December 31, 2010

[Reflections] The Decade that was!

As I wait for the last few grains of sand in this decade's hour-glass to begin their lazy descent, the mind takes off speedily in the other direction, here a glance, there a pause, all that strikes with force in my journey through the twenties.

AU to OU: It actually began, with the clear feeling of being in the wrong place. Engineering was not my magic thing and the self was rebelling at being part of something that it could not see the meaning in. And thus, got a degree, if not an education. Often we hear the lines "No matter how far the wrong direction we have gone, one has to turn back to find the way"... So, so true even when 10 years have gone in a purposeless fashion, it's time to find the path. The turn of this decade nudged me into the right direction. Like destiny's suddenly favored child, I walked with glee into this new world of education. Are these wobbly steps, the seeds of a marathon run?

Girl to Mom: Gone are the times of hours and hours to just get an assignment done. Right now, desperately getting hold of the art of juggling. Work, Family and Studies, hasty hands in constant action... Oops, there goes another one down! Still every concept understood, every task accomplished, every smile from your kid's face is platinum-precious. Waiting to learn all over again.

Dreamer to Wanderer : The dream of seeing countries, being part of other cultures was always a soft flame in the background. 2 continents in this one. Will I make it to all that is between America and Australia in the next?

Windows to Mac : From being scared about the prospect of using the giant windows desktop in 2000 to falling head over heals in love with my slim mac, an interesting techie journey! Amazed at the role that these abstract creations have had to play with one's life. What magic/mystery awaits?

Well to World: From being closeted in a small well, with only a couple of friends to now say hi and hello to the whole wide world, has shown shades of me, that I never knew existed. A hearty wish to befriend the world with words.

The thought of being 40 by the end of the next decade has some butterflies fluttering inside... Well, that bridge is far-off ... Let me enjoy this here and this now. Here's to you too.

December 16, 2010

[Experiences] Exams 101

Pencils, Anti-malarial drugs, Electric cables, Mobile towers... Seems like I am getting 'out-of-syllabus' already!

First you have, a mother of an extremely energetic and attention-seeking toddler. Multiply that with the learning cells, in a completely dysfunctional state from a 12 year disuse. Compound that with the fact that you set only 3 months to finish an entire year's syllabus. End-result: A shivering exam taker, exactly similar to an egg on pointed heels... That would have described me very well, but for the fact that I was finally getting the education of my life.

Let me tell you, Education on Education is one of those really quaint things... like thinking about thinking or laughing about laughing... A unique human ability. It was an extremely fun-filled 3 months as I discovered so many things about learning, society, politics, economics... just to find I barely scraped the molecule on the tip of the iceberg. There is an ocean out there and education, on anything under the sun, should just enlighten you on your ignorance and motivate you in your never-ending search for more. I feel so lucky to have been exposed to such good material, designed in such a way, to touch the hearts of ones who truly seek. My heartfelt gratitude to the entire M.A(Education) course designing team of IGNOU. The text-books penned by these various professors and doctors of education have at last pointed me in the direction of so many worth-while things to know and seek.

There was an oft-repeated phrase in the books, which was "Nothing can be taught and everything can be learnt". This degree was a case in point. Years of attending teacher taught engineering classes drew a complete blank from me. But my few months of self-explorations have opened up neural pathways upstairs, that I knew not, existed.

This is not to say, it was one perfect walk on rose-buds. There were times I said "I can't do this". Building too much pressure inside. I kept faltering again and again. The self-imposed deadline drew near and the doubts grew darker and darker. If this is the case of someone who has finally discovered something to her liking and enjoying knowing about that, I see the implications of exams that have to be taken and tests that have to be cleared, with no thought about interest or aptitude.

In this journey of learning on learning, I discovered some worthwhile strategies. The unshakeable 'top of the chart' in this regard is mind-maps. This is the one single thing that kept this egg from cracking. After some three subjects of linear learning, I realized that I was not going to cover even half the distance on this route. So, I discovered and customized mind-maps for studying. To describe mind-maps for studying, it's similar to taking a space-ship out-there and taking a cosmic view of your subjects (answers to questions like 'why on earth am I doing this?' , 'what is the point of my studying this degree, this course?') then drop-down to a sky-view and take in the forest ('the links between my subjects, the over-all chemistry of the syllabus'), then a glide-down a parachute to glance the entire tree at close quarters (all about individual subject) and freeze there, see the branches (all those long lessons and units) and just another drop to see where the branches are going (sub-sections and the concepts). If you plan ahead and are able to see the leaves and leaflets (the basic atomic ideas of each concept), then you can truly call yourselves the masters of this art of studying. I discovered that 'zoom out-zoom in' mind-mapping was ultimate fun. Your mind would seriously thank you for not sitting in the first paragraph of the first lesson of the first subject and repeating the first line in loops till the exam bell gongs.

As I was sitting there, on the last day of the exams, with hands aching, I thanked that I had the support and the sense to see that however hard it seemed, how much ever pressure I built on, these exams were just some man-made obstacles, that mattered not in how you crossed them but just that you crossed them.

