15 December 2013

An oasis in TV commercial desert

It is a well known fact that many of our TV commercials are noisy, exaggerated and unpleasant to view. But a few remain to stand out from the rest. One such is a commercial from Titan watches. It displays the deep affection that students of a classroom have for their professor. In fact any good teacher who watches the commercial would easily identify with the commercial and shed tears of joy. 

I tried to provide a link to the commercial, but couldn't; I'll try to do it when the commercial is accessible. Hope you tune in to your TV and get an opportunity to view this exceptional commercial (from which I leave 2 screenshots, thanks to my mobile camera).







   

06 December 2013

A tribute to Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela passed away yesterday at the age of 95. As South  African president said in his tribute, the country has lost one of its greatest sons. As it happens whenever world renowned statesmen pass away, media is filled with news items, biographical excepts etc. about Mr Mandela. South African Broadcasting Corporation TV channel has come with special coverage about him. Martin Luther King Jr, and Nelson Mandela are well known to have had their inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi. Nelson Mandela and  F W de klerk (South African president prior to Mr Mandela) shared the 1993 Nobel prize for peace.

26 November 2013

Sidelined Strategies in Science and Technology

Though I am a very passionate Indian at heart, I have always preferred overseas media to local ones as I think that the former are far more reliable.

This morning, CNN carried a very informative program in its `GOING GREEN' series on how geothermal resources are being used in Iceland. As usual the program was lively with input from professionals from different geothermal energy related areas. What I found most interesting was `classroom' base with students from Kenya, PNG etc.

The program made me wonder as to how amazing Iceland based geysers are used in energy production. I remember having seen geysers as a high school student when we had gone on a school excursion to southern districts of Tamilnadu (India) way back in the mid '60s. It is a disgrace that our governments and NGOs are not using natural resources such as geysers properly. I think that we should learn many things from other countries. For instance as to how the US is replacing nuclear reactors with geothermal and hydroelectric systems and how Botswana uses solar energy in its towns and villages to produce electrical energy. In fact, I and my colleagues had the pleasure of residing in solar battery powered flats inside the campus of a high school where we taught in Botswana.

Our government should rise above the intellectual base of most K-12 parents who aim for their children's `ranks' in Board exams (leaving out every thing else however important it may be) or many of our folks who aim to win `rat races' using any means (however unethical these may be).

Like many like minded people, I just don't see any logic in our Government's spending taxpayers' money in Mars mission. Instead the money should be spent in solving problems that affect common people.     

I tried to provide a link to the program, but couldn't locate it easily in the CNN website, paradoxically! 

24 November 2013

Rock Music and Spiritualism

Some of the programs telecast over our Lok Sabha TV Channel are really very good. One such is the `Fairs of India' serial that features cultural festivals in different parts of India.  This evening's program (8 to 8 30 PM IST) featured `Banaras Utsav'. 

The program included a rock concert involving Hindu devotional music, reminding the 1960s when thousands of hippies visited the town seeking spirituality. It was nice to visualize spirituality integrated with rock music (which I guess is a pragmatic means to inspire youngsters into spirituality). I remember how George Harrison of The Beatles got involved in Hindu spiritualism way back in the '60s. The rock show as shown in the program was sponsored by Banares Round Table.

Well, when it comes to Round Table, I cannot forget something interesting that happened many years back: I was teaching Physics in a high school in a town that was 60 km away from Gaborone, Botswana. I used to go to Gaborone every Friday to attend the weekly meetings of Gaborone Round Table of which I was a member. I could always leave for Gaborone early enough to reach the meeting as I didn't have any class to take on Friday afternoons. As I was the only vegetarian there, fellow round-tablers knew my food preferences. Once we had to have our lunch in a South Korean restaurant. One of the menu items was `Ants on the tree'. I told the organizers that I wouldn't eat ants. My concern was communicated to the restaurant owner who told me that the item was simply a vegetarian side dish that included jaggery. This was a great relief from my anxiety. 

21 November 2013

Best wishes to Sachin Tendulkar

Sachin Tendulkar bid farewell to test cricket last week. Though not a fan of cricket as such, I have always admired Sachin for his extraordinary cricketing capabilities and sterling qualities of simplicity, team spirit and leadership. (I remember his maiden test match played in South Africa in the early '90s at which time I was teaching physics in a high school in the region). I join numerous Sachin fans in wishing him all the best.

18 November 2013

As I didn't have time, I couldn't write any post last week. Yesterday was an auspicious day in the Hindu calender; this was the day when Shree Mahaa Vishnu took avataar as mathsyaa many yugaas back. Yesterday was also auspicious for worshiping Kaarthikeyaa, son of Lord Shiva. Devotees worship Shree Mahaa Vishnu in his Damodaraa form (shown in the image below) during this Kaarthik month (in the Sanskrit calender). 

      

05 November 2013

The lead story in all our media outlets today has been the successful launch of `Mangalyaan' Mission to Mars. Obviously news agencies such as BBC and CNN too highlighted this event. Well, when our Indian Government cannot handle issues such as corruption, crime rate, lack of education and basic healthcare for all its people, I just don't understand the logic behind spending Rs 450 Crores on this mission. ISRO could have spent this amount on more technically advanced projects that would benefit the common people (particularly agriculturists). (I express my views on this issue as I see it more as socioeconomic than political). 

03 November 2013

Melodious music on mobile ads

A few decades back when TV was new to Indian households, it was fun watching good programs as there were far less commercial interruptions. Besides, commercials were more meaningful and less noisy. Well, some changes cannot be reversed as time goes by. One of these is the way in which people respond to media such as cinema and TV commercials. As anyone can easily find, many of today's TV commercials are noisy and meaningless. In such a scenario, it is really not that bad to view commercials  such as those by Airtel (mobile phone service provider) between BBC News and other programs, as they are accompanied by very nice music resembling those of Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck. (I tried to provide a link for one of Airtel's commercials but couldn't).

02 November 2013

Fest of Lights

Today is an auspicious day for Hindus. This day is celebrated as `Diwali' meaning `Festival of Lights'. This is the day when Lord Krishna, an Avataar of Shree Mahaa Vishnu, killed the demon Narakaasura and established that the good wins over the evil, during Dwaapara Yuga. This day is also considered to be day on which Shree Ramaa, another Avataar of Shree Mahaa Vishnu, killed Ravana and proved that the good wins over the evil during Treta Yuga.

