Monthly Archives: November 2009

visit plan: halebid, belur, shravanabelagola

The following document extract was circulated a few weeks back to the erdkinder and relevant adults, to enebale us to do the basic groundwork, before we embark on the trip, sometime this week.

The children have already been exposed to the relevant parts of ths history.

Hope a few interested folks may find these catergorized listings and pointers useful.

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This document explores the learning possibilities for the children (erdkinder), as they plan to make the trip to:

  • Halebidu
  • Belur
  • Shravanabelagola

 The adult who would handle / oversee all these tasks to be identified.

1.      The following groundwork needs to be done by the children before they embark on the trip.

1.1.   Talking to /interviewing people who have already visited these places and taking down notes on what to see and what to do and how to plan.

1.2.   Approximate costing – in terms of  travel, vehicle hire charges + driver or fuel + driver, food, permits, entrance fees.

1.3.   Approximate per person funds collection: assuming x children and y adults.

1.4.   Arrangement of logistics – route fixing, timelines, food, water, emergency contact numbers, emergency kit, camera, cells etc etc

1.5.   Study approaches:

1.5.1.      What are monolithic statues?

1.5.2.      What are the various types of stones that are normally used in sculptures?

1.5.3.      What are frescoes?

1.5.4.      Hoysalas have been very vigorous builders of temples? why?

1.5.5.      How come the Hoysalas constructed not only shiva and Vishnu temples, but also jain ones?

1.5.6.      Find out the names of other places in Karnataka which have the stamp of Hoysalas. Why are they concentrated mainly in the malenadu region?

1.5.7.      What are the influences on the Hoysala architecture? Or from what forms is this architectural style evolve?

1.5.8.      What are the prominent features of hoysala architecture (lathe turned columns – sometimes with brackets on top, ornate vimaanas – stellate/rhomboid, multiple shrines/kutas, multiple eaves, jagged bays in the main mantapa, banana bud motifs on ceiling, pierced-stone latticework, vestibule with sukanaasi, clockwise sequenced reliefs, soapstone/schist carvings, jagati, makaratoranas, balustrades, polygonal pradakshinapatha, sala bhanjikas, erotic/shaktham inspired reliefs etc etc)

1.5.9.      What are stepped wells better known as? What is their primary use?

1.5.10.  What do you think of the generations of sculptors who created these wonderful works of art? How did they survive? Are there any characteristic ‘signatures’ of these craftsmen? Were there craftsmen from other kingdoms?

1.5.11.  Do you know that, just about 3.5 KMs from NammaShaale there is a small but exquisite temple with standard Hoysala architecture patterns? Find out where and visit it! (Not maintained well though!)

1.5.12.  Again, there is a kalyaani barely 5 KMs away from school? Where is it? (This is not at all maintained)

1.6.   Halebidu:

1.6.1.      What could have been the reason for Halebidu to become the capital of the Hoysalas?

1.6.2.      Why do invaders ransack temples and palaces? (Malik Kafur ransacked Halebid during the 1300s)

1.6.3.      What was the original name of Halebidu and why the name? (Then and now)

1.6.4.      What are the temples in Halebidu – their details

1.7.   Belur

1.7.1.      What was the original name of Belur?

1.7.2.      How come there is a rajagopuram at the temple? Isn’t this a feature of chola architectire?

1.7.3.      How are the figurines of young women carved here are different from other hoysala temples?

1.8.   Shravanabelagola

1.8.1.      How come there is a jain shrine (working) in the heart of Karnataka?

1.8.2.      What is interesting about the inscriptions below the icon?

1.8.3.      What are anatomically incorrect in the statue?

1.8.4.      What is the origin / etymology of the word shravanabelagola?

1.8.5.      The story of Gommateshwara – a myth or a legend/ what is it?

1.8.6.      The story of the statue? what is it?

2.                  During the trip, the following exploratory / observational work needs to be done – to be instructed by the adult in-charge:

2.1.   Identify all the features of hoysala architectureand name them.

2.2.   Spend time noting layers of information of reliefs.

2.3.   Explore the anatomical correctness and design of figurines.

 

3.                  Post trip, for closure, the following need to be done – or thought about..

3.1.   A presentation on some features.of the architecture.

3.2.   A detailed report/diarization of the trip

3.3.   If you want to visit these places again, what will you do differently?

3.4.   Thanksgiving letters to the archaeology dept  or caretakers of

3.5.   Important points learned – and interesting avenues to be explored.

3.6.   How come of the 1000 odd temples of hoysalas, only about 100 survive.

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A report, post the visit will be filed too…

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whisper campaigns on wings (sanitized version, really!)

