01 August, 2015

Ignorance is bliss ?



Check out this half-a-minute video, folks...
There's this neatly turned out 6-7 year old boy. His teacher, asks him to tell the two times multiplication table (in Kannada). He gets it right till '2 x 2 = 4'. After that, he recites pure gibberish..... in the right tone!! Does he think he is telling the table correctly? Or, does he think he is hoodwinking his teacher? From the most innocent expression on his face, I think it is the former....

A couple of months ago, this video was widely shared on local Whatsapp groups. Recorded by this boy's teacher and her colleagues, I'm sure the intention was to spread some laughter..... but, somewhere along, for me, this video stops being funny!
Could be because around the same time as I saw this video, I had read an article in the newspaper. Apparently, the education minister of Karnataka, during his tours of state-run schools throughout the state, discovered that the knowledge levels of high school students were disappointing. He is now thinking of conducting some ability test for Class 7 students. It is a test for assessment only - no detaining students who perform poorly.....  That, according to me, removes all traces of seriousness from tests and exams. If there is no 'pass-fail', the proposed tests will be a futile exercise - another misuse of the taxpayer's money. 

It's not like the minister has made a discovery. It is something that citizens genuinely concerned about the dismal KQ levels in state-run schools have been telling for a long time. This survey is one such. Conducted nearly ten years ago, it is a study that matches the minister's observations. In addition, the authors have come up with practical suggestions to better the situation. One doesn't know why such opinions are ignored. Maybe, the concerned authorities prefer to be selectively ignorant....

Of course, for a balanced society, one needs all kinds of people.  And, in current times, everybody has to be reasonably literate - something that only schooling can assure.  All I can hope for is that by the time they are out of school, all kids are compatible with the three basic R s.............       

30 June, 2015

Chai Stop - no more.....

Five years ago, as a new blogger, I had told my readers not to miss the chai (tea) here if they happened to be passing by....

Two weeks ago, we were there - after a very long time. For old times' sake, we had had our usual chai & chaTTamboDe (daal pakoDas). While writing my earlier post, I was worried about an upcoming temple blocking the view from the tea-cart. My worries had not materialised. Things were more or less the same. This time though, there were lots of fearless monkeys....

While exchanging pleasantries with the affable owner of the tea stall, I asked him about his children. In the past he would always tell us about the daughter who did him proud by topping Tirthahalli taluk  in the Class 10 exams - not a mean achievement for a student studying in a place like Agumbe.

Happy as ever to talk about his children's academic achievements, he told us - amidst chasing monkeys- that both his daughters were engineers working for MNCs in Bangalore, while the son was studying to be an engineer. As an afterthought, he had added that whatever the achievements of his children, he would never give up on his tea stall.....

He then spoke about Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan and how India would have been a very clean place if the first PM of the country had initiated something on a large scale. His logic was that since the citizens had a servile attitude back then, they would have obeyed orders and keeping our surroundings clean would have become a habit with us by now.

 Pleasantries over, we had taken leave of him - exchanging good wishes, etc... little realising that this would be our last meeting with Mr.Premanand.....

Yesterday, local media announced to shocked citizens that Padiyaar Maam (as Mr.Premanand was popularly known) was no more.

From a common acquaintance, we came to know that he had contracted the Kyasanoor Forest Disease, commonly called Monkey Fever because monkeys pass on the deadly virus to humans. Many a time, this fever can be fatal, as it turned out to be for Padiyaar Maam.

A lover of books, one shelf of his cart was dedicated to books, mostly in Kannada. These books, he had told us, were gifts from customers. He would spend all his free time reading them. Customers could read them too - while waiting for their order.

Because people from all walks of life visited his tea-cart, had informal chats with him,... he was a well informed man.  He could talk about a wide range of topics. Thanks to our conversations with him, we knew that he had been featured on Discovery Channel (something to do with catching King Cobras), had done bit roles in the TV series Malgudi Days,....

Like the obituary from his friends (the pic above) says - he will be missed by all those who pass  through Agumbe Ghat. May his soul rest in peace.....   

28 June, 2015

Plant Mythology

 One thing I like about Indian mythology is that we have such beautiful stories about how rivers, plants, flowers, etc. came to be. The stories are so goody-goody and reassuring that sometimes, I wish science and its theories didn't exist! Then, we would have believed these myths to be true, and led uncomplicated lives !!

