Monday, 30 September 2013

Betrayal-A Poem


What would you do when people of your own faith
Betray you for their own good? Would you question your faith
In your Maker just because his men let you down for the sake
Of making a killing in terms of the lucre they would take?
iCLIPART,January,silhouettes,snowflakes,trees,winter
They would not cut down the sapling before it became a tree,
But did not hesitate to drop you like hot coals that burned their fee,
For though they were the anointed ones, Mammon did they choose
O’er  the Lord of purity, for they did not want wealth to loose!

So, then would you blame the Maker for making men so fickle,
That would sell their own for a couple of shekel?
Were they of belief so shallow that they’d sleep
A fitful sleep, but then they  are victims of sleepless nights!

So do they preach of faith and trust, while they do scheme
Of ways to mint-theirs is not a life of peaceful dream,
For do they toss and turn in nightmares so sere!
But would I forgive them for they know not what they bear!

Of the cross so dross do they bear, with none to help, none,
To share- for are they lonely in their road so lone,
As they trudge on the road so bare!
Forsooth did they uproot a tree so fair, for to carry a cross drear!
carrying crosses,crowds,Easter,gestures,groups,Jesus,people,re-enactments,religion,resurrection,special occasions
So they wear souls so stark, as they trudge the lonely road!
Would you curse them for what they did, and add
To their burden so harsh, as they climb a hill so sharp?
But why dwell on wrongs that hurt so sharp?
animals,businesses,cartoons,cash cows,metaphors
If you  were prey to lack of noble natures so few,
Would you add to your grief that were so few,
Compared to those that betrayed you so?
For do they bear a cross that weighs them so!

And so are they dressed in purple so regal,
Yet do they stink of carrion flesh to gall
The toughest of veterans, on a battlefield so
Harsh, where fallen souls do lie in restless sleep!
animals,cartoons,leaning,nature,smiling,wolves,characters

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Sunday, 29 September 2013

Restless Minds-A poem

drains,eddies,flows,nature,swimming pools,swirls,whirlpools,vortex 
  The morning leads to a vague day, when the dark
Clouds top the overhead, a day of confusion to mark
Another day of fugue decided by the sleepless night
And a sense of deja vu!

A long drawn sleepless night draws to an end, a close,
Where the morning sun no pleasure does bring to one,
Who has a day of reckoning to contend with,
Where a flight of sparrows no cheer does bring!

As the day speaks of yet another struggle,
It find itself bound in yet another wish to snuggle,
Deep within warm blankets, to smother a dawn which
   Brings  nothing but a day of struggle!

And so there exists a need for a moment of rest,
Where  weary heads might go to rest,
A moment of  rest, a moment of sleep, so to
Forget a time so pressed; if only, moment to sleep!

But then has the day of innocence passed so far,
As now has one grown so old so far,
As  the mind sinks into a gyre of confusion, a cog in a world
So fast, when the form and fancy does the mind overwhelm!
bathing,baths,leisure,persons,relaxing,whirlpool baths
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Purple Host-A Poem

 
Were there a moment of lightness so promised?
But smothered away by those who preach the promised
Salvation, but are themselves so lost and confused,
Who promise a palace in heaven, but are themselves
Headed towards the deepest pit!

For in councils do they sit while they hesitate not
In casting aspersions on those who would not,
Steal or rob of the flock of sheep,
For they state the Management loved him not!
And they sit on golden thrones munching on
Delights and enjoying forbidden pleasure
That are theirs’ no more than mine. And sow
They the seeds of confusion amongst the
Blessed flock that they might continue to gloat
And feast on a fare of innocent souls!
 animals,Bethlehem,Christmas,Nativity,people,religion,sheep,shepherds,special occasions,stars
So has the purple host lost its flock as it basks
In glory and glitz, while the her of sheep flocks
Towards a dusty dawn of confusion and mistrust
And fight amongst themselves! Purple host
Do continue to sow dissent amongst their flocks,
Not bothering to protect them from the ranging wolf,
And they do gorge on spoils of war, while
Their men do plot the craziest of schemes,
To quell dissenting voices, lest they be dethroned,
Oh, men of little faith! Why do you draw the
Wrath of one? For if He is a Forgiving Lord,
Beware of his wrath, lest you be withered in
The stem, while your flock do wander to
Greener pastures and prosper without
The Purple Host!
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Saturday, 28 September 2013

The Need for Re-aligning “Subject Choice” at the Senior Secondary School level in India


