Monthly Archives: March 2009

‘brinjal’ festival in bangalore

This note, via Jayashree Janardhan Ashok. Thank you Jayashree, yum!

pic stolen from the 'flyer' of the festival. I am drooling and hungry already!

pic stolen from the 'flyer' of the festival. I am drooling and hungry already!

It is not often times that we would come across festivals like this. I think, for our own sake and for preseving the diversity, we need to encourage such efforts.

Even as I write this, I remember the tasty, butter-like ‘mullu kathirikkai’ – thorny/prickly brinjal – that my brother brought all the way from Vellore to tickle and tease our palate – and I immediately fell in love with this particular cultivar. Luckily, I didn’t marry it, but simply gobbled it up – in case you wanted to know more; it would have been a thorny affair otherwise!

NammaShaale closes down for the summer, from 3rd April, last working day being 2nd – and I dunno whether a school trip can be arranged as the fest in on 5th. Let us see. All the interested parties can arrange to attend the brinjal party, themselves?

The ‘mail forward’ is reproduced here verbatim

———- forward begins ———


Pl pass this notice around in Bangalore and try and go if you can. Pl esp send to schools and other institutions where they can take students and others along. If any of you can get seeds of the long, thin green brinjal that we used to make vangibath with – a variety that is hard to come by these days, please do pick up some seeds for me. We have a good diversity in Sirsi and I can add this to our repertoire and make it a part of the seed saving we are doing.

Thanks \

Brinjal Festival 2009

Brinjal, badanekayi, is the king of vegetables which comes with its own crown! This is an event that will celebrate the diversity of Brinjals and contemplate our role in protecting it.

Don’t Miss the first-ever Brinjal Festival in Bangalore

Venue: MHS Hall, Lalbaug (Double road gate)
Date/Time: April 5th Sunday, 11am – 7pm

Good Food, Healthy Food, Safe Food… should be a primary concern of all of us. The Brinjal festival is an attempt to bring a better consciousness and respect for our rich diverse food. Genetically Modified (GM) food crops pose a grave threat to the diversity and to our health as consumers. Let us all make informed choices about food, one of most fundamental necessities.

What’s in store?

  • Food Stalls with brinjal specials for you to savour
  • Cooking competition for innovative Brinjal dishes
  • Drawing competition and more fun events for kids
  • Brinjal Diversity Exhibition showcasing more than 30 varieties of brinjal
  • Screening of Mahesh Bhatt’s film Poison on the Platter
  • Awareness campaign about GM foods and the risk to our health and environment. Meet scientists, farmers, doctors and Ayurveda practitioners

 What you are requested to do:

Share this information with all your contacts in Bangalore.
– Print the attached poster, and stick it to your apartments, offices or forward this to your colleagues.  (Editor’s note: posters essentially contain what is in this text, however, if you want to download them, print them out, go to: – choose free download, act as instructed)
– Talk to your neighbors, encourage them to participate in the cooking and drawing competitions.
– Register your participation at

 For any queries:


 Sejal – 9901201279 (

Krishna Prasad – 9880862058( )

Manjunath – 9480330652(

Sathish Natarajan – 9448488831 (

 Organized by
Sahaja Samrudha
Association for India’s Development
(AID)- Bangalore

Jaivika Krishi Society (JKS)
Maysore Hoticulture Society (MHS)

Hope to see you all on 5th April at Lalbaug!

Sahaja Samrudha
‘Nandana’, No-7, 2nd Cross, 7th Main, Sulthanpalya, Bangalore-560 032
Phone: 080-23655302 / 9880862058

Sunita Rao
Adjunct  Fellow, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Bangalore, India (
Member, Kalpavriksh, Pune, India (
Founder Trustee, VANASTREE, Sirsi, India (


visit: belum (underground cave system), kurnool dist, AP

This Belum was humbling, at many levels.

The parents of the upper elementary children, would have noticed in the recent past that, there has been a major spurt in the interest of children about caves, their geology, the works. Reason: a good amount of work (montessoriese for ‘studying, persevering, developing skills / knowledge / self’}, had been done, a lot of materials had been presented, children had branched off in various directions, synthesizing their knowledge from various sources. The ‘practical’ experiments included subjecting lime stone & marble to reasonable concentrations of acids (all under watchful and wary eyes the adults, ofcourse) to show the effect of wear/erosion when the stones/minerals are/were subject to the fascinating primordial forces… Fhe formation of stalactites and stalagmites… The magic worked by water flows thusly creating caves…

They had also viewed the excellent episode on caves (#7) of the “planet earth’ series and held animated discussions about the episode, later.

