Friday, March 27, 2015

Aga Aga Mhashi....

Forget the World Cup 2015.  Dhoni. Smith. Maxwell. Kohli . New Zealand.  AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn.

Cricket , as we know it, has been through a number of changes.  Test Cricket, stuffily, but unwillingly turning a blind eye to One Day 50 over cricket; which in turn sniffed at, but still allowed the shenanigans of  T-20 Cricket. 

The original red cherry, changed color occasionally, with the advent of games played after the sun had set (some say on the British Empire).   The number of balls you could bowl, to get a team out , changed, depending on whether it was a 50 over One Day game or T20, twenty over game.  While bowlers got desperate and batsmen whipped their bats around , someone decided how many threatening balls you could bowl in an over, and made a rule. 

Cricket test whites, a completely inappropriate color for 5 days of swishing and falling in the outfield , not to mention rubbing balls on trousers  to polish them , have only benefited dhobis and now given way to kindergaarten type matching track pants and tees in horrible colors , thanks to completely irrelevant companies agreeing to sponsor costs. 

They even made rules, for where fixed number of fielders could stand for part of the game, in a circle way inside,  from the boundary. It is however pertinent to note that the Silly nomenclatures  such as ,  silly point, first slip, second slip have been kept unchanged.  Some guys went unnecessarily ballistic putting magic lights on the stumps and bails,after the stump microphone stuff got boring  with the wicketkeeper chitchat.

Which brings us to the point.  (And it is not Silly .)

The innovation in cricket. Moving stumps. Also alternatively called Sustainable Eco friendly Cricket.  

Refer the above graphic. 

Introducing, Dagdu, the first brand ambassador, and Aga Mhashi, the bovine second.

Aga Mhashi , the moving medium, that holds the stumps.  Needs no bails. Uses no wood . No cutting of trees.  Dagdu bats in style within a crease defined by 1.5 tail lengths. The aforesaid tail belonging to Aga Mhashi.

The pitch has copious amounts of straw, to keep the dust in check as well as for Aga Mhashi to imbibe , during the  team Milk Interval happens on and off  the field.

The amazing thing is that about wide balls.  Anything that gets bowled outside the four legs of Aga Mhashi is a wide ball, and the batting team gets 4 runs.

You can do away with the wicket keeper altogether  sometimes. And make him a slip or something. (Which might just be possible given some slippery stuff which could be around unpredictably).

 Anything that hits the batsman's legs, and then Aga Mhashi's legs, and bypasses the new slip (taking his name seriously) ,  gives you Leg byes, as Aga Mhashi turns and glares at Deep Fine Leg.  The no of runs you get depends on how many Aga Mhashi's legs the ball  touched.

You may not even need umpires .  Maybe just one at the bowling end.  The square leg umpire will possibly cease to exist, and so will the third umpire, who had nothing to do than watch TV the whole day. 

A careful perusal  of the game,  the actual play, a chewing of the cud while  coming to a decision, and a solid whack of the tail on the batsman's rear will indicate an "out!", while a sneeze and a snort will give him a "life" .

While the ICC is still coming to terms with this, BCCI has instructed IPL to ban red color uniforms on teams .  A suggestion to ban red outfits on T20 cheerleaders was shot down because of inadequate red yardage. Someone has typically gone to court on this, and the head of BCCI is currently consulting temples and astrologers because of Aga Mhashi's  place in our culture,  and the need to cut down on the  use of wood.

The software companies currently minting a fortune,  designing and coding softwares that show imaginary extrapolated balls flying over the stumps, hitting middle stump, missing leg stump etc, are in the throes of   alternate system design, given that the position of stumps will now be a function of time. At some point Aga Mhashi might sit, and stumps may be at knee level, harking back to the old  cricket days, with wicket keepers mobilizing to pounce.

Lot of theoretical research happening at the world's leading universities in England, using perturbation theory , trying to predict the path of the  natural movement of Aga Mhashi throughout the session, and therefore the stumps.  It has also introduced a new method of bowling where the ball zigzags to the batsman.  

Someone suggested that the symbol for the partial derivative in the differential equations used to predict random stump movement, was similar to Aga Mhashi's tail, and the ICC Committee has referred this to a select committee in Baramati, which has much bovine expertise.  Several Bihar politicians who have life long expertise in Aga Mhashi prototypes, as well as  Power Play, have been co-opted onto this committee.  

In the meanwhile, cricket goes on.  New Zealand and Australia, preparing for the One Day 50 over World Cup 2015 final ,  are thrilled for their respective dairy industries, and plans are afoot to get a prototype of Aga Mhashi as part of the presentation party during the final.

Dagdu, the iconic batsman pictured above, just had a question.  

He wanted to know, rather,  his bowler wanted to know,  if SarpaTee (underarm)  balls would be allowed, now that the stumps were raised and moving.

It appears that one of the Chapell brothers of Australia had something to say on that.     

Details awaited ....           

 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Analogue thoughts in a Digital World....


Just came across The Death of Common Sense : When Love and Grief becomes "Disordered"....

We as humans have unique brains that evolve in a very fine way,  using external stimuli, internal memory systems,  reactive systems, information feedback loops and seamless connectivity with biological processes.  Every human being is unique, and knowingly or unknowingly , is great enriched by one's living experiences.  Be they, happy, sad, terrible, shocking, or what have you.

  Life actually flows on, with a large number of mental and physical tributaries joining in and many off-shoot flows departing along the side , all over time. And one often sees solutions to life problems within one's self, while being part of this flow.

  One of the undesired side effects of the digital age we live in, is the tendency to compartmentalize things and give them names. The tendency to sit on the banks of the flow and make smart comments.  Which are then organized, and uploaded somewhere,  celebrating one more label, one more theory, one more fancy phrase, where a hand on the shoulder would have sufficed.

Digital micro memory management and mega speeds have got everyone enamoured of high speed machine thinking, without paying attention to the entities being crunched. Fast publishing . 

And so today we have  the New England Journal of Medicine(NEJM)  defining a "prolonged Grief Disorder (?)"  (question mark mine),  described as " "condition is characterized by intense grief that lasts longer than would be expected according to social norms and that causes impairment in daily functioning."   The article also mentions possible treatments with antidepressants/antianxiety drugs.

Hello !   Life, regardless of how standardized it is as in the west, and how varied and non standard it is , as in the east, has one thing in common. 

The subjects are human beings, who are all unique, have unique brains, which have learned and developed abilities, based on the society around them. Something that causes grief in one type of society may never get a second look in another type of society.  Some societies have too much standardization built in.  In western societies, average "bereavement leave " is 3 days.  And pharmacology kicks in when understanding fails.

Grief is NOT a malady.  It is a state of mind, not always a consequence of a physical personal loss; but it is a slow coming to terms with a turn  one's life has taken.  It could be  age related loss of elders, a sudden unexpected loss of someone, or shocking circumstances,  or some event related to a close friend or associate.

It is not something that happens, and then gets cured because some medicines teach your mind to think differently.

Societies have their own systems to alleviate grief of people. It is almost always based on interaction with others, and not on either isolation of self  or organized social interaction "norms"...

Some societies have lots of rituals, where the person is kept busy planning and participating, with the help of family, close and extended, while the grief flows silently in the mind in the background.  These rituals are not always religious, but are sometimes social. There are days specified /suggested  for getting back to your normal life after a loss, but that is about physical life. 

The mind is its own person, and takes its own time. All a function of a specific person who is grieving.  You cannot and should not push it. 

