Friday, December 31, 2010

The year is turning.
There is the usual excitement and bonhomie. There is hope for those who believe in numerology. Or despair for whom the dice fall unfavorably. And for most like me, there is nothing new. You wake up on the same bed. In the same room! A day older! The sun rises as faithfully as ever. And nature wakes up. Its business as usual for the butterflies and the birds.
It’s a good time to look back on the year gone by and remember all the wonderful moments you enjoyed with family and friends who count ... Moments when people brought you joy and comfort.New places that you treaded... new friendships, formed and forged... The fine books that kept you company... the lessons learnt and understood... Prayers answered...criticism accepted... mistakes made that made you wiser...the few moments when you conquered your anger with love and patience...efforts to lighten up and let go...

It’s been a good year. :)

More work to do starting tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The art of Writing… a relic?

My cousin sister’s precocious son is only 3 years old. And boy can he spell! He can type the correct spellings of words from car and truck to pentagon and hexagon.  Oh by the way, his favorite word is the truck and he even chose a birthday cake with a truck iced on it…hmm Sometimes when I sit on the computer checking mails, my daughter likes to come and sit on my lap.. She wants to watch Abby Cadabby video (of Sesame Street fame) or may be photos from our hard disk. Few days now I open the notepad with big font size and let her type. And she enjoys getting the alphabets on the screen. She can recognize most of them but gets confused between M and W! Anyway. And that got me thinking…

These kids are going to grow up and use the keyboard, no matter what profession they choose. Do they even need to learn how to write? People invented writing in order to save the words and texts for posterity. For instance, the scriptures in the Vedas initially were passed down from teacher to disciple by word of mouth. And many were lost. Until they decided to record it on leaves. Then came printing. So with all these gadgets that we have today and that we will see in the future, why should kids learn to write? Typing is so much easier than writing! Writing will probably be relegated to a skill like dancing that kids learn as a hobby or something! Similar to ‘Abacus classes’ these days!
Conversation in 2050-
Mother 1: I am sending my son to ‘writing’ class!
Mother 2: Really? Wow.. You mean like using a pen? That’s amazing!!
I wonder… if children don’t learn to write, are they missing something? Like, does it help in brain development? I know it improves memory. You are more likely to remember something that you write vis-à-vis read. But typing won’t be too different!
The only scenario I can think where it might be a problem is, should there be a massive power grid failure…

Photo credit:

Friday, December 17, 2010

I was watching "Face off", a brilliant movie by John Woo. Its about this cop, John Archer who has an operation and gets his face exchanged with that of a criminal, Castor Troy, who was in a coma. Troy and his brother, who is in a prison, are the only ones who know the location of a nuclear device set to explode in LA. So Archer decides to go to prison with Troy's face to get the information. Meanwhile The faceless Troy, gets out of his coma and he and his men force the doctor to replace his face with the Cop's i.e Archer's. So the cop is now with the criminal's face and vice versa. Its an interesting plot.
And it reminded me of this.

“Upon a day Beauty and Ugliness met on the shore of a sea. And they said to one another, 'Let us bathe in the sea.' Then they disrobed and swam in the waters. And after a while Ugliness came back to shore and garmented himself with the garments of Beauty and walked his way. And Beauty too came out of the sea, and found not her raiment, and she was too shy to be naked, therefore she dressed herself with the raiment of Ugliness. And Beauty walked her way. And to this very day men and women mistake the one for the other. Yet some there are who have beheld the face of Beauty, and they know her notwithstanding her garments. And some there be who know the face of Ugliness, and the cloth conceals him not from their eyes.” - Kahlil Gibran

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Here comes the Sun

One of my cousins has been posted to the UK for the last year and a half. When we met recently we got talking about the weather. He talks about dark London winters when the sun rises late and sets early. And summers when the sun is shining brightly at 9 in the evening!

