Science Psyche & Entertainment


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Of late, people have been getting hooked to horror movies and scary TV serials that have made it to the big and small screens like never before. Modern technology has facilitated these pieces of art into spectacular and stunning bits of entertainment.

Creative directors and story writers are taking advantage of this provision. So now we have snakes slithering into the bedrooms, fires emanating from water, lemons morphing into ferocious animals, earth cracking under ones feet, spirits, goblins and ghosts rubbing shoulders with their mortal kin, occult, black magic, voodoo among other things.

Subjects like life after death which was in the realms of theosophy and philosophy have been given a new lease of life by being introduced into the story line. So now we have a series of “murdered characters” flitting about as enraged or morbid souls in finery seeking revenge by entering the bodies of their erstwhile enemies.

For good measure, they also settle other minor scores giving scope for eerie humour. These stories which made the rounds mostly on late night shows have been gaining visibility even during the day. The escalating TRPs are proof of their popularity.

What is more interesting is the fact that modern science has facilitated the access to these unfounded, medieval, dark age stories and belief.

In other words, poppycock nonsense has regained its past glory by the very science that was used to expose it. The most bizarre ideas are translated into the visual medium by intelligent minds who know how to wield the essential equipment. Truth be told, they are doing a splendid job.

On the one hand, this trend speaks of the might of human intelligence which is able to cater just about anything that is demanded of it.

On the other hand, it is a little frightening to know that people who do not exercise their grey cells are lapping up the farfetched stories of another era which were retired as redundant, obsolete and illogical. It is when viewers start attaching value to it beyond the entertainment quotient the trouble begins.

There have been news stories about audience responding to this genre of entertainment in hitherto unheard ways. The first category of people get inspired by what they see. They utilise their limited knowledge and make use of horror to derive some thrill by frightening their friends and enemies out of their wits or skins. The other category is the typical hero worshipping admirers of the subcontinent, who do not mind throwing away their personalities and sometimes even their lives in the name of adoration.

Scientific temperament

They are the naïvetes who start believing and imbibing the various concepts and ideas that are presented to them. They lose track of their scientific temperament and never care to verify the truth before communicating the same to others. It is alarming to know that a large section of population who belong to this category happen to be women and children who may or may not be educated.

It is ironic to note that the very science that was/is used to enlighten the human mind and help it overcome baseless fears, superstitions and beliefs is instrumental in worming into our wisdom.

While there is nothing wrong in using science to aid creativity, one must also curb the tendency to spread irrational thinking in the name of entertainment. The intelligent brains that come up with exotic and innovative ideas must also keep in mind they are indirectly responsible for shaping the minds of their consumers.

They must remember that people like to copy, adulate and emulate what fascinates them. Statutory warnings or censor boards can be inadequate in stemming the possible damage to the human psyche. Hence, it becomes the sacrosanct responsibility of the ingenious ilk to use their expertise judiciously.

Technology has come a long way and shrunk the world beyond imagination. It has made the world closer and sometimes closed as in the present case. Today, more than ever before, we must ensure that the role of science makes a positive impact on modern man’s life.

Science should be  used to open up minds to newer possibilities because it can sustain, empower, help us evolve and emerge as better people or very simply decimate us to being mere mindless zombies who stop living and start existing.

 

Quintessentially Indian


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Radha Prathi, August 14, 2015:

The streets have exotic stuff that can turn your home into a haven of beautiful things.

You can shop for beautiful and exotic items that are sure to brighten up your home, on the busy streets of India. Radha Prathi explores the enticing choices

Are you the sort who takes pride in thinking globally and acting locally? Are you mindful about boosting our local economy by carefully buying goods made in our country? Do you enjoy patronising indigenous artists? Do you think you have innate bargaining skills? Do you always gravitate towards all things bright and beautiful? Do you think that your home or office decor should be expressive of your personality? Then it is time to hit the streets.

