POEMS – PERSONIFICATION OF PERSPECTIVES

They were reoc­cur­ring at every phase of my school­ing, from 1st stan­dard to 12th stan­dard. Ini­tially there were in with a few paras with a direct nar­ra­tive type  and then went on to occur in mul­ti­ple paras with com­plex views. At first, they appeared in Kan­nada, then it was Eng­lish, Hindi and finally lots of them in San­skrit. Some were about hap­pi­ness & sad­ness, few were on nature & love but many were on life and death. Teach­ers tried their best to elu­ci­date them, explain them with a con­text, some­times with their own expe­ri­ence with life. Unfor­tu­nately I, for most of the time, failed to fully appre­ci­ate their true meaning.

Always under the pres­sure to remem­ber than to under­stand, school­ing was dri­ven by peer’s action than one’s choice. This even­tu­ally meant no time what­so­ever to intro­spect on the poems we were learn­ing. Sadly this also meant a lost oppor­tu­nity in appre­ci­at­ing oth­ers per­spec­tives and learn­ing from them.

How­ever as it always goes, when one gets out of the school­ing phase and hits the early stage of the roller-coaster called life, time seems to be in abun­dance some­times. With that I’ve had the good for­tune of get­ting into the habit of watch­ing so called par­al­lel films, mainly inspired by the expe­ri­ence of Ban­ga­lore Inter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val. There have been few regional movies which hits the grade of being par­al­lel movies. Yet they fol­low the sig­na­ture style of Indian movie style of film mak­ing  by hav­ing songs, action and dance.

In the midst of watch­ing these movies, I came across few songs. They were not the typ­i­cal ones which we find in main­stream movies. Their lyrics were of the old poems. Some were ancient, some were from yes­ter­year. Yet when I heard them, lot of things made sense. When I repeat­edly lis­tened to them, I enjoyed being part of the nar­ra­tion  & was able to appre­ci­ate the poets message.

It makes me wish I could go through all the poems I stud­ied once again, lis­ten to them again from my teach­ers and live the dream again.

Here are two Kan­nada songs I’ve heard recently and has lyrics made up of poems which are quiet old.

First one is from the movie “A“. A bril­liant story-in-a-story type film writ­ten and directed by Upen­dra. Despite being way ahead of it times it became a cult clas­sic. It has a song where char­ac­ter takes a step back in life and describes how he wants his life to be. This lyrics are from G.P.Rajarathnam and is part of his famous Rat­nan Pada­galu. It goes by the title ಹೇಳ್ಕೊಳ್ಳಕ್ ಒಂದ್ ಊರು / Helkol­lak ondooru (A city for name­sake).  The poet nar­rates life as it is seen through the per­spec­tives of a per­son (by name “Ratna”). The song is brought to life by the soul­ful voice of L.N.Shastry and music by Guruki­ran.

A clas­si­cal style of singing.

The sec­ond one is “Lucia“, a con­tem­po­rary film writ­ten and directed by Pawan Kumar. Its got a non-linear style of nar­ra­tion and has the main back­ground song com­posed by using the lyrics writ­ten byKanaka dasa.

The poem snip­pet with the eng­lish translation.

FLOKLORE – HOW A KIWI LOST HIS WINGS

Folk­lore are trea­sure a trove of knowl­edge. They not only tell a lot about the think­ing of  ear­lier gen­er­a­tions but also about their bond­ing with the ele­ments of earth. Some­times they carry a mes­sage which would have tran­scended sev­eral gen­er­a­tions. Here is one of those sto­ries from the land of Kiwis.

The kiwi’s ances­tor helped Tane-mahuta save his chil­dren, the trees, which were being eaten by bugs and begin­ning to sicken. All the birds were called together and asked if one would come down from the for­est canopy to live on the for­est floor and help save the trees.

Not a bird spoke, so each one was asked in turn.

Tui refused.  He was afraid of the dark­ness down on the ground, away from the sun.

Pukeko refused.  He found the for­est floor too cold and the earth too damp.

Pipi­wha­rau­roa, the shin­ing cuckoo, also refused. He was too busy build­ing his nest.

But kiwi agreed.  He looked at the sun fil­ter­ing through the high leaves and the damp cold earth, and he looked around and saw his fam­ily.  And still he agreed.

Tane-mahuta was filled with joy, for this lit­tle bird gave him hope, but he felt he should warn kiwi of what lay ahead.

