Thursday, April 30, 2015

Cycles, The Most Convenient Transport!

We had been to the United States, last October.  I am writing about our visits to different places over there in different posts.  Still many are to come!

Until I saw these cycle stands in many places,  students and even elderly people using cycles in the States, I thought that cycle was prominent only in China than other countries.  Many students ride on the platform too! It was a happy sight. 

We noticed cycle stands like these in many places.  This photo is from an SFO roadside. Cycles are available for rent too, it seems!

We stayed at Berkeley and visited San Francisco often via BART Railways.  The inside of the compartment had separate place for parking cycles!
Another cycle stand at Berkeley

Cars also had attachments like this to carry cycles.  They come to the trekking areas etc.  by car and use their cycles to roam to other places inside the woods, hills etc.  We saw cars like these in the parking areas of Muir woods. We saw extra attachments for taking cycles in the local buses too...on the front side of the buses! Many people use cycles here, which made me very pollution plus exercise!

My son who studied at the Berkeley University and now my niece also is studying...say that nearly all students have cycles, some students use geared cycles too.  I saw many students and teachers too using cycles inside the college campus.  Good exercise to stay fit!

While writing this post, my son called from there.  He laughingly said that he lost two cycles at Berkeley.  Cycle theft is famous there than other thefts.  

I wonder why our children are not using them now! My sons were going to school by cycles.  Now, children mostly use school bus.  But for that, they have to start early to school.  The bus has to cover many areas to pick up students.  They come back from school also very late in the evening. When my sons were admitted in school in Chennai, the Principal said that he would admit them in his school if we find a house within 5 Kms. radius from the school.  We did that!

Hope things will change one day and everybody realize the importance of cycles! I know that parents are worried about our erratic traffic.  Well...keep this point in mind! Let the children use cycles to go to nearby places at least!

Be happy and stay fit!


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Perambalur Collector, Darez Ahmed, Another Sathyarthi In The Making?

I read this news in The Hindu today:

Perambalur Collector receives PM’s award! 

'Perambalur Collector Darez Ahmed has received the ‘Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in public administration.’ Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave away the award, which carries a purse of Rs. 1 lakh, in appreciation of his service in protecting girl children. 

Mr. Darez Ahmed had evolved various programmes to check foeticide and female infanticide. . Focus on ante-natal care included a special surveillance to check foeticide.'
I suddenly remembered reading about him just a couple of days back in a Tamil weekly magazine, 'Ananda Vikatan'.

Perambalur is a municipality town near Cuddalore and Salem (Tamilnadu).  Wikipedia gives more interesting details about this town!

This post is about the present Collector of Perambalur, Darez Ahmed, who is making a difference here, particularly for the upliftment of girl children and women.  Let me write in detail about his amazing work. Now, to the Vikatan article:

Normally, school children and teachers get tensed up when they come to know that their area Collector will be visiting them soon.  It is the opposite here...all of them are happy to receive him.

Darez Ahmed, took the post of the Collector of Perambalur 4 years back.  He was not acting like a man with a prestigious post but was mingling with people and children like an ordinary person.  He roams all over the villages and talks to people like a family member.  Everybody loves him.  You can notice it from the pictures below.

Hearing about the award for their Collector, the whole Perambalur is happy and celebrating.

His office has stopped more than 450 child marriages of all religions.  He stopped a marriage of a particular religion and faced the wrath of their people from the whole of Tamilnadu.  Still, he was firm on his stand and said that every child should be married only after they reach the marriageable age. 
After stopping the child marriages, he made the girl children to study further and some are doing their engineering/medical courses now.  He arranged for their stay in the schools and colleges from the Govt. fund.

The Collector participated in the recently held Perambalur marathon titled, 'Run to protect girls'
He is one among them.
He has started a programme now, called 'Super 30', through which children who are good in their studies in Govt. schools, are selected and makes the teachers to coach them to compete in the entrance exams to join medical and engineering colleges.  At present, more than 300 children are being coached here.  He has warned the errant teachers to work sincerely and so, the admission in govt. schools is increasing around 26% every year. He has started grading the schools according to their performance and sometimes visits them and takes classes to check the standard of teaching in the particular school.  This programme is called 'sigaram' means 'peak'.  He insists the villagers to send their children to aanganwaadis so that they have good, healthy food.

He has made arrangements to offer loans (education loan) for the children doing their higher studies from his district.  More than 10,000 students have availed this facility until now.

He has helped the cotton growing farmers to get good rates for their produce.  He gives priority to the problems of the local farmers.

People seem to be very comfortable with him and he, with them.
He has helped many children who have got serious problems with his own money for special treatments.  He is a down to earth person.  Travels in buses, auto rickshaws etc. to mingle with the locals.

He has arranged for the annual book fare in his district which is praised by the locals.   

He had been receiving accolades for the past 3 years, like 'Best Collector' award, award for helping 'special children'  from our earlier Chief Minister. 

Now, he has received the Prime Minister's award for 'Excellence in Public Administration'.  But he says that 'his officers followed his orders sincerely and so the acknowledgement goes to them too'.

