They are Angels on Three Wheels


http://archive.deccanherald.com/Deccanherald/mar082005/spt9.asp

S RADHAPRATHI says that it is touching to find that we have not lost the knack of forming a bond with people despite the fact that urban culture is more along the lines of each to his own.

The bond that most parents form with the autorickshaw drivers who take their children is unique. To the auto rickshaw driver it is a source of steady, dependable income and to the parents of the children it is economical and trustworthy transportation. But there is more to this relationship than which meets the eye. If we brush aside a few rare cases of extremely callous auto drivers and inevitable accidents the track record of these drivers is rather clean and remarkable. They become the temporary guardians of these children.

Sometimes when these children are sick they are taken to the doctor by these good samaritans. They are very conscientious about their responsibilities. The greed of the extra buck bypasses them because they would not dream of sabotaging their stable income but also forgo the trust the parents and children have in them.

Not just a driver

Mohammed (48) from Belgaum said that he always checks whether the children have their badges, ties and belts on before they get into the auto. Ravi (30) from Mysore gives away a toffee as a prize for good behaviour. There were some drivers who said that they were sometimes roped in by the families on Sundays and public holidays to go on an outing. Some auto drivers said that they were trusted with considerable sums of money and were asked to pay the school fees, fetch or deliver clothes at the tailor’s, or dry cleaners, cooking gas cylinders, provisions and vegetables at the behest of their clients.

In a rare but true instance, Seenappa, a parent trusts his house key with the auto driver who opens the house for the children and baby sits them for an hour till the mother comes home from work. There are times when he helps them with the home work or feeds them. Marappa (57) from Bangalore has been driving school children to their destinations for the past twenty years.

He remembers the children by their names and is proud that most of them are well placed in life today.

‘Auto uncle’

It is heartening to note that the parents had nothing but words of praise for these auto drivers. They unabashedly admitted that life would have been much more complicated for them but for these knights in shining armour in whom they reposed so much trust.

The presence of these wheeled angels lifted a load of worries off their tensed lives though for a price. All parents invariably said that they relied on these drivers for the safety and comfort of their children and they had no regrets about their decision.

As for the children the younger ones appear to worship their auto uncle sometimes much more than their own uncle who lives in a faraway town. The older children share a friendly bond and discuss a lot of current events and sometimes even personal problems with them. Narasimha Swamy always makes it a point to buy a gift of a pen for all the children he ferries on the tenth of April. Varadan fastens two balloons on his auto whenever it is any of the kids birthday.

Co-existence

The world of these auto drivers is indeed fascinating and it throws light on the fact that several traits of humanitarian values can most definitely co-exist with commercial gains in the contemporary urban society. With such warm people around how can there be any room for animosity or acrimony? A sense of responsibility, coupled with gestures of concern and generosity defines most of these men who are trusted with the apples of several people’s eyes.

When people who are not related to us by any length of imagination can make such an indelible impression on our lives is it not time for us to understand that we too can make a difference in somebody’s life in our own way?

The Trimester’s Troubles


One year after the trimester system was introduced in State schools, it continues to be bogged down by teething troubles. Here’s a look at its highs and lows.

http://archive.deccanherald.com/Deccanherald/feb172005/edu1.asp

India is a country where nothing changes much, especially in the field of education. The syllabi which are changed once in a decade or so are followed religiously till it reaches a point of saturation. A close observation of the so-called changed syllabus invariably reveals that certain chapters in core subjects have been interchanged amongst the classes.

The language textbooks are usually an amalgamation of similar pieces or other pieces by the same author or the poet as the case may be. Hence, we find a general lack of interest and enthusiasm among the teaching fraternity whenever a new syllabus is introduced.

The new syllabus does not offer scope for much research or hard work for the experienced teacher. The scene is no different for the learner either for their teacher does all the groundwork on their behalf and prepares them to clear the board exams with flying colours.

