Shades of Passion

Here's an insight into the mind of a person who's in love with Music, Art and Science.......:)

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Teacher........a role really underestimated

Hi!!!! All,

I studied all my life in Kendriya Vidyalayas (the very renowned Central Schools run by the Indian Government). And due to the frequent transfers of my father, I studied in quite a few of them. These schools generally follow a set of rules that stay the same over the country. The idea probably is to not shock the child when he/she changes schools. This is a very good concept and it did help me a great deal. I didn't have to really adjust too much as I switched schools. But there was one thing that stayed a constant across all the schools I studied in! LOUSY TEACHERS.........

And as I grew up, I got to know (through talking to teachers) that all of them had tried their hands at something or the other before becoming teachers. This led me to understanding that most of the teachers were teachers not because they WANTED to be teachers but because they couldn't be ANYTHING else! Almost NONE of them was a teacher out of choice. They were teachers because they didn't HAVE a choice. I really has two choices then. I could become a BAD student and blame that upon my teachers' bad teaching! Or I could develop a habit to study things myself and survive! I chose the latter. I did well, markswise but there was this nagging feeling always.

I kept asking myself as to WHY people didn't want to teach. Why is it that a teacher's job is looked down upon? Why is it that when you can't become anything else (read an Engineer, Doctor, IAS etc.), you become a teacher. One shocking piece of survey I read said 76% parents don't want their chidren to become teachers and 91% teachers do not want their children to become teachers!!!!

This really made me sit up and think! Do we even realize how important a teacher is in influencing a child???? There is this age where what the teacher's word becomes final!! So much so that what the teachers say can't be conflicted by even, why are we so reluctant to become a teacher?

And the teachers play a very important role in the children's choice of careers too (believe me, it's true)...I was influenced by only ONE teacher in my life and he was the Chemistry teacher (and it is not a mere coincidence that I am in Chemistry). So, when this is such an important role in life, why do we consider becoming a teacher the LAST career choice? These are some questions that have led me to believe that I do want to be a teacher!!!! In some way, somewhere. I don't quite know how and where, but I'd love to teach. So that I can make my share of contribution to shaping the young minds. :)


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Talk by Ali Khwaja...............Parenting


I attended a talk on Parenting by Ali Khwaja on 14th Feb in IISc (a rather strange thing according to others on Valentine's Day :D)........and here, I write about that talk. When I was going for the talk, I was mentally prepared for a talk of Do and Don'ts!!!!! But when I sat through the talk, I realized that speaker was not insisting on your being this way or that way, it was more about how you could be! And he just left you with messages that you could ponder and modify according to the needs of your child......

I know that I am not a parent but I still went for the talk. And here is a summary of the talk, written pointwise to make it easy to understand:

1. Father's role: The first step towards good parenting is to realize the fact that the word "parenting" is a combination of TWO words: Mothering and Fathering. No amount of one can compensate for the other. So, a father is as important to the kid as is the mother. So, it's time the men woke up who think raising kids is the woman's job and all they have to do is come home and watch TV..........

2. Listen to your child: When the child comes back from school, he/she has stories to tell like, this girl pulled that girl's hair, this person threw water on that person, this person fought with that person.......LISTEN to the child. He/she is NOT telling you about the event per se. It's their feelings about the event that they are expressing. To the child, YOU are the world. They vent out their feelings to YOU. YOU have to understand them and respond in an appropriate manner. If the kid is excited about something, you can listen to her/him and gently prod to make them reveal what THEY feel about the event. Maybe, you can explain to them that it's not good to fight/throw water on other people. This will make the child feel important and loved. Just HEARING them is NOT enough, LISTEN to them, understnad them...........when these kids reach adolescence, they'll confide in you and are less likely to go wrong in choosing their paths. BECOME YOUR CHILD'S FRIEND.......

3. Be their role models: In the world of today, where children face a severe lack of role-models, be one yourself. No matter how much you lecture, the only way kids learn is by example. If you honestly pay your taxes, children will learn the importance of being honest towards Government. If only you maintain your calm most of the times, children will learn to stay calm themselves. Children may make BAD learners but they make EXCELLENT imitators. So, watch what you do. Your children are watching you ALL THE TIME.