This Fest of Lights is celebrated by Hindu people all over the Global Village.

14 October 2013

Vijaya Dashami

Today is the last day of the Dusseraah Fest and is known as Vijaya Dashami. According to Hindu scriptures, this is the day which reminds that good wins over the evil. This day is also observed by Maadhwaa community as Madhwa Jayanthi.  

08 October 2013

Sub-atomic particles, Science and Spirituality

As far as I observe, some morning programs on our TV channels are really worth viewing. For example, those on Podhigai, Jaya and Star Vijay (with spiritual discourses by Shree Velukkudi Krishnan, Shree Anantha Padmanabhaachaariaar), ETV (with Aayurveda programs such as Jeevanjyothi), DD National (Aaj Savere), Ashta and Sanskar.   

This morning it was nice to view a spiritually enlightening interview with Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev on DD National. The interview covered spirituality, ecological conservation and democratic governance.

When Sadguru mentioned about the similarity of human beings and other things, I remembered how I used to introduce lessons on `Kinetic Theory of Matter' and `Structure of the Atom' to my Physics students by mentioning that living things (including human beings) and non-living things are made up of the same sub atomic particles and hence no different from each other except in perception. Within the animal world, many animals possess far more superior skills of perception, navigation etc. than human beings. We cannot even imagine to do many things that animals and plants do day after day. For example, pigeons fly across oceans and return to their habitats with remarkable navigation techniques, bats use ultrasonic sound to find their food or detect obstacles at night, birds make beautiful nests and so on. It is common knowledge that human beings developed many machines by carefully observing the animal world.    

But, in spite of all this we human beings do differ from other animals in one aspect viz.reasoning. In other words, we humans have the God given ability to distinguish between right and wrong. But unfortunately many people don't recognize this difference.

(In his interview Sadguru mentioned a quotation from Mark Twain, whose works left a lasting impression on me during my student days. Some of his novels were a motivating factor in writing my first published article `Racial Discrimination' in the College Magazine when I was working for my Bachelor's Degree forty five years back).           

06 October 2013

Oasis in the media desert

In the current TV media scenario, an obvious fact is that the proportion of cultural and spiritual programs is small.This morning, Ashta channel telecast a very thought provoking program featuring the spiritual master Jaggi Vasudev.

He explained as to how imagination is not a substitute for experience. Many of us make wrong assessments about people because of relying on what others say and not from own experience. He stressed on the need to enjoy the tree and not just its fruits and observed how this is lacking today. (For example a wife who dislikes her husband but not the money and material comforts provided by him or a husband who dislikes his wife but not the home-making support that she offers). As Sadguru said, in such conditions, our perceptions will not be correct.  

I have always liked his mesmerizing speeches for their simplicity and deep meaning.




05 October 2013

Dusseraah (Nava raathri) Fest

Hindus celebrate today as the beginning of Dusseraah, a ten days long festival (about which I have written in an earlier post dated 28 September 2011). This festival is also known as Nava raathri.    
2 October was celebrated as the birthday of two great Indians: Mahatma Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri.

Feedback Failure

As someone who likes spiritual discourses, let me share a short incidence narrated by Shri Sudhanshuji Maharaj, one of my favorite speakers, in his discourse on Ashta TV channel day before yesterday: Once a painter displayed his work of art in a gallery. As it happens in such exhibitions, viewers were invited to give their feedback/comments. Many of the comments were negatively critical ("Nose of the person is too large", "Ears are too short" etc). On the next day, there was a plain canvass, a few paint brushes, paints etc. and the following note from the artist: "I do accept that my work is not perfect. I would be grateful if someone can draw the same picture without blemishes".  

(A few years back I read in a newspaper article that we Indians are the best in commenting on issues about which we don't know. Probably it's true to some extent!)

01 October 2013

International Day of Older Persons

Today is observed as International Day of Older Persons. Let us strive for senior citizen friendly atmosphere in our homes, communities, villages, towns, cities and the world at large.

26 September 2013

Tarjuma, the translators' fest

As I have mentioned in my earlier posts, as some one  who likes literary, cultural and spiritual programs, I like many programs telecast by DD Bharati channel. 

It was nice to view the telecast of `Tarjuma', a translators' festival held at IIT, Gandhinagar a few months back, on the channel at dinner this evening. Many of us who work in multilingual publishing or ELT know the difficulties encountered in translating from English to other languages or back. Translators work not only with professional precision but also with an open mind and heart so as to retain the original concept as presented in the source material.The question and answer session at the end of the program gave an insight into different aspects of transliteration. It was nice to see participants from different parts of the country. Participants included well known professionals such as Supriya Chaudhuri, T Vijayakumar and my ex-colleague Mini Krishnan.   

16 September 2013

Vaamana Jayanthi

Today is an auspicious day for Hindus. This is the day when Shree Mahaa Vishnu incarnated as Vaamanaa to destroy the ego of King Mahaabali (grandson of Bhaktha Prahlaadha, who was the greatest devotee of Lord Nrisimha). Hindus observe this day as Vaamana Jayanthi. People in Kerala celebrate this day as Onam. My best wishes to all my Hindu and Keralite friends.

12 September 2013

Any good educator would be glad to know that his (or her) students have achieved something worthwhile in life. Any good school principal or educational administration professional would be happy to find his (or her) junior colleagues rising up their career ladders. A few days back, I had pleasure of knowing that Mr Boubakar Mamane, an English language teacher from Niger, whom I mentored, qualified for the Certificate of Teaching Mastery offered by Teachers Without Borders. Mamane serves as HOD (English) as well in his school. I'm glad that I could contribute to TWB's aims and objectives.      

11 September 2013

Oases in the media desert

I think that a large chunk of TV coverage is related to politics, cinema and world events which are not pleasant. This applies to almost all TV channels. Somehow, I have been observing a welcome change in this direction. 

For example, DD Bharati channel has been telecasting very interesting literary and cultural programs such as a writers' workshop that took place in Thimphu, Bhutan and an interview with Jayant Kripalani, writer, actor and director (in this morning's `Aaj Savere' meaning `This Morning'). I had the pleasure of watching Jayant's excellent action for the first time in the comedy serial `Ghar Jamaai' on Delhi channel of Door Darshan during the late '80s.   

