Feast for Thought

Not pontificating. Only trying to bat on the side of the environment. And ethics. And simple living. And slowing down. (And trying to learn and practise before preaching or teaching...)

Monday, October 27, 2008

1. Deepavali sights. 2. What does शुभ लाभ mean?

Sights are aplenty, sounds have been rather muted this year.Serial lights - readymade rows of flames!

Pretty and colourful decor for the puja areas
Mud lamps of all sizes and shapes, that will form the 'aavali' (row)
Pretty hands will be prettier - these hands will perform Lakshmi puja and will also prepare and distribute sweets.
Boxes that are used for distributing sweets and dry fruits - this is one of the simpler ones.
शुभ लाभ - These words are evident in small and big business establishments. What do they mean? In these days of unbridled private greed (as against public purpose), it will be certainly worth your while to look at what 'Shubh Laabh' means, sourced from a Feb 2004 TOI Speaking Tree article, by K S Ram.
"Good accrual or shubh laabh, is bound to impact your life positively. The important point, therefore, is not quantity but quality: Not 'how much' but 'how'. On the Scales of Life, less profit acquired in a fair manner is weightier than more profit acquired in an ill-gotten manner. Shubh laabh commits a businessman to all aspects of fair-dealing: Good stuff, justly priced, given away in correct weight and measure.
The principle of shubh laabh applies not only to business but also to those who are employees - whether they work for government or private organisations. It would be prudent for all to shun income acquired through underhand means and endeavour to work in a manner that justifies the salary received."

PS 1: I should have said "Pre-diwali sounds have been rather muted". Though cracker shops were not in evidence, sounds have been aplenty and we have received enough earfuls to last us till Diwali 2009.
PS 2: Also, higher-decibel fireworks are followed by audio alarms set off by cars' security systems; those screams, whines and sirens prolong the orchestra for a whole minute.



Friday, October 24, 2008

Coming to terms with a dialect of English

Perhaps I should call it the national language of USA, and even term it a dialect of English if I felt charitable enough. Or I could coin 'Amenglish' - on the lines of other thriving, 'cross-fertilized' tongues like Hinglish, Pinglish, Binglish, Minglish, and umpteen more commonly heard in India. Here are a few objective, light-hearted notes on the pros and cons of language evolution. You'll agree that they are just(ified).

Long ago, my English teacher had marked "Expression!" in red on the margin, while checking a certain phrase in my shool-level essay. I realised that the phrase did not read quite well, and that's how I learnt about "expression" in written language. Now of course, I go by the maxim "Does this phrase or sentence sound right to the polished ear?", and then continue. And I find that I prefer the language in its form that stayed back home on the east side of the Atlantic!

- You need to be politically correct only in the US, elsewhere simply, sincerely conveyed thoughts in plain language (used to) serve the purpose.
- Do we fill fuel, petrol or gas? - That depends not on the crude outlet, but on geographic location
- There may come a time when the colon, semi-colon, comma and their brethren are talked of as 'period' punctuation marks. (remember the clichéd panda who eats shoots and leaves)
- Thank goodness Maria von Trapp accepted the language as is. Remember her plaintive queries when she had to learn the language - "if freeze can be 'froze' and 'frozen', why can't sneeze be 'snoze' and 'snozen'?" and "if the plural of mouse is mice, why can't the plural of house be hice?"

Indian courts are spending years debating laws that may be anachronistic or otherwise. But I am now wary of a few words and their definitions. In the '80s I proudly joined in as my school's choir sang the school song, part of which goes - "the school with children all so gay". (I am sure the song has been overhauled by now). The composer could not have known the other definitions for the word, which have sadly overtaken the earlier, 'purer' meanings.
Also, it is likely that the next generation will wonder what the singer meant when he crooned "I'm happy, gay and contented, why can't you be happy too?". (Perhaps counsel could use this in court to coax a favourable ruling).

I wonder if HL Mencken gave a thought to those thousands of America's native languages and dialects when he wrote his book

English has been doing stylishly well over centuries, without these dandies - AP, MLA, APA, AMA, Chicago/Turabian, Harvard, CGOS, CBE, x, y, z... but why should I fret - these are writing styles in Amenglish, after all.

And don't tell me - "Be politically correct, or else!"


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chandrayaan - launched

That's another stride that India has taken.
Kudos to ISRO family and all of India.
Visit ISRO's website for information and images such as these.(The news channels overdo, with too much added masala, one feels)
What else was evident during the countdown over the past few days? One could hear professional-sounding amateur news persons talk about 'colonising', 'moon real estate development' and more -
Now for some hilarity:
- A major news channel devoted several bytes to a gentleman who has bought land on the moon as a gift to his family, from a website. Lends credence to the word 'lunatic'.
- The domain name BUYLANDONTHEMOON.COM seems to be available. Any takers?
- Read about the hoax at Museum of hoaxes
- Hope you feel reassured after reading Legal Loopholes Help Man Sell the Moon

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Monday, October 20, 2008

'Gate-pass' for Baby Manji Yamada

Glad to post a sequel to an earlier post (August 2008).
Baby Manji Yamada finally leaves for home in the care of Dad and Grandmom. Read details of the legal hassles that ended with the issue of a certificate of identity by the Jaipur passport office.
Here's a wish for Baby Manji - Bon Voyage! And have a happy childhood - the rest will follow...
PS: Want to bet if any of the 'ollywoods' find 'inspiration' in Baby Manji's story?