E kiwi, do you realise you will have to grow thick, strong legs so that you can rip apart logs on the ground.  That you will loose your beau­ti­ful coloured feath­ers and wings so that you will never be able to return to the for­est roof. You will never see the light of day again.’

Still kiwi agreed.

Since then, tui has worn two white feath­ers at his throat, the mark of a cow­ard. Pukeko has lived for­ever in a swamp, with wet feet. And Pipi­wha­rau­roa has never built another nest – instead the cuckoo always lays her eggs in other birds’ nests.

But because of kiwi’s great sac­ri­fice, he has become the most well-known and most loved bird of all.

Kiwi’s efforts in help­ing Tane-mahuta pro­tect his for­est from insect dam­age dis­play the char­ac­ter traits New Zealan­ders still admire today – integrity, humil­ity, loy­alty, com­mit­ment and courage.

Source: Tane’s eldest child

RIDE TO THE KLEIN MATTERHORN

Known as the lit­tle brother of the ever pop­u­lar Mat­ter­hornKlein Mat­ter­horn (Klein mean small in Ger­man) offers a breath tak­ing view of the Mat­ter­horn and Mont Blanc on a clear day. With the ease of reach­ing to the top via a Gon­dola and being perched at a height of 12,740 ft (3,883 m) , it is the clos­est to expe­ri­enc­ing higher alti­tude with­out break­ing a sweat.

As as IAESTE trainee, I got to know about the week­end trip for theZer­matt well in advance. Hav­ing reg­is­tered early and this being my first trip to the alps, I was totally look­ing for­ward to it.

The jour­ney started from Win­terthur on a early morn­ing 4:30 train to Visp. Its a lit­tle town in the midst of a river and sur­rounded by huge moun­tains. The town itself is perched in the mid­dle of the val­ley and is part of the famous Glac­ier Express route.

The train from Visp starts slowly ascend­ing and tra­verses through the deep­est cleft val­ley in Switzer­land, the Niko­lai Val­ley. On one side of the track is the deep val­ley and on the other are the tall rocky peaks. Its here that one real­izes the true engi­neer­ing mar­vel, this train route is. With this route being build about a 100 years ago, one can only imag­ine the inge­nu­ity with which this was con­structed albeit the mod­ern gadgets.

After about an hour jour­ney and through few tun­nels, we reached the vil­lage of Zer­matt. The Haupt­bahn­hof is the start­ing point of the city cen­ter. It leads the road towards the hotels, hos­tels and the begin­ning of the Cable car. The streets are stud­ded with shops sell­ing lux­ury watches. Its just a eerie reminder of the class of peo­ple the city sees espe­cially dur­ing win­ter sea­son. With the famous ski­ing resorts and the Mat­ter­horn being the star attrac­tion, its the place of win­ter retreat for the bil­lion­aires from Rus­sia to far East.  Its also the start­ing point for Gorner­grat rail­way, the 2nd high­est moun­tain rail in the world at about 11,000 ft.

We dropped our bags at the Inter­na­tional Youth Hos­tels and walked towards the base of the cable car. This cable car starts at the vil­lage of Zer­matt which is at a height of about 5,300 ft and goes through the ham­let of Furi before reach­ing the sum­mit of Klein Mat­ter­horn. Dur­ing the jour­ney, we crossed the glac­ier and ascended about 5000 ft to reach the peak. With the glac­ier below and sur­rounded by Alps, the views offered dur­ing the jour­ney is breathtaking.

Zermatt from the Gondola

The cable car boasts of being sup­ported by one of the best heli­copter res­cue teams in the world. As the cable ascends the final 1000 ft, its heav­ily exposed to the winds. There has been cou­ple of occa­sions dur­ing win­ter when the cable had devel­oped tech­ni­cal snags and the pas­sen­gers had to be air lifted the res­cue team!

As we reached the peak, we could feel the breath becom­ing heavy. The air is thin and the tem­per­a­ture drops rapidly. With the wind, it feels even colder than what the ther­mome­ter reads. From the cable car plat­form, we take a lift by which we ascend about 100 ft inside the moun­tain to reach the steps of the obser­va­tory deck. Another few meters of steps and then we hit the sum­mit deck. Its a 360° open air deck which on a clear day gives a spec­tac­u­lar view of the Mat­ter­horn. Mont Blanc, the high­est moun­tain in the Europe could also be seen from here. This is also the Ital­ian bor­der and the start of Ital­ian alps.

