Category Archives: field visit/trip report

aseptic homes: tv, but no books!

You know what I mean?

You go to his/her place, after getting quite a few repeated invitations – you live (because you chose not to die in the city) in the outskirts of Bangalore, um,  just beyond the hemline to be precise, and so going anyplace means a loooooong drive and lots of initiative. Your children would also chide you for spending so much fuel and for being so environment-unfriendly, if you choose to go driving all the way. In any case, the family knows how the trip is likely to turn out, how are you going to react etc etc, given their prior experience. They say it so many words. Oh the exacerbation

The hosting couple also happen to be members of that horrendous phylum (0f the kingdom of Idioticus Indicus) called NRIs, who call themselves, rather incorrectly – ‘ex-pats.’ Your prior experience in dealing with the indifferent members of this phylum, has not always been interesting… You anyway have way too many of them in your extended family and otherwise. Oh the aggravation

But, this couple have children, make reasonable noises about life, there have been a few email interchanges, their children go to some ‘alternative’ school – and you think that, with any luck, at least your kids can have a nice time. So you set aside all other sundry work, including the preparation for the next session at school etc and leave.

The roads have been dug up recently and so finding isoPotholes ** and isoLedges along which to dexterously position the tires of your aged jalopy, becomes a challenge – no complaints, it is fun, it makes you feel alert – at least that’s what you tell yourself. You are a skilled driver proud of your sidewinding, slithering skills and the ability to retain your cool in an Ant Colony Optimization problem – I mean the traffic snarls, the heat, the sweat, the swears, the fellow drivers – the works! grrr…

Finally, you land there at the host’s multistoreyed complex (aptly named some ‘Manthri Prestige PressureCookerVille Chrysanthemum TopazToccata Garden’) and the gruff security guards at the literally sand-bagged entrance, demand to see your identity, phone number (Oh! you don’t have a cell phone? From which planet are you?),  and already you have started sweating, thinking how on earth you forgot to bring your passport (oh God, is it even valid?) and ohmygod, may be you should have gotten a visa from your host, duly countersigned by the Chief of the Internal Security for the apartment complex. Your spouse realizes that you are dazed and offers to step in, but your silly machoness does not permit that…

At the security office, the closed circuit TV cameras whirr around and zoom in and look at you quizzically and somewhat lazily through their monocled eyes and suddenly you wonder whether your fly zipper is up. You turn away from the camera to do a quick check, and the security guards instinctively stiffen… One would think there were some hep political bigwigs/VIPs living in those apartments, but you know for sure that, after all, there are only white collar slaves and lazy bozos working for MNCs ‘live’ there in that complex…

The guards finally ring up your host’s house and ask whether they are expecting us – but only the servant-maid is there, saying “memsahib gone out.” Not only that, “Yejamaan busy” and “bachchon doing homework.” So “please thodi dher ke baad try keejiye” and all that… aha!

You curse your goodluck with the choicest of epithets that you never had a chance to utter in the past couple of decades, and hope  your children did not hear your vile swearing;  and week-kneed that you are, you go to the nearest phonebooth and call the memsahib’s cellphone number. Some smashhit ringtone with some monstrous tune of A R Rahman – keeps you agitated. “Oh sorry. We were expecting you, but thought I could do a quick weight reduction at the nearby Vandal Lutheran Chic Centre. You see, today was the last day for an exciting ‘first time in the entire history of the world’ offer FatChance – sell 2 Kgs at VLCC, buy 3 kgs at home viewing ‘Desparete Housewives’ and eating chips. Lovely. Nice of you to have come. Will be there rightaway.”

So, you are stranded at the entrance with a sullen spouse and puzzled children and look for some one else’s fingernails to bite, as your’s are already over –  it has been a nailbiting finish for the past 30 minutes.

And so, finally, the ‘rightaway’ happens after half-an-hour more and the illustrious ma’am (less 2 kgs, hopefully) arrives, and you get in to the ghetto. Sorry, I should say ‘walled community.’