I recollect Federer and Nadal's epic Wimbledon final (was it in 2008?) that went past 8 PM or something and it was still bright! I once sailed with my husband (he is a sailor) in 2006. I joined him at the port of Antifer on the east coast of France. This was in the month of December. It was 4 degrees in the sun at noon the day I landed! When I woke up the next morning at around 7:00... it was still dark. I could hear the wind whining trying to get in through the glass panes. The streets lights were on and the cars sped on the street below with their wipers working furiously. For some time I was totally disoriented. It was like being back in India at 7:00 o clock in the evening with the commuters rushing to get home. In the two days that I stayed there, I wasn't a happy person and it wasn't just loneliness. I have been alone before and many times since, but it was always sunny... We take the sun for granted, don't we? And it isn't the cold part of the winter there that bothers you. You can sit in heated rooms but what do you do about the darkness? Its such a wonderful sight to wake up and see the whole of nature basking in sunlight! All the artificial light we have invented cannot match the beauty of natural light.
As an architect, lighting is an important element of our designs.

The source of light that has a color rendition closest to natural light is the incandescent light or the common GL bulbs that T.Edison invented. Color rendition pertains to the appearance of color under a light. For instance, GL light is yellowish and warm (as is natural light) while Fluorescent Lighting (FL) is bluish and cooler. (And that's exactly why FL in garment shops always causes the blouse pieces to mismatch with the sarees which we discover when we come out in day light!) Halogen lamps have a comparable rendition but they are much more expensive and have shorter life not to mention the huge power consumption. These days in an effort to reduce our electric bills and our carbon footprint, one of the first causalities has been the electric bulb which was replaced by the FL, and the CFL (compact fluorescent lamps (12-16 watts only!) The latest trend is the use of LED lights (light emitting diodes). Suddenly we are talking about a power consumption of 1 watt and 3 watts! But all this comes at the expense of color rendition. White light tends to alter the color properties of objects. These days FL, CFL and now LEDS are available and preferred in warm colors. But LED gives a more focused light rather than a spreading light. Its good for highlighting but not the best option for general lighting. The other day I happened to use a bathroom which was lit using an incandescent lamp. Very environmentally unfriendly, I know. But my heart leapt like Wordsworth's did when he saw a 'host of golden daffodils'!And I said to myself,"dear good old bulb... Miss you."

Is it any wonder that the British lads, The Beatles, wrote this song?!

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it's all right

Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it's all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it's all right

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it's all right
It's all right

photo credits:
London WInter -
Incandescent Bulb -

Monday, December 13, 2010

Jiddu Krishnamurthy is like this ocean of knowledge, mostly incomprehensible, from where you dig in and draw a cup every now and then and sip it and savour it trying to understand the simple truth of existence. And every sip opens a tiny window deep within, unlocks the shutters to a chamber and an iota of clarity dawns into your consciousness.
“…by being what you really are. By trying to see what is … somehow I have acquired a certain character. Now I must try and see myself as I am and I must make no effort to be anything else… I am not advocating self-indulgence that a thief remain a thief. I must not submit to my weakness but I should not indulge in the opposite of my weakness either, as a way of getting rid of it…” (By observing the negative in a passive and dispassionate way with a receptive mind determined to examine the phenomenon without passing judgement, without condemnation. Looking for it cause with our total attention,n but never trying to puch it away, then there is no conflict and the negative emotion is apprehended from and entirely new angle.) “Suddenly I will discover that a transformation takes place in myself without any planning on my part, a creative transformation…”
In this connection I was thinking about reservation for minorities. And I understand why reservation fails. Because trying to segregate a certain section of people in order to give them special attention only deepens the divide forever relegating them to a class different from main stream. Creating more division and more inequality. I don’t want to question the intentions of Gandhiji, but when he embraced the ‘untouchables’ and uplifted them calling them harijans, he created an invisible transparent glass chamber for them in which they were doomed to remain for ever, never breaking free and merging with convention.
When we focus on our weakness, we are highlighting it even more thus making it strong. When we preach positive thinking, the negatives are only temporarily swept under the rug where they rot and stink unseen until the stench overpowers us causing more depression. Repression is not the solution. Acceptance is. And that comes with awareness. Awareness without judgment or emotion.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Selecting Kiddo literature - no child's play!

