Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pratham - Giving away a billion books

Last summer, I  met a government school teacher,  Vasanthi  MA  B. Ed who works at a rural school in  Tiruvannamalai district of Tamilnadu.  Out of curiosity to know about rural India, I asked her how the school functions, what the government doles out  and how the rural children took to the concept of learning,  reading and  schooling.

 She said many rural parents were not aware of the benefits of schooling and they were not supportive to the idea of their children getting schooled.  Instead they preferred their children work in the farm fields or help them to  do  jobs to augment their  income. A few parents sent them because of the mid-day meal scheme.  But there were many children who showed interest to understand, read and write especially their eyes lit up when they saw colored picture books like storybooks and color pencils. She spoke about a student in particular who was inquisitive and thirsted to know more. She would  write and answer questions just by grasping what is done in the class(without any written notes that is) .  She is a class 5 student who showed interest in reading news papers, story books  and was always curious to know more and she tried to pick up English with the help of reading those story books.

When I saw the TEDx  talks of Rohini Nilekani, This unknown child whom I heard of an year ago,  flashed before me. Was wondering what if ever she gets to lay her hand on more  story books. To nurture her reading habit , isn’t it necessary for her to have access to books especially story books?

I also realized how lucky i was to have had a mom and dad who inspired,motivated and encouraged me into reading books and newspapers.  My Mom, a voracious reader was my inspiration to read books. I have seen her reading books and novels endlessly. My dad would take me to all the book exhibitions of IBH, Navkarnataka, book stores like Higginbothams, Gangarams, Sapna and we were also members of the City central Library and a private library closer home which had a good collection of books.  Not many children could be lucky as I was. Certainly not that little girl who flashed before me.  

 Not just this girl, there could be many more such underprivileged children who enjoy reading and have no access to books.  If only, NGO’s like Pratham could reach every child in the nook and corner of India, we could visualize an India where every child who wants to read has a book in hand. Nothing can be heartwarming than seeing a  child holding a story book in hand.  This could lead to a literate India.

  Pratham  has taken a nation wide campaign  towards making a nation where every child reads and enjoys reading. They call it the” Read India movement”. They create story books, publish them , sell them and spread their reach across the length and breadth of India so that they can find a story book in the hands of a young child who wants  to read.  Their vision is to see “ A book in every child’s hand” and democratize the joy of reading.  What's more the quality of books  are good and affordable. Their mission is to ensure "Every child in school and Learning well". The NGO was founded with the belief that education is the fundamental right of every child and no child should be deprived this basic right simply because they have no access or resources to realize their dream.

For more information on  their mission, vision and work listen to Rohini Nilekani  on “Giving away a billion books"

She is the founder and chairperson of   Pratham  (www.pratham.org)

Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.

This  post in response to " Indilblogger's Idea caravan"

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Crunching numbers the vedic way

Our lives are today driven by numbers, calculations and gadgets. All of modern day inventions and gadgets would not be possible without the use of numbers and mathematics.There is no area where we can escape number crunching or math. Infact, it is the basic structure on which the fields of physical science, social science, technology  rest. Even our daily life rests on this.  From physicists, engineers, mathematicians, economists and math teachers to an average citizen needs mathematics for his/her daily business and commerce. No wonder,  we start learning them from the very beginning stages of our formal education.

But how many really like math?   Not me, I never liked math in my primary school years. I found the numbers random, boring and frustrating when I did not get the right answers. It took my tenth class  Math master KRK to drill sense into many of us that math had a rhyme and reason and it was not just random numbers. He emphasized that we should be  thinking logically and develop a  problem solving ability rather than finding a solution to the problem or cram/memorize the math facts. His method was also inspiring and fun. Math then became a simple subject for many of us and a subject which I dreaded in my primary school days was the subject which traveled with me till I graduated.

But not many students would be lucky to have a teacher like KRK who had the sobering responsibility of nurturing mathematical minds.Here is where vedic maths comes into picture. To drive out the fear and instill the love for the subject in young minds and learn the fun way.

This concept of mathematics  owes its origin to the vedas. Infact, the vedas considered to be the fountainhead of knowledge covered many major branches of knowledge like astronomy, medicine, surgery, finearts, civil engineering, navigation, shipbuilding, physics, metallurgy etc. According to the 19th century British historian Grant Duff, “Many of the advances in the mathematics and sciences that we consider today to have been made in Europe were in fact made in India centuries ago.”

 Research has revealed many interesting facts that the origin of many advances of today's modern world  has originated in India like that of Vedic maths.