At their home, you are surprised to find the husband plonking himself down in front of TV, watching a FormulaOne race, but supposedly in the midst of a serious ‘office conference call’ – The laptop (sorry, this was a paunchtop), is on and the latest cricket score of the IPL madness keeps wafting in. Five filament lamps are on, there is so much light and heat – and  hence two fans are working overtime – luckily, the air conditioner is not on, thank God for small mercies… The cell phone chimes, the blackberry announces the arrival of some new email. You feel jealous. You wonder, how on earth could a person juggle between so many things and be productive.  You wonder whether you miss your corporate life. Nor really. You only miss the steadily & obscenely climbing bank balance.

The lady is sweet otherwise, and the steady stream of excellent junk makes you break all the rules that you have imposed on your children. You would like your children to be ‘engaged’ in some activity or the other, so that you can slyly gorge on the junk. But you realize that it is not possible.

The children of the host are busy with their video games. Like in many families, the ‘bringing up’ of the host’s children too, apparently seems to have been outsourced to the videogames, TV and the ayaahs. Your children are bored. You start feeling guilty.

Some elderly people emerge from the bowels of the house (perhaps, either in-laws or outlaws of the couple) and want to discuss the Tamilnadu politics with you. You are sick and tired of Sriman Karunanidhi (and his gazillion families, nephews and the incredibly ‘scientific’ corruption) and do not want to talk about any scum or scam. The elders persist.  You ask whether they voted in the recent elections. They say that at the time of elections, they were in the ‘States!’  &?^*%$# You ask them whether they were in the neighbouring AndhraPradesh State during elections? They say NO and tell you that they were akchooly in YouYes. Heh! You persist and ask as to why they did not consider voting through the postal ballot system. They are truly puzzled.

Here they are, trying to make polite conversation about solving the problems of the world (‘mind you, we have even been to States’) and there you are, who is only interested in some damn voting… You want to rudely say that they don’t have any moral right to complain about anything, but keep quiet. The reason: your spouse is looking at you rather coldly. You know the consequences. You promptly shut up.

Eventually, the husband finishes off all his ‘tasks,’ and tries to chat with you – the usual ones about traffic, great spiritualism, crass materialism, yoga, schooling, ecology, diversity, sustainability, energy conservation, ‘going green’ etc etc. Your eyes glaze over. You ask him whether he has any idea about how his apartment complex gets its water supply and what happens to their sewage water. The guy vaguely says ‘bore well‘ (at this point, you want to tell him that you didn’t ask for his skill set) and ‘I don’t know’ respectively. You are mighty peeved. What a cognitive dissonance! You desperately want some distraction from this endless drivel.

You wonder where the books are. They are not there at all. The host’s family does not have any use for them, obviously.  Not even a telephone directory! Nothing.  You realize that the overall attitude of this family is: when our Sony Bravia or some darn plasma TV is there, what else would one need to be informed, entertained & educated? Sheesh…

You are angry, your children distraught, the spouse caught in ‘the deer in the headlight’ syndrome. The hosts are happily doing whatever they would do, even otherwise. They think your family is having a great time. You tell yourself: Never ascribe to malice, that which can be sufficiently explained by stupidity. You  remember having read this quote, in some USENET chatter a couple of decades back. How perceptive, you wonder and chuckle… The hosts look at you, rather amused and understanding.

After, what looks like a couple of years, you come back home, cursing everything and anything, all the way. And, as soon as you get in, you spread a hundred books in the ‘hall’ and plonk down in the middle of them, lie down and start browsing your favourites. An obsessive-compulsive disorder, really. What a happy escape! You eventually calm down.

You look around – the rest of the family has also calmed down, thanks to books. Nice ones at that.

You know that you don’t socialize much, and in some cases where you must absolutely visit someone, you tend to hum and haw, weigh various pros and cons and finally give-in, but only in a few cases. You obviously don’t learn lessons. You should NOT give in at all. But you are a mutt-head (no, not like those lustrous ‘Nithyananda Paramahamsa types, sadly no universal love is possible in times of AIDS). You have to learn. Sorry to remind you of this.

Yes. You can never understand homes without books. You are not asking for much – the books could even be borrowed or leased or stolen or whatever. Dammit, it does not cost much to have a few books, especially when the aseptic homes spend large sums of money on all kinds of frivolous and obscene stuff!