Let us congratulate him and look forward to many more acknowledgements for his sincere work.

I felt so happy while writing this positive post. We need more people like him in the future. Hope many people read this post and know about him. Our whole country needs a good leader like him. I am a dreamer, you know!

P.S.: Sathyarthi is an Indian children's advocate and an activist against child labour.  He was awarded 2014's Nobel peace prize.

I had written about one more sincere Collector here. Have a look please.

Edited to add on 24.4.2015: I came across this news about the Collector now, thanks to the 'Frontline' magazine. He is a Medical graduate. The article says explains how his department stopped child marriages and later helped the girls to do higher studies.  Interesting article.  It also says:

Recalling the fight against child marriage in Perambalur, Dr Ahmed told Frontline that it all began after he read the magazine’s Cover Story essay by the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen titled “Many faces of gender inequality” (Frontline, November 9, 2001). The seven types of anti-female bias mentioned in the essay, which talked about 100 million missing women, triggered the Collector’s initiative.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Down Memory Lane...School Excursions!

I was looking at the picasa album now for writing captions for the photographs we had taken during our tours recently.  Saw many photos of school children and remembered discussing about them with my son.  I remember going to Mahabalipuram once, to Children's park in Adyar once and then to Egmore museum once.  I don't remember going anywhere else with our teachers.  I remember it was fun.

My sons had gone to more places than Mysore, Kodaikkanal and other exotic places.

My relative is a teacher in a private school here, in Chennai.  Their school takes the children every year to Maya jaal, Golden beach etc. where children are asked to play video games, make them watch a movie, give them some food and bring them back. I haven't heard them visiting the Vandalur Zoo or museum or Vedanthangal Bird sanctuary, which are educative to the children.  They collect money from the children, use their school bus, get concessions at the resorts and make money.  Nothing is there for the children to learn about anything.  I have visited Vedanthangal bird sanctuary thrice and saw only govt. school children visiting there, all the time.  They were so excited to watch the huge birds there and were taking down notes from the placards written on the platforms.  The teachers also were explaining about the birds.  It was nice to watch them.  Private schools never take this much effort.  Well, I forgot, they take the older children to Singpore, Malaysia, every year.  Do they take them to Acquarium or bird sanctuaries over there? Or shopping malls and game stations? We have got so many treasures here, in India but they prefer going abroad!

Do you remember your school days' excursions? Please write about them in the comment section!

School children at Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary, near Chennai

School children at Vedanthangal bird sanctuary, near Chennai

School children at Gol Gumbaz, Bijapur
School children at Badami cave temples! These children asked us to take pictures! Posing seriously!

School children at Gol Gumbaz, Bijapur

School children at Pattada Kallu Temples, Bagalkot dist., Karnataka

Small school children at Alamatti dam, Bijapur

Our 'guide' at Aihole!

A girl 'guide' at Aihole! Our guide had finished explaining about the temples at Aihole and we paid him.  This girl, her brother and some other children were watching intently what was going on.  Then, first the boy came near us and told us that he would like to explain the history of 'Aihole' to us.  We laughingly said, 'OK'.  The boy recited his lesson, without stopping, in one breath! It was fun watching his face.  I should have taken a video! Then, his sister stepped in and started reciting the same thing! Look at her expression.  We gave them chocolate bars.  Before other children started acting 'guides' we ran away! We heard 'saar, saar, naanoo heltheeni'! We didn't look back!

EDITED TO ADD ON 20.4.15:     Times of India link:

Educational consultant K R Maalathi said this trend was worrying. "Schools don't want to take any risk these days. Tours give children an opportunity to understand the world better. If they are not given such exposure they will continue to remain tied to their mother's apron strings," she said. "There is no need to stop trips. One only needs to take precautions."

P Vishnucharan, correspondent of Shree Niketan Patasala School, said it was unfortunate that while the board encourages schools to go beyond the textbook it is now clamping down on field trips. "There is no doubt that safety is of utmost importance. But we should not have to restrict tours based on their relevance to the curriculum," he said.

 I CAME TO KNOW YESTERDAY FROM A TEACHER THAT CBSC BOARD has asked the schools to stop taking children on excursions, unless needed.  Checked and came across the TMI link.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

இனிய புத்தாண்டு நல்வாழ்த்துக்கள்! ಹೊಸ ವರುಷದ ಶುಭಾಶಯಗಳು! Happy New Year!


May this New Year Bring all of us Indians, Peace, Health and 


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Theory Of Everything (2014), The Movie Which Touched My Heart!

The Theory of Everything
 'It is clear that we are just an advanced breed of primates as a minor planet, orbiting around a very average star in the outer suburb of one among 100 billion galaxies.  But ever since the dawn of civilization, people have craved for an understanding of the underlying order of the world.  There ought to be something very special abut the boundary conditions of the Universe.  And what can be more special than that, there is no boundary.  And there should be no boundary to human endeavour.  We are all different.  However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.  While there is life, there is Hope.'

The above words were shown at the end of the movie, which brought tears in my eyes.  Very sensible words.  

