to feed the well fed at functions and on special occasions. Patients, students, clients, consumers, no matter who they are, are served only when the bills are paid. The “haves” can jump queues at points of transport, government offices and even in places of worship while the ones with lighter purses watch with pursed lips.

Study of Utopia, Marxism, Rama Rajya, Gandhism, equality, has been rendered theoretical.  Occasional earnest outbursts of protests, bans, showdowns and philanthropy to rectify the situation have proven to be placebos.

A closer analysis of the situation will reveal that the people who are victims of this economic imbalance are sometimes mute or violent participants in society not because they are merely helpless or they cannot react any better in the circumstances. On the other hand, they are guided by practical common sense, in other words “Knowledge” that they have to co-exist in the world of moneyed sharks. They understand that if peace and harmony has to prevail, there is no point in ruffling the feathers of the bigwigs who are capable of harming them uncannily.

Yes, money wields power over humanity; but it is the knowledge of this fact that is helping the world function. Money can buy material things but can never let us enjoy the goods unless we have a clear conscience. We must learn the art of living by Truth and Compassion as we are endowed with superior senses. If we overlook this basic fact neither Lakshmi nor Saraswati can salvage us from the doldrums we have gotten ourselves into

Missing the woods for the trees

LANGUAGE TEACHING English is a language that is widely used across the world. Such being the case, it is high time English language teaching is accorded the importance it deserves, opines Radha Prathi

The education system in India can be likened to a melting pot of different systemsvalues. It gained a new constitution with the coming of the British.

Lord Macaulay introduced the British education system into the Indian sub-continent, wreaking a sea of change in the mental make-up and attitude of Indians towards the concept of education. The introduction of the new educational system not only brought new possibilities to the lives of Indians but also ingrained a very deep rooted feeling that they must gain an English education either to thrive in life.

English may not be the medium of instruction in all the schools of India, but it is certainly learned as one of the languages in every school. One simply cannot deny the fact that English has come to stay in the educational scene of India. While there are certain sections of urban students who take to English learning like a duck takes to water, a vast majority of learners find learning the language to be a Herculean task.

It is a proven fact that constant exposure to the language in terms of reading, writing, listening and speaking, is the best recipe to language learning. Yet most learners never really work on all the four areas. The reading habit has almost become extinct in the student community with the exception of academic studies. The coming of mobile phones has promoted the SMS language with spellings sans any resemblance to the written language.

As far as listening and speaking are concerned, politeness or sheer ignorance coupled with ego prevent both of them from correcting their mistakes most of the time. As a result, language limps along and sometimes gets convoluted beyond recognition.
Very recently, I received a forward which gives us a hilarious insight into the level of the local language’s influence on the Queen’s language.

Principal to student: “I saw you yesterday rotating near girls hostel pulling cigarette…”
“I’ll illustrate what I have in my mind,” said the professor, and erased the board.
“Will you hang that calendar or else I’ll hang myself.”

Teacher to students: “Why are you looking at the monkeys outside when I am in the class?”

Jokes apart, it is high time we realised that this is the way most people speak English. Though Indianisms in English have been largely accepted, the basic form of the language is expected to be maintained in terms of grammar and vocabulary. The responsibility of teaching the language lies squarely on the shoulders of English teachers.

A talk with senior teachers English revealed that a very low percentage of the new generation of teachers are well equipped with the subject. While most postgraduates of English literature have completed their course through correspondence, many teachers lack passion for the subject and have hardly done any extra reading beyond their prescribed text books. In such a scenario, it is unreasonable to expect spectacular performances from such teachers.

On the other hand, teachers with a flair and passion for the subject do not appear to be a happy lot because many of them are not paid well. Managements of most institutions hesitate to spend on books that can be put to use in the general reading section, while they do not mind spending on setting up state-of-the-art laboratories, new furniture and infrastructure. Then, most teachers voiced their perennial problem of large class sizes which makes it very difficult for teachers to teach, correct and evaluate students.