But, you don’t want to even try to understand folks who not only have no books, but instead have wide screen / plasma / LCD / whatever TV screens that stare at you in the living room. Sometimes, you feel the power of these dumb boxes, even when they are switched off; you shudder.

You realize that many such folks have only the following at the places, where they pretend to live:

  • Lounge room – Entertainment center (TV, DVD player, home theatre etc)
  • Cafeteria (um, kitchen, gaudy dining tables, glittering crockery)
  • Impeccably tiled toilets
  • Bed rooms (master and a couple of slaves)
  • Gadgets everywhere – including US style fridges, washing machines and allied monstrosities
  • Some children (purely because of biological accidents, you suppose)
  • Some in-laws or outlaws (that is, when they are not in ‘States’)

They don’t live in homes, you realize to your horror.

You resolve to spend the time that would be spent on such terribly underwhelming visits – on reading and rereading the books that have left indelible mark in you. You do it rather religiously. Your would-have-been hosts would not understand, it is fine. You build-up a reputation for being ‘unsociable’ and an ‘unfriendly’ person, the I-Me-Myself guy – that stereotyping is  great, you realize! It gives you so much leeway. You happily realize that you have saved (and will continue to save) on an incredible resource – time!.

Morals of the story:

  • Good ‘forward looking’ noises and emails maketh not a ‘home.’
  • At least, when there is a will, there is some inheritance. However, when there is a TV, there is NO way.
  • Avoid social visits prompted by reasons such as birth day parties, death day mournings, your children going to the same school etc…
  • But, don’t ever go for random get-togethers – just to ‘chill out’ or ‘hang around’ or for ‘getting to know more about others’ – it is simply not worth it.

ps: Yeah.  know that just because a home does not have any book(s) does not translate to it not being a home. There could be reasons of economics. Or, the folks could be actually doers so they do not need to brandish books to prove their intellectuality. But these kinds of folks are in a microscopic minority.

** : Actually, the roads in your Hennur – Bagalur area are very good now – a rolemodel for proper macadamization, but that is not going to encourage you to venture out to aseptic homes, sorry.

visit: kodaikanal (diary entry #1)

So, the whole of upper elementary, erdkinder and seniors of lower elementary – along with a few adults from nammashaale, did Kodaikanal. By and large it was an eventful, satisfying, interesting and therefore an endlessly tiring 4nights+4daze trip. In fact, I took two full days to recover from the fatigue. But most of the children seem to have recovered completely, in less than half-a-day after getting back! Surprise, surprise!

I am rather proud of the fact that we did NOT do the obligatory tickmark- touristy visits to the Dolphin’s nose, Pillar rocks, Suicide point(lessness), Coakers walk, Bear shola falls, Kurinji andavar temple, Bryant Park, etc etc – not to mention the horrendous places where random Hindi / Tamil / Telegu / Kannada / Malayalam stupidities masquerading as films were shot – primarily involving couples running around trees and swarms of jerks making lewd movements in the name of dancing, wearing ghastly costumes…

Nor did we do the sad (and tired) horse riding, eating in random ‘specialty’ hotels serving SouthIndian, Chettinad, Andhra, NorthIndian, Chinese, Tandoori items – all specializations (!) at the same time. What a relief!!

And, our children did NOT miss any of the above!

I am again, rather proud that we did the following: (our children loved them!)

  • A visit to a 100% organic (um, not merely organic, but Bio Dynamic – I have a lot of complaints about these blanket/inane terms like ‘organic’ and ‘green’ – but then, it is another story) coffee plantation (and processing plant) that won many an international award for incredible quality in the past. (sad that I have been off that elixir of life, Coffee – for a while now)
  • A couple of treks thru the shola forests and other natural vegetation on the hills – with a great sighting of a herd of robust bisons, with a cute calf to boot. (I suppose we must have trekked around 11 KMs in toto, in the undulating hills)
  • A fantastic visit to the Kodaikanal Solar Obsevatory.
  • A visit to a very nice Bakery (operating on an unbelievably humane scale, the basic ingredient of this ‘Daily Bread’ being NOT wheat, but bottomless love, really)
  • Hands on pottery for our children at a very earthly pottery studio
  • Nice cooking and eating at a friend’s place located on an impossibly beautiful mountainside, well away from the touristy kodaikanal town.

