Culture, Education

CBSE Online classes – The new joke that passes of as education in Bharat

CBSE schools have started online classes with teachers sending out videos via Whats App and conducting “live” sessions over Zoom and other such platforms.

I don’t know if children would learn anything from these sessions – the jury is still out on that. However, one thing is for sure – Many parents are going to choose home schooling or No Schooling if this comedy show continues. In one sense it has brought into sharp focus the apology that passes of as “teaching” and “education” in our country.

The stark reality is this – so many of us are flushing hard earned money down the tube in the false belief that we are educating our children and equipping them for the “future” – a future that no one is sure about nowadays with the COVID-19 situation.

It is not just about teachers not being able to cope with the technology or the newness of the transaction-modality, it is more about the poor quality of teaching, transaction, engagement, and subject-matter-expertise.

A teacher must teach the subject and not the textbook. Even during the days when I attended school, I found classrooms claustrophobic and textbooks restrictive. A subject is a playground, the textbook is simply a window inside your room that lets you look into the playground – nothing less and nothing more.

And the less said about the textbooks the better – the books are outdated and disconnected from what children face in the real world.

I don’t think it is fair to blame the teachers alone. Most of them are not in the profession by choice but rather compulsion. Private schools are concentration camps where teachers are paid a pittance and parents are milked dry. Government school teachers make a decent package but they are essentially residue of society with a few honorable exceptions – and even those that are good don’t have students to teach!

It is  not enough to have committees and come out with White Papers and National Education Policies. A complete overhaul of the Education System is required that calls into question the very fundamentals of what we think is education and what children actually NEED.

So what do children need? Here is a list of things that children need to be able to do and need to be taught – in no specific order. Seth Godin talks about this and much more in his Stop Stealing Dreams

  • Communication & Interpersonal skills
  • Values & Integrity
  • Read & Write
  • Solve Problems
  • Think Independently & Interdependently
  • Put duties above rights
  • Respect for Nature
  • Concentration and focus on one Task
  • Responsibility and Accountability
  • Make decisions/choices
  • Pursue knowledge for its own sake
  • “Learn” for 1 hour everyday – learn something that is not part of school curriculum
  • Learn to be silent
  • Learn History & Culture
  • Learn one trade/skill
  • Learn how to work in teams
  • Trade passion for fear
  • Willpower/Resilience
  • Dignity / Respect
  • Curiosity

Will write more on this topic

Images are from the internet and are not used for any commercial purpose.

Culture, Spirituality

Key lesson from Ramayana today


Dharma is non-negotiable. When Bharata rejects his own mother, there is a moment in Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana where he switches from calling her mathaji to Maharani Kaikeyi – it is uttered with disdain and contempt clearly highlighting the change in equation between mother and son – I did not pick up these nuances when I watched it as a kid.

It doesn’t matter who is being adharmic, adharma is NOT Dharma and one must have the courage to call it out even if it means your own parents – brilliant – this is how Dharma is protected and now you see the purport of dharmo rakshathi rakshitaha. We are the legatees of the greatest culture the world has ever known and will ever know. What are we doing to protect it?

Now we also can connect back to the Mahabharata and see how those on the side of adharma all perished despite being dharmic at a personal level – we have to choose who we engage with and include as our friends wisely…

Culture, Spirituality

Living Within

Living Within – that’s what this is really about. Yesterday I had a telephone conversation with a colleague who was clearly frustrated and at a loss as to what to do during the lock-down and to think we are only into the 7th day today…

His point was that he “couldn’t find anything to do, and he was bored” To me that appears to be the crisis that most people today are faced with.

Boredom is essentially a result of the need for us to do something, anything just to keep our minds from becoming our biggest enemies. Boredom is the asura’s playground. While too much time on your hand is a problem, too little is also a problem. Striking that fine balance is about learning to “Live Within”

Eknath Easwaran talks of the “elephant processions” in Kerala. I have seen this too during my 2-year stay there – Ezhunallathu. The elephant can walk through the busiest/narrowest street lined on both sides with eateries and stalls but she will not sway from her predetermined path – all the mahout does is to give her a little bamboo stick and she will hold it between her trunk and sashay down the narrow street without as much as glancing at the shops filled with goodies – bananas, coconuts and fruits…

Meditation is one such bamboo stick and therein lies the secret to living within… Most people have not planned for a day when they will be forced to live both within and with those they think are their “loved ones”. This period of quarantine has made that a reality and people are struggling with the challenge that has been thrown at them.

