Archive for the 'Life' Category

Vidyarambham – The Initiation to Literacy – A great Tradition in Kerala , my home State

Today , is auspicious to begin anything , as per a tradition and belief from ancient times , especially  to initiate a child to literacy . As we are all children in many forms and life long learners, my parents taught me to do a ritual on every Vijaya Dashami day with the blessings of Saraswati , the Vidya Devi . I still follow this tradition at home and my wife Malathi also do the same . After the morning bath and Puja [prayer] , we write the following –

Aum , Hari Sree ,Ganapataye Namah , Avighnamastu , Sriguruve Namah [ It means in English – Aum , O Lords , Hari, Sri and Ganapathi , We bow to you , Please remove all the obstacles in our life , We bow to our Guru[s] . Thereafter , we open a sacred text like Ramayana or Gita and read a few lines .

In spite of all the varied experiences and cultural transitions in our life , we have been able to do this ritual every year and also initiated our children and grand children to this during a ” Vidyarambham –  Initiation to Literacy ” ceremony

While my father initiated me to this when I was may be two and a half years old , I went through the rest of the learning process with many Teachers , Mentors and Gurus in my life span of 75 years with a work life spanning 52 years . In the beginning , my first teacher Sanku Asan , taught me Malayalam alphabets writing on sand . Later , we used what is called ‘Thaliyola ” in Malayalam which means palm leaves using a ” Narayam ” – metal pin to engrave letters and words . By the time ,I went to school at the age of 5 , we had note books and printed text books  supplemented by charts to teach Science and Geography .

We never had electronic aids during our times. Most of the learning was  through repetitive memorizing and retrieval during tests . Mechanical instruments , Log tables ,Laboratory equipment  and slide rules were used during my Engineering Classes. I started using electronic calculators , main frame computers etc during the 80’s and Laptops during the 90’s . Mobile devices came to my help only during the late 90’s when I was working with the IT Industry.

I used e-learning extensively to supplement my class room teachings during the later years and became reasonably literate in those areas also.Besides, during my long Army Service spanning 31 years ,I have used battle field simulation both during training and later during teaching.  But , notwithstanding all these stages of learning , I never forgot my roots and the first initiation process of “Vidyarambham ” . An image of what me and my wife wrote on a piece of paper today is given below.

Blue Monday – 15 Jan 2018

I read an interesting article in the Times of India – Times Life pages yesterday . It talks about the Blue Monday on 15th Jan ,this year ,or for that matter , every year , when you are at your melancholic best ! –  when you realize that most of your New Year resolutions have gone for a six ,out of your window.

According to Dr Cliff Arnall , a psychologist , the third Monday of January is typically ” the most depressing day of the year ” . His formula uses factors in weather conditions,debt level ,time since Christmas , time since failing our New Year’s resolutions , low motivational levels and feeling of a need to take action, which all eventually add to stress levels and push us towards the ” Panic Button ” .

The depressed mood is often exacerbated by perceiving a gap between how someone wants things to be and how they actually are. This real vs ideal discrepancies highlights in January because the ‘low’ followed by the festival season ‘high’ affects everyone and the stark contrast makes us feel inadequate. [ Prof Ed Watkins from the Mood Disorders Centre -MDC ] .

We all face this ‘January Jitters ‘ – in different levels and severity . Take my case. I retired from active work life after 52 years as on 30 June 2017. I traveled to the US with my wife to spend quality time with our children from July to November and afterwards spent a month in Kerala visiting our relations. We came back by end December and resolved to take many actions which will regulate our new-found and well-earned ” freedom ”  beginning 1st January 2018 ! . One of my promise was to write a post every day and the other to go for a 40 mins walk twice a day [ it was once a day last year] . We also decided to check our income – expenditure status going forward and look for new avenues for savings/investments.

I wrote three blog posts during the first three days but could not sustain the momentum afterwards till today. Missed many of the walks due to many reasons , the other plans are still a ‘work in progress ” . The list goes on —. Is this a case of over confidence ? ambitious plans ? or failure to do a “Reality Check” side by side ” ? May be all of it . Because of these, I liked the idea given out in the box of the article under reference, which I reproduce below –

  1. Let there be light – Go outdoors in the sunshine.
  2. A choice of physical posture at work – it energizes and mentally stimulates you.
  3. Find a quiet zone – seek your quiet zone at work ,focus on your thoughts to increase your well-being.
  4. Use colour to set the tone- Choose colours wisely -Blue stimulates clarity,Yellow boosts creativity and lifts spirits  and Green creates a sense of calming balance.
  5. Bring a bit of nature – into your workplace and home.

