Wish you a very happy Makar Sankranti!
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Wish you a very happy Makar Sankranti!
If you are on Telegram, please subscribe to my channel there:
In my previous post I wrote about acquiring a language while living among its native speakers. Another opportunity for learning a language is presented by demands of workplace. This is particularly the case with English. You might recall that earlier German was the language of science communication, as also was French. Slowly English took over due to several ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ causes. Perhaps you are involved in scientific research, and your work demands reading, writing, collaborating, exchanging emails, giving seminars and presentations, communicating manuscripts and so on. Consequently, during your PhD you get ample opportunity to practise and hone up your English language skills. However, unlike the previous case, here it is not optional, as your bread and butter, and to a certain extent, your academic survival depends on how comfortable are you with this language. You are not supposed to win a Nobel Prize in literature, nor will you be asked to write a masterpiece like Shakespeare or Milton. Writing a paper or giving a talk which your readers or audience may easily understand and enjoy is all that is expected from you.Continue reading
One of the difficulties with language learning is to keep practising the language(s) you have learnt. In fact, you have been unconsciously doing the same thing with your mother tongue — even though you are not revising the grammar, you are talking to people, listening to them, reading and writing for several hours each day. And that is how you procured and retained the language you speak. With other languages also it is the same. Sometimes it is quite easy, e.g., if you are living in the country or state or city where it is the native language of the locals. For example, while pursuing my PhD and for another two years after that, I lived in Gujarat and got to have a first hand experience of the language and customs of that state. Several of my seniors, juniors, colleagues were Gujarati and of course, the institute staff. Going around the city on weekends I got even more exposure to the language from road signs, billboards and hoardings. People were in general willing to talk, and while starting the conversation they first talked in their mother tongue. Only after they were made to understand that I was not native, did they continue with the common language, Hindi in my case. It is funny and annoying how I wasted more than 6 years — time when I could have effortlessly learnt Gujarati. After all, all my Gujarati friends were all too willing and eager to help me learn their language. Only one year before leaving Ahmedabad, did I took to learning Gujarati. The main reason was the fear of looking stupid in case someone remarks, ”Oh! You had been in Ahmedabad for 8 years! You must be fluent in Gujarati of course!” In fact, had I taken even a superficial interest, I could have made enormous progress there. I didn’t need to read books or understand the grammar. I could have simply picked up from the conversation going on around me. The wound is easier to forget or assuage considering that Gujarati is easier for Hindi-speakers than several other languages. Had it been Tamil, I would have been frustrated at my blunder. When people ask me the languages I have learnt or know, I do not mention Gujarati and Marathi, as I am still not very fluent and comfortable with them. But the scene could have been much different. I may come back to them after settling my issues with French, but that is still far off in future. So my advice to you — whether you are interested in learning languages or not — is puncture your ego, be less arrogant and ignorant, and learn the language of the natives. You will reap greater dividends than you imagine. The point that I am trying to emphasise here is that several times it would not even require much physical or mental investment from your side. For example, for Hindi speakers, Urdu (spoken), Gujarati, Marathi, Punjabi, Bengali may come easier, the last one with some effort. And learning Bengali would in turn open doors to learning Oriya and Assamese.
