Friday, June 29, 2012

If only we listened to this prayer

A news report in TOI student edition left a beautiful feeling in me recently. The news report read that a first grade student (child of 5 or6 years )went and hugged a tree refusing to allow the concerned authorities to fell the tree. The  child told the authorities that his teacher in school had told him that  trees felled mindlessly could lead to less rains and warm the planet, so he went and hugged the tree.  How sweet is that! ( The trees were felled to raise metro piers)

If only all the people who cut the trees had or were  stopped  by a soft touch like that, perhaps the world would be a better place to live in.

Another mindless work which shook me recently was the mining of the River cauvery.  As it is the  summers had left the sand dry with no clue of water, the truck drivers drove their vehicles  and were mining the sand. Illegal or legal, I don't know but it definitely left a sad feeling in  me. For I  have passed through the swelling rivers in the past and perhaps next time when i go , i would'nt be surprised to see some apartments or high rise spring up.

 Many  beautiful mango orchards have given way to the apartment culture on the banks of this river at SriRangam in Trichy district.

Perhaps dense  green forest, swelling blue  rivers, clean crisp air and beautiful flora and fauna could all become a part of  folklore in the near future.

Here is a beautiful prayer I read in Lotus pond, a lung space in Banjara hills Hyderabad. .( click on it to read)

                                                    Hear my prayer, Destroy me not!!!

    Dry  River Cauvery in the summer of  2012 at a place called Thaikal( thanjavur dist).  This place is also famous for river grass mats. In the foreground between the bridge beams you see the grass being dried on the bed for weaving into mats

These glorious rivers whose journey opens up many cultures, beliefs and lifestyles are happily destroyed by some mindless beings in the name of human progress. 

If only we listened to their prayers...

Monday, June 25, 2012

Schooling redefined

Gone are the days when schools had the middle name of public, model or high. Most schools today function with the middle name of concept, global, world or  international.

Many  NRI’s  returning back to india ,  the children of diplomats and expatriates who are on constant move,  prefer to admit their children in such schools. Our own desi  MNC parents or parents from affluent family  who want their children to experience and learn from  the microcosm of the world  find international school a best bet for their wards. 

 These international schools offer excellent infrastructure, experienced  international  teaching faculty, lays emphasis on project work and facilitates exploring on your own. It does not encourage by rote learning. Another good feature is, it has a  good global student community,  student teacher ratio of anywhere between 15:1 and 25:1 and  is recognized internationally by IGCSE ,IBDP  or CIE for higher classes.  Such  real international schools implement the certifications well and helps these children adapt whenever their parents gets transferred across the globe.

Fair enough till now, but what is not fair is that  almost many such international schools which have mushroomed recently  are run by business men who don’t offer the above certification, infrastructure or faculty. Infact they offer the  CBSE curriculum and easily claim that they offer CBSE syllabus through international methods(whatever that means). Many gullible parents admit their children in such schools were money is minted  from the parents. These schools claim that they will be introducing the international curriculum shortly.

Very recently I met an  upper middle class parent who had  done just her X from a village school.  She was very keen to admit her son in a recently  opened international school and I could easily the dream for her son in her eyes.  She could not be educated and she wanted her son to go to this international school.    Curious to find what the school offered , I posed myself as a candidate for teaching in that school ( I did’nt even belong to that city  and am not a qualified teacher). Initially the man in his 60’s refused saying there was no vacancy since it is a startup school and most teachers had been recruited.  Nevertheless  he told  me to be seated while he was on a telecon and told me to leave my CV so that he could accommodate me when a need arises. While sitting there I noticed that a list of  the recruited teachers ( with their degrees)had been pasted on the notice board. Not even one teacher had an international degree certification or training. ( I too believe that attitude and aptitude for teaching is more important than a gold medal or a training)
Later when I spoke to the man, I found that  he a  retired government official of the education department had been  assigned the task of recruiting teachers.  His native accented English did not match the name of the school.   Here,  I am not using English as a yardstick, but when you quote exorbitant sum as fees for the tag international, then most parents would definitely expect that  the fee should match the standard.  Atleast that is definitely a  pre-requisite  to recruit teachers for an international school.

HE also told me that the school is run by his friend, a  business man.  When I enquired if the school followed the IGCSE or IBDP curriculum. He said, “ No, the international tag is just to distinguish us from other schools. You see, there are too many schools now and if we have to stand up against them, we have to have an identity and that is why the name international.”  I  was’nt  shocked because you can judge whether a school is international or not by seeing the building,  the name( most often it is named after their grandparent, religious guru or their children) the working staff etc.,  I only had  appreciation for the man who atleast admitted the truth.

I immediately alerted that rich young mom and told her to  check what  international standards they offer  before  she coughs up the indecent money and not to get carried away by the shining floors and swimming pool. This school had a beautiful structure but  did not even have an impressive campus and was located bang in the middle of a residential locality sharing its compound with a temple.

 Such is the plight of  education imparted. Parents too announce in social circles that their ward attends a global or international school while the curriculum is Indian. Sadly they shell out  their hard earned money for the tag international.( It costs anywhere between 3-8 lakhs per year in a real international school atleast for class XI).

