Category Archives: Erdkinder

children of the earth, architecture & activism

Once in a while one gets to hear of good & heartwarming experimentation in the realm of education, what mostly passes for homeschooling not being among them.

Here is a report on one such effort (not homeschooling) by a group called ‘The concerned for working children;’ please do read it at your leisure.

Caldwell Namma Bhoomi ML

(This document reached me via Amukta Mahapatra; thanks ma’am)

nammashaale & professor satish dhawan

This is NOT about a Helicopter Parent.

Actually this about a Rocket parent!

Here is a blog post by Abinandan at which is reproduced verbatim:


Here’s an episode in Prof. Satish Dhawan’s years as ISRO chief:

The early days saw many failures. Through all those difficult times, Dhawan never lost faith in ISRO’s capabilities. He took personal responsibility for failure but when success came, he always attributed it to ISRO and his colleagues. Thus, when the first flight of SLV-3 in 1979 failed, Dhawan faced the press. When the second flight succeeded, Dhawan kept himself in the background while Kalam spoke to the press.

That note is from P.V. Manoranjan Rao’s tribute to Dhawan on the latter’s 89th birth anniversary. This memorable anecdote came up in a couple of conversations yesterday, and it felt good to be reminded of it again.

A longer version appears in R. Ramachandran’s obituary in Frontline.

Abdul Kalam has recounted his experiences when he was the project director for the launch of India’s first launch vehicle SLV-3. The first experimental launch of SLV-3 took place on August 10, 1979, but it was a failure. Kalam was called by Dhawan to attend a press conference. “Before the press conference, Professor Dhawan told me that he was going to handle the situation and I should be present with many of the senior scientists and technologists,” Kalam has said.

At the press conference Dhawan announced “Friends, today we had our first satellite launch vehicle to put a satellite in the orbit, we could not succeed. It is our first mission of proving multiple technologies in satellite and satellite launch vehicles. In many technologies we have succeeded and a few more we have to succeed. Above all, I realise my team members have to be given all the technological support. I am going to do that and the next mission will succeed.”


The next developmental flight, of SLV-3,on July 18, 1980, was a remarkable success. “An important thing happened then,” recounts Kalam. “Professor Dhawan asked me to handle the press conference with our team members. Dhawan’s management philosophy was that when success comes in after hard work, the leader should give the credit of the success to the team members. When failure comes, the leader should absorb the failures and protect the team members.”


Prof Dhawan was a great scientist, administrator and a leader of people. I admire him for a whole lot of other things too (like his love for literature, books, classical music etc etc). However, the one thing that I mightily admire him for is that, he never let his ideas and opinions drive his children – his children flowered on their own, ably nurtured by their parents, and guided by the inscrutable exhortations of their souls.

Perhaps many of us parents need to learn a lot from this stellar example – both the current parents and the parents (some of them happened to be helicopters in some advanced stage of crashing) who left nammashaale – some towards east of Bangalore and some others towards the due south of Bangalore.

Quiz Question: Some of you may know the Eastward-Ho folks, but…  🙂

postscriptum: Not many of us know that Erdkinder at nammashaale had the pleasure of having been taught by the sweet, affable & able artist Amrita, daughter of this incredible Prof Satish Dhawan. Amrita taught us the basics of working with clay and Oh what an experience that was – And a rather minor point was that,  she never ever did  reveal her pedigree.

Thanks Amrita, for all the fun and learning!

delusions of gender

The so called ‘traditional wisdom’ has it that ‘little boys will be little boys’ and so by extension, ‘little girls will be little girls.’ How I have always resented, if not deeply hated the set of unjust assumptions and squirmed whenever such statements were uttered by folks who should know better… But, whatever little that I could do – either in my class or elsewhere –  and whenever I see a hint of this asinine stereotyping, I try my best to debunk it.

In fact, I would say with arrogant conviction that, the girls in my classes tend to eventually outshine, outsmart, outmaneuver and outclass the boys  – this would be in ALL subjects. It is also due to the fact that I intentionally demolish any signs of stupid attitudes like  – boys are good in math, they think – and girls are good in creative activities, they ‘feel’ etc.  I try to encourage the girls and the boys to think beyond stupidities such as ‘pink is for girls.’ (I am not saying that boys are generally less endowed, though that would be tempting for me! In any case, I feel that the boys receive too much of unjust ‘gender biased’ encouragement from their parents than what a few inches extra that they have on them would demand and merit.)