Many educationists teaching in schools in India will have observed how students are never happy with the choice of subjects offered to them. While some subjects are appealing, other subjects are boring, so they never take them seriously! It becomes a challenge for the teacher of that "boring subject" to cut ice with the students and find ways to make the subject interesting! But then the question is, why force students to take up a subject which is "boring"? Why not give them something that they can be happy with? Many students of the Science Stream do not want to read literature, so why force them to study English? The three major streams provided by schools in India are mainly Science, Humanities and Commerce. Broadly viewed, a science student who takes up Biology with the exclusion of Physics is said to have taken the medical stream, while the student who doesn’t take Biology is said to have taken the Engineering stream. For students taking up Commerce, there is a choice in the matter of taking up Maths. The humanities stream can include Psychology, Sociology, Political Science, and History. Some subjects are shared by all the three streams taught in schools today, and these include, Computers, (Computer science for science stream students, and Informatics Practices for Commerce and Humanities Streams), Physical Education, Fine Arts and English. Students in many schools take up an additional sixth subject at the Grade Eleven level besides the minimum five. Two popular additional subjects for science stream students would be Economics, or Physical Education, the latter if they have not already taken it in the first five subjects. For Humanities and Commerce students, Physical Education is a popular choice because of its obvious merits as a scoring subject. Many schools however don’t take up the responsibility of teaching the additional sixth subject to students, which is a sad fact! When the option of filling Sanskrit as an additional subject was proposed in one of the schools I taught  in Delhi, the idea was shot down for the obvious reason that it was feared that the existing P.G.T. Sanskrit teacher would pave the way for  promotion of the T.G.T. Sanskrit teacher after he retired!
While the choice of subjects offered at the grade eleven and twelve levels has improved down the ages, the idea of taking up additional subjects has gained popularity too. The only compulsory subject for all streams is the one language subject, either Hindi, or English. The imposition of a compulsory language subject on the students of grade eleventh and twelfth however does not seem to be very fair on some students who don’t have an inclination for languages! A steady dilution of a rigour in the syllabus for languages has made it rather difficult for students to undertake their study seriously! Some students who have taken up the Science stream find the subject no challenging enough and they see no reason to study poetry or novels or even write reports, although these are essential for developing twenty-first century skills! No whether or not to teach a language at the eleventh and twelfth grade levels will have to be taken at the highest level if we have to preserve the relevance and dignity of teaching the English language to those who feel no need for it. When I asked some of my students why they were not very inclined towards the subject, they replied that they did not think English was required for admission to the Engineering or the medical course, a misnomer which no doubt has resulted from popular social beliefs and misinformation. One argument in favour of removing the language paper at the twelfth board level could be that since the students have already undergone a rigorous language course till class tenth, they can manage without a further two years of language and literature classes! A second argument put forth by some students is that if Maths is not a compulsory subject at the grade eleventh and twelfth levels, then why should they have to study English? Or, perhaps another option would be to introduce a third stream stream besides the Elective and Core, a stream that is based more on the teaching of formal grammar and linguistics than the teaching of literature?
It is high time that the curriculum framers thought about widening the scope and range of subjects offered at the  senior school level, breaking  up the rather rigid mindset of a Science student regarding not taking up a subject from the Humanities bastion! Should it be wrong, therefore, for a student to take up Physics, Sociology, Fashion Designing, Chemistry, and Economics with Maths as a sixth subject? The responsibility of introducing the option of different subjects and exploring the possibility of removing language as a compulsory subject lies with the Central Board of Secondary Education. While it is true that most of the subject combinations are too limited and they require the students to take up formal degree course at the college level, the harsh fact remains that most of these subject combinations do not equip students for a profession right after passing out of school! A student with fluency in English might get a job at a call center, but those who don’t have such a skill would have to go for further training or even a three to four year formal degree course!Providing the student a wider choice of subjects would have its benefits which include better academic performance, better self-esteem, and even better job satisfaction resulting from the ability to choose a calling of one's interest and ability!
The introduction of vocational subjects at the grade eleven and grade twelve levels should be prioritized. With the C.B.S.E. introducing various vocational subjects at the grade eleventh and twelfth levels, it seems as if the central board of Education has indeed thought seriously about introducing these vocational subjects at the senior secondary level! Some of the vocational subjects that have found their way into the grade eleven and twelve levels are Food Technology and Fashion Technology. The need of the day is to identify and develop many more vocational subjects which might equip students better for a professional life after school. Subjects such as Auto mechanics, Carpentry or Wood Work, Agriculture, might be some good options. Just introducing such vocational subjects into mainstream instruction might however not be enough-rather it needs to be backed up by adequate research, explorations of better job options, and educating students and their parents through counseling sessions. The option of mid-term, linear and lateral exit or entry options for different subjects should also be explored.
A serious re-alignment and better choice of subjects will help increase a sense for dignity of labour, and respect for different subjects. The habit of pure science students labeling humanities students as weaker in intelligence will go, and students will no longer be labelled as, “Scientists” or “Philosophers” in a rather derogatory sense. All this will have to be done if we are to remind our students to respect each other and those who belong to other subject groups. The true mark of a good education is to be found in its students. A good education will encourage its students to have respect for one another, respect for the environment, and a realization of a sense of dignity of labour, so much so that a student of a particular stream who has chances of being an engineer doesn’t look down at the man repairing his father’s car!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Bidding farewell to Book Retail Outlets in India