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Providence issues visiting cards!

Today I'm convinced Providence hands out visiting cards, drives a car, and if required, even takes detours on way to work. Read on...

The errand - to drop middle-aged visiting relatives at the Hazrat Nizamuddin Station in time for a south-bound 11 am express.
The plan - Leave home (25 km from station) at 9 am, allowing for 50 minutes commute time, possible traffic delays and time to settle in reserved berths.

Leave we did at 9, and drove out the gate ... right into traffic Snarl No 1. It turned out that a tipper truck had overturned two km ahead, and the line was that long. A good 20 minutes later, we got past the culprit, and went breezing along, with occasional hiccups at Snarl Nos 2, 3 and 4.

At 10:30, we were short of the target by about 5 km, and held up in SNARL No 5, which was actually a stagnant sea of multi-wheelers. With the clock ticking away uncontrolled, I politely honked to catch the attention of the neighbouring driver.

That's when Providence wound down the window, lent a polite ear, quickly understood the situation and said - "Take the turn to the left as soon as you start moving, then a right, and you'll reach the station just in time". We - my guests and I conveyed our thanks, and continued with prayers - all that we could do sitting there!

Then Providence extended a visiting card and said - "Now let me do some good turn today. You keep right behind me and I'll take that route. In case you miss my vehicle, pl call at that number and I'll guide you". Miracle no 2 took over, the wheels started rolling, and our car stayed right behind Providence's - through a couple of long roads and several traffic lights (Miracles 3,4,5,6). At another junction, Providence had to part ways - after all other good deeds for the day were awaiting their turn at the office.

We were able to follow Providence's parting directions to the 't' - another 2 minutes' drive, stop in front of the entry to station to let passengers get off and run - "you won't be able to park first and then accompany them to the platform".

It was 10:56 when the first-time visitors to Delhi set off on the last stretch from the station's entrance to the door of the nearest coach at Platform No 5, a busy route that included other hurrying travellers, a couple of flights of stairs, and the ubiquitous security frisk and luggage inspection.

After parking, I waited a good 15 minutes for a 'safe and sound' call with thoughts of a possible near-future trip to the same station with the same travellers - after all they'd not seen enough of the city (only its traffic).
"We boarded the train with seconds to spare. Please convey our heartfelt thanks to our guide. We are making our way to our coach", said the Kerala-bound uncle. The message was duly conveyed forthwith.

Our guests' first visit to Delhi (and my first ever trip to HN) is going to remain memorable for several reasons...
And that's why I say: Providence gives out visiting cards - and does not mind the occasional detour!

PS 1 - You may think - Why didn't I hire a call-taxi? But then my guests and I must have entered Providence's 'to-do' list when the train tickets were booked, you see?
PS 2 - Hope I find the 'resources' to do someone else a good turn at some other point of time, just as Mr K did!
PS 3 - For the records - I'm happy to mark Entry No 100 with Providence in attendance!

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

US National Debt - Entropy in the 21st century

(image: news.bbc.co.uk)
Ridiculous? Incredible? Mind-boggling? Flabbergasting? Indecent? There is probably no single word to help convey all that the obese(!) US national debt figures will eventually mean to humans alive now and to several future generations.
So the counter ran out of digits, did it?
Where did it all go? We should surely be able to see where -
- in glass fronted sky-high edifices? - And among the debris in Afghanistan and Iraq
- in over-obese consumers' frames? - And in the hollow eyes and malnourished, bloated underbellies of the world's poor children
- in vulgar luxury infrastructure? - And in dried-up, empty farm lands
- in over-stuffed homes? - And in laid-bare forests
- in gleaming and overflowing supermarkets? - And in grotesque landfills and toxic oceanfills
Entropy - even as the word occurred in the mind, I felt that this term fills in where other words fail. In the field of thermodynamics, Entropy is "a measure of the partial loss of the ability of a system to perform work due to the effects of irreversibility", to cite just one of many definitions.
It is likely that implications of the US national debt will be explained as a kind of entropy.
Apparently it is - I'm not surprised at this - See Entropy: A new World view The authors "seek to analyse the world's economic and social structures by using the second law of thermodynamics, that is, the law of entropy. The authors argue that humanity is wasting resources at an increasing rate, and that will lead to the destruction of our civilization, which has happened before on a smaller scale for past empires. The book promotes the use of sustainable energy sources and slow resource consumption as the solution to delay the inevitable: death by entropy".

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Charkha

"Take to spinning to find peace of mind. The music of the wheel will be as balm to our soul. I believe that the yarn we spin is capable of mending the broken warp and woof of our life. The charkha (spinning wheel) is the symbol for nonviolence on which all life, if it is to be real life, must be based."
Mahatma Gandhi - Harijan, April 27, 1947, p. 122

If you are interested to learn spinning on a charkha, you can get yourself one from Khadi Gramodyog Bhavan. (This box charkha was sourced from the Chennai outlet)
Peter Ruhe of GandhiServe Foundation very kindly shares useful links for getting started with your charkha.
Assembling the charkha
Spinning tips
Instruction manual
To participate in vibrant discussions on personal experiences with spinning, you may like to join a Charkha online community.
Should we see some significance in this year's Oct 2? Gandhiji certainly may wish for that, as each Indian celebrates a festival that day.
About the Charkha: It's easy to assemble; the compact box measures 41cm X 25cm X 10cm.
Listen to Vaishnava jana to...

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