Many teachers remarked that just about every school has a grand agenda in the beginning of the academic year, but as the work scene unfolds, most of the aspects on the itinerary are axed. As a result, the time reserved for using the library, story telling, dictation, calligraphy and practical lessons to be conducted in the language laboratory never get to see the light of the day.

If language learning happens to be high on the agenda, it is high time we took a serious view of the matter before English lost its identity beyond recognition. Let us not miss the woods for the trees….

Indian Standards

May 05, 2014

Usually, the payer wants the work to finish quickly, while the payee wants to prolong.

Time has a way of dropping incongruities in the path of man, sometimes in the most unexpected ways. Recently, the people of our neighbourhood resolved to repair and repaint the fairly large local Hanuman temple. Accordingly, meetings were convened, resources were pooled and a managerial team was elected to office.
A budget was drawn, approved, workforce was hired and raw materials were purchased. The contractor was told that the work should be completed in two weeks time, to which he nodded his head roundly. Experience had taught us that, usually the payer wants the work to finish quickly because he can economise, while the payee wants to prolong so that he can encash a heavier cheque.

This is a standard diktat in almost every walk of life, more so in the realms of civil personnel. Despite this knowledge, the people in our area thought that fear of god will deter the workers from following their standard pattern as they would be working in god’s premises.

The ball was set rolling. The team of workers descended on the site. They were asked to work during the hours the temple did not function. They welcomed the breaks. The contractor said that in that case the work would be prolonged by another three weeks. The committee agreed. Soon the temple compound was filled with sounds of scraping and pounding. Sand and stones were piled against the temple walls and the streets.

 The devotees and flower sellers were asked to use the adjoining makeshift gate to gain entrance. Footwear had to be shed on the platform outside the compound wall. The local populace grinned and gritted their teeth over trifles like awry parking, traffic congestion, dust and grime and an occasional theft of some footwear in the thought that it was the least that they could undergo in favour of the larger cause.

Weeks lapsed into months. Gallons of emulsion paint were exhausted. The finishing touches were pending. The Gopuram of the temple adorned with cement statues of deities and demigods needed the attention of experts. The specialists arrived on the scene a fortnight later. They hummed and hawed and planned meticulously for another week because their work required detailing. Though the committee itched to dismiss them, the thought of finding other painters was beleaguering.

The devotees who wound their way around the skewed premises heaved a sigh of relief when the work was finally completed. A special Pooja was organised to mark the occasion. It was highlighted by a special gift of a digital calendar cum clock to the temple by the contractor and the workers who appeared to be making reparation to god for subjecting him to trying times!

Learn grammar the fun way

Sep 12, 2012

Practical learning tools and group activities can go a long way in helping students grasp the basics of English grammar in the classroom, suggests Radha Prathi

Teaching parts of speech effectively is not an easy task. It can prove to be a tedious exercise and sometimes, futile. Though parts of speech are taught to children from the primary level onward, many never seem to grasp the nuances of words with reference to them even after they have graduated from college. Nevertheless, this lacking can be set right if the finer points of the subject can be reiterated at different levels through fun and games in the classroom.

Here are a few ideas which have been tested and proven sound with children of different age groups by yours truly.

All one needs is a willing teacher and enthusiastic students. They could be divided into groups of two or three. Any one person in the group could take the responsibility of becoming the leader for the team.

Once the teacher explains the rules and definitions of grammar, the students could work in groups while playing these games. Each group should be given a sheet of paper in which they can write out their answers. Each round will last only three minutes, during which time they can discuss softly (so that the other groups do not eavesdrop on them) and pool in their answers and build a score for the team.

Once the instructions are understood, the teacher could reel out the specifics of each round. For instance, they can be asked to write as many words as possible beginning with a certain letter by following certain conditions. One such condition could be to stay away from writing down proper nouns. This clause will ensure they understand the definition of a proper noun because they will be careful about excluding them. There have been instances when someone will wonder if the word ‘tiger’ (some of them may have canine pets named Tiger) would qualify for a point, a giggle from someone will make them unsure and will motivate them to clear their cobwebs about nouns  at a later point of time.