In such a scenario the Government of Karnataka decided to give our education system at the school the much needed facelift. Surprisingly, the academic year 2004-05 commenced on a new note for the teachers and the taught who pursue the State board syllabus in Karnataka. The Karnataka Board introduced a new trimester system apart from a new syllabus from the elementary level of education with the intention of lessening the academic burden on the students following the State board syllabus.

How well has this system been received by the teachers, taught and the parents at the end of the academic year?
A look at the syllabus reveals that not much has been done to alter the syllabus in totality. The trimester system has led to less cramming and more confidence for the students. Lots of co-curricular activities, limited portions, and evaluation of students in both written and oral tests, project works have been incorporated to make education more meaningful.

The Board has apparently, introduced this trimester system with the best of intentions, to step up the number of passes at the matriculation level. While all the teachers, students and parents welcome the idea, they cannot quite ignore the side effects of the system. On the face of it the new system appears to have reduced the quantitative load on the student for an examination. But, has it addressed the main issue of thrust on acquiring of subject knowledge at the conceptual level instead of placing the thrust on the marks secured in an examination system? The answer is in the negative.

Earlier, the system had been followed meticulously but, it had also been condemned by parents, students and teachers alike for its sheer inadequacy to measure the capability of students in totality.

When a cross section of parents, school teachers and principals were asked their opinion on the new system they reacted with mixed feelings. The students were quite thrilled that they didn’t have to cram up the entire syllabus at one go for the final examinations. They are also happy about their project work having academic value from now on. Though some of them appear to be flustered about the oral tests most of them were comfortable with the idea. The cream of the cake lay in the fact that they no longer have mark sheets to reckon with for they are graded on their academic performance.

Worried parents
It is rather ironical to note that these very factors are most disturbing to their parents and teachers. While they whole heartedly approved of the academic value attached to the project work and oral tests they felt the trimester system would ultimately water down the standards of education. The parents are nevertheless very anxious to know the marks of their wards because grades, to them, are ambiguous.

If the trimester system is introduced in a full fledged manner at the elementary school level, it will result in deterioration of standard education in the long run appeared to be a point of consensus among the teachers consulted on the subject. The earlier system permitted even a mediocre student to grapple with the concept of the subject by repeatedly studying for the various tests and examinations which finally culminated with the annual examination.

An appaling majority of the teaching clan opined that younger students could hone their basic mathematical and language skills only through hard work, practice and repetition which the trimester system does not allow.

Though the introduction of objective pattern of questions with multiple choice answers for sixty per cent is a relief to the teachers from the evaluation point of view, they are sceptical about the impact of such a pattern on the knowledge quotient of the student in the long run.

Constant deadlines
Some senior teachers felt that the trimester leaves creative teachers with very little imagination for every aspect of their work had been pre-decided by the board. At present all concerned have unanimously opined that this system has kick started a maddening schedule with constant deadlines to be met.

The students of the ninth standard are the most affected by this revision of the academic calendar. They commenced their high school education in the old format with the old syllabus and stepped into the trimester pattern with the same syllabus in the ninth standard and will be facing the new pattern of SSLC question papers soon.

While a few smart students are taking the fresh scenario in their stride most of them appear to be anxious about the constant changes in their examination pattern. Teachers across the State need to be guided and allowed to discuss these problems with their peer groups and come to a consensus about the optimum methodology to deal with the new trend at least before the next academic year. Only time can tell in what way this new path will be different from the earlier path in catering to the intellectual needs of the student who is on the threshold of the global world.

Marvelling The Garden’s Metaphysics


Marvelling The Garden’s Metaphysics
http://archive.deccanherald.com/deccanherald/nov142004/artic3.asp
RADHA PRATHI on the relevance of Marvell’s notes on the garden.

Green is the order of the day. Just about everybody, who matters or doesn’t, appear to be saying the right things about our environment and ecology. Research reveals the wealth of goodness a well-planted garden can have on man. At this juncture, the 17th century poem titled, The Garden, written by the metaphysical poet Andrew Marvell, caught my attention.

