Posted in Education

The Tenth Rasa – An Anthology of Indian Nonsense

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Many many years ago, as part of a language class, we introduced gibberish and nonsense to shatter inhibitions in learning a new language. We used the navarasas (the nine emotions – laughter, compassion, anger, courage, surprise, love etc) and a line of gibberish to act out and play different ‘nonsense’ games. Students loved it and as we used different second languages they became more comfortable with the language.

Eight years later, I picked up ‘The Tenth Rasa – An anthology of Indian Nonsense”, edited by Michael Heyman. Since it was a selection of stories and poems, I first started reading poems which caught my attention and then read the rest. The tenth rasa (coined by Sukumar Ray) is whimsy.

So, what is ‘Nonsense’? According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, it is ‘words or language having no meaning or conveying no intelligible ideas’. Heyman, however, writes that nonsense usually emerges from an excess of sense, not lack of it. We have all read ‘The Mad Tea Party’ in Alice in Wonderland and the ‘Jabberwocky’ from the Looking Glass and Dr. Suess who uses ‘nonsensical’ words. One of the most famous is Edward Lear’s, ‘Owl and the Pussy Cat’ which we have read as kids is an example of literary nonsense.

In the book, there is a chapter, Nonsense in Hindi Films. One of it was the famous scene in Namak Halaal where Amitabh Bachan and his ‘I can talk English, I can walk English, I can laugh English….’ Another interesting poem isUncle Tetra Hedran in a Pyramid, Egypt playing with the idea of a tetrahedron being a triangular pyramid.

The book has a section called Folk nonsense which includes nursery rhymes and children’s games. An interesting Tamil poem is Mister Rat (translated by V Geetha)

Mister Rat, Mister Rat

Where are you going?

I’m going off to London

To see Elizabeth Queen

You will get hungry on the way

Pray, what will you eat?

I’ll buy bajjis and vadas, hot

and give myself a treat.

Thought the poem seems similar to ‘Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat, Where have you been?’ In the Tamil poem, the poet is making fun of the Indian expats, eating their bajjis and vadas even in London, holding on to their roots from across the ocean. Some poems are anti-colonial and some ridiculing the caste system. A lot of nonsense poems play with words which make them interesting.

When we were kids we played a lot of games. Avallaki pavalkki kanchina mina mina dam dum das bus qui qotar was one of them. The hide and seek song we played as kids was kanna muche kade goode, udinna moote…

Another one was

Achachu Belagachu

Alli Nodu (look there)

Illi Nodu (look here)

Sampangimaradalli gumpu nodu (see the group in the margosa tree)

yaava gumpu (which group)

kaage gumpu (a group of crows)

Yaava kaage (what crow)

Kappu kaage (black crow)

Yaava kappu (What black)

and it goes on..

The book has examples of many chain verses and game rhymes from many Indian languages. I enjoyed reading the book but it would have been nice if the original text in the given language was also there. I would have loved to read the Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam texts.

Sources

https://www.carleton.edu/departments/ENGL/Alice/CritNonsense.html

http://departingthetext.blogspot.com/2012/03/inspiration-of-jabberwocky-dr-seuss.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonsense_verse

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-metroplus/making-sense-of-nonsense/article2238819.ece

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Posted in Education, Recipes

Read!

20180602_082109I don’t remember much of what my teachers told me in school. But I remember my library teacher telling us read – It does not matter what you read, just read! I remember the love of reading started in school. My mother would take me to the British library to borrow books and I remember the aisles of bookshelves of all types; borrowing them and reading them. I remember acting like I was studying with a novel hidden between my textbooks; I wished they would make textbooks more interesting.

I always had a love for cooking. I could not afford to buy many cookbooks when I was a kid nor were there much choice. I would meticulously copy recipes from books, magazines, and newspapers – days before the internet. I found one recipe book which I may have started in high school and continued much later. I wish I had written dates.

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Don’t miss the price on the book

Even today, I love reading cookbooks. Cookbooks are like reading an atlas, a memoir, a travel book and a food chronicle all rolled in. The recipe is important, but the story of the writer that goes with it, the style, the anecdotes, their notes all make it an enjoyable read. The recipes do not have to be made, just getting lost in the book is enough. Read!