So, the adult in the environment (we will just call her Rama, any resemblance to any livid or dude person is purely coincidental) was keen that the children close their activities with a visit to a real cave system. The hunt began, Rama visited the Belum  (kind of scouting trip) and was completely bowled over by it. Subsequently, whatever we discussed just about anything, would end up veering over to Belum and the wonder that it is etc etc – and I almost cave up on Rama. Ha. But now I understand her sentiments…

So, a visit to Belum was planned – but then. there were so many details to be looked into, so many loose ends needed to be tied up – what with the ‘availability’ of children on weekends and a good 300 km distance that separated NammaShaale and Belum.  Belum is in absolute and delightful boondocks and because of the distance, we had to plan for overnight stay, costs were prohibitive, there were quite a few doubting jonases (including yours truly). Quite a few times the trip was planned and cancelled (all increasng the tempo and queering the pitch) as some piece or the other of the jigsaw puzzle that the logistics nightmare was, fell off at the last minute. Finally, finally it happened on 21-22, March, 2009 – and by gawd and o boy, it was nice!

A few of the staff  of NammaShaale, along with all the ‘upper elementary’ children and erdkinder – in all, some 30 of us, set off on saturday morn (21rd March), by a hired & comfy Rajahamsa KSRTC bus at 9.00 AM sharp. Sharp. I could not believe it when it happened! How can it happen? How come no parent rang up at the last nanosecond and say that he is caught in a traffic jam with a loaf of bread and his child only 20 kms away, from Chennai that is, and so would the bus please wait for just 10 hours? I pinched myself pretty hard and yelped. It really hurt mightily.

The journey – to and fro – was reasonably uneventful, in spite of the COMPLETELY charged children only 25 in no, CONSTANTLY eating/chatting/screaming/playing – by god, the two day-one night trip was over on sunday night. *phew*

All in all, it was a great experience, with folks AP tourism dev corp who are maintaining the cave system owned by the Dept of Archaeology, literally bending over backwards to please us. The boarding and the lodging provided were of a very nice kind… The children (um, including myself) were COMPLETELY bowled over by Belum. Stunning.

There are authorized guides available at Belum and we were fortunate enough to be guided by an enthu cutlet of an young man – Sri Nagamuni.  He very nicely explained the history, science, geography, myths and pretty much everything about the cave. It was amazing to see ALL the children listening to him with rapt attention and following him carefully; there was no jostling, no passing out – they were orderly, in spite of the high humidity within the cave system and its (sometimes) claustrophobic passages. The pre-work that the children had done, reflected on the way they took in the whole environment – and the qustions they asked. Eager beavers, what else…

Of course, there were the morbid arts of the ubiquitous vandals in a few places, in spite of the best offorts (honest) of the APTDC people – and I was glad to learn that ‘KUMAR LOVES KAVITA’ – all in CAPITALS and hoped that Kavita also reciprocated the feelings. Since the grafitti happened on 12-3-2004, may be they have, by now,  some children too, and what a great feeling they would have when they come back to the cave with the whole family and look at their pristinely preserved grafitti. May be this time, they will paint the whole cave RED! I have become tearful, a sentimental fool that I am! Tender moments… whate else! %^$#@*&

The children also did a nice bit of stargazing, thankfully not the Aamir Khan types – and the older & pesky children pestered us for some ghost stories, at the indecent hour of 11 PM – in the night. After listening to a few of the ghastly ghost stories, with every twig snapping and rustling of leaves psyching them no end, some of the intrepid fellers decided to go on an AntiGhostMarch in the dark night, amidst distant howls (well, of laughter may be – by the braver ones who stayed back) to prove it to themselves that they are not afraid of ghosts. I too gingerly joined them. Luckily, I was protected by a ring of these youngsters, so I continued to be brave. Sheesh, the things that one has to do, to earn the respect of these youngsters… I still shiver when I even plan to think of it.

… Among the usual reports and diarization of the impressions of the children, we may even have a quiz exclusively devoted to caves. The questions would be similar to:

What is common to Belum and Pepsi?

(actually a wag, um, in fact a child, said when asked the question: Pepsi is avaliable in the cafeteria near the Cave! Bleh!! Our urban children are soooo so very smart!)

Would you know the answer please? 🙂


Special thanks to Rama, who made it happen. Belum was lovely.

PS: The photos are yet to reach me, so that would be another post, if and when I get them.

It is official…

Fellow parents,  please do come for the Saturday, the 29th March, 2009 events at school – starting at 1630 hours.

Scan of the invitation provided below.


Encourage the children, Meet other parents & staff, Participate in the discussions, Enjoy…

education: some questions and answers(!)

I am not the educator or even the educated type. My spouse defintely is.

We stay in a delightfully absolute boondocks near Bangalore, so get only occasional visitors. Many a time, however and of late, these visitors happen to be couples who are in a dilemma (um, more like a pentalemma or more)  about what school to choose for their wards; frequently we would be asked questions about education, and what parents should do to their children so that their children turn out fine, or what schools we can recommend, or how do we work with children, whatever. Luckily for them, my lack of credentials does not make me shy away from irresponsibly answering questions, of course! This, in spite of the exasparated and repeated interventions from my spouse, asking me to be sensible & sensitive…

Okay, mostly the questions from these folks are the same (and follow the same pattern) but they are all couched in polite language and much euphemism; but, yours truly being a guy from a small town, likes the barebones, unpolished & unadulterated essence of such communication and hence the way of recording of questions that are asked and the way they ar answered (in this write-up) may appear as if they are raw, but believe me, they are actually raw.

