Category Archives: Recommendation

a retreat – shanti in education

 Amukta, the very clueful and networked educator, has been a good friend of the Nammashaale  team and us, for years…  she has been slogging out for the cause of good, real education – at various levels, for so many years now…  Please sign up for the retreat, if you are so inclined.

From: Amukta Mahapatra <email id redacted>
Subject: Retreat for Educators:shanti in education
Date: Friday, 23 November, 2012, 7:47 PM

To those interested in schools…education…learning…issues around children and young people –

 SchoolScape, Centre for Educators
The Blue Mountains School, Ooty
a retreat – shanti in education for teachers, heads of schools, teacher educators…
The retreat will be held in the school premises in the town of Ooty, Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu from Fri 15th to Mon 18th February 2013.
The programme will include anchored discussions and reflection; a picnic, short and long treks in the Nilgiris biosphere.
Please see the Retreat Feb 2013 – Invitation and register as soon as possible, using the format given, as the school having limited space during term time, allows only for a limited number of participants.
The school website is being redesigned and will be up in its new avatar in a few days. Till then, the old one will give you an idea of the school, which was at the forefront of bringing quality education with contemporary pedagogy and practices as far back as 1961, when it was started, by F.G. Pearce and his wife Anasuya along with some of their colleagues, who left Rishi Valley to start a school in the blue mountains (Nilgiris).
I joined The Blue Mountains School in 2011 and have been in the process of rebuilding and reinventing the school, to cherish the principles for which it was started and establish a culture that is democratic; based on an integral way of living and learning.
Please come, if it is possible, for a few days to explore issues, concerns and practices together – so that each of us is refreshed and rejuvenated by the weather of the Nilgiris, by companionship and by conviviality in body, mind and spirit.
Once you register, we will be in touch with you to discuss what you would like to present or offer to the group.
with good wishes and hoping to hear from you soon


This info via, Ramgopal Koneripalli –  who is slogging it out at the CFL, Hyderabad,

maria montessori said so…

There was this series 12 lectures that was delivered by Ma’am Montessori in the year 1948 – and broadcast from the All India Radio Station, Chennai.

The transcript of this series was brought out by the Publications Division of the Govt of -India – as a 38 page booklet.

Now, thanks to Arvind Guptua this document has been scanned and made available on the web here.

And, for good measure, you can also download it from here:  montradio.

Enjoy and relish the precise approaches and statements of the lady, vis-a-vis education.

the montessori mafia

This is a nice article by Peter Sims.

There is this usual information about some of the best creative brains that have come out of the Montessori system. Though, many of the readers of this web log would know about these logical outcomes of a canonical Montessori method – the aspect of this article that has made me point to it is its marriage of conciseness with some relevant details.

But, this supporting link  –  Evaluating Montessori Education  – a robust research article by Angeline Lillard  and Nicole Else-Quest is very scholarly; the time spent on this article is a damn good investment of anyone’s time.

Alternatively,  if you have trouble accessing the article –   you can try going to this page via this montessori science page. (referrer id/url and all that)


3 links

Apart from blathering aimlessly about my pal Suppandi, I also occasionally manage to read some interesting stuff such as:

(all links and some text via the Nanopolitan blog of T A Abinandanan, thanks!)

the joy of music and dance

Some of us oldies would recollect that a few years back, there was this concept of ‘Flash Mobs’ all over the world, inspired by the ideas of of Howard Rheingold (if my memory proves correct) – these are groups formed adhoc in a given location, to do some adhoc things and then disperse. Apparently these kinds of things still go on – and some of them with a very good preparation and prior planning (no adhocism here at all!).

