Friday, November 13, 2015

Ravi Gulati’s Manzil

I first heard Ravi Gulati, founder of Manzil (an NGO for educating underprivileged children), speak at Delhi School of Economics. His piercing eyes captured me. Although other speakers had Powerpoints, he simply spoke.

And his words hit home. He talked about how he explained to the villagers of Ghad, at the foothills of Dehradun, who had studied only to Class IV, that after Class XII he had studied further, Class XII etc for college years and then for IIM A.

They were amazed. What did you study for such a long time? He had no answer.
Perhaps that’s why Ravi founded Manzil in 1997. At that time, in 2005, over 80 children would come to his house in Khan Market, to learn. I want to help too, I told him. Come over, he said.

When I went over one weekend to Manzil, the first thing that struck me after I climbed the stairs was a beautiful mural of a tree. There was peace in the air. It was very organized. They put up a notice that I would teach English on weekends. About ten children signed up for my class.

I taught them grammar. They were bright and hungry to learn. They were overjoyed when they got good marks on a test I gave. We want help with spoken English, they said. We would practice shopping expeditions on the terrace.

I looked out for them, and helped them later too. One boy, Manoj, began making candles. I got him a stall at a b-school Diwali mela. Another child was painfully shy, because he had studied in a Hindi medium and now had shifted to an English medium school. Break up the letters, I told him. Then you’ll be able to pronounce them easier. His reading improved, and so did the volume at which he read.

Ravi would come and go. I think he had a family member who was differently abled, perhaps that’s why he set up Manzil, to help children like her.

Although I gave tuitions later on to other children, they were never as satisfying as the ones I gave at Manzil. I felt as if I was making a bigger difference there. The children would laugh at my Hindi, and correct me. So I learnt while teaching too.

I even ended up teaching Economics in Hindi! Whatever the children needed. Some, like Anish, even came back and helped run Manzil and teach other children. They danced, acted, made films, learnt their way around a computer too.

It is a happy place.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Next is Us- The LG Nexus 5

Our phones are our lives now. They’re what we reach for in the morning, spend the most time with, and sleep next to at night. Spouses feel left out when we pay more attention to our phones than to them.

But a phone has to be worthy of such attention, right? Who’s going to waste time on a non smartphone? Here’s one with killer looks- the LG Nexus 5! So you can feel good just by looking at it and watching others look at it.

But what good are looks without performance, right? Does your nosy family like to snoop on your phone? Keep them out delicately with the super efficient Fingerprint Sensor.

Selfie time! The great megapixels in the camera will make you look gorgeous for Facebook. It’s a good way to capture moments and store them in your phone, to show to relatives later, with explanations.

What’s the number one bugbear when it comes to smartphones? Battery. You can do these amazing things, but only for a while. The reversible USB Type C charger works scarily fast, so that you don’t have to twiddle your thumbes for long, and can get back to playing Plants vs Zombies 2!

Android rocks- there are more apps on it and it is more open than that fruit. What’s better then than a Google phone? Nothing. With updates as soon as they are out, you’re sure to be the first to enjoy the benefit of a phone that just keeps getting smarter.

A smartphone is a bit like a marriage- choose carefully, else you could be facing the three year itch a lot sooner than you thought you would. So, check this phone out for yourself and I don’t think that you’ll be disappointed. Have fun establishing a nexus with this one against the world. 

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Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Pune International Literary Fest 2015- Haiku workshop

The Haiku workshop by Kala Ramesh at the Pune lit fest was the best part of it. 

She spoke about the 5 elements and how progressively they involve our senses, just like haiku involves our 5 senses. Space- eyes, Wind- touch, ears, Fire- eyes, touch, ears, Water- eyes, touch, ears, taste, Earth- eyes, ears, touch, smell, taste.

Zoka, or the creative force of nature, comes through clearly in haiku.
A haiku is open ended like a semi circle, so that a reader can complete it by remembering her experience.

It begins with a static backdrop,a fragment- the first line.
The second and third lines, or phrase- the movement, are joined to the first by a moment. So  the scene cuts (kirae) from the first line to the second. There is usually a seasonal reference, or kigo.

There is a sense of oneness with nature and life- satori. In seryu, there is no nature.

We pretended to burst a balloon- never realised how many of our senses are used in doing so! From touch, taste, smell, ear to eye- it covers it all. That little exercise taught us to be more aware of our senses.

Here's a haiku by Basho-
The sea darkens; 
the voices of the wild ducks 
are faintly white. 

See how he mixes two senses and contrasts colour? He's one of the four masters of Haiku, as you can see, with good reason. 

Here's another one by him-

In the twilight of dawn
A whitefish, with an inch
Of whiteness

Ryokan, a Buddhist monk, wrote this-
The thief,
left behind,
the moon in my window

We also read a haiku by Sandi Pray. Here’s an innovative one by John Stevenson-

And one by David Steele-
stuck to the slab  
the                  I 
of the frozen f sh

Here’s one closer home by Sunil Uniyal-
Red Fort Delhi -
the guide twirls his moustache
talking Shah Jahan 

Then one by Michael McClintock-
A poppy…
A field of poppies!
The hills blowing with poppies!

Here’s one by Alan Summers-
train whistle
a blackbird hops
along its notes

So the first line of a haiku is short, then there’s a long line, and then again a short one. In total, there are about 9-14 syllables.

Drawing a haiku is a good way of staying on track.