I have rather painstakingly(!)  recorded all the actually-meant-questions and our actually-tempted-to-say-answers , from all the conversations and talkathons we have had (but frankly, would have preferred NOT to have had them in the first place) – so that if someone wants to visit or talk to us about schools, education etc, we will merely point them over to this page and spare us the tragic agony of polite conversational nonsense, that would otherwise follow…

However, the ‘Kanti Sweets’ boxes by which we would become richer (& fatter), with every such visit of the Mrs and Mr Clueless,  may please be couriered to us. We even accept cash.

Hope you don’t enjoy the following as much as we didn’t enjoy them…

Is Nammashaale good? Or Anveshana? Is Prakriya good? Or NPS? Or Vidyaniketan Or Vidyashilp Or Bishop Cotton?? What about Royal Concorde? Macaulay English School? Is our local, homegrown Montessori school good enough?

The operative answer should be: Are you good enough for your child? May be you should try to change your child’s parents to some folks better?

Frankly, it all depends on what your views on education are. What? You don’t have an opinion at all? ^%$#@*(!

To help you decide, here are some photos of the Macaulay school and  one of its typical students – and  a writeup. Enjoy.

What are the advantages and drawbacks of mainstream and alternative schools?

There are no mainstream schools. There are no alternative schools. There are only good and bad schools. Like there are good and bad parents, of course YOU know what I mean?

Each school has a vision (that may or may not be openly articulated) based on the background and capacity of the founding group – and then there is this question of effective implementation of their vision. If you agree with both of them, you go ahead.

The vision of the school and you parents should have a significant number of commonalities. If not, cognitive dissonance will result, and your poor child will suffer – the only (and costly) mistake that the child committed would have been that – it was born of you

For example if you are a go-getter (nothing wrong with that) and believe in that cute philosophy of dog-eat-dog, then your child should go to an appropriate school so that the great family tradition and traits get passed on…

I think, professionalism and integrity are the ones that would separate good schools from bad schools – wheter or not they are Montessori or Waldorf or KFI or DPS or our friendly neighhourhood ‘International’ schools (that come in all shapes and sizes and number of swimming pools)…

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the big, branded schools?

There are quite a few advantages; for example, one can completely outsource the education of their wards to these factory model schools. These schools have a minimum standard / quality that they would turn out, irrexpective of the sensibilities of the child and the delightful variations in in each child.

The children of these schools are like High Yield varieties/cultivars with features like – uniformity, minimum standards (whatever that means), a lot of  additional inputs and reinforcement needed. These children would eventually become the fodder for the economy.

Some of these children would even tragically end up in the elite schools too (though they may have wanted to do something else), thus proving that the ‘system beating‘  techniques are likely to be well entrenched in them. This is becoming an important life skill, next only to the ability to use an iPod or a Sony PSP.

In fact I know of many such factory schools, where the children are prepared for nothing else or better than competitive exams like IIT JEE and stuff.

Actually there are no disadvantages to this mode. Schools and ‘Tuition centres’ would take care of everything about academics; if this is not sufficient enough, the so called peer-pressure will make the children perform like a troop of monkeys, but at least monkeys have fun. Summer camps would take care of  the children duting holidays. Lay’s chips would take care of the pot belly. Malls will take care of the much needed walking. Mediated entertainment will be their primary mode of relaxation. Zombiedom is Nirvana, what else.

Parents can have all the fun. Outsourcing will set the parents free. Every year the parents can bribe the children with visits to say, Pattaya kind of touristy places, if need be – and nothing else needs to be done but for paying fees at various places and ferrying the children up and down.

All else will lumber along in delirium.

What are advantages and disadvantages of a small school?

In a small school, I think there is a better chance of the founders’ vision getting translated into action. Another advantage would be that it is possible to make meaningful interventions in school. Of course, the culture and values propagation, and ability to respond to changes are likely to be much more coherent & resilient than in a big school with its ossified processes and all.

It is possible to do a self evaluation on the strengths (going to parties and more parties, or going ‘shopping’ incessantly are unfortunately not considered, sorry) of parents and weaknesses – and one can judiciously choose schools that would offset and complement what one can do at home, with children. This is a definite plus point in small schools, with their own cute strengths and therefore a few lacunae. Children may get the best of everything, this way. But, if the parents are also part of the HYV (hopefully NOT HIV) crop, then their key strength would be ‘career climbing,’ which would have very little relevance to a child.

The flipside would be that there will always be funds crunches (it is the economy, brilliant) – sometimes really crippling – but it is fun to surmount these issues. Another is about the aspect of not being a ‘well known brand.’ But, this vexatious question is handled separately, further down.

The children here could be compared to Open Pollinated seeds/cultivars and hence form a delightfully diverse species collection, very colourful and full of life and possibilities; very self reliant and rugged too.

God (if she exists) knows we need more such Open Pollinated seeds to preserve our rich dirversity. Small schools also invariably have something called character. But this notion probably is old fashioned.