A Rosicrucian master’s take on the prime way of life: ‘To love where I am, love who I am with, and love what I am doing’

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This period of October to January is always an interesting (actually endlessly entertaining) part of any given academic year. Do you want to know why?

This is the period in which the angst laden parents (luckily, they are in a minority) have grave self doubts and plan to check out the other schools – and ask you what are you going to do, given their perceived situation.

The fact that many schools start dishing out their application forms for new admissions in this period, does not help the situation. Parents take their company provided vehicles and religiously visit all the alternative and no-alternative schools and simply exhaust themselves. If the current school is perceived to be having an X attribute, they want it to have a non-X attribute – for any given value of the attribute and drive themselves (and others) nuts.

The following table roughly indicates the thought(!) processes going on in the minds of these kinds of parents:

Current status perception Wanted status

( Given value of X)                                                    (non – X)

Concentration on arts                                                 Concentration on Sports
Concentration on Sports                                            Concentration on arts
No exams                                                                          Yes Exams
Yes exams                                                                        No exams
Open                                                                                    Close
Close                                                                                    Open
Textbooks                                                                         No textbooks
No textbooks                                                                  Textbooks
Discipline                                                                          Freedom
Freedom                                                                            Discipline

….                                                                                         ….

This sad listing can go on and on, but I suppose, you get the drift…

However, the real reality in any given simplistic dyadic interpretation is somewhere between the extremes and most of us don’t realize it, unfortunately. We look for ideal solutions. Fine.

The oscillations of these species of parents between (x and non-x) are sensed and picked up by the children. The children want to be close to their parents, naturally. Some of these kids invent scenarios, interpret things out of context and some clueless parents zoom in on the trivia and get agitated about the current school to which their kids go… Some of these parents even set up a temporary cabal and share their adventures with like mindlessed folks. Oh fun.

And, of course BSNL, Airtel & Co benefit a lot in this merry-go-around. It is all economy and growth, stupid. May be NammaShaale would benefit by getting a commission on all these cabal calls. Hello? Where is the business development manager(alliances), when the school needs one??

Seriously, I think this is likely to be a problem only with the parents of kids who go to the so-called ‘alternative schools’ – who think that they are ‘thinking people’ and so have the correct solutions for all problems & ills of the world including the incessant birthday parties. They never come to terms to the fact that they (at least, most of them) are merely armed chair activists and so, are never at peace with themselves. I am a parent of this mode.

Au contraire, the parents that send their kids to the so-called ‘mainstream’ schools, have no such delusions of grandeur and noodle-headedness. They and their kids plod thru with whatever current status they are in, trying to maximize on the available opportunities. I am also a product of this mode.

Frankly, I don’t know which mode is better. You judge.

Oh well. We have been on the receiving end (mostly) of these interesting conversations for the past few years. We don’t have a TV set at home, but enough soap operas and saas-bahu drivel are specially enacted for us by a few fellow parents with complications resulting from noodle-headedness. Oh yeah, some of these parents are not even NammaShaale parents!

Not only that these parents are confused – they, at least some of them, spread the paranoia around, ably aided by hilarious imagination and little truth. . The relentless and mindless Indian whisper starts and the result is oodles of entertainment. Really…

Eventually, as it happens, these uncalled-for perceptions and rumours, reach the ears of the persons against whom the whisper campaigns are mounted, and the result is a total disbelief for a few seconds, and a while later, hysterical laughter on part of the targeted individuals! I am giving a few instances (well, some of them really, really happened, believe me!) of the paranoia and illogical logic of some of us, to provide some fun.

