From Art to Heart


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Denizens of Namma Bengaluru are treated to dollops of street art every now and then. More recently, the painting of a swimming pool in and around a large pothole captured a lot of attention. The painting seemed to come alive when somebody captured a realistic snapshot of a random pedestrian trying to step in gingerly into the painted waters holding the bars of the ladder and uploaded it onto social media.

The picture sent me on a nostalgic trip down the busy streets of our city a couple of decades ago. Just about every Saturday, a couple of kids would appear at around 4 pm with brooms and fine brushes. They would clean up a patch of the ground measuring the size of a small carpet. An hour later, their master would come and quickly draw the border lines without using any instrument. Charcoal powder or white rangoli powder would be evenly spread on the floor. Then the master would draw another border around it.

Within a matter of an hour, he would be going round and round drawing the outline. Gods and goddesses from the Hindu pantheon would emerge magically as he deftly coloured and gilded their ornaments. Once done, he would rest on the platform with his young companions, waiting for the footfalls to linger there. The public would offer prayers and place a coin carefully along the demarked borders before proceeding.

For kids like us, it happened to be the staple weekend all-round exposure to the arts, culture and resourcefulness. No one, except an occasional gust of wind or a spell of rains, would disturb the work of art till it earned bread for its creators until the next weekend.

These artists, though torn apart by time and space have managed to strike a chord and have warmed the hearts of many who have been exposed to their works. They have managed to make us not only appreciate their work but also reflect on it, even if only momentarily. These artists who unleash their creativity with confidence and élan silently remind us how a piece of fine art can warm the cockles of our heart and ruminate on matters beyond the mundane. They serve soups to our souls and hence it becomes our moral responsibility to sustain them and their art. For art is long and life is short!

Perhaps, this is what Khalil Gibran’s meant when he said:

“And if there come the singers and the dancers and the flute players – buy of their gifts also.

And that which they bring, though fashioned of dreams, is raiment and food for your soul.

And before you leave the marketplace, see that no one has gone his way with empty hands.

For the master spirit of the earth shall not sleep peacefully upon the wind till the needs of the least of you are satisfied.”

Bread Fruit Recipes


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Get a taste of the tropics

breadfruitbreadfruit

Breadfruit Podimas

Ingredients: Two raw breadfruits; 1 tsp of turmeric powder; 2 tsps of salt; ½ tsp of hing; 4 red chillies; a sprig of curry leaves; 1 tsp of channa dal; 1 tsp of urad dal and 1 tbsp of cooking oil.
Method: Turn on the stove and place the raw breadfruit on it. Turn it around frequently to cook it evenly on all sides. The skin will carbonise, it but will conduct heat to cook the insides and protect them from getting burnt. Once cooked, wait for it to cool and peel off the burnt skin. Heat oil in a pan and fry the channa dal, urad dal and red chillies with hing. Grind the fried ingredients coarsely, toss the cooked breadfruit with the ground spices and run it for a minute in the food processor. Now crumble the mixture with a blunt ladle. Serve the podimas with hot rice and a raita of your choice.

Breadfruit  & Coconut Curry

Ingredients: Two raw breadfruits; a cup of grated coconut; 1 tbsp of tamarind extract; 1 tsp of turmeric powder; 2 tsps of salt; ½ tsp of hing; 4 red chillies; 4 garlic pods (optional); 1 sprig of curry leaves; 1 tsp of channa dal; 1 tsp of urad dal; 1 tbsp of coriander seeds; 1 tsp of cumin seeds; 1 tsp of mustard seeds and 2 tbsps of cooking oil.
Method: Skin the breadfruit, dice it and pressure cook it using little water. Marinate the cooked breadfruit in tamarind extract mixed with salt, turmeric powder and hing for 10 minutes. Fry the channa dal, urad dal, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, red chillies, garlic and curry leaves in little oil and grind the ingredients finely. Take a heavy-bottomed pan, add a tbsp of oil and add mustard seeds to it. Add the marinated breadfruit to the pan and sauté it for a while. Add the ground ingredients and sauté the same. When the curry appears golden brown, add the grated coconut and mix it well before turning off the heat. Serve as a side dish for rice or roti.