How can my child ever learn the important social & life skills such as bullying, settling down in a pecking order, getting stuck in FaceBook, glueing oneself to toys (such as personal DVD players, iPods, Sony PSPs, Plasma and high defintion TVs), hanging around in malls etc, if they don’t study in branded schools?

I understand your dilemma. You want to pass on the valuable and traditional social skills in the family, to the next generation. What a laudable goal! I really like your concern that – how much less violence will be on the streets, how much safe it will be for others, if your children stayed inside your homes,  glued to their gizmos. My eyes have actually become glassy, where is that darn tissue when I need it.

I agree that the some errant children are getting distracted (all this can be blamed on their incorrigible tendency to get fresh air and sunshine) and are actually doing things and are happy. How can they! I am still investigating what’s wrong with them. Fortunately for my research, they are in a minority. Thank you.

How can I NOT proudly refer to my children as Silkians as the famous ‘Rook Silk’ students are referred to, in their afterlife, I mean, after they complete schooling?

You exactly caught-on to my dilemma too. But I think we can continue to call and refer to our children by their given names. I know it is a difficult & distasteful choice, as opposed to the cult choice – but we know we have the can-do mentality.

Don’t you know that many students from IdIoT are called and idolized as IdIoTians? Won’t our chests brim over, thereby bursting our upper-inner garments at the seams, if our children also join such elite schools?

Please note that when children join such elite schools, they pass out of them. This is a very well and internationally known syndrome called passing-out-charade.

Also remember, they immediately go abroad and never come back, which I think is a blessing. The advantage is that they don’t wreck havoc here in India, what with their paper degrees. The flipside of these jobless folks, has actually three main components.

1. They send (mostly unearned) dollars back, and send up the inflation rates in India.

2. They keep uploading photo albums on picasa or yahoo-photos every hour – and send mails to you urging you to see them, distracting you to bored-death or worse still, goading you to commit suicide.

3. They send you invitations to make you join FaceBook, Yaari, Orkut, LinkedIn etc etc – every week from a new social nutworking site – and keep sending reminders every week in respect of all the other 268 previous invites. In the dark depths of the IP network, nobody can hear you scream.

But, but… What about the BRAND?

What about the brand? You see, if you subject your children to unnecessary branding, then that is a crime punishable under Indian Penal Code. Honest. Instead, please call it tattooing. Aamir Khan likes it. Your children will like it too. When their bodies are filled with tattoos, then you don’t have to invest on clothes at all for your children. They will look naturally beautiful.

What do I do, my neighbour’s son Pappu always gets higher marks than my son Laalu. They both go to the same school, we fathers work in the same IT company. Our wives are both Interior Decorators.

What do you do? If I were in your position, I would swap the children. Or swap the fathers, so that Pappu gets the same fate as your sonny boy Laalu. May be the children belong to different zodiacal signs? May be Pappu is a Genetically Modified organism?
(I suggest that you look for reasons as far away as possible from yourself; believe me, this attitude helps, because you can never get the real reasons elsewhere)

What can I do to help my child learn fast, more, a lot and win medals??

I know you splendid parents very well and your incredible capabilities and therefore – KEEP OFF the child. He will then positively become a good learner, faster learner and a lotter learner. He may even be a muddle winner, as the state of the education is like that only.

My child is always lazy and sleeps too much, till 7.30AM everyday. She does not finish her homework on time. My neighbour’s daugther does not have these problems. That girl is always cheerful. What do I do.

I suggest that at least one day a month, you should let the child be… The child should be free of the Abacus, Painting, Singing (Hindustani & Karnatic – two classes per week), Dancing (Bharathanatyam, Kathak, Ballet, Bombay butt-wiggle, Odissi – only one class per week), Swimming, Pottery, Badminton, Chess, Meditation, Skating, Blading, Tennis, Squash, Violin, Guitar, Piano (only Cambridge certification), Veena, Drums etc etc, all conducted in different places – kind of classes – at least for one day.

May be she can then sleep for full 8 hours, one day a month? I think this easing of one day would go a long way towards reducing the probablity of her becoming a serial killer, by say 1%.

If you continue to make her class-surf like this, she will become a Naxalite. She will annihilate all Class Enemies, starting from you. Grrr.

Another way to solve the issue is to address and confront the neighbour kid, to check her weird behaviour. Keep scowling at her, make faces at her. She will eventually become sullen, at least towards you.

My son is lying a lot, how can I solve this vexatious issue! 😦

Next time around when your hapless boss rings you up, dont ask your son to pick up the mobile phone and say things like ‘my daddy is in the bathroom’ or ‘my daddy has gone out, he forgot to take his mobile.’

My son watches a lot of TV. He does not do anything else at home. He just sits and watches TV. What do I do, Oh what do I do…

First, you get up from your couche. Shed all the manly responsibilities of the morning – such as reading newspapers, commenting on politics, checking stock prices,  checking mails etc -and You start helping around in the kitchen. Sell your TV. Or junk it. The world did manage to work before the advent of TV, yeah?

My daughter is not getting sufficient physical exercise. at all. All she wants to do is to laze around. What do we do.