The condition for the second round could be to write as many five-letter words as possible beginning with a certain letter but without using plural or past tense forms of the word to make them five-lettered. This round will make them realise the role of number and tense in a roundabout manner.

In the next round, they could be asked to write the present forms of verbs and write as many different forms of the same word. For instance, with the word ‘form’, variations of it such as formed, forming, formation, formative will qualify for points.

Aspects like conversion of one form to another will sensitise them to parts of speech. For this round, the teacher could allot about ten minutes and ask the students to identify as many verbs as possible from a lesson or an article in the newspaper and ask them to write down the noun and adjective form of the selected verb. If they are able to come up with adverbial forms and more than one form of the requisite part of speech, then they stand to gain as many points for the right answers.

Similarly, a learner can be sensitised to the use of prepositions by having him/her identify them in a given passage and single out the prepositions.

Students could be introduced to the world of prefixes and suffixes with the teacher helping them to form words, antonyms. The teacher should also explain how the gender and number of nouns may vary with some of these affixes. Aspects like comparison of adjectives, the use of adverbs could follow suit.

Answer sheets are best evaluated by the peer groups. This will make members of other groups realise what they have missed out on.  It must be made clear that each right answer will merit one point, whereas repetitions and spelling errors will merit a zero. The grand total of each day’s activities could be documented by the teacher.

Teachers could improvise on the conditions based on their requirement and make them more stringent if the pupils are competent. These conditions will educate students on the different aspects of grammar and terms without taxing them with definitions. If the activity is a continuous affair, maintaining scores and rewarding the winning team will motivate students to look up the dictionary and grammar texts for explanations. This method will make students adept at understanding the characteristics of grammar and syntax. A student’s ability to spell right will also improve.

These are but a few ideas to help a student understand and appreciate the world of words. If an ardent learner and a passionate teacher of English spend half-an-hour together on these exercises, once a week, one can be sure of better English skills because learning through fun and games can be an indelible experience.

Method of prayer


Most of us are convinced about the powers of prayers. We know that it fills us with a sense of confidence and optimism to go ahead with life in spite of the obstacles that riddle our way.

Yet most of us find it very difficult to pray with single minded concentration. The mind meanders, dwells on our fears and expectations or simply drifts into a state of day dreaming in the process.

Perhaps this is the reason why our ancestors have prescribed methods for prayer.
The rites and rituals, the chants and psalms, dos and don’ts form a diligent framework to execute our faith in almighty in a fairly devoted manner. Community singing in the form of Bhajans, Kirtans, devotional songs, sermons, Pravachans and Paraayans are other forms of sincere attempts to harness the roving thought in the best possible manner. Meditation, Yoga and Pranayama also aim at calming and cleansing the mind by helping it to concentrate.

In fact all the races across the globe have devised ways and means to help mankind to be meaningfully prayerful. The coming of electricity and electronics has lent sophisticated technical dimensions to the art of prayer. All the same it is a fact that the human mind cannot zero in on one reverential thought for long durations.

Genuine intent and intensity of communication with the supreme power across space and time underlines the power of prayer. If one places complete faith in the Almighty and get on with their lives problems will resolve miraculously given its time and space.

An anecdote from the Puranas substantiates this point. Narada the heavenly saint who constantly chanted the lord’s name wondered aloud about who could possibly be Maha Vishnu’s greatest devotee. The lord pointed out to a hard working farmer who called out his name thrice a day.

The answer disappointed Narada. Then Vishnu asked Narada to balance a pot of oil on his head and walk a stretch without spilling a drop of the liquid. Narada did as directed. Then the sage was asked as to how many times had he chanted the lord’s name while carrying out the task. The saint realised sheepishly that he had forgotten about Narayana when he concentrated on his work.Nevertheless he understood that the supreme force cannot be wooed with just constant prayers.