The highways leading to Indian cities and busy streets have exotic stuff, which can turn your home into a haven of beautiful things. You will spot these goods being sold by artisans and their families off the sidewalks. Since they pay little or no rent to the city corporation, their articles are sold with minimal profit margin. If you happen to buy more than one unit, you can always demand for more discounts. Make sure that you examine your purchase for damages or anomalies before they pack them for you. The only flipside really is that your credit cards will not be accepted.

The silver lining is that you can pay up in a jiffy, without waiting in long lines and also, round off the bill amount to a lower denomination! Now let us take a look at all the possible things that can brighten up your hearth and home.

Down to earth

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It does not matter if you’re the sort who is down to earth or eclectic, or for that matter anywhere in between. Next time you see terracotta items being sold somewhere, stop. The humble water pot fitted with a stainless steel tap can be a healthy replacement to your electrically managed water filter. Tea and coffee have a way of assuming a surreal look when served in terracotta crockery. You can select a collection of figurines or wall plates of gods, damsels, animals and birds and place them tastefully in your garden amongst the plants or anywhere else you fancy.

Huge vats, vases, shallow basins and flower pots can double up as corner pieces. Gaily painted hundis and masks have the ability to warm up hearts and hearths. The traditional diyas can light up your place. If you are good at wielding the paint brush, unleash your skills on your earthen goods. Though terracotta goods can be found through the year, they have a tendency to mushroom around the Diwali season giving you infinite choices to pick from. If you care for the good earth in the form of porcelain, there is a whole market waiting for you out there.

Wood is good

If you are a connoisseur of Channapatna  toys, pencil tops, containers et al, you don’t have to necessarily go to the toy town or an arts and crafts emporium, as you can easily spot these beauties in busy market places. If you want any particular item, you can request the seller to procure them for you and he will, in all likelihood, be only too happy to do so.

However, there is a catch. Original, handmade, lacquer-painted goods are sold along with machine-made ones coloured with acrylic paints, and it can be hard to notice the difference if one is a novice. At such times, it’s better to give the benefit of doubt to the seller and take his word for it, if he refuses to lower the price after a certain point. These wooden pieces prove to be safe anywhere in the house, from the kitchen to the children’s room.

Friends with nature

If you are an eco-friendly person, never miss an opportunity to stop by at a place  where coir or woven grass items are sold. Mats, coasters, fans, baskets, jewellery boxes, winnows, musical instruments, rattles, toys, wall hangings and pen holders are some of the things that are made in coir and woven grass. In fact, you can find just about any item that has utility or aesthetic value sitting pretty in such shops. You can pick them all if you mean to give your space a theme or just zero in on the ones that attract your attention.

For the love of carpets

Having a luxurious Persian or Kashmiri hand-knotted carpet spread across the living room floor is worth every penny you spent on it. These days, we find native craftsmen doing the rounds around cities, selling handmade carpets and mats on push carts. If you fancy any of them, do not buy them right away; visit the nearest Kashmir emporium and do your homework. Unroll the item of your choice and inspect both sides of the carpet in daylight. If you love it, haggle until you reach some point of agreement. If you want variation, voice it and you may be able to get in the time frame suggested by the seller.

Perk up the walls

If you think your walls need that fresh coat of paint badly, but you do not have the means to do that due to various constraints, do not get disheartened. You can instead fill up your walls with all your favourite posters. Or you could even make that collage you have always dreamt of. When the time comes for painting the walls, you may have to rip them all off. But if you want it to be long-lasting, you could consider laminating them.

Something that sticks on Stickers happen to be the most contemporary, prominent and practical way of expressing yourself these days. You will be spoilt for choice with regard to the design, quality and size. You can find traditional stickers for the home’s doorstep to the shining stars that adorn the ceiling. If you feel overwhelmed by their sheer number and variety, go slow as you are likely to hoard on them for they come really cheap.

Stained in delightful shades

The next time you spot a vendor selling Plaster of Paris idols, vats, vases and wall plates – which come in some delightful classical and mythological forms – do take a look. They are usually light, stained in gold, silver, copper or bronze shades and are available at competitive prices. If you want to customise them, go in for uncoloured ones. With a little effort, talent and patience, you can create magic.

