19 November 2008

The Moon and India

AS Chandrayaan-I lands on the moon I begin to wonder how we did it and right on cue I get all the information. Major lunar landmarks from Galileo Galilei’s telescope to Luna 2 having a hard landing on the moon’s surface. Luna 9 and its pictures transmitted of the lunar surface. Neil Armstrong and his epic landing which started a race among nations to put their flag on the moon’s surface. Indian ambitions in that direction fueled by Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. The tom-toming of Rakesh Sharma, India’s first astronaut.

Why do we go overboard? Well because for once in our history it is worth it. The soft landing on the moon is India’s claim to fame as it joins an exclusive club of 5 nations (including us) who have achieved this feat. Okay so the Japanese Hiten crashed but it did reach the moon. Finally we can begin getting over the tag of third world country that the Australian Cricket Captain so recently tainted us with. After all Australia has not yet reached the moon! Congratulations are due and being offered to everyone associated with the project.

Now move away from this function with flashing light bulbs and long speeches. Come outside to the countryside. See the night sky glittering with a million stars. This is a sight that no city child can see anymore, thanks to all the lightening and glow from the city itself. Now as you see the moon gliding by surrounded by those twinkling skies try and understand what your nation has just done. They have actually reached that far. As difficult as it is to comprehend, the moon is the next frontier. In a few generations there will be colonies on the moon.

The space on earth will grow short and the need shall arise to populate the moon. Slowly and steadily we will grow from one planet to the other and eventually science fiction will come true. The thought boggles my mind and I only wish I live long enough to visit the moon in a shuttle one day.

18 November 2008

Acid in Afghanistan

I was reading the Times of India and this piece on the Global News page caught my attention. It’s got me introspecting about the kind of world we live in these days.

A 17 year old girl by the name of Shamsia is lying in a military hospital recovering from an acid attack. Men on motorbikes used a water pistol (Pichkari) to spray acid on a group of school girls as they arrived at their school covered in burqas. She was the worst affected with the acid burning her face and entering her eyes. Her spirit is still strong and she wants the Media to announce to the world that she will continue to go to school even if they try to kill her. A sentiment not many school going children worldwide would understand.

The President Hamid Karzai has called it the work of “enemies of Afghanistan” a broad reference used to mean extremists from the Taliban. It’s the most convenient scapegoat for his government. If anything goes wrong just blame the Taliban. A reporter trying to get both versions managed a telephone call to a Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi who said that his group would “never do such a cowardly thing against girls and children.” Not exactly the response we have come to expect from a group so popularized by the Media for its extremist views and destructive ways.

The funny part is I believe that the Taliban did not have anything to do with the attack contrary to what is being accepted. The Taliban believes in big gestures remember the bombing of the Buddha Statues? How can it justify its claim that women are insignificant by going out of their way to attack them? No this was not the work of an organization rather it was the work of a few individuals. The mindset of the Afghan Man tells him that a woman is no better than the cattle he owns. Indians can understand that mindset because at one point of time they shared it, in fact in some rural areas or less developed areas this still hold to be true. So how can livestock go to school and get educated?

Worse they give themselves airs and talk about being men’s equals. If this kind of thing catches on we might never be able to keep them subdued in the house. They will want to go out in the world, they will challenge our authority. Best to nip the bud and dissuade them from educating themselves, teach them a lesson they need to learn. This is the kind of thinking that caused the attack. The men on the motorcycle will never be caught but if more men are to be discouraged from doing the same thing we need to ensure that we get to them young. Change their thinking pattern; do you know who can do it? The mother.

So yes I am happy that Shamsia is willing to brave attacks and go back to school because one day she will tell her son about it. She will explain how difficult things are for women in their society and he will be blessed with an attitude to solve this problem. In his own little way he will contribute to the change in his society by asking for an educated wife to marry and so the change will snowball. The acid eating up Afghanistan will finally be washed clean. It will take some time but I know it will happen as it has already happened in India. I wish them luck and the patience to make it happen.

10 November 2008

The Phonetic Alphabet

The Phonetic Alphabet was devised by NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) in the mid 1950s. it was based on earlier systems in use by the British and American Armed Forces. Approved by aviation and telecommunication bodies it is in widespread use in the English speaking world. Similar systems are used by speakers of other languages. Amateur radio users have devised other systems based on it as well.

Here they are:

Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliet, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whisky, X-ray, Yankee, Zulu.

If you are contemplating a career in aviation or tourism you should memorize them.

09 November 2008

Like Which Animal

When we want to express a certain animal quality in a word we use these. Very useful if you want to show off your superior vocabulary skills.