From the deck, we could observe the Mat­ter­horn glac­ier, the famous Ski area and many peaks which were above 3500 m. It is the high­est obser­va­tion deck in the world and once again is an engi­neer­ing mar­vel.  The sum­mit also has a restau­rant and is used as a start­ing point to reach the ski­ing area.

As in most of the moun­tain­ous regions, weather is quiet erratic. So we set our descent  early. At the foot of the moun­tain there is a gorge made out lime­stone due to the streams flow­ing for hun­dreds of years. The scenes are straight out of “127 hours” movie.

Alto­gether the famous Zer­matt and its moun­tains are a class apart, made pos­si­ble by the intrigu­ing tech­no­log­i­cal break­throughs by the Swiss in the loco­mo­tives and high alti­tude construction.

ELUSIVE DIGITAL CLASSROOM EDUCATION

Hav­ing spent about 18 years in an edu­ca­tion sys­tem of a devel­op­ing world, its imper­a­tive for me to see the advan­tages it brings in. Let it be at the school level or the at uni­ver­sity sys­tem, dig­i­tal edu­ca­tion has a lot of poten­tial and hope to bridge the gap cre­ated by below par teach­ing stan­dards. How­ever over the years, as this model is tried and tested, the results are not so encour­ag­ing. I feel so espe­cially after expe­ri­enc­ing the edu­ca­tion sys­tem in a devel­oped world.

I recently read a news (Source: Dec­can Her­ald) where an engi­neer­ing uni­ver­sity boats of hav­ing spent crores of rupees in equip­ping its class rooms with state-of-the art teach­ing giz­mos. Unfor­tu­nately, in the mid­dle of all this hype, an insti­tu­tion fails to real­ize that the best minds are not built with high end teach­ing giz­mos but with enough free­dom to think and also by hav­ing the right teach­ers who encour­age the young minds to think. I more so felt this when I moved over to a fairly new (25 years) uni­ver­sity in Ger­many for my Masters.

Unlike the effort being put on dig­i­tal edu­ca­tion in Indian edu­ca­tion sys­tem, the class rooms over here are fairly sim­ple with bare min­i­mum infra­struc­ture. A typ­i­cal class room con­sists of a mov­ing multi-foldable black­board, a white board, bunch of chalks, marker pens and a pro­jec­tor. The won­der­ful nature of this setup is that the wall is used a screen for the pro­jec­tor and the rest of work are done on the board (in the tra­di­tional style). This setup is good enough to stim­u­late the think­ing in us. But even­tu­ally its the pro­fes­sor who with his thoughts and per­spec­tives makes the stu­dents think. And by far too, the qual­ity of edu­ca­tion is high when com­pared to back in India. This can be gauged by the university’s research out­put and the num­ber of stu­dents option for fur­ther education.

Hence I feel the insti­tu­tions in a devel­op­ing coun­try to should stop rid­ing on the hype of dig­i­tal class­rooms but instead invest time and space in acquir­ing the right teach­ing tal­ent and in devel­op­ing a through prov­ing & stress free environment.

EX BALANQUE – ETHOS OF MAYAN CIVILIZATION

Being a big fan of Mayan civ­i­liza­tion, i was excited to receive a gift from my Mex­i­can friend of a sou­venir which belonged to the Mayan civ­i­liza­tion. The curios­ity which was set resulted in me know­ing about the art of Ex Bal­anque masks. Fol­low­ing are some of the close shots of the minia­ture ver­sion of a head wear­ing the mask of Ex Balanque.

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Thou­sands of years ago, at the begin­ning of the long count, before Ex Bal­anque (Black Jaguar) lived its golden age, long before Chichen Itza was a major city and even before the found­ing of Uxmal, the jaguar was already one of the most impor­tant sym­bols or emblems of the Maya culture.
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Aztec, Mayan and Toltec sculp­tures and paint­ings por­tray war­riors wear­ing such masks, some­times depict­ing eagles, ser­pents or coy­otes rather than the jaguar.
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The jaguar (Pan­thera onca) is an ani­mal with a promi­nent asso­ci­a­tion and appear­ance in the cul­tures and belief sys­tems of pre-Columbian Mesoamer­i­can societies.

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Infor­ma­tion Sources

1. http://www.theyucatantimes.com/2012/11/the-black-jaguar-a-powerful-ancient-maya-symbol/

2. http://thestorybehindthefaces.com/2012/01/06/jaguar-helmet-masks-from-aztec-and-maya-to-diego-rivera-from-hercules-to-knights-in-shining-armor-and-hockey-masks/

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaguars_in_Mesoamerican_cultures