I have known situations where someone lost a child shortly after birth, and the immediate  aftermath, was spent dismantling cradles and things that would affect an aged elder closely related to the child, who was arriving, was physically afflicted with something that would become worse on facing the mental trauma on being subjected to such sights.  Personal grief quietly stepped aside to let something else occupy the visible mind. This, in a society, where elders in the family are valued, and not wished only on specific days etc.  The grief quietly seeped back, and kept simmering as it were, occasionally bowing to external situations, which was like a slow nuanced  effort to come back to normal.

Other situations, where  the answer to "To be or not to be"  was revealed quite suddenly in an earth shattering instant.   A grief , preceded,  sometimes followed by, a sense of huge anger, despite knowing that normal human life has a beginning and end.  A wanting to be alone, but social responsibilities, and memories of how a previous generation handled these things, teaching a thing or to about handling the grief.

Sometimes , losses are anticipated, and predictable. Even so, the feeling of hurt is the same. One often looks inward then, imagining the good times in the past. It is about a mind trying to quietly comfort itself.  The human mind is a very strong entity, and must be given the freedom to come out of it all, in a way it knows best. Forcing neurons and synapses to do things based on medications spoils it all . 

Grief is never about death alone.  It can be over disillusionment,  hurt,  sudden frightening-but-not-yet-life-threatening health issues, and unpleasant surprises .   This kind of grief sometimes explodes irrationally,  but then again, having people around  to vent it on, and talk it over with , often works , to start with.  This is not an organized talking, but a reaching out to those one values.  Sometimes, one quietly writes, perhaps to get it all off, as they say , because the written words can often be later deleted, but a hurtful remark to another person cannot. Such things work in societies where nuclearness is not the norm, and folks hang around the bereaved, trying to fill in the unhappy blanks, as it were , in  someone's troubled life.  While no one thinks they are interfering, these societies also have experienced family folks who can sense if someone is, and such folks are quietly discouraged.

And so Grief is NOT a disorder.  It cannot be quantified, and classified at discrete levels. Simple, Complicated, Post Traumatic Stress based, etc etc.  Barring situations where someone turns violent or goes into a dead faint, pharmacology is clearly not the answer.  A societal understanding  and empathy is.  

You cannot define what is a good period to grieve. You also cannot classify causes of grief.

What causes grief to someone, is a very very personal thing.  A lifetime of training the mind, based on one's bringing up, life experiences, environment, and realizing limitations ,  teaches one to handle it all, and one emerges stronger for it, in one's own time. 

Multitasking is a gift to mankind, and our brains do that in wondrous ways, constantly in learning mode.

We call that Common Sense. 

You cannot medicalize it.  And you cannot let it die. 

Because that grief , will be very very difficult to handle.....    

   

   



    

Friday, March 13, 2015

Cycle memories.....


Vehicles, per se, are entities that enable you to go from point A to point B, faster, than you would, on two God-given legs.

And back then, more than half a century ago, in a city that is often referred to in Marathi as  विद्येचे माहेरघर or the "Maika of Education",  children wold learn cycling as soon as they started primary school.

The one big gents adult size cycle, would be used by folks from small kids to older adults.  Insufficient height never deterred anybody, as kids stuck their legs across through gaps below the horizontal bar near the seat, and pedalled away at an angle, for any amount of distance. Then there were kids who managed to sit on the cycle seat with someone's help, developed a pedalling style where the pedals lost contact with the foot 50% of the time, but you managed to go forward, and stopped only by braking  and having the bike tilt sideways, as you reached a desperate leg to the ground. 

Learning to ride a bike was a family thing with brothers and sisters running alongside, holding your bike from behind, and beseeching you to fast-pedal, as you looked ahead, along the small road in your colony.  The fast pedalling took your mind off the anxiety , triggered by thoughts of someone letting go of their bike support, and by and by you realized that you created balance when you concentrated on the work in hand.  Several bushes were banged into in desperation to make the bike stop, till the existence of front and back (left and right) brakes was noted.  You never ever made a fuss about scraped knees, thorn pricks, bumps on the head etc. 

There would be cycle shops at almost every corner, renting bikes by the hour and day, handling punctures, and pumping air into tyres and tubes.  There were ladies bikes, with the missing central bar, and standard handle bars, in the sense that you did a sedate ride to school/college etc, and never gave the impression that you were racing, even if it was only against time.

Raleigh was a big name and it was a big day when I got my one and only bike.  Unlike today, vehicles then were lifetime purchases. For some reason , we all had to acquire a municipal badge to use a bike on the road, and this was affixed to the bike.  We also had small battery lamps which we would attach to the front of the handlebar when we rode in darkness.  Really posh folks would have something called a "dynamo lamps" which burned brighter the more you pedalled, thanks to some armature stuff attached somewhere near the rear wheel.

Riding miles and miles to school was very common, and one would often come across classmates on the road, and ride alongside discussing homeworks, teachers, rumors about where cops were checking cycle badges, etc.  When you were a bit early, there was an element of "cruising"  in your ride, as you  pedalled at a "comfort" pace. Cycle stands amidst trees in school compounds were very common, thanks to the easy availability of trees and compounds in those days.

There were often cycle trips to places of interest around Pune, carrying tiffin with us. And it was a very common site to see students and young kids, with badminton rackets fixed through the pillion carriers, cycling urgently to practice, early mornings and evenings.

Many of our schoolteachers also rode to school on their bikes, and it was common to see many many women using bicycles , some in uniforms, some in 6 yard sarees, and some , simply more at ease in 9 yard sarees.  No one gave them a second look.

It was , of course, customary for older folks to crib about random unruly cycle traffic around 10 am  in the morning and 5 pm in the evenings on weekdays, more so on the arterial popular roads.  
 
Of course , we had our share of those who did their version of eve teasing by letting off air in the bikes, and passing comments, but things were never as blatant as they are today. The words "cops" and "corruption" were then unrelated (to a young mind), and the most that happened when  they caught you without a municipal badge (then called billaa) on your bike, was they let off air from your bike wheels, and shouted at you, making you late for wherever you were going.

Going "double seat"  carrying friends either on the rod in front, or sitting pillion on the "carrier" was considered an advanced thing.  Small kids sat in an attachment to the handlebars in front, where there legs hung out over the front wheel, as they faced the traffic.

Cut to the time ,  in the last few decades of the last century, when my own kids were small,  and one remembers riding a cycle, doubleseat,  to the kindergaarten, to drop and pick up the child. Living on a wide institutional campus, it was common to see older male adults, giving doubleseat cycle rides to family adult females, proceeding to work/school etc.

 This was not in Pune, but in Mumbai, which, if you exclude our campus,  clearly, did not have the original bike culture described above. 

When the bicycles finally happened in Mumbai, it was with fancy gears, handlebars that made you bend in a permanently racing stance,  wearing some kind of skin tight unbreathable knee pants in wild colors, and  a helmet on the head to top it all. 

There was never a leisure element to these rides, it was almost always a fast dedicated kind of ride.

Today, in Mumbai, and possibly in Pune too,  motorized two wheelers with fancy names and powers have replaced bicycles. When kids get bicycles, they have training wheels, because no one has the time to run behind them , to teach them balance.
There  is a sense of obsolescence built in , given the bike sizes, clearly teaching today's kids, the theory of use and throw.

Buying a bicycle is no longer a big life event.  It is like buying a phone. There are constantly enhanced models.  We copy the west in the paraphernalia, but conveniently  ignore the road discipline, and the need for dedicated  cycle paths , for those , who still wish to commute, without petrol and diesel.   Cycle badges no longer exist, and cycles now cost more than a quarterly suburban first class railway pass.