Brass effect

Occasionally, busy roads are punctuated with antique dealers who sell brass items like gramophone equipment, classical telephones, lamps, bells, figurines, junk jewellery and coins, among others. Make a selection of the items you fancy, but don’t buy them on the spot. Come back with a pinch of tamarind or some lemon juice and touch the tips or the bottom of the selected items. If the metal glows, then go ahead and clinch the deal.

Knick knacks

There are times when you find an assortment of adorable items like fur dolls, puppets, wind chimes and the like sold along the busy city streets. Inspect them and do not hesitate to make a purchase if you really care for the items because you may not spot them again and even if you do, they may not turn out to be the same.

Once in a while, it’s absolutely fine to pick up a few balloons for your home. You don’t always need a birthday party or an anniversary at home to buy balloons. Available in a plethora of colours, shapes and sizes, they never fail to attract the eye, especially when they seem to wink at you from a busy street corner.

Tasteful home decor items need not always be sourced from international visits or high-end decor shops. As you traverse the streets of our beautiful, diverse country, you’ll be amazed by the splendid choices on offer. And once you clinch a deal, it might leave you asking for more!

So, this Independence Day, as we sport the tri-colour with pride, let our homes too reflect the splendour and rich diversity of our many arts and cultures.

Their Best Laid Plans


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Radha Prathi, June 13, 2015, DHNS

BEING PARENTS

A  few years ago, Amy Chua, the author of The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, raised enough eyebrows and set many a tongue wagging across the world with her candid opinions on parenting. Yet, it is a universal fact that parents across the globe see children as an extension of their lives and hence, tend to thrust their unfulfilled dreams on their little ones.

The struggle to have perfect, tailor-made children has been going on since time immemorial, across economic and social classes. In most cases, the exercise begins almost immediately after the baby has been conceived. The best of food, doctors, toys, education, opportunities and environment are but a few things that are prioritised while bringing up a child. Many parents are known to take the adage “spare the rod and spoil the child” rather seriously in order to see to it that their best laid plans materialise into reality.

Our current urban educational system, too, seems to cater to these ambitious parents. The co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, cushioned by culture and technology, are incorporated into the agenda at a very early age for most kids. They are herded into a whole lot of hobby classes and tuition classes to add value to their education. There seems to be an endless effort to achieve the best possible results in just about every field under the sun. They forego their half yearly and even annual vacation in pursuit of perfection, preparing to excel in the unknown future that lies ahead of them. Parents also give up on their creature comforts and sometimes, even on their necessities to see this agenda fulfilled.

The increasingly merciless and the all-consuming rat race of our contemporary times have set the stage to measure the caliber of young children in unique ways. There’s no dearth of competitions and reality shows, all with very high stakes. Parents pitch in their earnest efforts to help their wards, and they often seem to relish the physical and mental exhaustion that is involved in shaping the winner. The need for the achiever to become indomitable is rather overwhelming. The winners are forced to spend the rest of their lives defending their high places – of course, with the support of their parents. Over a period of time, unfortunately, hard work and dedication gets supplemented with a little dose of cunning and meanness, under parental guidance – never mind, the detrimental long-term effects.

On the other hand, the kids who fail to succeed are pushed into a state of depression or are made to feel self-righteous victims of prejudice. And it is interesting to note that parents share this feeling. Vindictiveness or vulnerability switch places with healthy competition and self-confidence.

Leading by example

Good manners, human values, general attitudes are usually learnt by children from parents and other influential adults in their lives. These virtues are not taught as lessons and are not punctuated with evaluations like a test or an examination. Yet if the child does fare well or ill in the long run of life, it is because they have imbibed the qualities by merely observing their parents.

In other words, the ways parents conduct themselves stand out as abstract lessons to their children. The psychological impact on the child cannot be underestimated. So, it is important that the parents consciously conduct themselves as fair, reliable, respectable and loving people. Unconditional love sustained with disciplinary measures and well-meaning detours in the ways of the child can set the foundation to his/her life.

