Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Technology And Its Impact On Children

This was sent to me by my father, based on his experiences in dealing with my nephews and observing other kids where he lives in India. Enjoy - Sri

I am amazed at the way children are able to make use of the technological inventions which have sprouted in the last few years. Gone are the days when they were satisfied with simple electronic toys or cartoons like Tom and Jerry or Donald Duck.

What fascinates children, are the new game platforms which are proliferating. The makers of these games are targeting kids right from the primary stage in education. Usually the profile of the children is that they belong to families where both parents are well employed. So money is no constraint and they are able to buy the latest offerings frequently even if they cost a few thousands of Rupees.

We feel happy when we see the ease with which the kids are able to understand and play these games. What is disturbing is that the children become obsessed with these games and sit glued to the computers for hours together. They neither see nor hear other things. They stop only under parental compulsion. Even when they are not playing, their mind is possessed by these games and they compare notes with their friends who, like them, are addicted to the past time.

The other possible fall-outs from this could be;
a) They may not find time for their studies
b) Reading books will become out of fashion
c) They will have very little time for interacting with other family members.

Tackling this problem is not going to be easy. If one tries to ban these games from the house, it will cause resentment. The children will feel that their peers will look down upon them.

The first step that can be taken is to talk to them and convince them to reduce the time they spend on this activity to, say, 1 hour per day. Other steps that can be thought of are to encourage and persuade them to widen their interest. They can be advised to take up swimming, playing games involving physical activities like football, basketball etc. They can also be guided to take up some branch of music.

The idea behind all this is to develop a package of activities for them, so that they will have no time or inclination to over indulge in any of these games. Their life will become sort of balance.

K. Sivaramakrishnan

Monday, April 4, 2011

India 2011 – Scribbles

I feel invigorated. We just came back a week ago from visiting family in India. Although I spent two weeks over there, it wasn’t enough at all. But I made the most of it.

After an unpredictable flight into Bombay by Air India (with Air India, it is mostly unpredictable), I was greeted by my daughter running towards me and jumping on me at the airport. What a welcome!

Most of my family, and my wife and her family had come to the airport to receive me. Another welcome was the warm weather after the never-ending cold weather in NYC.

Choo Choo Train
Tvisha had wanted to experience a long distance train ride, and we decided to travel to Pune by train, and spend a couple of days there.

We reached Victoria Terminus, the starting point for the train. After negotiating the opportunistic porters, security, navigating around hoards of people sitting on the floor or standing or looking for their trains like we were, around cartons and many other obstacles, we finally reached the platform where our train Udyan Express was stationed.

We had to walk past almost 14 cars till we got to our car. Anita almost quit on Tvisha and me, after walking past the dirt and grime on the platform, and the obnoxious smell from the railway tracks. I kept saying to her, it would get better ☺.

There was some improvement, although the train car was like 100 years old and looked like it had seen better times.

The train ride to Pune was a fantastic experience, as it brought back so many memories of the countless long distance trips I have made by train with my family – the constant hustle and bustle of people and vendors in and out the train in the platform, people selling all kinds of things and the best part, the fellow passengers! One gets to meet some really nice people on these train rides, usually.

Wife and daughter

Posing in the train - Wife and I (I could do better :-))

The conductor was nice enough to pose for us :-)

We met a nice person by the name of Satish Kusurkar on his way to Pune on an official trip, with whom we got talking and built a good rapport with him. He was gracious enough to narrate a story to Tvisha about an elephant and wolves, which she thoroughly enjoyed. Satish, it was really nice to get to know you. Thanks ☺

The travel to Pune was around 3 hours 45 minutes. We slept a lot while in Pune, met my vocal lessons teacher who I had only met virtually, did some shopping, and went to the famous Dagdu Sheth Ganesh temple. We dined at what I thought would be a great restaurant serving traditional Maharashtrian food, which turned out to be horrible. We also spent precious time with one of my close friends and his family.

Finally it was time to head back to Bombay. The train ride back sucked. It was a chair car, with all seats facing in one direction, and was pretty cramped and very crowded unlike the ride in, which was wonderful.

A couple of days later my entire family, wife and kid, and my father in law headed to Manas resort in Igatpuri near Nasik with the promise of a good time. Nasik is a city a few hours away from Bombay and is famous for its grapes and vineries that have come up there.

Although it was hot (110-115 degrees F) the drive was wonderful. We had to drive through the ghat section and the roads were well laid out. The resort was just around 60 miles away.

We got there around late afternoon. We had rented a villa with a common gathering room and 3 bedrooms. It was a very relaxing time spent together with family. I got to play badminton after years, and carrom as well. My brother and I sang a bunch of Hindi songs and some of the great Beatles melodies late into the night, and everyone else had a great time listening to us and joining when they could.

The resort also had a swimming pool where may daughter and her cousins had loads of fun, spa services where I enjoyed a good massage, there was coloring for the kids, a library, and one could also learn how to make small oil lamps out of mud. I loved that, and I think I didn’t too badly, it being the first time ☺.

I also met the chef there at the local restaurant, after I really liked a few of the dishes he had produced. I got the recipes for the same, and will be posting them after some modifications in my other blog,

The kids loving the pool with other kids in the resort

My brother warming up

Hanging out with family and early morning coffee

Wife trying her hand in making an oil lamp :-)

She was jealous of my finished product ;-) just kidding!