It is perhaps the most complete poem on the subject, as it traverses through every conceivable aspect of greenery and garden with great precision. Though this piece of verse is a couple of hundred years old, each and every word of it is strikingly relevant.

To Marvell, The Garden was not merely a place full of flowering plants and trees, but a blend of sensuous fulfillment, intellectual appeal and spiritual elevation. You must have realized all over again the importance of, “the leafy crown”, apart from the medals in the recent past, when the Olympics was going on. The poet has captured this wonderful vanity of men, who crave for a bunch of leaves when they can have a whole flowering tree for themselves.

When the poet says:

How vainly men themselves amaze
To win the palm, the oak or bays,
And their incessant labours see
Crowned from some single herb, or tree,
Whose short and narrow-verged shade
Does prudently their toils upbraid;
While all flowers and all trees do close
To weave the garlands of repose!

Even as one ruminates on the harsh truth of ephemeral fame, the poet draws our attention to a very universal and commonplace occurrence. Wherever you live in the world, if you have visited any park or garden, one very general observation is that lovers eternalize their mutual love by carving their names on to the bark of a tree. This serves as a memorabilia of their love for each other, nourished and sheltered under that particular tree.

The poet, a lover of these trees, is positively distressed by the action of these heartless lovers, who do not appreciate the beauty of these trees, which are far more beautiful than their partners. He proclaims that if a situation should arise when he is forced by circumstances to write something on the trees, he would:

Fair trees, wheresoever your barks I wound,
No name shall but your own be found.

Marvell then resorts to Greek mythology to put across the value of trees. He alludes to the legend of Apollo and Daphne with a vein of humour to support his line of thought. It is said that Apollo chased Daphne, in order to attain her sensuously. Daphne, who was running away from him, could not bear the strain any longer. So with the grace of mother Goddess, she turns into a tree, thereby escaping the amorous reach of Apollo.

The poet feels all the passion of the God was exhausted in the race and his love culminated by way of a tree. In his other allusion the poet refers to the legend of Pan and Syrinx, where the latter was sought after by Pan not in the capacity of a nymph but as a material for his reed; soon after she turns into one. Andrew Marvell interprets the legends to achieve his end of enhancing the value of trees.

When we have run our passion’s heat,
Love hither makes his best retreat.
The gods, that mortal beauty chase,
Still in a tree did end their race.

The poet, quite simply, concludes pursuance of worldly pleasures even by the Gods themselves who find their nemesis in a tree as a retreat. It encapsulates the religious endeavour and fervour, which in turn leads to an ethical enhancement of the personalities of the celestial beings who are saved from sin. It is in the tree that the poet sees a transition from sensuous love to the love of solitude and peace. According to him, there could not be a better retreat than a tree to get away from the passions of the world. Perhaps Gautama Buddha realized this truth and chose the pipal tree to seek his truth.

The poet, who experiences perfect contentment and happiness, is suddenly saddled with a sneaky feeling that God perhaps felt a little green about Adam’s double happiness. Adam seemed to be enjoying the best of both the worlds — by enjoying his stay in paradise and in The Garden.

Marvell appears to be rather certain, when he remarks casually that God made Eve to spoil the boundless joy of man in the Garden. Though one feels enraged by his misogynistic attitude, one cannot but help forgive his thought, as he is preoccupied with The Garden rather than anything else. One cannot but help praise the superior metaphysical wit and the ever so subtle remark by Marvell.

Annihilating all that is made
To a green thought in a green shade.

All at once, the poet is able to comprehend the timelessness of eternity, the mortality of man and man’s need to go beyond the physical and realize life’s ultimate truth.

The poem stands like a beacon to the present world that is choking at its gills.

Composure in Communication


Composure in communication

The HR department of any organisation or company worth its salt will vouch for the fact that the receptionist is the face of the institution, especially when clients approach them for the very first time.