I once read in some article that Jungle book is a good book to read out to children. It hasnt been easy to read out to my daughter. Everytime I tried, she would stare at my face for some time and then take matters (in this case the book!) in her hands and 'read' out to me! But for some time now, we have managed to read out to her. It helps if there are lots of pictures and lots of explanation. We get extra points for funny voices! After couple of reading though, she prefers reading out to us... looking at pictures... spinning a delightful yarn.
Anyway, so I saw an abridged version of Jungle Book in a book store recently and bought it. The book is published by INDIANA ILLUSTRATED CLASSICS adapted by a Shaun Max. the print is big and there are few black and white illustrations. But I was appalled at the grammar errors and spelling mistakes.The first sentence in the book read - A family of wolf use to live on the Seeonee hills. The mistakes are abundant. Books meant for children must be especially error free lest the kids pick up poor grammar and spellings. There is no way on earth that I will ever give this book to my daughter! I read it to her correcting the mistakes as best as I could. At the end of chapter one. my daughter concluded that she didn't like Sher khan. Its amazing how a two and a half year old can relate to the emotions. When I followed the book-reading with some videos of jungle book on You-tube, she was consumed with anxiety as the little sleeping baby is left behind by his parents ( biologists). 'Amma evide? wheres mommy?" she asked, climbing on to my lap. Thats when I realised that the story isn't right for a 2 year old. Likewise, my daughter was quite disturbed with the story of ugly duckling. As the mama duck abandons the little swan because it looked different from her ducklings, my daughter wanted to know why the swan baby was crying and where mommy was. So I softened the blow and made up the story that the duck was an aunty and the swan baby's mother will come in the end of the story.
Who would have thought picking stories for children would be this difficult!

on a happier note, I picked up this book in a book shop - Illustrated Animal Stories published by Usborne. It turned out to be a good one to pick. Full of good illustrations, with simple and short texts, there are 10 wonderful stories on animals including stories like chicken little (chicken licken in the story), and 'the little giraffe' that tells you how the giraffe got its long legs and neck. I would recommend it to parents.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

For the love of ROCK music

Rose bowl is a good channel. The programs are neatly presented. And they often play good movies and music. Once they aired a series of movies titled "100 movies to see before you die" and I managed to catch lots of good ones. Movies like 'Saving Private Ryan', 'The Pianist' and 'Schindler's List'. I occasionally find myself tuning-in to listen to music they play. Recently I was listening/watching while i worked on my laptop. I like a little noise in the background as I work alone staying up at night. So under the program titled 'Spanking new', I was catching up on new music. Rihanna, I learnt, still ruled the charts collaborating with few rappers for a new hip hop number. And there were other songs. They were these formula songs featuring beautiful women singers, looking stunning with lilting voices. They played never-out-of-fashion peppy love songs. Beautiful scenes... beautiful beats... Only... every song sounded like the other. And just when I was feeling sick with the mellifluous content, the program changed to 'Overload'. I guess the clock struck 11. And that's when the hard rock and metal fans are catered too. And I heard 'Metallica' sing one of my personal favorites, 'until it sleeps'. I sighed with relief.

Rock music is most misunderstood. In my younger days the peace of the house was often disturbed by my elder brother thrashing rock music on the recorder at high decibels and my parents cursing him, his songs and his generation. "How can you listen to this? Do you call this music?"!!! My now hundred years old grandmother had put a nice name for the genre of headbangers. "Avil iddi." ;) For the non malayalees, it is the process by which rice was beaten in these stone urns using long timber hammers. The name stuck. I inherited my parents tastes of music (classical and old film music) as well as tuned in to my brothers rock numbers. In the beginning though I used to gang up with my parents to snigger at the 'rice beating' music! But eventually I grew to love it. And that's when a whole new world opened. A world with meaningful lyrics and supremely talented performers. I discovered, for instance, 'The doors', whose lead singer Jim Morrisson is revereed as a poet and he who wrote philosophical songs..........
Shake dreams from your hair
My pretty child, my sweet one.
Choose the day and choose the sign of your day
The day's divinity
First thing you see.

