Thursday, January 25, 2018

ಆರ್ಥ ಅಥವಾ ಅನುವಾದ (Understand or Translate)

To put a disclaimer at the very beginning, this line of thinking did not come to me till recent past. Also, this blog post is more exploratory than any conclusion I may have reached.

Growing up in India with language of instruction being English, we all were by default bi-lingual. When it came to academics parents and teachers always told us don’t just learn things by-heart or mug-up but understand and read it. That’s a great idea and wonderful concept but what did they really mean?. 

So, what does it mean to understand some concept? at the time when I was studying if I can explain what I am reading in Kannada (my mother tongue) then I have understood. But that only meant translating doesn’t it?.

I remember reading a quote from Dr. Richard Feynman that “if you cannot explain to the person sitting next to you in a bar as to what you do for living, then you do not know what you are doing for living”. That’s wonderful, if I can claim I understood it, I would say “I should be able to explain to a random person with no background in my field as to what I do for a living” .

Another school of thought that came from my daughters school is from her school Principal, her quote “I want my students to explain what they are doing and why they are doing it in their own words, if that is done then the teachers work is done”. This is wonderful too.    

One can argue that concept of understanding differs from subject to subject, for example mathematics at the basic level of addition, subtractions and multiplications is all about repetition and more repetition at higher level with fractions and all one can get some chance of explaining what they are trying to accomplish. Social studies in my extensive thought, one can only learn by by-heart for the level of understanding of the implications of whatever we study will change as we grow older, so at a young age by-heart so that when you get older you can recall and amuse yourself or deepen your understanding. 

Science is probably the only one which one can even make an attempt to understand and digest what we read and/or studied. One can understand the studied concept by setting up simple experiments, may be at home or collectively at school. 

In the end it boils down to, how would you know someone has understood what they have claimed to have studied :).

Monday, January 22, 2018

Tendencies of the mind - II

Back in the days, more than a decade ago when I did my very first Art of Living program, and then repeated multiple times, we were taught quite a few good behavioral aspects aka knowledge points, One of them appears to be circling in my mind for the last few weeks (if not months); It is the knowledge point about "Tendencies of the mind", one important tendency of the mind is to cling to the negative, other important tendency is to either completely in the past or in the future and never in the moment. I am sure the course taught a few more things.

That said, one other thing I realized is the tendency to categorize and label anything and everything (including itself). To elaborate, growing up in India and specially in south of India there were always few tensions between people, one had to do with  language (Kannada vs Tamil) and other with geographic location of your specific city in the Indian subcontinent (north vs south). As some one rightly put it, I became an Indian only after I left India. Living in America for almost 2 decades now, I have realized this place is no different, there are tensions between people but may be for slightly different reasons.

This made me think further and I realized, the human mind cannot and will not rest until it has categorized anything and everything around it. In the early days of civilization it wanted to categorize based on the color of skin, type of attire and then as civilization grew and expanded came  the division on occupation and with trade came the division based on location and later with the more industrial world and “intellectual” world, it became about the belief system (philosopher, intellectual, poet, activist, pacifist, communist, liberal, conservative and so on) then when the mind became even more evolved it started categorizing further and refining it even more, “fiscally conservative’', “religiously conservative”, “animal rights activist”, “women’s rights activist”, “right leaning”, “left leaning”, “extreme right wing”, “extreme left wing” and so on. Needless to say in between some where came the rich vs poor and my other favorite one “religion and culture” (I believe they exist together). I am sure I have missed a few categories and the timeline may not be perfect, but I am hoping the reader got the idea. 

It is fascinating to see the evolution of the human mind, to some extent one can argue that as a collective, human mind is evolving towards finer and finer divisions only to realize nothing exists in the end :). It’s all hollow and empty.  

ps: the game mind plays when combined with Ego is even more fascinating. I will leave it there :)

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Kannada and its uniqueness

Few weeks ago I saw a video on Facebook that was meant for promoting usage of Kannada in daily life by telling us Kannada names for vegetables and fruits that we use on a daily basis like Tomato, Beets, Carrot and so on. When I learned from the video that the common Tomato is called Goodhe hannu (ಗೂಧೆ ಹಣ್ಣು) in Kannada, I was super elated, I was proud of the fact that while present day scientists were debating till recently whether to qualify Tomato as a fruit or a vegetable, we kannadigas had already done the classification long long time ago and called it a fruit. 

Then came the hard hitting realization, in the language of Kannada, no fruit or vegetable has just names in 1 part (barring a few exceptions), they always have 2 part names. The first part is what we in other languages call their names and second part determines status of the fruit of vegetable like its ripeness (ಹಣ್ಣು , ಕಾಯಿ ) or whether it grows above of below ground (ಗೆಡ್ಡೆ , ಗೆಣಸು ) or its status of lentil (ಕಾಳು ) and so on. Examples are numerous to name a few ಬಾಳೆ ಹಣ್ಣು  (banana), ಬದನೆ ಕಾಯಿ (eggplant or brinjal), ಆಲೂ ಗೆಡ್ಡೆ  (potato),    

Why is such a big deal, it is some what because other languages like English or for that matter our own Indian language Hindi doesn’t follow this rule.