09 September 2013

Varaaha Jayanthi

Yesterday was an auspicious day for Hindus. This was the day when Shree Mahaa Vishnu incarnated as Varaaha

Today is also an auspicious day for Hindus as this is Ganesh Chathurthi, the birth anniversary of Ganesha. (We observe this day as the death anniversary of my father. He passed away on 5 September 1997 which was teachers' day in India according to the English calender and Ganesh Chathurthi according to Sanskrit calender).  

07 September 2013

Shree Mahaa Vishnu's Incarnations

Today is an auspicious day for Hindus. This is the day on which Shree Mahaa Vishnu took avataar as Dhanvantri and Lord Balaraamaa at different periods of time.

05 September 2013

Teachers' Day 2013

Today is an important day in India. It is celebrated as the birthday of Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (The first Vice-President of Independent India) and more importantly as Teachers' Day, as he wished.

This day is also the death anniversary of my father according to the English calender. As the saying `Behind every man, there is a woman' goes, my mother offered great support to my father in serving the community as an excellent Headmaster.

It was nice to receive greetings from my former students, colleagues and last but not least from Sreejith (about whom I have written in my earlier posts) on the occasion of Teachers' Day today. In fact Sreejith's greeting arrived first among others in my inbox and my mobile phone. Very many thanks to all those who remember me. My best wishes go with them.  


28 August 2013

Shree Krisnna Janmaashtami

Today is a very auspicious day for Hindus. This is the day (at around midnight) when Lord Shree Mahaa Vishnu took avataar as Shree Krishna in Dwaapara Yuga. I'll write more about it later when I find time and leave you for the time being, with Shree Krishna Janmaashtami Greetings.  

25 August 2013

Today there were two TV programs which I found interesting. The first one was about African restaurants in Australia; it contained a lot of interesting information about the diverse spectrum of food items in Ethiopia, Ghana etc. Ethiopian coffee and `Injera' (Ethiopian pancake) took me on a nostalgic journey to the Horn of Africa, down my memory lane. The second program was BBC's `Fast track'; it featured Vietnam (culture and traditions of which are somewhat similar to that of Cambodia). Such programs are not only interesting but also educative,    

12 August 2013

World of contrasts

Today we seem to live in a world of significant contrasts. This morning two very contrasting news reports caught my attention: one was how most of our private K-12 schools function and the other was how a good person and his mother serve children in the orphanages. (Any honest school education professional knows the level of corruption, nepotism etc in most private schools in India. However there are very good private schools as well, but their number seems to be too small). I tried to provide a link to the second news report mentioned above, but I can't, as I am unable to access it from the news items list on the newspaper's webpages (This shows how user friendly our newspapers are!)       

07 August 2013

Since this morning, I have been seeing ads at many places in my blog posts, though I never worked on my blog to add ads.  (When using IE instead of Google Chrome, I don't come across this problem. I have communicated via Google help team with a hope to get this problem sorted out. I am not sure as to whether the problem is with my browser settings or the computer system. Besides, according to the virus scan report, my PC is alright. I'm trying to resolve the issue with help of a qualified technician).   As this is something totally unexpected, I request all readers of my blog to ignore these ads.Thanks.

03 August 2013

School mapping

Whether it is `No Child Left Behind' in the U.S. or `Child Friendly Schools' Policy in many countries of the world, national governments seem to hope that all children are enrolled in schools. In countries with rural populations, achieving this aim becomes difficult due to economic and geographic constraints, which can be solved.

Any experienced education professional would know that the first step in handling the issue is to develop an effective, contextually relevant school mapping policy. It is important not only to develop a clear and transparent policy but also monitor its implementation at all levels so that the program is sustainable and economically viable to the main beneficiaries: children and their parents. (The saying `Well begun is half done' may probably be very applicable in this context). 

Last month, there was a novel initiative in New Zealand in this direction. Let me leave you with the related news paper report which you may find thought provoking.    
Though most K-12 teachers and school principals know the problems associated with running schools effectively, they cannot do any thing about it, as some of these problems (for instance heavily quantity oriented curriculum and parental obsession for their children's `first rank') are beyond their control.

Added to these, are problems due to school managements. Well, I do not certainly say that all schools are mismanaged. Although there are several excellent K-12 schools and school systems in India, these seem to be a minority, if we go by media reports.

From my own experience as school principal, I think that it is very important to have good stakeholder relationship in school systems not only between teachers, parents and children, but also between school managements and principals. It was interesting for me to read a news item this morning in an Auckland (New Zealand) based newspaper

It is very important that school teachers and principals are given due consideration in decision making processes and their points of view recognized in all areas of school education.   

28 July 2013

It was nice to hear from two of my best friends in the past week. These two gentlemen are a generation apart by age and worked with me in different periods of time. One of them is Jos. He and I taught at a school in Bhutan from 1978 to 1981. We are nearly of the same age. The other is Sreejith. He is a brilliant young flash programmer in his late '20s (or early '30s). He and I worked in an e-learning Company in Madras a few years back. Today is Sreejith's birthday. 

Wish you a very happy birthday and many happy returns of the day, Sreejith.

26 July 2013

Science in a social context: Speeding train and centripetal force

Educationists all over the world agree that basic education is important to all people. It is reflected in K-12 school systems that include core sciences and social sciences across the curriculum. It is also generally agreed that not only professionals taking up scientific or technical careers but also skilled and semi-skilled workforce needs to be well versed in basic science concepts and their practical applications that are useful to communities. If we teach the applicability aspect of textbook concepts effectively to students in K-12, it is possible that they become scientifically literate.

Day before yesterday there was a newspaper report about an accident due to derailment of a high speed train in Spain. In middle school physics, we come across a concept known as `centripetal force'. This force acts on all objects that travel in curved paths. The force increases when the object's mass or square of its velocity increases. In this accident, the velocity seems to have doubled. This means that the square of the velocity has increased four fold. This means an enormous increase in the centripetal force which would have probably derailed the train as illustrated in this example.  

I think that it is important not only to learn textbook concepts but also analyse their application aspects and use them for the benefit of communities. It is good if people in responsible positions such as the driver of this train understand basic science concepts and apply their knowledge to avert accidents.

Nearly 30 years back, there was an interesting science curricular project in the UK known as `Science In a Social Context' (popularly known as SISCON) that worked with applicability aspects of textbook science concepts.