While most of the above are ” Stress Busters” for the work place, I believe we can applied intelligently for a retired life as well and for housewives . Above all , remember that there are 12 months in a year and you do not have to meet everything by 15 January !!! Let us have action plans with milestones throughout the year and alerts regularly to warn you against any attempt to Procrastinate.

Wish you all a very Happy , Stress Free , Healthy and above all Productive and Fulfilling 2018 !

[ Inspired by the article ‘Don’t be a January Monster ” by dated 14 January 2018 ]

Onam Festival – Down Memory Lane

Today is Onam Day – the day when Keralites all over the world celebrate the harvest festival irrespective of religion, cast or social status.The festival normally falls between mid August and mid September every year ,generally corresponding to the harvest season in Kerala, India. Malayalees await this season with a lot of anticipation and plan various cultural and sports activities for about two weeks . There are snake boat races in many lakes/rivers during the season . Families do the rituals of floral decoration in their courtyard , prepare for the SADYA [ grand feast ] on the Onam day , at times for four days continuously ,wear new dresses , and go out for shopping and movies together.

Looking back for almost three-quarters of a century , I remember in my early child hood , Onam was mainly celebrated by Hindu families , with the legend of Demon King Mahabali associated with Vamana , one of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu who defeated King Mahabali in battle. Vamana tricks King Mahabali into asking for 3 things , by which he banishes the king to ” Pathalam ” [ the nether world ] with a condition that the King can visit his kingdom once a year to meet his people. Onam coincides with such visits when the people put up their best to impress Mahabali that the prosperity which he left is in tact!.

I remember my father who was a lawyer used to invite his non – Hindu colleagues to lunch on the Onam Day and we used to enjoy such celebrations. All of us from the household used to serve food to our guests in plantain leaves – a 20 plus course Lunch with at least four  ‘Payasam” [dessert ] . We also used to engage in games like ‘Head Ball ‘ using a leather ball , play in swings , and watch teams of players performing ‘ Tiger and Hunter ‘ games visiting households. Most of the Joint families in those days owned large tracts of farm  land which the farmers tilled. The farmers used to bring ” tributes ” to the landlord , mostly a set of vegetables or fruits and the landlord gave them money or new clothes as return gifts.

Today , Onam has transcended to a festival at the state level with the provincial government leading it from the front organizing many cultural events. People of all beliefs without exception take part in Onam celebrations all over the world wherever Keralites reside  . The colorful festival has now taken a new meaning of societal integration demonstrating the rich traditions of the past to the younger generation.

Here is wishing HAPPY ONAM to all.

i Gen and Beyond – Profound Social Changes with Great Impact on Our Lives

Today, I was reading through a review of a recent book titled  ” i Gen ” authored by Jean.M .Twenge , in today’s Wall Street Journal [WSJ] . The author categorizes ” i Gen ” as people born between 1995 and 2012 , labeling this birth cohort [ generally known as Gen Z] as a group that doesn’t know a world without the internet and smartphones and is now 24% of the US population. The population of this group in India will be much more , I guess , with equally tech savvy especially on the smart phones  . India has more than 900 million mobile phones and counting with at least a third of it smart phones  . Recently , on the occasion of the 70th Anniversary of India’s Independence , Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Group announced a package with a free smart phone and unlimited free calls and data for as low as Rs 159 [ less than $ 3 ] per month in his Jio Network for the first 20,000,000 subscribers ! I believe the pre -booking is almost done !

On the behavior side, iGen , according to the author , is neither cynical as Gen X , nor as over confident as Gen Y , with a radical departure when it comes to their views on religion , free speech  and relationships . Technology  and social media is central to understanding this generation’s experience , with their social lives shifted decisively from in – person interaction to the virtual world .   . Worse , they are not happy with their ” on line ” life!. A major cause of worry, according to the author is the stunted development of adult skills which creates a generation that prefers the ’emotional safety ‘ of virtual relationships to the messy entanglements of real ones .

From a Social Science perspective , Veterans [ Silent Generation – Seniors ] to which I belong adhered to rules , are  conformists , had a hard time growing up , believes in family values and became prosperous by hard work . The Baby Boomers who came after World War 2 , believed in equal rights and opportunities , were optimists and team oriented . The developed and developing world flourished because of their commitment and dedication . Gen X [ 1960-80 ] grew up in diversity of culture , are independent , entrepreneurial , informal , pragmatic , techno literate and  think globally . The Millennials [ Gen Y ] of 1980-2000 are more confident , achievers , fun loving , sociable , street smart , tech savvy – a  global community .