People now buy stationary bikes, with no balance issues, and pedal away in place, withe the handle bars having laptop/notebook/cellphone attachments.  The only person you interact is with yourself, with your ears covered with some headphones, supposedly making music, while something else  simply records your distance in kilomteres as you pedal away , going nowhere.

And so it is with great delight that I present to you, folks in Mumbai, who are actually going somewhere useful, on their bicycle, possibly with all the gears missing, no fancy outfits, and just an amazing entrepreneurial streak.

Out in residential and shopping areas, there is sometimes a typical cycle bell that tinkles, indicating the arrival of the  Idli Wada bicycle  vendor.  Fresh Idlies offered for amazing prices, along with yummy accompaniments like saambar and chutney.  And yes, I see  dosa gridle too.... 

The bicycle and its attachments are a wonderful study , for , I think, students of management and design. 

The photo is courtesy Pushpa Moorjani , from her blogpost here.

Almost 27 years ago, my mother, then in her early 70's,  was visiting us , and my son, then in primary school, dragged her to see his new bike. It was something with  fancy easy rider handlebars, but was extendable to an adult size. Being on the taller side, he would drive it around confidently.

Grandchildren think grandmothers can do anything. This grandmother could cycle. 

He wanted to show off his bike, and cajoled my mother into riding on my own normal conservative ladies bike, with him on his fancy bike , for a short distance to the Devi Temple on campus.

On the return trip, fortified by prasad, the fellow insisted on exchanging bikes. His grandmother obliged. And folks on the Temple road were treated to a grandma on a easy rider style high handle bar cycle,  pedalling to the best of her ability, much in a Kakubai-meets-Peter-Fonda  style and trying to keep up with an excited grandchild.  

Much applause.

Today, the cycles are no more, the grandma is no more, and the children have grown up and moved on.

But the cycle memories remain......





Thursday, March 05, 2015

Kya Aapke pass ye sab hai ?


My friend Zephyr Nag just posted  Time to Give Beauty A MakeOver .  All about how commercial interests succeed so well today in always keeping young folks insecure where beauty/fashion/etc are concerned.

 5 years ago , I posted  what you see below.  Clearly, nothing as changed.

Now reposting, in solidarity with my friend Zephyr ...

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 
RICH ME,  POOR ME

A friend posted this on FB.

A site with the amazing name of 99labels.com has compiled a list of must-have fashion items for men and women . And they then ask you to indicate what you have and what you don't have , or are dying to acquire or whatever.....

My already open mouth kept getting bigger and bigger (along with the eyes), while the brain gets into a fast reverse mode. I don't even know some of the things.

Till a few years ago, a single pair of chappals was just fine; sturdy enough for daily skirmishes to get a foothold on the steps of the Mumbai buses, and beautiful enough to wear on "occasions". Fashion magazines were what you saw at an upmarket dentist's before he delved deep into the recesses of your mouth, and you ignored all those women shown wearing sarees the wrong way, mostly in what was considered a shameless manner.

The list kind of puts me in my place, socially.

Here is my take on the stuff.

For Women

1. Little Black Dress : Never had one. Little would be a misnomer.

2. Black Flats : But I've always worn flat black chappals or sandals. No heels, mostly out of consideration for other folks, possibly walking alongside. Teetering on heels is not considered smart.

3. Gold Hoop Earrings : The last time I wore them was in class VI. At that time they were not called hoops, but rings. I lost one that year carelessly, and then the earring variety changed in class VII. I now wear them as bangles.

4. Mac Waterproof Mascara : Not that I swim with full make up, but I wear glasses, which actually have a hidden benefit. People on the other side (in front) see my eyelashes automatically bigger due to the lens curvature.

5. A Black Clutch : I don't understand this fuss. Why a clutch ? Why not a decent shoulder purse? And why make a fuss about "hands-free" phones and stuff, when you ignore "hands-free" shoulder-hanging purses ? We always use a clutch when we go buying vegetables, so that we have one less bag to carry, and its easy to use it frequently at the various fruit and veggie stalls. And you can always stuff it amidst the beans and tomatoes.

6. Sling Bag : This is my eternal fashion statement. I have tons of these, in various sizes, and once even lugged a chutney stone by train , from Pune to Mumbai in one such bag, to the amazement and delight of the ladies in the second class ladies compartment of the Deccan Queen Express....

7. Gucci /Hermes-Berkin/Chanel/Prada Bag : Are these the guys who have been copying Linking Rd stuff and selling it in air conditioned shops, with uniformed security, and heavily accented two dimensional sales women ?

8. Light-Colored Cotton Saree : Is this anything to ask ? This is like asking if I have potatoes in the house. Just for the record, I have several. Sarees as well as potatoes.

9. Summer Scarf : In my childhood, this always meant something tightly wrapped around your hair and ears, when you cycled for early morning 6 am PE classes in college. But mostly in winter. While I can see , why someone tearing through Pune's two wheeler infested polluted traffic on a hot day might need one, I've realized today, that loosely throwing one or tying it fancily around your neck, for no particular reason , probably classifies you as smart.

10. Bright Colored Umbrella : We never match our umbrellas to our clothes. Tough and sturdy black umbrellas that fold once, are the ultimate fashion statement , amenable for use as protection from rain, and occasionally as a weapon, in Mumbai. Colored, beautiful umbrellas are OK, but have been known to be stolen from dripping buckets, kept outside Xerox shops, when you go in to get some important work done.

11. A Red/Purple/Blue Handbag - Why not orange and green ? Be patriotic, folks.

12. Over-Sized T-Shirt : Actually , 40 years ago, we started this fashion, when extremely tight fitting tees were considered hurtful to their eyes, by the elders. And we , naturally obeyed. Today this is being abused by folks wearing undersized tees and showing bare midriffs.

13. Pencil Skirt : What an amazing name for a short saree petticoat !

14. Black Crepe/Georgette Saree : I don't know about the "black", but I have an old one that goes under the name of "Binny's Georgette", which was avidly aspired for 30 years ago, and bought on some special occasion. Currently faced with the danger of being recycled into a kurta.

15. Louboutin Shoes/High Heels : Suffice it to say, I don't move in high circles, Louboutin or otherwise. I am so very down to earth, sometimes I even sink.

16. Le Smoking Jacket/Suit By YSL : Please. I don't smoke. Even if I did, I wouldn't need a jacket for that; shirts on which ashes fall can always be washed in Surf Ultra/Ariel.... And no suits, YSL or Raymonds or whatever, .....

17. Trench-Coat : NO. NO. NO. We have enough trenches dug on the road outside. Wearing a coat to fall inside them is a totally bad idea. Besides sweating buckets in the trench, you wont be able to climb out , using the girders.

18. Crisp White Cotton Button-Down Blouse/Shirt : Contrary to what folks at 99 labels say, my mother and mother-in-law actually had a monopoly on that , and it almost became a fashion statement since you wore it on just about any Kanjevaram silk saree, with a great disdain for "matching" . While shirts are not my kind of style, crisp white cotton kurtas may be seen in my part of the cupboard......

19. Solid Wash Jeans : While I haven't worn some for quite a few years, I must emphasize that they were always solidly washed. It surprises me that people don't wash their jeans, and they finally develop slits and tears, which are then flashed as fashion by shameless girls and aging heroes who should know better.