Every other day I am pulled into conversation and someone or other solicits my comments or opinion on any topic of current affairs or politics. I try my best to avoid it, simply because I do not have any facts with me. I tell them that I do not possess the basic information or knowledge or expertise on this topic, so I am not the appropriate person to be asked this question. But what shocks me is that my requests as a rule fall on deaf ears as they keep on pressing me for an opinion. Most of the time there is no escape route, i.e., I cannot leave the place or the situation. Then I have to surrender. It is so embarrassing and disgusting. It certainly leaves a bad taste in mouth as I am filled with a deep sense of guilt of committing something which I was not supposed to do. But irrespective of my comment — either in favour or opposition to the proposition — they do not seem to mind my lack of expertise. Nobody seems to mind lack of knowledge or expertise to be a serious issue any more.Continue reading
I am a very kind person. Almost. Whenever I get involved into any discussion, I try my best not to let it turn into an argument. I listen to the other person and let them have their own opinion and point of view. Sometimes. At other times, I get deeply annoyed and irritated, and lose my temper. Most of the time. What is my criterion of a healthy discussion? Besides the generally accepted social norms like not to make personal comments, not to use obscene, vulgar or provocative words, not to make remarks related to caste, creed, religion, gender, social status etc, I also give importance to information. An informed discussion and argument is always a healthy one. But most of the time you would find yourself either witnessing a discussion or yourself getting involved in a discussion with a person or group of people who don’t even have basic information or knowledge about that subject. I agree that having a complete knowledge about any subject or field is nearly impossible and also there is no end to the learning process. The more you explore, the more new questions and doubts arise in your mind. But I am talking about having basic information about the field which you are discussing. Otherwise you are fooling yourself only, given that the other person could be well informed. Well, I have also witnessed arguments where none of the parties had any information about the subject and both of them were giving heated arguments to support their points of view. In such cases, I do the wisest thing possible under the given circumstances — run away.Continue reading
Our individual self consists of body, mind and soul. However, the focus of nearly all our activities is on the body — taking food, doing exercise, and doing things which bring pleasure to our senses. This is further encouraged by print, electronic and social media through regular columns, advertisements and programmes. On the other hand, few people take interest in mental pursuits like reading books, writing, contemplating, analysing, and having deep, thoughtful and meaningful discussions with companions and colleagues. In our society, mental pursuits are mostly limited to collecting degrees and passing competitive exams. And the third part — the soul — is nearly always ignored. Nobody takes a pause to look into oneself, to connect with one’s own self, to search for the meaning of existence and life. So, in a way we are living life with only one-third of ourselves — the body. But mind and soul also demand our attention. If we have ignored our mind all along, then in moments of crisis, we have no idea what to do, we get restless and even trivial problems throw us into panic. And when the soul is starved, we feel it in the form of emptiness and vacuum inside. It is like a child crying out when it is hungry. Only that person leads a truly successful and happy life who gives equal attention to body, mind and soul.
By Rishikesh Vaidya
Let me start by posing a question. I will give you a word, say ‘torch’. Now I will give you two more words, and you have to tell me which of those two words this word closely resembles. So, the two words are ‘question’ and ‘answer’. So tell me, what does the word ‘torch’ closely resemble to? Those who attend my classes would know that mostly my answers are not the expected answers. I tend to think that actually you are coming from a system where you have been told that answers are like torches. You don’t understand the importance of questions because questions are written for you by the author of the book. But the book of life has no author; so you are the author of the book of your life. And very often it is very important to find the right questions to pursue. When you find the right questions, they become torches; without them you are groping in dark. I think questions are the torches. Questions are definite; answers in matters of life can be different for each one of us. And that’s why you have to find your own answers.Continue reading
I am really very sorry. Once again my writing has become irregular. I always try to post a new article on Tuesday morning, and except few gaps, have maintained that consistency for the last 5 years. But for the last one month, the country is in lockdown. And we Kanpurites, notorious as we are, are one of the primary hotspots of the virus attack. That means, we are under severe restrictions, and venturing out of our homes is not allowed. All days appear same, and I have long stopped keeping track of dates and days. While I think it is still Monday, it is in fact already Thursday, and I have missed my weekly post. Continue reading
Once again I seek your apology for the unintended gap in communication. WordPress has again changed its editor and I have been struggling for the last one week to understand how it works. I am not sure if I have understood it completely and correctly, so I would refrain from writing anything important today. It is indeed frustrating to write for an hour or two only to find that all your precious text has been swallowed by the black hole of Internet. Continue reading
A fellow scientist narrated me an incident from his college days. This scientist has a very beautiful deep voice, and sings classical Malayalam songs very nicely, and enjoys it too. When he was in hostel, every morning he used to sing while bathing, getting dressed up and so on.
One day his senior complimented him, “Ajay (name changed)! You have a very beautiful voice, your pronunciation is perfect, and you do understand the ragas very well. Words come out smoothly and it is simple enchanting melody…”.
Ajay was overwhelmed. Perhaps it was the first time that anyone had given him such sincere compliment, that too someone much senior to him. His senior asked who his guru was, whether he had anytime given concerts etc. Ajay told that he was self taught, and that he never thought that he was good enough for giving concerts. On this, the senior gave him a soft rebuke saying that he was wasting his talent, and that he should start learning classical music while he still had time. Though concert would be tough in the beginning, he could at least try giving auditions at the local radio station where they encourage young artists. Ajay grew shy and said that the senior must be joking.
“No, I am not! You can ask anyone in this hostel. Surely you should present your singing at the radio. Promise me that you will.”
The conversation went on for a long time. Finally, Ajay was convinced and promised his senior that he would contact the local radio station at the earliest.
Before leaving, the senior said, “That is good. At least then I would be able to turn the radio off.”