If I were still teaching Physics in a high school today, I would have asked my students to discuss the news report from their physics point of view.

11 July 2013

I share a viewpoint shared by most people in our country (India): Though we have law and order rules and regulations on paper, in reality our country remains to be one of those topping the list of corrupt countries if we go by authentic multinational sources of information. Well, every community has good and evil people and every country is corrupt to some extent. The density of corrupt people and corrupt organisations in a country (or in any community for that matter) makes all the difference.

I was recruited by a Delhi based K-12 Educational Software Company (with its Main Office in the US) last September as Curriculum Specialist on a reasonably decent salary and perks (which I demanded) and worked as hard as possible and to the best of my knowledge and abilities (even on Sundays). I was provided with a proper written Agreement between me and the Company. 

But, after working for several months, communication channels between me and the MD of the Company (to whom I reported on almost daily basis via Skype) ceased. Moreover, the Company didn't pay my salary for a few months (Rs 40 000 per month is not a small amount).

I communicated to my employer over phone, by email as well as via Skype but never received any response. One fine morning the Company removed its presence from the World Wide Web. 

I communicated to all officials concerned explaining what happened and seeking justice. However none of them including Delhi Police, have responded.

I think that our law and order agencies including Police and Justice Departments should strive to implement law and order strictly in practice.

30 June 2013

History TV18 and The Eagles

On past Friday and Saturday, History TV18 telecast a 2 episodes show on `The Eagles', one of the most famous rock music bands of the '70s and '80s. I'm sure it would have brought back acoustic memories of `Wood Stock' reflecting psychedelic lighting, flamboyant musicians and electric guitars to numerous people of my age group who were in their 20s and 30s then. That was a time when hippie cult was popular among youngsters in general and drug addicted guys and gals in particular, with many of them turning towards spirituality. Probably that was the time when West to East migration was at its maximum.

I was so interested in the band's music that I used some of their songs with good lyrics in my ESL classes.         

As I write this post, though my Googling `The Eagles' isn't difficult, downloading their videos or songs certainly is (due to the limited digital capability of my humble notebook).

As all Western rock music fans would know, it is not uncommon to find numerous bands performing not only their own songs but also those by popular bands such as The Eagles. Let me leave you with a rendering of `Hotel California' (which propelled The Eagles to popularity) by one such rock band.



29 June 2013

UNESCO World Heritage Session in Phnom Penh

UNESCO World Heritage Committee's 37th session was held from 16 to 27 June in Cambodia. Hope you like the webcast of the sessions that includes Cambodian music performed by popular local artistes. Some of these songs took me on a nostalgic virtual journey to Phnom Penh and other places in Cambodia. Hope you like them too. 

02 June 2013

Newspaper nuisance

I find Sunday supplements of newspapers to be more interesting than newspapers themselves because of less political content and commercials. But nowadays even these seem to be deteriorating in standards with meaningless write ups such as this one.  

01 June 2013

Sometimes people don't like us when we they do something wrong and we tell them that what they do is wrong. I think that this is true with all effective principals. However, I think that some times school principals need to be tough if school quality is to be maintained. It is interesting to read a Fiji based newspaper report that endorses my viewpoint. 

24 May 2013

Koorma Jayanthi

Today is an important day in the Hindu calender. It was on this day that Shree Mahaa Vishnu took avatar as Koorma and protected Vedas (Hindu scriptures) from demons during Churning of the Ocean. During the process, Shree Shiva drank the poison that emerged in the churning in the beginning, to protect all creations of The Almighty. Shiva contained the poison in his throat and that is why He is also known as Neela Kanta (Kanta meaning throat and Neela meaning poison).

Sculptural depiction of Churning of the Ocean can be seen not only in Hindu temples in India but also in many countries such as Cambodia in South East Asia with strong religious, economic and cultural ties dating back to 12 century A.D. Let me leave you with a photograph of Angkor Wat, one of the most important remnants of history, built by king Suryavarman II in Siem Riep province of Cambodia, during his regime from 1112 to 1152 A.D . It was basically built and worshiped as a temple of Shree Mahaa Vishnu on a 500 acres land. Those who have visited this UNESCO heritage site would have seen wall sculptures that depict scenes from Hindu scriptures. These sculptures include Churning of the Ocean and Koorma Avathaara.

Angkor Wat


  

23 May 2013

Nrusimha Jayanthi

Today is a very important day in the Hindu calender and is celebrated as Nrusimha Jayanthi. It was on this day when Shree Mahaa Vishnu took avataar as Shree Nrusimhaa to kill the demon king Hiranyakashipu and protect the king's son `Shree Prahlaada', one of the greatest devotees of Shree Mahaa Vishnu.

Hiranyakashipu didn't believe when Prahlaada said that Shree Vishnu shines in each and every object including the pillar nearby. When the demon king kicked the pillar out of anger, Shree Mahaa Vishnu emerged immediately in his ferocious form as Nrusimha, plucked Hiranyakashipu, placed him on his laps, tore him, killed him instantly thereby establishing good over evil.

Though Shree Mahaa Vishnu never needed to come from His Abode in Vaikuntaa to planet Earth to kill Hiranyakashipu, it is said that He did so to prove what Prahlaada had always said. In other words, His Almighty proved that his devotee's faith was well founded.    


21 May 2013

Stories for children

Though many people call themselves as `story tellers' for children and market their stories flamboyantly, any adult with reasonable sense of judgement would find that many of these stories are junk.

I view it not as a phenomenon confined to any one community or nation, but as a common infection affecting the world at large. (A few years back, a children's novel written by a South Africa based female writer of British origin gained international popularity. As with most novels in the Western hemisphere, a wide range of multimedia versions of the novel followed. I have seen many of my colleagues and friends taking pride that their children liked the material.  Not many people would have known that the ideas contained in the novel were copied from ancient Indian texts and were not the author's own).

This morning's `Young World'  supplement of THE HINDU newspaper as usual contained a few stories and the usual marketing stuff from the so called `child - friendly' material development companies (about some of which I have mentioned in my previous posts). 

Sometimes we judge about a person from what people say without realizing that these people may have projected a wrong or exaggerated image of the person.

It is common knowledge that when some information about someone keeps spreading from one person to another, fabrication etc. get into the communication channel, depending upon how good or bad are the people involved in spreading the information.

We may sometimes find that our value judgement about a person is wrong once we get to know about the person from our own experience instead of simply believing what others say.