The tribe of parents who allow their kids to enjoy their childhood and accept them for who they are has become an endangered species. True, we are living in changing times. Parents today are willing to go several extra miles to see their kids do well at any cost. But if parents tarry a while and ruminate over the verse of Kahlil Gibran, On Children, it might help them see the truth.

They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong notto you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

DIY– Food Grain Jewelry


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Have you ever thought of adorning your walls with your favourite collection of jewellery, simply to add bling to your bare walls? Mostly not! Ornaments invariably cost a pretty penny especially if they are set in precious metals, and besides it is not a sensible idea to exhibit it where everyone can see.

Yet if you want your decor to be different, you could put your artificial fare on show but they are likely to lose their sheen over a period of time.

Here is an idea you could use to make your own designer costume jewellery with cost effective-material and use it as wall decor?

All you need are food grains of different varieties, hard cardboard, purple or maroon coloured velvet paper, fabric glue, some gold and silver sparkle colours and a transparent nail polish.

Wash the chosen food grains and let them dry completely.

The most authentic looking gemstones will be found in the green gram which can pass off for jade, masoor dal for pink pearls, boiled rice for rice pearls, black gram for black pearls and cow peas for agate.

First cut out the cardboard in any other shape of your choice. Paste the velvet paper over the board without forming any crease.

Arrange food grains in patterns that your imagination fancies and paste them as necklace, a pair of ear-rings and a finger ring. In other words simulate a traditional jewel box that houses a set of jewellery.

Apply the nail polish carefully over the food grains. They not only will provide them the sheen but will protect them for a long time to come. You could intersperse the grains with dabs of gold or silver paint to give it the metallic touch.

Once the adhesive dries, punch a hole at the centre point towards the top and pass a piece of satin lace and knot it into a loop.

Then, place a thin film of transparent plastic sheet over the work and tape the same firmly at the back. This measure will protect your work from dust and the active fingers of curious admirers.

Select a spot on your wall to hang your work of art.

Glass Painting DIY


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Stained glass paintings that adorn ancient and classical structures have served as an inspiration to a simpler form which can tried out by you with a little patience and talent.

If you visit your stationery shop or fancy stores in your neighbourhood, you are likely to find readymade glass painting kits accompanied with instructions. You will find that there are kits that suit your age and experience with this genre of painting. You could try out one or two of them just for the fun of it and then try out something on the given lines to make your work unique.

Decide on design first

First of all, decide on a design and draw it on a sheet of paper. If you are not good at drawing, get hold of a design that appeals to you no matter how complicated it might appear.

Then go to a hardware shop that sells plain glass and get a plain glass of four mm thickness cut to the exact size of your design. Get the edges of the glass grounded so that it does not hurt while you are handling it.

When the glass is ready, procure a small sample tin of black acrylic oil paint and a set of pearl paints. You will also need some thinner to erase mistakes that you might make and two round-tipped brushes numbered triple zero and one.

It is important that you should complete the outline in one sitting; therefore set aside around two hours when you are not likely to be disturbed.

Place the glass over the design and draw the outline using the oil paint and the triple zero brush. In case you make mistakes, dab the error spot with a drop of thinner and wipe it away using cotton wool.

Make sure that it does not leave any stain on the glass. When the outline is done, leave it to dry for at least four to five hours You could fill in the colours in a series of sittings.

When you draw the outline and paint, you are actually working on the reverse side. If you want to give special effects like shading and dimension, remember that in glass painting, the colour applied first will be seen foremost.

Therefore you must use your shading techniques in the reverse format. For instance, if you are painting sunset or sunrise on paper, you will paint the main colour, orange, first and then tinge it with yellow, but in this form of glass painting you should tinge the yellow first and then get on with orange.

These techniques require some expertise and imagination because you have to think on the lines of a corollary.

If you want the wavy effect, you must work on the outermost layer first. If you want to get dimensional effect of space you should make tiny dabs with paint in a darker shade along the outline.