Breadfruit Roast

Ingredients: Two raw breadfruits; 1 tbsp of tamarind extract; 1 tsp of turmeric powder; 2 tsps of salt; ½ tsp of hing; 1 tbsp of red chilli powder; a sprig of curry leaves and half a cup of cooking oil.
Method: Skin the breadfruits and slice them into thin wafers. Marinate the breadfruit slices in tamarind extract mixed with chilli powder, salt, turmeric powder and hing for an hour or so. Take a heavy-bottomed pan, add a tablespoon of oil and heat the same and spatter the mustard in it. Add the marinated breadfruit and curry leaves to the pan and sauté it for a while. Add oil from time to time to the pan and attend to the vegetable till it turns into a fine roast. This roast can be served as a side dish with rice or simply eaten as a snack.
Note: You can even deep fry the marinated the breadfruits and eat them as chips.

Dealing with Embarassment


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Some of us go through embarrassing situations in life for no particular fault of ours. It becomes increasingly difficult to take a stand, especially when the people involved are the next of kin, good friends or well-wishers. A story in the Bhagavatha Puranam speaks of one such predicament.

Naabhaaga, an erudite scholar, decided to find his own fortune. He was well versed in all areas of rites and rituals. He knew that he could earn a great deal of wealth if he offered his niche services. For starters, he went to the Yajna conducted by sage Angirasa as directed by his father Nabhaga. The sage was very happy with the arrival of the young man.

On the sixth day, ceremonies, which involved a lot of nitty-gritty, had been worrying the sage. Naabhaaga did the needful efficiently. The Yajna was completed successfully. Sage Angirasa was very happy and satisfied.

In a moment of gratitude and generosity, he offered every bit of his frugal possession as Dakshina to Naabhaaga. The latter accepted his fee thankfully and took leave of the sage. Naabhaaga was waylaid by Rudra. The angry god accused Naabhaaga of walking away with what rightfully belonged to him. The young man was confused. Nevertheless, he walked back to the site of the Yajna along with Rudra. The duo found sage Angirasa in conversation with Naabhaaga’s father. Rudra presented his case. Almost immediately, Angirasa and Nabhaga realised that they had goofed up. Strangely, both of them in their zeal had overlooked that the last portion of the Dakshina had to be lawfully offered to Rudra. They admitted their fault sheepishly, clarified the matter and apologised profusely. Both of them found it highly embarrassing to dictate the future course of action.

Naabhaaga and Rudra understood the nature of the faux pas. Naabhaaga decided to iron out the matter. He did not play the blame game nor did he cock a snook at Rudra for being angry with him for no reason. Instead, he handed over the entire amount to Rudra. Angirasa and Nabhaga were overwhelmed with the turn of events. Rudra was touched by the integrity of Naabhaaga and blessed him with unlimited prosperity.

If any of us happen to inadvertently get involved in a slip-up, we will do well to display a generous and forthright spirit like Naabhaaga.

Integrity and Intelligence


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Life often scatters obstacles in our path. Some of us sidestep them while others overcome them. Yet, if we are riddled with difficulties from time to time, we tend to give up. A story from the Mahabharatha says that if one tackles problems intelligently and with integrity, it will stamp our success with moral satisfaction and happiness.

Princess Sukanya had to marry the old sage Chyavana whom she had blinded inadvertently. Though there was no equivalence of any sort in the marital ties, the young bride did not have any complaints. She was quite cheerful and sincere in carrying out her conjugal duties.

A couple of years later, the handsome celestial twins, the Ashwinikumaras, happened to sight the beautiful Sukanya. They were smitten by her ethereal beauty. They tried to wean her away from her marriage and make her theirs. The principled lady refused to comply to their wishes, politely, yet firmly. The demigods were struck by her loyalty to her husband despite his shortcomings. They offered to cure him and restore his youth as a reward for her steadfastness.