On the other hand divinity joined hands with those who do not stray from their duty after surrendering themselves completely to the Master Spirit.

Long live Uncle Pai

MARAnant Pai



My tryst with ACK began when my parents bought the first book ‘Krishna’.

The news of the demise of Uncle Pai unsettled me. I have never met the man, nor have I exchanged a word with him, but I developed a deep affection and respect for him through his Amar Chitra Katha comic books.

My tryst with the immense series began when my parents bought the first book ‘Krishna’ priced at Rs two way back in the ’70s as a pacifying gift to my little brother because they had got me some hair accessories. We must have read the book a zillion times for we knew every frame of it by heart. There was no looking back since then and we collected close to a hundred of the series even as we graduated to reading ‘real books’.

Nevertheless, we kept our antennas up for reading ACK whenever an opportunity presented itself. Our dad belonged to a book club reserved one of his two cards to get us old and new ACK and Tinkle all the time. We always made it a point to read it several times before returning the book the next day!

Our interest in the nuances of languages, literature, history, music and art can be traced to our quality time spent in the company of these picture books. We conducted quizzes based on the books and discussed the characters.

We understood that a conjunction like ‘but’ could encompass a whole unspoken argument when Lakshmana uttered the word, when told by Rama to leave Sita in the forest in the book ‘Sons of Rama’. The reading of ‘Vasavadatta’ urged us to play on the Veena like her royal spouse Udayana and possibly charm elephants some day. When we studied Mauryan history in school, it appeared as if we had an edge over other student because we were equipped with the reading of ‘Chanakya’.  Perusing ‘Kannagi’ taught us that we must not cow down when confronted with injustice. The list could go on.

Most people who are in their 30s and 40s will find themselves nodding in agreement, for their rendezvous with ACK must have more or less been the same.

These books have the potential to make a palpable difference to those who read them during their formative years. Uncle Pai has become ‘Amar’ (immortal) in the true sense of the word for his works are invaluable, relevant and timeless! When I console myself saying, “Uncle Pai is dead, Long live Uncle Pai” —  it is with mixed feelings!

When not in the pink of health


The world of oncology is once gain spreading awareness about breast cancer to help and upgrade the wellbeing of women who are diagnosed with cancer. Free breast cancer detection camps are held by governmental and non-governmental organisations alike, where videos are shown and talks are conducted exclusively to groups to educate them on the subject.

One is informed of the nature of the disease, treatment involved, time period and cost, giving a fair overview of the world of carcinoma. There are centres for counselling, psychiatric aid and breast clinics to help a patient cope during the course of treatment and also to cope with its aftermath.

It is important for the patient to accept her condition and realise that she will need medical help which might last for six months at least. Reading about the ailment on the Internet can pave the way to a certain understanding but also cause several doubts. It is very likely that well-meaning people may ask inconvenient questions, offer unsolicited advice and suggest alternate medicines. Make a choice after consultation with your doctor and family members on which treatment to choose.


Trustworthy and dependable members of the family, friends and well-wishers should be informed of the situation so that you can be sure that any kind of help will be at hand, whenever and wherever it is needed.

Once the home base is set, scout for the best and most feasible cancer care centre and entrust yourself completely to the care of the surgeon, oncologist and radiologist.

It is mandatory to trust the doctors and abide by their instructions. Changing doctors or treatment mid-way can prove to be dangerous. Be smart about it.

As doctors themselves acknowledge, “Medical science is not an exact science and each individual is different from another biologically.” The prescribed ‘cure’ does not elicit the same reaction from every patient who receives treatment. So comparisons with fellow patients and consultations with other doctors may only add to one’s frustrations and confusion.

Innumerable cancer cases have proven that the cure can be worse than the disease. But that is simply no reason to live in the terror of those wily cells which are threatening to eat you up. Some phases of the treatment will certainly alter the lifestyle of the patient by introducing physical alterations.

