Spending Summer Vacations


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 !



From Art to Heart


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.”

New Age Challenges of Teaching Undergrads


By S Radha Prathi, Dec 21, 2016,

Teaching at the undergraduate level is increasingly becoming a challenge even to the most enterprising, enthusiastic and experienced of teachers these days. Barring a handful of undergraduates, most students are hardly ever interested in the course. For most urban youth, it is a passage of rite to be fulfilled before they enter the world at large to pursue their vocations, businesses, jobs or personal lives.

Lecturers and professors both old and young who had gathered at a national seminar seemed to be speaking in one voice on their pet subjects. They began with the most sacred ritual of marking attendance which gains sacrosanct dimensions especially towards the end of the academic year.

The UGC insists on a minimum of 75% attendance requirement before taking up the prescribed examinations from time to time. Every student who falls short of the mark, unable to get a proxy or have the means to circumvent the problem, makes it a point to be there towards the end.

These students add to the nuisance value in the classroom because they are unaware of what is transpiring in the room and that naturally keeps them diverted. Interestingly, they are the ones who come up with ideas of having special classes in a bid to step up their attendance quotient.

These days, the courts stand testimony to the increasing numbers of affidavits filed by erring students suing colleges for depriving them of the attendance that would have enabled them to take up examinations.

Attendance has been boiled down to the level of being physically present in the campus. Never mind if you are late, distracted or have misbehaved in the lecture hall. A couple of medical certificates and wedding cards genuine or otherwise have the powers to set matters right.

Neither the students nor their parents seem to be unduly worried about the learning curve that could have shot up if discipline and diligence were employed. This act  is nothing but a sterling example of how colleges inadvertently nurture downright carelessness laced with rudeness which gains legal validation because of obscure processing.

Gone are the days when lectures were interrupted by garrulous youth and giggly girls who indulged in small talk or biting into a morsel of food during the serious hour. These days they are otherwise occupied checking or sending messages on their cell phones, that is if they are not playing or shopping.

If they are asked to deposit their instruments outside before a guest lecture, each one will take their own sweet time to make “suitable arrangements” before taking leave of their external organ for an hour or two.

Internet age
Taking down lecture notes is passé, because graduating youngsters believe that everything worth learning can be found on the internet. Necessary course material can always be bought, photocopied, scanned or stolen if necessary. Most pupils are not interested when there are relevant digressions from the topic because they do not figure in the scheme of the portions prescribed for examinations.

On the one hand, they want to be treated like adults when reprimanded for permissive public behaviour; on the other, they want to be spoon fed with the exact mark allotment for each question.

It is ironical to note that the youth of the world which believes in worldwide networking do not make an attempt to see the interrelated nature of subjects which can go a long way in shaping them as sensible and sensitive global citizens.
The harsh truth is students no longer learn to gain knowledge but to earn degrees. They attend college for the frivolous social ambience and not for getting a panoramic on various subjects. Politics, groupies and sectarian views have substituted the secular outlook.

Examinations, mark sheets and certificates have become passports to the first jobs which are usually procured through campus interviews. Hence, it is no wonder students are becoming increasingly removed from the teacher-taught equation. They have forgotten that being a graduate is not about procuring document, it is about graduating to a higher phase in life and emerging as a better human being who has some expertise over the chosen subject.

Matters will improve only if we are able to instill a love for learning in the young or just devalue degrees of the ones who do not measure up to display basic knowledge of the chosen subject and show evidence of etiquettes demanded of a graduate.

The Right To Play

The mehendi ceremony was on. There were about half a dozen beautifully clothed and bedecked girls waiting in the sidelines for their turns. I happened to be sitting right behind them and could not help listening to their chatter. What started as crackling fun talk amongst long lost cousins, soon took sombre undertones. 

Apparently, some of them were app-earing for the board exams that year and the others would be treading the haloed path soon. They discussed about their tight schedules when most of their waking hours were spent in attending school, special classes, tuitions, mock tests et al.

When they were not flitting from one venue to another in pursuit of academic excellence, they were sweating it out with assignments, projects and studying. Soon enough, their smugness gave way to the boredom of banality. One of them hesitatingly mentioned how she resented the pressure. The others agreed empathetically.

