Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Moradabad, The Brass Capital of India

The E-Rickshaw has caught up, what with being called, 'Mini Metro'!

Barely less than two hundred kilometres from Delhi, Moradabad is a must visit for aficionados of brass artefacts. A quaint old town replete with British Colonial era buildings, the town was once important for its railway junction. Needless to say, it still is, all the trains travelling north, towards Nainital, and  Bareilly, have to pass through this town. What was once a rather sleepy town is now catching up with times. While the older part of the town, the markets, the railway station, bus stand, and the Civil Lines area retain a tenacious hold on the past, the outskirts seem to be moving ahead with the times. 

This time my family and I decided to make a two-day trip to Moradabad to meet our relatives from my mother's side. Fortunately, the trip can be covered in less than four hours, thanks to the toll roads and by-passes that help you avoid crowded cities like Hapur. The climate is somewhat cooler than Delhi and the morning breeze can be refreshing because of the mountains to the North. It is remarkable to see how many of the residents who have access to the 'Company Garden' turn up in the mornings for some exercise.

Of course, if you are visiting Moradabad in the last two weeks of May, then you will surely come across the annual fair that was once housed inside the Company Garden but is now split in two locations, one is the outer boundary of the garden while the second part is housed in the Methodist Mission School. This year, however, it looked a bit downsized because of being split into two.

These are real cars and they are driven around the inner vertical walls at great speed.

Moradabad has retained a tenuous hold on to its history as the brass capital of the region. However, times are changing and as Sachin Chaddha, the Proprietor of the N.U.Handicrafts Showroom in Bartan Bazar told me, things are getting tough and he would not like his children to follow in his steps. Bartan Bazar is where you need to head to if you want to purchase brass artefacts.

As you can see in the above pictures, you will be spoilt for choice when you visit the brass outlets in Bartan Bazar. The items on display can be mind-boggling in range. A cheaper option than visiting an airconditioned outlet in a Mall, it is advisable to take with you a local person from Moradabad to ensure that you are not overcharged.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Fake News

What is Yellow Journalism?

How Do You Tackle Fake News?

The History of Fake News

What Drives Yellow Journalism?

What is Fake News?

Friday, 19 May 2017

Analyzing poetry in Class

Whenever a few of us English teachers sit together and discuss how we should teach poetry in class, we come up with various strategies. Some would like to focus on the figures of speech, others would like to examine the themes and the message, while others would like to delve into the background of the poet. 
Unfortunately, overanalysis of poetry can ruin the pleasure of appreciating the poetic form of expression. Poems are like juicy fruits that need to be tasted, smelled, bitten into until the ripe, sweet juices start running down one's chin! Fortunately enough, poetry as a genre has never and will never come to an end as long as we have advertisement jingles and rhyming headlines that advertise products in a way that will catch the eyes of a prospective client.
Perhaps the first step a teacher should take before taking poetry classes is to explain some of the jargon poetry critics use to analyse poetry. The terms could include figures of speech, tone, mood, atmosphere, style of writing...etc.
The second step would be to give students a poetry analysis checklist along with the poem that students need to analyse. It would be a good idea for students to analyse the different aspect of the poem in groups and then to come up with their observations. These observations can then be written down on the Green board, and then there could be a class discussion on the observations, the one's to be retained and those to be struck off. The teacher acts as a guide and he does not offer answers or even dictate notes, rather he guides the students in the right direction. This way, the students come up with their own observations that they can proudly claim to be their own. Perhaps the greatest saving grace in teaching literature is that all observations and answers are correct as long as they are backed with suitable evidence.
Through skilful questioning and collaborative discussions, students will arrive at the correct observations and analyses of the poems given to them.
An example of the poetry analysis checklist is given below:

1       Analyse the Central  Theme or the Central Idea
2.       Write a brief Note on the message that the poet wants to pass on to the reader.
3.       Analyse the poet’s style of writing including word choice, imagery, and metre.
4.       List the figures of speech used by the poet and provide examples.
5.       Write a brief note about the tone of the poem.
6.       Write a brief note about the mood that the poem creates in the reader.
7.       Describe the atmosphere in the poem.

How about analysing one of my poems titled A Room With a View? You could give me a feedback in the comments section of the blog.

A Room With a View

It rained that day, a light drizzle,
Sweeping away all the gunk that clogged the sky,
Dust from construction sites smoke from cars, factories!
And curiously, I looked out of the window and saw,
To my surprise, the clear sky!