Therefore, it is imperative that the person or persons in the front desk should be aptly qualified, equable and pleasant both in looks and manners and certainly not give in to mood swings, impatience, discourteous nature thereby affecting the profits and goodwill of the company.
A story from our Puranas speak of four Manasa Putras of the creator Brahma who once went to meet lord Vishnu. Though they were very old men in terms of age, they appeared to be like mere youths as a result of their steadfast penance.

The doorkeepers of Vaikunta told them to go away because the lord happened to be resting at that moment. The four sages lingered on. The ushers used derisive language to drive them away. The sages, who had come there on urgent business, did not appreciate being treated lightly.

Their objection only encouraged Jaya and Vijaya to behave more discourteously. Their uncivilised behaviour put off the sons of Brahma effectively.

The sentries were cursed to be born on earth and experience the travails of being subjected to both bouquets and brickbats in life. It was only then, realisation dawned on the twosome. They wailed and apologised for their unacceptable behaviour, but the sages would not relent.

The commotion caused by the altercation awoke the lord. He stepped out and learnt about the incident.

He comprehended that his staff were being over-enthusiastic about doing their duty and in the process had compromised on their manners. When the matter was clarified to the sages, they said that they could not take back the curse, but could alter it for the lord’s sake. They offered two options to Jaya and Vijaya.

The duo could opt to live through seven births as devotees of the lord or finish their time on earth through three births, born as Rakshasas who would oppose the very lord they adored. Since the sentinels could not bear the thought of being separated from their God for a long time, they opted for the fast track.

Accordingly, they were born as Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu in the Treta Yuga, Ravana and Kumbhakarna when the lord manifested himself as Rama and were born as Sishupala and Dantavakra during the Dwapara Yuga to fulfil their punishment and rush back to the lord at the earliest.

Though the divine sentries had crossed their limits in the name of performing their duty, their sincere devotion saved them from complete negation. Yet the fact remains a that a little deference on their part could have saved them from a possible debacle.

Walking With The Nomads


http://archive.deccanherald.com/Deccanherald/oct262004/spt9.asp

RADHA PRATHI looks into the life of the proud Banjarans who are looking to live with dignity in spite of obvious disadvantages.

It was like watching a mime show from the first floor balcony across the road. Each time a potential customer dilly-dallied near the makeshift shop off the streets someone invariably came out from nowhere in particular to greet them. It was amazing to note the alacrity with which they conversed, haggled, and convinced their customer to walk away with the trophy. Clothed in traditional Rajasthani clothes they appeared to be very simple and straightforward in their dealings.

Nevertheless I gathered my wits about me and told them that I did not intend to buy their ware at that moment though I appreciated them. When they realised my intention they came back with an album which was quite impressive with artists with celebrities like Amitabh Bacchan, Mithun Chakravarthy, Govinda gracing it.

The head of the family also mentioned that they had performed the gumbod traditional dance in the Hindi serial Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki. They told me that they were from Koochatiya village from Nagore district from Rajasthan and they had been travelling southward since eight years ago. They had almost covered the rest of the country before entering Karnataka.

Their ‘kaarvaan’ as they preferred to pronounce it consisted of six to eight families of a dozen members at least. Most of them were inter-related as large extended families consisting of three generations belonging to all age groups right from the tiny tots to the toothless grandpa.

They lived under tarpaulin sheets held upright like tents by bamboo poles. I stood at the fringe of their campsite and one Raju Birbal Bhat showed me an exclusive tent in which their completed artifacts were stored. It was an awesome sight to see such an array of wooden images ranging from a height of six inches to four or five feet. There were more number of bust images than complete images. The Indian pantheon seemed to be represented quite well there, the human forms-they explained were the representations of their erstwhile, Rajput kings, ministers and men who mattered from Mewad Chittor, Gurjar, Jodhpur and such other historic places.