Resolve to be able to see your toetips in the standing position, without the intervention of the mighty curious midreef of yours, at least in the next year. You set an example of daily physical fitness regimen. All else will fall in place.

When I compare my son’s scorecard with that of my colleague’s son, I feel inferior. How do I address this.

I understand and agree with your feelings. I think you ARE inferior. Go get a life.

I think your wife should loudly start complaining about your performance in bed, while comparing your performance with that of, say your neighbour.

Seriously, you should suffer a major Performance Reprisal at your office.

Go away, or else I  will eat you up live.

——— end ———

This is only the first instalment, and depending on popular demand, if I dont go in to hiding, we may have a few more. Ha Ha.

4th April 2009 update: Part 2 of this rant here:

All parts of this series of ‘essays’ uptil the current one are here:

Theatre performance…

Manjunath, directing the school 'adults' - in a rendition of an impromptu skit

Manjunath, directing the school 'adults' - in a rendition of an impromptu skit

Manjunath, the indegatigable and spirited dramatist, has been one of the nice things to happen to NammaShaale.

He has been working with the children and has been training them in various aspects of theatrecraft. In his earlier avatars, he was a Banker, English teacher etc etc. Now, he is a full time theatre trainer/enthusiast working with children from various schools. I know it for a fact that he also is comfortable with a variety of musical instruments such as flute, violin, mridangam, veena… not to mention his creative outpourings that are implemented through children. (one of these days, we would have a post devoted to this gentleman)

Some parents may recall that it has been a regular practice, for the past few terms, to have his eager trainees showcase their skills and wares – during the last week of the term. 

I am almost sure that, in this term also we would have one such ‘do’ – and so, may I request you parents to please be present on that day to cheer your children and to get to see the fruits of good work done by Manjunath?

I know that the official announcement is yet to happen and I hope it will happen. I am also aware that a lot of things / groundwork have to be done for hosting the event, amidst the flurry of other activities and detailed and individual report-making that are going on, even as I type in this post… So am keeping all my fingers crossed. 😎

But, I know that the children are all well prepared/rehearsed and have been sweating it out for quite a while now… May be we would get to see Manjunath’s wards in action again, after all!

Incidentally, Young Manjunath has been brought to you (um, Nammashaale) by the efforts of Jayashree Janardhan Ashok; of course, the school has also been peacefully accommodative of the theatre activities and much else.

Thanks for all the fish.

May be I should begin a category/tag called ‘gossip?’ 🙂

India Geography Quiz

Erdkinder forded the following quiz, a few days back. This is the first round of the quiz. Guess, you can figure out the answers yourself.

Like any self respecting quiz, there are a couple of red herrings too. So fish carefully.

— begin —

Attempt all questions. It is YOUR homeland, and you would do your best. Remember Overlays. All information is overlay on raw data and nothing else… Paranthecated numbers indicate marks carried by questions.

Time 45 minutes                                                                                   Max marks: 100
                                                      Happy answering!

1. Name ALL the Indian states that border Pakistan.  (4)
2. Name ALL the Indian states that border Bangladesh.(4)
3. Name ALL the countries with which India shares its borders. (7)
4. Which state in India has the maximum number of foreign neighbors- name the neighbors too.  (5)
5. What is the southernmost point of India? Where is it? (2)
6. Which state of India has the longest coastline? (2)
7. Name the 7 sisters – the North-eastern states – and two cities/towns that are NOT their capitals in each? (14)
8. Which state of India has 36 in its name? (2)
9. Name the Indian states through which the river Brahmaputra flows. (3)
10. Where is the India’s biggest lake? (2)
11. Name the all union territories starting with C and D. (4)
12. Name one city in India, that falls directly below the tropic of Capricorn. (2)
13. Name the state capital that is nearest Kanyakumari. (2)
14. There has been many a talk about joining the rivers – Kaveri and Ganga, thereby solving the problems of droughts in south India and floods in north India, in one stroke! What is the one major geological feature of India, that makes this linking/joining extremely difficult. (5)
15. Geologically speaking which mountain is likely to be older? Everest or Tirupathi hill? Why? (4)
16. Name the tallest mountain peak in India. (2)
17. Name the longest mountain range exclusively in India which is aligned with the east-west direction. (2)
18. Name the longest Indian river that flows from east to west. (2)
19. What are the latitude and longitude of Bangalore? (4)
20. Name the union territories that are entirely surrounded by water bodies. (2) 84
21. Name the most drought prone (not much rain, arid region, too hot, very little water etc) state in India. (2)
22. Which state is so beautiful that it is named the ‘temple/abode of the clouds?’ Which state is named after the Sun because it gets to see the Sun first, everyday, compared to the rest of India? (4)
23. North to South, East to West – what are the maximum distances in India? (4)
24. Which state in India has the maximum number of rivers flowing from east to west? (2)
25. Name two tributaries each of Ganga and Kaveri. (4)

— end —

Africa, Africa

There are a few completely ignored chapters in the history of the world. Examples include histories of South America, Native America and most callously, that of Africa. Am not even going to rant about the lack of ‘women’s history of the world’ etc etc. Nor amI going to wail about the lack of reasonable representations of Arabic, Indic and Fareastern ones, keave alone the natural history…

I recall with horror that even the so called ‘learned’ ones, and historically inclined ones would know very little about Africa, and if at all, they may remember some details about Cleopatra (thanks to  Asterix comics) and Mummies (thanks to horrendously hilarious ‘horror’ flicks from US – such as Mummy returns for the Nth time) – whereas for all practical purposes, Egypt is more a part of Asia than Africa. To top it all many a learned folk would call Africa, rather poetically (sic) the ‘Dark Continent!’