In the distance, I saw mountains
Stretching across the horizon, solid presence-substantial.
And spires of  building that poked into the skies, celebrating
Freshness, brought by the cleansing, light - drizzle.
I had never seen those mountains ever before!

It rained that day and the sky looked clean,
Blue, not angry or grey, the clouds white and bold 
That sailed majestically across, solid presence-substantial.
A fresh breath of air did I draw, a special moment, without a doubt.
' If only,' I thought, 'we could have clear skies without smoke!'

And all the while we sit with windows shut,
Blinds drawn - who'd look at angry skies, dust clouds,
Choking, threatening, waiting to devour blues and whites together?
And those mountains swallowed up by the dust like civilisations
  Swallowed by sands of time like they never were!

It had rained that day, washing away all the dust
And smoke, laying bare the scene that lay ahead, the clear
Blue sky, and the billowing white clouds scudding across heavens
With glee and joy. The mountains did beckon to me, those I'd
Never known. The fresh breeze did cheer me up!

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

At the end of the day Photo by Rodrick Lal — National Geographic Your Shot

At the end of the day Photo by Rodrick Lal — National Geographic Your Shot: This is a snap that I took of an old destitute man sitting on the wayside to the Fatehpur Sikri monument. It was a hot day and he had apparently squatted to take a rest. I did not notice him because he was on the edge of a photograph that had my family members in it.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Celebrating Mother's Day at The Church of the Epiphany, Gurgaon

On the occasion of Mother's Day, members of the WFCS conducted the service in the Church of the Epiphany, Gurgaon. What caught my attention were the words in the reponsive  reading text which read as follows:

Mothers come in many different forms, and today we celebrate them all.
Thank God for Mothers!
Everyone here is either a son or a daughter.
Thank God for my Mother.
For those women who have joined God in Heaven and whom we miss dearly
Here on Earth,
Thank God for the Mothers of the past.
For Every woman who is working day and night to raise her children right now,
Thank God for mothers of today.
For all women who are expecting, but aren't quite mothers yet,
Thank God for the soon to be Mothers.
 For the women who took in other's children  through adoption and foster care,
Thank God for the Mothers full hearts.
For those women who have lost a child to death and must carrry on,
Thank God for the Mothers who are so strong.
For those women who have desperately wanted to have children of their own
But chose instead everyone else's,
Thank God for the Mothers in Spirit!
We thank you Lord for the women who influenced our lives in so many ways.
We pray that we would honour them in everything we do. AMEN!

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The Breakfast Table

Getting the aperture right!

Today, when the photography club Click decided to take food prepared by the Grub Club, the props and the lighting was simply amazing. This Blogpost is dedicated to the creative minds of the budding photographers and the amazing chefs of the school! I was caught up in the excitement of the moment and decided to take a few snaps. Let the snaps do the talking!
The appetisers...

Setting up the breakfast table

Last minute arrangements of the props

The teasers....