There in another corner of the tent I found the puppets stashed away in glittering and eye-catching costumes. There were puppets of kings, queens, gods and goddesses not to mention the miniature horses, elephants, camels and peacocks. I wondered what kind of stories were represented with these puppets. I was told that he was famous for historic representations.

His shows comprised of projecting famous episodes from the associations of the Mughal emperor Aurangazeb, Shayista Khan and the Maratha lion Shivaji. Stalwart heroes Tanaji and Sardar Udaybhan were immortalised in his artistic representations.

Raju Bhat instantly transformed that squalid place into tinsel town with agile fingers and accompanied by a sonorous voice he broke into a song and speech alternately presenting the protagonist Shivaji as an able leader.

He told me that the other show stealer was ‘Maha Rana Pratap.’ He presented this particular story in two different ways. He said he used literary language and poetry to the native and well-read audiences without uttering the lines.

He also resorted to the traditional way of narration at such times. At other times he lapsed into colloquial ‘Hinglish’ and highlighted only the war between the Mughals and the Rajputs and there was yet another version when he would only underline the life of Rana Pratap in exile and his relationship with Chetak his horse.
It was interesting to note how he changed his intonation when he adapted different characters and how his voice altered compered the narrative in both verse and dialogue.

Whatever he knew was what he was told by the elders in the family. He claimed that his family got into the profession of puppeteer during the regime of Akbar the great. They belonged to the clan of ‘Rao Bhat’,equipment to a regal clan head for Rao meant the ‘king’ and the ‘Bhat’ the associate or the follower of the king .He further elaborated that the name Birbal was included in his name to indicate his association with the royal family.

In fact all the certificates he showed me referred to him as Raju Birbal Bhat. He actually swelled with pride as he recollected his glorious past.

The fact that he lived in an unspeakably deplorable condition today seemed to be in striking contrast to the splendour of his past. He sadly remarked that people no longer patronised the art, as did the rajas of the past. They slowly moved out of the palaces and entertained the rich and the popular for a while till theatre as a medium of entertainment took over. The coming of the cinema pushed them to the streets thereby deteriorating not only their economic condition. Soon they lapsed into the cult of the Banjarans or the nomadic people. They set out of their native land in search of opportunities, but somehow, nothing else seemed to lure their fancy .They could not go beyond pupeteering.

They strongly felt that God the greater “Soothradhar”(puppeteer) had meant them to be puppeteers all their life. They derived a deep sense of satisfaction when they hewed their own puppets from ‘dead branches’ of trees. They enlivened dead wood, embellished them and filled them with life and emotions which they refer to as ‘Jeevraag.’

Perhaps it is this sense of enterprising nature in them that has got them the recognition of being Rashtreeya Kalaakaars when they performed at Appu Ghar in Delhi a decade ago.

This title does not seemed to have made an iota of difference in their lives either socially or economically and the best part of the situation is that they do not seem to be attaching much importance to these worldly acknowledgments.

English is … all Latin and Greek


RADHA PRATHI

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-educationplus/english-is-all-latin-and-greek/article2265753.ece

Many institutes promise to teach English, but without success.

Of late, there has been a growing keenness among people to learn English. The demand has been observed and worked upon by enterprising individuals and groups who have started institutes that promise to teach the language in its finest form within a matter of a month or two.

Every major and minor street worth its salt in urban India can boast of housing at least one such institute. Some of them have been around for almost a decade too.

Visit the premises and talk to the persons concerned and you are shown “exemplary records” of students of the previous batches. A talk with some of the teachers and students of these institutes reveals that the reality is miles away from what is generally promised to the public. No, there is no breach of contract.

The institutes do conduct the classes faithfully for the specified number of hours. Some of them provide course material and even give training to use the computer as fringe benefit.

No use

Yet, at the end of the course, the students do not emerge any better. They are familiarised with grammar, syntax and phonetics quite systematically but it is apparently of no avail because the programme does not reach them in totality.

There appear to be several reasons attributed to this consistent poor performance. The students belong to motley age groups with different educational backgrounds and academic calibre.