Here is an improvised sequence ‘Do Re Mi’ – from that film The Sound of Music (1965) – performed by a Flash Mob. (I never did like the melodramatic film, but the songs definitely are lilting – especially this joyous rendition…)

“More than 200 dancers were performing their version of “Do Re Mi”, in the Central Station of Antwerp. with just 2 rehearsals they created this amazing stunt! Those 4 fantastic minutes started the 23 of march 2009, 08:00 AM. It is a promotion stunt for a Belgian television program, where they are looking for someone to play the leading role, in the musical of “The Sound of Music”

There is this medley of melodies/songs – supposedly an ad for ‘T Mobile’ (a mobile service provider under the banner of Deutche Telecom) – spontaneous and lovely.

Please take some 10 minutes off from your schedule and enjoy these short films!

debra granik: winter’s bone (2010)

Once in a while a genuine, technically perfect and haunting film appears from USA and floors the (film)seekers.

And, mostly it is not made by the behemoth studios / corps that create the mediocre films (tagged Hollywood) – it is actually made by independent and otherwise nondescript production companies and by brilliant directors who do not believe in insulting the intelligence of the audience.

These real films do not have maudlin melodramatic content or tomato-sauce strewn action sequences or stereotypes or cliches or black/white schisms (lately the computer graphics oriented nonsense that is de riguer in many of these flicks has also added to my list of woes!)… What these independent films offer are very good and plausible storylines, excellent acting, locale specific accents, taut scripts, brilliant cinematography, unobtrusive and gelled background scores, authentic locations and skilled editing – and they demolish all myths about USA and the stereotypes that we (the non Americans) have in our heads about America and Americans – all with effortless ease and very naturally.

They do not condescend to tell you the story giving all the details all the time – thus leaving nothing to our imagination, extrapolation and pondering. They do not see life in black and white. They are nuanced. They do not pretend to preach.

“The mediocre movie explains everything twice and always means exactly what it says. It waves its sincerity aloft like a truce flag. It leaves no questions unanswered. It tells you exactly where you should stand in relation to its characters and its subject matter. It is frequently soothing because it tells you that you are right. Then, too, it can be like an unrelenting host who holds you captive until you finish every last morsel on the plate. But it tends not to stick in the memory because there’s nothing there to wonder about.”
— Vincent Canby

And so, I saw this flick – winter’s bone – and was completely floored by the simple story of a quest of an young girl to live with her self-esteem and her family intact.  That the story happens in a crime ridden and meth-filled atmosphere in the Ozarks is a mere detail. But, the fact that this film authentically represents parts of the real USA – its demographic elements that are not generally dealt with or given due respect by the media – is more important.

Hope Debra continues to create great films.

I think “winter’s bone” will be in my personal list of 100 decent films (from all over the world) for a while.

Strongly recommended.

the faking of news

One of the nice things that we get to enjoy in our boondocksy life is that, there is no constant invasion of our minds by TV channels and their screaming anchors & other such asinine louse souls, no offence meant at my dear donkeys, of course.

However, one does get to ‘see’ some bits of TV here and there, especially when visiting other folks’ homes  – and sometimes I do get to occasionally discuss some excesses of the TV reportage with our impressionable adolescents at the school – now,  hold your breadth, we discussed the voyeuristic coverage (and self-righteous condemnations) of the invasions into the privacy of  ‘alleged’ young Nithyananda (who was perhaps merely affected by hormones, like it happens to the rest of us) and it was interesting to listen to the views of the adolescents. Many of them had either seen (!) the footages or had heard (!!) the details of the frames from others – and, more importantly, had their individual opinions

And NO, sirs and madams, we did not talk about the angle  of the  ‘consenting adults’ who have every right to do whatever they feel is right, as long as what they do, does not impinge on the rights and freedoms of the other individuals. Nor did we discuss the bottomless abyss of a schism that exists between the so called talking and their actual walking. So, please heave sighs of relief.