The wafting scent of Mocha coffee, and the endless shelves of books, books, and books, people, browsing through shelves of books, toys, compact discs of, classical, trance, pop, and rock music genres, you name it! One of the excuses for visiting the Ambience Mall in Gurgaon was a visit to the the reliance Times Out Book retail outlet! The ambience of the store, the sight of the books lining the shelves, the possibility of coming across a once forgotten book, too great a temptation to resist!
The first inkling of of change was carried  in by reports about one of the really big retail book outlets in Mumbai shutting shop. Crossroads was one big book retail outlet that had shut down shop. The actual shut down was preceded by a whole season of incredible discounts, and for once it seemed as if the reading of books had once again become the rage! I thought that perhaps this would not happen in Gurgaon or Delhi, but then it seems, we cannot ignore the fact that today it is not lucrative to run retail outlets for books which are spread over a large area! Books, it seems have gradually become less popular among shoppers who visit Malls on weekends! All this in spite of the rage and craze that books by indigenous Indian writers like Amish and Vikram Seth seem to whip amongst some of the casual and even hard-core readers.
When my favoured Book Retail outlet in the Ambience Mall, Gurgaon began to offer a seventy percent discount on books, little did I imagine that I would soon be falling back on memories based on my experience of browsing through the books on offer, and  demanding for one of the latest books , “Return of a King” by William Dalrymple which incidentally I got! The retail store also had a collection of some of the most sought after classics, like King Arthur by M.K.Hume or even books by J.R.R. Tolkien!
Ultimately for the true blood book worm, nothing can beat the experience of reading a good book, the tactile sensation of paper between your fingers, the scent of the print and the paper, the sensuality of an unbroken spine, the colourful design of the cover, and the  crinkle of the paper, are all experiences that cannot be found in reading e-books! I guess one of the reasons for the decreasing sales in larger book outlets is not only the growing popularity of E-books, but also online shopping portals which will provide you with the latest books delivered straight to your residence address!
I guess the hardest hit by the decision of managements to shut some of the larger and well known book retail outlets will be book worms, avid readers, retired professional, research scholars, house-wives, and students studying in schools and colleges. The Reliance Times out retail outlet at Ambience mall had one of the best collections of books under the classics sections, books that were nothing short of a goldmine for students studying English Honours from Delhi University! Well again I guess, students studying English Literature will soon do away with the study of actual books, and instead will read from E-Books stored on their I-Pads and kindles!

Just above the now shut down Book outlet, is a whole floor dealing with electronic products, and it was during one of my visits that I came across a Kindle on display there. I guess I might as well do a rethink about purchasing one, if books are to become scarce! I have also noticed that down the years, the number of new books being purchased by public libraries is going down, no wonder that each time I visit a popular British Library on Kasturba Gandhi Road in Delhi I realise that I have already read most of the fiction titles and that I need to literally hunt for those I have not read. The last time I visited the library, I was able to get two fiction titles and then decided to add a history book to the list of books that I wanted to borrow! Now, I feel I should change my taste for fiction to that for history, and medical science textbooks!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Teacher Education and challenges before a Resurgent India