Please note that if you replace NammaShaale, say, with ‘Prakriya Green Wisdom School’ or some such reasonable school, these species of parents would have the same kind of complaints! So much for socialism!!

  1. Teachers in NammaShaale go to school only for two days a week at best. On any given day, you can be sure that only support staff would be present. Even if the teachers come to school by some random chance, they spend of a lot of time in meetings. No wonder my child is not self directed! (Um, I would think – if actually children are not with adults in the school by and large, then there is no other way for the children to be adult directed anyway. Please note that, meeting-surfing can be done only at the corporate ‘premises’ of your spouse; in a school, it is next to impossible to sail from meeting to meeting, pretending that some honest work is indeed being done! May be you should try to act as a teacher in the school for a month!)
  2. Teachers in NammaShaale don’t go to school for two days a week! I wonder how the children are faring! (Ma’am, you can hallucinate and wonder, since you have too much time in your hands, but I know for a fact that most teachers, except yours truly, work for nearly 7 days a week, one way or the other. And, they actually slog it out… I wonder whether you would even survive a week in this kind of a set up.)
  3. My child tells me that he does not study at all in school, and all he does is slicing vegetables & rolling rotis, what kind of a school is this! I am horrified that he enjoys it too! (at least, he will be a good, helpful husband in future, unlike your husband – what do you think?)
  4. My child is using some words that in our household that we don’t utter! What is this? (the child knows it gets a reaction from you, he is just testing, don’t worry; on the contrary, feel free to use some slang that is not immediately intelligible to the child – learn to swear in say, Mongolian)
  5. The school is going to be taken over by the Highways department, and they want to setup a NammaDriving school there! Don’t you know? Already a lot of the school land is acquired. (True. The school is actually planning to shift to the Barton Center on MG Road. Don’t you know this? Actually the school feels that it would be closer to nature this way! In any case, the surreal estate prices at Hennur-Bagalur Road are likely to be cheaper than on MG Road.)
  6. There are no organized sports activities – how will the children learn teamwork and goal setting? (Sir, actually the children all they want and more about this teamwork business in the class environment itself; but may be you are talking about the extravagant and funny ‘offsites’ periodically conducted at your MNC for fostering the team spirit, please beer with the school! On the contrary, you don’t even know of the efforts taken by the school to bring in ‘organized’ sports, coaches and all that…)
  7. The classrooms are open – there is too much wind. There is too much atmosphere. Too real.
  8. The classrooms are closed – they are too cold.
  9. The school environment is noisy; there is too much traffic on the road. (May be you should stop using your car and avoid going to the airport at all, don’t you realize that you are also contributing to your issue?)
  10. The school is in a faraway desolate place – it is so silent; in an emergency how can you reach the nearest hospital? (you see, NammaShaale has tie-ups with hospitals in Chennai and Hyderabad; in an emergency, we can quickly whisk away the patient to the 5-star hospitals there; you know, the school is nearer to the Devanahalli airport as opposed to the Bangalore city hospitals and by our remarkable strategy, we would beat the Bangalore traffic snarls all hollow! The patient will actually get the medical attention ASAP. Agreed?)
  11. There is too much Kannada, Hindi and non-classroom work.
  12. There is too little of Kannada, Hindi and non-classroom work.