Two stories published in today's Young World reflect this fact excellently. The first one (`Doosra') outlines how Uncle Patnaik's skewed notion about shoe-shine boys gets straightened. The second one (`Mayuri Express') shows how Ankita's pre-conceived notion about her step-mother turns out to be wrong. Interestingly, these stories illustrate that people of any age can form wrong perceptions about others.

After reading the above two stories, I couldn't help reading Nimi Kurien's Just a taste of honey. But to be honest, I could understand neither the content nor what the writer tries to convey. (If this is the case with a professional with near native competence in English, I wonder how it will be to children). I think that it is important for people like Nimi Kurien to empathize with prospective readers, set clear objectives and write in simple English so that the story is not only interesting but also meaningful in the fullest sense. If they can't do these, it is better not to write.

Any story for children should contain a moral for children to follow. Otherwise, the material would be nothing but trash.     

I wish Ramendra Kumar and Rachna Chhabria write more such stories and if possible, get them published as books so that numerous children (and adults) can derive the benefit.

12 May 2013

Shree Parashuraama Jayanthi

Today is an important day in the Hindu calender. This is the day when Shree Mahaa Vishnu took avataar as Parashu Raamaa during threthaa yuga

07 May 2013

Good books: A gateway to goodness

Today is the birth anniversary of Dr Rabindranath Tagore. I remember my first reading about him in my maternal grandfather's study way back in the '60s when I was in middle school. In fact my interest in literature was to some extent sparked by reading good books in my grandfather's study which was as neatly kept and used as any good library of those days. My grandfather was a voracious reader and had a vast collection of books by writers from around the world.

Whenever we visited his house during holidays, I never missed the sweet smell of old books and the opportunity to read good books of my choice. I liked reading novels by Mark Twain as they were very much like travelogues and gave an insight into hardships faced by African folk employed to work in plantations in the Mississippi region during the colonial era.

Good books are golden. Today's children need to read good books so that they can grow as good adults. It is a moral obligation on the part of schools to provide a wide range of good books for all children to read.


02 May 2013

Shree Varaaha Jayanthi

Hindus celebrate today as Shree Varaaha Jayanthi. This was the day when His Almighty Shree Mahaa Vishnu incarnated in the form of a gigantic boar and rescued the Earth from the demon Hiranyaakshaa.

01 May 2013

Coffee, Culture and CNN

Whenever possible, I never miss my favorite TV programs, one of which is the half hour `Inside Africa' telecast by CNN. Such programs go a long way in changing the wrongly held negative perception among people in general, about Africa. 

This afternoon's program featured immigrants from Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia settled in Portland, Oregon. This program was of special interest to me as I worked in Ethiopia in 1982-83.

The program reminded me of the delicious `Injera', an Ethiopian national dish (prepared very much like the South Indian `Dosa') and different brews of Ethiopian coffee (about which I have mentioned in one of my previous posts). I remember how I and Sebastian (Sebastian Perumcheril John), used to be invited by our local friends to their `coffee ceremony'. Sebastian and I taught Chemistry and Physics respectively in a secondary school in Endaselassie, a rural area in the Tigrai region of Ethiopia. We were thankful to Ethiopian coffee and cordiality.

Sebastian and I (wearing a local hat) with a friend's child  
Well coming back to the TV program, it is amazing to see the high level of pride these people from Ethiopia and countries in Africa have for their culture and traditions and to know how they like to keep their traditions sustained in an alien land. (I have seen Indians of Gujarati origin at almost similar attitudinal levels when teaching in South Africa, in the late '80s and early '90s).


28 April 2013

Truth, Technology and TV Reports

Many years back, people believed media reports to be authentic. Over the years, with drastic changes in the media scenario at a global level how authentic are media in terms of their reports?

This afternoon, a weather report telecast on BBC TV just before `Dateline', a Sunday program beginning at 0830 UTC, listed a rainy Chennai at 37 degree C. But in reality, there are no rains at all since this morning. 

As I am typing this post, with the wall clock showing 0230 IST (0900 UTC), it is very sunny and warm, as can be inferred from the following photograph of our backyard taken from my room:


Besides, the city's temperature and humidity as measured by my ever friendly (and reliable) thermometer-hygrometer in my room are as shown below:


As there is a power cut, there is no electricity for the past one hour. In other words, the instrument shown above is placed in non-AC surrounding.

Are our weather reports on TV reliable enough? I really don't know and probably, you too. 




26 April 2013

According to the Hindu (Sanskrit) calender, yesterday was an auspicious day for Hindus. It is the birthday of Hanumaan, greatest devotee of Shri Raamaa and Seetha Devi (incarnations of Mahaa Vishnu and Mahaa Lakshmi during Threthaa yuga).  

Later at night there was a lunar eclipse from around 1 22 AM to 1 53 AM (IST). This cosmo-terrestrial event, which was visible in India and many parts of Asia, was also spiritually important to Hindus. Many Hindus would have performed special worship of the Almighty during this time. (Lunar and Solar eclipses are not periodic annual events).

In ancient India, sages such as Aryabhatta gave detailed scientific explanations, estimation of future eclipses and all measurements involved in eclipses with great precision. These sages were well qualified in Hindu religious disciplines as well as in their chosen scientific domains such as astronomy and medicine. In other words they were also engineers, doctors and so on. They made their discoveries years before their western counterparts. However, their discoveries didn't lead to significant materialistic benefits as they thought that spiritual aims were more important than materialistic objectives (though both were necessary) and that materialistic desires should not lead communities away from eco-friendly living. Their point of view seems to be very correct (as we can infer from most of what we see in today's materialistic world with several problems). 

Though the time duration of last night's eclipse was only about half an hour, I'm glad that I was able to perform the ritual (expected to be performed by people like me who belong to Madhwa community) as perfectly as possible, by God's Grace.



      

19 April 2013

Shree Raama Navami to Kondapalle toys

Hindus all over the world celebrate today as Shree Raama Navami. It was on this day that the Almighty Shree Vishnu and his consort Shree Mahaa Lakshmi incarnated as Shree Raamaa and Seetha Devi, during Threthaa Yuga. On this day, special poojas (such as this one) are performed in all Vaishnavite temples.

