Means Should Justify the End

Try and try at last you succeed, is the Mantra to success.

Though the verb “try” is not qualified, it is understood that efforts should be channelised towards a worthy cause if one wants untainted success. Besides the means should definitely justify the ends. There is really no point in being tenacious in pursuing an unworthy goal, however, lucrative the end gains may appear to be.
This time tested observation is as old as mankind itself.
Valmiki has captured the essence of righteous success in his epic the Ramayana. Ravana the adversary of Rama was a king of no mean reputation or strength. He was endowed with all the positive traits that spell success.

Yet, when he had to avenge the insult of his sister Shoorpanakha by the princess of the Ikshavaku race, he preferred to take the backstage. He coerced Maricha, his kinsman into beguiling Sita in the form of a golden deer and succeeded in abducting her when Rama went after the deer and Lakshmana went looking for Rama.

Ravana preferred to ignore Sita’s plea and did not think much of Jatayu’s warnings before he killed the old bird. Back home in Lanka, his wife Mandodari, his brothers Kumbhakarna and Vibheeshana, his grandfather Maalyavaan and a couple of his well-wishers pointed out that he had trodden the wrong path. Nevertheless, he held Sita captive in the hope that she would succumb to his power or charms sooner or later.

When Hanuman came in search of Sita, he had a taste of a minor setback. He was counseled again on the grounds of Dharma, to return Sita to her lawful husband. Ravana was unrelenting; he did not want to give up Sita.

There were moments that he felt a bit shaken but that did make him swerve from his amoral path.

Though Ravana had studied the Vedas and was aware of the tenets of right living, his arrogance propped by his obstinacy coupled with sycophantic followers made him pig-headed.

When we ruminate over the consequences of Ravana’s ultimate defeat and death, it becomes apparent that his relentless attempts failed.

He could have mended his naïve and adamant behaviour and come across as an honourable rival.

Yet, his bloated ego prevented him from accepting that he was wrong. He not only steered himself towards self-destruction but also mindlessly pushed his followers and countrymen in the same direction.

The next time we strive towards our goal let us make sure that not only our attempts are in right earnest but we also have the modesty to set right our errors, lest the outcome gets tainted

Means should justify the end

Pigging out on Poha

No need to starve yourself on fasts. Try these delicious poha recipes, says Radha Prathi.

If the Indian community is known for its feasts, its fasts are well known in equal measure. Usually beaten rice is accepted as an ideal food for fasts for several reasons. It is rich source of carbohydrates and Vitamin B besides being easy to cook and digest. Here are some different ways to cook poha without onion or garlic.

Aloo poha

Ingredients: Beaten rice 250 grams, potatoes 250 grams, grated coconut 100 grams, lime juice 2 tablespoons, green chillies 6, ginger paste 1 spoon, mustard 2 teaspoons, turmeric powder 1 teaspoon, asafoetida 1/2 teaspoon, channa dal 1 tablespoon, cooking oil 50 grams, curry leaves 3 sprays.

Method: Bake the potatoes, peel and mash them and keep aside. Wash the beaten rice and soak it in water for five minutes. Grind chillies, curry leaves, ginger and one spoon of mustard into a fine paste. Heat oil in a large pan and add mustard, channa dal, turmeric powder and asafoetida till they sputter.

Add mashed potatoes and roast lightly. Add the grated coconut, potatoes and ground spice and stir well. Add the lime juice finally and mix it well with the other ingredients just before you remove the contents from the fire. Serve hot with either mint chutney or pickle.

Jaggery poha

Ingredients: Beaten rice 250 grams, pounded jaggery 100 grams, grated coconut 100 grams, ginger paste ¼ teaspoon, cardamom powder 1/2 teaspoon, cashew nuts 50 grams.

Method: Wash the beaten rice and soak it for five minutes. Heat a cup of water in a wide pan, add the pounded jaggery and stir till you get a sticky syrup. Add the soaked beaten rice and grated coconut to the jaggery syrup, stir well and put off the flame.