I noticed this movie being nominated in many sections in the Academy Award ceremony.  The main character, Stephen Hawking was played by Eddie Redmayne and he won the Best Actor award, which he deserves.  I saw the clippings and wanted to watch this movie.  But was a bit nervous knowing that they might show how Hawking suffered because of his illness.  But the movie was picturized so well that Stephen Hawking's intelligence, sense of humour etc. still remains in my mind even after a day!

All of you must be knowing that Stephen Hawking, a Physicist and Cosmologist,  is 73 years old now, still living with all the drawbacks in his health, had written many famous books and is world famous.  This movie is based on his story. No, it isn't remotely like a documentary movie, but is full of life! It is not depressive because this man has got great sense of humour which is shown in many frames. I know I am repeating this aspect of the movie! I seem to talk about the movie to everyone who comes across, for the past two days. 

The movie starts with Stephen as a 21 year old student, studying in Cambridge University.  He meets Jane, a literature student and they become good friends.  Stephen submits a thesis on 'Black hole' which he thought  might have been part of the creation of the universe.  His professors appreciate this very much and the thesis gets accepted.  Jane and Stephen celebrate this and from that day onwards, they show him losing control of his muscles, slowly, step by step.  But he immerses himself in his research and one day he falls down with a thud  inside the campus.  He was taken to a hospital and is diagnosed that he has Motor Neuron disease.  He will not be able to talk, swallow or move most of his body and has around 2 years to live. He starts using wheelchair for moving around.  Jane still loves him and tells his father that she wanted to marry him.  They get married and have a son.

Stephen continues with his research in spite of his deteriorating health.  Jane takes care of the children, home and Stephen apart from being a research student.  They have another son too. Stephen asks her to relax and take some time for herself.  She joins a church choir group and starts singing, where she meets Jonathan, a widower who comes home to teach piano lessons to Stephen's son and helps the whole family. Well...I think I should stop writing the whole story here! You have to watch the movie and enjoy Stephen's naughtiness and sense of humour.  He is like that in real life, I read.

I think I have to explain about him some more! Later on, he loses his speech completely because of tracheotomy which was done after the pneumonia attack. They show Jane showing him a board with letters and words and pointing at them, asks him to blink his eye if 'yes', blink twice if it was a 'no' to express himself.  (This scene came in 'The diving bell and Butterfly movie, which is a biography of Jean Deminique Bauby, a famous writer. He wrote famous books using this method later!).  But a nurse,  coming home to take care of him introduces him to a computer with a built-in voice synthesiser.  This voice speaks with an American accent, which he comments later with a twinkle in his eye, yes, I could notice it! He starts attending seminars etc. with this gadget and becomes more famous because of his knowledge.  Gets more awards.  Writes a book called 'A Brief History of Time' which becomes world famous.  He is offered knighthood by the Queen but he refuses.  Life goes on...his words touched me:

However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.  While there is life, there is Hope.

Eddie Redmayne's acting as Stephen was superb.  I was reminded of the movie 'My left Foot' at some places. The main character, Christy Brown, on whom the movie was made, also was born with cerebral palsy.  He wrote books with his left foot and painted too! It too, was a touching movie. 

Well, again the above highlighted lines apply here! Great inspiring people.  

The real Stephen Hawking! A great, inspiring man! (Thanks, Wiki) Hawking taking a zero-gravity flight in a "Vomit Comet"

P.S.: I have to add this information which I got from this link, but is not in the movie about Stephen Hawking. 

Stephen Hawking (b. 1942) is an English theoretical physicist and cosmologist, whose scientific books and public appearances have made him an academic celebrity. His 1980 book A Brief History of Time was a break-out hit when first published, and has sold over 10 million copies, having been translated into over 30 languages. His other books include The Universe in a Nutshell (2001), The Grand Design (2010), and three children's books co-authored with his daughter Lucy Hawking, George's Secret Key to the Universe (2007), George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt (2009), and George and the Big Bang (2011). His life was also documented in a book by his first wife Jane Wilde Hawking, Travelling to Infinity – My Life with Stephen in 2008, which was adapted to film in 2014 as The Theory of Everything.

Hawking has appeared as himself, and lent his recognizable computer voice, in a number of TV series including Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Big Bang Theory and episodes of The Simpsons and Futurama. He has been portrayed on film by Benedict Cumberbatch, and Eddie Redmayne (Les Misérables), and has been the subject of, and appeared in, several documentaries including Errol Morris' A Brief History of Time (scored by Philip Glass), God, the Universe and Everything Else (with Arthur C. Clarke and Carl Sagan), and 2013's Hawking (featuring interviews with Cumberbatch, Buzz Aldrin, and Jim Carrey). Other appearances include being interviewed for the 2013 TV special Doctor Who Live: The Next Doctor, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and appearing in sketches on Late Night with Conan O'Brien (via satellite) and Monty Python Live (Mostly) in 2014.

EDITED TO ADD ON 15TH MAY, '15: His daughter speaks here after the movie's hero got his Oscar for his role as Hawking. (click on the link pl.)

Another link:  "I think the film has shown Stephen things he probably didn’t know about my struggles, and how I really did try my best to support him over such a long period," she (Jane Hawking) said.

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