20. Leather Jacket : Are you mad ? Decent, God-fearing, law abiding ladies driving 38 year old Fiat cars, don't need leather jackets.

21. Pair Of Black Pumps : In my time, these were installed in gardens , and water gushed out of them. Maybe some can wear it in the Mumbai monsoon, and enjoy the water that will gush out as they walk. I have nothing more to say about this totally unnecessary footwear..

22. Knee-Length Boots : I give up. You will never understand the need to scratch the feet, and remove footwear so many times a day, when you visit folks, temples , kitchens etc. If all you do is oscillate in discos, then I can understand the need to have a weighted base.

23. Silver Earrings/Baalis : These are pretty, and always so delicate. I like to see them on younger folks, who carry them so well. But I am from the old-is-gold generation.

24. Leather Gloves : See item no 20. And no, I don't garden. because there isn't one.

25. Sexy Black/Red Stilettos : I always thought stilettos were weapons. Umbrellas are so much better. Besides, I challenge anyone to notice and describe my footwear in a general crowd. My one-of-a-kind chappals stand tall.

26. Turquoise Stone Bangles : I do have an antique one, from my late mother, which also has some other shades.

27. Ipod : Personally , no. Though the children always have one of these stuck in their years, to avoid hearing when I call....:-)

28. Platform Shoes : No. God has given me such a wonderful natural platform, I don't need these shoes. Then there is always the nearest suburban train station, and I am hoping they soon have the new Metro station near us...

29. Sexy Swimsuit : Hanging on to sides of the pool, drinking stuff, making eyes at similarly behaving men, and being photographed at stretching angles necessitates this item. One swims, but in decent Speedos (conservative cut), and once in the water, no one knows what style you wear. And one must have consideration for what other folks see. Cant inflict shocking visuals .

30. Toe Ring : This isn't fashion, it is tradition. Next question.

31. Tattoo : No. My obsessions are in my head.

32. Black Tank-Top : It occurs to me that sometimes a shorter version may pass off as a saree blouse, but haven't tried that as yet.

33. Hot-Pants : Hot or cold, an emphatic NO.

34. Kajal : Of course . Since childhood, Though folks keep saying it doesn't suit light typical Chitpavan hazel eyes.....

35. Banarsee/Kanjivaram Saree : Now you are asking ! Finally , something I love. I have many.

36. Beach Sarong - I think you got my name spelling wrong. And forget the beach.

37. Oversized Sunglasses : No. An oversize person must economize with photo sensitive prescription glasses of normal style.

38. White Salwar Kameez : Again, now you are asking ....yes of course...

39. An Evening Gown : You mean a night one ?

40. Classic Leather Belt : Belts imply waists . I think they are , in my case, also a waste.

41. Lingerie By Victoria'S Secret : You mean so many years after the East India Company, they still haven't figured out her Secret ?

42. Summer-Hat : A few of these. Some saying Indusladies, some saying Cricket India, and one panama style cap. There used to be a wide brim straw hat, but someone stepped on it in the rush once.

43. Chanel/Hugo Boss/Dior/Ysl Perfume : I have some stuff from Bath and Body Works. I don't really go for those mentioned here....

44. Silk Stockings : Pointless.

45. Iphone : All you grammatically challenged folks, it's My Phone. And mine is a basic Nokia. And it is just fine.

46. Kundan Choker - I have an heirloom thing from my late mother. Could be classified as Kundan, I don't know. It doesn't matter, too.

47. Pearl Necklace : Yes of course. In various traditional styles.

48. Faux-Fur Outerwear : Are you serious ?

49. Halterneck Dress/Halter Top : Contrary to what you think, I have sufficient blouse material.

50. Body-Piercing : We stop at ears. Might go as low as nose. No further.

51. Silver /Junk Anklet/Bracelet/Armlet : I don't wear these, but the daughter maintains a collection which I admire from a distance.

52. Clinique Set : Yeh kya hai ? Isn't besan and ambe-haldi the thing ?

53. Churidaar Kameez : the cupboard is full ....

54. Platinum Band/Ring : Like I said, old is gold. Or should I say Gold is old ?

55. Bracelet Watch : I have a wonderful one, belonging to my late mother, which is like 60 years old. and Swiss. I keep it in a box and admire it since it doesn't go around the wrist anymore....:-(

(fatigued from explaining....)

.....I've just realized that I am probably likely to be classified as Poverty Stricken, by these 99label folks.

Its OK.

It is so much more fun being rich in ideas ...:-)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Sensi-Style....

This post is my entry for the blogger contest by Women's Web and Trishla eMart to describe a Style of My Own. 

 It's OK.   

The person alongside is not me.  (You must read to the end of this post to learn more ....)

You can laugh.  

And very clearly,  at three score and five,  eyes glazed by what goes in the name of fashion today, and a mouth, permanently agape at some of the visuals that appear in the name of modern dress design,  honestly , I never thought I'd be writing about this.  

A case of someone who started fairly slow in this field, and then, instead of speeding up energised by a wild ready-to-wear  industry,  someone who kind of decelerated , aided by a late physical blooming, if you know what I mean. 

But then what do you think of someone who was always a late starter, fashion wise ?  Someone , who  who wore knee length gathered skirts (with pockets) , with sensible blouses and chappals almost upto college,  when classmates sported what were called "tight skirts " and pointed "rock-and-roll"-shoes , ie when we were not in school uniform ?  A no nonsense encouraging attitude towards sports, had me escape stumbling in sarees at badminton, and buoyant sarees blooming n swimming pools, as the parents insisted that one wear suitable sports clothes, without making a fuss. 

The late sixties introduced salwar kurtas and chudidaars in college, and  a compulsorily saree-clad me , promptly switched over,  after having the saree pleats entangled in my bicycle almost every alternate day, on my way to my sitar classes.   Those were days of conservative extended family types muttering about marriageable-age girls, the tightness of chudidaars, and odhnees worn with wild abandon,  but one managed to hold one's own, getting good training for the future. 

An IT job in the seventies,  and sarees it was.  The choice of sarees was often dictated by your mode of transportation to work.  Crisp cottons were kind of the worst affected when you tangled with 50 ladies with big purses , trying to enter a suburban train compartment in 10 seconds, and one often took to wearing light silks which remembered their original drape after the daily travel skirmish.  A small rebellion happened in the form of sleeveless blouses that one wore,  to the consternation of some folks,  but then,  working gave one some confidence. By then , working on weekends was a given, and sensible me, also took to wearing jeans and kurtas , which were much more convenient and not frowned upon, on those days.   

 The last quarter of the last century, witnessed a great variety of design and outfits for the Indian woman.  Maxi/ankle-length  dresses at one point  were very popular, and were really convenient when one was expecting.  Those were days when you worried about what family elders thought, and the  generation previous to mine, clearly had no objection so long as the length of whatever reached your ankles.  

And so,  the style has always been a mixture of basically sarees, salwar kurtas,  and jeans-kurtas  in my relatively younger days.  A job where I didn't have to commute by a vehicle allowed the indulgence of traditional old style pallu-border sarees at work, with salwar kurtas  the staple during Mumbai's monsoon.   

I still belong to the old school of jewellery, where you routinely wear some standard traditional studs in your ears,  and  some kind of traditional necklace is added on along with the mangalsutra , when you attend a special occasion somewhere.  I love old jewellery , old designs, and at one point had someone publicly comment derisively on my wearing standard old style kakubai studs on jeans.   Sensible old me, just smiled and continued doing more of the same. 