Again, I keep pointing to the anomaly that in our particular cases of mammals, we seem to be having far too many males than needed. May be emperor penguins also have this almost 1:1 mapping. In any case, there are NOT too many of such species.

Anyway, at the possibility of a guy sounding like one going for gender cleansing (actively advocating lesser number of (lesser)men and (lesser)boys than what they are at present) – I would just point out the one question that every self respecting boy and girl should think about and reflect on:

In the case of mammals like us, what can the Female gender cannot do that can be done by a Male gender form? Primarily it would be only about fertilization. I think, this one difference does not merit any major inherent difference in capacity – intellectual or practical. On the contrary, what are the things that males cannot do, that only females can do. That list is endless!

Anyway, this post is supposed to be about recommending a book: Thanks to Sowmya, I chanced upon this excellent , erudite and passionate book. I strongly recommend ‘Delusions of Gender’ by Cordelia Fine.

Grand Dame Fine systematically demolishes the myths regarding a host of stupid assumptions masquerading as ‘sceintific wisdom borne of indisputable proofs’ – especially about brain related mythologies – that females are differently wired. That they have different capabilities. That they can NOT do certain things – etc etc. Bah!

It is good to read a book, that confirms one’s convictions – peppered with acidic sarcasm and wit.

Thanks Cordelia, for this fine book.

shah jahan’s tajmahal vs raja’s corruption

Once in a while, we ‘discuss’ politics and allied goings-on (including the civic structures and civil society) with our impressionable adolescents. We sometimes discuss history too, in spite of the fact that in these times of the impending ‘secondary school leaving certificate’ exams and prep mode for some of our children, we can’t have interesting discussions like this all the time.

But, still…

Here is a gist of a rather tricky question posed and some ideas it generated…

1600s CE:

The Moghul emperor – Shahab-ud-din Muhammad Khurram – popularly titled and known as ‘Shah Jahan’ in our horrendous history books – ordered the construction of a mausoleum (basically an elaborately & aesthetically constructed interment monument) – over the grave of his favorite queen (who was also Khurram’s maternal cousin) Arjumand Banu Begum – popularly known as Mumtaz Mahal. Arjumand dies in the mid 1600s and Khurram grieves for more than 20 years over the matter, and finishes the construction of the mausoleum – and of course orders the movement / transport of the remains of his queen to the monument from Burhampur, where  it was temporarily interred. The building apparently cost Rs 3.2 Crores at that time. In US dollar equivalent it would have then been some 1 million (US $ 1 million); the current value of the cost incurred would be in the region of tens of thousands of crores of Indian Rupees. Again, this would roughly translate to many billions of US dollars.

Khurram literally bankrupts his government in the process, in spite of the fact that India then was a very vibrant economy. He uses the tax payers’ money to build a monument for primarily his edification. If he had instead built a mosque or mosques or some other place of worship or a big university or a huge set of factories – they could have benefited the laity – at least to some extent. At least, these community structures are justifiable expenditure items.

Everyone then and now know that he diverted the state funds for his purely personal agenda. In other words, it is corruption. But, we don’t even think of it like that. We feel that it would be a blasphemy to think along these lines. We assume that kings can deal with the state treasury in anywhichway they want.

The fact that the Taj Mahal is considered beautiful is besides the point. (full disclosure: I haven’t visited it so far)

200os CE:

Andimuthu Rasa – popularly(!) known as A Raja, the much deservedly maligned ex minister of Telecommunications of the Indian Union, manages to make a monumentally corrupt set of deals and wheeeling-dealings – and has perhaps built many Taj Mahals elsewhere. We don’t know much about them. He is not willing to share the details. Not yet. The money (with the standard cut at 30-35% of the deal size) that he must have accumulated through this diversion of Indian Nation’s assets (tax payers’ money) will amount to some Indian Rs 40,000 Crores at least, as of now.