Today, more than ever, teachers training continues to be a matter of priority for a country that is facing  problems associated with the shortage of adequately trained teachers. The training of a large, yet capable task-force of teachers that is  skilled enough is, therefore, the need of the hour! The introduction of the Right to Education has led to a need for a large number of teachers to fill vacancies that keep growing down the years. It has been noted that most of the teachers that we get are those who have achieved their training in institutions that are no more than teaching shops and to that effect, provide a certificate in teaching based on a lump sum fee! The mushrooming of Teacher Education Institutions throughout the country is an indication of the popularity of the profession! This, unfortunately has resulted in the creation of a workforce that has in many cases no interest or even aptitude for the profession.During the course of my professional life I have come across new recruits who despite of being highly accomplished MBAs. and even engineers have shown a total lack of sensitivity and patience to teach students in schools. One of the greatest drawbacks might be linked to the fact that their teacher’s training programme might not have trained them to be sensitive and empathetic to the varied needs of the students with whom they would be associated in their professional lives. A paradox would be that in India, the teaching profession is a last resort for those who have not been able to get through various entrance examinations including the Civil services. Often, a number of students passing out of teachers training colleges would have  crossed the age of thirty years, in most cases resulting in a sense of apathy and compromise resulting from the need to earn a living out of a forced choice! It goes without saying that teaching is for those who have a specific aptitude for the profession which according to many is a noble profession. If teachers are indeed Nation Builders, they should be be highly motivated and dedicated in their goals. With pay scales going going sky high, and Government assignments becoming more lucrative, graduates and postgraduates seem to be drawn towards a profession which promises free time after 2:00 p.m. and the possibility of taking up tuitions, coaching and other opportunities for supplementing their main income! One of my ideal educationists, Dr.Mahash Prasad kept telling me and my colleagues that an ideal teacher will never be a millionaire!
A large number of of advertisements appearing in newspapers and the electronic media promise a B.Ed. degree for a sum of money. They promise to take care of the needs for practice teaching and other issues! The promise of a secure job of teaching in a Government school, resulting from the ability to pass a state organised test should not be the only factor for determining eligibility to enter the profession! It is not just a question of intelligence that should determine whether or not one becomes a teacher, rather it is a combination of  both, intelligence as well as an aptitude for teaching! The challenge before recruitment drives for teachers is to determine  whether or not the prospective teacher has an inclination for teaching. Affiliations are given liberally to institutions which provide teacher’s training and this has resulted in a deterioration in the quality of training given to prospective teachers. One way of improving the quality of training at the B.Ed. level is to introduce rigour in the training process. This rigour should be in the teaching of Pedagogy or teaching methodology. In many cases one year is too less to train a professional teacher! The introduction of Continuous Comprehensive assessment from grades eight to ten has introduced challenges before training programmes. A suggested idea would be to increase the training period from one year to two years. It is clear that a resurgent India requires a task force of dedicated teachers, a task force that is motivated and capable to take up challenges from time to time. The time has come when it is not enough to have a degree in teaching, rather it is the need of the hour to produce a work force that is constantly upgrading its professional capabilities through action research and in service programmes. The main task before the National Council of Teacher Education is to plan and coordinate  teacher education programmes throughout the country, and to organise appropriate in service programmes for existing teachers to help them develop their pedagogical skills!
The Kothari Commission rightly believed that the success of National enterprise will depend on the quality and number of persons graduating out of schools and colleges. The quality education and its contribution to National development will be determined by the quality, competence and character of teachers. The Kothari Commission report rightfully questioned the quality of the teacher education programmes in the country! In its report on teacher education programmes in the country, the report suggested a revamping of the programme to make it vibrant and effective! The suggestions of the Kothari Education commission hold true even today! There is an even greater need today to nurture the knowledge, skills, and values of would be teachers in the country. There is a great need today to train teachers who can help students relate their lessons to every day life! Students are better able to relate to lessons in which they find connections to their everyday lives. It is up to an accomplished teacher to help his students to see the connections to everyday life! The University Education commission of 1948 rightly stressed the pivotal role of teachers in National development. Unfortunately, even today, the quality of training provided by many teacher’s training institutions throughout the country continues to be mediocre in nature!
There is a strong need today to ensure that all teacher training programmes are strictly monitored by a central agency to ensure that all programmes follow strict procedures and norms. The National Council of Teacher Education should therefore take up a more strict role to ensure that all the teacher training programmes in all institutions are being undertaken according to desired parameters. Teacher Education programmes in the country are expected to have a strong base in “well defined standards for various categories of school teachers”- Professionalization of teacher education in India: A critique of Teacher Education reforms and its effectiveness, Dr. Saroj Pandey, Associate Professor. It is clear that a lot more research needs to be conducted on making our teacher training programmes more effective today. While education at the school level continues to exist in a state of flux, little has been done to address the need to produce teachers who are professionally fit and competent. So called teaching shops continue to produce sub-standard teachers who somehow are able to pass the aptitude tests conducted by different states. The need of the hour is to have teachers who are competent enough to accept challenges and ready to, “unlearn what they have learned” in order to learn newer strategies of teaching. The need of the hour is to have teachers who are trained in the concept of experiential learning and the readiness to collaborate along with the learners! The sad fact is that the numerous teacher training colleges that we have in our country continue to churn out sub-standard teachers who do not have the aptitude for teaching! Unfortunately,  “The reality is that we are an under-staffed and under-funded, not very competent, confused and over bureaucratic bunch of people in teacher education today.”-NCERT Review of Teacher Education in India - + Viplav Baxi's Meanderings.htm
This article is dedicated to all my teachers who taught me during my B.Ed and M.Ed. courses in the Department of Education during the years 1993-1994
References:
1. Education in India- Teacher Education Vision of Kothari Commission and its realization- + Mohd.Akhtar Siddiqui, blogspot.com
2.Professionalization of teacher education in India: A critique of Teacher Education reforms and its effectiveness, + Dr. Saroj Pandey, Associate Professor.
3.NCERT Review of Teacher Education in India _ Viplav Baxi's Meanderings.htm

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Ophius Cordiceps Unilateralis Fungus and its implications for Freedom in the twenty-first century