For want of time and prior planning, we could not visit the Zen Bodhi Zendo (of Arul Maria Arockiasamy aka AMA Samy) and Ichor Estate (of David Hogg). Next time, next time…

Every night post dinner, we had a grand bonfire at the guest house where we stayed rather happily – and had some inspired and impromptu theatrical performances and acrobatics by the school children. We also went for a row boating on the final day (I must admit that I was rather reluctant to do this, because I think it was/is a pointless thing, but the children demanded and loved it, so…).

On the final day, the children also did quite a bit of shopping – of no, not those ‘memorablia’ or the ‘souvenir’ types, but some real good handmade stuff, functional items, dark chocolates etc.

The Cheese available from Aavin at Kodaikanal is the best one that can be, fresh, fluffy, aromatic etc etc – and no wonder, a cheese hoarding person (from nammashaale) bought the entire stock from the Kodai outlet. Unbelievable! But I am not going to divulge the name of this deliciously despicable hoarder, because I was given for free, a splendid half-a-kilo of this hoard, in return for the services of keeping my mouth shut. I have been bribed, in other words. Sorry.

It was indeed a memorable trip – and the detailed reports on various interesting things will take sometime for me to post. But I would be remiss, if I didn’t acknowledge the great help from the following lovely people.

  • Prasanna & Meenakshi of that splendid ‘Daily Bread’ or ‘Pastry Shop’ – serving the best (and healthy) baked items possible. Also their vision of ‘sustainability in practice’ and ‘all pervasive spirituality of attending to minute details’ have to be experienced to be believed!
  • Vinod Hegde of Nandanvan Estate, whose passion for Coffee, Herbs and preserving mother nature – that has to be seen to be believed!
  • Veerabadhran – our trek guide, whose relentless wars against the environment-degraders and poachers and love for all things sustainable, that need to be documented…
  • Selvendran, Hariharan and Sundar raman – all fine and learned astrophysicists, who are passionate about their subject – and are willing to share their love of solar physics…
  • Dayalan and Uma Krishnan of the Sri Vignesh Guesthouse where we stayed, eating the great, tasty and simple food prepared by Dayalan
  • Our dear pal Amaresh Deshpande – who actually made the whole visit happen, with his relentless meticulousness, attention to fractal details, boundless energy and enthusiasm… (but for Amaresh’s help and guidance, we would not have met the above beautiful people, thanks chum)

In fact, one common thread that is running through all the above folks is the set of  great qualities: endless love, attention to details, unbelievable professionalism, walking their talk, and integrity. And, I am not even talking about their hospitality & courtesy…

It is/was such a pleasure to deal with these incredible folks! Thanks a tonne, all of you!

More later…
(as and when I get hold of some photos / links, I would post them, if I feel upto it, that is!)

visit: yakshagana performance

Thanks to a timely tip-off by an alert parent – Sriman Muniraju (a Math lover-Professor of Bishop Cotton college, mind you, it is not your any other ordinary Rook Silk college! sorry), most of the school, excepting the primary environment (work will set them free!)  trotted off to a yakshanagana prasanga at Ravindra KalaKshetra.

Though we could stay for barely 2 hours at the venue, it was wonderful.  Apparently, Akhila Bharath Yakshagana Sahithya Sammelana Samithi has organized this event along with Kannada Samskritha Kala Prathisthana for the year 2010.

We could see a little bit of an engaging story telling and dancing from certain parts of Ramayana – the group from Jamakhandi which did this was amazing – wonderful costumes, incredibly high pitched faultless vocals, excellent ‘chendai’ drumming, dialogue delivery,  impromptu teasing, good nritta and nrithya, what else!

We have made a mental note to the effect that, next year, we would plan to stay for a whole day at the event.

Incidentally, I came to know that Surpanaka (sister of Ravana) is actually working for a Bank – on a dayjob! In the nighttime I suppose (s)he goes out terrorizing the populace… Lovely. Heh!