  13. The school buses take the road on which we stay, but they refuse to stop at my doorstep to pickup my children; the drivers are uncooperative, they switch off their phones and drop the children off in random places! (Ma’am, surely you know that it is slightly difficult for the buses to go all the way to your 4th floor apartment; we tried, but the lift/elevator sizes are very small at your apartment block. Again, the drivers are drivers, they are not telephone operators)
  14. The children are not allowed to take their iPods and Sony PSPs and PDVD players to school! What kind of a pathetically paleolithic school is this? Shouldn’t we move with the times? (please go to VidhyaScalpting school or some such. They gladly allow these gadgets, I think)
  15. You know, from next year, the school is going to be managed by a Parent-Teacher association and the decisions taken by this PTA will be final and binding on the folks who are running the show! We would soon register the PTA as a society. (Good luck on your planned coup d’etat, sirs and madams; operating a school is no monkey business, it has only hygiene factors)
  16. The school is not inclusive in the decision making processes. We want to be part of all meetings in school! We want to take part in the deliberations, which will affect the school and its children. (Madam, there are very few structured meetings required for a school of this size. Besides, we know how a normal meeting will go – there will be more of eating then meeting. And, actually we have had quite a few of these eating-meetings, been there, done that. The school actually believes in getting the job done, period)
  17. Everyday my elementary child comes back with soiled undies! Can’t the child be cleaned properly after he uses the toilet? Aren’t we paying the fee?? (Madam, your son is only ten years old. Hence I understand that he may not know how to clean himself, it is quite sad that the school is indifferent about this. But, tell me, who cleans his father at his office? Does he send his output as a mail attachment to his VP-Admin or what?)
  18. My child does not have the time, there is way too much work. She has to attend classical dance, hindustani music, language, tennis, badminton, vishnu sahasranaamam (or bible classes), ballet, keyboard, swimming and kabaddi classes thrice a week. The school is harassing her – they are asking her to focus. How can the child have energy to do so much work at the school too?(Madam, please stop this driving up and down nonsense, ferrying your child to various classes – you are leaving a lot of blackholes in your wake; our poor earth will soon get sucked in to your blackholes, much, much before 2012!)
  19. The school is not making my child focus on anything at all. There is way too much of freedom for the child. There is too much of child directed inactivity. (What? You feel that she has to go for IIT prep classes at the ripe old age of 6 itself, is it?)
  20. The child is focusing on only a few things, that too very deeply; she knows too much about some things and not at all about other things. (So, she has to know a lot of things, with an equal lack of depth, is it?)
  21. The adults / teachers are not responsive. I tried to contact them, but their cellphones are switched off. (May be the teacher was actually spending time in the class environment as opposed to being accessible to you on a 24×7 basis? What audacity! My sympathies are with you.)
  22. My child says, he does not like the school, and that adults are abusive, fellow students bully, and the toilets are not clean! O tempora, O mores! (Madam, the child says what you want to hear. You try to spend sometime at school observing and come to your own and your child’s conclusions)
  23. And, there is this cross-eyed male teacher who always looks shabby with unkempt hair growth all over. He does not wear coordinated dress. Look at him, he is supposed to have retired prematurely, no, immaturely, from the IT industry and is working in the school, can you believe it? Am sure he is a failure and a dropout fringe element. And, I know that he is a drug addict and may be has AIDS too. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want any of my children to get exposed to this wreck! (you may be correct about him, ma’am, but he is not a representative sample of the adults in school. The other teachers are actually good.)