Truth be told, surgical procedures like mastectomy may rob a woman of her self-esteem; chemotherapy may render her hairless and radiation can singe the very core of her being. The physical agony and mental trauma of the treatment will definitely bog you down unless you stand up to it.  Instead, one can prove to be wiser by using appropriate prosthetics or a sense of humour to laugh away the blues!

Low immunity levels during this period may prevent one from an active social life. This deterrent can be translated into a boon in disguise by utilising this time to get involved in activities that one had been yearning to do over the decades — catching up with long-lost friends, hobbies, enrolling in an academic course of one’s choice, listening to music, singing, knitting, embroidering, painting. It will do you a world of good to include prayers, meditation, yoga and pranayama into the schedule.

If one has the stamina, spring cleaning the house, going on long walks and planting a new garden in the company of loved ones can prove to be therapeutic. Maintaining a personal journal in a detailed way on every single day can be make a difference too.

If one views this period as a god given sabbatical meant for self introspection and improvement and lives through every moment of the not so pleasant experience in right earnest, time will fly and before long there will emerge a stronger woman who can blow away the blues of life and bounce back into the pink of health physically, mentally and spiritually.

Then life will no longer be a struggle to survive but a new phase of quality living!

Ace Mathematics with music

Are you confused by numbers? Basic knowledge of classical music is all you need to master them, affirms Radha Prathi

“You can love it or hate it, but you cannot ignore it.”  Yes, the “it” here refers to the subject Mathematics.

Most of us, both children and adults alike, have an impression that Mathematics is an independent subject which can be reckoned with exclusively. But the truth of the matter is that numbers which deal with mathematical operations, formulae, theorems and derivations exist in just about every subject under the sun.

Can we whip out a recipe without mentioning measures and proportions? Can we shop without calculating fractions and decimals? Can we catapult Angry Birds without considering the parabola? Can we mix the right colours for painting or dyeing circumventing the possible permutations and combinations? Can a blue print of a building be drawn without geometrical deliberations? Can we knit a sweater without counting the number of stitches? Can we travel long distances without watching the clock? Can we keep score without knowing basic arithmetic? If your answer to these questions is in the negative, then be certain that no art, trade, or commerce can exist beyond the realms of Mathematics.

More often than not, people tend to overlook the presence of this omnipresent subject because they are simply not attentive. There are many who find it elusive and confusing too. Though it is a well-known fact that regular practice can hone one’s mathematical skills, not many have the privilege of proper guidance or lack patience and dedication to work hard at it. Musicians will agree that  learning music or an instrument is an effective way of garnering the basics of Mathematics. The basis of classical music is shruthi, raga and tala. Raga suggests various combinations of the basic musical notes in the ascending and descending order. Each note in the scale is spaced in different ways to lend its uniqueness to a song.

Musical notes are sung in a scale. The first note, shruthi, decides the range of the scale. It is similar to assuming a value for an unknown number. For instance, if the value of x is one, then the value of 2x will be two, if the value of x is two then the value of 2x becomes four. Also, the scale can vary, but the notes should follow the patterns at the pre-decided intervals of the raga. Any note that swerves from its place will stick out like a sore thumb and make the sound of the song all wrong. Anybody with a sharp ear for music, who can spot the wrong note, is actually pin pointing a mathematical error!

Music to the rescue

The various ragas or tunes are actually permutations and combinations of the basic seven notes which have subtle variations. It is Mathematics which leads to creativity in the world of music.

The factor of tala, or beat, represents time. Musical notes and lyrics are bound by the concept of tala. The speed of the music can halve, double or multiply, but tala is usually placed at the right time, at a steady pace.  For instance, if six beats form one unit of tala, then one can use three, twelve or twenty four beats within the same unit of time. If the beats are covered before time or miss the right second, then the song will simply go off beat, off track and off key!

These are but a few pointers to what the initiation into the world of music can do to one’s mathematical skills. Children and adults who complain of an allergy towards numbers should try to learn classical music or, for that matter, any form of art and sports and they will find themselves sharpening their arithmetic acumen. Guaranteed.