Health issues on the wrong side of  50, and slowly the style has become synonymous with salwar kurtas; nice and loose,  without the high cuts on the side, which seem to be the hallmark of style today.  My tailor, a conservative person, with young daughters, approves.    What he doesn't approve probably, is the cutting up of several old silk sarees to make really nice salwar-kurtas. But he is learning, and I now have a sensible dressy option to wear in place of sarees, whenever required. Some family types kind of recognize older generation worn  sarees  in their new avatar, and keep their opinions to themselves.  Like  said, I love old things, and love to recycle those in case some part makes them unwearable as sarees. 

The word "sensible" often implies the existence of something that is not.  And for an old fuddy duddy like me ,  something that appears  completely insensible, is a deliberate display of inner straps at the neck and shoulder,  sarees worn so low that you wonder why they wear them at all, blouses that look like they have only sleeves and nothing else,  and jeans that are deliberately cut here and there with threads hanging out in the name of "distressed jeans"  and then worn as a new fashion.  The mind boggles at this slavish mentality to  what simply cannot be fashion .

Maybe "sensible"  has something to do with the age in which one has lived.   

Both my late mother and  late mother-in-law never wore anything but sarees. I remember my mother-in-law suffering from a frozen shoulder and unable to do her saree pleats, simply refusing to wear a long housecoat which would ease her work.   

But these folks changed with time as far as others were concerned. 

Picture my mother-in-law, in her seventies, lying in a nursing home , after an old style cataract operation , which , in those days, involved a 10 day stay, stitches, and removal , and so on.  Tons of relatives, some from out of town descending upon us  for the occasion, and me functioning as the official car driver, lugging guests, meals, and messages to and fro, several times a day, from home to railway stations and  to hospital.  My mother came from out-of-town to pay her a visit and  an old  local grandaunt of mine,  insisted on accompanying her to the hospital, since she lived nearby my in laws, and wanted to meet the patient. 

Picture a lady lying ramrod straight on her back, a huge white bandage on one eye,  people flitting in and out of the room, some sitting solicitously by the bed, and me walking in , wearing a jeans and kurta, escorting in,  my mother and grandaunt.   There isn't much conversation encouraged , but the grandaunt, in a nudge-nudge tone typical of a greatly audible whisper meant to be heard by all asks (in marathi), 

" Is all this jeans wearing and all OK with you ?  I see her  wearing this several times....  how do you allow it ..?   "    (all this followed by a sideways glance at me).

My mother-in-law, not allowed to turn on her side for sometime, held out her hand, trying to touch the grandaunt's, and said ,

" You know what, she has been run off her feet, driving folks everywhere, running up and down collecting and delivering dabbas and stuff, not to mention getting medicines as and how requested and prescribed by the doctors.  Her dress is so convenient  for all this activity, and  honestly, I don't see anything objectionable in jeans and a long kurta.  You see, when she accompanies me for invited functions here and there,  she wears nice sarees , sometimes even some of my own.   And so I have no problems with the jeans ....  it is a question of dressing sensibly ..." 

My mother , standing by the bed, simply smiled.  

The grandaunt did not.  ( I had once jokingly threatened to turn up in a paithani pantsuit at her granddaughter's wedding, and clearly , she was not amused.)

So that is the history behind my style.  Sensible.  Through the ages.  

Gosh.  Did you really think I am the type who gets my name woven in vertical lines every few centimetres, on six metres of silk, err...  even cotton, and then wear it for a fancy occasion ?

Nah. Not sensible. Not my style.




Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Parade, Vishram !



I never thought I would see this in my lifetime. (And I am delighted to note that not one of them is checking the cell phone..)

And hopefully this is not something done by a die hard Photoshop aficionado.

To see who is who in the richest queue above click here .

Could be the effect of the Republic Day Parade, but this actually  creates an explicable urge to say "Parade, Vishram !"


 I have been a queuer for years.   Standing in a queue ,  is not a natural thing to do  and is always an imposition, for the common folks like you and me , and we unite when faced with those who try to jump the queue based on  "connections",  physical pushing abilities, and their so called public persona.

I've been part of passport office queues that started at dawn and went around huge buildings, for a 10 am opening; complete with torrential rains, umbrellas dripping on neighbors, and cycle based chaiwallahs tinkling bells and making the rounds, bringing much needed succour to those who braved wars in suburban trains to get there instead of enjoying idli and coffee at home.

I've been part of visa queues that extended way down in multiple lines on pothole studded pavements in the poshest part of Mumbai.

I've been part of railway ticket queues prior to approaching summers, when there was almost planned ambiguity in which queue was for what, with some folks suddenly reaching windows in an unconstitutional manner , and some tickets suddenly being unavailable.

And I have been in queues in Ration offices, places where affidavits are done,  the Gas agencies,  not to mention, more recently, for the Aadhar card. I have known folks who employ other folks to stand in a queue on their behalf at unearthly hours, and then themselves land up after a decent sleep and  breakfast, and suddenly replace them, causing much teeth grinding amongst those who did all this , ie standing in lines hours before , themselves.

I have always wondered why one never saw , say,  Hrithik Roshan in a passport queue, or say, Priyanka Chopra shuffling from one foot to another in a Visa queue prior to an overseas trip.   Did  Mukesh Ambani sit with his eye against a big lens for his Aadhar card ?  Did  Sachin Tendulkar stand in line at the Gas Agency to link his several kitchen gas cylinders to his Aadhar card after filling a form ?     

And I have always wondered how the rich and famous do this.  It is all fine to have flunkies who clear the traffic and your immediate surroundings so you can favour the earth with your footfall,  but do they send proxy folks, when they get important things done ? Do the passport , visa and other offices, come home to them ?

And so it was with a sense of wonder that I noticed  the Who's Who of Indian Industry standing in line at what I believe , was Rashtrapati Bhavan. Waiting to get in to meet, presumably,  the most powerful man in the world today. 

Brought to mind images of school lines, where you stood in line and were not allowed to converse with each other.  Brought to mind scenarios from school drills, where you held out at arms length and spaced yourself away from the next person.  No special lines for girls. Some in the photo even looked like they were punished by the teacher. And it looked like a monitor type stood at the head of the line, keeping others in check ?  Perhaps a separate line for those disobeying the rules for uniforms ?

And I wondered how things would be if the next time you travelled by the Mumbai local, you looked up to see , say, Mukesh A. , saying "Zara sarkun ghyaa..."   asking you to shift so he could occupy the undefined fourths seat in a crowded second class compartment,   or Anil A, running blithely, and taking a running jump on to the foot board of a running Titwala local, as assorted guys , leaning out, with lunch tiffins, help him in, making space where none exists.  Or perhaps the queens of industry, as they watch the train entrepreneurs in action, selling everyday life in the ladies second class,  as someone shoves past them,  hair blowing in the wind, saying, "Ghatkopar utarne ka nahi to abhi se kyun yahan khadi hai ?"
 
I wondered what would happen if while trudging up n staircases after an electric outage that stalled elevator service, you ran across the chairman of a big group huffing and puffing alongside you , and what you would say to him,after you got your breath back.   And the next time you rushed into a bus creaking under an overload, would you stand with your mouth agape when you noticed the conductor demand "Chutta dya"  from what can only be the captain of the banking industry ...

Forty years ago, I worked for a company that even today is in the vanguard of the IT industry.  High rises at Nariman Point were just being built and we worked in one of the most prominent ones. With tons of offices, four fancy lifts, and people who actually stood in line to get in, as opposed to rushing in a la Mumbai locals.

