Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Why the sky is blue

My blogpost was adjudged one of the three best in the Tulika Books Science Day Blogfest.  As a prize, I received (with a handwritten note by the editor) a copy of the book Why the Sky is Blue by Chandralekha and Dashrath Patel.

The book is an extract from Sir CV Raman's lecture in Dec 1968 in Ahmedabad, where he speaks about science, nature, the wonders of the world around us and the never-ending questions that arise from learning more and more about it. When Raman was speaking, Dashrath Patel clicked photographs, and later, Chandralekha wrote the text down.  The beautiful black-and-white photographs, every one of them frame-worthy, are very evocative, and portray the great man in different moods - involved, excited, and passionate.

Puttachi needed explanations (the book is for Age 8+), but she understood and appreciated the simple truths in the book. CV Raman is urging his listeners to probe deeper, keep their eyes open, and ask more questions.

"The best way to answer questions is to ask another one,"  he says, which Puttachi was very pleased with.

"Even at the age of 80, I am wondering about things I don't understand," he says another time, and again, Puttachi was awestruck by that.  She stayed silent for a long time thinking about that.

"Science never stops.  It goes on and on.  The more you find, the more you have left to find," he says.  "An endless quest," he calls it.   I could go on quoting from the book!

The book also has a very crisp Timeline of CV Raman's life, and some interesting Snapshots of his life that throw light on his character.  There is also a simple explanation of The Raman Effect.

Meanwhile, the book's explanation of why the sky is blue wasn't simple enough for Puttachi.   She wanted to know more  -  I had to dig deeper and explain to her in simple words so that she'd follow.  But then I used some terms which she didn't understand. So I had to describe those to her.  After that, she had some more questions about colours..... and voila!  We found ourselves doing the very thing that CV Raman urged us to do!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Praising the effort, and not the result.

A piece I wrote on Praising the effort of children, and not their result - was published in Deccan Herald Living. 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.


I lived in Malleshwaram for nearly 20 years, and have fond memories of growing up and going to school there.  But in the last few years, after my parents also moved out from there, I haven't visited it much.

But with my work with The Hindu, I covered two places in Malleshwaram for two consecutive issues.   The first was Gupta Circulating Library, a 60-year old institution that is still going strong.  The second was Nightingale's Elders Enrichment Centre.  I had a marvellous time here, interacting with the members.  They made me laugh until my cheeks ached.  The visit really opened up many avenues of thought for me.... and it really struck me that every neighbourhood in every town needs a place like this where elders can meet on a regular basis and stay happy and active.  People in smaller villages and communities naturally have a setup like this, but in the cities, with increasing isolation and insularity, and growing distances and traffic, elders are finding it more and more difficult to get together with like-minded people and just enjoy themselves.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The joy of walking

One of the nicest things about our new place is its proximity to Puttachi's school.  Though I drive her to school (as of now), I bring her back walking.

The lovely thing about coming back walking with her is that I hear all her school news, hot off the press.  We are lucky to have a quiet, tree-lined road part of the way, and as we walk, Puttachi swings her bag, and skips along, ponytails bouncing, and she chatters away.  Contrast this with driving back - my eyes are on the road, she is in the back seat, and I am only half-listening to what she says.. and since she also doesn't get the eye-contact and reactions she needs, she becomes quiet too (relatively.)

It is just a kilometre's walk, but it surprises me that everybody who hears that I bring her back walking says, "Isn't she tired after school?" and "Can she walk that distance?"   She is as tired as an active kid is after school, but this leisurely, short walk doesn't make her more tired.  Of course, there are days when she doesn't feel too good, or she has fallen down at school and complains of aches, but I always carry enough money for an autorickshaw in case she cannot walk at all.  But more often than not, once she starts talking (and walking), she makes it home pretty easily.  The second question - seriously?  1 km?  It is nothing.  The very people who are surprised that she walks that distance would have walked many times that distance when they were Puttachi's age. I think the adults of today underestimate our children.  We presume weakness in them.

Walking is such a dying art - very few people walk to a friend's house, to a shop, or to the barber.  Distances, traffic and smoke, creepily lonely roads and uneven footpaths are all culprits.  As a result, even when the conditions are conducive to walking, people don't even remember that they can include walking among their options.

Walking is such joy - the freedom to go where you want to, the luxury not to have to park your vehicle anywhere, the feeling of being part of the landscape, the space you get to think when you are alone, or the opportunity to have good conversations when you are with company.....

I come from a family of great walkers, and I am married to an extreme walker, if there is any such phrase, and I  think Puttachi has already been inculcated in this "art" - I hope that the future gives her the space and the opportunity to continue to experience the pleasure of walking.
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