A few proofs of maths presence in the vedas:

  •     We find elaborate proof of this in the vedas like the concept of division, addition, roots of algebra, concepts of zero and the infinite etc. These were in the form of sutras and shlokas. When invaders and foreign merchants traveled to India, they learnt easy to use calculation methods from India and this  knowledge reached Europe, Arab countries etc when they traveled back.
  •    Even the famous French mathematician Laplace has said" The ingenious method of expressing every possible number using a set of ten symbols( each symbol having a place value and an absolute value) emerged in India" He referred  to the decimal system.
  •    The mathematical activity in the vedic period were associated with ritualistic activity and in agricultural contexts too. Like the system of breaking the agricultural land into rectangular or triangular or square plots of equal size. Assessing the tax based on the annual or seasonal crop incomes. Math thus served both the secular and ritual domains. 
  •      Pingala's binary number system which contains the basic idea of Fibonacci number( called maatraameru) has evidence in the vedas.
  •       Aryabhata sutra for Pi which played a vital role in his revolutionary understanding of the solar system. For this he worked on beejganit(algebra) and trikonimit( trigonometry). He arrived at a sutra or shloka which when deciphered brings out the approximate value of Pi 
  •       Pythagoras the Greek mathematician and philosopher is also said to be familiar with the Upanishads and learnt his basic geometry from the sulva sutras. Researchers have found an early statement of Pythagoras theorem in  Baudhayana's sutra.

So, above are a few research findings of math in our vedas. Thus the name given to the ancient system of mathematics rediscovered from the Vedas is called Vedic mathematics. This is researched by Sri Bharati krsna tirthaji. According to  him, all of mathematics is based on sixteen sutras or word formulae. These formulae describe the way the mind naturally works and are therefore a great help in directing the student to the appropriate method of solution.

The most important feature of this vedic system is it is beautifully interrelated and unified making it coherent. These methods make math easily enjoyable and encourages innovation. Another feature of vedic maths is that the calculations can be carried out mentally.


Today, this system is growing and popularized by a few. Many math teachers who want to use inspiring and interesting methods of teaching math have vedic maths as the answer. Research is also carried out including the effects of vedic maths on children.

It is more popular in the  Middle East, South Africa , Europe and the US. Infact, so popular that USA patented it and India had to fight a copyright case and eventually won it. For more on Vedic math, I will leave you with a video of Gaurav Tekriwal's TEDx talks. He is the founder & President  of Vedic maths forum in India. 

Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.

This post in response to  Indiblogger's " Idea caravan" contest.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Things we lost to technology

  Many requiems were held and the past week saw me reading/hearing  nostalgic stories of many people relating their interesting experiences with telegrams, trunkcalls and letters in the Newspapers, on blogs and during conversations . As for me, on the last day of the telegraphic service, i wish, i had sent a telegram to my children. They would have preserved it for posterity. I missed doing this.

There are mixed views on the closure of the service. Some feel, this is the age of instant news. News is being uploaded simultaneously as it is being made through mobile,FB and twitter. We also easily connect with people in distant lands or next door on  whatsapp, skype etc., .So the telegram and trunkcalls are waste of money and time. while some of my Army friends  felt that telegrams are the way many military personnel still connect with their family since they are stationed at remote places where there is no internet access.

I  too was swept by a nostalgic wave, for i belong to a generation of snailmails, trunkcalls, telegrams and much more which have now been taken over by technology. As an electronics graduate, I love technology and the communication revolution and i too have moved on with times.

Today I  tweet, blog,pin,  FB, whatsapp and skype.  But still I feel technology has robbed us of certain things  emotionally. The joy of writing letters, the anticipation of waiting for replies, expressing ourselves with words  and poetic lines. The patience of waiting till a trunkcall is booked sometimes it would take even 6 to 7 hours.

There are  certain things i feel we have lost to the technological and  communication revolution and the joy of doing certain things emotionally is one of them.

Though we hav'nt written epitaphs and conducted requiems, Like trunkcalls and telegrams there are few things that we have lost to the revolution. They are:

  •  Dictionary
  •  wren and martin book
  •  Logarithm table
  • calculator
  • Typewriter
  • Story telling
  • Encyclopedia
  •  transistors
  • Fountain pen
  • traditional radio
  • games like hopscotch, gillidanda, tennikoit, pretendgames, lagori etc.,
  • atlas map book
  •  stone grinders/Pestle and mortar
  •   Record playersand LP records
  • tape recorders and tapes
  •   floppy disks
  •  pagers
  •  analog camera and photo albums
  •  communication offline
  • health
  • environment
  •  emotional values like patience, smiling, waiting, longing, controling anger all of which are lost to instant messaging, wrongly spelt SMS and emoticons   and I  am leaving this list  incomplete.......