The reality is that most of us go out to get away from ourselves and from our own selves. In living without we forget what it means and takes to live within, with ourselves, and by ourselves – as long as we cannot live within we are never ever free, never ever independent…

As The Mother notes: And then, you know most people when they get bored, instead of trying to rise a step higher, descend a step lower, they become still worse then what they were, and do all the stupid things, go in for all the vulgarities, all the measures, everything, in order to amuse themselves….when there is something painful, they want to distract themselves – what they call distraction, that is, doing stupid things, that is to say, going down in their consciousness, going down a little instead of rising up… Has something extremely painful happened to you, something very grievous? Do not become stupefied, do not seek forgetfulness, do not go down into the inconscience, you must go to the end and find the light that is behind, the truth, the force and the joy; for hat you must be strong and refuse to slide down.”

Learning to “Live Within” is the beginning. This forced lock-down is an opportunity to learn to “Live Within” – Live… Within…

Politics

Lessons from attending a Leftist Conference

Attendees: Kanhaiyya Kumar, Kavita Lankesh et al…

(1) I now know with crystal-clarity why the political pendulum has swung decisively right

(2) They however can walk their talk; we on the other hand can only talk our talk

(3) They may never ever get to power but they will always control the narrative – unless some of us take a sledgehammer to their false edifice

(4) We are in government but without “real” power; they are out of it but retain control

(5) They understand their cultural moorings whereas we have lost it in our attempts to mimic them

(6) They know and look on us as the “enemy” while we appeal to them to join us as friends – never the twain shall meet…

(7) Their edifice is a facade of liberal-feminism on a bedrock of left-wing fascism; ours is a facade of Hindu-revivalism on a shaky bedrock of secular-nationalism

(8) They are willing to lose every battle in their quest to win the war; we will focus only on the skirmishes that will not matter in the long run

(9) We will win every single political battle and lose every single cultural one till the time demography swamps us – and then nothing will matter any more

(10) We continue to lose even as we win and they continue to win even as they lose – and that is the tragedy of our times…

Culture, History, Religion

MAHA VAIDYANATHA SIVAM & NITYA KARMA ANUSHTANAS

Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer the great Carnatic Composer of the 19th Century, from Thiruvaiyaru in Tamil Nadu came to be known as Maha Vaidyanatha Sivam or later just as “Sivam-Val”. This came about as a result of his exemplary devotion and shraddha to Shiva. Throughout his entire life, he did not miss a single day of Siva puja, not a single Sandhya Vandana went unobserved.

Not a morsel of food went into his mouth till the time he had finished his Siva puja. If he was traveling and the special box containing the murti/lingam of Siva and his puja articles did not reach him on time or reached late, he simply fasted.

To ensure that he did not miss a single Sandhyavandana he would often commence his Kacheri (concert) at 3 pm in the afternoon or earlier and finish it before 6 pm. If that were not possible he would start the concert after 6:30. If even that was not possible, he would simply stop the concert, perform his Sandhya and only then commence from where he left off – he could be in the middle of an alaap but when the time came he would stop – he never carried a watch or kept time but it was like Shiva himself whispered into his ears for when the time came Vaidyanatha Sivam would stop everything and do his anushtana.

The audience would wait patiently till he came back – how could they not wait, for wasn’t it Shiva himself who had taken a “break”?

To him everything including the Sandhya was an offering to Shiva. Later, he developed an incredible ability to compose a song and sing it extemporaneously – it was as if Shiva, pleased with his devotion took out his Trishula and wrote on his tongue, triggering this outpouring of divine music…

He was so lost in “Siva-Tattva” that it was his elder brother who took up the responsibility of arranging concerts and other administrative matters. Sivam-Val sang only for the sheer bliss he derived out of it.