Like other fungi pathogenic to insects in the Ophiocordyceps genus, O. unilateralis targets a specific host species, the Camponotus leonardi ant. However the fungus may parasitize other closely related species of ants with lesser degrees of host manipulation and reproductive success.[3]
The fungus's spores enter the body of the insect likely through the cuticle by enzymatic activity, where they begin to consume the non-vital soft tissues. Yeast stages of the fungus spread in the ant's body and presumably produce compounds that affect the ant's brain and change its behaviour by currently unknown mechanisms. The insect climbs up the stem of a plant and uses its mandibles to secure itself to a leaf vein, with abnormal force, leaving dumbbell-shaped marks on it. A search through plant fossil databases revealed similar marks on a fossil leaf from the Messel pit which is 48 million years old.[8][9]
The fungus then kills the ant, and continues to grow as its hyphae invade more soft tissues and structurally fortify the ant's exoskeleton.[3] More mycelia then sprout out of the ant, and securely anchor it to the plant substrate while secreting antimicrobials to ward off competition.[3] When the fungus is ready to reproduce, its fruiting bodies grow from the ant's head and rupture, releasing the spores. This process takes 4 to 10 days.[3]
The changes in the behavior of the infected ants are very specific, giving rise to the popular term "zombie ants", and tuned for the benefit of the fungus. The ants suffer from convulsions causing them to fall to the ground and preventing them from finding their way back to their canopy.[10] The ants generally clamp to a leaf's vein about 25 cm above the ground, on the northern side of the plant, in an environment with 94-95% humidity and temperatures between 20 and 30 °C. Infections may lead to 20 to 30 dead ants per square metre.[11] "Each time, they are on leaves that are a particular height off the ground and they have bitten into the main vein [of a leaf] before dying".[12] When the dead ants are moved to other places and positions, further vegetative growth and sporulation either fails to occur or results in undersized and abnormal reproductive structures.[13]-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ophiocordyceps_unilateralis
In times of exceptional technological advancement, times of Wiki - leaks, and prisms and Radia tapes, one wonders if these scandals might not after all be the result of increasing surveillance of individuals resulting in a possible infringement of certain freedoms guaranteed by a democratic system of governance! The very idea of snooping on individuals is nothing short of voyeurism and it is in bad taste. Will individuals  soon have no privacy left to cherish? This discussion leads me to the incredible story about the ophius cordiceps unilateralis fungus which takes over the bodily functions of an ant making it no more no less than a vehicle in the hands of a ruthless driver. The story is that the fungus enters an ant's body through its respiratory system. It invades the ant’s brain and changes how it perceives smell, because ants do everything they do from their smell of pheromones, right?  This rather clever microscopic  fungal spore, then makes the ant climb up the stem of a plant and bite hard on to a leaf, with an abnormal force. The fungus then kills the ant, and continues to grow, leaving the ant's exoskeleton intact. So, a small fungus drives an ant around as a vehicle, uses it as food and shelter and then as the ultimate monument to itself. And when the fungus is ready to reproduce, its fruiting bodies grow from the ant's head and rupture releasing the spores, letting the wind carry them to more unsuspecting food. The idea of free will disappears the moment an ant’s body is invaded by this rather enterprising micro-organism! A relationship that might be termed parasitic rather than symbiotic!
The very idea of curbing freedom, invading the privacy of individuals spying on them, and forcing them to ascribe to a particular set of ideas is as parasitic and as harmful as the effect of the ophius cordiceps unilateralis fungus invading the healthy body of an ant. But then this parasitic relationship might not in many sense be pathological at all. Psychological brain washing of individual to conform to a particular school of thought or belief might be as powerful a means as a pathological invasion by a particular organism. The increasing popularity of cults lead by figureheads who are none other than highly motivated leaders with exceptional powers of persuasion and charisma can also be considered in this case. History has shown how such charismatic cult leaders have been able to influence individuals so much that they were gladly led to commit mass suicide. Take for example the story of David Koresh and the Ranch Davidians who had to be quelled by members of the FBI and police enforcement agencies in America. Another example of the subjugation of human victims to a nefarious process is rather horrifyingly portrayed in the film titled The Matrix!
Are we then headed towards a parasitical situation in the twenty-first century which deals with the total subjugation of the individual will to that of a calculating and highly motivated entity that wishes to bind the individual will towards its own ends? The second world war saw mass hysteria being whipped against particular communities by the Nazi regime in Germany. Jews, gypsies and queers were targeted and sent to concentration camps to feed the insatiable hunger of a regime that fed on subjugation. Today, one can observe an increasing need for subjugation of weaker sections of communities by mainline communities, and this is certainly a disturbing trend resulting in the need to curb dissent! The fungus that invades the body of the ant to further its own needs is a metaphor for the human tendency to force conformity.
If free will is under attack today, the only anti-dote  lies in the need to promote and appreciate free-will! The democratic system of governance promises individual rights and these need to be protected in any case. The various rights enshrined in various constitutions of democratic countries throughout the world promise rights to individuals. These include the right to speech, the right to religion, the right to freedom of movement, the right to employment, the right to education and so on. When any regime attempts to curb the rights of any individual or community, it is acting like the ophius cordiceps unilateralis fungus which takes over the individuality of the poor ant! Spying on individuals, forcing communities to conform to popular beliefs and philosophies of mainline communities might all be parasitic in nature. The question is, do we need a situation where individuals are targeted like the ant by the fungus that invades its vital systems in order to propagate itself? It is clear, therefore that invasion of free will is detrimental to life as a whole. A modern society should pride itself in a culture of free will and the richness of diverse thinking. Creativity should be nurtured, and the right to think differently should be encouraged. How then can modern societies encourage the richness of free thought? It is clear that this is possible only through the promotion of a philosophy of tolerance and free thought. The tendency to curb free thought can be observed in every walk of life, whether it is in the class room or legislative assemblies. One should learn to appreciate the uniqueness of free thought and the fact that each individual is an entity to be appreciated for being different! if one of the unique quality of humanity lies in an understanding of individuality, then one should respect this and not in any way control it!
This is an article prompted by inputs from my student, Prateyush Dass who wanted to know about the implications of the parasitic fungal invasion of ants.




On building a School for you–A poem

I see before me, a sight of frenzied action!
Men in in yellow hard hats bobbing up and down,
Iron rods reach up to the sky,bare fingers pointing
At a sky so high! So does a new shape emerge,
The result of all those men and women, coming
Together, to make a structure stand where none was there!
I see before me men lugging bags of mortar,
Hauling  iron rods, tying wires, moving around-
All moving with a combined goal,and none do rest!
They do remind me of frenzied ants, that, before
Winter, homes with food do stock-a lesson for all
That ants do teach!
The sound of the drill cutting through the lintel,
The shriek of the saw as it cuts through a wall
  All music to the ears- like birds which nest!
A building which will stand testimony to the work
They have put in! And soon will there be a building
Where none was there!
Of the workers, none will remain,
Save the edifice that will live on, a testimony
To the frenzied work of the men and women,
While yellow hats bobbed, drills did grind,
And iron rods probed into a sky, soon to be
Clothed in concrete so thick!
For workers will come and go,
But the monument they build will through years.
A time will come when the noise of drills and shriek of
Saws falls silent-and hats won’t bob, rods won’t probe.
But sure, will be replaced by noisy  children darting
Forth as the bell does ring-for a school it was,
That they had built!
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Tuesday, 17 September 2013