  Would you care to complete in the comments section?

P.S: This is a generalized post. Some of us still would be using many of the above.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A value learnt at a street corner

Be it @ a party, @ a wedding, @ an hotel or @ my home, I never waste food, not even a grain.  I fill my plate with the required portions when i self serve or when it is being served i always ensure i block my plate with my right hand so that the serving host never fills my plate beyond my eating capacity. When done i might go for a second helping but, never will you find me wasting food. Even the leftover food at home like roti, rice or veggies will be recycled to make a new dish or passed on to the needy.  Although, this is a value which my parents and grandparents have tried to ingrain into me. A disturbing sight at a street corner was an eye opener for me.
This incident happened when i was in the high school and  may be I was around 13,  i don't remember exactly. 

  I was walking on a street, past a  wedding hall. The street corner had an overflowing bin with leftover food and plaintain leaves. The plaintain leaves, it was clear came from the wedding hall where guests were served the feast. What unfolded next was the most disturbing scene that taught me the value of a grain. 

 An old man in tattered clothes and overgrown beard was vying with the dogs for the left overs. It was such a heart tugging sight  to see an old man fighting for leftovers with animals. That was the day,  the fact that, Not all are blessed with good food to eat dawned on me. While some wine and dine in silver plates and spoons, there are many who have to eat the leftovers or even go hungry.

 After this whenever Appa said  " Saadam sindhadhay" ("don't spill rice"),  or kai eriyaday( don't waste vegetables), it fell on my ears and I  followed his words religiously.Ever since then i ensure i don't spill even a grain of rice or waste a piece of vegetable. 

That is why it disturbs me when at a wedding feast, exhibition, hotels, people load their plates beyond their capacity  or waste food because they don't like the taste. Finally the extra food ends in the trash. In a country, where  every third Indian is undernourished, food wastage, even a grain is a criminal waste. The extra food in good condition could be passed to the needy - humans or animals.  A value i learnt at a street  corner and have also ingrained in my children.

I am sharing what "I Saw and I learnt" at The best community of Indian bloggers  Blogadda. in association with 'Do Right'

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The road to lake valley Nainital