4. Answer children's questions honestly: Children are curious and their first target for their questions are parents. When a child walks up to you to ask an explanation for something he/she doesn't understand, NEVER answer it as "When you'll grow up, you'll understand" or "Don't ask silly questions". As such our Education system works overtime in killing our children's curiosity. DO NOT ADD TO THAT! You may not always know the answer, true. But guide the children towards the PROPER sources for answers. And confess it honestly, if you don't know. Sometimes, the answers may not fall within the regime of child's understanding. SIMPLIFY things but do answer your kids' queries. In this age of information technology, it's not particularly difficult for the child to dig the information out. WHERE the child gets the information from (whether the source is authentic/proper) is something YOU can have a say in. If you answer the child in an honest and simplified way, the child may ask more questions but a little bit of your patience in such instances can save a lot of confusion the child may face if he/she gets the same information in a distorted way from somewhere else.

5. Treat children as if they matter: A lot of children grow up as creatures excluded from the running of the house (because "they won't understand much of it anyway"). They don't leanr routine things like money management as their opinions are neer sought. They are never made to understand the importance of managing money. Start these lessons early and who knows, when you ask the kid for his/her opinion, he/she may really give you an altogether different prespective.

6. Accept your child's uniqueness: Every child is unique. By comparing the child with ANYONE else (it could be the sibling, the neighbour, the classmate), you kill the child's self-esteem. NEVER compare. Encourage the activities child is good at. Be involved in their life. Stand by them when they face difficulties. Children do tend to feel lonely if their parents aren't worried about what they are doing and how they are doing it.

IN short, Parenting is a job more involved than any other but the rewards are rich!!!!! These very children will grow up to treat you with respect if you respect them when they were kids. So, start early and invest in parenting continuously.


Sunday, February 12, 2006


Hi! All,

This blog is very close to my heart as I came across this concept very late in life. And thanks to my close friends, I am beginning to realize the change it has brought to my life.

Our lives are invariably governed by rules, some set by others, some by ourselves. Rules are generally made for bringing some sort of an order to either our own lives or to the Society on the whole. But what happens when these rules become too restrictive to one's freedom of being oneself???? I am sure there are some people out there who'd advocate the presence of these rule to control people going haywire.......I'm not talking about that anyway.

This blog primarily focuses on how one generally handles and respects rules. While talking to one close friend today, I realized that I had finally grasped the "funda" of how one follows rules! There are two ways in which you can follow a rule: Being forced into it OR Being allowed to make a choice to follow it........and surprisingly, in a tried and tested manner, I have seen that when people are allowed to make a choice, they invariably land up taking the right path.

This way of following rules is particularly important for kids to learn to differentiate between right and wrong. I grew up in an atmosphere where there used to be rules in place. I was lucky in the sense that I barely questioned their logic till I was quite old, the primary reason being too involved with myself most of the times. But when I grew up, the same set of rules started becoming stifling. I began to understand the "ill-logic" behind some of them and being a teenager (with the hormones ruling the roost), I rebelled many a times.

So, how does one handle all these things? One simple thing is to tell the person (whoever it is who's rebelling against them) the pros and cons of the rule in a very objective way! And then, allowing them to choose. More often than not, people tend to choose the "right" or "more acceptable" path! So, what causes this????

From my own experience, I have learnt that just to defy the rules, sometimes, we do things that we aren't otherwise aren't very comfortable with! I have gone to places I hate just because I was told not to, have worn clothes I don't normally like (revealing included) because I was categorically told not to, have done things that were told to me as "wastage of time" because I was JUST NOT SUPPOSED to be doing them!!!!

That was a phase that's thankfully over now, but it has taught me a lesson! The least effective of way of making someone do something is to IMPOSE it on them!! Rest assured, it'll bounce back on you. And the most effective way of making someone do something is to tell them that you'll like it if they do it but it's ok even if you don't! And it works wonders! it could be anything!! From making your kid have a medicine to making a teenager understand the importance of studing to making your lover understand that you were hurt by the way he/she behaved!

SUCH IS THE POWER OF CHOICE! When a mind has a right to choose, it barely goes wrong! And even if it does, it picks up the lesson in a manner never to forget it!


The all encompassing "I"?

Hi! All,

I know this may sound rather vague to all the hard-core scientific approach fans! And I am not apologetic about thinking the way I do. It is irrational to a certain degree but every scientific person has some degree of irrationality in his/her approach and I am no exception.

This blog again stems from one of the lectures that I attended in that conference I did last Monday and Tuesday. It has to do with the concept of "I" or "me", whichever way you prefer......