Add the ginger paste and cardamom powder to the ingredients and mix it well. You could garnish the dish with dry fruits or cashew nuts.

Imli poha

Ingredients: Beaten rice 250 grams, tamarind 50 grams, red chillies 6, salt to taste, mustard 2 teaspoons, turmeric powder 1 teaspoon, methi powder ½ teaspoon, white gingili powder 1 teaspoon, asafoetida 1/2 teaspoon, channa dal 1 tablespoon, groundnut seeds 100 grams, cooking oil 50 grams, curry leaves 3 sprays.

Soak tamarind in warm water and extract syrup. Add turmeric powder and salt. Wash beaten rice and soak in tamarind syrup. Heat oil in a pan and add mustard, asafoetida, red chillies, curry leaves, groundnuts, methi powder and white gingili powder to the oil. Add the soaked beaten rice to the mixture, stir well and put off the fire. Serve hot or cold.

Original Article

Adjectivals for all seasons

I am not sure if I am the only one who has noticed this trend in most conversations these days. There seems to be an overflow of positive adjectives and phrases in the atmosphere, no matter what the situation. If you have heard expressions like ‘awesome’, ‘fantabulous’, ‘marvellous’, ‘splendid’, ‘perfect’, uttered in incongruous circumstances coupled with a plastic smile on the face, it will be easy for you to zero in on what I am trying to communicate.

Once I complained about a long pending cheque. The receptionist who heard me remarked, “That’s fantastic!” I was stung by the sarcasm since she was responsible for setting the matter right; I refrained from commenting on the subject, however. I have often heard people remark ‘super’ or ‘superb’ with a bright streak in their demeanour just after I have made unfavourable observations about the weather or some such mundane thing, making me wonder if I have done anything to evince a mocking response from them.

I realised later that I was not alone at the receiving end. The other day, I noticed that the attendants of a high-end restaurant spewed these adjectives with unerring regularity and a smiling face to everyone in the dining hall, no matter what was being said to them. Just then, a young mother asked one of the attendants to help her as her baby had relieved himself, without his diaper on. The waiter mouthed his rehearsed lines with the right expression. It was only when someone pointed out that he had stepped on the mess; he grimaced and unwittingly added, “That is wonderful,” out of sheer habit!
What seemed to be a hilarious situation at that moment made me realise that we have created unthinking zombies in the process of training people in westernised etiquette and the English language in order to cater to the large urban market which has embraced the Queen’s tongue as its common language.

Young migrants from small towns and villages, urban school dropouts and youngsters from low income groups who may or may not have academic qualifications undergo rigorous training to be courteous, and answer frequently asked questions in a language not their own. They wear uniforms which do not conform to their ethnicity and deal with unfamiliar items and subjects that do not feature in their daily lives. They are a confused lot, for they certainly do not want to pursue the humble occupation of their families, nor can they step up to the levels of their educated urban counterparts. Surely, employers and entrepreneurs can find a middle path which will not take away the unique nativity of our country.
Original Article here

Art appreciation courses

Can you imagine the world of humans without a spice called art?

The world has come to a general agreement that aesthetic sensitivity is the key that opens the hearts of millions of people across the globe when they come across “A thing of beauty”. If one has the innate flair to appreciate the beautiful it can be rewarding for the individual and if the individual shows an inclination it is not very difficult to carve a blooming career out of this quality.

If your have a passion for the visual arts and have a natural inkling of all things bright and beautiful besides having a keen and observant eye, you could be on the threshold of a vital career in an area which gives you a sense of fulfillment.  Read More >>>

The world from a different angle

Modern technology available to safeguard malls, corporate houses, complexes etc, as safety is not to be compromised.

You can hardly find a news report in the media sans reports of daylight robbery, house breaking, shop breaking or murder. Every time one learns of these depressing events, the sense of insecurity mounts up. People from all walks of life are taking steps to protect themselves in multifarious ways. Blocks of apartments, shopping complexes and malls and individual homes and buildings alike are pulling up their socks and stepping up their security systems.