Teachers of these institutes are not necessarily professional. They happen to be retired teachers, bank officers or young graduates who are adept at the language.

Since the teaching faculties in these institutes are paid on an hourly basis, the faculty is in constant flux and keep changing within weeks.

The teachers confessed that they found it difficult to cater to the needs of a heterogeneous group as the level of knowledge of the language varied from person to person.

The batches consist of housewives, college students, office assistants, accountants, office executives, sales representatives etc. These aspiring candidates aim at honing their language skills as many of them happen to be graduates from the vernacular medium.

Since all the students are adults and most of them happen to be working, they keep adjusting their batch timings.

In their zest to derive full value for their money, they do not understand that learning from several teachers in a short span of time can only end up making their learning a cosmetic affair.

Most of them do not find the time to practise what is taught in the classes. Nor do they read newspapers.

Disappointment

Though they are aware of their shortcomings, they feel highly disappointed when they find themselves incapable of mouthing their words in fluent, error-free English.

The students find little or no improvement in their language prowess in the short span of time. Nevertheless, some of the institutes place them in companies as promised for an additional sum of money.

Several candidates have been forced to quit these companies or take up lateral positions in a different department, relating to their skills and ability.

The desire to master the language has burnt a hole in many a pocket and has left many sincere teachers sighing with frustration at their helplessness to guide their students to success.

Life-long process

It is high time learners and teachers of English realise that the language is arbitrary from every feasible dimension and only constant exposure to the language with an alert mind can help one improve.

Language learning can turn out to be a life-long process and if one inculcates the reading habit with passion, many aspects of learning such as vocabulary, spellings and grammar will automatically improve and broaden the horizons of the mind. Remember, there is no short cut to success.

Bringing Up Children


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/447924/bringing-up-children.html

Radha Prathi, Dec 16, 2014, DHNS:

Bringing up children as reliable and responsible citizens laced with integrity, compassion and common sense can be a challenging task.

A lot of parents feel very traumatised when they find that their children have grown up to be depraved. They feel this all the more when their best efforts, time and money have been invested to shape the lives of their wards in the best possible manner.

More often than not, parents do not realise that they have been instrumental in influencing their child’s core behaviour.

In the Mahabharata, Dhritarashtra longed to be the king of Hastinapura.

His lack of eyesight, proved to be his impediment on the way to the throne. The untimely exile of his brother made him the sovereign in charge. He planned to utilise this interim period by laying a claim to the throne by fathering the crown prince of Hastinapura.

Accordingly, his wife Gandhari was pregnant with his heir. Unfortunately for him, his brother Pandu became the father of Yudhishtira. The next in line to the throne was born weeks before the son of Dhritarashtra was due to be born.

Dhritarashtra was very upset with his fate and his wife. Gandhari was also none too happy. Her zeal to produce the heir to the throne was coupled with the frenzied pressure that her husband decanted on her.

As a result she forced herself to deliver a premature nondescript foetus. This unexpected debacle shattered the royal man and his wife. Luckily, the Vyasa maharishi intervened. He fragmented the foetus into a hundred parts and stored them in jars of some chemical solutions and clarified butter in the hope that at least one or some of them would metamorphose into a normal healthy baby.

Vyasa’s experiment proved to be a success and the royal couple became the proud parents of a hundred sons. The Kauravas grew up to be jealous, evil and cruel. The fact that they were nurtured by exceptional elders like Bhishma and Vidura and educated by the best of teachers like Dronacharya and Kripacharya did not make a marked difference in their character.

The positive influence of magnificent mentors proved to be futile because the proportion of the negative influence they received right from the time they were in the womb had a stronger sway over them.

Besides, they were indirectly supported in all their mean and belittling activities by their frustrated and ambitious father. It is no wonder that they turned out to be rotten eggs.
Parents play a definite role in the character and personalities of their wards, hence it is imperative for them to watch their steps lest their children falter.