The coupe de grace

Saturday, 6 May 2017

A Founder’s Day Event at the Sam Manekshaw Auditorium

It was indeed a rare opportunity to hear Dr.Shashi Tharoor talk to Shoma Chaudhary about his latest book, An Era of Darkness, which is in itself an attempt to bring to light the harms caused by British rule in India that lasted two hundred years. Both, Dr. Shashi Tharoor and Shoma Chaudhary had been invited on the occasion of the seventy-fifth birth Anniversary of Mr.N.C.Jain, founder of the Heritage group of schools, a philanthropist, and a guiding spirit for all those who have come across him. The twelfth anniversary of the Heritage group of schools, the oldest being Heritage Vasant Kunj and the youngest being Heritage Gurgaon where I serve. Founders day was celebrated today, the sixth of May, 2017 at the Sam Manekshaw Auditorium at Dhaula Kuan, New Delhi, a venue itself marking the importance of the occasion.
The occasion was marked by a most subliminal discussion between Shashi Tharoor and Shoma Chaudhary, and this was followed by a cultural extravaganza by students of the three branches of the Heritage School. It was most inspiring to hear Mr.N.C. Jain address the gathering, describing his experiences of hard work and struggle from the time he was young. He had started working at the age of 14. He also talked about service with honesty and the cleanest of intentions. In his talk about his latest book, Dr.Shashi Tharoor debunked the myth of the benefits of colonial rule. He suggested that everything that was done during British rule was without exception an attempt to exploit the resources of the country and in its most crude form, nothing but a means to sustain an empire that had claims of being the most powerful one of its times. The so-called good things that colonial rule had done were only in furtherance of the goals of supporting an empire that claimed supremacy and dominance in what was in those times a volatile world.
But then coming back to the talk by Dr. Shashi Tharoor, well, he talked about how it is important to understand how our past has a very strong connect with our future, especially colonial rule by the British Raj. Perhaps one of the most evident direct impacts of Colonialism was the de-industrialisation of India as a deliberate policy. Shocking details of Colonial rule as a crippling influence have been provided in his book which, besides other things describes how one of the richest countries in the world at that time was reduced to beggary and became the butt of jokes towards the end of the nineteenth century. The textile industry that was once known all over the world was damaged to an extent that the country that once exported textiles all over the world itself became an importer of cloth. Indian steel according to Dr. Tharoor was once in great demand!  Damascus steel swords forged by Indian armourers used to be envied by warriors of other countries. Dr. Tharoor talked about how the steel industry was crippled by the policies of the occupiers and that it took a lot of perseverance and persistence on the part of Jamsetji Tata to set a steel industry. Little would anyone know that Tata’s would one day purchase Corus!  The takeaway, according to him was for schools to revisit their past, learn about their “collective past” and learn about an organised racket that turned the country into one of the poorest nations in those times.
In his conversation with Shoma Chaudhary, Dr. Shashi Tharoor described how the deaths caused by the  Orissa famine and then the West Bengal famine could have been mitigated through a more humane approach by the colonial rulers. Grains were exported from the country as a buffer stock in anticipation of the liberation of Greece in the Second World War. The feeding of the starving was frowned upon by the rulers. Today, no one dies in famines because of government policies that are more rational and humane. All this is an important take over for students in schools that while the attitude of forgiveness might be a forte typical to Indians, the forgetfulness of our past might not, however, be accepted.
To Shoma Chaudhary’s question about the impact of colonial rule on casteism, Dr. Tharoor replied that the system of codification, classification and the gift of the census might have done more harm than good.  Asked about what should be taught in schools and what kind of literature should be read, Dr.Tharoor suggested that the system o f synchronicity should be applied in school education, students should be able to read the literature of all colours, religions, regions and colours. He added that the study of our past should not be a study of myths unsubstantiated with facts.  While plastic surgery was practised in the country in ancient times, it could not, however, have led to the transplant of an elephant’s head onto a human torso because of the extreme difference in size. While concluding his talk about “An Era Of Darkness”, Dr. Tharoor reiterated Gandhi’s exhortation never to fear, and never to hate. He spoke about how we have a hesitation to unlearn what we have been taught down the ages, and that we hate all that is disruptive. A narrative is a powerful medium for introducing new perspectives and while it divine to forgive, one should not do so with forgetfulness about facts!
It was a wonderful way to celebrate the Founder’s Day of three schools that have set out on a journey of experiential learning and achieved milestones on the way. It was an honour to be gifted Dr.Shashi Tharoor’s book at the end of the programme, and sure, I will be reading it in great detail! Thanks to the organisers of the event and the magnanimity of the leadership of the three schools for organising a function that was seminal and thought provoking in its essence.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Asian Honey Bee - Apis Cerana Indica

Apis Cerana Indica with Queen

The Asian Honey Bee is relatively less aggressive than the African killer bee. Apis Cerana Indica, is its scientific name. The Asian Honey Bee is quite comfortable living close to human beings. They make their hives in buildings and trees. One will often find these bees flitting over sweets in sweet shops in India. Apis Cerana Indica is easily domesticated. One can find manmade hives in farmland fields close to highways. One of the problems with this Bee is that it is amenable to feeding on sugar. Honey made out of sugar might not be as good as honey made out of nectar.

The worker bees can be seen building the cells, and some of them can be seen filling the cells with honey.

The Queen Bee, as you can see in the first photograph lacks the orange white and black stripes of the workers. It is a dull grey in colour and bigger than the workers. 

Monday, 1 May 2017

A Splash of Colours Photo by Rodrick Lal — National Geographic Your Shot

A Splash of Colours Photo by Rodrick Lal — National Geographic Your Shot: I took this snap of a bunch of Rose flowers displayed at the HUDA flower show at Leisure Valley Park in Gurgaon, Haryana India.