A few decades ago, a sound security system meant collapsible iron gates, larger number locks and security guards. These days the connotation of security systems has changed to a large extent. A survey of the latest safety system shows that it is based on the latest technology.

Available technology

The range of security devices available in the market can be mind boggling. There are devices covering several areas of protection and loss prevention. There are security cameras, motion sensors, biometric processors, portable wireless security, metal detectors, law enforcement products, burglar alarms for every portion of the house, including driveways and swimming pools. These devices warn the owner of intrusions and break-in by sounding off an alarm.

The alarm is programmed in such a way that it is not merely heard by the neighbourhood but can alert the nearest police station and also inform the owner on his cell phone. The safety devices can be operated through remote control, and even if the owner is away in a different city, he can keep a tab of his premises from a distance.

It will be interesting to note that these days, security systems have come up with innovative technological ideas to protect documents from theft, moisture, fire and termites, which will prove to be a boon to Government offices, libraries, law firms and any other organisation that need to protect its documents.

Technologically-aided library security systems installed in various libraries across the world prevent theft of books and also help the librarian to work efficiently.

Video surveillance, magnetic swipes, biometric system, metal detectors, mail bomb and explosive detectors are no longer exclusive gadgets for high-profile buildings under red alert; it is likely to become the order of the day soon. In fact, the security industry is gearing up to extend effective security and prevent loss of life and property to the maximum possible extent.

When a security system is so advanced, it is not surprising to note that it comes with a heavy price tag. Yet the super rich, apartment complexes, malls, hotels, hospitals and semi opened enclosures like exhibitions, stadia, shop owners of jewellery and high-end items invest in the latest gadgets to protect their showrooms and their homes. They have realised that there is no point in being ‘Penny wise and Pound foolish’, especially when technology can prove to be an effective preventive.

The recent terror attacks in India have resulted in the boom of private-security industry which has come up with electronic security solutions for a vast array of applications at sustainable rates. There are many companies which do not stop merely with the manufacturing of these safety goods. They take up the responsibility of installing them and also conduct a hands-on demonstration to teach the new owner to operate the new-fangled gadgets effectively.

Security training

Some companies also undertake the training of guards who can handle the security solutions in various parts of the building right from the gate to the godown.

First time users of this nouveau technology will prove to be wise if they install products with ISO certification. They could also do a little homework and check the track record of the company’s installations in different locations. This will give them an insight into the pros and cons of the matter and also the little nuances about the maintenance and upkeep of these products.

For individuals & masses

It is easier to accommodate these gizmos in buildings under construction rather than built facilities. Yet the process can be executed without a hitch if one uses the services of a competent electrician and mason, who can work according to the instructions of the installation engineer.

The industry caters to individuals and organisations alike, and most of them allow their potential customers to try out their devices before making the purchase. They also offer easy installment schemes and give a decent discount on down payments to facilitate more people to feel secure in more ways than one.


The numbers have to come down

Teachers cannot do a good job if there are too many students in a classroom

Though each one of us is aware that teaching and learning are continuous processes in the walk of life, most of us tend to associate the word “teacher” with the person who teaches formally in a classroom. Acknowledgements, awards, appreciation, criticism and censure among other things are cascaded on the members of the teaching community for shaping the lives of students.

Such being the case, the role of the tutors in the lives of students has every reason to be extolled. India has had its share of eminent teachers right from epic times, through history right unto the present times. Though it is not a healthy logic to compare two personalities or two eras for obvious reasons, one cannot help making mental comparisons to the teachers of another era for in India, the memories of the distinguished teachers of the past co-exist in contemporary times. Otherwise coaches and teachers will not be vying for Drona Awards and Dr. Radhakrishnan prizes and feel exceptionally honoured when they receive the same. Even the most earnest of teachers certainly nurse a desire to make an indelible mark in the lives of their students.