This is dedicated to every student who is sitting there, on the eve of the exams, with some pencils to drive up the nostrils, a large box of anti-malarial drugs, looking heatedly at the loose electric cables or looking down atop mobile towers... Throw it, Stop looking and see not the miniscule moment of the exam ahead but deep inside for all that you are and can be. Pain, Stress, Exams come and go... You are forever, in your life.

November 12, 2010

[Movies] Inspired by Inception

Experienced a movie or was it a dream? No, way too logical to be a dream.

The layers of the seemingly complex subconscious presented simply! The stunning visuals, spatial magic, surreal performances are not what I want to talk about. It's just my fascination with the core - The idea of an idea being implanted!

Is this a bizarre idea, an 'out-of-this-world' concept? Hardly! I think this has been done as long as humanity has existed. In our childhood, in our day-to-day life, why even in advertisements, ideas are sown into our head knowingly or unknowingly. We come to believe them as our own and even guard them fiercely. Ideas inside the head that seem to impersonate you perfectly. "You can't do this" "You'll fail" "There you go again, why can't you ever do things perfectly?" "Always make a mess" "The fair girl gets the guy" "Tall, dark, handsome hunk speeding on the bike". This, an idea spreading roots, taking firm hold and growing into an haunted tree, that sadly, sometimes, even invite us to end our lives on it. Whoever may be the cause of this deadly inception, the reason it is alive is simply because we choose to believe it. It has become so ingrained in us, that we see this thought as 'me'. "I can doubt me and my capabilities, not my thoughts!" Wow, how did we get here?!

For those of us, who can look inside and see this truth, it's a gentle reminder: Watch out for the seeds you sow. Contrast the above dark lines to, "You are so adorable" "I know you will do it" "It's not impossible" "There's something special in you" " You are born to be happy" "You always do your best" "Even an amputee can be a ballerina" "A ninety year old woman can do the salsa". These seeds, though hard to grow in today's cynical world, once they find their niche, sprout heavenwards and captivate us all with their power, their gentle breezes, their unmoving support, their smiling invitation to live, fully and deeply!

Plant the seed of hope or be the plant of hope. Stay alive, in the true sense of the word - You are needed to make a difference!

October 27, 2010

[Education] Laments about us, the Learned Lads and Lasses!

After spending some hours digesting certain really shocking material, I feel compelled to share my understanding of how the unborn potential in most of us, was poisoned prematurely.

"Now, what is that revolutionary stuff you seem to be reading, is it some banned manuals, some blasphemous novels?" Hardly! far, far from it. It's just some textbooks on education. "You are really one to exaggerate. What, on earth, could be so startling of all things, in a textbook?", I hear that. Turns out that there is so much that I can hardly do justice in this one article. May take a lifetime and this is the first stone in the water.

On asking friends on Facebook [], the meaning of education, their kind replies range from specifics like 'knowledge imparted/shared' to the all-encompassing "appreciation of the purpose of life" and "awareness". To be very honest, I never expected to get such a wide range of responses . The truth, though, lies in the broader version of this word, to which only life and harsh experiences exposed us, rather than our education system. To me, education is finding your true self and learning to live it, in all that you do, all your life. It doesn't end with the school or college or even a Ph.D, there are some very moving lessons to be learnt on the deathbed, I am sure.

There was another thing I asked friends - About the one thing they wish they learnt in the school-college set-up. In this case, all the divergence of the previous replies converged at a singular point - A wish to have some real-life learning. The Edu-Geeks would call that "situated learning" and I am sure google and wiki would enlighten you much more than I ever can. This is again an illustration of what most of us now accept that Education should do: To give us the skills of "Learning to Learn" (http://www.campaign-for How absolutely useful it would have been to have researched like scientists or taken a Tamilnadu tour to learn about the types of soil or be given access to some real-life reference, tools and guidance to program rather memorize line-by-line, semi-colon-by-semicolon, "program to determine if a number is odd/even!" Why don't we hear our managers laughing their heads-off!

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Having said all this, what have we got out of all these years of school and college? One facet. Memory! We can read and reproduce. The question of the moment is "when data-transfer is done so seamlessly by some cute-looking robots, why should we as humans compete and lose against them, trying still only to master memory and recall?" May be these scholarly(!) concepts were not evident when we were studying. But why still, in this age of knowledge explosion are students here, still mugging for their 12 th Standard exams? Why is knowledge tested, instead of skill/aptitude? The really funny thing is , I have seen people memorizing answers for the so-called "Aptitude" tests given in IT Companies. Totally defeats the purpose, I would say! There is a real surprising cultural element here. Just take a look at our wedding meals. There is one whole sequence of things starting from Idli, Dosa , Veg biriyani, Bisi-Bela Bath, Kadai Paneer, Mushroom Masala, Aloo Gobi, Rice and more Rice, Vatha Kulambu, Rasam, Curd Rice, Rasamalai, Ice-cream and so on, whereas the education system just serves you a urughaai. That's right, we are filled up with the whole-meal pickle!