Sukanya and Chyavana were ready to accept a lease of normal and healthy life. Just when things seemed to fall in place, the divine twosome laid out their condition. The clause said that Sukanya could continue in her marriage if only she could identify her husband in his new Avatar. The lady accepted the challenge without batting an eyelid.

Accordingly, the sage was taken to a nearby lake by the duo. The trio immersed themselves in the waters. When they emerged, Sukanya was startled to see that the three of them were identical in every single way. She was stressed but gathered her wits and observed the threesome walking towards her. She recollected from her vast repertoire of knowledge that Godly entities never came into physical contact with earth. She noticed that only one of the three men was leaving footprints on the wet banks of the lake. She walked demurely towards her only love in life and stood by him. The Ashwinikumaras were highly impressed by her integrity and intelligence and blessed the couple a happy and a fruitful life of togetherness. Sukanya had every reason to flounder, but she chose to overcome it.

“Education ” By Question Banks


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We are in the middle of the academic year. Students are busy taking periodic tests and midterm examinations based on the portions completed. Their answer scripts are being evaluated and assessed. Parents are being apprised of their ward’s performance.

Teachers’ meetings are being conducted to analyse their inputs and involvement in their responsibilities.

Everything seems to be going on like clockwork — just the way it should. Or, is it just a mirage? Perhaps this is the right time of the year for the parent, student and teacher to do a reality check.

Most schools have revision sessions before tests and examinations. They generate a question bank of sorts. The children are told directly or indirectly to concentrate on the revision sessions.

Parents and tuition teachers help the children out with the preparation. Most pupils get thorough with the “necessary portions” and score well. The tests and later on examinations are taken and evaluated — well, you know the drill.

While the process seems natural and harmless, it can turn out to be a quite a negative influence. It can uproot the fundamental aim of learning and education. Young students are being led by the nose to take up tests which prove to be a test of memory rather than understanding.

The very schools which claim to give holistic education shrink even the prescribed syllabus so that the students are not strained to look beyond a few questions.

Limited reading

Reading textbooks, ancillary reading material, referring to class notes are all relegated to the backburner because they do not count as “test portions”.

The learning that can be evinced from group study, working out varied problems, reference works are increasingly becoming non-existent because extensive reading or learning need not be displayed in answer papers.

The young learners cannot be blamed for wearing blinders because they are made to wear them by their teachers. When we look at the problem from the tutors’ point of view, it appears that they are shackled by several constraints. They are expected to cater to unwieldy numbers which makes it almost impossible for them to correct notebooks sincerely.

Then they have to live up to the expectations of the management and deliver cent per cent results as far as possible. When their increments and sometimes their employment depend on the results they deliver, they find it convenient to create “question banks”. This way they hope to step up the level of the results.

Multiple choice papers

The parents for their part do not really seem to mind this new infusion into the system right from primary school because their accountability comes down considerably. Sometimes, schools also opt for multiple choice question paper models partially or completely to make it easier for evaluation.

This method not only encourages blind guessing among students, but also conveniently circumvents the need to comprehend, work out or articulate their thoughts. The net result of this phenomenon precipitates as a mockery of education. No one is any wiser at the end of the day though everyone, the students, parents and teachers have gone through the exercise.

Today, we live in a world where education has been systematised. Learners go through the process of education in a set pattern and emerge as ‘educated’ people at various levels.

Where will all this spoon-feeding and holding hands lead them in the long run of life? Will their education stand them in good stead? Will they be in a position to think out of the box and handle unforeseen circumstances in life?

Can they come up with original or creative solutions to deal with problems? Will they employ just means to achieve their ends? How will they compare with their peer group across the globe? Will their accomplishments fill the lacunae that exist in the world?

The concept of “Question banks” was introduced at the university level, to help examinees to focus after browsing through an exhaustive material. To introduce the same, while shaping minds in their formative years in schools, amounts to committing intellectual suicide.