A vast radiant beach in a cool jeweled moon
Couples naked race down by it's quiet side
And we laugh like soft, mad children
Smug in the woolly cotton brains of infancy
The music and voices are all around us.
Choose they croon the Ancient Ones
The time has come again
Choose now, they croon
Beneath the moon
Beside an ancient lake
Enter again the sweet forest
Enter the hot dream
Come with us
Everything is broken up and dances.

‘Metallica’ is my favorite metal band. I love the voice of James Hetfield. Their song called ‘One’ is on landmine victims.
…“now that the war is through with me
I'm waking up, I cannot see
that there's not much left of me
nothing is real but pain now “...

Led Zepplin formed by the enormously talented Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, combined the blues with the rock creating their unique style. And then of course the peerless Pink Floyd came along . Their music didn't fit in any genre and were labeled ‘psychedelic rock’. The music they created lead hem to be hailed as the first among hundred things that rocked the world. ‘ Time’ is one of my favorites. (I have posted the song in my blog previously and you can listen to it in my play list.) Numbers like ’another brick in the wall’, Comfortably numb’, Division Bell’, have met with insane success and appreciation among rock lovers. Listen to this.
"Remember when you were young
you shone like the sun.
Now there is a look in your eyes
Like black holes in the sky.."

Pick any of their songs. And the songs and the music will transport you to a different realm.
I am a fan of Alanis Morrisette. Her first album, ‘Jjagged little pill’, is the best-selling debut album by a female artist in the U.S., and the highest selling debut album worldwide, and she was 19 then. How about this...
‘The moment I let go of it
was the moment when i got more than I could handle
The moment I jumped off of it
Was the moment I touched down.’

Pearl Jam wrote a song called ‘Jeremy’. Its about this little boy facing child abuse from abusive parents who is shy and reclusive at school. Then one day he speaks in class.. with a shot gun...
Queen's Freddie Mercury rocked us with ‘we will rock you’. and what a voice he had! An iconic symbol of our times , rebel to the core, a gay who lived by his rules (‘I want to break free’)... succumbing to Aids but leaving behind memorable songs.
Another favorite band is U2. They are unlike any other band. Their songs are packed with so much energy. Its probably the longest running band other than the Rolling Stones. They have been performing for years now and belting chart toppers.
"I have climbed highest mountains
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
I have run
I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
Only to be with you
But I still haven’t found what I am looking for "…

James Brown, Nirvana, Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, Deep Purple, Dire straits and many many more.
Those who have chosen not to listen to this brand of music are missing something. I personally feel the era of rock music is over. Rock started as this rebellion to the society and its hypocrisies. It was blunt, unpretentious, renegade. A little like the spirit of ‘Che Guevara’ . Those were the days of the hippy culture and LSD. Today what we hear is mostly rehashed numbers. There is seldom anything new and original. The days belong to alternative/soft rock and hip hop. For good rock you have to dig in to past archives. And you stop and start replaying some where in the times of Muddy waters , one of the pioneers of rock music. He took folk songs, rock and roll, jazz and mixed them in to his own style.
I am not a historian. Please don’t read this blog as a reference. I am sure there is ample reliable reference on the net. I just touched on few names that I have enjoyed listening to. I am happy enough to open a door to the exciting world of rock music. I guarantee that it won’t be disappointing. And you will perhaps understand why I felt sick with mellifluousness listening to those pretty women singing cliched love songs.

picture credits:,r:0,s:0&tx=49&ty=58,r:10,s:0&tx=99&ty=55