Road  trips always gives me a travelers  high,  especially,  day time country side trips  or mountain drives. The reason - It is easier to have pit stops along the journey  which offers lovely mountain vistas and stunning valley views,rolling green hills etc.,  It is a delight to drive through the narrow roads of  little villages , past tranquil lakes and negotiate the hair pin bends of hills. You can  also stop as you please to capture the views that you come across for posterity,  while you  also hop in and out of those high way chai kiosks to refresh yourself through  the drive .
But for the road trip to be perfect you need a sturdy car and beautiful people to accompany you.  Then  even the worst roads or narrow roads  can be navigated comfortably.  For my ideal and perfect road trip the car, companions, route and destination will be
My car – Toyota Fortuner
My companions – my family and like minded relatives /friends
The route  - Delhi to Nainital via Haldwani NH24
Destination – Nainital.
 I would prefer a Toyota Fortuner perfect for the hilly terrain  and for company will be my family and a few like minded relatives( I am more a family person). Why I choose this route?  Will let you know  at the end of the post.
Since the distance travelled would be  around 6-7  hours., I would start around 8 in the morning from Delhi. The car will be loaded with  good music CD’s,  GPS , a blue tooth, a binocular , My DSLR,  a pitch tent kit,  a foldable canopy  and ofcourse will ensure the stepney and tool kit are in perfect condition along with a full fuel tank. I will also take snacks mostly finger foods like murukku, thattai, theplas,  sponge cakes , water and some tetrapaks along with  some lemons and narthangai( sun dried and  salted citron) . It will help overcome nausea while driving up the hill.
I have always maintained that for me,  the journey is more  interesting than a destination and so this route is an example why some journeys are clichéd than destinations. It  throws open an array of visual delights,  successful companies( Dabur),  reputed boarding schools(sherwood),  holy bathing ghats( garhmukteswar) , rivers, hills, lakes, fruit orchards and meadows.  Infact, in such beautiful journeys, car mates  would be an intrusion.  I would need no company either  to chat or play antakshri. Just soaking the scenic delights  and listening on  my I -pod  would  be enjoyable.
It gives a lovely feeling to feel the cool breeze caressing  the face and it is another healthy feeling to inhale the crisp air of the mountain/country side.   As we negotiate  through narrow roads enjoying the lovely scenic views of the wooded alpine hills and valley, the astounding views of the snow capped mountains  more than make up for the pythonic roads and to boot there is less traffic  to reach my destination.
There are few places on the planet that take your breath away. The lake valley of Nainital  is one such. Although crowded like most hill stations, It offers many visual treats like the snow clad mountains, sprawling ecosystem, the wooded  trails to explore, the various tals (lakes) like Naini, the nearby Naukanchital, Bhimtal, sat tal etc., .  Each of the beautiful lakes has  legend connected with its and it would be an aural treat to listen to the tales from the locals in their dialect.  But the principal visual delight is  the panaromic view of the lake under the star studded ink blue sky.  There is nothing more beautiful than gazing at the  lighted  twinkling  homesteads on the hills and the hill valley  reflecting in the  still waters of the Naini lake. The tintinnabulation of the  brass bells from the nearby Naina Devi temple’s evening aarti,  resonates across the valley making the place surreal and sublime. Stand  by the railing   or sit on the  benches by the banks of the lake with a cup of warm ginger chai and then you would know  why some scenic views like this are fresh in my memory even after a long time.
                                       The twinkling valley mirrored in the Naini lake is a sight to behold
                                                         The snow clad Naini valley.
      Enroute Nainital, Bhimtal and other lakes, it would be a delight to stop and walk through these sweet smelling orchards and strawberry fields. 
During the day ,  one can explore the wooded trails following the sing song calls of the birds, drive around to see the naukaunchital( it has 9 corners), Bhimtal, the hanuman tekdi mandir which offers beautiful aerial view of the valley. As  one drives  uphill to watch the snow clad Himalayan peaks,  one can get clicked in the Kumaoni dress  and a basket of flowers.  With the snow capped peaks as backdrop , this photo serves as a souvenoir  to  take back home.  By noon, return  to the calm waters and   paddle in the boats along with the white ducks. If you wish, you can paddle  with the oars on your own without the oarsman. It is a good exercise for those hands which are used only to punching the keyboard  or  holds the cell phone:)
Though you can treat your taste buds to the various ethnic thalis of India , Indulge your taste buds to the fruits of the region,  fresh Peaches, apples, Albukar , lichis and the fresh creamy paneer so unlike the commercial paneer you get in metro outlets.  If you are lucky walk through the fruit orchards and enjoy the fruits by plucking them from the trees.
I would like to make this an ideal road trip again….yes , again…..now  I will let you know the reason why I chose this destination.

We were then in Gurgaon( summer of 1998) , when we along with our friends  decided to make use of the long weekend. We decided on Agra and were driving in Tokas cabs towards the bus stand.  On reaching the bus station,  we saw a bus leaving to Nainital and decided on Nainital since Agra would be experiencing hot summer. We could not accommodate ourselves in one bus and so the 9 member gang split into two  buses. Unreserved and unplanned trip  was the reason I never enjoyed the journey. On our return, our so called a/c bus( a/c was not working)  broke down near Haldwani and we were stranded on the road from night 12 to morning 4 on a sultry night (just the previous day Nainital had recorded 31 deg, hottest in a decade claimed the newspapers).  Adding to this misery  was my toddlers feeding bottle, which  fell off the bus from the gap of the first seat and rolled down in the dark night.  It was mid noon when we reached Delhi famished and frustrated.  Although we enjoyed the destination, the journey was pathetic. Hence, will make an ideal trip to this place again and drive around the places which are not part of a tourist brochure and enjoy the clichés along the journey . I also missed  the view of the second picture above (snow clad) since my trip was in summer and that too the day was marked as hottest day of Nainital in a decade. So an ideal trip again.
Image courtesy: Google
This is written for Indibloggers "The perfect road trip" and AmbipurIndia

Thursday, July 4, 2013

When a poetic expression boomerangs

Do you remember the boomerang? Most of us played with it while we were young.

 It works on a simple technique. You flip the boomerang through the air in the forward direction and within seconds it comes back onto us.

Alright, i know that you remember but  how is this related to my post?

Read on......

When i have to substantiate my point of view to my children, i often quote some poetic expression, wise saying or proverb . Say for instance, i use poetic lines  like  "Little drops of water make a mighty ocean" to just drive the point that ,  Big things in life have small start ups. My teens too listen and absorb them.  Only i did'nt realize they would apply it on me.

