Monday, 22 February 2016

Don't Be An Educated Illiterate!

Photo: fraeulein girot
A friend of mine forwarded a joke on Whatsapp today. It goes like this -

An English lawyer went duck hunting near Truro Cornwall. He shot and dropped a bird, but it fell into a farmer's field on the other side of a fence.

As the lawyer climbed over the fence, an elderly farmer drove up on his tractor and asked him what he was doing. The litigator responded,"I shot a duck and it fell in this field, and now I'm going to retrieve it." The old farmer Peter replied, "This is my property, and you are not coming over here."

The indignant lawyer said, "I am one of the best trial lawyers in England and, if you don't let me get that duck, I'll sue you and take everything you own."

The old farmer smiled and said, "Apparently, you don't know how we settle disputes in Cornwall . We settle small disagreements like this with the 'Three Kick Rule.'

The lawyer asked, "What is the 'Three Kick Rule'?"

The Farmer replied, "Well, because the dispute occurs on my land, I get to go first. I kick you three times and then you kick me three times and so on back and forth until someone gives up." The lawyer quickly thought about the proposed contest and decided that he could easily take the old codger. He agreed to abide by the local custom.

The old farmer slowly climbed down from the tractor and walked up to the attorney. His first kick planted the toe of his heavy steel-toed work boot into the lawyer's groin and dropped him to his knees!

His second kick to the midriff sent the lawyer's last meal gushing from his mouth. The lawyer was on all fours when the farmer's third kick to his rear end, sent him face-first into a fresh cow pie.

Summoning every bit of his will and remaining strength the lawyer very slowly managed to get to his feet. Wiping his face with the arm of his jacket, he said, "Okay, you old fart. Now it's my turn."

The old farmer smiled and said, "Nah, I give up. You can have the duck." 

When you are educated, you'll believe only half of what you hear. When you're intelligent, you know which half.

Although I found it hilarious, it made me think how people typecast education with intelligence and those who lack it are dull witted. I agree that education is the most powerful tool for learning and hence improving one's intelligence and wisdom. But, it is still a tool and what's important is how we use it. I know more highly-educated-ignorant-arrogant people than I would have liked to believe and am sure you could count a lot many too. Similarly I have also met extremely wise, sensible and intelligent people who happen to be illiterate!

Another such hypocrisy seen in India is being able to talk in English. Now English is one of the universal language and it's splendid if you know it, but you shouldn't feel ashamed if you can't. I mean French, Chinese, Japanese, Spaniard or any one from non-English speaking country doesn't feel the way we Indians feel about lacking the knowledge of English. Things have reached a point where grandparents nowadays are under extreme stress because kids look down upon them if they can't converse in fluent English. Which is quite pathetic considering, English is just a language after all, would you feel the same way if you were ignorant about any other local Indian language?

We should feel ourselves lucky that we got the opportunity to read and write which in turn opened up endless opportunities for us, but that doesn't entitle us into some kind of elite beings and we should never look down upon people who are uneducated. Everyone has something they are good at, so just because they lack formal education doesn't mean they are incompetent as a person. Give people a chance to prove their worth and you will be amazed how they surprise you.

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."
                                                           - Albert Einstein

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Poetry- An Eternal Graffiti

Photo: Lorezo

Sometimes I feel positively medieval. Like how I miss the times when a man had to write in great details how he felt about the woman to win her heart or write elaborate letters. So quite understandably I find it very disheartening that nowadays people don't enjoy reading poetry as much as in olden times. I have wondered many a times why that is so..may be times have changed..time when love, pain, suffering, longing and anger needs to be conveyed through poetry have diminished greatly.

But even in this fast paced world there remain a few who yearn for the assurance of written words. Because even in these peaceful times, we are constantly fighting our own battles. Even now, when we want to be better than what we think we could be, we look for inspiration. We still look for stories, which conveys, "It's OK, you can do it".

Words have immense powers, and if someone said they are magical then it's not an exaggeration. In current times you wouldn't find a lot of people who would say that their life is changed because of a poem. But that was the power poetry held over humankind for a long time. Of course, across the world from sonnet to Ghazal the form varied but the essence remained same.

As a kid I used to read all the poems from school book even before the term began (although I didn't necessarily understand all of it). The most amazing thing about poetry is that some of them touches you so deeply that even after years, you still remember it word to word. To this day below lines haunt's from a poem called "Lohe ka Swad" by Sudama Pandey

"lohe ka swad lohar se mat pucho…
uss ghore se pucho jiske muh mein lagam ha"

(Translation- Don’t ask a blacksmith about the taste of iron, but ask the horse who has it in his mouth…)

Unfortunately I have a terrible memory and could never remember all the poems. But every now and then I search for it and find a great solace in reading them. Someone once asked me which is my favorite poem and I spent a whole week trying to decide (to no avail). Although, there is something about "Invictus" which casts a spell on me every time I read it. And I am not the only one, throughout the history men of great deeds have drawn inspiration from this extraordinary poem written by William Ernest Henley. It is said that this was written as a demonstration of his resilience following the amputation of his foot due to tubercular infection.

"Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul."

Do you know what makes a literature immortal? It is a reader. Even after thousands of years, even if one person reads it, it brings the words back to life. Works like Ramayana and Mahabharata (which by the way is the longest poem in the world!) have survived these many centuries and passed on to next generation. I hope other works of literature survives too, just in case there comes a time when we rediscover it's potential.

You cannot force love on anyone, so if you don't like poetry well and good. But if you have never given it a try, I insist that you do that today. For as someone once said, poetry makes new things familiar and familiar things new...

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

These Plants Can Kill You!