With some raking of the brain, some may even come out with names such as Nelson Mandela and ah, I forget the names of the cricketers – but, I reserve them for some future post.

Of course, lately, Africa has been reduced to studies on tribal massacres, internecine warfares, droughts  and occasional stunning  ‘nature’ documentaries, courtesy of ‘Discovery’ or BBC channels on the Idiot Box – on l.e.. ee…eee….aping gazelles and majestically waddling elephants and exotic backdrops and the stereotypical pygmies (!) hunting game.

The great American pulp film productions (there are also really bad German and French ones, to give discredit to them too) have distilled Africa, in their own infernal wisdom,  into sad (um, actually hilarious) & melodramatic films like ‘Tears of the Sun’ or that endlessly abominable ‘Gods must be crazy.’ Sheesh!

History after history books are written about “world” wars whereas those wars were actually fought between avaricious and blood-thirsty european nations and in limited territories. Of course hapless colonies were also drawn in – but even that wouldn’t make those pointless bloodsheddings, WORLD wars.

But am digressing, as is my wont. 😎

With erdkinder, among many other things, we have been  studying the topography of Africa, on which we have layered nations and boundaries, rivers and mountains. Fascinating details to me, of course. From the reaction of the children, I could see that they are fascinated too!

The idea is to look at various (wilfully and often sinfully) neglected things, from fascinating & engaging points of view – so that synthesis at higher levels of abstractions could take place in the impressionable and curious minds of the adolescents.

It is amazing what an encouraged child would passionately do – I am actually thrilled at how the curiosity of some children has been kindled – how they want to know more – how they kept poring over all kinds of information for many an hour – and how, coherently & logically they try to understand and assimilate various factors.

Now our erdkinder know a lot more about the topography and the layers of Africa than probably a civil servent (IFS) wanting to ‘serve’ in Africa.

Darfur? They know what sad things are going on in Sudan. Rwanda? They will soon see ‘Sometimes in April.’ Nigeria? They would soon know how Petroleum is actually a hindrance to development, at least there. They would know about slave trade. They would know about the incredible & brave civil society leaders. They will know about the great scientists – all from Africa. All them interesting thingies, while having fun.

They will have informed, learned & competent opinions on things that matter and that are of importance to us, as a society. They will not spend their time in front of dumb toys like  Sony PSP or discuss inane saas-bahu drivel on the Idiot Box aka TV or suffer from mall-nutrition and all that glitz. They will know how to separate chaff from the grain. They will learn to filter out noises from signals. They will develop finely tuned tastes and a sense of aesthetics, with a keen eye to observe and reflect on the inherent beauty in everything. This is my fervent hope.

They will be responsible and considerate children, having a healthy respect for things that one should have a healthy respect for. Hope, hope. I live on hope. I am an optimist. At least I would like to think so.

Now you may ask, what use this is, this Africa fetish – for the ‘secondary school leaving certificates’ of various kinds. I would be tempted to ask right back, Sir (0r Madam), which part of  ‘secondary’ that you can’t understand. Not. Sorry!

I feel that, SSLC exam of any kind, will not be able to test the range and depth of the capabilities of these young adults (or old children, depending on your perspective) – Anyway, with a little bit of focus, rigour and 7Ps we will handle the exam part of their graduation appropriately. So don’t you worry.

The answer to the question – but WHY? – can be answered by an equally simple – Why NOT? But, the real answer to the question would take a whole big post and I suppose you are too tired now. The answer would be at many levels, questioning our basic beliefs and internalized assumptions about what we think education is.

If at all someone asks, we will handle that later, okay? For those who would want to ask, the forum is always open in terms of comments to this (offending) post and I suppose WordPress allows threaded comments too!

In the meantime, rejoice with me, and peruse the quiz questions that our children reasonably handled – there were two rounds of them. There will be more. I have provided the scans of the questions. Answers, you can figure out yourself, if you want or you know, you can even ask!

Africa Quiz round #1

Africa Quiz round #1

Here’s the next…

Africa Quiz Round #2

Africa Quiz Round #2

hindi day, that was…

Oh yeah. We had celebrated our own hindi diwas at NammaShaale, a few weeks back, of course.

But I had to wait for some good photographs from some volunteer before I could post about that. Nice excuse, eh?