This is not to say, we gained nothing out of our education system. Some of us picked up a lot of things along the way. All this is mostly a coincidence, not knowing if these were right/wrong. There is no attempt to instill in us, in a realistic way, skills to face life, awareness of respecting fellow humans, a caring attitude towards nature, abilities to make sure that this world does not explode with all the harsh things we seem to be inflicting on it and simply, the understanding of who we are and what we are best at.

Feeling Depressed?! Just think, If there are so many problems, that should only excite us of all the possibilities and solutions, just waiting around the corner. All it takes, is to move forward, a step at a time. Here's wishing that these Laments become Movements in the right direction, in our life-time!

August 8, 2010

[Experiences] A Step into Thirty

Thanks for the condolences and appreciation of my honesty! :-)

Tomorrow, I step into the next half of my life and feels like there's so much to begin afresh. A quaint, joint Bday celebration with my friend's daughter. She, being the Hiroshima and me, the Nagasaki of August. A beautiful butterfly shaped cake on the table, with just a 3 on it! Wrapped in the warmth of friends and a young-again feeling of sharing it with the next gen.

A walk with college friends and their spouses, recollecting, laughing and most of all, me wondering, how did I manage to complete this education, of which I remember not a single thing, even vaguely! Although words spoken, emotions discovered and lessons of life learnt beat fresh in my heart as though I am living it, right now. Maybe that's the wisdom I've got in this grand old age, that life is mostly about the moments and hardly the facts.

Walking through a flood of memories, as I look up, the leaves elegantly adorn the sky and the rain falls softly on my face. A moment to feel truly happy to be alive.

A lovely evening, and here I am, savoring the minute minutes of the 20s.

August 7, 2010

[Movies] Gurushetram / Tamil 2010

Drugs. Movies with this background, was way down on my list, only a notch above horror movies, which is a complete no-no for me. Such was my aversion to these movies, that anything with this background gave me the jitters, goose-bumps and what-not. By the way, I would attribute it to some skull faces and skeleton men when TV was first introduced at an impressionable young age of 8. Well, this long and slightly uninteresting autobiography is to say, "For a very long time, we go on with hard-wired notions that we definitely wouldn't like something and then we are jolted out of it by an exceptional piece of work!" The exceptional work, in this case, is 'Gurushetram'.

They speak the same language, maybe with a light intonation and a different accent. Not any more diverse than Kovai and Madras Tamil. But here is a whole new culture and perspective. The quaint feeling of watching a foreign language movie in your mother-tongue. As my understanding of the Singaporean Tamil culture, at the cost of sounding politically incorrect, they seem more Tamil than the Tamil Tamils! This has led me to believe that it is the far-flung seeds that guard the roots vehemently.

A tight packed screen play, that has something to hide and reveal until the last moment. Perfectly etched characters, with distinct and consistent identities. Theme, handled with maturity and clarity. The one song in the movie, that blends aptly, with the flow. Lead performances, that bowl you over with their perfect rendition. Emotion in certain scenes, that becomes a character by itself. Most of all, the confluence of all these elements makes the experience much, much greater than the sum of it's parts.

A fine way to know your own in another land!

August 5, 2010

[Random] On Metaphors

A budding village in ruins. A few, scattered well-built houses in disrepair; Bricks laid lay abandoned. Cobwebs, dust and broken rods eclipse what could have been.

An opportunity; A possibility - To build a town, a nation, why even start a new civilization! So much scope for growth, for creating self- sustaining systems, for changing the way this world moves.

Why get down and clean it all? Why change things now? Why not be in the comfort zone, delighting in what was? Why spend so much energy on what could be, on what glorious-could-be?!

But doesn't it beckon you, with arms outstretched like your loving child? Doesn't it pull your heart strings with passion? Doesn't it electrify the mind and fill the nerves with zing?

And... what is this about? A blog, home, society, nation, life or something else entirely? The scene and the seen lies in the seeing!

January 30, 2010

[Movies] Whatever Works / English 2009

How can one write a review for a movie that didn't end? Well, why not? You walk out of so many Tamil movies and throw away so many Hollywood discs in disgust, to quote Woody Allen himself, unable to understand their "stupidity beyond comprehension". But this movie was definitely not that kind...quite the other end...The only reason it didn't end was the disc was dirty! So, here's my review of 'Whatever Works' or to be more specific "Whatever worked"! - Loved it, was awfully disappointed not to see the ending and live in Allen's world, just a bit more...

It is not rocket science to infer that this man, Woody Allen is a true literary genius. He must have talked when he was only a month-old, I bet... His vocabulary and the effortless way he just interconnects the words and jumps from thought to thought, painting character sketches with each word, simply a marvel! I've watched that his creations are always extremes, almost cartoonic. It's the thing about Allen that all his male leads have the same core - highly intelligent, taking a dark view of every single thing about the world("there are summer camps for everything in America... chess camp,movie director camp, football camp! Kids should actually be sent to concentration camps to understand what the world's like!") and misanthropic beyond imagination. But where Allen wins is that how many ever times he creates these characters, they almost never bore you. Larry David plays the neurotic lead well or rather mimics Allen perfectly for I am certain he is himself in all his movies!

Allen's fans are sure to love this one and I am sure I wouldn't change my mind if the rest of the disc worked too!