I plan to read and write about books – cookbooks, children’s books and others – this year. Here are some images of my recipe book from yonder years.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Education

‘Wonder’ in Teaching Science and My Personal Mastery

masubmitted.jpegIt has been two years since I started this journey of exploration and learning. I started an MA in Design in Education from Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology. I knew before I even started that I will be in for an exhilarating roller coaster ride; The potential energy- excitement and fear of the unknown – ready to start, the kinetic energy then acting upon you with new learnings and meetings and then comes the gravitational force pulling you to the ground with assessments and due dates, the acceleration of thoughts and ideas and then in the end when you stop you reach the state of inertia – but not in this case. Here I am still moving – reflecting and continuing to learn. The whole course focussed on our personal mastery. There were some wonderful facilitators who helped us on this journey. So here, I am looking at my own personal mastery.

One of the many things I started doing in the last two years was to start a blog. I had envisioned writing a cooking blog but with so many blogs already, I did not see why I should do one more.  In the first semester, we were asked to start writing a blog. It was not easy writing but write I did, these two years. I continued writing past my first semester. Though the blog became primarily a cooking blog, I plan to continue looking at science and writing about it. The other task was to do 2-3 online courses each semester the first two years. This was a great way to explore different interests including programming, the science of everyday thinking and science of gastronomy.

I also started doing things which were out of my comfort zone. Maybe writing a blog, starting to sketch was pushing me to do other things I would usually not. Sketching was meditative and helped me in ‘Seeing’. After all, seeing is the beginning of good science – observation.  I started to trek with a few of my friends. I always wonder if this was the MA talking or a mid-life crisis. Whatever it is, going out of my comfort zone to do things is opening up more avenues.

 

I love reading and I read both fiction and nonfiction. But this course pushed me to read books I would have never read. The first semester, most of the reading went over my head. These were mainly educational philosophy books. It took time to understand Piaget and Papert and even remember who said what. I had to google and read summaries. But as time went and more reading happened, it got easier. I remember one time, I was returning from a school trip and on the long bus ride, I was reading Protagoras. My colleague (and friend) sitting next to me offered to read it aloud to me as I did not have my glasses. It was interesting trying to understand who a ‘Sophist’ was over the din of school children having a good time with their friends. The two of us added to the din trying to pronounce the Greek names. We tried to read and understand the dialog between Protagoras and Socrates and figure out if virtues can be taught, with children shouting out, “Miss, how much more time” every five minutes. (Sophist  – “He is the one who makes men talk eloquently of what he knows”). In the last semester, I started reading John Dewey. Initially, it was confusing but as I read more I understood and related to what I read. Today, I can safely say that I can read more difficult texts and able to grasp the underlying meaning. Today, I read scholarly articles and when I google something, I first get scholarly articles for it!

In the ‘Fifth Discipline’ by Peter Senge, he says people with a high level of personal mastery live in a continual learning mode and it is a process.  As I continued this journey of personal mastery, I explored ways of learning and teaching science. I always felt that just teaching information is not enough but in this journey, I could articulate my thoughts on teaching science; that engaging imaginatively, creating a sense of ‘Wonder’ and using storytelling, experiential learning, ‘making’ and humanizing science were some of the ways. Science content is full of wonder, but science education does not implement the sense of wonder in everyday classrooms as Y Hadzigeorgiou said in his book, Imaginative Science Education.

I became a student; writing down all my thoughts and questions in an accordion book (inspired by Arzu Mistry –  https://accordionbookproject.com), exploring my inquiry using experimentation, making a DIY microscope, being captivated by the images from the microscope, writing poetry and stories. I did not know the answers to the questions I asked, I did not google the answers, instead, I designed experiments. That led to more inquiry and more experimentation. Reflecting on the process and writing it down helped get my thoughts clearer and helped unfold my thinking.

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Writing my thoughts in the accordion book

Even though the course is over, I continue to ask questions and continue to explore. Writing the dissertation was painful and included many sleepless nights and I thought I would not write for a long time.  But in less than a week, I write! I am back at the amusement park may be on another ride. As Peter Senge says, it is a lifelong discipline and the journey is the reward!

 

Posted in Education

This is where I go to think…

I was just writing a blog on mindfulness and working on a MOOC course on the same topic. I have been working on assignments, reading and rereading, understanding some and trying to figure out the others (for my MA). Also, planning for classes and writing reports…

Sitting in one position the whole evening did not help with my back. So I decided to get up and stretch and put away my computer. I wanted to clear my head and start thinking afresh on timeless ways of learning and visual leadership. Sometimes sleeping on something or taking your mind off helps.