Now, I always wonder about this. Folks (mea culpa, myself included) always keep clicking photos away to glory during any event (there would be incessant flashes, distracting the shy performers on stage- with doting dad/mom photographers plonking themselves right in between the audience and the performers, annoying the audience too, just in case the hapless audience feel left out), but rarely do the photos see the light of any day, almost never get shared and if they get shared, they come in a deluge of ‘see my babloo’s doing potty, you can see babloo’s pappa’s hand ‘ kind of horrendous flickr images (and their ilk) and mindnumbing drivel – mostly from pesky relatives with nothing better to do or from friends wanting to show off their latest trip to a Pattaya or a Serengeti. Sheesh!

Die, you mindlessly pointless images. May you files get corrupted!

On the otherhand, the storage of the ‘Texas chainsaw mutant monster ninja massacre photo album of your second cousin, thrice removed, now actually removed to California, returns this time via picasaweb, the photo host, Mommmieeeee’ requires that there be more buying of storage & assorted hardware – and so the gross national products of our nations go up, in these times of net negative growth of our economies. Really gross indeed! As I harrangue the erdkinder, there is never a case of complete, unadulterated badness – there is always a goodside to any bad thing.

… With the advent of ‘digital’ cameras and their poor & multitudinous cousins – the cell phone cameras, my problems have become more chronic and complicated; suddenly everyone is armed & dangerous with some picture capture device or the other and voila, has become a photographer… Not that I am an elitist, but what I ask is reasonably constant ‘striving for excellence.’ Is it too much to ask for?

But, sirs and ma’ams, with digital cameras, there is no need to understand frames, no any techniques of taking photos, no science, no learning, no nothing, no shraddha no botheration at all.

Click Click Click.

Copy Copy Copy.

Send Send Send.

Recharge Recharge Recharge.

Important: Don’t wait. Don’t observe. Don’t even pause to look at your photos. We are all going to die anyway. Sun will soon become a red giant. grrrr

But, my erdkinder would ask, Where is the Overlay? Where is the aesthetics? Where is the taste?

Gotta get back to the topic. (am still recovering from the after effects of seeing images of the likes of ‘babloo & co in front of Mount Rushmore, during Fall. ‘ Sincerely, I pray that that the child does not end up with multiple fractures. All I want to say is: Unmount. Quiten down. Move less. Above all, spare me…)

… Young Namrata is the one helping the NammaShaale children with Hindi – and she is doing a commendable job of it. One of the proofs of her good work is, in fact, living with us.

Namrata with a child

Namrata with a child

It appeared as if months of preparation went in to organize the day – the 7th of February, 2009! Generalizing from the sample size of exactly one, I would say that the parents were also harassed, with the daily (nay, hourly) rehearsals of whatever the child wanted to do on stage. In fact, given half-a-chance, I would have participated in the HindiDay and would have very easily stood-in for my child – what with the incessant practice that I got…

… Children were busy preparing charts, recitations, skits etc etc for daze, believe me – and every child (excepting the ones from the primary environment) participated with much gusto.  Hmmm, No, I remember that, midway through the programme,  a particularly vociferous (& confident) gang of primary children (led by an able young thing) trotted upto Namrata and forced her to allow them to sing a Hindi song, though they were not part of the plan at all! Apparently, thanks to young Anjana, the little ones have been singing all kinds of songs for quite a while, regular full-throated practice and all that – and hence they too wanted to showcase their provess with Hindi.

The hardwork and dedication of Namrata, shone through the entire programme. May her good (and of course, hard) work continue…

Thanks to Vinod, a NammaShaale parent (and a NammShaale husband too, as his wife Anjana is the ‘adult’ for the primary environment) – we have quite a few nicely clicked (and selected)  photos of the event; he has posted them at: Of course, there are no additional marks for guessing who that little young man wearing the ‘cream coloured’ Kurtha is…

Every language has its day.

I think Tamil, Telegu and Malayalam (and may be some Ahom and Bangla too, why not) day celebrations are not far behind.  It is  such a nice thing about diversity – whether it is about species or beliefs or thoughts or whatever. There are so many things to celebrate.

Life is one loooong celebration, truly and verily!

pattachitra – master craftsmen – demo

Thanks to an yet-another-intiative of  Jayashree Janardhan Ashok – a NammaShaale parent  (and Nalini Jayaram from ‘The Valley school,’ Bangalore), NammaShaale played host to a family of pattachithra (cloth painting) artists from Naya gaon, Midnapore dist, West Bengal on Tuesday, the 24th Feb 2009.

I should also plug-in the fact that NammaShaale has always been receptive to hosting multivarious ideas, events and thoughts in its precincts  – as long as there are benefits that would accrue to the child’s development, of course subject to the school’s  crowded calendar of events. It is also gratifying to note that a few parents consistently pitch in to enhance the level of pedagogical discourse and otherwise; wish there were more such kindred souls, that are genuinely interested in  positive interventions – while having an unfaltering focus on the child  and its needs.

The pattachitra art form roughly dates back to more than 1600 years and has been nurtured around the rituals/activities of Jagannath Temple of Puri, Orissa. Now apparently it has enhanced its rather fragile base to the southern districts of West Bengal, a good thing. It is heartening to note that only vegetable dyes are used and continue to be used. But am not sure how these colours are made to ‘fast’ – gotta find out. That’s a note to myself.