Photo: Jon Bunting
Recently I undertook the renovation of our barren balcony into a garden balcony and being a novice I thought it's wise to do some research. Among other information I was shocked to find that many of the plants we keep are extremely dangerous if consumed accidentally (if you have kids and pets wandering around!). So keep an eye for the below plants-

1. Oleander

It is one of the most commonly grown garden plants in the world (we have one too!). But is poisonous especially to animals such as dogs (when consumed in large quantity of course). Oleander sap can cause skin irritations, severe eye inflammation and irritation.

Photo: karen
2. Castor Bean

It is the most poisonous plant in the world (literally). Although not as common as oleander, castor bean plant is abundantly found in India. Yes, it is the source of castor oil but they are also the source of a water soluble toxin called ricin. Lethal dose in adults is considered to be four to eight seeds! But generally it is considered toxic only if seed is broken and chewed otherwise seed may pass intact through the digestive tract without releasing the toxin.

Photo: budak
3. Angel's trumpet

They have beautiful flowers that hang like bells and like oleander adorns our garden. Unfortunately the plant is not as angelic as it's seeds and leaves are especially dangerous causing hallucinogenic effects if consumed (not the good kind, more like terrifying).

Photo: Denish
4. Rosary Pea

Not technically a plant, but the seeds from this tree are so common in Kerala that as kids we used to play with it in temples (some of us still do). These seeds are used to make beads and have a bright red color with a single black spot. The poison contained in the plant (abrin) is very similar to the poison ricin, found in some other poisonous plants. There is one main difference between these poisons, and that is that abrin is about 32 times stronger than ricin!

Photo: Kristian Golding
5. Daffodils

Prized for their beauty, daffodils grow from bulbs that could be mistaken for an edible food, like an onion. The bulbs can also be toxic to other nearby plants, including roses, rice, and cabbages, inhibiting growth. For instance placing cut flowers in a vase alongside other flowers shortens the life of the latter. If bulb extracts come in contact with wounds, both central nervous and cardiac system may get effected.

Photo: John Flannery
6. Dumb Cane

It's a common shade-loving tropical household plant. With both children and pets, contact with dumb cane (typically from chewing) can cause a host of unpleasant symptoms, including intense numbing, oral irritation, excessive drooling, and localized swelling.

Photo: Forest and kim starr
7. Hydrangea

These popular blossoms contain small traces of cyanide. But don't uproot your plant just yet. It has to be ingested in huge quantities for effects to be fatal.

Photo: Peter Miller
8. Deadly Nightshade

Well it does have a better name- Belladonna (Italian for beautiful lady). Apparently drops prepared from the belladonna plant were used to dilate women's pupils, an effect considered to be attractive and seductive! The consumption of two to five berries by a human adult is probably lethal. It was used for making poison arrows in ancient times.

Photo: Peganum
House plants are very beneficial in our homes and lives. They not only purify our stale indoor air but also trap many pollutants. But like any other living beings plants have defense mechanisms against predators which could harm us or pets if not monitored properly. It doesn't mean we should not keep the above plants but do watch out. After all, we never know when an information like this may come handy...

Monday, 1 February 2016

Reminiscences Of A Tattooed Girl

I love tattoos. And today being the 5th year anniversary of my first tattoo it just felt right to write about it! Undeniably it is scarring yourself, but these scars are a testimony of who you are and what you believe in.

As opposed to popular notion tattooing is not a new trend imposed by "western culture", in fact in most of the American cities it was illegal to get a tattoo till recent times. Although it has remained an integral part of many other cultures including India, albeit not in same form. It is a very common practice in India for a wife to her husbands name tattooed on her wrist and is  commonly referred as 'pachakutharathu' or 'godna'.  Even to this day, Henna (mehndi) which is a kind of temporary tattoo is heavily used by women across the country.

It is fascinating how tattoos mean different to different cultures, like for the Ainu women in Japan, tattoos of giant-sized lips on their faces were customary. Lip tattooing was seen as a mark of maturity and believed to repel evil spirits. In Egypt the majority of tattoos were found on women, indicating status. By the early 17th century, criminals in Japan were widely being tattooed as a visible mark of punishment. Tattooing has been a part of Filipino life since pre-Hispanic colonization of the Philippine Islands, while some were a form of rank and accomplishments, some believed that tattoos had magical qualities.

Over the centuries tattoos have undergone a dramatic redefinition. Although it's an ancient art it had lost its charm and is now reintroduced with a glamorous quotient. There maybe lot of people who get a tattoo just for the sake of getting one but I cannot speak for those. But I am sure for others it has not been a casual decision.

The idea of getting a tattoo just took me a minute but it took me next 6 months to figure out what I wanted tattooed! It was probably the first time I did some serious soul searching, asked myself questions I wouldn't have confronted otherwise. What do I believe in? Although it may not sound so but it is extremely difficult if you were to choose one word or symbol, which you would want engraved in yourself for rest of your life.

It is essential that you are absolutely sure about what you want tattooed because over the years you may outgrow your beliefs but you should be willing to accept your past choices and be able to live with it (removing a tattoo is a cumbersome task and expensive too!).

You either love it or hate it. Anyone who says "I do love it but on others" is just lying to oneself. Of course getting a tattoo is a matter of personal choice and it would be highly inappropriate to judge someone based on their preference to tattooing.

Tattoos do have a power and magic of their own. Many a times I have found strength from my tattoo, gave me surety whenever my heart faltered. You share a special bond with your tattoo, it becomes a part of you both body and soul.

I once heard someone ask ,'Do you think your tattoo would still look good when you are 60? You will regret it that time'. I couldn't help but laugh because the truth is I would rather regret getting a tattoo at 60, than regret all my life not getting one.