But, we call this Raja names. He has also done exactly what Khurram had done earlier. The only thing is that we don’t yet know the details of the taj mahals of this Raja. May be, his taj mahals would be modern day temples (as our Jawaharlal Nehru announced loooong back) like some huge industrial complexes or pleasure islands or housing mega-complexes. We don’t really know.

Raja was/is a ruler. Khurram was one too. Both have done almost similar things – using public money for personal ends. It was aristocracy then. It is a so-called democracy now. Frankly, the only difference that I find is that, to my limited knowledge, Andimuthu Rasa’s wife is still alive and so perhaps it is immature to talk about a multiplicity of possible Parameswari Mahals. (sorry, sorry…)

I also agree that, perhaps we cannot use the current definitions of corruption to historical contexts – I am a reasonable student of history. But the fact is, these kinds of cognitive dissonances continue to bother me. I feel that if A. Raja had lived in the times of Shah Jahan, say, what he had done now would have been normal. In fact, many of our historians would have praised him for his Parameswari Mahals.

Hmm. After much discussion (and a justifiable sense of uncomprehending horror from our adolescents) we kind of figured out that our notions of corruption stem from our understanding of the current concepts & notions of democracy, republic etc. And also that – as usual we always rely on our ability to articulate our double standards and selective application of ideals to understand an increasingly complex world.

(I would say that one of the impossibly beautiful rewards of being, teaching and learning with children is – the fantastic pleasure of looking at the faces of the children, when their brains go click-click-click and nerve impulses whiz thru their synapses making new connections and applying new contexts… and then, we get to see the impossibly radiant faces of our children. It is lovely, one has to experience this feeling to really appreciate it)

And, I would love to hear from you about our very own and contemporary Andimuthu Raja Shah Jahan…

rainwater saving – an erdkinder occupation

During the course of the current adolescent programme (erdkinder) – we have had a few ‘2 month stretches’ of real life professions & occupations. One of them happened to be on rainwater saving – and as part of this, the children completed the setting up of a rainwater collection and saving structure (for one of the school buildings) apart from understanding the necessary theories and concepts behind the idea.

We were helped in this occupation by Karan Singh and Avinash Krishnamoorthy of Biome Environmental Solutions Pvt Ltd. These two young men have been part of a small team, evangelizing ‘Rainwater Saving’ and are implementing solutions all over India, having been ably guided by Vishwanath – the ZenRainman.

Here is a link to a detailed blog post of Karan (about the nammashaale programme):

Avinash’s video of a school session:

The URLs of the entities in which the two young men are involved:,

Thanks Avinash and Karan – you did a great job. 🙂

legend of matajuro: redux

Loooong back, in 2006 (actually ’tis not that long ago), I typed in the very fascinating & incredible story about Matajuro; it is here: The legend of Matajuro; please read it first to make sense of this post. If you already have done that, that’s great!

In my opinion, it is a very fine & an absorbing piece on what constitutes education and awareness. Enjoy.

So, this year, the new erdkinder on the new block also did this ritual of reading and savouring it. But Rama, unlike me, has brought in a good structured interpretation of the story so that one can contemplate on it.

Rama’s questionnaire has got three parts: factual, interpretive and evaluative so that the erdkinder have some tool to dice and splice the story with. Apparently, the children also had a seminar and some fascinating discussions centering around the legend, which I missed.

I reproduce the questionnaire hereunder in toto for your edification.

Seminar – The legend of Matajuro

Factual questions –

    1. The name of the story?
    2. From which book has this excerpt taken? Who was its author? –
    3. What was the Yagyu family into which Matajuro was born reputed for?
    4. To which province did Matajuro’s travels take him?
    5. At the foot of which falls was the Kumano Nachi shrine?
    6. What was the name of the teacher he found?
    7. What is a hakama?
    8. What was Matajuro cooking when Banzo last struck him?
    9. What vegetable was Matajuro peeling?
    10. What was the highest peak of the bugei
    11. For how long did matajuro stay with Banzo? For how many years did Banzo attack him?
    12. With what did Banzo reward Matajuro?