A Child’s Dream-A Poem

I flew on wings of fantasy so light,rising on thermals of joy and hope,
And crossed  the rainbow bridge of colours so bright, which
Beckoned to me to savour  delights. To a world so rich,
Journeyed I, to  a world so fresh,
With scents so rich.
The smiles of poor children buoyed me so
My inner eye did  show  me a sight so  bright!
My senses would reel with pleasures so rich,
Drunk with joy, fain would I awake,
As I slept so deep and deep,
The Earth did slip away so fast, and fast!
As I rose on my wings so light,
The cares of the world did slip me by! The
Rainbow bridge did beckon to me, to cross over,
To a world so bright-where sadness find
No place to hide! And so did I sleep a sleep so deep,
That I forgot my hunger, oh, so deep! My mother and father,
Have gone so far, to find us food and hope to cheer!
While my sister and I, sleep by the road so loud,
A hunger of want forgotten in dreams!
But that my sister and I, are children so rich, so to feed
Others  like us so hungry, so sad! I wish that the
Morrow might bring a morsel so dear, that dreams might turn to
Reality so fair. So do I float across the sky, with  soul so light.
With hope so great. like a butterfly do I flit, across the greens, with
Flowers so bright. And so I ride on dreams so fair, buoyed with colours
So bright so pure. And now do I rise on wings of hope, that the morrow might
Bring its shares of joy. Where hunger does not sink its teeth so sharp-to
Drive away a dream so fair! From one world would I fly, to a world so fair,
With colours so bright which light the inner eye.
And  look I down at the world asleep,
The little girl and boy so hungry and sad!
And I drop a drop of dew, to make them smile in their sleep so deep!
For if the morrow does dawn, sure it’ll bring a dawn so rich, where all of us
Will sail the winds so fair, and cross the bridge of colours so fair! And
Scents so rich we’ll feed anon, another day of hunger shall we know just naught!
And so  sail I on my wings of fancy, and look at a world of sleeping ones!
The rainbow bridge does beckon to me. And so I float to a world so rich,
Where my brothers and sisters  grow so rich, where  pangs of
Hunger would flee so fast!
And so do I look down at a world asleep, as I rise above on thermals
So light! So would I be like a butterfly so light, and to drink of scents so fine!
My brothers and sisters would I transport, to a world of food and joy so rich.
And so would I dream of a world so fair, that hunger and thirst would we know no more!
But then down to Earth do I float me down, as the Sun does rise above a
Horizon so sure! And so I smile to my sister beside,
As the day promises to bring us food so rich.
But dreams do fill a stomach so empty.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Revd. Roberta Rominger – Gen. Secretary, United Reformed Churches, and General Secretaries of various organisations visit The Church of The Epiphany, Gurgaon on 15th September-2013


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Revd.Sunil Ghazan and Bishop Roberta Rominger
Today was a special day for all the parishioners of the Epiphany Church of Gurgaon because we had visitors from overseas! A Team lead by Bishop Roberta Rominger, (the  General Secretary of the United Reformed Churches) visited our Church today and they partook of the communion with the rest of us.
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Delegates after their welcome by the Youth fellowship members of the Church
In her message to the congregation, Bishop Roberta talked about how Jesus is like the shepherd who when he misses one of his sheep out of a hundred would turn back to search for the one missing sheep, or for that effect the woman who looked and looked for the missing coin till she found it! Linking this concern that Jesus has for each one of us, Bishop Roberta described how the team visited different places in Delhi which showed exactly this concern that Jesus has – a woman’s helpline cell, a red-light area, slums, and homes for destitute children, all whose cause is partnered by the Church of North India and The United Reformed Churches. Referring to one of the readings of the day, Hosea, Chapter 11: 1-11, she suggested that God was pained and anguished by his people who went against his teachings, who resorted to sacrifices “unto Baalim and burned incense to graven images.” Some of God’s anguish and pain is expressed in the sixth verse- “And the sword shall abide on his cities and shall consume his branches, and devour them because of their own counsels.” All this to the Israelites who refused to mend their ways. And yet, Bishop Roberta, claimed, The Lord didn’t want to give up on Ephraim or his people, “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel?”-verse eight.Bishop Roberta claimed that today, we are  much like the people mentioned in the Book of Hosea, God is angry at our misdemeanours and constant neglect of his teachings, but beyond his anger is his anguish and concern for each one of us who has gone astray.

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A Delegate from New Zealand
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The delegates came from as far as England, Taiwan and New Zealand. 

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Some really old and rare Japanese and Chinese Stamps: 1900-1958



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This Stamp commemorates the Coronation of a Japanese Emperor
One of the challenges for any stamp collector is to decipher the language of stamps that don’t use an internationally spoken language. Some of the Japanese stamps in my collection are indecipherable because of the language. I have tried deciphering what was written on the stamps in my collection, but to no avail. All I could guess is the approximate dates of the issue of the stamps. In spite of the language problem, one can admire and appreciate the designs on these stamps!
I have tried to club my stamps thematically according to the pictures and symbols on them.

People/Personalities
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A Pilot saluting the Flag?                                    The person above is Sun Yatsen.
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                    But then who can ignore the contribution of the worker?
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Great Thinkers and Policy Makers?