As I said elsewhere, there are perceived issues (and non-issues) in every and any school. I think NammaShaale (insert your current school’s name, for that matter) has been fair and reasonable in addressing the genuine concerns of the parents – most of us know it. If you want to solve or pitch in, be a part of it. If you don’t want to contribute, you can whine or better, stop unnecessarily worrying –  if you want to get out, please get out. It is your life.

But, I sincerely think that the paranoid parents should take decisive action, check out the truth, weigh the situation realistically, think logically, ditch emotional/sentimental bullexcreta and move their ponderous posteriors, in whatever direction that they want to! It is a matter of your children, dammit. Don’t we parents all hallucinate that whatever we do, we do is in the best interests of our children?

Now, if you would excuse me, I gotta go check whether ‘Royal Mysore InterGalactic Boeing school’ is issuing application forms for new admissions; you know, you have to sleep near the gate tonight so that you will have a chance to get the app form tomorrow morning… They are in the IB league, you know, not even your silly IGCSE. grrrr

Spouse! Where in the hell are my raincoat and sleeping bag? What?? I forgot to bring them back when I went for my night-out at the HairyheadLose School this time last year?? @#$%$ Do I have to go to Kuberan School also today? Oh NO.

Again: A Rosicrucian master’s take on the prime way of life: ‘To love where I am, love who I am with, and love what I am doing’

Comments welcome – but not on phone. No sir. Illa ma’am. Don’t worry. I won’t publish your name.

structure and interpretation of children’s toys

Pure joy! The pleasures of breaking open a contraption, studying what is it that makes it work – and finally, reassembling it. Fascinating.

For the past few weeks, at the erdkinder (junior) classes, we have been looking at various toys – analyzing among others:

  • Why have been designed they have been
  • What is interesting about the form-factor – how is this and the colours of the toys – are related to the enduser children…
  • What are the various aspects of ‘packaging’
  • What is minimalist (and functional) design
  • What are the various mechanical and moving parts
  • What are the various laws that govern the moving parts
  • What are the basics of safety
  • How to handle tools…
  • etc etc

The fact that the children have spent nearly an year with the basics of science and math at the high school levels does help.

The way we go about doing it is: We discuss the toy – how it is supposed to work, why it looks the way it looks  – just by looking at it. And then, we pass it around and take a call. And then, we open it and discuss. Layer by layer, children learn the HowTo and WhyOnEarth kind of ideas. 

We finally reassemble it – at the end of an hour of fun, that is!

We sincerely hope that this infection of HowAnythingWorksVirus is bad and virulent enough in our children, goading them to apply the wonders of  ‘screwdriver technology’ to just about anything at home!  May be they would infect you too! For example, yesterday, we discussed as to how to cut a sheet of glass with a pair of plain old scissors, would you want to know how?

May be we would make a few toys with some locally and cheaply available materials when we graduate to that point…

I almost forgot to tell you – Actually, we are planning to look at the Barbie dolls in the next session – more from the point of view how anatomy basics are seriously violated by them! We would also look at the diabolical targeted design and appeal of the aforesaid toy range. GI Joe will have to wait, not that it really does Mattel

The title of this post is shamelessly derived from the tile of  THE best computer science book ever written – ‘The Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs’ – the whole book is available online –  given time and energy, I would love to work with the children borrowing ideas from this book.

But then, I also remember the um, old jingle saying: Man Schemes, God Lisps…  Oh, the pun of it….

effects of soda and “junk” food on children

This document was created by young B. Ashok, a NammaShaale parent.  Thanks so much, Ashok  for all the trouble and much else.

(This doc was sent to me a few months back, I was supposedly waiting for an updated version though it had apparently already been sent to me, lost in the gmail cackle, backed-up, lost, disk crashed, deep angst expressed over the missing stuff by the author and spouse, they were promised ‘as soon as I receive the mail again from them, I would put it up,’ waited , and waited, gave-up again, but this doc was retrieved finally from my aging & clickety-clacking harddisk, reformatted *&^$% and reproduced here in toto. For some undebugged reason, in spite of spending lots of time, I have been unable to format this post to my satisfaction – sorry.

*phew* Everything takes work and time. Henry David Thoreau says ‘simplify, simplify’ – but ‘what must be done, has to be done cheerfully’ – so heh!)

Hope the readers of the blog  find this ‘ready reference’ document of Ashok useful.

Stock market tip: All those parents who have invested in cola companies should exit immediately, because they want their children to exist!

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Effects of Soda and “Junk” Food on Children

B Ashok

I’d like to start by expressing a sincere wish that this document no longer be required! I hope that as parents, we are able to learn enough and outgrow this document. When most of us who are parents of young children today were growing up, we did not have soda or sugary “junk” food available in plenty as today. Most of us were lucky enough to receive home cooked meals on a daily basis and grew up on a healthy diet. We only consumed soda, ice cream or other sugary items once in a while and it used to be a treat. Today every little shop sells soda, chips, chocolate and other creamy or sugary items. Irrespective of where you may live, your children are exposed to these on a regular basis. Many children are given pocket money to buy these items daily. Added to this is today’s birthday culture. A birthday celebration today includes cake, soda, chocolate, chips and many other such items. We need to stop for a minute and analyze the effects of all of these foods on our little children. As a starting point, let us also evaluate what changes we need to bring about in the birthday celebration activities both at school and in our homes.

Let us analyze the effects of soda in detail to figure out why this may be happening.