According to Indian mythology, all plants have been created from the hair of Lord Brahma. I had read this in a book called Brahma's Hair by Maneka Gandhi. The book is a collection of myths and stories from all over the country - of about thirty of our sacred plants and trees - like banyan, jasmine, hibiscus,..... along with some historic and botanical details. Some plants have about 3-4 stories around them! Not so surprisingly, the book has very few stories from the South. Some flowers and trees that have mythological and religious importance here do not find a place at all. I guess, writing an exhaustive book on this subject would be next to impossible......

Quite recently, I have been curious about the mythology behind some flowers endemic to the Western Ghats. The plant is a parasite and is always found attached to the branches of huge trees.... The flowers bloom once a year - just before monsoon sets in.

Here are the flowers I'm talking about...... Wild Orchids.....


                                     All over Karnataka, they are known as either Seeta danDe (Seeta's garland) or Draupadi danDe (Draupadi's garland).  Since Seeta and Draupadi are epics apart, I have always been curious about the origin of these names. After some googling, I came across one gardening blog where the author has explained that Seeta danDe has more flowers and Draupadi danDe has fewer..... because, apparently, Seeta had more time than Draupadi to weave flowers!!

 Whatever the mythology behind them, the flowers in the above pic have a story - a real one........ Last year, a small branch from the huge tree across the road had fallen near our gate. While clearing the debris, I had separated the orchid plant that was attached to the branch and had placed it on a tree inside our fence - simply because I didn't have the heart to throw it away. Three weeks ago, to my great joy, the plant had flowers - the very same ones in the pic - and other newer plants around. As a gardener, it was one of my happiest moments.....The garland is full, but the flowers have some space between them. That's why, I do not know if this is Seeta's garland or Draupadi's!

Now, last week, a branch from another tree nearby had fallen due to heavy winds.
 This branch is loaded with enough orchid plants for me to experiment. I'm going to plant a couple in pots, place a couple on another tree and retain some as it is - on this piece of wood. I'm also hoping that the flowers are not the same as the earlier ones..... 

Let's hope that I can update some joyful and interesting results here next year!!

05 April, 2015

Angrezi media.....Why?

Some days ago, the National film awards were announced. Quite unexpectedly, Sandalwood- the Kannada film industry- had fared well.... especially, a largely unknown actor called Sanchari Vijay.

Vijay won the National award for best actor - for the role of a transgender in a movie called Naanu avanu alla ... avalu (Not a man.... a woman). The best Kannada movie, Harivu (Flow) - about a rural man who brings his ailing son to big city for treatment - has the same Vijay playing the role of the helpless father.

Well.... I had never heard of this man! As a Kannadiga, I was doubly interested (a little guilty too!)..... Google, of course, knew something.  And, the newspapers told us what google knew!!

Last week, I chanced upon the latter half of an interview with Vijay on a Kannada TV channel - with some clips from both movies. From what I saw, the actor has been outstanding in both the movies.......

Of course, the Kannada media has given him due credits.  But, you know, none of the leading Angrezi newspapers have featured him on their Sunday supplements as yet - quite the opposite of what happens when someone from Bollywood wins the National Award.......... Then, we are treated to an overdose of  features on already known actors.  And, when someone from the regional films wins this coveted award, he/ she is not even introduced to the country!!

Why, this treatment??   

26 November, 2014

jugaaD


Necessity is  the mother of invention. And, getting the desired result from available resources is jugaaD

I had come across the word jugaaD for the first time when I heard this song by Kailash Kher. Quite a catchy number - especially, the 'karle jugaaD karle, karle koi jugaaD' bit........

And, it was the first word that came to my mind when I saw this all-weather volleyball/ badminton net at a rubber plantation quite  recently.


When I expressed my admiration, the lady with me explained that it was her husband's idea and workmanship.  Well.... a real net is a luxury that a farmer of limited means cannot afford. This net is the result of a cash-strapped grandfather's desire to add a dash of professionalism to the games played by his grand children..... Only a true sports enthusiast can have the determination and patience to carry out such ideas!