Let me demonstrate with an example, take the fruit Banana 
English: banana it usually means a ripe banana 
Hindi: kela, still means a ripe banana 
Kannada: if you want ripe banana you will have to say bale hannu (ಬಾಳೆ ಹಣ್ಣು)
Unripe bale kayi (ಬಾಳೆ ಕಾಯಿ)
Leaf bale yele (ಬಾಳೆ ಎಲೆ)
Simply saying bale (ಬಾಳೆ) doesn’t mean a thing for a true Kannadiga. 

I am sure the closely related languages of Telugu and Tamil probably follow the same rules. Wonder if there are other languages which follow same rules.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Frozen vegetables

A while ago we had a discussion in our friends group on frozen stuff. We all were unanimous on prepared frozen food and the vote was a no. 

The votes divided when it came to frozen vegetables, some of us were all fresh and some others were arguing that if they are properly packed then they contain all the nutrients and hence what is the harm?. The discussion ended with Ayurveda says fresh is good. 

After all the time that has passed, couple of days ago I realized that when a fresh vegetable is frozen it is essentially dead. On the other hand when a fruit, vegetable or a green is plucked from the plant, it still has some life which is evident from the veggies ripening after being plucked or the evident fact that greens are able to fight off bacteria and other microbes for a couple of days after being plucked. 

Now my question or dilemma is, how important is for the plant to have some form of life left in it for our consumption? or rather does it make a difference apart from the taste? 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Pragathi and the slip ups :)

Yesterday I was attending a charity event of Pragathi a non profit organization that spear heads providing education in underprivileged areas of state of Karnataka. 

All great, hats off to their efforts and the scale of their work is just mind blowing, all was  good till they started talking about their new initiative. The initiative to teach English to underprivileged children along with Kannada and math is definitely an appreciative incentive. 

The narrator for this new initiative started with his and his partners journey to India and they visited a village near T. Narasipura in Mysore district and they visited a colony of “untouchables”, he  translated to Kannada "ಹೊಲೆಯರಗೇರಿ", the narrator mentioned that it was not all dirty but pretty clean, in that location lived the winner of the scholarship who is the daughter of a child bride whose dad passed away while she was young. The presentation narrated the hardships the mother faced after her husbands death and despite all odds how she has managed to bring up 2 well educated children.  The narrator ended the story with how the essay winner girl in question cannot achieve her full potential and that is solely because she lacks knowledge of English language and we can make a difference in lives of such people. 

Wonderful, I am all for this initiative and I have heard time and again from my dad about one of our own village boys who is unable to secure a job despite being an under graduate degree holder himself and reason being he cannot communicate in English.

The question I have is, what impact the presentation would have had if the presenter hadn’t mentioned the girls caste? The funny part is that the narrator failed to name the girls village or her name but was first to highlight untouchability.

Considering we are in 21st century India and we have had freedom for last 60 years and enough government sops in the name of caste, including but not limited to cement roads in their neighborhoods and affordable housing under different government schemes, are they really truly still untouchables?

To top it all, the girls brother holds an under graduate degree and is currently unemployed (I don’t understand how is it even possible, but that’s a different topic). Where and how did he study? or for that matter the girl who wrote the essay. is she being discriminated for being an “untouchable”? if yes how did she even write an award winning essay?

Considering the presentation was made here in USA in a 3rd country and mostly to Kannada people, could they have not used better words?

Is Pragati for all its forward and progressive thinking wants to go backwards by naming the caste of the person who is smart and intelligent?

Maybe I am over reacting but considering I have lived in USA for last 18 years and have attended multiple such charity events be it from AID or ASHA or Art of Living among others, I have always heard words like underprivileged and economically backwards but never the blatant mention of ones religion let alone caste. I always look at politicians from India specially from Congress party and call them pseudo secular's but this small incident yesterday made me realize such people are not 24 hours by flight away but much closer than I imagine.

I am hoping it was just a slip and no special intent behind mentioning those words.

Printer Cartridge update 2

Remember my post on refilled cartridges back over a year ago, shortly after I published the post the ink went dry and this time in month of August I went ahead and bought new cartridges. 

I am happy to say, they lasted almost 14 months, they went dry couple of days ago. In the end of this experiment, my conclusion is refilling a cartridge is worth while once, twice or max thrice beyond that one is better off buying new cartridges. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Everything I ever needed to know, I learned in Kindergarten . . . .

No, not me saying but my daughter’s class sang in their end of year graduation party. Yes it was a sweet and sour moment, sweet for the 22 kids spent almost 10 months of their lives, 5 days a week and 7 hours of their day together as part of a class with the very wonderful Ms. Andrea Bredl (Ms. Bredl for short) and they are ready to move on to next level. 

I am amazed at the transformation Avni has gone through the school year, besides academics (reading, writing and math), she made lots of new friends, performed science experiments, attended field trips and plays, performed in a play, played in Kinder Rodeo and so much more. Oh did I tell you, she pulled off a very successful surprise mothers day party in 2017? and more importantly it was meticulously planned over a 3 week period.

I am thankful to Ms. Bredl for making my daughter a science enthusiast and more importantly a gardener. Evidence, here is the crystal she grew using borax powder and the lima bean plant she grew from seed at school and now thriving in our backyard.

Congratulations Avni on your graduation.