Friday, April 04, 2008
The games kids play
Every morning when I drop my son to the school, I would ask him a question “How many smiles are you going to loose today”.
“I will try to keep them all today” is his answer all the time.
It is their 3rd grade class rule. Each kid owns four smiles at the beginning of the day. And they loose similes for any mischief's they do during the course of the day, like talking in the class or not following directions etc. At the end of the day their daily folder, which they carry home, will tell how many smiles they lost and for what reasons. If any kids keep all their smiles for a whole month, they would get a treasure from the class treasure chest at the end of the month.
“But yesterday you lost two” I said.
“Well, that is because of Noah. He was the one talking to me. And you know what, he lost all the four yesterday.. poor thing. “He always has an explanation.
“And today, you know what I am going to do, if he talks to me again. I will first warn him not to do that” He said and showed me how he would do that by pressing his index finger against his lips.
“You don’t need to do anything. If Noah talks, he will loose his smile”, I tried to intervene.
“No, I don’t want to put him in trouble. I will warn him first. Is that okay”. He looked at me as we reached the school.
“Okay”, I said.
This mundane incident flashed in my mind an hour after it happened as I was scanning the daily news. It’s shocked me by the strikingly different ways kids can react. The news was about an alleged plot by a few third-graders to stab their teacher. Not only they plotted the plan, they actually brought a broken steak knife, handcuffs, duct tap etc to the school to carry out their plan and even assigned tasks to the children like covering the windows and cleaning up afterward.
After reading this, the first question that might cross our mind would be “Is 8-9 year old kids actually capable of doing this?” . If they do, what they are actually lacking; for the time being let’s not look for who is to blame.
But wait, before I could finish reading the news, it shocked me again by what authorities are going to do about it.
“The district attorney is seeking juvenile charges of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault against an 8-year-old boy and two girls, ages 9 and 10”.
Lady of justice is blindfolded .
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Waiting for the Snow
It is true; it snowed in New Mexico also, last week. I called one of my friends in Santa Fe, and he was digging out his car from the snow. It doesn’t snow there much, but this year it is different.
What make it strange is that there is no snow here in Virginia yet. Last year was different. It snowed on December 5th, I remember because that was our wedding anniversary. We went out for dinner in the evening. That night was beautiful, trees, rooftops and the street all covered in white blanket. Sky was clear, moonlit and bright, world was shining with the reflected light from the snow. Snow was still drizzling slightly and smoothly like white petals. I felt like I was standing at the bottom of a big faintly but beautifully lighted snow globe. World seemed like carrying a wholeness, and offering something great and good. Felt like much closer to the truth in the silent music of the snow fall.
But this year there no snow yet. Where is it hiding as the truth itself?
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Vaasthu - shasthra another pseudo-science
According to him in fengu shui, warding off negative energy is the key. It could be achieved by properly positioning the fish tank or placing a laughing Buddha (if Buddha is laughing, he must be thinking about the science in that. The last time he laughed was when we killed an unsuspecting crow in Pokhran). So much for science.
I had a chance to work closely with some vasthu experts in Kerala while working in the traditional architectural division of a well know construction firm, several years ago. The company I worked for used to build structures which demand traditional style architecture, like temples, temple related structures etc. For temples, it is all fine to follow old and traditional building methods as everything is associated with faith and a belief system. But when it comes to houses and ordinary dwelling places it could become a menacing issue. Because most of these guys are there just to make money, they know fear is the best tool for that and go to any extend in scaring people to death in the name of this pseudo science, like death plinth line (marana chuttu), wrong darshan, etc. They make you believe if the measurement is slightly off from the allowed one death will result. So when it comes to build a house your choice is death or hire a vaasthu consultant (Do you have better business model than this?).
What is Vasthu?
In my view, from what I tried to understand, vaasthu is an old form of science to an extend. There are measurements and mathematical charts in it to help make durable structures with the construction materials available hundred ( or even thousands) of years ago, namely earth, stone and wood. Estimation of strength and durability of materials are done by common sense and experience. It always tries to make structures in a symmetrical fashion for convenience and stability. It mostly allowed only a few sets of measurements ( may be an attempt to keep things in standard size; length of plinth line is used as a key measurement and all other measurements can be derived from this one using standard factors), and if you deviate from that, you may not be able to use the readymade mathematical tables and end up in wasting materials and probably in failure as well. I believe that is the reason, in olden days, they discouraged people from using unusual measurements and they did it with suppositious believes not by explaining their inability to use those. There is also an underlying urge to live in harmony with nature, as nature is the god which can be merciless on times, you better be on its good side.
The concept of Vaasthu purushan and the projected relation of this techniques with five fundamental elements ( earth, air, fire, water and sky) are just to form a mythical and spiritual connection which might be a prerequisite for any sort of knowledge in Vedic period. And it must be for the effective marketing and to defeat the competitors there are so much superstitions attached to each and every aspect of this old methods.
There is a complete absence of the concept of structural design. In modern construction we use high strength materials like steel, concrete, fiber other synthetic materials. And design allows you to have optimal use of these materials depending on the use and the expected load on the structure.
There is a clear ignorance on the effective utilization of the space as most structures are of the same mold ( nalu kettu, ettu kettu etc) Modern architecture revolves around the basic notion that ‘Form follow function’ and that way utilization of the space become at most important. Structural strength of materials and the design, construction capabilities available today help us to mold the structure to from any shape we want.
I know it is meaningless to argue that we have a better science today than that of a hundreds of years ago. But my point here is we don’t have to use those old methods for any clear advantage in our present conditions, except may be for the aesthetic external appearance. But now it is being forced on gullible people, because of the superstitions it carries in abundance not because of any other advantages.