Once you are through with the painting you get it framed in such a manner so that the side you worked on is at the back.

Shall We Tell Leafy Tales


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Folk art

Age-old: The colourful art of ‘tala patachitra’. Photos by Dilip Banerjee

Centuries before paper was invented, our ancestors hit upon the idea of using hardy dried leaves as paper.

They were known as patra, which means both letter and leaf in most Indian languages. Students processed palm leaves not only for their use, but also for their teachers and scribes who were engaged in making copies of important manuscripts.

Processing palm leaves was no mean task, but it was certainly fun–filled too! Palm fronds cut freshly from the tree were allowed to dry partially for a couple of days in sunlight and buried in swamps for a week so that they became sturdy.

Later, the leaves were washed and dried completely in the shade and cut along the borders so that they formed rectangular pages measuring eight to 12 inches in breadth and about an inch or two in height. Sometimes, when longer sheets of palm paper were required, they were sewn together using plant fibre.

Once the palm paper was ready for use, a fine tipped iron stylus (pencil) was used to etch the words or diagrams on the leaf so that they made a depression without actually damaging the leaf.

Then powdered vegetable dyes, usually charcoal powder made from burnt coconut shells, were mixed with sesame oil and rubbed over the leaves in such a way that the colours settled down in the depressions. The palm leaves were then coated with turmeric powder mixed with sesame oil to add sheen and strength to the leaves. Other colours rarely got an entry in the form of writing.

If at all they were used, they were subdued tones used as fillers. Vegetable and mineral colours were used for highlighting or painting in the traditional form. This ethnic art form essentially consisted of inscribing letters and artistic designs on palm leaf, mostly cut into standard sizes and held together with two wooden plank covers stringed through a hole in the centre.

They were then bundled together and wrapped in silk or cotton cloth for safe keeping. Our ancient texts like the vedas, puranas, epics, scripts of plays and treatises have been passed on to us on palm paper.

Over a period of time, when paper was invented and mechanisation made it possible for it to be easily available, paper made from palm leaves made an exit. Today, these processed leaves are used as canvas on which creative artists showcase their talent. Thus was born a new genre of art called tala patachitra.

The creative artists of Orissa decided to explore the possibilities of using the processed palm leaf to give expression to their sketching skills. They translated scenes from the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata and mythological lore like the Dashavatara and Bhagavatha in the form of paintings.

Some artists lent their imagination exclusively to different poses of Krishna, particularly as Jagannath, the reigning lord of Puri. As time passed by, artists experimented with different motifs which they etched ever so delicately on the fragile looking yet sturdy eco-friendly canvases.

This art was so charming and fascinating that the artisans who were interested in the art congregated in the district of Puri and worked together on various projects.

The act of contributing their talent and enterprise on a large scale continues till date. In fact, it is very heartening to note that the Government of India has allotted an exclusive area called Craft Village in Raghuraipur in the district of Puri.

The tourist department of the state has included a sojourn to this haven of art to ensure that all the visitors to the state have an opportunity to have at least a glimpse of this intricate art in the making.

Even small children of this village are encouraged to learn this art form. They generally start with etching figures of landscapes, animals, birds and flowers on their own. They are then guided into the primary stage of the art of fine etching when they are taught engraving short popular verses from the Bhagavadgita, Bible and Koran with a steady, beautiful hand.

Of late, some enterprising artists use fabric and acrylic oil paints to colour their art. They have also evolved colourful stickers of the traditional art which can be transferred to the processed leaves. These ravishing stickers appear exotic but are bestowed with a very short life (for they peel off when scratched accidentally) unlike their original counterparts which have withstood the test of time.

This novel method is only a couple of years old and is used mainly for making book marks, greeting cards, invitation cards, company annual agendas and brochures. Several prestigious companies of national and international repute are opting for this art form increasingly.

Tala patachitra artists are very possessive and proud of their rich heritage and do not want to compromise on the well proven ancient technique. Moreover, the response of the market for their native art is steady and is going global — enough to keep their hearts and hearths warm!