Also, the even organizers are so passionate about the yakshagana that they even offer to train ‘for free’  the school children in this splendid performing art (and literature and theatre and music – all in one bundled form)! I think we should wrest the initiative and grab the opportunity.

Two things:

1. For some reason, only children that were there, were from nammashaale – and the crowd was also very sparse. Is it because the event was conducted in sweltering heat? Or that yakshagana does not have any support base apart from those probably in coastal karnataka? Troubling questions indeed, regarding a very fine and enetertaining performing art… The pesssimist in me thinks that, if it were some goddam starlet or an aamir khan or ghaarib khan (the pun of it kills me!) that were to grace the function, my fellow bangaloreans and I would have stampeded into the kshetra.

2. I am glad, really really happy to note that the organizers of the meet could get sponsorship from Vijaya Bank. The latter’s banner was prominently displayed, and oh I was so happy. Kudos to the discerning folks at this Bank. May they contiune to sponsor such sensible events and also increase their toplines and bottomlines. They deserve to be congratulated because, unlike the many multinotionals and crapporate entities, who would only sponsor silly and stupid activities at many of the so called  college festivals /days – these banker guys have good judgement.

Hope. We live on it. May the good work of these yakshagana associations continue.

dr vagishwari – a raconteur of history

Thanks to ‘Indian Institute of Montessori Studies’ (IIMS), some of us from NammaShaale got an opportunity to listen to Dr Vagishwari of the Department of History at Christ University, Bangalore – on 23rd Jan, 2010.

I have been a student of history for quite a few decades now and I have always been fascinated by the various interpretations and streams of history – and the interplay of contexts. However, I have almost always been disappointed by the lack of depth and the incorrigble (and sometimes, plain dishonest) ability to generalize based on a sample size of one or less of many of the historians – some of them quite famous, some of them quite dead. Good riddance too.

So, when I got the invitation from the school for this talk on history to a primarily Montessoriese adult audience, my immediate reaction was tremendous reluctance – the talk was on a saturday, the venue deep within the city, the speaker unknown to me, expected time spend of 6 hours etc etc… However, I did go and ma’am Vagishwari  did not disappoint me.

It was good that she did not canonically toe the line of the ‘JNU school of marxist’ ahistorians  (actually these specimens are the current establishmentwallahs) or the ‘extreme nationalistic’ school or for that matter, ‘dravidian/aryan dividers and rulers’ nonsense. Her talk was about getting the facts first and then getting the relevant contexts so that a reasonable edifice of history can emerge. She was not interested in generalizing and making sweeping statements – and she also appeared to be uptodate with the current level of research in the contentious topics of history. She could also effortlessly move from Bittiga to Charlemagne to Veerappandiya Kattabomman to EVR to gender studies to… Good. Many idols fell by the wayside, including the idol of sloganshouting-placard wielding years of my youth – D D Kosambi. However, as she hinted at, everyone’s contribution has been useful for the furtherence of historical cognition in one way or the other, so, RIP dear Kosambi.

There were of course a few points of divergence of opinions and jumping of contexts, but they were all subdued by good natured humour and her erudition.

It is not often times that one gets to listen to professionals with depth, a fine sense of humour and good oratorial capabilities (no PowerPointless slides yay!)…  Her passion for history shone thru’ in the whole talk.

May her tribe increase.  Thanks NammaShaale, for the nice saturday surprise, instead of um, some staff meeting – and also IIMS, of course!

visit report / thoughts: belur, halebidu, shravanabelagola

We had a detailed plan for the visit – posted here: visit plan: halebid, belur, shravanabelagola . Well, we implemented most of it. We did the parikrama on 27th November, 2009. Young Soujanya went on the trip with our erdkinder, with yours truly in tow.

Young Soujanya; adult for kannada, social sciences, english, nice savouries/sweets from Basavanagudi and elsewhere...

Frankly, the fact that the exquisite temple town of Belur (and for that matter Halebidu) are only circa 200 kms away from Bangalore, is a BIG disadvantage. One always makes a plan for a ONE day trip (computing that it will take circa 8 hours for the round trip that will leave some 6-8 hours for the visit itself) which is GROSSLY inadequate. One should plan to spend a minimum of 3 days, in my opinion.