Today I nostalgically remember my Saturday evening visits to a Shree Raamaa temple managed by Mr Seshaachaaryulu and his extended family in a village near Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh. Seshaachaaryulu was teaching Telugu and Sanskrit in a school where I worked a few years back. His Sanskrit classes were not only literary and musical but also highly spiritual and sounded somewhat like temples. He was highly knowledgeable, disciplined and simple. He is one of the very few people who have a special place in my heart.

I also remember my visit to Kondapalle, a village nearby, along with Seshaachaaryulu. Toys made by  craftspeople in this village are 100% eco-friendly and very popular. Tourism Corporation of the State Government of Andhra Pradesh, Corporate Agencies and several NGOs provide options to buy these toys online. Though online buying is seemingly consumer friendly, it doesn't benefit the artisans much (Somewhat like how parents are not benefited when buying textbooks sold on retail by many of our K-12 schools). The best way to help these artisans is to visit Kondapalle and buy from them directly. (This village is nearly an hour's drive from Vijayawada, a large city in Andhra Pradesh. Vijayawada can be reached by road or rail from anywhere in India. Besides, there are regular flights from several cities and towns in India as well as from abroad to Hyderabad and Vishakapatnam from where visitors can travel to Vijayawada).

Let me leave you with a Kondapalle toy. It shows Shree Raama, Shree Seetha Devi, Shree Lakshmanaa (younger brother of Shree Raama) and Hanumaan (the greatest devotee of Lord Shree Raama and Shree Seetha Devi).


   

14 April 2013

Cambodia and its centuries old ties

Today is celebrated as New Year's day by Hindu people in Tamilnadu, Kerala and some other states in India. The day also marks the beginning of New Year festivities in Cambodia and a few other South East Asian countries.

People in Cambodia celebrate this time every year as the beginning of their New Year with three days' festivities (from 14 to 16 April). Though over crowded, the city takes on a very festive look at this time as tens of thousands of people from all over the country (and abroad) converge in Phnom Penh, the capital city, to celebrate the occasion. Their festivities include classical dances, boat races and many more interesting events.

According to historical evidences, Cambodian classical traditions have their origin in India. One such evidence is the famous Angkor Wat. (It was interesting to watch a program on this UNESCO World Heritage Site on Sankara TV recently).

Simultaneous observance of new year's day in communities in India and those in S E Asia is believed to be due to centuries old ties between India and these countries, according to reports such as this one.


Besides, it is interesting to know that Khmer language has numerous words of Sanskrit and Tamil origin (for example `Kaaryaalay' for `Office', `Mun' for `before' and so on). There are several words of Indian origin in languages used in many other countries in South East Asia. 

12 April 2013

On 9 April, according to a news report, IIT Madras honored eight of its old students. Obviously, all of them possess extraordinary qualities which distinguish them from others in terms of intelligence. It was nice to read that one of these was Prof Ramamurti Shankar. I have had the pleasure of using his extremely interesting Physics lectures in my classes (to compliment my own teaching) as well as in Physics Teacher Development Programs in school systems where I worked. I am sure that his students at Yale are lucky.

Just like most middle class parents of those days, my parents wanted their three children to be a medical doctor, an engineer and a lawyer each. However it never materialized. When I qualified in my Pre-University Course with a high First Class in June 1967, my father wanted me to pursue B Tech in Chemical Engineering though I didn't like Chemistry as much as Physics. In those days there were only a handful of colleges which offered the course in Tamilnadu. When we were young, parental advice was always valued in India.

A few days after I applied for the course, I was called for the selection interview at A C College of Technology, now known as Anna University in Guindy, Chennai. After the interview, my father asked one of the members of the Interview Panel as to how I performed in the interview. Dr Y Nayudamma, who happened to be the member, replied that in spite of being the youngest among the interviewees, I had performed extremely well and added with apology, that there was a problem: as I was under-aged, I wouldn't be admitted in the course. He suggested to my father that I should try for admission in the following year. However I didn't apply to the course. I preferred to do B Sc Physics Main in a local college in my home town due to homesickness.

Matsya Jayanthi

Today is an important day for Hindus and is celebrated as Matsya Jayanthi

Yesterday was celebrated by Hindus in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and many other States in India as Ugaadi festival. Special food items such as Ugaadi pachadi (with spiritual and philosophic connotation) are also prepared in some communities.    

03 April 2013

RTE Act


Day before yesterday marked the three years deadline prescribed to meet most of the aims and objectives of the Right to Education Act passed by the Government of India. Any authentic study would reveal that the aims and objectives are not yet realised for many reasons.

It is interesting to know how international NGOs such as UNICEF view the issue because I have always thought that they are relatively more objective in their approach. But it seems to me that these are also sometimes driven by inadequate monitoring and feedback mechanisms. For example in a newspaper article, the UNICEF representative in India says, "most schools have adequate number of classrooms and great strides have been made in providing drinking water and separate toilet facilities for boys and girls ..". If we go by the conventional meaning of the term `most', I think that the observation is grossly exaggerated.

In his observation on teachers, the writer seems to find a relationship between teacher preparation/on-site support and the outcome of results in the Central Teacher Eligibility Test. Any experienced K-12 education administrator would find that the issues involved in teacher preparation and in-service training are different from bits and pieces of theoretical knowledge and largely unrealistic professional skills which are tested in our TETs.

Of course the writer has brought in valuable case studies and suggestions (for instance when discussing school management committees) which can be used to advantage by field workers and professionals at all levels. I had the pleasure of observing welcome changes in this aspect in accordance with `Child Friendly Schools' policy of the Government of Cambodia. We can apply the concepts in India too. But it requires an unbiased joint effort from schools and communities.

Though case studies and observations outlined in the article do make sense to some extent, the writer seems to be short sighted in his concluding remark. Contrary to what he believes, eight years of good quality education alone cannot pave the way for our country's future. Quality aspects need to be considered beyond 14 years and below 6 years, both of which have been neglected in the RTE Act.


20 March 2013

Writing for children

Today's children have access to far more print magazines than children brought up in the '60s. However, when it comes to quality, I am skeptical about the former. I am sure that people who have read children's magazines (or supplements) such as Illustrated Weekly's Young Folks League, Kannan (a very popular children's magazine in Tamil) or Chandamama would endorse my point of view.  Let me present a few examples from yesterday's edition of `Young World', published by the newspaper `THE HINDU', to illustrate my point of view.

