Wednesday, July 23, 2014

One step forward, one step back

Recently I read in the same day's newspaper that on the one hand, Apple and IBM are tying up to develop apps for mobile phones that can handle 'heavy data loads', turning the phones into 'decision making tools' (heaven knows what that means, and it made me wonder how the likes of Churchill and J P Morgan managed to handle world-girdling empires and Tagore wrote all that superlative stuff lifelong without such marvels  at their disposal), and, on the other hand, the German government, worried stiff about snooping over the internet, has decided to have sensitive stuff written on old-fashioned manual typewriters, giving computers the go-by. If people are not silly, tell me what they are.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Latest apps

I found this one in this month's Reader's Digest:

Someone boasts that his smart phone has an 'app' to remind him when it's time to drink water. "I've got one too," retorts his friend. "It's called thirst".

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A woman speaking up for men

This post is essentially meant for men - and those (very few-) women who have genuinely human rather than merely feminine sensibilities: as the writer of this obviously is. My heartfelt thanks to her, though she might never know.

I am in especial sympathy for what has been said in items 8 and 7. Regarding 5 and 4, I am deeply thankful that I have never personally suffered that way, but I know a lot of fathers who have, and I feel awful for them. As I have written before, 'feminists' should have the guts to openly acknowledge that lots of women are very bad parents, and some men very good ones.

Item 1 made me smile and grimace at the same time. In a supposedly 'advanced' and 'liberated' society too, it seems, lots of little girls are being brought up by mothers who tell them to stay away from the boys because 'all boys are icky, mean, and have cooties'. Nice to know.

I am glad that women like Kelly Barkhausen-Rojahn exist, even in this day and age.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Simple pleasures

People talk of the simple pleasures of life. Are there too many things that can beat the pleasure of a cool drink of coconut water or lassi or simply lemon, sugar and salt in cold water when you have come home half blinded by the sun and drenched in sweat? Or – like today – when the rains came down at last, just when it seemed that summer this time round had become too horrible to bear? Or – also like today – when you are told that some people are quoting lines from your book?


Today was a good day. I read in the newspaper that the electric tooth drill is soon going to become part of our barbaric history thanks to a new, minimally invasive form of tooth cavity treatment that is being developed in the UK right now, and is expected to be on the market within three years. I’ll say amen to that, and I am sure millions of sufferers will concur fervently.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A lot of fatsos around!

As this editorial in my newspaper observes, the number of fatties has been rising alarmingly and continuously: as of 2013, there are 2.1 billion overweight-to-obese people in the world. Which means there are far more people around now who are in danger of dying of eating too much than those who are at risk of death from starvation or malnutrition. Says something about the kind of 'progress' we have been making over the last century, doesn't it? God bless science and all its marvels. How much longer before the Wall-E kind of syndrome becomes an everyday reality? 

Likewise, in an age which fanatically worships youth and all its follies as never before in history, the proportion of elderly people is steadily getting bigger. If current trends continue, then by 2050 many countries will have far more people above 60 than below 20. And everything from government to economy to culture is all unprepared to handle such a never-before situation...

Sunday, May 18, 2014

plus c'est la meme chose

It is good to remind oneself that not everyone in India goes gaga when something big like the tsuNaMo happens. The wisest thing that was said in the aftermath of the Mamata Banerjee landslide three years ago in West Bengal came from a rickshaw puller I know: 'It isn't likely to make much of a difference to you and me, Sir'. I think the same thing can be safely said about Narendra Modi's zamaana.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What shall we do without our experts?

The world is so full of 'experts' on every subject that I could choke. My grandfather joked forty years ago that he had met a 'paatko expert' - a specialist in digging and cleaning wells. I just learnt there are people who call themselves 'happiness experts': see this.

Happiness is serious academic business these days, apparently.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Too young? too old?

My father once made a remarkable observation. ‘For ages I was told,’ he wryly said, ‘that I was too young for a lot of things….and then before I knew what, people started saying that I was too old. Whenever was I ever just the right age?’

I have had somewhat the same problem all my life. It has been aggravated by the fact that I am a teacher by profession, and I try to keep in touch with a lot of ex students, and so I am forced to watch little kids grow up (well, grow bigger, fatter, more conceited and uptight at least) all the time. It doesn’t help that I have a very long and acute memory, so that anyone’s current affectations clash violently with all the foolishness and vapidness of theirs that I vividly remember.