Interpretive questions –

  1. Why did Matajuro’s father banish him from the dojo? Was his action effective?
  2. How old or young do you think Matajuro was?
  3. How was Banzo regarded by the people?
  4. “That’s too long, long” said Matajuro.  What does this say about him?
  5. What were his duties in the hut?
  6. Matajuro did plan to leave even before Banzo struck him with the bamboo.  Then why did decide to stay?
  7. How can you describe Matajuro?
  8. What qualities did Matajuro learn that made earn his certificate?
  9. Do you think Banzo was a good teacher?  Why?

Evaluative questions –

  1. What was the message of this Zen story?
  2. Is there a difference between Matajuro’s parents and yours?  How?
  3. How is the story reflective of the tradition of Zen and Japan?

— END —

martin gardner, rip & calculus made easy!

The Annotated Alice‘ of Lewis Carrol and Martin Gardner’ was (finally) returned a couple of weeks back by Rama and I was fondly leafing through it, before sentimentally returning it to the library shelves. It is currently rubbing shoulders with the books of the likes of  Isaac Asimov, JBS Haldane, Erwin Schrödinger, Enrico Fermi, Paul Dirac et al and should be feeling happy now; what a work of deep scholarship!

Rest in peace, Martin. You lived to a ripe old age of 96 and also did a great job of living, all the while!

Having thoroughly enjoyed (actually a lame word like ‘enjoyment’ does begin to describe the pure exhilaration one feels studying a Martin Gardner or a Douglas Hofstadter or a Richard Feynman) ‘The Annotated Alice’ among many other works of Martin, I am reminded of that 1910  gem ‘Calculus Made Easy‘ of Silvanus Thompson which was later updated and edited by Martin in 1998. ( I just realized that this classic, a real classic at that, has completed hundred years of its existence!)

Now, what is great about the book? One may feel, after all, the phantoms of differential and integral calculus  don’t trouble me anymore – so what’s the point? Besides, I got a good grade in Math 101 (also in Math 505) – I am in a cushy job with an MNC as an ‘engineer extraordinaire’ spending my time (and earning my megabucks) in daylong meetings, boring conference calls & excruciating powerpoint presentations –   and so, why the hell do I even need to go through that drivel again…

I would say that  you have to read this because as the book says (and delivers on the promise, faithfully):

Calculus Made Easy: Being a very-simplest introduction to those beautiful methods of reckoning which are generally called by the terrifying names of the Differential Calculus and Integral Calculus

I would say that the book is indeed beautiful – it restores your faith in the pursuit of knowledge. That Science and Math are not pointless. That they are creative. That they are actually fine arts. That they also happen to have real life applications – gazillions of them!

Now, I ‘studied’ in one of the well-known schools/colleges (which ought to know better, siddhir bhavati karmaja (chapter #4 of the bhagavat gita and all that), but I really wonder as to how this book was not used at all in our undergraduate years! Not even a passing mention of the book was made!! (But I should remember with gratitude that the physics department of my school indeed used the delightful Feynman Lectures on Physics – so it was not all gloom)

I really feel that Mathematics HAS to be approached via ecstatic books such as these.

I chanced upon the Thompson book on calculus when I was trying to desperately to understand & solve some practical problems of heat transfer in the wasted days of my entrepreneurship – and I was thoroughly bowled over by this incredible book. Really. There were also other books (by Piskunov et al) that I really began to appreciate subsequently – but all this was some 10 years after I graduated(!) from my alma mater.

Believe me, this book would make mighty sense to a reasonable 12 year old or even younger ones – if the mind is prepared. Hence, given half-a-chance, I would plan to sneak this in to the erdkinder’s minds. Wish me good luck.

Here’s a scanned picture of a page of the book!

This is the title page of the St Martin Press edition (1998)

The original Macmillan version of the book without Martin’s contribution is available in the public domain. While it is not the same as the later  St Martin’s version – it is STILL a great work.

Enjoy! Math is actually fun! Calculus definitely IS.

Children are like sponges. Their concept of beauty is still unspoilt. Their cognitive capabilities are still good, in spite of TV, pointlessly obscene birthday bashes and Helicopter parents. They normally & instinctively would gravitate towards (and absorb/internalize) fine things in life, given a set of meaningful choices. Faith? Hope?? Let us see…

studying mahabharatha, ebrahim alkazi

I’ve read the Odessey and the Illiad a few times, soaked in them (not in the original Greek though, sadly), I respect them – but nothing that I have ever read so far, comes even reasonably close to that epic mahabharatha.

It is not because, I am from India or anything that I think so about mahabharata. I would consider the likes of  Kurosawa Akira, Johannes Sebastian Bach, Dawn Upshaw, Parveen Sultana, Kiri Te Kanawa, M S Subbulakshmi (this listing is delightfully endless..) – not to mention ‘The Brothers Karamazov,’  ‘Remembrance of things past’  etc etc – all part of my tradition & hoary past too! In my view, all great and grand things &  people of the world are part of our common tradition. Ahem!

So, one can ask why? What is so significant about mahabharata??

Oh, where do I even begin… I feel that mahabharatha has fine character studies with a significant lack of claustrophobic & premature judgementality; a continued grand celebration of grey areas and the joy (and sometimes sorrow) called life. The attitude that no one is a pure saint, and therefore of course,  no one a pure sinner – each having his / her own foibles and strong points. Rejuvenation and hope; Non-immutable basic ethics and contextual applicability of morals. Time & situation variant dharma… The danse macabre called war. Lessons in strategy and tactics.  Beautiful weaving in of contradictions with stretched limits of grand possibilities. Very tight script. Ingenious storytelling devices.  Carefully woven matrix of characters and scenes, from across times & contexts. Wonderful philosophical diversions – even if one excludes the Gita part from the epic. Deep social, anthropological expositions. Timeless applicability of storylines. The incredible fables & allegories. Adaptability to beautiful stage productions.  Political and administrative craft. No hollow praising of moral high grounds. Oh the variety, the diversity

I also feel that, to reduce mahabharata to a mere soulless item of mindless worship, would be a ghastly waste!

Whather all the events in the mahabharata  really happened or not is not at all relevant.  I think, it is a pure and distilled joy savouring the epic, period.

So, with my kind of, to put it politely and mildly, a  laissez-faire approach to learning (or for that matter, the Rg Vedic hymn approach – aa no badrah, kritavo yantu vishwatah – ‘let noble thoughts come to us from across the world (from all directions)’ – if you will & if you would pardon my self-delusion), that has been very kindly allowed (actually it is more like an indulgence) by nammashaale – I have just started the adi parva – the first part of the symphony called mahabharatha, with our erdkinder and hope to finish ‘the first pass’ with them, in the next term. Wish me good luck and blissful times ahead!

A couple of decades back, I had the pleasure of viewing Stephen Spender‘s inspired theatrical rendition of greek classics – especially ‘Antigone‘ of Sophocles  I wish we could do something like that with mahabharata. Forget about Peter Brook and his mahabharata, sorry;  sadly, Peter’s  rendition was not at all as thoughtful as perhaps, the rest of his oeuvre. To be precise, his idea was puerile, insipid, uninspiring and gaudily executed – hollow… Really sad.

Incidentally, I am sure many of the readers of this weblog would be familiar with our Ebrahim Alkazi. If not, please go read up about him.

There is a very readable and reflective interview with that doyen of Indian Theatre – Ebrahim Alkazi – published by Indian Express.

When I wanted to study the Mahabharata, my tutor said it’s obscene. I said I wanted to study the entire epic’

More on our learning and joint-reading of mahabharata later…


PS: NammaShaale has a vibrant theatre programme too, thanks to young Manjunath – a theatre (and seed saving) enthusiast. May be we can do something theartical about mahabharata?

erdkinder do zodiac predictions… (hic)

Move over, you ‘world famous astrologers’ such as Besan Daroowallah, go start making besan laddoos, or even start brewing liquor… But, stop making those terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad horrorscopes please! Try to earn a honest day’s wages, surely it is not that very difficult…


I pretend to ‘do’ mainly science with our ‘earth children’ – but I also drift off in various directions, to do history, geography, angrezi (hic), math and stuff. Heck, I even pretend to be a choir conductor. Don’t get me wrong, there are quite a few other adults (who actually are more able & capable than yours truly) in the picture too, so there is no need to ring the alarm bells… The truth is that, they are all busy working, whereas I am busy posting blog entries!

In any case, all the ‘adults’ do all the very many things at nammashaale, where the damned (and much maligned) teacher-student ratio is not very good as per the grand understanding of the hoi polloi. However, this fact is actually very good – so, if you are surprised, you may want to read ‘student-teacher ratio’ and the rest of the ‘education faq’ series.

Now, I would admit it upfront that I hate the ‘zodiacal prediction’ columns that appear in irreparably trashy newspapers and magazines such as the ‘Times of India’ and ‘Outlook’ – from the bottom of my heart (and I love & respect the fact that ‘The Hindu’ does NOT publish these kinds of trash and is quite sensitive & sensible, but then, ‘The Hindu’ has other trappings).

It is not out of place to mention here that, every once in a while, we do things that are ‘show-off’ worthy at the erdkinder environment, so that our earth children get the feeling that they can participate in the adult world – and do a damn good job of it (among other pedagogical goals & aims, that is).

So, on a lark, we decided that we would ‘master’ the ‘art’ (actually it is more of a programming science than art) of these astrological predictions business and then deliver our pearls of infinite wisdom, on the unwary elementary children and the rest of the adults (actually adults = ‘teachers’ in Montessoriese).

This is the algorithm that we used:

  • Looking at the general stereotypes associated with zodiacal signs & individuals born in a given ‘sign’ (example: ‘scorpions sting’) and enumerating various attributes of the stereotypes.
  • Going through the rather nauseating ‘prediction’ columns from trash newspapers such as Times of India, DNA, Bangalore Mirror – for the previous one month and analyzing them for various catch phrases.
  • Analyzing them for ‘content holders’ or ‘basic types’ for any given sign, such as romance, finance, health, travel, career etc etc.
  • Each ‘astrologer’ has his or her own style – so analyzing them each for some common denominators and stylizations of expressions – such as ‘surprises await you’ and ‘travel is on the cards’ (ha ha!)
  • Noting various modes of expressions such as random contrapositives, ‘this will happen, but if you do that that will not happen’ kinds of delightful nonsense, across astrologers of various hues and skin pigmentations.
  • Deriving a set of predictions – based on the all the above. (of course after all that, correcting the speeling mushtakes in the writes-up, hic)

The result of these efforts were 4 sets of ‘predictions for the week’ – with very impressive artwork and layout designs– all very tongue in cheek and hilarious – if one had gotten wind of the background to these (pre)posters. But some folks (who were not in the know) had taken the predictions(!) rather seriously – needless to say, there have been a few children and even some adults, who have taken to these predictions, hook, line and sinker! After all it is we people who make the world! Aren’t we the microcosm of what exists at large??

Of course, sideways, we also learnt a few things about astronomy, relearned some specific constellations, what does ‘zodiac’ mean, history of our understanding of the same  & stereotypes and all that – and most of all, how easy it is to derive some respectable humour value from some popular misconceptions.

I seriously wonder, whether this would constitute an ‘occupation’ for our erdkinder within the strict Montessoriese underpinnings. Heh! Are thoroughbred Montessorians listening please?

Hmmm… A couple of children told me at the end of their rather successful exercise that, they may not want to do such things in future. I felt sad, terribly let down and all that; however, I pressed on and asked them why. They said, they didn’t realize that this is how these starry predictions are made and now they were feeling rather angry with me that I had taken out the sense of wonder away from them, at least with respect to this shade of shady astrology.

I agree, Yes, mea cupa. I have sinned. But gladly so. The children agree, of course! (that I have sinned)

And, I have plans to teach them Scheme (a delightful dialect of LISP) with which, eventually they can program a computer to get such outputs. Then, they will see how easy it is to write (or program to write) like (my pet peeve) Enid Blyton – or for that matter, our own Indian version of popular trash author such as Grand Madame Arundhati Roy (my pet nemesis). And, um, I still can’t recover from the fact that Ms Roy got a ‘man booker’ prize for her work! Sheesh!

our daily bread (2005) – some reflections

We (at the ErdKinder environment, I mean) get (also) to ‘see’ a lot of  films and this ‘Our Daily Bread’ happened to be one of those. And,  we had some discussions centred around the film – and, had a written ‘test’ to boot, to collect the thoughts and reflections of our children. More on this, and the content of the ‘question paper’ further down this post…

For anyone who is even remotely concerned with the  food (and by extension, our dear life)  related issues that our world is facing and especially the mass production and consumption angles – this film is a heart wrenching reminder of the grim situation. The film has little commentary, anyway the moving images speak volumes and volumes – technically also, it is one of the most canonically produced pieces of cinema verite.

dvd cover / wrapper image

Now, the text of the questions that were given to our ErdKinder is given below; of course, I must also add that the children did a fabulous job of sharing their reflections, I have just finished reading them – and this good stuff can only be blamed on a good montessori environment at the school and of course the parentage of these children.  May the blames continue!


Our Daily Bread – Unser täglich Brot (2005)
Director: Nikolaus Geyrhalter
Questions for reflection

Hope you have thought about the film, its content, and its context. You may recollect the discussions we have had, after viewing the film. May be you even discussed with some other adults about the film; in which case, it would be even easier to collect your thoughts.

Now, read the whole set of questions below, think and write your views / answers clearly and legibly. Please note that there are NO correct, black & white answers – save a few ‘factual’ questions.

You can take up to 2 hours. Blank answers will invite my wrath – you know how it is, yeah? Answers ‘for the sake of answers’ will result in a ban for three subsequent films that have been planned.

Think and then, write!

1. Name and explain the two phrases that we used in the post-film discussion – one to describe our attitudes about non-human things and the other about this type of documentary. ( 2 sentences)
2. What is the name of the India’s biggest abattoir and where is it located? (2 sentences)
3. Would you consider the following quote from Wendell Berry (from the book ‘What Are People For?’) – a part summary of the film? Why? Why not?  “I dislike the thought that some animal has been made miserable to feed me. If I am going to eat meat, I want it to be from an animal that has lived a pleasant, uncrowded life outdoors, on bountiful pasture, with good water nearby and trees for shade.” (5 sentences)
4. In what ways a factory production mechanism makes it easy for consumers to consume food – examples of food: veggies, fruits, meat etc. (10 sentences)
5. What do you understand by the term ‘Economies of scale?’ (5 sentences)
6. You have seen quite a few documentaries. This documentary had no voice-over. Why? If some commentary were there, would it have improved our understanding? What is the point? (5 sentences)
7. How many different types of harvesters did we see in the movie? Name the contexts. Why can’t we have only one kind of harvester to do all kinds of harvesting? (5 sentences)
8. In many of the harvesting farms, we saw various kinds of labourers. What was the single most striking feature of them? Why? (4 sentences)
9. There were a few specific camera angles that were repeatedly used in the film for effect. What are those effects? Could you name any of the shoot sequences?
10. Why were there some long shots of workers eating and having their lunches – with uncomfortable close-ups? (5 sentences)
11. You may recollect the hormones that were injected in animals to make them fatter / heavier. What are the physiological & psychological repercussions for us, if we consume them. (5 sentences)
12. Why do you think the pesticide sprayers had masks on, whereas the fruit pickers had only hand gloves at best? (3 sentences)
13. Obviously a whole of lot of cleaning is being done at frequent intervals in all these farms / factories. What happens to the things that are removed thus? (5 sentences)
14. Some of us were laughing and joking about some of the scenes. What were those scenes? What do you think are the reasons for this behaviour? (10 sentences)
15. The title is taken from the Bible – ‘Give us our Daily Bread’ – now, what is the connection? (5 sentences)
16. What do you think is the main aim of the film? Do you think it comes thru’ clearly? In what ways the film can be improved, given what you think is the aim? Do you think some scenes were not required? Were some shots overdone? If you were to convey the same message, would you do it differently? Explain with details. (50 sentences)

Happy healthy food eating, and oh well, presenting your views too!


As I said earlier, the children did very well. Now that gives me hope!

Here is the IMDB link for the film. The webpages of the film are also  very nicely done.