1. If you read this write-up, the very first sentence in the water buffalo's letter to Aristotle is not structured in the best way: "I read the letters written about massive and powerful animals with interest" is better than "I read with interest the letters written about massive and powerful animals". In his reply, Aristotle says "...You are a mean-looking heavy fellow ..." When we write for children, terms such as `mean-looking' should be avoided. I think that whatever we write for children should not nurture unfounded assumptions, skewed notions and negative attitudes. I don't understand the logic behind editorial sections of newspapers such as `THE HINDU'.

2. As usual, HeyMath section carries grammatical mistakes ("A group of islands are connected together ..." in `Isolated Islands) and conceptual ambiguities ("Each row and column is a math equation" instead of "Each row or column should contain numbers which form an equation"). I don't think that we can teach mathematics at the cost of conceptual clarity and grammatically correct language. I think that newspaper and magazine publishers should consider quality of content in their advertisements to be more important than revenue from advertising. This applies to electronic media developers as well.

Writing for children is not simply filling space with alphabets and numbers, however colourful they may be. It should make sense.

From Senegal to schools

Yesterday, as I was reading academic news items in newspapers, I came across a disturbing news report. Although Right To Education Act has created ripples, it has not benefited the parental community significantly because the Act itself is not clear on issues such as school fees.

In addition to this, there is still no effective unbiased watchdog mechanism to see that `Education For All' is implemented in full. Our country is one of the 164 member countries which signed the EFA document many years back at Dakar, Senegal.

I think that Public Private Partnership involving all stakeholders including parents from all economic backgrounds is very necessary to reach EFA aims and objectives.     

18 March 2013

An oasis in the desert

With the fact that movies based on religious scriptures are rarely produced and released these days in India, it was a spiritual experience to watch `Sree Rama Raajyam', a Tamil movie yesterday evening in one of the regional TV Channels.

05 March 2013

Seetha Jayanthi

Today is a special day in the Hindu Calender. This is the day on which Seetha Devi appeared on the Earth during Trethaa Yuga. This day is celebrated as Seetha Jayanthi. Seetha Devi (an incarnation of Goddess Mahaa Lakshmi) married Shree Raamaa (an incarnation of Shree Vishnu) in Tretha Yugaa. 

03 March 2013

Memoir of music from Mumbai to Mekelle

I think that people of my age normally like good songs of the 1960s. Thanks to the Internet, the BBC and my simple and trustworthy Acer Notebook, I could take a few minutes of very nostalgic virtual journey and listen to a few good old Bollywood songs of the '60s on this channel. `B' stands for Bombay, currently known as Mumbai.

In 1982, I and a few fellow Indian friends went to watch a Bollywood movie  called `Noori' in a cinema hall in Mekelle, Ethiopia. Indian movies were very popular all over Ethiopia at that time. As it was the norm in those days, most of our film songs were melodious and some, meaningful. As we were engrossed in the movie, I felt as if someone was scratching my leg. This had been happening for several microseconds until I myself realised the problem: the guy (a fellow Indian teacher) sitting next to me was so overwhelmed by the movie that it didn't strike to him that he was scratching my leg instead of his, until I alerted him!

Let me leave you with an Ethiopian song with nice music (I don't know the meaning of the lyrics of the song). Hope you too like the music.

26 February 2013

Arts and Music

Thanks to satellite technology and TV, we can watch shows of events from around the world without leaving our homes. It was a joy to watch a nice program from Kharjuraho Dance Festival 2013 during lunch time this afternoon. (As a person who has made it a habit to watch a spiritual program as the last program before bed time prayer every night, I derive joy watching KDF 2013). This afternoon's programme involved artistes of different classical dance forms performing simultaneously. The synchronization of individual dance styles with one another and with that of the melodious acoustic background was superb. The program was a marvelous illustration of unity in national diversity!

At these times, one cannot forget the contributions of legendary artistes such as Dr L Subramaniam who has been giving us joyful world music fusion treats via his Lakshminarayana Global Music Festival. A marvelous illustration of unity in global diversity!    

Let me leave you with one of Dr Subramaniam's classical renderings

Isn't it true that music is a universal language?      

25 February 2013

Chaganti Koteswara Rao Garu to Collaborative Classrooms

I am one among the large majority of people used to watching favourite TV programmes whenever at the dining table. Spiritual programs are usually on top of my priority list at these times. If spiritual programs tend to bore me (because of the way in which these are presented with a lot of inappropriate commercial interruptions) I switch over to good documentaries. 

This afternoon, I had the joy of watching  a discourse on the epic `Sampoorna Raamaayanam' by Shree Chaganti Koteswara Rao Garu. When explaining some events that took place on the eve of the day fixed for Shree Raamaa's Coronation, he mentioned as to how important it is for a disciple to keep his/her mind focussed on what the Guru teaches. 

As behaviour patterns are developed from attitudes, it is very important to ensure that classroom processes have a significant influence in attitudinal development in the right direction. (But oddly enough, our syllabus and exam boards do not seem to consider this important dimension of learning at all).

Whether it is an elite school or a modest school, its quality is reflected in how effectively children learn in their classrooms. Good schools are those in which all children across barriers learn from empathizing teachers in a child friendly atmosphere without losing grip on discipline.


19 February 2013

Madhwa Navami

People who basically believe in Dvaita School of Vaishnavism observe today as Madhwa Navami.

Bheeshmaashtami

Yesterday was an important day for Hindus. It  was on this day in Dwaapara Yuga that Bheeshmacharyaa passed away. As one of the greatest devotees of Lord Krishna, he is said to have composed the great Vishnu Sahasranaamam (One thousand Names of  Shree Vishnu). As a mark of respect and gratitude to Bheeshmachaarya, this day is observed as Bheeshmaashtami. It falls on Maagha Shukla Ashtami (Eighth day of the first half of the month of Maagha) every year.

Let us enjoy an hour of virtual journey with some ISKCON devotees and learn how they spend their time in the service of Shree Hari.

17 February 2013

Ratha Sapthami

Hindus all over the world celebrate today as Ratha Sapthami. It is interesting to know from the write up that something related to this festival took place in Cambodia (when it was ruled by kings of southern Indian origin). 