It is a very apparent thing that all the matter is made of atoms, electrons and so on (one could go on endlessly dissecting the atoms to electrons, electrons to something even smaller etc.). And since the behaviour of matter is determined by these tiny particles, all the universe is run by these! Now, come to human body. There is this something called a WILL that we exercise over ourselves. This will makes us lift our hands, run, work, sleep, eat, walk, think, love, hate..........everything. So, in a roundabout way, it's our WILL, that is we ourselves, that determine the working of these atoms and molecules and whatever!!!!

The religious ones will say that it's God that makes run all these things! So, if you join the two approaches, aren't we ourselves GOD? I'm not promoting narcissism or anything!I just want ourselves to think about this at a different level. If we can not respect ourselves, can we ever respect God? Whoever said God is within you is the person I respect the most! I'm sure he/she wouldn't have understood things in the way I am stating here but whatever his/her logic was, it sure makes sense........

So, the first step towards respecting the God (or whoever it is one believes in as the supreme force) is respecting ourselves! There are these times when one's down, one prays to God and hopes for a miracle!!!

In my opinion, what one actually is doing here is to exercise one's will over one's molecules and atoms and make them work so that the "miracles" happen! The supreme power, the "will" is acting here more than the God! So, the all encompassing "I" is the one that one needs to know and understand!

God is within, seek it in no temple, no yourself, that's the first step towards loving anyone else! And out of experience, I can tell you, the ones who don't allow you to love yourself could never love you!!!!!!

Anyways, before I lose the strings and stray, I think the all encompassing "I" is the one that needs to be treated better than we actually treat it!


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Concept of Beauty in Indian Aesthetics!!!!!

(Note: Most of my blog here is taken verbatim from Dr. Mrinalini Sarabhai's lecture on the same topic)


When I enrolled for the conference "Brain, Consciousness and Experience: Perspectives from Art, Science and Philosophy" at the National Centre for Advance Studies, I didn't really know that I shall get such deep insights into the way the human brain thinks. I had some questions in my mind, some well-formed, some hazy. And I think, I was seeking answers. I didn't think I would get many answers in this conference but I wanted to know others' perspectives. I wanted to know if someone else had same questions!!! And though the conference didn't provide answers to most of my queries, it was an interesting experience as I got to know what others think....and being passionate about people, in general and their thoughts, in particular, this conference was a treat......there were people from diverse backgrounds, seeking different things, attending this conference for a myriad of purposes..........

The lecture that impressed and moved me the most was the one by noted dancer Dr. Mrinalini Sarabhai. It was titled: Concept of Beauty in Indian Aesthetics. At the outset, she apologized for not being much of a speaker (only to prove it false as she went along). And by the time the lecture came to an end, I was mesmerized, immobilized in my seat and my thoughts raced in all directions only to come back to BEAUTY, the eternal concept that many seem to appreciate but no one seems to be able to define really......

She gave us an insight into how the Indian scriptures and epics dealt with the concept of beauty. Instead of going on writing "her lecture" and what "she said", I am going to adopt a strategy to write in first person so that the reading becomes relatively more interesting.

In Indian epics, beauty has been dealt with rather extensively. Women have been compared with moon, flowers etc. The fact that stands out from the description of Beauty in Indian writings is that the comparisons are invariably made with Nature and her creations. For a Physicist, moon is only a celestial body, mindlessly moving round the Earth, but for a poet, moon is his beloved's face radiating white moonligth (where white signifies purity and innocence)..........

In Indian writings, bees have extensively been used in romantic contexts. In a description of Shakuntala's beauty where Dushyant is just watching her lie down in a garden, bees have been termed an object of envy. The description goes as follows:

O heavenly beauty, how lucky this small bee is that can touch the nectar of the lotus of your lips, that can come close to your almond shaped eyes and feel the flutter of your eye-lashes that are like a black bow guarding the lakes of your eyes, that can hum some sweet secrets in your ears, that can experience the pure bliss of seeing this radiance of your moon-like face from so close!

As is evident, almost all the comparisons made are with that of some creation of Nature. India has always been a country that has been liberally endowed with all the miracles of Nature. There's one more example of a woman's beauty being compared with the creations of Nature. This one is from Nala-Damayanti story where Nala intends to woo Damayanti into marriage with him. He sends a golden swan to Damayanti's palace to tell her much he loves her. And this is what the swan says to Damayanti (after taking her to a secluded corner of her palace's garden):

O unparallelled beauty, I come here as a messenger of a king by the name Nala whose strength is as much as that of a river that flows untamed! He seeks your hand, the hand of that who hair are like that of a night, the face of whose is like the moon, whose laughter is like that of a waterfall, whose complexion is like that of a rose half in bloom...............