I walked around a bit and without realising, I headed to the kitchen. Some may go for a walk, some may sketch (and I have tried both), or whatever suits them. But for me, it is the kitchen. It is the place for me to muddle around and clear my head (to meditate). It does not help, that I had baked a cake this morning, waiting to be eaten. I may put on more weight, thinking and clearing my head in the kitchen, but that is my place to be! This is where my creative juices flow. Maybe, this is where I have to start my visual (experience) leadership.

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Posted in Education

Inspired by M.C. Escher

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Penrose Triangle

He who wonders discovers that this in itself is wonder. – M.C. Escher

A few years ago when I was teaching tessellations, I came across Escher. Escher was a dutch artist who was also a designer, print maker, illustrator and muralist. He was interested in space, illusion and Math. He is best known for tessellations, reality bending shapes and impossible shapes.

As I read about Escher and impossible shapes, I found it most interesting. I consider myself as a non-artist. I have never tried my hand at any art till about 7 years ago when I joined school as a teacher in Bangalore. I attend art class with my 4th and 5th graders and do what they are doing in art. I always say that I am at their level, some of them are way better than me.

Today, I was inspired by Escher. I spent the whole evening making a Mobius strip, a Penrose triangle and an Escher cube. I used youtube  videos to  sketch. What I realised today that sketching was very meditative. I felt calm and forgot about all the work I have. Maybe I should spend some time every day to sketch.

Mobius strip is a surface with one side and one edge.In Escher’s Mobius strip II red ants you see red ants scurrying on the Mobius strip.

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Posted in Education

Comparing and Contrasting as a tool for learning

Comparative thinking is a very natural form of thought that even a small baby has. The baby distinguishes between his parents and a stranger. People compare and contrast all the time. You compare the quality and price when you buy a kitchen utensil, for example. In order to compare, we first need to sort them. We need to decide the attributes we are sorting them by. For example, to sort our kitchen cabinet, we need to choose the attribute, could be by function, material or by size.

Intuitive behaviour is not a formal process. The ability to compare and contrast using a logical, scientific process requires training and understanding of the process of classification, discrimination, transition and use of the right vocabulary. CLASSIFICATION is the first step where you find attributes (criteria) to compare. DISCRIMINATION is the second step where you distinguish and articulate the differences. From this you draw inferences and conclusions while using TRANSITION or CONTRASTING VOCABULARY like whereas, however, etc.

We use visual thinking tools that enable this kind of thinking. Some of the tools used are the semantic feature analysis chart or matrix diagram, double bubble diagram and Venn diagram. This is an essential tool that can be used across subjects. I have extensively used this in Math, Science, Social Studies and English. Here are a few examples.

Step 1: Classification

Step 2: Discrimination

Posted in Education

Mindfulness and Guided Imagery

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8 years ago, when I moved back to India, if someone had asked me about guided visualisation, I would have no idea what it was. I was introduced to it a little over 7 years ago. I always thought meditation was ‘humbug’ since I could never meditate. My mind would wander and I did not know that it was normal for the mind to wander. Then, 7 years ago, I was told that we were going to do some meditation. We started with a mandala which was a very calming process. I have done it many many times after that and have always enjoyed the process. We then were led into  guided imagery. The person who was leading us had a very soothing voice and a sense of calm descended on me.

According to dictionary.com, the definition of guided imagery or visualisation is ‘a relaxation technique in which words, sounds, etc., are used to evoke positive mental images, feelings, and thoughts.’  A way to introduce mindfulness  is through guided imagery which is a meditative process. Children have  vivid imagination and have fewer preconceived notions, so are able to immerse themselves in the process better than adults.

Over the last five years, I have been guiding students with the imagery. Students have a hectic life. They leave home early from home, most often hurriedly and stressed over catching the bus or getting to school on time. This activity calms them. I have been told by my colleagues that I have a soothing voice and soft voice. It is a learning process for student to be able to close their eyes and focus on what is being said. After the guided visualisations, I often ask them to draw or paint what they saw. They all visualise the same thing very differently. After the experience, they say that they feel happy. It brings some quiet and calmness in them. They feel that they can face the rest of the day having positive thoughts. However, not all students are able to go through the process. It takes practice to close their eyes and visualise. This is a great tool for mindfulness.

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Their thoughts after the guided imagery