In such a scenario, when one examines the essential intrinsic qualities of a good teacher, the ingredients have not changed over the centuries. Commitment to the job, in-depth knowledge of the subject, ability and drive to expand the horizons of the subject and the capacity to relate it to the practical world topped with a generous dose of creativity, basic human values and ethics still seem to be the core components of a good teacher.

All teachers old or young seem to know about the expectations and the earnest ones are constantly making attempts to scale the heights propped with necessary training and hands-on experience in the classroom.

Name a teacher or an educational institution for that matter that would not like to be immortalised in the memory of their students. Yet many of them are not able to realise their dreams because the real life situation is miles away from the idyllic condition. Not all is well on the teaching front.

Changing times

Very recently, when a set of retired teachers with at least three decades of teaching experience to their credit were asked to address a score of budding teachers who had just stepped into the arena of teaching a couple of years ago, the scene was certainly a very serene one. The youngsters listened in rapt attention to what their eminent seniors had to say about teaching as a profession and their experiences in the field, but when they discussed amongst themselves at the end of the session they expressed their doubts and disagreements on the talk.

Times have changed, so have the teaching methods and the content value in the subject. Students are apparently no longer as they were once upon a time. These and other factors figured in their conversation.

For instance, the number of students in each class does not permit the teacher to pay individual attention. Besides the “portions to be covered” and the workload of each teacher hardly gives them enough time to develop “one to one” relationship with their students. Changing lifestyles, the increase in the spending capacity of the great middle class Indian, reckless exposure to the media and the ever-growing job market for Indians across the globe is making a marked change in the attitudes of students, parents and their teachers towards education. For most, a fixed term in school or college translates as a tantalising mark-sheet that will serve as a passport to their first job or private enterprise.

It is high time educational institutions start considering downsizing of classes and resort to shift system which is not without fringe benefits like making optimum use of their premises. They can also create employment opportunities at all levels and introduce new courses related to the mainstream course. They must realise that if the efforts of a sincere teacher have to be translated into the making of a responsible, well-behaved and educated student, one has to see a radical change in the number of homogenous students in terms of age, ability and aptitude assigned to each teacher. If managements and heads of educational institutions pledge to reduce the number of students under each teacher at least during the formative years, one can be rest assured that we will have a superior quality of educated citizens in future.

Yesterday once more

Watching today’s children play “Fairy, may I cross the river” sets this writer musing on how things remain the same despite the many changes over the years.

The angst of Gen X, Y et al lies in the realm of GG or generation gap. Super-cool kids cannot see eye to eye with antiquated adults. It does not matter if the elder is only a few years older. They beg to differ on almost everything because they live in different times and circumstances. Their mentality seems to be justified. After all, didn’t all of us “older people” go through this phase when we were younger?

Yet, if one scratches the surface, it is easy to see nothing much has changed. It is just a case of old wine in new bottles. While it has made sense to me in various contexts, it gained a haloed status after a particular incident, when I observed a couple of children respond to situations in a way unchanged across time and space.

Once, I was assigned the responsibility of babysitting an eight and nine-year-olds for a while. I planned on keeping an eye on them as I let them play. So I asked whether they enjoyed playing games outside of school. They smiled in assent. Then I asked them whether they enjoyed indoor games or the outdoor variety. Pat came the answer, “That depends on the weather, aunty.” So I plied them with another query about their favourite game. This time, they answered animatedly. I gathered that they enjoyed different versions of playstation and online games while at home and enjoyed “gaming” outdoors, preferably at a videogame station. They did play cricket on the streets occasionally during bandhs and at cricket camps in summer, besides a bit of bowling or so. It was clear that they were completely innocent of creative fun games that involved the mind and body and cost next to nothing.