And NOW, what has happened? The poetry has conveniently been replaced by Archies cards full of quotes.....the golden swan has given way to SMSes and e-mails........the erotic couple dances (that have been poetically described in Indian epics) have been replaced by tuneless shake-a-leg in the discos.....

The beautiful poetic heritage of Indian aesthetics has become a slave to the western influence.........where noise, money, material desires dominate!!!! So, there's still time to go back to the poetic culture of ours and abandon the culture of Valentine's Day becoming a festival bigger than Diwali and Holi..............


Monday, February 06, 2006

Ain't I Beautiful???


Please don't mistake me! I have no illusions about my beauty or the lack of it. This blog of mine focuses not on how beautiful I am but what is it that we call beautiful!!!!! This stems from a discussion I had with my very good friend today morning while discussion HOW ONE QUANTIFIES BEAUTY? Or rather, why beauty is such an abstract concept! Beauty is definite, we say! For example, a rose flower (this example comes straight from a very good lecture I attended by Prof. B. V. Sreekantan) appears beautiful to most of us! But some people find it beautiful enough to write poetry about it whereas some people just call it beautiful and forget about it the moment they would've said that! So, how does one DECIDE what's beautiful and HOW beautiful??

This question opens up a box akin to Pandora's box of troubles! There is this fundamental question of HOW one defines beauty? What are the parameters that govern beauty? Is beauty really quantifiable? If it is, then, isn't the concept beauty itself lost?

Actually, the discussion was about whether one can reduce everything in this world to some mathematical symbols and equations? And I was of the opinion that reducing something like energy to symbols E, F, G, H etc. has made us visualize ENERGY as equations and and not as we would feel/sense it otherwise! The discussion then reached one point where BEAUTY came in. I felt that beauty is not quantifiable. Because we don't know what to define beauty in terms of! It's such a SUBJECTIVE thing! I think full moon is bautiful whereas a friend of mine rubbishes this! So, is moon eventually beautiful or not? However, whether I agree or my friend disagrees, the fact that matter contains energy remains unchanged!

So, my friend and I were trying to come up with certain terms that could possibly decide whether a rose flower shown to us was beautiful or not! Let's say a red rose is put in front of us. What are the obvious things that are noticed about it? Here I list a few that I can think of:

1. The colour
2. The symmetry in arrangement of petals (personally, I'd appreciate asymmetry more)
3. The shapes and sizes of petals
4. The fragrance of the rose (this may be excluded if we're talking only about a picture of the flower)

Now, on the face of it, all the above stated quantities can be "measured" by us using certain techniques. The colour can be described by the photo spectrum of the colour, or the "redness" of the flower. There are ways to define the colour of the flower. Symmetry (or asymmetry) is again very definable. Shapes and sizes are very easily measurable too. And fragrance can of course, by quantified as the density of the fragrant chemical/s (these are well known and well studies chemicals by perfumery industry).

Now, we have a definition of all the parameters that tell us or lead us to believe that the rose flower is beautiful! A perfectly logical argument. I couldn't find things to say against it. But does this actually convey to someone who isn't looking at the flower how beautiful the flower actually is? Just by quoting the numbers related to the above quantities, can we make someone viaualize the rose?

Let's take an example (this is an appropriate one knowing that Valentine's Day is round the corner)! Can a lover propose to his lady love saying that:

My dear, your complexion is 9.5 on the scale of fairness, your eyes have an RGB value of (some number), your voice is this many decibels..................

If I were to be proposed like that, I'd slap the guy and tell him to go propose to a robot!!!! So, isn't defining beauty making beauty lose its essence? So, in my opinion, there's something more to beauty than just numbers! It has to be about HOW it makes the beholder feel! (Again, I take the word beholder from the saying "Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder"), whoever said this did understand the "perceiver's" aspect of the beauty! That's something you just CAN NOT quatify! You can not measure JOY that anyone is going to feel after seeing the rose flower! So, I came out of the argument convinced that beauty can't be quantified (at least, not till some believable unit for JOY comes into being) as of now!

I know that my friend did give me a rather scientific approach to quantifying beauty, but sorry my friend, I still don't agree with you! I still am of the belief that beauty can't be DESCRIBED or UNDERSTOOD using a set of numbers and symbols as I believe that an integral part of beauty is how the perceiver FEELS upon seeing it.

There's some more gyan coming your way in the coming days about consciousness (which will be essintially how I felt after attending an AWESOME conference in NIAS about consciousness, a scientific, artistic and philosophical approach), watch out for this space........