Just then, the mother of one of the girls came along. She passed a tab to her daughter and asked the girl to revise her theorems, instead of wasting her time. She smiled at the other girls and told them that all of them should also be studying too, if at all they hoped to emerge winners in the rat race. The girls shook their heads exasperatedly.

A septuagenarian, who happened to see the onset of the study session in the marriage hall, sighed aloud. She remarked how the world opened a plethora of opportunities to girls these days. In her time, most girls were married off before they completed high school. She patted their heads affectionately and went her way.

Almost immediately, one of the girls remarked how lucky the old lady and her contemporaries were. Another young woman said she was paying the penalty for being born in the wrong age. As the discussion took an unexpected turn, it sounded like utterly nonsense whining in an age where generations of people have fought tooth and nail for the Right to Education especially for the girl child. Yet, a little reflection revealed that urban students studying in private schools, which take pride in spectacular results, are being overburdened in the name of education these days. The insecurities and frustrations of the youngsters sometimes reach a point of vexation which prompts them to run away from home or precipitates as suicide attempts when they fall short of expectations or fail. If we hope to make education an enriching exercise, we must remember that all work and no play will make Jack a dull boy and Jill a dull girl!

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.

Make Your Own Zany Bookmarks


Are you sometimes at a loss as to what to do when you are bored? Why don’t you make bookmarks for yourself and your friends?

Usually bookmarks are long strips of thick paper with cartoons, cool pictures or funny sayings.
Here’s a quick and simple way of making very special bookmarks. You would need a few ice-cream spoons, varnish, two round brushes numbered triple zero and a set of fabric paints.
*  Apply varnish on either side of an ice-cream spoon
*  Paint the hair line, eyebrows, eyes and eyelash of the Indian woman’s face with utmost care, in black
*  Use a pale shade of red to draw a line to suggest the nose.
*  Use maroon to paint the lips and mark a bright red bindi on the forehead
*  You could dab tiny green and gold in dots along the neckline to imply a necklace
*  You could sign and write a brief message on the back of the spoon with an ink pen
Your exotic Indian face is ready for use as an unusual bookmark.1 (5)

DIY — Wired Penstand


The next time you come across a lot of plastic bottles, think twice before you dispose them; they could be turned into covetable objects of utility and beauty if you care to spend some time and imagination.

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Look at the picture alongside, to make a similar stand which can be used to place stationery, spoons or toothbrushes you need, used one-litre water bottles, a skein of plastic wire usually used for making clothesline, blade, adhesive, sequins, a lighted candle.


Cut the bottle, so that it measures five or six inches in height by using a hacksaw blade. Clean the base of the bottle thoroughly and rub the open end on a rough floor or stone to even out rough edges.

Burn one end of the wire at a burning candle to prevent it from unwinding at a later point of time. Apply adhesive on the bottle’s surface and wind the wire around evenly from top to bottom and see to it that the layers do not overlap each other. Burn the end of the wire again at the end of the exercise to ensure that the wire remains intact. Stick sequins of a contrasting colour in a pattern of your choice uniformly around the pen stand before you put it into use.

DIY— Plaster Of Paris – Elephants


Most streets in big cities and highways are generally dotted with wayside vendors who sell plaster-of-Paris idols.

Unleash your creativity: How about some craft this Deepavali to serve as a decor element.PHOTO BY THE AUTHORMost of these remain uncoloured while a few are stained in golden, silver and bronze shades. These statues and flower vases come in some delightful classical and mythological forms. They are light and are available at relatively competitive prices.

A little effort, talent and patience on your part can transform these figurines into fabulous looking artifacts. You will need oil-based primer, water colours, fabric pearl colours and sparkle colours. Flat brushes numbered six and two round brushes numbered one and triple zero will see you through the transformation.

The only drawback with this form of art is that it is extremely fragile and can break if handled with excessive pressure. Take care that you handle the item with care when working on it. Wash the plaster of Paris articles thoroughly with water to remove the dust and grime from it. Apply a coat of oil-based primer using the flat brush and let it dry.

Use the round brushes numbered one and apply water colours according to your taste. Then, apply a primary coat on the figurine. You can overlook the nuances and the small embossed sections of the statue at this stage. This procedure will be helpful in giving the final product a fine finish and also will help you conserve considerably on the use of the expensive pearl paint. The water colour layer can be covered by pearl paint of similar or varying shades of the base colour.