Japanese Traditional Clothing
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The dates of issue of the above stamps might range from the 1900 to 1958! Their age might add to their rarity!
I had problems in deciphering what was written on the stamps above. It was only after a blogger titled Thomilas World informed me that a stamp that I had captioned as a man with a regal pose is in fact a stamp depicting Sun Yatsen who according to Wikipedia :

Sun Yat-sen (12 November 1866 – 12 March 1925)[1][2] was a Chinese revolutionary, first president and founding father of the Republic of China. As the foremost pioneer of Republic of China, Sun is referred to as the "Father of the Nation" in the Republic of China (ROC), and the "forerunner of democratic revolution" in the People's Republic of China. Sun played an instrumental role in the overthrow of the Qing dynasty during the years leading up to the Double Ten Revolution. He was appointed to serve as Provisional President of the Republic of China, when it was founded in 1912. He later co-founded the Kuomintang (KMT), serving as its first leader.[3] Sun was a uniting figure in post-Imperial China, and remains unique among 20th-century Chinese politicians for being widely revered amongst the people from both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Catastrophism-Revisiting the theory

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An interesting article in the BBC Knowledge Magazine, (August 2013) titled, "Catastrophism" defines the phenomena as, “The devastating effect on life caused by events such as meteor impacts and great floods.” Different cultures and religious text have mentioned such catastrophes taking place way back in the past, things that have been lingering somewhere in the subconscious memories. The Bible mentions the inundation of the whole world by the great flood and Noah getting his family and two of all animals into his ark. This inundation could have taken place because of a Tsunami or tidal wave caused by a meteor crashing into  an ocean!  An immediate rise in sea levels would have inundated large tracts of land. Greek mythology speaks of the supercontinent, Atlantis, existing in the past, (and some of the well known Greek philosophers like Plato, might even have mentioned it in some of their treatises) and one can only wonder about what must have happened to it! Robert Mathews, the writer of the article on Catastrophism goes on to cite the example of the Epic Gilgamesh describing the great flood. In recent times too, we have been haunted by the fear of being struck by meteors and comets and this fear has been hyped by some of the more daring science fiction films which been screened so far!
Pictures of Halley’s Comet streaking across in space, fragments of a meteor exploding in the upper atmosphere causing windows of buildings in a town in Russia to shatter, the fear of what would happen if the derelict space-station, sky-lab fell on inhabited areas are all too recent to be forgotten! The 2012  Doomsday predictions suggested that the world would end on December 21, 2012 because the Mayan calendar ended on that particular day. There was a lot of frenzy and apprehension about the impending catastrophe which would bring life on Earth to a stand-still before the twenty-first December, what  with cult leaders, shamans, seers, and popular soothsayers adding to the frenzy through their speeches, advice and rites for preparing their followers for Armageddon that never came! The book of Revelation in the Bible  suggests that any future apocalypse would involve fire and brimstone falling from the sky. This could be the result of a  of a meteor strike, aggravating tectonic movement resulting in a series of volcanic eruptions throughout the Earth. Then if the first Apocalypse was the result of massive flooding then the final disaster would come from the sky!
It is quite evident through our myths and religious scripture that mankind has always been aware of the possibility of a Cataclysmic event taking place, and this could be because of what our ancestors might have once witnessed and then handed down the generations by word of mouth, and then in the form of written texts. It could also be possible that this memory of a catastrophe might have even been recorded in within our DNA! However to claim that an accurate prediction of a catastrophic  even might be possible with a very small degree of error would be rather farfetched. The book of Revelation warns us of what might happen by taking recourse to the Catastrophe theory and it apparently would defeat the very purpose of the warning to tell us when that catastrophe could take place.
Scientists and mathematicians have worked on the Catastrophe theory for quite some time now and they have predicted the possibility of the Earth being hit by a planetary object big enough to wipe out the entire mass of humanity! A small asteroid, Apophis is predicted to come close the planet in 2036 and it has a 1 in 45,000 chance of striking the Earth with the destructive power of 1000 Hydrogen bombs, according to the article, “Catastrophism” by Robert Mathews. Scientists have gone further to predict that a Near Earth Object could strike the planet in the year 2300 with the kind of energy that was liberated by the meteor crashing in Tunguska, Siberia in the year  1908!
Catastrophism can be linked to the  cataclysmic theory. The theory of Catastrophism according to Wikipedia deals with:  “the theory that the Earth has been affected in the past by sudden, short-lived, violent events, possibly worldwide in scope.[1] The dominant paradigm of modern geology is uniformitarianism (sometimes described as gradualism), in which slow incremental changes, such as erosion, create the Earth's appearance. This view holds that the present is the key to the past, and that all things continue as they were from the beginning of the world. Recently a more inclusive and integrated view of geologic events has developed, changing the scientific consensus to accept some catastrophic events in the geologic past. This held that there have been violent and sudden natural catastrophes such as great floods and the rapid formation of major mountain chains. Plants and animals living in those parts of the world where such events occurred were often killed off, according to the 19th-century French scientist Georges Cuvier. Then new life forms moved in from other areas. As a result, the fossil record for a region shows abrupt changes in species. Cuvier's explanation relied solely on scientific evidence rather than biblical interpretation.”  A theory which is deeply embedded in every human being’s mind irrespective of his or her provenance suggest that this is a common shared memory of an even that might haven affected all mankind in the past. This could be a memory that serves as a warning about to all mankind to behave lest they should unleash the catastrophic and cataclysmic event upon themselves. The theological aspect of the theory however suggests a certain degree of control over the catastrophic event, such that as long as you behave yourselves, God will protect you, but then once you don’t behave, then God will become so angry that he will destroy you with fire and brimstone raining from the heavens! The idea of a catastrophic event being the result of sin, is perhaps best described in the story about Noah and his ark. The world was filled with so many bad people,and sinners that God decided to wash them away and start anew with a small band of people and pairs of each species of living beings. The theory of Catastrophism received a big boost from the spectacular event pictures of Shoemaker Levy striking Jupiter on July 1994!
An interesting thought is whether Catastrophes have really benefited anyone! The dinosaurs were wiped off the face of the earth. Tiny rodents, mammals that lived in burrows and holes, too small to be taken notice of by the dinosaurs, survived the cataclysmic event of a meteor striking the Earth. Is it, then possible that catastrophic events like meteors striking the Earth might in fact kick-starting the process of evolution bringing out a different out come for life? We human beings are the result of a catastrophic wiping out all competition for us to gain the number one position on Earth. An interesting supposition is whether it would not be possible for all humanity being wiped off the face of the Earth, and to be survived by Cockroaches which would get a jump start in the process of evolution? In any case, while a Catastrophic event might lead to the destruction of a particular species, it however gives a new direction to life! Suffice it to say that a Catastrophic event is an event that brings about a change to life on Earth, it determines the direction in which evolution moves, it determines the future of the Planet, and ultimately it determines how long we live on this Earth. Whatever may be the case, we can not take our existence on this planet for granted, and we need to cherish each breath we take, each moment we live, and perhaps even pray to God to postpone such an event because we are good to each other and don’t indulge in chemical wars or even conventional wars between communities and countries across the globe!
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File:MSH80 eruption mount st helens 05-18-80.jpg-Wikipedia