 Next time  young parents when you look out for international school check their website for information , don’t subscribe  to  the  shiny mirrored surfaces, ac  rooms,  swimming pool, tennis courts ,the plush lobby and the modern glass and chrome structure. Instead find out if they  really offer the  international curriculum. After all  we put in a lot of hardwork and sacrifice family hours  to earn our money.  Don’t we?  Many of them even avail educational loans for their children's education.

I have nothing against the genuine international schools which acts as a springboard for many students aiming for  ivy league schools, but definitely against the so called  ‘International’ schools which have mushroomed just to fill in the kitties of  self centered business men.

(These are my views and experiences based on my surroundings and may differ for many people.)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

An unplanned journey to an unique temple

NH45 is a regular route I have been travelling for the past 16 years and so like in the past, in the April gone by I was travelling through this route after visiting our family deity temple at Siruvacchur.  We were heading towards our grandparents home at Lalgudi. With a few kms away to our destination elders  insisted we take a detour and travel to  a temple nearby.

 With our tired limbs already crying and a visit to our ancestral town of vaduvakudi  programmed the next day, many of us  were indeed reluctant. But finally  the driver took a  U turn  on NH45 near Siruganar and headed onto a service road off the highway.  The vehicle was guided through the road by indicator boards and so we drove  past the small kiosks and little shops and ran into a narrow tarred road  which could accommodate only one vehicle at a time.  With the  Sunflower fields running parallel to our car, we reached the temple which was about 5kms away from NH.  The temple was like any other typical ancient  temple with a huge colorful gopuram at the entrance.  When we walked into the granite  temple we could feel the temperature dipping despite the hot humid summer weather outside.   Near the dwajasthambam at the entrance, I awed at the uniqueness when I noticed the nandi under a canopy of rudraksha beads. This is called the veda mandapam. This was perhaps a forerunner for what was to come.

Entering further led us to  the nada mandapam, where you have seven musical pillars. Walking past this led us to the sanctum anddd……………….here………… OMG!!!!… ……...I was really in for  a surprise.  I saw a huge yellow idol of Brahma covered in turmeric . This is the temple of Lord Brahma, the creator.

Emotions of surprise, joy and confusion ruled me.  Joyous because I believe not everybody is destined to visit this temple, surprised and confused because my general knowledge tells me there is only one temple dedicated to Lord Brahma in the world.

Discover India – a  highly researched quiz program of the mid 80’s was my source of information. It said there is only one temple for Lord Brahma and that is at Pushkar.

Now…… here  I see another temple Brahma sthalam at Tirupattur and that too the Brahma Sannidhi here has a huge idol,(6 feet high). Here you also find the jeeva samadhi of  the great yoga guru, yogi Patanjali.

Isn’t it time to discover India?

I could’nt get over my joy of seeing such a unique temple and more over I believe this temple can be accessed only if destiny wills it.  Little wonder then I have been passing this route many times regularly but  the  unplanned visit was destined only this time.

Thoroughly soaked in the divine ambience of the temple, took the prasadam(turmeric) and then we rested under the Magizham maram(screw pine) and started reading the sthala puranam booklet. This temple has a rich history.

Anything i write will be a repeat of here and here., so click on the links so that you get authentic information and don't miss the photo gallery in the website.
Images below are clicked from a mobile phone and lack clarity.

                                        The temple tower at the entrance

                                               The history of the temple (sthala puranam)

                                      The huge nandi  in the praharam( not the one under the canopy)

This is the sthala vriksham Maghizham maram( Spanish cherry, sorry I mentioned it as screw pine in the  post. i stand corrected)

The above wooden idols i found inside the temple, perhaps used during temple festivals. no clue.

Monday, June 18, 2012

My affair with strung words

Idling on the footsteps of my parents home, I was enjoying the  sight of the squirrels running up and down the coconut tree and on to the compound wall.  Once it ran out of sight, I leaned back on the wall and found the copy of the book “The secret of the Nagas” lying on the table.

I had picked it up from my local library more than 2 weeks ago, had lots of freetime to read but  no inclination.

Whatever happened to my reading habit?  My Mind wandered to the  days when I devoured books. There was not a day that passed by without reading books(not the academics) but the story book. A voracious reader who  read books from the lending library or my own personal ones. How I devoured the fairy tales, ACK,s Tinkles, TinTin, Champak, chandamama, gokulam, Pickwick papers and later graduated to Robin cook, Sidney Sheldon, Jeffrey Archer, Perry Mason, Dale Carnegie and more.
Cuddling my legs under the cover on my bed, sitting on the footsteps of my home, under the gooseberry tree , during those lonely train travels or under the study table light.  How many times amma’s calls have fell on my deaf ears, how many times I have forgotten to lock the door after her, or switch off the gas despite instructions. All because I was travelling with Thumbelina, TomSawyer or because I was with Tracy Whitney.

  Reading - that habit which helped me travel to unknown places, transformed mundane incidents and objects into the confines of magical landscape and added new words to my vocabulary.  When the dictionary was not at hand, each new word lent its own meaning and many a times I tried to decipher them contextually.