I am not talking about Shravanabelagola in this context – which has impressive monoliths and monuments and memorials and inscriptions and what not. That the fine and sensitive emperor Chandragupta Maurya chose to spend his last years here, fills one with a very introspective mood and all that. I agree. However, at another level, I feel that life is rejected in pureplay ascetic modes. What is life worth it, if lifeforce itself is rejected? How can we NOT celebrate life? Why should one hate sexuality? Why negation? Why run away?? Is the operating philosophy: Neti, Neti??

Troubling and debilitating questions…

Tips for Shravanabelagola visitors: There is a big & beautiful kalyani here. Also, one should visit the Bahubali / Gommateshwara statue earlier in the morn – say between 8 and 10 AM. Otherwise, going up and down the huge rock formations (with little greenery) in the splendid and hot sun can pose issues whereas the climb should be a pleasant one in the morns… On the contrary, it is not a very steep climb, and temple on top of the mount is quite cool and airy… So suit your mood and stamina.

Anyway, over to Halebid: oh what do I say. What do I say! I hated to get out of it, but then we had to visit Belur too and then get back to Bangalore.

Belur: Words fail me. Life is truly a grand celebration here. Fine statues. Intense carvings. Exquisite moods and tastes. Soaked and wet with history. What more can one ask for.

One can use random search engines and get hold of GBs of information about the history, herstory, itstory and what not. But nothing can prepare you for what you would see. G R A N D!!

When I did Hampi a few years back, I had the same feeling. Absolutely lost and melancholic and ecstatic – all at the same time. Me and my boyfriend (!) would walk for miles among the ruins and get back after sunset tired and in a trance. We would not talk to each other at all, eat a cursory supper and lie down… then, the delirious & phantasmagoric dreams would start off – full of fugurines that come alive, horses, crafts and walks in the great library and in the university of Hampi  – and then, the wanton destruction of history, sadistic demolition of the works of art in name of celebrating victories, mayhem; weep disconsolately; then, in the morn we would get up very early all groggy & febrile and set off for another round of heaven.

Well, some of us should do the same thing to Halebidu and Belur, sometime… The areas are not that vast as Hampi, but these two places have the details, fractal details…

Back to the trip, the children were the most co-operative, well um, children are children. I hope they learned something. And, we all came back in one piece to Bangalore.

The erdkinder and I profusely thank Soujanya for making it happen. She really pushed for it.

Soujanya, please push hard for Hampi, Aihole, Chitradurga… What say?

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…

take 2: vimochana ‘Court of Women’

Have been replaying the alternately gut-wrenching and heart-warming testimonies at the ‘Court of Women’ in my mind, for a while now…

There is this play by Bertolt Brecht – The good woman of Sezuan – finished in 1943. It is the story of Shen Te – a woman going through ups and (mostly) downs of life in a remote province in China (excellent script by Brecht, one of the relentlessly forceful propagandists that I could think of). One can read up more about the play here.

Brecht is not one of those feel good & frivolous playwrites, which would sometimes include men of the stature of Arthur Miller too. Brecht does not give simple messages or easy solutions or facile conclusions in his essentially (and in spite of being) propagandist and Marxist theatre form. It is disturbing and real to read his work. No easy solutions.

At the end of the play, Shen Te asks Gods for help, but they simply float off into the air mouthing inane platitudes, as the curtain falls. The Gods don’t have an answer – so the audience must provide it. In the play’s epilogue, a character comes forward and addresses the audience.

Hey, honourable folks, don’t be dismayed
That we can’t seem to end this play, You ‘re stayed
To see our shining, all-concluding moral,
And what we’ve given you has been this bitter quarrel.
We know, we know – we’re angry too,
To see the curtain down and everything askew.
We’d love to see you stand and cheer – and say
How wonderful you find our charming play!
But we won’t put our heads into sand.
We know your wish is ever our command,
We know you ask for more: a firm conclusion.
To this alarming more-than-mass confusion.
But what is it? Who knows? Not all your cash
Could buy your way – or ours – from this mishmash
Do we need heroes? Dreams? New Gods? Or None?
Well, tell us – else we’re hopelessly undone.
The only think that we can think to say
Is simply that it’s you must end this play.
Tell us our own good woman of Sezuan
Can come to a good ending – if she can!
Honourable folks: you search, and we will trust
That you will find the way, You must, must, must!