It is time to break this pattern and pay attention to learning for learning’s sake so that we can pave the way to developing inquisitive, fertile minds that are willing to go that extra mile before arriving at answers!

What is in a Name eh?


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I quite marvel and also agree with everything William Shakespeare penned with the exception of one celebrated line. I always have a feeling that if he had just about peeked into our subcontinent, he would have certainly refrained from making a grand statement about the redundancy of names. It is obvious he was innocent about our penchant for a thousand names for most of our deities. The less important gods and goddesses who did not merit the haloed Sahasranama were assigned at least a 108 names.

The abundant populace of our country, who wished not to be left behind, traditionally gave a minimum of two names and a maximum of five names to their wards. The wards are named after the personal favourites in the pantheon, the family god, elders in the family, role models and even movie stars — sometimes complete with their respective surnames. Then, parents come up with an official name based on the horoscope or numerology hoping to realise all their dreams from the child bearing the lucky name.

At the end of all this exercise, each member in the family and neighbourhood comes up with a tacky pet name for the infant which almost always sticks for a lifetime. As if these names were not enough, children always invariably attract nicknames through schooling and college life. The girls, mostly, take the surname of their husband post marriage and are often renamed after the nuptials to match their spouses name.

Such being the case, when the police come for verifying details given in the passport application form, nine on ten people whose names have been given as referral will have to be apprised about the “official name” or the quintessential “daak naam,” especially if you happen to be of Bengali or Oriya origin. Then there is the other category of people who create aliases for their creative works, social media and international work desks.

As if these were not enough, our birth certificate, mark sheet, PAN card, bank account, Aadhar card and other documents sometimes have variations of the official name, and we Indians know such anomalies are a part and parcel of our lives. In fact, there is an entrepreneurial money-spinning industry out there which helps people to correct personal  data in the documents that matter, so that they reflect uniformity!

But how was the Bard to know all this when he wrote, “What is in a name? A rose called by any other name would smell as sweet!”

Tackle Obstacles with Integrity


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/632243/tackle-obstacles-integrity.html

Life often scatters obstacles in our path. Some of us sidestep them while others overcome them. Yet, if we are riddled with difficulties from time to time, we tend to give up. A story from the Mahabharata says that if one tackles problems intelligently and with integrity, it will stamp our success with moral satisfaction and happiness.

Princess Sukanya had to marry the old sage Chyavana whom she had blinded inadvertently. Though there was no equivalence of any sort in the marital ties, the young bride did not have any complaints. She was quite cheerful and sincere in carrying out her conjugal duties.

A couple of years later, the handsome celestial twins, the Ashwinikumaras, happened to sight the beautiful Sukanya. They were smitten by her ethereal beauty. They tried to wean her away from her marriage and make her theirs. The principled lady refused to comply with their wishes, politely, yet firmly.

The demigods were struck by her loyalty to her husband despite his shortcomings. They offered to cure him and restore his youth as a reward for her steadfastness.

Sukanya and Chyavana were ready to accept a lease of normal and healthy life. Just when things seemed to fall in place, the divine twosome laid out their condition. The clause said that Sukanya could continue in her marriage if only she could identify her husband in his new Avatar. She accepted the challenge without batting an eyelid.

Accordingly, the sage was taken to a nearby lake by the duo. The trio immersed themselves in the waters.

When they emerged, Sukanya was startled to see that the three of them were identical in every single way. She was stressed, but gathered her wits and observed the threesome walking towards her. She recollected from her vast repertoire of knowledge that Godly entities never came into physical contact with earth. She noticed that only one of the three dazzling men was leaving footprints on the wet banks of the lake. She walked demurely towards her only love in life and stood by him.

The Ashwinikumaras were highly impressed by her integrity and intelligence and blessed the couple a happy and fruitful life of togetherness. Sukanya had every reason to flounder under the circumstances, that she chose to overcome it reflects her diehard spirit.