Returning from a roadside lunch, the door of the lift was about to close, when an old benevolent looking gentleman , with a prominent nose, a smile on his face and a spring in his step, walked in , without any flunkies and folks hovering solicitously around him. He checked to see if the floor button where he needed to get off was pressed, and simply stood like anyone of us. One of our senior colleagues recognized him and wished him. When we got off at our floor, he peered out and asked , "Is it one of our companies ?"  and smilingly got off with us when all of us excitedly responded in the affirmative. 

He then paid a courtesy call on our head, causing much excitement in the office.

This was JRD Tata, then Chairman of Tata's, on a routine visit to one of his several business and corporate interests.  No hangers on, no uniformed flunkies, just a very dignified personage, asking for no special considerations, and behaving like he was like everyone else.  Right from when he was driven in, in a white ambassador, and he climbed up the steps to the foyer, carrying his own attache case , and into the lift.  The sudden visit to our office over , he got back into the elevator to continue to his destination in the building.  

They don't make them like that anymore.

Perhaps, there are some.

But they keep getting overshadowed by those whose place is defined by an alphabet with a plus sign , where their importance to the nation and security matters .

Just saying......

Monday, January 19, 2015

Face Values....


Long before patents, attorneys, inter country fights about neem  and turmeric, and much before  I  could even spell Ayurveda,  Neem was known to me.

It was about the leaves found in our hot bath water, particularly after an entire set of us cousins in the family house got chickenpox.

It was about  noticing dried leaves in the packets of rice that were packed after paddy was dehusked by hand-pounding in our garage . My folks ate only hand pound (threshed in a set up in the garage ) unpolished rice, untouched by machine,  and dried neem leaves were interspersed into each packet to keep insects at bay. And no one really bothered about a stray leaf that made its way into a cooked rice occasionally.

It was about mornings, teeth brushing, and folks in the family chewing on a twig of the Neem tree,  watching us kids do our sophisticated toothbrush and toothpaste act. I tried it once , didn't like it at all,  but developed great respect for those who did the chewing.

It was also about the Indian New Year, and the traditional eating of fresh neem leaves with jaggery. Jaggery was welcome, and it was not easy to  avoid the leaves under the watchful parental eyes. Today, times have changed, and the watchful eyes belong to me.  

And then there were the typical teenage days . These were before the lotion and moisturizer era, and ambehaldi and besan scrubs at bath times,  were the order of the day, with fresh malai doing the honors in winters.   Folks swearing by the results of applying neem leaves paste on skin eruptions, and using special neem oils. A few folks had what  was termed an Acne problem by older folks, and elicited a "Eww..." from those seeing it at close quarters, and mothers religiously rustled up neem and turmeric pastes and stuff for daily use by these folks.

When I  had my own dwelling, I planted a neem sapling outside my kitchen window, and it grew fast and tall just like a gangly teenager , where nature might schedule lateral expansion to a later date. To my immense regret, someone , convinced that it was blocking their breeze, had it cut down, and the stump treated to die, when i was away for a longish period.  Sign of the times ?

Since then I have often thought about Neem, our society, the eruptions that happen therein, why they happen, and how there need to be Neem-like personages or Neemlike attitudes so that life might improve .  As an anti bacterial, anti fungal, a pesticide, and even a mosquito repellent,  it defines the qualities we look for, to improve those causing violent eruptions in the society in which we live, and the problem today has been that trees themselves, like the one I planted ,  are being killed.  

Earlier societies had a pace that encouraged holistic  living.  Diets in consonance with seasons and soils. Efforts from first principles, as opposed to quick and fast shortcuts. A respect for what useful knowledge came down to us from years of successful application.

What was , in my childhood referred to as  आजिबाईचा  बटवा or Grandmother's Medicinal Pouch,  is being touted as a new thing, What is missing is the native knowledge regarding native plants, and simple methods of combining things that increase the bioavailability  of these things in our bodies.

So we make do with what we have. 

The good thing is that today, Neem products, scientifically prepared, are available in many forms, such as oil, leaf extracts, soaps, scrubs, etc.  Some companies, have woken up  and incorporated these into creams and lotions that one may use on one's skin, in a well defined manner.  Garnier Fructis folks have , in a unique Indo Australian combination, come up with a cream face wash with extracts of Neem and Tea Tree Oil, the last being a native Australian medicine.  It is called Garnier Pure Active Neem.  There are suggested application frequencies,  projected success rates, and hopefully it all works to display some  joy on your face....

A life where a careful crushing and hand grinding of Neem leaves on a clean chutney stone or mortar and pestle, has now regressed into a quick squeeze of something from a tube on to a face. It s a case of having the knowledge and not having the time.

Perhaps we are coming full circle. Perhaps there is something to the type of cures we took for granted.

Like rushing with an onion to stick it under some one's nose, when a nosebleed happened;  or holding a much walked chappal/shoe  under some one's nose to teach the vagus nerve a lesson it never forgets, when someone faints. 

Or wrapping some ajwain seeds tied in a muslin cloth and lightly roasting on a griddle to make someone inhale the fragrance, a great way to clear blocked noses....

And lets simply not mention a terrible looking thing called poultice that was about a bunch of kitchen foods stirred in black cast iron kadhais and applied on injuries which were then wrapped in gauze, which always leaked some of it, causing immense embarrassment in school.

Perhaps, Mr Garnier and Mr Fructis  will come up with Onion Sprays

Perhaps they will come up with nosestrips with Dirty-Chappal fragrance.

Yes. And what about poultice in a tube that hardens on application ? Ykes. 

 Perhaps, the height of it all will be microwaveable pouches with ajwain seeds that you heat and hold to your nose in a fancy pouch.

I am not amused.

But. 

Should this eventually happen, just remember that you first heard about it here....


(Submitted as an entry to the Indiblogger-Garnier Pure Active Neem Contest.)

Friday, January 09, 2015

In solidarity with the cows.....


(This  appeared in the Mid-Day paper of Jan 9, 2015.  Aarey Colony is an erstwhile  green area   demarcated  for dairy activities for many decades. Successive Mumbai governments have arranged back door entries of the concrete lobby, and even leased lands to film companies for studios, with toll roads through the area always crowded with Mumbai's horrendous traffic. )

I live in an area  which was earlier the natural abode of wild cattle, monkeys, snakes, crocodiles and the like. And yes, even leopards.

I don't think nature has reservation laws. There is a space for everyone to lead their lives, sometimes sensibly and sometimes not so.

All this changed, when the powers that be decreed that the area be demarcated for a residential technical Institution of higher learning for the benefit of the youth of the country.   Massive constructions, classrooms, administrative buildings, hostels, residential quarters for staff, recreational facilities and schools happened,  and as it happens in all developmental activities, those deemed not to have a say, or those whose rights over the space were ignored, were the most affected.

In my close to forty years of staying here, I have been witness to , and sometimes even a participant in,  so may scenes.

A massive crowd of at lest 50 cattle, 20 years ago, in the days before halogen lamps,  with a clearly defined leader cow, sitting as if in a dharna , completely blocking the main road after you entered the campus, through its then imposing Main Gate.  A visiting young niece from Delhi, calling it Indira Gandhi's meeting. Cars honking and approaching close. Some last minute rising by diffident cows. Some defiant chewing of the cud, and smirking by powerful heavy lidded  bovines, dark with intent in the evening gloom.