The entire net is made up of stiff, sturdy nylon cord - the kind that's used to fasten heavy parcels.


You'll find such cords in so many homes (including ours!!) - kept on convenient ledges for probable use.... and then, lying around unused for ages and ages!

But, this net has given me an idea. On my next gardening spell, I must experiment with this cord as supporting grids for the vegetable vines......

13 November, 2014

Birthday No.5

Alter Idem turns five today! It means, 'Story-time'....

You know, many a time, when you read a short story, you are not aware of the impact it would have made to the author's career.
 I had read the story Sooryana Kudure by Sri.U.R.Anantamurthy about 5-6 years ago. But, it was only when the author passed away three months ago that I came to know - it is rated as one of the best stories in Indian fiction.

Sooryana Kudure literally means 'The Sun's Mount'. In some dialects of Kannada, it means 'Grasshopper' (the insect). The story is so true- to-life that you can relate to the characters and the narrative if you have lived in the Malnad  for a considerable period! Here goes....

Anantu is on a visit to his hometown. At the market place, he runs into his school-mate and childhood friend, Venkata - the dunce of their class. Venkata is now an expert masseur - cum- astrologer and he convinces Anantu to be his client, and, thus, guest for the day. Though they shared a common childhood, they are now a study in contrast - the erudite professor, and the country bumpkin......

Recollecting their childhood pastimes, talking about their current lives, they walk along to Venkata's house - pausing to take a breath/ acknowledge passersby.... and, finally, to call on the lonely, elderly, bed-ridden neighbour (being looked after by Venkata).

By now, it is obvious to Anantu that behind Venkata's cheerful, easy-going facade lies a life of poverty and wretchedness. While his three daughters are undemanding, the son is a wastrel and a trouble-monger.

Well.... they reach home in good time for lunch. Towards evening, it is time for the oil massage and hot water bath. Meanwhile, Anantu is witness to the son's quarrelsome ways and is quite disturbed by Venkata's helplessness.

The women try to make things better for Anantu by cooking his favourite dishes for dinner. Venkata's wife decides to serve the sweet in a silver bowl for the special guest. Upon opening her safe, she realises that the son has stolen it - along with the other trinkets. Unable to relish the tasty food, Anantu spends a restless night - like the rest of the family. The events of the day keep playing on his mind. His emotions swing from affection to pity to anger towards Venkata - for not keeping his son in check, for breeding frustration by not providing enough......

The next morning, Anantu decides to leave and looks for Venkata. He finds him near the hedge - staring at a grasshopper. And, that is how the story leaves us .... wondering if there are parallels being drawn with the grasshopper from the famous fable........  

05 September, 2014

Teacher's Day

I have never been any teacher's pet. Nor, have I had a favourite teacher. But, I think of Mr.PSC on every 'Teachers' Day'. I'll tell you why......

It was a wintry morning in the Bangalore of the early nineties...... For an average Bangalorean like me, it was a Herculean task to get up from the cosy confines of my bed, get ready and travel 8-10 kms. for the Soil Mechanics class at 7.30 a.m.!

On that day, to my horror, none of my classmates had made it! The teacher was missing too. Because I had met students from other classes, I knew I hadn't turned up for class on a holiday!!

Just as I was thinking of ways to spend a lonely hour, old Mr.PSC walked in.

Mr.PSC : What?! Only one student?!

Me : (Foolish smiles)  

Mr.PSC : How can I take a class for just one student? You can go to the library.

And, he turned away.... The next minute, he turned back!

Mr.PSC : Wait! You have come for the class. I'll be doing you an injustice if I don't
                take the class. Get in....

The next hour was a pretty awkward one for me - a combination of trying to pay attention amidst prayers that no questions would be asked! Mr.PSC, however, didn't seem to mind teaching an almost empty class, because he carried on as usual.

Well, the hour ended and the years have rolled by.......

During a recent discussion on Facebook, I noticed that most of us on our high- school group page could recollect most of our teachers and some anecdotes - after more than 25 years! It reminded me of something I had read somewhere.... Everyone remembers teachers - not methods and techniques.

 As September 5th of every year is the chosen day for all of us to acknowledge their contribution to our lives.... Thanks, and best regards to all the teachers out there!