I asked tentatively if they would care to play a game, which we played at their age. They nodded politely. I explained that the game was called, “Fairy, may I cross the golden river?” Here, the youngest was chosen to be a fairy and he/she would have to stand in the centre of the ground with two lines drawn about 10 feet away on either side. These represented the banks of the river. The other young people had to stand on one side and ask “Fairy, May I cross the golden river?” The fairy would reply in the negative. Then the little ones had to ask “Why?” and the fairy would say, “Because you must have a certain colour!” The children would chime together in chorus, “Which colour?” The fairy would look carefully at the group and name a colour that none seemed to possess. If a child had the colour, he/she had a safe passage to the other bank. If not, the fairy would turn into a crocodile and catch the kids who tried to rush to the other bank. The unfortunate one who got caught would be crowned the next Fairy!

The young ones got the hang of the game and set the ball rolling. I observed that the fairy’s colour palette had an exotic range from beige, mauve to cyan. The children checked even the inside of their pockets to claim safe passage before they tried to scoot across. Just like we did all those decades ago!

After a couple of rounds, they decided to take a brief break and disappeared into the house. Post-break, some of them looked particularly colourful, wearing multi-hued scarves, hairbands and bracelets, completely armed to stride across the river.

I could not help reminiscing how some of us would whip out dozens of colourful bangles and wear them on either wrist as some kind of an amulet to please the fairy. The boys would carry coloured yarns in their pockets to cross the river without incident. Now, when we played the game as children, the fun would cease once the game reached this saturation point. I could see the waning signs in these kids too!

I remembered how one enterprising teacher suggested that the fairy conduct a quiz of sorts. The ones who gave the right answers could cross the golden river without incident. In the event of a wrong answer … you know the drill. We accepted the idea and played for a while, till it became tedious. Besides, the new rules led to arguments about the right answer and we had to rush to find an encyclopaedia or a knowledgeable adult to clear our doubts and sort out our squabbles. We gave up playing the game after the initial charm was lost.

Nevertheless, I suggested the subsequent sequel to the kids when we parted ways. And history repeated itself. I learned that the kids passed on the game to novices at their schools and birthday parties. The game, invariably, took the same predictable turns and met the same end, but never failed to inspire players to pass the legacy on.

What is true of this game is true of many aspects of life. Times have changed, so have people and their mindsets. Yet, in a given situation, our reactions and responses are more or less likely to be the same for we seem to go through the same motions of life albeit in different times.

When white light is passed through a prism, it diverges into rainbow colours. The converse is also true. The philosophy of this experiment reveals that all colours are components of white light and vice versa. If it is a principle of nature how can man be an exception?

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Cakewalk or challenge?

A take on how M.A. English students fare

Upgrading one’s qualification has become easy these days. It does not matter if a student does not have the time and resources to pursue higher education in a formal way, for we live in the age of “distance education.”

Statistics reveal that graduates prefer to pursue their postgraduation in the arts stream for they feel they need no guidance to study subjects such as history or sociology.

However, of late, students who have been schooled in English medium prefer to top their degrees with a master’s degree in English literature for they find that the job market is teeming with opportunities for people whose English skills are topped with relevant degrees.

A couple of weeks ago I was confronted with the onerous task of guiding a few students from various streams who were having a “dekko” at English literature because they had to clear their postgraduate course in the subject to step up their job profile. Interestingly enough, these students are working for call centres and BPOs and their proficiency in the English language is very high.

They had left behind prose, poetry and English grammar at the threshold of school, and were rather “cool” about the language paper through their undergraduate course.

As all of them had been educated in English medium schools, all of them did very well in English in comparison with other subjects.

Their ability in spoken English with the required accent won acknowledgement and approval in the world market; hence they assumed that it would be rather easy for them to acquire a master’s degree. Soon enough they enrolled themselves as external candidates for the course, collected the syllabus copy and some course material and forgot all about it, hoping to cross bridges as they came.