Recent statistics show that the so-called “old age” diseases such as osteoporosis, joint pain, diabetes, etc. are beginning to show up in the younger ages. Other conditions like cavities and obesity are also beginning to occur in children. Countries in the West that were rampantly exposed to the soda culture have realized its effects after the serious repercussions they faced. Today, many countries discourage the use of soda and high sugar diets for adults and children.

The first issue with soda is that each 20 oz can of soda contains 17 teaspoons of sugar and 250 calories . These are “empty” calories with little nutritional value. Soft drinks comprise the leading source of added sugar in our diets, providing the average teenage child with the total recommended allowance for sugars from all sources for the entire day. Increasing one’s consumption of sugary soft drinks significantly increases the risk for both weight gain and diabetes. An added side effect is that it also promotes tooth decay since soda bathes the teeth with sugar water for long periods of time.

A second issue of soda is that it tends to replace milk or milk based drinks in children. Decreased milk consumption means that children are no longer getting required amounts of calcium in their diets. Since the 1980s, energy intake from milk has dropped by 38 percent in the United States . This is the same period of time during which soda consumption has skyrocketed.
Last but not the least – everything we do, including our life style and diet, push us into the acidic range. Proteins, carbohydrates and fats are all digested down to acids. Even metabolic functions and exercise create some acids (lactic acid). Cola and soda are in the acidic range of 2 PH. Seven on a pH scale is neutral. Any level below 7 is acidic and any level above 7 is alkaline. Note that this is a logarithmic scale, so every point on this scale is 10 times more acidic (i.e. 7 to 6 is 10 times). So soda is 100,000 times more acidic than water! When our body is acidic, it promotes illness and poor health since acidic pH level is the prime environment for bacteria, virus and even cancer cells. Studies show that it takes about 32 glasses of alkaline water at a pH of 9 to neutralize acid from one 12 oz. can of soda .

Now let us look at the effect of other “junk” food, in particular sugary foods.
All of the food that we eat is turned into glucose. It is important that the levels of glucose are kept within limits. Too much is toxic for the body and too less will make us tired and lethargic. Foods such as refined carbohydrates and sugars are rapidly digested, hence making the blood sugar levels high rather quickly. When we eat too much of sugary food, our body protects against the high glucose level by producing more insulin. This in turn reduces the blood sugar level quickly and has other side effects such as sluggishness, irritability / mood swings, craving for sweets or other stimulants like coffee, and (worst for children) poor concentration or fuzzy thinking . The reduction in blood sugar levels sometimes causes us to crave more sweets, resulting in a vicious cycle. The best way to counter this is by having a balanced diet that includes sufficient protein and fibre (in particular organic grains).

So what can we do? Offer children water instead of soda. Stop buying as much soda and “junk” food for our children. Sugar-free juices such as fresh squeezed fruit juice or even packaged juices with no added sugar (e.g Real Activ) are great alternatives. These do not have added sugar and tend to be more natural. Even Club Soda with homemade lemonade is a better option. Another alternative to consider for birthday celebrations are nut based sweets such as kaju katli or badam barfi since the high protein in the nuts helps to counter the sugar high. Instead of creamy or sugary items, parents are encouraged to think about other items to distribute on birthdays such as stationery or art material that the children can use in school.

Finally, the best way to teach our children these habits is by our example. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to set a good example for them to grow with. As parents, we are their first teacher. Let us talk to our children about the effects of eating such food. And limit the usage of these so-called “fun” foods to fewer occasions, not only for them but for ourselves as well. Let us give our children the gift of healthy bodies and healthy minds.

References:

  1. U.C. Berkeley Center for Weight and Health, 2003
  2. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, October 2004
  3. http://www.scribd.com/doc/2335677/Can-soda-Kill
  4. The Food Doctor (http://www.thefooddoctor.com)

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NammaShaale has taken some concrete steps in this direction a few months back – the parents and their children are already aware of it – and surprisingly, no one seems to be missing the soda and most of ‘junk’ at the school anymore… Ashok & co and many other parents had been lobbying for healthy habits for quite a while now. Thanks to all of you!