And it is a very strange and common disease that people are so sensitive about age. Class ten-ers will pooh pooh those in class five, a college goer will sniff at class ten-ers, those who have entered working and/or married life will sneer at college goers as ‘just kids’… and so it goes on. Funny they all assume that they themselves have grown much wiser and sharper in the few years that have passed since they were that age themselves, entirely and happily oblivious of the fact that most of them haven’t really matured one whit: they have merely blended with the crowd of the benighted, most of them, and after all, as I love to say, A fool when he grows old simply becomes an old fool!

‘Oh, but she’s so young’, I have heard people say in their twenties and in their fifties. When does a person stop being ‘too young’? Khushwant Singh died aged 99 only a few days ago, so he might easily have said that about me, right, me, at 51, after all I have learnt and seen and done lifelong, and 33 years of teaching? And what can you say of people who call my daughter ‘too young’ because they are ten-twelve years older, but forget how much older I am when they talk to me? Oh, and just by the way, they get mightily offended when I say I get the feeling that I am talking to a much more grown up person when I deal with my daughter than the likes of them…

Monday, March 24, 2014

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Baby forgotten at airport

See this.

These parents would be in their late twenties, I guess.

That means people their age were my pupils 12 to 15 years ago, maybe 20. I remember I used to tell them out of sheer exasperation over their habitual carelessness and irresponsibility, 'What kind of parents and teachers are you folks going to grow up into?' Remember, too, that most of these are educated and 'important' people too - doctors, engineers, lawyers, accountants, journalists - at least in their own eyes.

What should I say to the kids I handle today?

Friday, February 14, 2014

'emotional fasting'

Look up this website, which I found while surfing the net in a half absent-minded state. It talks about the nine chief moods identified in classical Hindu art/literature/psychology, and how best to deal with them.

While I was reading it up, the line that was playing at the back of my mind was from Chandidas: 'rasik rasik shokoley kahoye/keho toh rasik noy/bhabiya ganiya bujhiya dekhile/kotitey gutik hoy!', that is to say, everybody likes to think of himself as an aesthete, but the true aesthete is one in ten million...

Monday, February 3, 2014

Book Fair? no thanks

Someone sent me this link to tell me why she doesn't like to visit the Calcutta Book Fair any more. I worked there for eight successive years, and I don't, either, for virtually the same reasons...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Now that is called snow!

This is a photograph taken in Kashmir, not Canada or Siberia.

As I keep telling my daughter, you get virtually everything in India...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Smart, smarting, gone...

Look up this link.

How much 'smarter' do we need our phones to get?

And how much longer before these uber smart machines start thinking 'Why don't we just get rid of these dumb humans lumbering around like dinosaurs and still thinking they "own" us?'

Thursday, January 16, 2014

English in India

Look up this link. They need to conduct 'scientific studies' of this sort to verify home truths like 'an education in English improves your chances of getting a fatter paycheck'! My dear study conductors who suffer from disguised unemployment, hundreds of millions of Indian parents know this already, thank you very much. It is they, and not those who conduct such utterly useless 'studies', who have kept the likes of me in gravy all my working life!

One interesting claim made by this study is that 'only 20% of the Indian population can speak in English, and only 4% can be considered fluent'. Now given my lifetime experience, I think that the first figure is likely to be a gross exaggeration, unless you insist that even the dhaba boy who shouts 'aiye, aiye, bread-butter milega' can 'speak in English'. As for the latter figure, ahem. I suppose all my ex-students now in their 20s and 30s might be technically considered to be fluent in English, but I wonder, truly... I know how many of them talk pidgin or Facebookese, and find it 'too difficult' to write articulate comments on my blogposts!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Teacher, salaam

Being the kind of teacher I am, it always interests me to see teachers being talked about with understanding, appreciation and respect. So it was good to hear Amitabh Bachchan saying in Arakshan, and Saswata Chatterjee reiterating in C/o. Sir that there's no such thing as a 'great' school, and a good educational institution is not made by airconditioned classrooms with wi-fi internet connection: all it needs is a good teacher and a blackboard (funny, I myself have never needed even a blackboard, and it's been a lifetime!)

The girl in the latter movie also made a telling point: the same school and the same teacher's best efforts can still produce scoundrels... it will be a long time yet before something as incredibly difficult as teaching (and I am not talking about mere 'instruction', be it in plumbing or surgery) can be reduced to running pat algorithms with totally predictable results, assembly-line fashion.