He never established a Shishya Parmapara but such was the divine shakthi he exuded that 20-30 students stayed at his house. Not once, Yes, not once did Sivam-Val sit down to teach them, but they learnt just by listening to his divine singing… Each of these students lived, slept, and ate at his house but Sivam-Val was almost oblivious of their existence! They still learnt and became musicians in their own right…

Sivam-Val is more well known for his magical composition of the seventy-two melakarta ragamalika composition that is saturated, soaked, and dripping with religious fervour. 

Image may contain: one or more people and text

What many don’t know about Sivam-Val is that he was one of the great saints, no less than the great Muthuswami Dikshitar himself…If there is an exemplar, an example of what can be attained by simply following the Nitya Karma Anushtanas then it is Sivam-Val…

Note: The melakarta ragas contain all the seven notes in the Indian octave and these are distributed among the twenty two srutis or music intervals which are again reduced to twelve intervals giving rise to the sixteen swaras of the melakartha scheme.

Image from: Internet Sources

Spirituality

If we are born only to die, then why are we born?

Thank You everybody for taking the time to wish me on my birthday. While it would be appropriate to thank each one of you individually, I unfortunately can’t. So, here is a collective Thank You to all. It is also pertinent to note that since the time I turned the corner and nudged over 40, I have stopped celebrating or even acknowledging my birthday – to me nudging over 40, is an indicator that I have close to a 0% chance of living as many years as I have already lived. Now, that I have gone past 45 it is positively 0 (at least as far as I am concerned – don’t ask me how but suffice to say that I just know when I will go…)

That apart, it is also the time when questions that really matter become important – questions that are the foundational basis of why we live. When I was still very young, there was a question that I asked of my own younger self – “If we are born only to die, then why are we born?” – that put me on a path that I continue to stumble along and as for the answer – I am nowhere near and hence the greater urgency…

Opinion, Politics

Why “Modi the PM” is wrong this time.

When our opponents go low, we will go lower – this unfortunately seems to be the cherished motto nowadays. This is particularly true when it comes to political discourse, be it inside the parliament or outside, in our offices or homes, in public or private, MSM or SM – we as a society seem to be fighting to cater to the lowest common denominator.

When the one-time actress and now part-time Social Media trumpeter for the Congress equated Mr. Modi to a bird-dropping (when he was photographed standing near the gigantic feet of the gargantuan Bronze statue of the Sardar), I was one of the first to condemn the comment (as did many) despite the ululations of the Leftists about free speech and the associated trope. It was then (as it is now) not just about Modi but rather about the post of the Prime Minister. The PM does not belong to just the party in power but he and his government represent the people – those that voted for him and those that didn’t, those who like him and those that don’t.

I have observed that PM Modi seems to toggle a switch – when in parliament, when in an interview, when he is on a foreign trip he is the consummate diplomat – all-embracing, middle-ground, conciliatory, leader of a country. When he is on an election campaign the switch is toggled again and we have a different person – the street-fighter who will give better than he gets, the bare-knuckled fighter who will swing his roundhouses from his shoulder – but this is simply not done – no matter where he stands, he remains the PM of the country and he shall remain so till the time the next dispensation is sworn in.

PM Modi Dares Mamata Banerjee To Arrest Him For Saying 'Jai Shri Ram'

The ongoing election will probably go down in history as one of those that saw candidates at their worst – in terms of behavior and discourse. It is a fact that Rahul Gandhi has lowered the level of political discourse but that does not mean that the PM, particularly someone like Mr. Modi must resort to the same kind of meaningless rhetoric. Without mincing words I must say that him dragging Rahul’s long-dead father into the mud-slinging match that he has needlessly indulged in, reflects poorly not only on him but also on the post of the PM of a country – it is the latter constitutional position that is being shred to tatters.