When story books ran out of hand, it would be any magazine like the illustrated weekly, Alive, Femina, Sputnik, ‘Science today’, Savvy or India today which gave me company.
These magazines which inspired me to write to them on many matters and … Boy! How I was thrilled to see my name on ‘Science today’ and my thatha proudly flaunted it to everyone in the extended family during a function. Seeing the joy of my name on the book, encouraged me to write to many books, most of which were unpublished.

If magazines were not on hand, then it was the newspaper“Deccan Herald”. It was this newspaper which introduced me to many synonyms, acronyms and anagrams  through its  cross word. Not a day passed, when I and my childhood friend Shammi put our heads to solve the crossword puzzle completely.

And not to forget “The Hindu”- a newspaper which initiated me into the art of reading during my early school days. Although it was the obituary column, engagements this week, movie and TV schedules which held my attention.

Now that’s not all, I would’nt spare any book in the lounge of the hotel, dentist or for that matter any written word or paper which morphed as a  food parcel or provision wrapping.

Later of course, my interest shifted to philosophical and spiritual ones like  Robin Sharma, The voice of God by the sage of Kanchi( deivathhin kural in tamil) and  Biographies of Bhutto,Jack Welch, Lee Iacoca, Akio Morito, Kalam and the last book I read was  “The man who knew infinity”(Srinivas Ramanujam)  and  that was some three years ago.

 This habit which helped me to win many a quiz contests, quenched my thirst for strung words, helped me to travel to many places, added knowledge to my mediocre brain has slowly waned.

So has my affair with strung words ended........... No....

Strung words do affect me but only now it is more on a flickering screen.

P.S: Anybody aware of Brahma's temple  with Brahma as the main deity, other than the one at Pushkar?
Let me know in the comments section( but  no googling)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Connecting to my roots


An unknown joy  consumes me whenever I pass through or hear the name of the town Mayavaram (now called Mayiladuthurai) in Southern Tamilnadu.  And  when I recently passed through this small town on the banks of River Cauvery, the joy surfed up again. The reason for the  joy - this is the ancestral  town of my father.  

Edakkudi , 3 kms from Mayavaram literally belonged to my father’s ancestors.   The village belonged to the descendents of one person.  Slowly mobility and opportunities disintegrated this villagers in agraharams to different parts of the world  and my Great grandfather moved to Trichy to join the police service and my own grandfather’s  engineering  ambition  moved him to Bangalore and  slowly we disconnected from our roots .  Now, when I pass through that town it gives me some unexplainable joy.

Mobility in communication and transportation has uprooted us from our roots and provided us with individual freedom and more global opportunities.  Today most of us  are geographically scattered from our roots. This  disintegrated the joint family system  in the past  and gave rise to nuclear family. Today even this  has disintegrated further with members of the same family (husband and wife) working at different locations.  With the world growing materialistic and individualistic  today long distance families  has become the norm.  With education and work obligations stationing them at different places, today’s  children and siblings  study or are  employed elsewhere away from home.  

Most of us slowly  adapt ourselves to the new environment, culture and language  gradually losing  ties  with our  roots , family and community .  Today we have an aunt, sibling or  any relative for that matter in some far away piece of land. At times of crisis or happiness we don’t emotionally bond,  you do not have that brother or sister relative to share your joys or sorrows with their physical presence. ( it is not possible to meet frequently)

When elders in the family insist on attending family functions, visiting  family deity, ancestral deity  and observing traditions and rituals, most of us dismiss them with   excuses citing professional and domestic obligations. The pressures of the competitive life  and professional necessities leaves no opportunity to attend many family functions or temples. There is a great demand on our time and energy.  Many a times we find ourselves being  pushed and pulled in all directions due to the rat race.  

   Now,  I feel these functions, rituals and  traditions  or temple visits were designed  to bind the family together and keep us connected to our roots . These  getogethers or functions show us how as relatives we are interdependent, help each other and  bond over food, customs  and traditions and helps foster a sense of oneness and  security. Like they say ‘The family that eats together stays together’. The physical  communication , face to face conversations help us to make good  memories. Perhaps these  help us to maintain sanity  in this world where there are many stressors.  When we do feel  low these memories act as a  destressor and warms up our heart.  These relationships are like those comforters of security   at times of crisis be it health, monetary or some other emergency or simply the thought you have somebody to lean your shoulder on  peps you up and helps face the world with more strength.

Of course. arguing that we are connected through technological network is fine, but that is mostly thorough  virtual  communication, texting and using emoticons and not genuine emotions. As a part of evolution, may be we would lose our emotional quotient and become more like a robot if we did this often.

I experienced this emotional bonding  when we recently conducted  a family function (my son’s thread ceremony)  by observing  traditions and rituals.  The family  ties were strengthened when relatives from many places gathered together. It was a joy to see the gennext bond and exchange their contacts. We were glad we heeded our elder’s advice  and choose a traditional ceremony  close to our roots at Neyveli  over a convention hall  affair in Hyderabad. 

                            A new temple at Govindapuram enroute Mayavaram