1 Like a Bee – Apian

2 Like a Bird – Avian

3 Like a Cow – Bovine

4 Like a Dog – Canine

5 Like a Horse – Equine

6 Like a Cat – Feline

7 Like a Lion – Leonine

8 Like a Wolf – Lupine

9 Like a Sheep - Ovine

10 Like a Pig – Porcine

11 Like a Ape or Monkey – Simian

12 Like a Fish - Piscine

13 Like a Bull - Taurine

14 Like a Bear - Ursine

15 Like a Fox - Vulpine

07 November 2008

Answers to Quiz on Words of all Hues

1. Synonyms
2. Homonyms
3. Heteronyms
4. Acronyms
5. Antonyms
6. Palindromes
7. Doublets
8. Onomatopeic

06 November 2008

Here is a Quiz on Words of all Hues

1. Words having the same meaning, very similar to that of another word. Eg Mix and Blend, Daunting and Intimidating

2. Words that sound alike but have no other connection either in spelling or meaning. Eg. Alter and Altar, Air and Heir

3. Words spelt alike but pronounced differently and having no connection whatever in meaning. Eg Bow (a nod and an instrument to shoot arrows.)

4. Sets of initials designed to be said as though they are words. Eg. NASA, AIDS, etc.

5. Words of opposite meanings. Eg. Allow – Forbid, Essential – Unnecessary.

6. Words that read the same backwards as well as forwards. Eg. Madam, Malayalam

7. These are pairs or sets of words which though apparently different oin form are from the same original root, with certain changes in spelling. Eg Arc-Arch, History – Story, Sequel – Sequence

8. Sound like the noise they describe. Eg. Crunch, Bang, Meow, Gasp

05 November 2008

Words = Life

Here's a simple poem that came to mind.

There was a time when words flowed through me effortlessly.
Then the bubbling well dried up.
The silence that was forced on me made me unable to string three words together.
Ideas jostled in my head, ramming against the inner walls.
Seeking but never finding that much needed release.
The feeling of being trapped at the bottom of a dry well.
Where light rays would refuse to enter.
A lost cause, as if it were, that no one was willing to adopt.
Despair and helplessness crowded together in the frame of my mind.
Not a pretty picture at all, as any one could plainly see.
Loneliness, like a single pebble trapped in a metal can, rankled.
Anything positive would fly away the minute it saw the gloom prevalent in my mind.
But cyclic is the nature of life and no matter how hard you try.
You can want to hang on to a situation with all your might, still it will turn.
In that desolate and arid landscape once again a spring burst forth.
Waters cooled the parched earth, flowers of ideas began to blossom.
Once sequestered and reclusive words flow through me again.
Words are spoken, thoughts are expressed, the circle has turned a full cycle.

03 November 2008

The UK’s National Love Food Campaign

I read about this campaign in my local newspaper. Essentially the Women’s Institute has come up with this brain child. It involves reducing waste and reusing leftovers by planning meals. The results are supposed to be saving money and boosting health. It is offered as an ultimate solution to Childhood Obesity and the Economic Recession. The participants have even reported reduction in their own waistlines.

I read the article and started to feel very amused. The reason? My paternal grandmother could have told them this without any fanfare. My Aji Aai (That’s what I called her) was the ultimate saver. She would not let one bit of food go waste. She recycling was so efficient. That did not mean that she compromised on taste. Oh no. She was one of those special few who are gifted with the “Hand”.

That’s how one would translate it directly from Hindi. Just doesn’t sound the same in English though. Anyway what it means is that no matter what she made or even if she experimented for the very first time, the food was always delicious. She was always voted the “bestest” cook in the family. With a brood of six kids and her other in-laws to provide for on a government salary she was often pressed for funds, but never for love.

So how would she react to this news? Well with studied indulgence. She would probably tell me something I like “we have known it all along, these people are learning it now.” Which is true not just in terms of this campaign but a lot of other things to do with recycling.

I remember a contest which was launched to find the most miserly person in the world. As usual the Americans were the only people who took part in it and the person who won was selected on the basis of the fact that he even kept the tiny bits of used soap after it broke up and collected them to reuse. Does that remind you of someone you know? I am willing to bet that every single Indian reading this knows at least one person who does that. It is not considered miserly at all, it is considered to be making full use of the soap.

So ma’am Ruth Bond, I am sure the success of your campaign pleases you, but pardon me for not sharing your na├»ve enthusiasm. If you truly want to check wastage and not pollute the environment by living healthy, you might want to come down to India and take a few pointers from our grand mamas. Yes the younger generation will not be able to help you much, you see they too live just like you do.