A mother driving a two wheeler with her son sitting back to back on the pillion seat, taking him to the campus school.  A cow with her calves at a corner getting suddenly agitated by the sound of changing gears, as the two wheeler turned, and mobilizing for a revengeful  gallop. The terrified screaming pillion kid, and the wide eyed looks of parents near the school as they notice the drama, of the unaware mother, driving and being chased by a galloping cow with horns pointing. The kid jumping off and being whisked away by helpful parents, as the mother, zips off accelerating away at a turn , grateful for a better turning ratio than the cow. And the cow slowly giving up, somewhere realizing that mothers with kids do not threaten mothers with kids.

 Then there was  a colleague, newly married, and settling back into his newly granted accommodation on campus  as he returned with his pregnant wife after a doctor's visit. The monsoons were in full force, his residence was in an area , which was yet to have tarred roads, and there was a lot of mud and slush at the entrance .  A cow,   or could have been a buffalo, resplendent in the mud,  kind of joyfully messing in the muck, looks up at him on the two wheeler, and slowly gets up, and starts chasing him around in spurts. He , torn between avoiding the animals horns, and stopping to allow his wife to disembark, in a tense 10 minute drama, as his wife jumps off in a dramatic dash towards the building steps,  luckily safely makes it, and he continues his battle, dodging the single minded animal , and trying to accelerate out of the slush and out of the way  on to the main road.

The campus human population is now in tens of thousands, but that has not deterred some animals from returning to investigate.

 In the fairly recent past, some kids returning home during a school lunch break, couldn't reach their residences in a fairly high density central area. Why ? Because , sometime mid morning, a leopard had wandered on to the second floor landing of the building  and was sitting there. Folks inside could not come out, and nobody dared climb the stairs.  Clearly, the leopard was unaware of school timings, office hours, the fact that , unlike most folks in Mumbai, everyone returned home for lunch  here, and had probably managed to saunter in during a mid morning traffic lull. The drama went on for hours, with the kids enjoying an unusual holiday , parents  worried,  crowds collecting outside to watch the efforts of the authorities at trying to sedate and capture the leopard for subsequent release in the forest land adjoining us.

Yes, development , as we see it happening, is difficult for the animals  to understand.

Monkeys, crocodiles, dogs, all rue the lack of drinking water sources, as the lakes get polluted, and concrete replaces grasslands.  Monkeys are now trained in climbing high rises, and leaping from old trees, to maraud dining rooms through windows, and have evolved into beings who differentiate between Alphonso and other mangoes and attack things selectively. And it is not unusual to see some animals loitering outside classrooms during lectures of the engineering kind. 

In the last week, I have been witness to a huge cow with a hurt hoof, standing quietly outside the Main Gate , trying to make sense of the heavy traffic, noise, lights, and restless pedestrians who would suddenly cross in droves, dodging random traffic.  She watched for at least two signal changes. Then she decided to amble across, dragging her foot, eyes in front, head down, sneezing intermittently.

Traffic lights turned amber, then green, folks accelerated, vehicles growled, but the traffic , waited , while she made her way across, a seven road intersection , ambling, without any special help from law and order authorities.

And then I remember the visit , to us (to our campus) , last year, of a top personality of one our most developed countries.  Several days prior to the arrival, reconnaissance , sanitisation, suggestions of altered vehicular arrangements; local law authorities meekly agreeing to drastic security limitations imposed by the developed country's security set up, special passes given to those working , so many for so many decades, teaching so many ,  and then the passes blithely not honored, as roads were emptied, and employees, and school children returning during lunch break were held back behind rope barriers  and rude shouts, in anticipation of the motorcade of the developed country person, likely to pass. 

( I have been a resident here when 2 Presidents , and two PM's  visited here , across the years, to address convocations, and do not remember such security. )

Yes. The aforementioned cow was barred from her own land. 

And this person, not of this country, dictated our movements .  In our own land.

I kind of know how the cows,leopards et al, felt.........

Friday, December 19, 2014

Unknown of the Mind


The mind is a fascinating piece of stuff. 

I am not sure if mind and the brain are the same, or whether mind is the software in the brain .

But strangely , one always assumed the "mind" was somewhere near the heart, a greatly esteemed organ , even before the technical intricacies of its working came to be known. .

In one's growing up years, there was an element of God associated with the mind. Firm beliefs that certain stotras and prayers afforded you relief in troubled times. Confirmations, that you sometimes got struck with a stroke of good sense simply by divine intervention of some sort.  And someone, with a convoluted sense of good and bad, and a perceived pest was simply that way as a result of his bad karma.

Today, in the days of brain chemicals, firing neurons, stubborn synapses, and angry amygdalas, there is still a sneaking  thought, that divine intervention still works; despite medications that , say, straighten you out, Some One Up There clearly has the final Say; and a lot of stuff that decides how your mind functions majorly depends on interactions and understanding of people around you.

He was in his late eighties. A sprightly , healthy person, with a love for exercise, yoga, literature, creative writing, and nutrition, and despite blood values that were exemplary, at some point age caught up with him. The body engine defaulted on energy and he was bedridden.

At first the mind functioned perfectly.  He had his favorite foods, favourite people, favourite topics , and things he greatly disapproved off. But it slowly became a great effort , physically to hold forth on these.  The mind was in full force, and he would get very angry about this inability, and  complain bitterly.

 His walking friends from the park near the house, came to visit him, and were amazed to hear him say that he would soon be joining them once he recovered.

That was the time, the mind made its foray into a wishful  realm.

He would talk and tell his caregivers about how he had just done a 2 km walk that morning, even specifying where he went. He would forget that he had lunch, and pull up folks for not bringing him his lunch. But he still remembered people. His caregivers, his doctor , his doctor's late grandpa (a doc who was his friend),  neighbors, and relatives.

Then came a time, when he stopped recognizing folks. Except his caregivers.

He would remember assorted details about others, but their names and the ability to recognize eluded him. He had overseas immediate family, and he forgot their names but remembered that they were "very far away"; he didn't recognize them when they came to see him.  

But interestingly, his mind kept track of the fact that he was supposed to recognize some folks and he couldn't, and so, whenever he now faced someone on a visit or on the phone, he would exclaim and act out a generic greeting, smiling and nodding his head, saying Hello, and Welcome, and so forth. It made the visitor feel good, the person on the phone , happy, and his daily caregivers were simply astounded to see how his mind was able , in its apparently confused state, to pull off this thing.

On random visits of folks like relatives he couldn't recognize, he would suddenly enquire about someone of theirs his mind  apparently connected to; but he simply couldn't put names  to people. It was as if there was a list of names in his mind, and a few records were corrupted, and so , unlinkable to other information. Strangely , he sometimes remembered the other info, but the link to the corresponding name had gone. 

A caregiver who worked in IT, often wondered whether there was anything like a "root" brain, that managed  all this linking, playacting,  memory and stuff.

The energy loss continued, and eating became a tiring activity, even though someone was feeding him his favorite foods.  He would go through stages of stupor, sleep, and non stop verbalizing. At times he was very alert in real time. He started confusing the identities of his caregivers, and often mentioned names of people who he imagined visited with him, but actually did not.  It became an effort even to open his eyes, and a a couple of spoonfuls of soup like sambhaar would tire him, and he would hold his hand up.

A kind of withdrawal  of his mind within itself was apparent to all, and everyone worked at communicating normally with him, and keeping up his normal routine , hoping it was a changeable phase.

The mind is a strange entity.

He had lost all concept of time, day and night. The caregivers kept caring and feeding him to keep up his energy levels,  whenever he was awake and amenable to it.  His eyes were mostly closed, and he would gesticulate with his hands and by mouthing words. Clearly , he was unable to identify people around him, and had stopped recognizing folks.