Each such generation brought along certain distinct  behavior and social dimension , generally towards the progress of mankind.  Today , in my own nuclear family , I can say that both me and my wife have adapted to technology  , spending about 3 to 4 hours a day on our smart phone ,  i pad or laptop , buying things and paying bills on line and able to understand GPS . A far cry from the days of coal gas buses , 78 rpm discs , analog radios , box cameras ,  and  35 mm movies in a theater . My children are very tech savvy , achievers with a great goal orientation and cannot live without net connectivity. My grand children spend more than half of their waking hours with electronic devices , especially when they are on a vacation ! . One really has to pull them away from a device to which they are glued in – with Netflix , Facebook , Whats App etc.

Where do we go from here ? . Technology is already leap frogging as a leading indicator of future possibilities . Cloud platforms , I o T , Automation , Robotics , AI and Machine Learning are making manual work redundant in almost all areas of repetitive and predictive work . Do the new Generation following i Gen soon compete with Robots and the like? . Does the sci-fi Star Wars become a reality in our lifetime ?  Will human habitats transcend the earth and move to the galaxies up there ?  What will happen to physical relations ? How about human cloning ? .  It is both scary and appealing  paradoxically at the same time !  I think it is time we need another Alvin Toffler to write a book on  ” Future Shock Revisited ”  .

Late Malli Mastan Babu – Living for one’s calling !

The distinguished mountaineer from Nellore , India ,Late Malli Mastan Babu – his mortal remains has been laid to rest yesterday at his native place. A life lived fully according to one’s calling is over.

It was at a function at the Hyderabad International Convention Center organized by Atlanta Foundation run by close friend Deena Harappanahalli , a few years ago that I had a chance to listen to Malli Mastan Babu. He spoke with passion about his mountaineering pursuits – climbing a peak in every country in the world – one attempt per month continuously! Initially , I could not believe him . I do not think any mountaineer in the world has attempted something like this ever. You are practically climbing mountains 365 days in a year including preparations !. Mastan Babu was a one man enterprise and he seldom climbed in a team . He did not find it easy to relate his unique drive and passion to others.

A young zestful life ended abruptly in the pursuit of one’s calling in the upper reaches of the Andes, South America. The noble soul has reached the upper echelons having fulfilled his mission on earth.

Long live Malli Mastan Babu and all those values he personified.

Gaana through Ages – Down Memory Lane

Back to this page after more than a year ! Motivation – my son’s presence at home and a request from my niece from Thiruvananthapuram recently .

Yesterday , we were downloading the popular “Gaana ” apps for my wife’s I Pad . A great app with many features indeed!. We immediately selected some of our favorite Hindi movie songs like “Woh shaam ” from Khamoshi. At the same time, I could not help but go down my memory lane right back to the 1950’s – the golden era of Hindi film songs . Even before I was introduced to Hindi songs, I was very fond of listening to songs mostly in Tamil and then Malayalam . The only facility available back then was the nearby movie theater where they used to play songs through a loud speaker half an hour before the shows. Occasionally , I could also listen to my favorite songs when some one organized a public function or a meeting and songs through loud speaker was an inseparable item before the start of such events basically to attract a crowd.

My grand father had a gramophone at home and whenever we used to visit his house during summer holidays , we used to listen to discs from Beethoven , K L Saigal , etc. It was a HMV [ His Masters Voice] make and we had to change needles frequently . Subsequently , in the late 50’s , we owned a radio at home and we were very happy to listen to our favorite songs from Radio Ceylon. The Binaca Geetmala program anchored by the famous Ameen Sayani was a sought after program. The All India Radio [ now Akashvani] did not have any commercial program then. By public demand but with great reluctance , AIR started a 30 minutes songs program called Vividh Bharathi sometime during the late 50’s. This was on a listener’s request format like they used to do in Radio Ceylon. This is now one of the most popular program with Akashvani.

The late 60’s saw the advent of TV in India and the Black and White TV programs of Door Darshan was an instant hit and for the first time we could watch song sequences in video format . At the same time, inexpensive plastic and even paper discs replaced the old conventional discs for songs and portable audio systems were available thanks to the advent of transistors . We had many choices now. I was the proud owner of an AIWA music system in 1972 !. Color TV and CD’s/DVD’s of the same technology followed.

The period from 80 onwards ,saw rapid technological advances in audio and video equipment and we got the audio/video cassettes followed by the Compact Disc [ CD] and then the DVD. The advent of Internet brought the I Pod [My son gifted one to me].Soon the mobile technology revolutionized the user experience . The last few years , moved all these equipment to the background with the advent of cloud technology on which “Gaana “functions where we have live streaming of music on demand without any storage inside the device.

We still have a few gramophone records, some cassettes , CD’s , DVD’s at home as Collectors items reminding us of the ages music delivery traveled over the last 70 years or so.

The Legacy of ANR

The veteran Telugu Movie Star Akkineni Nageswara Rao , fondly called ANR is no more. He passed away yesterday in the wee hours battling cancer at the age of 91. The whole city of Hyderabad mourned his demise.