What is also shocking is the support that the Social Media Bandwagon (paid and unpaid) along with the Troll-army of both sides has been giving to this kind of uncouth behavior. I was particularly shocked to see the defense mounted by what I consider(ed) sane voices in the Social Media – the insanity of the elections seems to have affected everyone. I even saw a post by one SM-trumpeter (a woman) who was making out the case that Rajiv got what he deserved – this is such nonsense – all said and done he was the PM of our country – he was one of us and he was killed by a foreign terrorist – how can you justify that?

The glee with which some sections of the SM received the news of Arvind Kejriwal getting publicly slapped is another case in point.

Some questions:

  1. When will we understand that it is never about the person but about what is at stake?
  2. When will we ever realize that we cannot be chameleons who will change our stand based on the individual involved? These very same people were all over SM abusing the other side when the PMs mother/wife were dragged into the controversy – how can it be wrong then and right now?
  3. When will we realize that we are being “played” by all sides and we are mere pawns being pushed around into squares not of our own volition?

As T.N. Seshan once observed – the electorate behaves like “dumb-driven-cattle” – he was right then and he is right now. We could use the same phrase to describe those in the SM-space as well.

We may be changing, we may be becoming  a super-power and all that but we are definitely not changing for the better…

Culture, Humor, Opinion, Politics

The 6 Narratives of the SM-Hindu

  1. THE TINA TURNERS: We are not happy with you, but don’t worry we will still vote for you because (Eureka!!) TINA. You are still our man – There we have said it (a deep sigh)…

  2. THE BAKTHA SHIROMANIS: You are the 11th Avatar. Not Kalki but “Aaj-ki” (clang of cymbals and bells ringing in the background) Without you we are doomed. Save us Oh Lord! The world goes around because of you…

  3. THE WEAKASS WANGERS: Who cares for culture? People are only interested in Weakass (sound of applause in the background) – Water, Roads, Electricity – once this is done, say in about 60 years from now, (didn’t we give the Congress 60 years? Smirk… smirk) we will think about culture – ummm 2079 that is…

  4. THE FEARSOME-FEARFUL FIENDS: Anyone who does not support BJP and Modi is a closet Congress-stooge. Close the gates, bar the doors and be careful not to allow them into your timelines and walls. If theCongress comes back to power we will all be lynched on day-1 – wait and watch you NOTAVEER you *x*##* (redacted) you shall be the cause of our demise – Fie upon you (sound of thunder in the background)

  5. PARALYSIS BY ANALYSIS: Vikas is not bad, but Vikas itself is not enough – necessary but not sufficient condition. BJP is not doing enough but Congress will not even do this… or will they? Perhaps they will…no they won’t. BJP is not a friend but Congress is an enemy…Maybe we must vote for BJP for Vikas and not for culture – should we press the button gently perhaps so we can vote only for Weakass… (Aargh!! Sound of several people committing mass suicide)

  6. NOTA FOR MOTA: Nothing has happened, nothing will happen, politics is downstream from culture. Toadies can do their thing, we will vote NOTA (Background voices – prepare the ground to arrest these guys under POTA… another voice “Is POTA still around?)

Opinion, Sports

DHONI IS SYMBOLIC OF THE RELUCTANCE OF INDIANS TO QUIT GRACEFULLY

That MSD has been struggling to get the ball off the square for well over a year now is obvious. He is a spent force with his fitness and running between the wickets the only things keeping him even remotely relevant.

What is it about so many of us that prevents us from accepting the reality of age, the slowing of reflexes, the graying of the mane, the reality of wrinkles, and the need to make way for new and fresh blood?

Kapil Dev hung on long after his knees had given up and his bowling had become an apology – just for that one wicket so that he could nudge ahead of Richard Hadlee – today, so many cricketers have gone past that number he thought he could etch on the stone of eternity.