13 February 2013

World Radio Day

Today is World Radio Day. When we look at the metamorphosis of communication devices from crystal radio sets to valve radios to digital receivers to current mobile radios, we cannot forget  the role played by simple desktop radio receivers (fondly known as `radio') in the lives of people of my generation.  Many radios carried short as well as medium wave bands. Besides being a reliable information source and an entertainment medium, the radio used to serve as a `time keeper'. (I have seen my father and mother setting their wrist watch and wall clock respectively based on programs aired on radio. In many households, radio was used like a family clock. If a program was scheduled to begin at 8.30 AM, according to the program schedule it began exactly at 8.30, unlike today when many of our TV programs here in India aren't telecast at scheduled times).

Besides being a time setter and information source, the radio had been immensely useful in my DXing for many years until around 1992. 


Let me leave you with 2 photographs (from my archives of late '80s and early '90s) in which you can see car stickers, QSL cards (from my favourite broadcasters) and my `best' friend: the radio!





08 February 2013

Floating Schools of Bangladesh

It is not uncommon to find Government Systems and NGOs bringing in innovations as they try to make rural schools to be child (as well as parent and teacher) friendly. One such is the concept of Flotating Schools of Bangladesh. The video shows as to how we can help kids in unconventional ways. This brief 3 min 30 s video shows how solar power can be used to run fully equipped digitally driven classrooms even on boats. (In perfect sync with the contents of the video is Southern Indian Classical Music known locally as Carnatic Music, as the acoustic background). 

04 February 2013

Choreography, Concepts and the Collaborative Classroom

It was a delight to watch an interesting program on Gyan Dharshan  TV channel during lunch this afternoon. It featured a Physics Professor (from some North American University) giving a lec-dem on how Physics concepts can be taught using dance forms including ballet. (I tried to provide a link to the program but was not able to access it from the website easily). 

It reminded me of my (i) Physics classrooms in different countries and (ii) Teacher Development Workshops which I used to conduct when I worked in the Southern India Regional Office of Macmillan India Limited.




Choreography can be a very effective resource in teaching not only Physics but also other subjects across the curriculum including Mathematics.  It is important that our teacher training programs include informal resources such as dignified dance forms, sports, stories etc . Hope you like this article.  
(I'm experiencing a problem in formatting the last paragraph. Please bear with it).

28 January 2013

Memories of the mountain kingdom

It was nice to read in this morning's newspaper that His Majesty The King of Bhutan is the Chief Guest of this year's Republic Day Parade. I vividly remember the sight of snow capped mountains basking in Divine Sunlight when pulling my window curtains in early winter mornings, melodious  music from the flutes of nearby villagers as their cattle grazed perfectly organic dew drops-laden grass in our school grassland and the unparalleled aroma of Darjeeling tea in my kitchen, even after 30 years!

In front of my house (1978) 
 I'll write more in this post when I find time. Thanks.  

12 January 2013

Saturday Musing about Southern Africa

As I was browsing through the websites of my favourite broadcasters, I came to know that Radio Lotus celebrated their 30th anniversary yesterday. I nostalgically remember the radio station for having kept me away from homesickness in the late '80s and early '90s when I was teaching physics in schools in the region. As far as I knew, it was the largest Indian radio station in terms of the number of listeners, outside India at that time. It used to broadcast in English, Telugu, Tamil, Hindi and Gujarati. It was very popular for broadcasting good old film songs.  

I remember very good friends such as Dayanad Sharma (who hailed from Dehra Doon and taught design technology in a nearby school), Mr Krishna Moorthy (from Bangalore who taught mathematics in a nearby College of Education), Srinivasan (a Telugu gentleman who served as Director in a Government Ministry in South Africa), Dr Ram Devineni (Medical Superintendent of the local hospital and a very soft-spoken gentleman), Srinivasan (known as `Srini', he was a Sr Finance Officer in a Government Ministry), Balasubramaniam (an IAF Officer of Thanjavur ancestry who was on deputation in Southern Africa), Dwivedi (my colleague from Dehra Doon who taught agriculture in the school) and Manjunath (who hailed from Bangalore and taught mathematics at a nearby high school). We shared similar interests. 

DW via digital waves


Hello fellow readers. After several days, I had some free time to spare this afternoon on my favourite pastime of listening to or watching travellogues. Thanks to an interesting website, which enabled me to watch a program on Deutsche Welle (one of my most favourite TV stations for the past three decades, preceded by `Radio Deutsche Welle', which I have been listening to, for the past four decades).  

Screenshot of DW program

Reflection of my love for RDW
So, Vielen Dank und Auf Wiedersehn.

05 January 2013

Sights and Sounds of Africa

Hello folks. Its nice to be back here, taking a brief post-lunch break after a strenuous work schedule. I don't usually skip or postpone my lunch time; but today, I had to, due to an extra pressure of work.

As I was at the dining table (from around 0300 to 0345 PM IST) I had the pleasure of watching a very interesting business program (titled `Exchanging Ideas) on BBC World. It was an exchange of business ideas between the CEOs of LEGO (popular toy building blocks company headquartered in Europe) and a handicrafts and shoes manufacturing unit based in Ethiopia.

I liked both the companies: LEGO for motivating numerous children to work with `real' objects to develop relevant skills, and the Ethiopian Company as it reminded me of my stint as a Physics teacher in the region 30 years back.

Later in the day, at around 9 PM, I was delighted to bump into another interesting BBC program titled `Have You Heard From Johannesburgh?' featuring South Africa with inputs from leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Julius Nyere and Kwame Nkrumah. This program reminded me of the wonderful years which I had spent in the region 20 years back. It was nice to listen to authentic African folk music after a long time.

(I tried to provide a link to the programs but couldn't locate them on the BBC World website easily).

      

About Me

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Chennai, Tamilnadu, India
I am a K-12 Education Management Professional turned freelance Education writer. I have worked at different levels in K-12 school systems, textbook publishing, elearning and Education NGOs. I have held memberships in The Association for Science Education (UK), American Association of Physics Teachers and The Malaysian Institute of Physics. I hold a 1st class B Sc Degree in Physics followed by B Ed [English and Physical Science] and M A [Childcare and Education] degrees. My published works include 59 articles in teacher development magazines in India and the US and a book entitled `Creative Classrooms and Child Friendly Schools' (listed in Amazon). This book is almost an anecdotal account of my professional experience in six countries (including Cambodia where I worked as Technical Adviser to the Ministry of Education, Youth And Sports). I served as mentor in the Certificate of Teaching Mastery Program offered by Teachers Without Borders.