His daughter was feeding him soup late  that night.  Very clearly, he could not see that it was her.  He had a few spoons, and then indicated , that he had enough by holding up his palm in his bed.  He whispered his daughter's name, and in a perplexing display of energy, raised his entire arm up, trying to ascertain where she stood bending over him, and tried to  touch her face. With his eyes , open almost like slits, he imperceptibly moved his face, touched her face, mouthed her name, cupped her chin like you would for a small child, and then she felt his hand go limp  as she held it in her grasp.  

What came over his mind in his last moments ? How did he remember her name, and how did he know it was her feeding him ? What gave him the energy to lift his arms, seek and cup her face in his hand ?  Was there some unknown energy that fired his mind in his last moments , temporarily going back in time ?  Was there a final moment of revelation in his mind, when just for an instant, the brain functioned at full power, remembering his family, just before asymptotically sliding to a null value ? 

Like I said, the mind is a fascinating thing.  Like I said , the mind may be the software in the brain. 

But somewhere,  despite all the fancy brain research, medications, predictability of brain conditions, and theories of development of a single cell into a homo sapien over millions of years,  why does it keep occurring to me, that there will always be an Unknown of the Mind ?
 
 And possibly, what I believed in my growing up years , was true ?
   

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Write is Right....


As a society ,  we have an amazing aptitude for latching on to new technology, sometimes, albeit thoughtlessly, and almost always , in a hurry. 

When this has something to do with teaching kids in their preschool days, one needs to start asking questions.

Today, I see kids, sitting in strollers, fiddling with cell phones, tapping and sliding fingers, and playing games. Same goes for kids of preschool age, and the parents proudly look on, as the kids activate Apps, plays games and so on.  This translates to cartoons on television at home  , watched regularly at fixed times. Fiddling with knobs and tapping to invoke things is supposed to indicate that the kid is technologically smart.  Preschool days, means sending kids to some kind of coaching classes to prepare them , for, heavens sake, interviews, that will decide their admission status.


Researchers from Tel Aviv University collaborating with the School of Education at UIUC in the US, have just  published  a study , in the Early Childhood Research Quarterly explaining,  why early writing, preceding any formal education, plays an instrumental role in improving a child's literacy level, vocabulary, and fine motor skills.

 Given that today's kids are clobbered with written words, pictures, and stuff flowing endlessly in color, past their field of vision , as they fiddle around with smart phones, tablets, and computers, this research simply confirms what , say, my parents knew. 

Even in our digital age, early parental writing support is key to children's literacy


Twenty years ago, the daughter attended kindergaarten in Germany after spending a year in Junior kindergaarten in Mumbai. We were aghast to learn that children in Germany, by law, were strictly kept away from writing/per se, till they went to first grade at six; and this was because of some muscle development issues in the fingers. (The daughter by then , having attended a year of KG in India, was happily spelling and writing, 3 letter words phonetically).

I just wondered how our parents managed, more than 60 years ago, with no Internet, no rules imposed on education of such young kids, no phones, cell or otherwise, and no television.  Clearly, they were also not privy to papers being published on the subject. 

I remember my school being an English medium school, and the fact that we enjoyed lots of nursery rhymes and lustily sang, accompanied by a wonderful teacher playing the piano, did not stop my folks from doing their bit, to ensure that I learned what they thought was missing.

We had a student from a neighboring  Ved Shala who came by to teach us the various stotras we were supposed to know in Sanskrit, 3 days a week. We also had another teacher who came to train us in writing well; those were days of pencils and slates, ball points were a novelty out of reach and clearly not on the scene, and fountain pens were something you got only in class 8. We used to use a sharpened bamboo reed, called "boru",  dip it in an ink pot, and write the marathi alphabet in large letters in a book, for practice , at home, marvelling at the fine edges it gave to the end of letters.   There were lots of marathi and english children's books in the house, and we would attempt to read these, sometimes challenged and sometimes aided  by folks at home.  I remember learning how cat was pronounced, and then discovering delightedly , that I could spell fat , bat and that. 

There was a daily activity of what is called "Shudhh lekhan". Using a pencil.  We would copy a longish paragraph , in English and Marathi, from somewhere, it could be a magazine, the newspaper, or even a book. The idea was to improve your handwriting, learn certain words in a natural way since they were used often, and also train your finger  musculature .   

By and by , the Vedshala teacher got to a stage where he was teaching us Raamraksha,related to our holy scriptures, a few verses everyday, learned in a augmented manner.   He would tell us the general meaning, and slowly we realized some commonly used features in Sanskrit, without anyone forcing it on us.   The English education was happening side by side with the Marathi.  Both reading and writing.

Having realized how words were spelt, I was fairly fearless about making up my own spellings. Particularly of Marathi words.

My parents were away in the north  due to my father's posting, where my mother had taken time off from our schooling  etc , to help set up a working house .  My aunt and uncle stayed with us, so as to keep all our activities going without a break, as school was still in term.  We were supposed to write letters to our parents like twice a week, describing what we were doing and the general scene.

My mother suddenly got a postcard where it said we had progressed till "EtamRamabalopetamrakshaayaasukrutipathet".      For a long time they tried to figure out what was being said. And then they realized that I was reporting to them, that we had reached the tenth stanza of the Ramaraksha which went as :

एतां रामबलोपेतां रक्षां य: सुकृती पठॆत्‌ ।
                                        स चिरायु: सुखी पुत्री विजयी विनयी भवेत्‌ ॥१०

There was a lot of laughter,  various friends  at the place joining in and exclaiming about the innovative spellings. 

Many years later, some of them visited us when we were much older and recalled this episode.  

Entertainment apart, this was the ethos in which we were taught and educated. Before serious schooling and subjects etc kicked in. I learned to write and understand the nuances of spelling, much before we started getting dictation in school, and I never ever by-hearted or memorized any spellings. To this day. 

My parents didn't know about all the fancy research, they didn't know when you should introduce kids to writing.  We often drew things and wrote things on the Shahbad stone floor tiles at home, sometimes for fun, sometimes for practice. If one of us showed aptitude for performing arts, that too was encouraged. But care was taken to see that whatever literature was around in the house was age appropriate for us.   

I often wonder if we have become a nation of followers.  Some new technology comes, we follow the herd. Something known to us, returns back to us as a western concept, we follow the herd.  An entire generation of my time, now has to deal with the current generation, that has taken avidly to sms lingo which is hemlock for the English language.  People have forgotten the art of writing letters, and putting down points in an organized manner.  Consequently, we have an entire generation , that sometimes, doesn't even bother to read.  Try writing in a complaint, and nine times out of ten, the person responsible for solving your problem has not bothered to read. 

 Then these good folks in Tel Aviv University and Univ of Illinois at Urbana   Champagne  publish their research. It appears in the Internet in a mailing list I subscribe to. Tomorrow it will appear in the Times of India. And everyone will seriously take note of it and start new educational theories. Someone in some ministry will suddenly issue a dictat, and something that we did using common sense and a sense of dedication , will be forced on us as a sudden rule.


Many folks my age, relocated to other countries, and brought up their children there. They probably used the same ideas that their parents did, when bringing them up.

These folks faced a different educational system, than say, my children did.

I wish those guys in Tel Aviv and UIUC had spoken to me. 

Never mind.

I would have told them the secret behind the preponderance of Indians amongst the winners of Spelling Bees in the US.