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


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.

About Me

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Chennai, Tamilnadu, India
I am a retired K-12 Education Management Professional. 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.