Our idea was mainly to discuss to media misrepresentations of happenings and deliberately skewed reportage. We may eventually incorporate some of Noam Chomsky’s ideas too in our future discussions, in spite of the empty rhetoric in most of his ideas and his grandiose theories with veritable holes (example: ‘the theory of universal grammar’), and the deep schism that exists between what he preaches and what he actually practices. But Chomsky is a reasonable starting point. However, the sooner one gets to go beyond Chomsky, the better it is!  (more on these and other stuff, later)

Now, here’s a very humorous ‘in your face’ kind of swipe against the news peddlers  by Charlie Brooker. Please ignore the expletives in his sarcastic takes, if you must.

The world’s most generic news report – Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe (this has embedded subtitles, just in case you needed it)

There are more such parodies off the same Brooker, in the same youtube page. All good quality stuff, strongly recommended.

I also recall that, in that nicely crafted film – A Wednesday – the film director Neeraj Pandey takes a delicious swipe at how the news ‘making’ happens.

Enjoy – more importantly, reflect!

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!


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.


  1. U.C. Berkeley Center for Weight and Health, 2003
  2. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, October 2004
  4. The Food Doctor (


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!

kinder, über alles

… Joseph Haydn’s jingoistic composition extolling the virtues of deutcheland and his emperor notwithstanding. I like Haydn’s oratarios much better though – the seasons and the creation.

Yes. Children above all.

I remember to have read How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk’ of Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish a decade back or so.  So, when I started rereading  the ‘borrowed’ book from the NammaShaale library on a lark, I was quite amazed that I did not remember most of the content. Quite sad. So, the night before last I sat up almost finishing the book. Now I have to reread it and take down notes, religiously.

It is amazing how much I miss out if I am NOT ready for something, even though that something may be staring at me all the time and I may even direly need it like life itself! This reminds me of another of those fine books of Wayne Dyer titled ‘You’ll See It When You Believe It: The Way to Your Personal Transformation– I would have dismissed this book too, as a mere mumbo-jumbo, a few decades back.  And oh boy, am I happy having rediscovered Carl Gustavus Jung and Erik Erickson

Another book by the same Adele & Elaine that parents may find extremely useful would be: Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too – strongly recommended.

The whole set of books (of Adele and Elaine) could be reduced to a following seemingly simple algorithm, for life that is! And the books contain a ‘toolkit’ approach to dealing with issues, which is quite handy for the current times of serious attention deficit disorder of us adults…

  1. To ‘facilitate’ children to express their feelings.
  2. To accept the feelings of the children as a given.
  3. To listen to them, with empathy.
  4. Offering a set of meaningful choices and trust the spirit of the children.

The premise of the books, with which I agree wholeheartedly is ‘be the change you wish to see’ – and the books embrace the concept and build a set of effetive approaches to deal with our children.

At another level, if we replace the word ‘children’ with adults, the effects are much the same. This is an added bonus of the approach of E and A.

When one begins to use the techniques, it would seem as if they are corny and endlessly phoney. But, by and by, one’s feeling of being ‘artificial’ gets reduced.

Once again, my spouse and I would strongly recommend using and practising these books.

‘circular ruins’ vs ‘taare zameen par’ & ‘tinkle’

When I was around 12 or 13 years of age, I read a Tamil translation of  this mind blowingly beautiful short story of Jorge Luis Borges (JLB)- one of the finest literateurs that inhabited the earth, an Argentinian – a remarkable essayist and a fine poet too.

This translated ‘circular ruins’ was Vattach-chidhaivugal – artfully and faithfully done by a remarkable Srilankan Tamil – Dharumu Aroop Sivaramu (AKA Pramil Banuchenran, Bramil et al) – who, in my opinion, is/was one of the finest literateurs too. I remember to have been completely bowled over by the story and recollect that I tried to hunt for more of JLB’s outputs – not with much success though, as my world then was limited to whatever that was available in the local government lending libraries.