A haiku strives to bring the extraordinary out of the ordinary. No capitals or full stops are to be used, although articles can be used. This helps reaffirm the cycle of life.

Finally, here’s a seryu by Anita Virgil-
Really alone:
An itch on my back
I can’t reach

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

To a fitter us, heart to heart

Metabolism slows down as we get older. I want my husband and I to start good habits now, when we are in our 30s. That way, we won’t blimp up and have health problems later. The problem is, eating healthy is boring. So is exercising.

When is it fun? When we compete with each other. We rival each other in seeing who will lose more weight first. If one of us gains weight, he or she forces the other one to stand on the weighing scale too!

If I refuse a sweet, my husband reduces the portion of the sweet that he has taken. I try to make healthy stuff, so that we are full and not tempted to have junk food too often. Weekends we usually take a break and eat what we like.

I like having oats for breakfast, which my husband likes too. Both of us are fond of fruits and shop for them on weekends so that we have them within easy reach during the week. Lunch and dinner are normal meals usually- roti, sabzi, dal, so that’s healthy. He takes a fruit to office to snack on, and has dry fruits too if he feels more peckish. I like having muri in the evenings.

We try to walk together on weekends, which is way more fun than me taking rounds while listening to the radio. He educates me about car models, pointing out the good ones as we walk by. I am able to maintain a good pace too if I walk with him, as he walks fast.

When we go out dancing, that’s definitely a fun way to burn calories! We also walk fast in the mall and while shopping at the hypermarket. Every little counts. We have an exercycle, so we pedal while watching TV. I also burn calories giving him massages!

I need to lose a couple of kilos according to the Saffola Weight-Heart Test and so does he, so we should go trekking! That;s a great way to trim the waistline and get refreshed too. I liked the diet and weight plans they suggested too- very sensible and doable.

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Transfer happy

My sister-in-law has a tablet and wants to use it to watch her serials, so I suggested that she use Tata Sky Plus Transfer. Otherwise, we lose out in the war between Apple and Mac. She had trouble transferring her serials from the PC to her ipad.

You watch your serial, I mine
This way, we can keep the peace with our husbands. Otherwise, they get bored when we watch our chick flicks, and our eyes glaze when they watch their superhero serials. We can plonk ourselves on our beds, and watch our serials comfortably.

Always connected
When I went on holiday last week, I used Remote Record to record serials I thought would be interesting. I had been watching reruns for a while, so I didn’t want to miss out on new programs. It worked like magic!
I tested it out at home, and was overjoyed when Rosewood showed up on my Booked programs, when I had clicked Record from my phone. Someone from Tata Sky called the next day, to interest us in Live TV.

Live TV
Watching TV on my phone is definitely an idea I would consider, if my serial was at a particularly interesting point. It’s better than getting reviews on Twitter, which now seem to crop up almost before the serial is aired!

TV, but not on TV
Who watches TV on TV anyway? I see kids on their tablets and I think that’s the way to go. This way, you can watch your favourite show when you want to, as you want to. I hardly watch TV with ads these days.
TV before DVR is a distant memory. The time I save by fast forwarding ads, I can spend in watching another serial! If you haven’t seen Fargo, check it out. If you’re a movie buff, there are many oldie goldies being shown on TV, some of which you are sure to have missed. I had been wanting to watch Moulin Rouge for a long time, and finally managed to catch it on TV.

What to watch
A good comedy can really raise your spirits. I enjoyed watching Seinfeld, which I fortunately didn’t remember very well from the first time I had watched it, many years ago. I also loved watching Desperate Housewives, even though my husband claimed that he hated it. He would giggle along as I watched it, though.

In new serials, Fargo, as I said, was a corker. We can’t wait for the next season! Hope it’s as good as the first one. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Government Inspector by NCPA & Akvarious- Review: Awful

I had fond memories of the movie The Inspector General, which I watched as a kid on TV. Since some people I know had seen the performance of this Gogol play at NCPA, I stupidly did not research it and bought tickets. (They had said it was good).

The performance took the bare bones of Gogol's play. It used the play within a play device, which I found jarring. The jokes were hackneyed. We couldn't hear most of the dialogues. The acting was amateurish.

Came back home and researched it. Surprisingly, it mostly had glowing reviews online. Hope others don't get scammed like we did. On Book my show, the first two rows of the balcony were full when I booked, but at the performance they were mostly empty. Strange.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

One on One 2- Stand up comedy play review

The first act, I'm every woman, was funny but scarily true- about a woman struggling with kids.

The second was performed very well, with a desi American drawl- a Gujju bhai who wants to take over the US with theplas.

The third, surprisingly, was a bit of a let down. Written by Anuvab Pal, this act about a real estate guy moaning about didn't quite click.

The fourth, also we had great expectations, but Rajit Kapur didn't quite deliver. a tirade against the system, about a funeral, this act was black comedy but hackneyed.

The ticket collector act was the best. Acted superbly and with a heart rending yet rib tickling story, it made me want to take a train ride immediately. Being in Hindi, it packed an extra punch.

After the interval, the acts were not so good. There was an Urdu act about soldiers at the border, but it was not very funny. The poetry saved it, though.

DJ Elvis was so so.

The marriage one hit home, but again, was not novel enough.

The Bollywood one was not bad. Seems like more hapless the performer, the more fun we have :)
The acts could have been woven better together. Some swear words were common, so they seemed repetitive. It was a bit Bombaiya and juvenile too in parts. Still, an entertaining evening.