Looks (and feels so nice), but I would call it Unclear Fishion. Sorry for the gory humour.

Looks (and feels so nice); the story for which this painting forms a backdrop iw about a marriage between two fish and so on; please remember that the stories were targetted primarily at children.

The father (Sri Khandu Chitrakar), son (Sri Prabir Chitrakar) and daughter (Kumari Rani Chitrakar) trio spent the day with the children, explained the context of their paintings, displayed lots of their lovely work, talked about how they make the paintings and gave us several performances with their work. A fascinating day.

 Depicts a tribal custom of getting inebriated, post someone's death

Depicts a tribal custom of getting inebriated, post someone's death

Khandu Chitrakar explained that they first come up with a story. The story is then illustrated with a scroll painting. They then create songs to sing the story as they narrate the story with the scrolls. I think it is very good packaging of the art form.

Apparently the form is continuosly under threat, with children of artisans not evincing any interest (what is good and what is not good Phaedrus, need some one tell us… I recollect a Satyajit Ray film in which (Siddhartha and the City?) the protaganist appears for a job Interview and is asked ‘when did we get Independence?’   – he responds asking ‘Whose?’)  in the ancestral skills, TV taking over the evenings of the target populations, migration of skilled artisans to the cities and to other vocations that will get them some money/food at least etc.

As a nation I think we have very little respect for history and traditions and thanks more to Sri Macaulay, what little we know is not even half baked and to top it all, we feel inferior, apologetic and guilty about history. Dharampal may set one free?

… But Sri Khandu Chitrakar has been trying all innovative methods to revitalize this tradition – seems he has done a painting and story themed around AIDS, paintings/stories around the WTC bombing (how I hate the simplistic token 9/11!), creating new storylines around paintings, not necessariy around religious themes, participating in exhibitions (apparently Jayashree spotted this itinerant pattachitra group in Chitrakala Parishad, Bangalore – and the rest is herstory!). Sri Khandu Chitrakar’s daughter has won quite a few awards from the West Bengal Govt, we were told.

… Of course, the NammaShaale children enjoyed the whole ambience of paintings and stories – and got to see many of the interesting steps involved in creating pattachitra, which were patiently explained by Sri Khandu Chitrakar; it is not often times that one gets to listen to master craftsmen. Some of us  ‘adults’ were bowled over by the simplicity and effectiveness of the medium of overlaying a compelling narrative over a piece of art. We also acquired a few paintings from these good folks; the two found in this blog entry are only a representative sample. (in case if other parents/adults who bought these paintings could send a scan or two, I would also include them, please!)

His contact details are furnished hereunder:

Jorano Pot Silpa, C/o Khandu Chitrakar, Village and PO Naya P.S,  Pingla, Disttrict Paschim Midnipur, West Bengal – 721 140. Residence Phone no: (03222) 217 830.

(there are a few mobile nos but I dunno what the ‘roaming charges’ will translate to for these itinerant folks. So they are not on the blog. If someone wants them, they know who to ask)

We fervently wish that Chitrakars emerge successful thru the struggle. We hope their passion and support from cognoscenti will see them through…

A reasonably comprehensive info about patachitra is  available off this Crafts Council of India page.

This news item appears, thanks to significant inputs from Sowmya Arunajatesan, a NammaShaale parent.

Kannada ‘G P Rajarathnam’ day celebrations

Thanks to the enthusiasm of Anitha (she helps NammaShaale children with Kannada and also happens to be  a NammaShaale parent), on 12th March, 2009 – the school celebrated the birthday anniversary of G P Rajarathnam (a person of Tamil origin, but who scaled incredible heights in Kannada literature, and is accepted as one of the greats in the Kannada literary-cultural scene) as Kannada day. I suppose, in those days, there was no frothing-at-the-mouth linguistic chauvinism – ot at least it did not get as much press as these days of the dominance of the negative-news, which is at the level of  obsessive-compulsive neurosis, what with the likes of the trying Times of India and ToHellka bending over backwards to nauseate us…

G P Rajarathnam. © K.L. Kamat/Kamat's Potpourri - off

G P Rajarathnam. © K.L. Kamat/Kamat's Potpourri - off

Okay. 🙂

A mug shot of Anitha, the Kannada Prima Donna, who slogged (along with her children) and made it possible.

Anitha, the Kannada primadonna

Lower, higher elementary children participated with much gusto  (sang songs/poems of  Rajarathnam) and the erdkinder presented the life story of his. There were charts (a gazillion of ’em) on his works, translations and even a ‘small’ comparative dictionary of south Indian (“dravidian’) languages…

There was also this staging of a  play based on Tenali Rama (not related to Rajarathnam’s literary outputs) that was staged and directed by Sanath – an 8 year old elementary child! Apparently it was very good. (sadly, I missed it)

A reasonable number of parents participated, but then it was a ‘working’ day for them and all that – thanks to all those who came in to cheer on the children, and all those were meaning to go, but then…

She is also behind the newspaper, believe me!

Incidentally, Anitha is also behind the newspaper, believe me! Just above the newspaper, you can see her headline. Ha.

May her good work continue…