References:
1.BBC Knowledge, volume 3 issue 5, (August 2013)
                 

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Stamps and Sports-A Historical Perspective


Games have always played an important role in the society, and stamps have been one way of popularising games. Olympics have been depicted in stamps down the ages, and each country has done its best to take out stamps dedicated to sports. Football, especially the Fifa World Cup matches has also found its place in stamps. It goes without saying that in a world that is divided by ideology, geographical and linguistic barriers, sports and stamps make it possible to create a valuable bridge that binds the world into one unit. The whole world becomes one during international sports events, whether it is the Olympics, or even world football matches under the banner of FIFA! The FIFA world cup Matches that took place in 1982 were specially important for me because as an avid follower of football I remember Paulo Rossi’s success on the field. That was a year when my friends and I eagerly exchanged stamps which depicted the FIFA world cup matches of 1982. In the final match between Italy and Germany, Paolo Rossi scored a decisive goal. Italy went on to win the world cup. I also remember the Cameroon team which played very clean games according to the rule book (although they did not win many matches).

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The offshoot of the 1982 FIFA World Cup Football event was that the game was highly popularised throughout the world and various matches took place in different countries, some of them were friendly matches and some involved matches between different countries.
South Africa, which in the 1980s was the grip of  apartheid still had time for  sports, especially in the form of football as is depicted in the picture of the stamp pasted below:
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The stamp shown above is dated 1983 and it shows two players belonging to different colours of the skin playing together. Sports apparently transcends petty considerations of race, language and religion, and this stamp shows the inclusiveness propagated by sports even in a country that believed in Apartheid!
The nineteen eighty two football cup match was an important international event. Ethiopia has never won a world cup event, still, it is a nation that is crazy about football!
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The world aquatic championships in Belgrade, Yugoslavia will be remembered as an event in which, Richard James De Mont, an American swimmer became the first man to swim the 400 meter freestyle in under four minutes (3:58.18). The Olympic Committee later however stripped De Mont of his gold medal after he tested positive for a banned substance contained in his asthma medication. The pictures of the stamps pasted below commemorate the 1973 Belgrade Aquatic Games.
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The 1980 Moscow Olympic games have the dubious distinction of having been boycotted by players from the United States of America. This was an unfortunate development in International sports! The Soviet Union Union and its fellow countries boycotted the 1984 summer Olympics.
The 1980 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXII Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event celebrated in Moscow in the Soviet Union. In addition, the yachting events were held in Tallinn, and some of the preliminary matches and the quarter-finals of the football tournament were held in Leningrad, Kiev, and Minsk. The 1980 Games were the first to be staged in Eastern Europe.
Led by the United States, 65 countries boycotted the games because of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, though some athletes from some of the boycotting countries participated in the games, under the Olympic Flag.[2] This prompted the Soviet-led boycott of the 1984 Summer Olympics. Some of the later events of the games were also nearly marred by the death and unauthorized mass funeral of the immensely popular and beloved singer-songwriter Vladimir Vysotsky.[3] (Wikipedia)
 
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Stamps have always depicted the political atmosphere existing in sporting events. Unfortunately, politics does cast its shadow on sporting events throughout the world! Sports is something which brings nations and people together and politics should not be allowed to act as a spoil-sport. 

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