Tendulkar too overstayed for the sake of that 100th 100 and perhaps a chance to lay a finger on the World Cup – ironic that it was MSD who made Tendulkar’s dream a reality and it is the very same MSD who now fights vainly against the dying light…

To see MSD struggling to put bat to ball, flay at balls like Don Quixote raging at the windmills while tragic at one level, is also an indictment of all of us who refuse to acknowledge the vicissitudes of time. MSD might yet prove me wrong and make a quickfire 50 in the very next match but it shall only be a flash in the pan – he will never be the MSD of old – that MSD is long gone…

To have DK in the team and still retain MSD and then prevent a talent like Pant just because a senior citizen refuses to acknowledge the reality of his uselessness is tragically comic – the WC shall be lost with MSD at 4 – but even that shall not prevent us from asking MSD to leave gracefully – for his own sake, for the sake of the team, and for the sake of all his fans who are embarrassed to witness his struggles…

I had observed on another timeline that even Mathadhipathis must retire or descend into Mauna because senility is a reality. The Kanchi Paramacharya, once the voice of the Hindus himself entered into eternal silence and lived like that for close to two decades of his life – it was magnificent to behold – as if the silence of the Universe had entered into him.

We see this in our homes too where old parents who must enter into Vanaprastha continue to live as Grahasthas controlling the lives of their children…

We must learn to exit and exit gracefully if not for others at least for our own selves…

Go MSD… Go…


PS; (added: Feb 10, 2019) Although in subsequent matches, MSD did score a few runs, made contributions behind the wickets, the fact remains that Dhoni has lost the ability to be a match winner on his own. He can be part of a winning partnership when the other batsman does the heavy lifting – in the absence of such a partner, MSD can no longer do the heavy hitting himself…

Culture, Spirituality

CHINNAJAMIYAR – THE THURAVI OF TANJAVUR

“Chinnajamiyar” is a colloquialism for “Chinna Samiyar” as Sri Chinnaswami Iyengar was known. He was what one would call a “Muttrina Thuravi” (a highly advanced ascetic in Tamizh). He led a fairly normal life well into his thirties and in fact was a government servant in British India.

One day a strange feeling overwhelmed him while working in his office. He got up from his chair and started walking as if in a daze. Even as he walked, he first unfurled his turban and dropped it on the floor, then his shirt, followed by his dhoti, and then even his undergarments – all the while walking in a trance-like state. Stark naked he kept walking. His friends and colleagues from the office rushed after him and tried to stop him but to no avail, then his relatives who brought with them doctors but nothing would shake Chinna Jamiyar – he had crossed over to the other side… forever…

In a sense the dropping of the clothes was a symbolic though totally unplanned expression of the dropping away of all worldly attachments. For the rest of his life, Chinna Jamiyar lived like this oblivious to and of the world but totally absorbed in the self. He wandered about for a year sleeping on any Thinnai (the concrete bench laid out in the open courtyard of traditional houses) he felt like. Since he was a local, no one objected – it was after a year that he seemed to come back a little to the plane of normal existence (only a little) and allowed himself the luxury of a Kaupina (loin cloth).

Slowly, people started seeing him for what he was and had become now and started calling him “Sami” then “Samiyar” and then later “Chinna Jamiyar”

He never taught anything but anybody who came into his presence was known to be caught up in the power he exuded. Those that came to him with problems were either tongue tied or realized later that their problems had disappeared. Children were particularly attracted to him because they saw what many did not see and he too related to them and their innocence…

Shri Chinna Swamigal

Chinna Jamiyar was another one of those great “mauna-munis” the silent Dakshinamurthi swarupa who’s silence was louder than their words.

And, as he said:

There are parents to teach life…
There is a teacher for learning alphabets and numbers. 
There are artists to teach arts. 
There is a guru to impart works of philosophy.
There is God to grant divinity. 
But there is only the self for enlightenment.

Chinna Jamiyar is one of some of the great unknown munis. I first read about Chinna Jamiyar in the online edition of Sri Sivan Sir’s (the purva-ashrama brother of the Kanchi Paramacharya) book: “Yeni Padigalil Mandargal” (Human Beings on the ladder of Spiritual Evolution). Unfortunately, the online link seems broken now…

Sivan Sir’s Yeni Padigalil Mandargalsivan
Sivan Sir with the Kanchi Paramacharya

Source Credits for the Photos: http://mahaperiyavapuranam.org/maha-periyava-sri-sivan-sar/

Chinna Samiyar Photo: https://columbuslost.com/temples/Sri-Sivan-Sir-Life-History-Books-and-articles/info