A movie career spanning 70 years , with many a laurels on the way ended ,leaving behind three generations of movie stars in house and a movie studio not to speak about the many institutions established by him over the years. The small time village artist from Gudivada rose to prominence not only as an accomplished movie star but a great human being , a thorough gentleman always willing to go an extra mile in alleviating the sufferings of the less privileged in the society.

ANR was an enigma to Telugu and Tamil movie goers and I remember my childhood days when we used to see his movies like Devdas many times over.It was a chance incident when I met him briefly at the Secunderabad club 10 years back over lunch. I was very happy indeed to meet one of my childhood hero in person.

Movie personalities like ANR , NTR or MGR from South India are not mere personalities but great institutions impacting the lives and dreams of the general public in many ways.They are also great models for the common man to look up to ,admire and worship , at times creating crazy fan clubs around. This phenomenon is unique in India and not seen in other parts of the movie world.

Long live the legacy of ANR !

War over Water – a possible scenario ?

The other day , we witnessed an ugly scene in our immediate neighborhood – The occupants of a five story apartment were fighting early in the morning outside over distribution of scarce water to all equitably.

We face the same problem in our apartments too but have not yet reached the flash point witnessed . We get water once in 48 hours as the bore water is enough to  meet the requirement of 260 apartment units and water tankers are not readily available. 12 years back when we bought the apartment , we had plenty of bore water but most of the source have dried up as the water level has receded . We were then 260 families and today there are more than 2600 apartments in the locality depending on the same ground water . No sign of Municipal pipe water yet !

While in the Army , we were trained to live on 5 ltr of water a day in the field conditions! – Water discipline! . During peace time , the Army had a norm of 200 ltr for a family of four . Outside in the civil world , water is never taken seriously as a precious commodity and wasting water is a national pastime ! . Leaking pipes and over flowing tanks are all around . People in India so far have given lip service to rain water harvesting and such initiatives to conserve and reuse water .

One question , no builder will give you a firm answer is availability of water when they talk to prospects. Indiscriminate building of domestic dwelling units with scant attention to future availability of water is the norm in any Indian City and the Government and local bodies do not do anything to stop this trend.

Many experts say the next world war will be over  water . At least , I am convinced it is  possible  in my neighborhood if the monsoon is delayed by one more week!

Zora Sehgal and Queen Elizabeth – Young at Heart !

The great veteran stage and movie actress Zoral Sehgal celebrated her 100th birthday yesterday . While cutting the cake, she sang her favorite Hindi song ” Abhi to main jawan hoon ” [ I am still young ! ] . The celebrated artist who started her career as a dancer with Uday Shankar and later with Prithvi Theatre has acted with four generations of the Kapoor family and is still going strong ! . She has a great stage presence even in a very small cameo role .

A few days back , I got a link from a friend where he sent me a copy of an advertisement of Duracell titled ” Longevity” showing Queen Elizabeth in pictures taken with US Presidents from Truman  to Obama spanning over 70 years ! . A rare collection indeed .

I could not help compare the two dowagers , Queen Elizabeth and Zora Sehgal , both still young at heart and have seen life at widely varying circumstances and witnessed the global changes passing through their span of life , like images which leaves indelible impressions on their minds . They have both assimilated these changes and continue to live life in its fullest glory . Long Live the Queen and long Live Zora Sehgal . This blog is a humble tribute to you both and to celebrating  LIFE !

Peer Group as Nuclear Communities

Tina Rosenberg in her  well researched book titled ” Join the Club – How Peer Pressure can transform the world ” [ Icon Books – ISBN :978-184831-300-2 ]  gives numerous real life case studies where Peer Groups have achieved spectacular social cure in finding solutions for serious problems like smoking , AIDS , Rural Health Projects , politics ,education  and the like. A common thread runs through all these case studies and it is how a peer group could leverage its nuclear community feeling and a sense of inclusion to achieve significant social cure.

The peer group as a nuclear community has great bonding and comradeship especially among young people . The members trust each other when there is no hierarchy and any pecking order. A problem facing such groups and needing an acceptable and lasting solution can be thrown open for discussion, alignment and adoption using carefully selected leaders who play the role of facilitators . The process should also facilitate intense discussion and introspection without any sermonizing or  ” talking down ” approach . Once the group owns the problem , creative solutions come up automatically and these become the new norms of behavior .

Some of the social issues facing the young people like drunken driving , road rage , social rebellion , drug addiction etc can be tackled effectively through such interventions with the nuclear communities  . Frank discussions , experiential learning and clever mentoring by members of the peer group can achieve great results without affecting the sensibilities of the members. Tina Rosenberg has many such success stories in her book for others to emulate .