Spending Summer Vacations


https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/right-in-the-middle/spending-summer-vacations-732995.

The young working mothers association of our layout got together in the middle of February. I was given the privilege of being party to their brainstorming session, despite being much older.   Even as their children were preparing for their final examinations they were planning ahead for the summer vacations. Wanting to give the best for their kids they planned a short trip to some exotic destination, preferably abroad. Then they wanted to enroll the kids in a couple of summer camps ranging from fine arts, sports, soft skills, cooking et al to keep them usefully occupied. I was involved in this melee to give an unbiased picture of the logistics regarding the timings, route and to allot responsibilities to parents on picking up and dropping off  the children.

Even as each lady was vocalizing her preference, I slipped into memory lane. During my summer holidays my brother and I usually visited our grandparents, various aunts and uncles and had a good time with our cousins. Each day we would be involved in some stages of preparing elaborate ethnic dishes and savour them in the late afternoons. Then we would sift through knickknacks and listening to stories about  family heirlooms. Playing with the dog, cats and kittens, reading our favourite comic books and books from the library took away most of our afternoons. The evenings would be spent with local friends at the park. Late evenings would see us help out with petty shopping, plucking jasmine buds sorting out our stuff and so on. We would be regaled with family stories across generations and then we would spend time looking at framed photographs which graced the walls and old albums identifying the people in the stories. Power cuts which were an integral part of summers in an era which did not possess alternate power options were spent in marathon sessions of reciting multiplication tables, conjugating verbs in different languages, playing word building or Atlas and singing songs by candle light. Sometimes we wrote long letters to friends back home or copied out address books, recipes and other such inventories using our calligraphy skills to the optimum.

As I slipped out of nostalgia amidst the chatter I jotted down the ground rules that were agreed upon. The kids were to be engaged from dawn to dusk hopping from one center to another in the route where parents could pick up or drop them en route to their workplace. The budget allotted was around ten thousand rupees per child. Never mind the interest of the child or the contents of the classes. I had a good mind to tell them that I did not subscribe to their ideas, but then remembered my role was to help them organize their schedules. And summer vacation for them was about keeping their kids safe and engaged while they brought home the moolah. The sands of time had shifted, so had the idea of a vacation !

 

 

Accomodating Our elders


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A random study of the civilisations across the globe reveals that mankind as a single unit has certainly recognised the fact that it is inevitable that man grows older and experiences a deterioration of his faculties and general health over a period of time.

In spite of this physical weakening, he grows stronger in spirit and emerges as a wise person which he derives from the various experiences of life.
Perhaps an African proverb which goes, “A library dies when a old man dies” speaks volumes about how the elderly were looked upon in the past.

As each day rolls by we grow older, little realising that old age will be taking toll of us very soon. Yet most young people have a firm belief that they will never age and hence become insensitive to the older people around them.

The ever-growing number of old-age homes in a traditional country like India is an alarming development that needs to be checked as early as possible.
At this point it will be of essence to remember an old fable where a man served his aged father gruel on a cracked plate day after day as he felt that he had no more benefits to reap from the old man.

One day, when the old man left home with disgust and melancholy because of the treatment meted out to him, the young grandson picked up the cracked plate, cleaned it and wrapped it up neatly in a brown paper. When the surprised father asked him to explain his action, the little boy said that he was keeping the plate safely so that he could serve gruel on the plate when his own father became old and infirm.

This answer struck the father like a lightning and he immediately set off to find his own father filled with remorse and guilt.

Even as the world is progressing, old-age homes mushrooming around the world are taking the role of a reliable support system.

Each of us will do well to remember that we must not let the golden chance of showing our gratitude to the elders who shaped our lives slip by. After all did they not spend the best part of their lives caring for us?

The Art of Milking


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S.RADHA PRATHI

Survival on earth is becoming a challenge these days because we are being constantly riddled by environmental issues. A little introspection will reveal that we have no one else except ourselves to blame for the dire straits that we have landed ourselves into.

It is interesting to note that the Vishnu Purana documents a story on parallel lines. When our planet was ruled over by emperor Prithu thousands of years ago, there was a severe drought. Lack of water and food killed the flora and fauna without discretion.

Then a group of Rishis called upon the sovereign to find the riches hidden within the bowels of the earth to save the dying. Prithu was livid when he learned that the earth had not been sharing the life-saving resources with her people. He immediately wanted to release a lethal arrow to tear the earth open and release the treasures.

Almost immediately, the earth metamorphosed into a cow and fled the scene. The sovereign chased the bovine till both of them were exhausted. Eventually the chaser and the chased struck a deal. Mother Earth, who had assumed the form of a cow conceded to give the treasures of food, water, precious gems and minerals in a measured manner, if she was milked gently and judiciously by the king.