Not simple

It is only when exams are around the corner does realisation dawn on them that the syllabus is not as simple as they supposed it would be. Poetry is generally their toughest area and generally sounds positively Latin to them. The multitudes of sonnets, the sonnet cycles, the ballads and vague modern poetry fazes them. Drama seems to daunt them while novels bore them. The Indian literature of translated works in English does not fascinate them either with the exception of a few who were familiar with merely the names of the books if it happens to be from their native languages.

Apart from this they have to skim through miles of critical prose pieces, dissertations, linguistics, stylistics and phonetics of the language. Little had they realised that they would have to wash down such a tall order when they had assumed the whole affair to be a cakewalk for them.

A casual talk with lecturers who help out the various universities with contact classes or bridge courses as they are variously called revealed that it was very difficult to find even one or two in a batch who attend all the 10-odd classes prescribed for them. Most students do not even bother to attend these classes as they have more pressing work to do and apparently they are not left with much time to study.

Yet all the genres of literature make sense to them at a very general level even when they neglect to connect the biblical, historical, social, political, autobiographical and biographical allusions blended latently in them. The suggested bibliography appears to be an irrelevant addendum.

Though the internet, libraries and markets are filled with reference materials, relevant summaries and the like, most think that it would be easier if somebody could encapsulate the syllabus for them and take up crash courses in the form of private tuitions. By hook or crook the odyssey of taking a trip down the annals of English literature and its nuances is begun by the students.

Many stoically wade through the reading list and settle down to read up whatever sounds most familiar, hoping that whatever is not covered by them could be left unanswered in the examination.

Many of them do manage to clear their papers with fairly decent marks too and emerge as postgraduates to qualify for the next increment or promotion as the case may be. This system certainly works in favour of the students with diverse goals but are not the authorities concerned inadvertently allowing them to make a scapegoat of the study of literature which should activate the sensitivities and sensibilities of the person who reads?

Original Article Here

Do today what you plan for tomorrow

IST stands for Indian Standard Time. Yet to the average Indian this acronym means Indian Stretchable Time. We have accepted this anomaly unabashedly and continue to procrastinate.

Yet, as all famous Indian contradictions go, the very same people are particular about executing auspicious things during the right Muhurath.

Rahu Kalam, Yama Gandam, Gulika, periods of eclipses, solstices among others are followed with alacrity to the last second. Hence it is easy to infer that we are not ignorant about the value and the fleeting nature of time. On the other hand, we are selective about the way we perceive it, based on the place and situation.

An Upakatha from Mahabharata illustrates this point well. After the Kurukshetra war, Yudhishtira, the eldest Pandava took charge of Hastinapura. He held court every single day and resolved the conflicts and petty cases of his subjects. One evening, the sovereign felt extremely tired because the proceedings went well beyond the twilight hours. He stifled a yawn and bid the petitioners to come the following day.

Bheemasena, the second Pandava brother quickly went out of the court and entered the royal kitchen. He instructed the head cook to hand over all the sweets prepared in the kitchen to him and placed an order for more sweets to be made. Bheema started distributing sweets to the public with immense joy.

Yudhishtira and the other Pandavas were bemused by his strange behaviour, so were the denizens. After a bout of prolific enthusiasm, Bheema stopped to explain the reason for his joy.

Apparently, he was very happy because his brother, the emperor was certain that he would be alive the following day. When everyone heard the reason for his explicit joy, they were struck by the infinite wisdom of his words.

Bheemasena had used a fun gesture to reiterate the truth that time and tide wait for none. It will be in the best interests of people to complete whatever they have set out to do because no one has
seen tomorrow.

Eons later, Kabirdas also encapsulated this sentiment when he said: “kal kare so aaj kar, aaj kare so ab” which when translated means, “Do what you plan to do tomorrow, today itself and what you have planned today should be done now itself.”

It is interesting to note that the word Kala in Sanskrit is a pun. It connotes both Time and Death. If man understands the importance of time and his own nature of mortality and uses it wisely he will excel in his designated role and in turn make difference to the world we live in.

Original Article Here