My 14 year old   has CCE  this week( continuous comprehensive evaluation). The average of the marks scored in the CCE  throughout the year decides  his grade in the final exam. My son has very good attention span , grasps concepts  and applies them,  But he does not put in hardwork.  Since he is regular to class room teaching, he scores honorable marks, if not glorious marks.  We are also not mark obsessed parents but we ensure he understands the principles, concepts, expresses them and applies them. He does not miss the classroom teaching  and he has no private tuitions so far. 

But last work week we spent  in Chennai as we had to attend our nephew's wedding and so my son missed his lessons . This week he had to clear the backlog notes and prepare for the CCE amidst his busy schedule of watching TV, playing and fidgeting with gadgets. 

I asked him to read  on his own and explain the lesson 'Force and the laws  of  motion."  He read the text , explained force and the first law of motion on the white board with drawings and examples from real life. All these precisely in 14 minutes.  He then paused and smiled....

I goaded him to continue .and  this was the conversation that followed

HE:  I  have to study the  text to explain further.

ME:Ok, go ahead, i will wait. you read and explain

HE: Not now ma..... later. I want to rest now.

I raised my voice  and told him he is going to higher classes now and he has to put in continuous effort for long time. Bits and pieces won't do.

For which he replied " Ma, Boond boond se hi banta hai sagar" and went away to play while i was left holding the physics text in my hand.

What I told him  a few days back, boomeranged on me. Is this what they say " Life takes a full circle"

Monday, July 1, 2013

Today, All that matters is........

During my childhood years, anything about the US charmed me.  I was besotted by the photos of my aunt’s house( mom’s cousin) and all the goodies she brought to India.  It was my dream to earn in dollars  and   own a huge villa with swimming pool and orange orchards in the backyard just like the one my mom’s cousin owned. To buy the beautiful stone studded  satin or netted  gowns that my cousin wore or that beautiful  gold rose studs that my aunt had, the various designer nail polish bottles that I was gifted …….and I still cherish and value  that beautiful  peacock blue and green butterfly pendant gold chain that I was gifted by my  aunt - these material gifts were what i cared and dreamt for as a little girl.  

All those products with ‘Made in US or assembled in US ’ labels made me think that US is the ultimate destination for all things beautiful. I was obsessed with anything and everything that came with the US of A tag. As if this was not enough another of my mom’s uncle who had just returned from The US showed us the video of Universal studios, Disney land etc.  This was enough motivation for the little girl in me to  have dollar dreams.

So, when people asked me then,  what is your ambition?  I would say - An MS in micro electronics  and to work in NASA or in a US blue chip company . That  was my teenage ambition.

Many years later, Today, I have  a US visa stamped on my passport, but  it is no more my dream to earn in dollars.  I don’t dream of owning a ranch house, island villa, visit to Disney land, swanky cars, private yachts, satin gowns etc.,. No grand desires like  US brand or foreign branded clothes like DK, tommy Hilfiger, Versace or even our own Sabyasachi (though I follow him) or  any expensive brand or things don’t  attract  me any more. I heart all things simple and  buy economical ethnic  products today.  Like many things that change around, my dreams  and priorities too have changed.

My thoughts, ideas and beliefs are all about Simple needs,  calm frame of mind, peace, sound health,  the affection , welfare and love of my near and dear ones is all I dream of.  Contentment is all that matters to me. If i ran the competitive race, i might miss all these fortunes.

From his childhood, man has been made to believe that he could get whatever he wants with money. Sure enough, many of us  run  the competitive race to  reach the top, amass money and power  by pledging family happiness,  health, personal expressions, sweat, toil and sometimes even blood for the success we get in return. All these money could get us the best of cots and beds but not sleep; Swanky villas and designer homes but not peace; the best of food but not digestive powers or good health; admission in premium universities but not education;  pleasure trips to exotic  Islands of the world but not happiness;  big fat extravagant wedding but not a harmonious marriage.

Ironically, the greatest of life’s experiences are available free, in fact  without any price tags or conditions  attached.  Irrespective of our materialistic or economic status, life can be a series of costless luxuries. 

 I am not so young  anymore and the recent  years behind me have  taught me costless luxuries bring contentment than costly luxuries.

 I know money acts as a means to my experience. Marvelling at the sunrise from the balcony of my house with a cup of tea or looking at the star spangled night is a costless luxury. It could turn into a costly luxury if I were to watch the sunrise from the southernmost point of india or sit in a gondola on a venetian canal .  It does cost money to live in this world, but it is costless to feel  the contentment,peace and make yourself feel on “Top of the world”.

Today, All that matters to me is Contentment, happiness-  a blissful life :)  

This post is written as a part of 'All that Matters' contest at BlogAdda.com in association with INK Talks 2013.