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The aim of the play is not to show that there are kind hearted people and tyrannical maniacs or there are such schisms, but that a person can choose to be one or the other – which, in my opinion is a rare thing in the world of performing_arts / entertainment literature – Especially for some one like Brecht to write about it, coming from a Left world.

While affirming his faith in the potential of the human being and the human condition, Brecht does not profess to solve the conflicts between social classes on stage. The problems of the world have to be solved out in the world. The audience must find the appropriate balance between greed and morality, between cowardice and courage, between talking and doing, between individualism and social responsibility, between black and white – we have to work in between the idealized lands of intellectual dichotomies…

In the same way, I think most of the stages do not claim to solve all issues. What they can do at best is to sensitize us to certain facets, some realms of an issue and myriad hues of what it means to be human. Vimochana’s event did a damn good job of it, while not losing out on the presentation layer and stylization at all. There was no shoddiness of any kind – and this reaffirms my faith in good NGOs, in spite of what I have ranted in – foreign aid (for NGOs) considered harmful.

No easy solutions, may be, but there are other worlds and compassionate solutions… 

Thanks again, Vimochana.

(text liberally ‘borrowed’ from my old notes, which in turn must have ‘borrowed’ from journals and texts)

daughters of fire, vimochana from dowry

A couple of adults and all the erdkinder from NammaShaale were fortunate enough to participate in the ‘India Court of Women on dowry and related forms of violence against women’ organized by the activist & doer folks from Vimochana in association with other organizations on 28th July, 2009.

Lumps in throat. Feeling of helplessness.  Misery that, while I enjoy my daily morning coffee, at least 5 women in & around my Bangalore are preparing to kill themselves for no reason other than harassment for dowry/money by their husbands, in-laws. Or some in-laws and/or husband are planning the execution.  Guilt of being a participant male in an essentially inequitable patriarchal, patrilineal & patrilocal society.

On the contrary…

Stunning courage shown by marginalized folks against impossible odds. The fact of so many folks from all walks of life rallying against gross injustices. The pleasure of being amidst real activists and not mere armed-chair intellectuals. Incredible stories from the battlefields. Redemption. Hope. We shall overcome. There are other worlds. Yes.

If one cares to use google, one can get a significant amount of information on what went on – but I am going to merely record my experiences rather than give a true reportage.

To begin with,  Mallika Sarabhai the danseuse par excellence, enthralled the audience with her innovative and sensitive  portrayal of  the four kerala sisters who committed suicide as a protest and not as cop-outs as Mallika put it. This 15 min performance of Mallika and the one that preceded it  – about the Ethiopian woman who rebelled against the illtreatment meted out to her by her husband and who finally succeeds in preserving her dignity and self-esteem, using the Sike as a metapbor  (Sike is a Oromo term for the staff that is given by the mother of the bride to the latter, as a symbol affirming her power over her life, should she be troubled in her marital life) – set the tone for the court.

The whole day was full of first person narratives (mostly harrowing, many liberating) but all of them outstandingly couragious, from the many affected individuals from many regions and communities of India.

The whole day was reverberating unrelentingly with one ghastly story after the other, with the dramatis personae being real people. I frequently felt that  I could’t take it anymore – but I was also full of admiration for the testifiers who 1) braved all odds to emerge from their (our?) dark dungeons, continuing to fight & 2) the courage of conviction that made them narrate their very personal stories in front of a numbed audience.

The good folks on the jury & compere leads, included such accomplished individuals as Kamala Bhasin,  Shiv Viswanathan, Mallika (again), Veena Talwar, Nivedita Menon and many others including good ol’ V R Krishna Iyer. They all had something significant or the other to say, apart from being very time conscious. Much appreciated.