Prithu agreed and donned the role of the regal milkman and the earth yielded in the capacity of a milch cow. It is said that the earth is also known as Prithvi or the daughter of Prithu post this incident.

The metaphor will reveal that milking is an art which involves patience, knack and the knowledge of when to stop without draining the udders completely so that it can replenish itself over a period of time.

When we reflect on this fable, it is easy to see that the earth faced a drought because of the exploitation of her resources. Prithu, the representative of mankind could not retrieve the resources violently.

If we, the denizens of this earth, imbibe the basic rules of milking, like Prithu did and refrain from stripping our planet of her resources, we will leave posterity its rightful legacy.

TIME AND TIDE WAIT FOR NONE


This story was published in the student edition of Deccan Herald on

18th December 2018

“ I will start studying from New Year”, “ I will clean up my room from the first of January”, “ I will continue with my Guitar classes from 2019”,  “ I  will  stop playing with the smart phone after I check all the new year greetings on Whatsapp”, “ I will not touch chocolates, cakes and chips after the New Year party.” Perhaps one of these or many more such lines are doing the rounds. Are you also making some such promise to yourself? The spirit of festive season can certainly have a very therapeutic and rejuvenating effect on people. Hence it is no wonder everyone is filled with the enthusiasm to make resolutions towards personal betterment. Well, there is nothing wrong with the zeal. After all new beginnings have a way of bringing positive changes and progress.

By the way, do you remember the story of “The Hare and the Tortoise”? Once the two animals were talking to each other and suddenly the hare started making fun of the tortoise for its slow gait. The tortoise laughed with the hare for a while but soon became very angry and upset. Therefore he told the hare that the two of them could enter a race which would decide the winner. The hare laughed at the idea for he was sure that he would win hands down. Nevertheless, he agreed to enter the race because he wanted to snub the tortoise for his overconfidence. On the day of the race, the two creatures set out from the start line. After a minute or two, the hare decided to rest for a while, and catch up later. The pleasant weather made him fall asleep. The tortoise noticed this, but did not stop in his tracks. He plodded on, in his naturally slow manner and reached the finish line a couple of hours later. In the meanwhile, the hare had fallen asleep, when he got up after several hours; he rubbed his eyes and scampered to the post, only to find the tortoise waiting for him at the Finish line. The hare felt very ashamed of his over confidence which made him lose out to someone who was obviously lots slower than him.

Though most of us know this story we fail to realise that we behave like the hare. We might have the right resources, guidance and support but we fail to make use of them to achieve our goals. Instead we waste our precious time on distractions which do us no good. We begin with a lot of eagerness and then it starts fading away. Therefore we are left with a lot of projects that are unfinished, promises that are broken and ideas that are not executed.

If you jog down the memory lane, you will remember that you too were bubbling over with the same kind of energy last December and perhaps earlier Decembers too! You began well, but most of you lost track of your goals like the hare because of several reasons. Some of your resolutions were forgotten or were found to be impractical and then there were some resolutions which bored you to tears and some others which could be done at a later date. If only you had shown some consistency in working on your resolutions like the tortoise, you could have succeeded in accomplishing your plans after all slow and steady wins the race!

Yet your attitude shows that you have neglected your own promises to yourself. If you don’t respect your own words then how can you expect others to do so?

You still have some time to redeem your promises before your start making new ones, make sure that you use it wisely and well for Time and Tide Wait for None!

 

 

 

Palm Leaf Paper


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Long long ago in India, when children of your age went to schools known as the Guru Kula they had lots to study just like you but they certainly did not have to write as much as you do! They committed whatever they learned to memory and sometimes noted down some very important definitions or formulas on palm leaves for later reference. You see they did not have note books then as you have them these days! If you are wondering whether they were lucky, unfortunately they are not around here to answer your question but they were certainly an eco-friendly lot as they were not using reams of paper made from trees!!! In such a case you could always argue that the palm leaves they used were also sourced from trees! Very true, indeed! In those days there was really no dearth of palm fronds, besides the rudiments of language like grammar and core subjects like science and mathematics were reduced to verses running into two or four lines. These couplets and quartets captured the essence of the subject in as few words as possible. The student had to understand these formulas which were popularly known as “Sutras” and he needed to memorise them to help him remember of all the aspects of the theory at a later date.

They were tested on the subject from time to time orally just like you are tested, but then all of you also take up a written test to show that you have writing skills too ! Perhaps they were spared of the exercise because processing palm fronds into writing material was a long drawn process.

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 used till date. 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 dry partially for a couple of days in  sunlight and then they were then buried in swamps for a week so that they become sturdy and later on the leaves were washed and dried completely in the shade.

Then they were cut along the borders so that they formed rectangular pages which measured eight to twelve inches in breadth and about an inch or two in height. Some times when longer sheets of palm paper were required they were sewn together using plant fiber.

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 it made a depression without actually damaging the leaf. Then powdered vegetable dyes usually green or charcoal powder made from burnt coconut shells were mixed with sesame oil and rubbed over the leaves in such a way that the colours settle down in the depressions. Then the palm leaves were coated with turmeric powder mixed with sesame oil to add sheen and strength to the leaves. Then they were bundled together and wrapped in silk or cotton cloth for safe keeping. Our ancient texts like the Vedas, Puranas, the epics, scripts of plays and treatises have been passed on to us on palm paper.

Possibly this is the reason why we are able to see manuscripts preserved in this manner for over a millennium in a fairly good condition in spite of the gross neglect they are subjected to.

Over a period of time when paper was invented and mechanization made it possible for it to be easily available paper made from palm leaves made an exit. Today these processed leaves are used as canvass on which creative artists showcase their talent.

If you happen to be traveling in Orissa make sure you visit a small village called Raghuraipur in the district of Puri. There are several craftsmen and artists who make a living there by etching wonderful designs on processed palm leaves. Even little children in the village know how to make the longer lasting palm paper. Now that you have an insight into the method, why don’t you try making your own name plate on processed palm leaf?

Traversing with Technology


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Published in the school edition of Deccan Herald

By S. RADHA PRATHI

Mankind is zooming forth on the technological path paving new possibilities and discovering unseen horizons. So how can the field of education be left behind?

The digital era has dawned in the classrooms of urban India in a very subtle way. The black board has been displaced by an interactive monitor. The daily attendance is marked on an electronic pad; information about the absentees is communicated in real time to the parents and guardians. Circulars regarding timetables, holidays etc curriculum updates, mark sheets, fee receipts and even homework or project instructions are sent via Whatsapp messages. Teachers use power point presentations and show relevant videos found on You Tube to elucidate a point. Students are also encouraged to surf the internet and research on topics suggested by teachers and make power point presentations. Studying the theoretical and practical aspects about the world of computers has become a mandatory feature of Indian academics right from the Primary school.

Ever since the ministry of education has made it imperative to fix cameras in all the feasible areas of the schools with the exception of the toilets, it has become easier to monitor any kind of defaulting behaviour or heinous activity.

High end schools and colleges have already introduced customised notepads in which text books, summaries, notes, worksheets, sample question papers and reference material have been uploaded. Unit Tests and surprise tests are conducted in the multiple choice question pattern and results are declared immediately to apprise students of their performance levels. Digital libraries and prolific use of Kindle in educational institutions have emerged like silver linings in a time when we are desperately trying to conserve trees. Some schools even record class room teaching hours and relay them in real time or leave them as library records so that absentees and other students can have access to them as and when necessary. School and college day functions, farewell parties, ethnic and sports day celebrations are being recorded and saved on clouds for posterity. More recently a news buzz about several rural schools in India going digital is a clear indicator that we are stabilizing on the digital track.

A bird’s view of the digital scene can fill one with a sense of fulfillment.  We have reached a state where we can rub shoulders with the developed countries of the world. A lot of clerical work has been circumvented. Records are being maintained and are easy to reckon with as and when necessary. Teachers do not have to do repetitive work. They can save diagrams, charts, graphs, maps and such other teaching aids as soft copies and use them several times over and conserve their effort and time. Students and teachers find it convenient to compare past performances with the current scores. Interaction among the three arms of the golden triangle namely the student, teacher and student has become smoother and transparent.

No less than a hundred schools in India have introduced subjects like animation, robotics, gaming and three dimensional recording in their syllabus.

We have reached a point where the members of the arms of the golden triangle are under the impression that equipping oneself in the latest technology can be a protective shield for a sparkling career and a tinkling bank account.

For all eyes to see, it would appear that we are on velvet and the only way from this is forward.New aspects of learning are always welcome. All the same one has to take the age, aptitude and the requirement of the same to be imbibed in young minds at an impressionable age. Besides one must remember that learning is an art and it can be best inculcated orally, visually and by writing or working it out. Perhaps further studies or revision can happen digitally.

If we chose to overlook this dimension of education, it is quite possible that we might end up raising future generations of students who will shirk any work which cannot be done without technology. The path of progress cannot and need not be reversed but we must traverse it mindfully!