Holi Fire

On the way back - liked this formation

On the way back we took a detour and went to a small town called Titwaala, famous for its Ganesh temple. I hadn’t been to that temple in around 15 years or so. We got back home late in the evening.

Errands and meeting friends
While in India, I could only meet a few of my friends since the time was short, we were traveling quite a bit, and it was very hectic. I did manage to call some of them and regret having not called/met the others I wanted to.

I took my wife to a few of my favorite eating places to eat pani puri, dahi puri, samosa, bhel, vada pav and sev puri. Only a couple of joints have remained the same in terms of taste, and the rest of them have slid down the rating scale.

Most of the last week we were there was spent with 3 Indian banks trying to get our things in order. It is mind boggling, the process that one needs to go through to get things done. I suppose it is necessary given the safety measures the banks have, but even then, if one is not patient or does not take notes or pay attention, then God save you! One could start a blog to assist people who want help when they are banking in India ☺. The one good thing was that the people who worked in the bank were extremely helpful.

Compared to last year, Tvisha did well health wise this time. We kind of won the battle against the mosquitoes. When you travel to India, never leave home without a can of 'Off' the mosquito repellent as a companion, or else you will really be turned off by the mosquitoes!

She developed heat boils though all over her face, hands and legs and was in real trouble, scratching herself all the time to the extent that she wouldn’t be able to sleep. The answer to this, thanks to our friend, was Neem leaves. Pluck them off the tree, soak them in water overnight, and then add hot water and bathe in that. As simple as that. A couple of days and all the heat boils disappeared. I didn’t know that neem is a tremendous anti oxidant and has great healing powers.

My birthplace and hometown! Every time I visit, it never ceases to amaze me. Now I see taller and taller buildings being built every time I go there, the real estate prices soaring through the roof, the gap between the rich and poor getting wider and wider, all kinds of new cars being introduced with the latest of all the cars plying on the road.

It is beginning to look like the West in terms of the materialistic things. But the one thing that hasn’t yet changed at a certain level is the people and their niceness. That can’t be substituted by anything, and keeps me wanting to go back there again and again, and each time I keep entertaining the thought of moving back there.

I did a lot of eating out, trying out my favorite joints, bought a lot of music back and got to spend a decent time with my family, although I wish I could have done more of that.

Anita, Tvisha and I really enjoyed our stay there this time, especially not having to worry about Tvisha and her health.

Damn it!
All good things do come to and end. From a 110 + degree F weather, landing at JFK to a 30 degree F weather was a rude awakener, making me think why the hell did I even come back ☺.

By the way, India won the cricket world cup after 28 long years!!!!! Way to go!!!!!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

America – The Land of the Free and Home of the Brave

This essay was written by my friends Balaji and Priya's son Yash. I wanted to share this with you as it is so beautifully written. Yash was 11 years old when he wrote this.

The topic for the contest was "America: The Land of the Free and Home of the Brave". This was the winning entry.....1st place Chapter, 1st place State, 1st place Eastern Division (Washington D.C., MD,NJ,DE, PA,MA,VA ) and 1st place National.

America –
The Land of the Free and Home of the Brave

As the sun inched forward, Sam felt his life ebb away. It was fitting, he thought. He lay in his own blood, the rifle still warm in his hand. The battle had only lasted three days, but had marred the land in red. Sam had broken through Pickett’s Charge, taking out many Confederates singlehandedly. When the first bullet pierced his flesh, he felt no fear or remorse. “If this was the price of freedom, so be it!”

It was pitch dark. Sam’s lungs were bursting. The smoke had enveloped everything, even the deafening screams. Pain seared through him. He was trapped. Chaos and terror was what he had walked into when he entered the building this morning, but there was no time to think. He rushed in to help the hundreds trapped above. Now, every breath was a labor. The building shuddered. He knew the end was near.

The color of his skin had destined Sam to toil in the fields, but Sam was not one to accept destiny. His faith that God had created all men equal, had driven him to loosen the shackles of slavery, and escape to Pennsylvania to join the Union. Braving the elements, and the risk of getting caught, Sam joined the Union Army. Three days of endless fighting, and all Sam wanted now was to sleep.

Sam woke up. It wasn’t the alarm or the baby. It was him … and a strange restless feeling. Even the coffee didn’t help. He checked in on the baby. She looked angelic sleeping in her mother’s arms. His wife, peacefully asleep, had never looked as beautiful as she did today. He couldn’t believe how fast the years had passed by – she had been his high school sweetheart. The trance was broken. The T.V. news reporter’s monotonous babble rose a few pitches. Sam turned around to watch the horror unfold.

The battlefield was marked by the dead and the dying. The Confederates and Union troops had clashed here mercilessly, but in death they became one, for they bled the same red.

The streets were red, dotted with fire trucks. Sam flashed his N.Y. Fire Department badge at the officer, and said, “Off duty!” He raced up the floors, bringing many to safety. The building shuddered. More screams. It was the last time that Sam went up that staircase.

The sun was up now, and so was the Union flag. Yes, it was fitting! The shackles of slavery were finally broken. Sam had beaten destiny. His last breath was his first of freedom. He was free at last.
Cemetery Hill, Gettysburg. July 3, 1863.

It was eerily silent, but Sam could hear his wife’s voice, and his daughter’s first word, “Da”. The building shuddered again. Sam closed his eyes. With a hand on his heart he began to softly sing, “The Star Spangled Banner”. His world came crashing down. World Trade Center, South Tower, New York. September 11, 2001.

Yash Balaji