One statistically significant thing (with respect to the Indian demographics) was that, I was surprised not to find any story of struggle and redemption from any Christian testifier, but then, I don’t think it is anything significant from the point of view of the Court. The story of women is the same all over the world.

And, I sincerely hope, within our lifetimes, we could see some positive things emerge…

A lot of positive things unite India (Bharath ki Chaap) – but among the negative things that we should be rightly ashamed of are, three prominent things that we citizens can definitely do something about. They are so common and each a major unifying farce for all jaatis, classes, regions, religions, languages, levels of education(!), you see…

  1. Dowry harassment, as a symptom of the status of women and its myriad forms.
  2. Insipid films (dished out in the name of entertainment) and the TV channels that are hell bent on making us all into drooling & insensitive idiots and lazy bozos.
  3. Cricket – that game of laziness personified and glorified that has gotten reduced to a monster tamasha, lately

Surely, we can all do something… about these blasphemies, something?

Now, our erdkinder are all from second generation urban families, with little or no exposure to the realities of life and ruralia;  and so,  it was a great opportunity for them to know first hand about the other worlds and realities. I am sure, their brains are full of question marks, fears, apprehensions and mostly hope. It must have been a great experience for them to be amidst such a large and beautiful gathering of activists and changemakers.

We plan to conduct a seminar / workshop around the ‘learnings from daughters of fire‘ – so that ideas get consolidated and coherence emerges in the impressionable minds of NammaShaale children.

A few words need to be said about the organization of the event. I never realized that the Christ College (now university) had such a nice auditorium – pleasing colours, comfortable seats (no need for arms-rest wars), the effective multichannel sound system. A good infrastructure for hosting quality events. Of course, this was put to an effective use by Vimochana.

I must say that the conducting of the event, the professionalism of compering, handling glitches, the warmth, the friendliness – put many of the cash rich corporate events and roadshows (HP, SUN, IBM, Microsoft etc etc techshows) to shame at many levels – Content, Framework, Visuals, Music, Effect, Audience, Food, the surcharged ambience, the Soul

I am really and truly proud of the fact that some of the good folks behind the event (Vimochana group) – a good many of them, to be precise Madhu, Kalpana and Chalam Bannurakar are all NammaShaale parents.

I salute & thank thee.

(second part / take2 on the event here)

visit: ballet performance

I have heard legends about Yana Lewis – her grace, inventiveness, Indophilism and joie de vivre! (she also happens to be a disciple of the legendary late BKS Iyengar, the grand-guru of Yoga, having been trained by him in-extenso)

Yana is committed to the promotion of classical ballet and has been conducting training / expositions of the art form for years, now. The Bangalore entity of her foundation has been training young students on ballet for a while now, and today and tomorrow (27th June) the entity is showcasing their talents with a many-part performance at Soffia School. (Hope I got the number of Fs correct in the name of the school)

NammaShaale upper-elementary children and erdkinder went for the performance today and were spell-bound by the nearly 2 hours of magic. Considering the excited reactions (read: going on and on and on…) of the children, even some 3 hours after the performance, I think the ballet performance must have been grand & soul-uplifting.

I am very happy for the NammaShaale children and slightly jealous of the adults, who could go for the performance and get their moods and spirits uplifted.

(NammaShaale got wind of this event and could get the invitation, zillion thanks to the timely tip-off & recommendation from Subash and Ira – NammaShaale parents – and of course thanks are due to Rama too, who made the visit possible and gladly ferried the children up and down)

PS: It is a small, small world! Thanks to young ‘Sipayi’ I got to know that Dewang Bhanushali is a director of the The Lewis Foundation of Classical Ballet  a few weeks back – I used to know this Dewang, and recollect the poise and the grace of his movements, when I was with Hughes Software, more than a decade back… It is so nice to see young folks aciduously pursue their interests and reach significant levels of excellence.  Dewang is a trustee of the Lewis Foundation which has trained the young ballerinas & ballerinos, who showcased their skills and grace. May Dewang’s tribe increase!

PPS: Remind us to show that excellent ballet documentary ‘Ballets Russes’ and clippings from the performance of the legendary Svetlena Zacharova, to our children, will you?

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? 🙂

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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.