Once the pearl colouring is done with, use the triple zero brush to work on the finer points to highlight the work on the figurine. Apply sparkle paints at strategic spots to highlight the work. Observe the intricate designs on the caparison and the forehead and trunk ornament of the elephant; you could innovate and integrate creative aspects according to the necessity of the statue that you may be working on. The finished product will certainly turn out to bring you much pride. As far as possible, place the painted artifact in a glass showcase so that it does not gather dust.

You can wash it with plain water when it gathers a lot of dust and let it dry on its own. This care will preserve your artistic endeavour for years to come.



You have probably seen similar wall hangers on road sides sold at very nominal rates.

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Though there happens to be a steady market for this piece of handicraft, there is a tribe of people who refrain from purchasing these floral hangings just because they do not have the stamp of being exclusive. Here is a something you can craft on your own by giving it your special personal touch.

For this you will need ice candy sticks which are readily available in the market. You can also buy a few rare varieties of artificial flowers like sunflowers, gerberas, buttercups, marigold or buttercups instead of the regular roses and leaves which will compliment the flowers. You will need a quarter meter of green ribbon, some gold or silver coloured sequins a tube of glue and some varnish.

* First apply varnish on the ice candy sticks to give it the glossy look.

* If you happen to have old and curdled nail polish add a few drops of acetone to it and use it instead of varnish the effect will be much more glamorous.

* Once the ice candy sticks are dry, arrange them in a crisscross pattern till you are satisfied with the resultant shape of the grill and glue them into place.

* Stick the chosen sequins in the mid points where the ice candy sticks cross each other to give it the nailed in look.

* Bring out the assortment of the flowers you have and arrange them in the company of the leaves till you feel good about it. (Please keep in mind that you should not go in for too many dissimilar flowers especially if your stick grill is very small.)

* Stick the leaves first and then glue the flowers onto it so that the leaves will appear to be in the background and also allow some of the sequins to peep from here and there.

* Fold the green satin ribbon into a loop, turn the grill over and paste the ribbon all the way across the diagonal of the crisscrossed grill.

* This will help the ribbon to bear the weight of the piece without any strain.

* Even if the green ribbon appears to peep out at places, it will not be an eyesore because it will blend with the leafy greenery which is on the front side of the grill.

* Now you will have your very own wall hanging ready. These finished pieces can be hung over study tables or even mantelpieces.

* They can really stand out in narrow or small wall areas. They look their best when they brighten the pelmet regions above the door or when hung on the doors themselves.

Christmas Décor


Christmas is round the corner.

If you have still not decided about the decoration for the coming event, here are a few eco-friendly and cost effective ideas to do up your place. Make sure that your attempt at beautifying gratifies all the senses.

Collect the outer leafy covers of maize and sort them out in terms of size. Bring out your water colours and brushes and streak the leafy covers in various hues and leave them to dry. Staple each whorl to the tip of the last whorl to desired lengths and hang them up as festoons.

Collect coconut husks and tear them apart with your fingers till they appear uniform in texture.

Spread them evenly on a newspaper. Bring out your turmeric or powdered food colours. Sprinkle the colour over the husk. Repeat the process with various colours of your choice. You can use the coloured husks as the flooring of the manger.

Bring out all the Xmas and New Year cards that you have received. Tie a string across the manger area and clip the cards on the string at equal intervals. You could fasten balloons in the gaps to add to the festive look. Bring out all the unused plastic water bottles and cut them in such a way that the conical part is separated from the rest.

Fill the cylindrical base with different coloured waters (use food colours or paints) and place them strategically in the main décor or as a border. Float multi-coloured sequins in them during the day and lighted candles in them during evenings.

When placing lit candles in open areas, place the conical section of the bottle sans the cap over them so that they serve as a unique transparent lampshade. Fill small plates with chocolates and toffees wrapped in bright colours as little mounds and place them between the candles. These can be given away to young guests and refilled from time to time.

If you have interesting pictures or posters relevant to the holiday season tape them onto the background wall tastefully.

Flower arrangement need not always translate into bouquets; buy a couple of yards of strung marigold or chrysanthemum which are likely to last for a couple of days in this weather and hang them as festoons. The smell of these flowers will keep the mosquitoes and flies away.

Light incense sticks and place them in potted plants, so that the ash can spill into the soil besides making the area fragrant.

Play soft instrumental music to please the ears while filling the home with harmony.