Borges is one of my alltime favourites – not so much because of the so called  ‘magic realism’ involved in his writings which is merely a technique, in my humble opinion; he has startling insights into our psyche which are expressed through wry humour and a lots of hallucinatory magic. And, he brings in, his vast scholarship of the world and its affairs to whatever he writes – right down to references to my good ol’ Madras in a short story titled A’l mutasim! His Ficciones is definitely mind bogglingly beautiful in scope and depth… (strongly recommended)

I have been dealing with the erdkinder (adolescents, ‘earth’ children) at NammaShaale for quite a while now and I had been told (gladly!) that, an year back they had worked on one of the works of  Gabriel Garcia Marquez too; so I thought, what the heaven, may be these children would enjoy a reading JLB too – and may be, I should start off with circular ruins!

The children were given a printout of the story each, we did a preliminary discussion about the background of the story – and they were given an assignment based on it – details of which are reproduced here:


This story may make sense only after a couple of readings. Be patient. Coupez la difficulte en quarte; remember?.

  1. List down the words for which you don’t know the meaning – hunt down their meanings and then read the story once again to see if the story makes a better sense. (there would be a spelling as well as a ‘meaning/context’ test based on the story, at some point in the near future)
  2. Paraphrase the whole story in about 10 sentences or 100 words.
  3. Do you think the storyline is plausible? Can it really happen? Is the storyline mildly disturbing? Why or Why not? Discuss.
  4. Can we tell whether we are dreaming or in the real world (what we consider as a ‘wakeful’ state) at any time? Discuss.
  5. Where do you think is the setting of the story? How did you arrive at your guess?
  6. Can you analyse the style of Borges and write ONE paragraph (say 5 sentences) like him? ( No is NOT an acceptable answer)
  7. What are the differences between say, a story in ‘Tinkle’ (assuming you read this magazine) or a ‘Taare Zameen Par’ and ‘circular ruins’? Does it feel like an unfair comparison? Why or Why not? [Notes: Tinkle is a popular Indian kids’ magazine; ‘Taare Zameen Par’ is a popular pulp fiction film]
  8. Have you read ‘Alice in wonderland?’ If yes, what are the parallels between this story and that of Alice’s? If no, go read it – FAST! J (NammaShaale has at least one copy and I have several – feel free to borrow)

    Report to be turned in ON or BEFORE 11th

    scan of a report's title page

    scan of a report's title page

I must say that the children came out with very good analyses and takes on the story – they seemed to have had fun too, in the process. Some of them quickly followed it up with some good doses of Lewis Carrol. Good. Immensely satisfying.

I have reproduced some views of the erdkinder here, verbatim:

‘I don’t know. May be our whole life is a dream till we pass away and then some one else wakes up, maybe you itself’

‘I think it can happen because when I am dreaming it is hard to escape until somebody wakes you up so we could be stuck in a dream with no escape’

‘A Tinkle story is just refreshing to our mind and it doesn’t need any level of analyzing. Most of its content is factual. Similarly ‘Taare Zameer Par’ also has no need of applying our brains to it because all the content is straight forward and the whole focus of the movie is based on melodrama. On the other hand ‘circular runis’ is completely contradictory, firstly it is not a refreshment [entertainment?] to the mind because it makes the reader think about [it] even after reading it. Definitely the content is not straightforward at all.’

‘The biggest differene between them (a Tinkle story and Taare Zameen Par) and this (Circular Ruins) is that they [the former] are meant for TIME PASS and this is not. May be there can be [a] comparison between Tinkle and  Taare Zameen Par because they share a common thing: ‘ENTERTAINERS’ – but it is definitely unfair to have a comparison in between the three.’

Well, we followed up with some more discussions and essentially came to the conclusion that ‘the universe that we perceive and live in is, actually in our head.’ There is an incident that I posted around the theme here: The universe within…

“And if he let off dreaming about you…”

Some links that you may want to whet your appetite with, are furnished below:

30 Days with Borges series – of Jeff Barry – a nice series of thoughtfully put together pages:

Borges study center – Borges online: