“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!

Self Respect Vs Ego


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Most misunderstandings and rifts in personal and social relationships can be resolved if people start discerning the difference between having self respect and being egotistic. Oftentimes the two traits are confused for one another. While the former is commendable, the latter can prove to be detrimental. The Mahabharatha chronicles the tale of the foremost Guru Drona who rose to great heights because of his self respecting nature and fell from grace because of his bruised ego.

The immensely talented man of humble origin gained employment as the teacher of martial arts to the princes of Hastinapura. Though the royal household came forth to sponsor his living expenses and that of his family, he politely but firmly declined the offer. Drona had a son about the age of the Kuru princes. Yet never once did the self respecting teacher encourage his son to partake or enjoy the privileges of his highly placed peers. He lived and provided for his family within his means.

Once, his child Ashwaththama saw his regal friends drinking milk. The curious child longed to taste the white liquid. When he expressed his desire to his parents, he was given a tumbler of wheat flour mixed with water which the child drank happily thinking that it was milk. Drona could have had all the milk his son needed. Nevertheless the self respecting man would not accept any help from his employers before it was time to collect his rightful Gurudakshina.

It was around this time Drona’s wife Kripi reminded him of his childhood friend who had become the king of Panchala and requested his friend to seek his help. Drona was reluctant in the beginning, but went along all the same to meet his friend for old times’ sake.

Unfortunately for him, Drupada refused to take cognizance of him and behaved high-handedly. Drona was deeply hurt when his erstwhile chum offered him cows by way of charity to a Brahmin as against the token of friendship. Drona vowed to trounce Drupada’s arrogance.

One thing led to another and to make a long story short when the master’s self respect manifested itself as his ugly ego he failed miserably, to the point that his dead body was beheaded by Drupada’s son Dhrishtadyumna.

Amazing Curry Leaves


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Know your ingredient

The number of tales and proverbs revolving around the humble curry leaf can make an interesting volume. No cook worth his or her salt can ever claim to have completed cooking unless the spicy delicacies are garnished or seasoned with a spray of curry leaves.

The unique flavour and colour of the leaf which seemed to deliver the nourishment, taste and aesthetic appeal of gourmet were certainly not missed by our ancestors.

The leaves were incorporated into the daily menu as the quintessential seasoning and sometimes as the main ingredient in chutneys and exclusive kozhambus. The fact that the curry leaves have traveled halfway across the world for more or less similar uses gives little room for speculation about its necessity to make dishes exclusive.

A good cook will optimize the use of these leaves by judging their freshness. The young sprays of a lighter green taste best when added to salads or garnished freshly on food and in buttermilk. The
mature leaves have the ability to release their essence entirely when boiled along, fried, ground or used when seasoning is the first step of the chosen recipe.

Drying or dried leaves can be allowed to dry completely in the shade and powdered and can be tossed into curries, gravies, sambar and rasam among other such foods when you run out of fresh leaves or happen to live in places that cannot grow this herb.

Unresolved Misery, Remorse Can Be Fatal


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There are moments in life when nothing seems to be under our control. An incident from the Ramayana enumerates one such situation. When king Dasharatha fixed the coronation of his beloved son Rama, he hastened to his favourite queen’s chamber to break the news to her personally. Little did the king realise that Kaikeyi’s mind had been poisoned by her maid Manthara. He was shocked beyond words when he heard her demands to redeem the two boons given by him long ago. He could not digest the idea of exiling his dearest son to the forests for 14 years after fixing his coronation. He was also not very open to the idea of crowning Kaikayi’s son Bharatha as the king of Ayodhya. Repeated pleas to his dear wife got him nowhere and he swooned from time to time. The king was truly caught between the devil and the deep sea.

On the one hand, he could not even dream of going back on his promise because he was a man of his word. On the other hand, he could not bring himself to inflict an undeserving heinous punishment on his faultless son. He tried to cajole and coax his beautiful queen. When she refused to respond, he berated her and even threatened her about her impending widowhood. When she refused to budge from her obstinate demands, he wondered if he was at the receiving end of his own Karma. He imagined that he must have separated thousands of cows from their calves, mothers from their sons and wives from their husbands to have merited such a state. He tried to recollect all the possible evil deeds that may have been perpetrated by him to reap such misery. He succumbed to his end without putting up a fight as he was depressed beyond measure.

Natural disasters, death of a beloved person or separation from a loved one can leave us devastated. Any amount of solace cannot reverse the incident. When misery and remorse envelop us, it will be better for us to accept the situation and contemplate on the next step forward. On the other hand if we choose to wallow in our despondency we might tumble into a bottomless pit of sorrow which can push us to a state of depression or death.

Save Yourself from Rainy Days


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Radha Prathi, March 24, 2017

problem It has been identified that water has a tendency to seep into adjoining walls that are at different levels. 

Come rainy season, and urban India is on tenterhooks, when it comes to their houses.

The reasons for these are many, ranging from poor construction to lack of a good rainwater draining system. Sometimes, a good many number of building parts, or even entire buildings have little or no exposure to sunlight. Correcting these anomalies is beyond the realms of practicality. Such being the case, it will be only wise to take the next best recourse.

Architects, builders, consumers and the waterproofing industry have identified the problems associated with moisture in buildings and have come up with solutions that can keep the building dry for the most part of the year. When the rainy season sets in, they have come up with techniques that will get the water off the building fast, so that pooling and leaking of water into the structure can be contained. Adding slopes in the roofing area wherever possible and rainwater harvesting project incorporated into buildings can stem this problem to a large extent.

It has been identified that water has a tendency to seep into the adjoining walls that are at different levels. Extra care during construction and plastering of these areas can control the damage caused due to dampness. Sometimes, water seepage can happen when there is error in the installation of the plumbing system. Then there are those instances when there can be inadequate surface preparation, improper use of primers, failure to take into account the thermal and wind movements of the structure etc which can undermine the strength of the construction over a period of time.

No matter what the problem, there are mostly ready-to-use products available that can repair possible damages to the buildings. If you are constructing a new facility, you can use them in the first instance, but if you are trying to protect an old home, you might have to walk that extra mile. Nevertheless, you can be sure that it is worth the effort.

Structural waterproofing

Open areas like balconies, porches and terrace slabs, which tend to be exposed to rainwater directly and for a longer time, will do well to mix admixes which will plasticise the walls and plug in the pores so that they do not retain water and absorb it later. As always, the market offers a range of these admixes with various grades of plasticising agents both in the paste and powder form. People looking at longevity of their constructions even have the options to fill hollow cement bricks with this mixture to make it waterproof from within.

Roof & terrace

It is universal knowledge that the roof and the terrace of any building are always exposed to the natural elements. This, coupled with bad upkeep can make the area develop cracks. Hence, waterproofing the terrace can protect it. You really do not need professionals to do this job, for the method is very simple. Sweep the terrace clean, wash it with clear water. Leak-guard pastes available off the shelf can be used to plug in cracks, dents and chipped area of the terrace.

Similarly, waterproof powder and chemical can also be bought in any hardware shop. Mix the powder as instructed in a bucket of clear water and apply the liquid to the surface with a wide paint brush. Apply a second coat after three hours and be rest assured that your terrace is safe for the next three to four years. As of now, there are no permanent waterproofing techniques for the roof; hence the need to repeat the exercise time and again.

Basement

Basement areas tend to become swimming pools during monsoons. The slope and the rainwater drains don’t help much, unless planned and executed well. You can prevent your basement from becoming redundant if you use appropriate waterproofing. While new basements can use structural procedure, old buildings have to first release the surface of the mould. Fumigation and subjecting the area to hot air blasts can clean it to a large extent. If the walls of the basement have started chipping or flaking, it will be worth the investment to get them plastered again before working on the floor.

Then, use non-metallic heavy duty floor hardener to reinforce the floor. Though this measure is costly, it has a long life and can be easy to clean and maintain. Waterproofing buildings has come of age. There are plenty of options in terms of both price and quality. The best time to waterproof buildings will be summer. Make sure that your homes and offices wear their rainproof cover before the first drizzle.

Dignity Of Labour


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Each one of us would like to lead a life of luxury. If that is not possible we at least crave for a life of comforts. There is nothing wrong in wishing so! Yet the fact remains that, not everyone can land a white-collared job.

All the same, let us imagine that the wishful thinking of our collective conscience is translated into reality by the universe. The world would be chaotic. Who will grow the food for us? Who will tailor our clothes for us and clean up after us? You must have got the drift by now. We are a close-knit world where each one of us contributes directly or indirectly to the well being of another. Such being the case, it will be ridiculous for us to assume that one job is superior to another in terms of importance. If everyone does their job conscientiously and earnestly, not only will the world be a better place, we can march ahead of time.

The Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas record the life story of king Harishchandra who was known for his impeccable integrity and his unswerving principle to honour his promise at any cost.

The king of Ayodhya unwittingly got into a situation where he was obliged to pay an astronomical amount of gold to sage Vishwamitra. All the wealth in his treasury could not redeem his promise.

Though the sage tauntingly told the ruler that he was ready to negate the amount, Harishchandra would not hear of it. He gave up his kingdom to pay the price of the capital amount. He still owed the dakshina to Vishwamitra. The king decided to work off the loan. Since the sage had no use for him, he sold his wife and son to a Brahmin as slaves and paid part of the amount. Then the sovereign sold himself to a grave keeper and took up the life of a Chandala in right earnest just in order to honour his promise.

The ability of the king not to stand on formality and take up his diversely varied roles seriously speaks about the importance of dignity of labour. That Harishchandra underwent harsher travails to prove his worth is another story.

Memory Vs Photographs


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Even as I saw the zillionth person clicking pictures or selfies and sharing them relentlessly, I inadvertently stepped into my personal realm of nostalgia. I remember that we did the most enjoyable things around our homes and with our families, but they were rarely photographed. Every evening, my metre-long tresses would be braided into a plait, and a tassel (kuchchu) would mark the end of it.

Long strings of jasmine buds would be woven around it. Once, a special day was earmarked for me to wear a moggina jade (a readymade pad with jasmine buds and an occasional rose fit on the back of the head and the plait). This red-lettered day was preceded by elaborate preparations.

My mom sourced fresh mehendi leaves, ground them into a fine paste, and applied it on my palms and feet before the event. The following morning, I was given a traditional oil bath and the fumes of frankincense were waved over my drying hair to perfume it. Then, I wore the traditional silk skirt, some pieces of antique jewellery, and got ready to get my hair braided and wear moggina jade. After receiving glowing compliments from all our guests, I was relieved of the same with equal care. I thoroughly enjoyed the exercise while it lasted, and have ruminated on it many times over.

As the years rolled by, I used to feel a little vexed with my parents for not having photographed me in my moment of crowning glory. I would be tersely told that the enjoyment was the reward, while photographing it would have amounted to merely documenting it. Their explanation used to irk me all the more because it sounded like a lame excuse for not having thought of it.

I entertained uncharitable thoughts about their miserliness until one day, when a family friend began showing us her holiday album.

The pictures were glossy and beautiful, but the smiling lady who was ever-present in all of them had little memory of the place or its distinction, or even the names of the other members of the group, because she was always grooming herself to look good in the shots.

It was then that I understood the meaning of what I had been told. A photograph of my long braid would have merely retained the visual. I might have been happy and proud of the picture, but might have relegated it to an album and put it away safely.

However, the fact that it was not photographed possibly preserved the memory of the smells and sounds associated with the event.

Surprisingly, quite a few of them who had seen me enjoying my moment in the sun also seem to remember it quite well, and have since shared it with their spouses and children.

It happened long ago. Few people wielded the camera then. Yet, special moments of the privileged were captured on camera. Since they were far and few, they attained the status of precious family and national heirlooms. Today, technology has made photographing a cake walk. However, we must remember that if we spend all the time behind the lens, we may not have memories attached to them when we look at them at a later date. Let us not miss the woods for the trees.