Thursday, December 29, 2011

Its Fungi

It was sometime in October 2011, I went for a evening walk to embrace the last showers of monsoon in Bangalore. It was a beautiful evening and the moon was hiding behind the dark clouds. The rate at which I was walking was slower than the darkness taking over that evening. When I was walking back to my place, I noticed an unusual friend sprouted over a Bauhinia tree. It was barely visible and the buildings around the tree let some light on it allowing me to get a glimpse of what it is. I was awestruck and I think for the first time in 4 years or 5 years I witnessed this interesting fellow on the tree. I soon got curious and decided to come back the next morning.

I woke up to the early sun, took my lens and hit the road. It had poured throughout the night and the roads were very wet. I was also worried if the rain caused any damage to what I had seen in the night. I started looking around for the same surprise on all the trees along the road. I did not succeed in spotting it on any other tree. 

I reached the place and the tree looked wonderful. The house owner was sweeping in front of the gate and started at me for a while. I ignored her presence and was observing the beauty in front of my eyes. After a while an old woman came out of the house. She was curious to know what this stranger-with-a-camera is doing at the tree. Then she instantly realized what it was. I guessed not many people stop for such things anyway. I told her "Ajji... this thing here looked interesting in the night and hence I came to see it". She said "that is very nice of you to come back to see it" "its beautiful" she said. I told her that "this is the first time I am noticing it in the past 4 years". She told me that its there since 2 months. I took her permission to capture some photographs.  I was very careful and I did not cause any damage to them. Thanks to the BNHS field botany course that am doing currently, am getting curious about every little thing I see in nature. It was interesting to speak to that ajji as well. Even now she smiles at me whenever I walk in front of her house. 

Its Fungi!  (I do not know the ID yet)

2011, Srikanth Parthasarathy

Saturday, December 24, 2011

art and emotion

Excerpt from the book "Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman" by Richard P Feynman

I wanted to very much learn to draw, for a reason that I kept of the world. It's difficult to describe because it's an emotion. It's analogous to the feeling one has in religion that has to do with a god that controls everything in the whole universe: there's a generality aspect that you feel when you think about how things that appear so different and behave so differently are all run "behind the scenes" by the same organization, the same physical laws. It's an appreciation of the mathematical beauty of nature, of how she works inside; a realization that the phenomena we see result from the complexity of the inner workings between atoms; a feeling of how dramatic and wonderful it is. It's a feeling of awe - of scientific awe - which I felt could be communicated through a drawing to someone who had also had this emotion. It could remind him, for a moment, of this feeling about the glories of the universe. 


Hmmm. I do not know whether he could actually draw what he wanted to. But he has conveyed the message of course. 


Thursday, December 22, 2011

illumination in sleep

tis' a strange day for the spirit,
breathing cold on a warm mattress
thinking ahead, the time and distance
perhaps here or the world around
eyes gets closed, letting those dreams
to open, never mind the pain
but the stories that are left behind
every breath has a story to be told
and every story has its breath in hold
many are unfinished yet, and some
are now being written in dreams

when the window brightens, the light
slowly moves over the face, like
how sun crawls over the mountains
or like the river flows through the dawn
serene silence all around
I sit comfortably numb on a couch
gazing through the door, half closed
with an unfinished book, open
trying to read the mind, the other side
waiting to hear all the stories, untold
and are getting illuminated in sleep


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple at Nandi

The Bhoga Nandeeshwara temple in Nandi village is one of the oldest temples in Karnataka dating back to the ninth century. The temple hewn out of rock consists of two complexes. While the first complex houses three deities, the second complex consists of a huge and majestic kalyani pond. The foundation of the temple was constructed by the Banas of ninth century. The Chola rulers of the 11th century constructed the roof of the temple. The marriage hall was built by the Hoysalas in the thirteenth century and a wall of the second complex was built by the Vijayanagar kings. (Source)

Recently during a friend's wedding, I could click some photographs of this temple.

The wheels made of stones. In the past these were used for the chariots I guess.

It takes skill to create gods. Certainly!
And when they are created...

Wonder who was in need of these stone made umbrellas. Carvings are just wonderful.

The stone made umbrella inside the main temple.

The top of the umbrella.

Ugra Narasimha on one of the pillars.

Pillars and Colors.

Pillars inside the main temple of Bhoga Nandeeshwara.

A mantap at the north-west corner of the 1st complex.

Snake gods and the red hibiscus.

Pillars at the marriage hall complex

Entry to the huge Kalyani

Mantap inside the huge marriage hall.

The gorgeous kalyani

Pillars and the reflection

Illumination in sleep

from here to eternity

Angles and Shadows

 (C) Srikanth Parthasarathy, 2011
Thank you

Saturday, December 17, 2011

the good earth is dying

Excerpt from the book The Roving Mind by Isaac Asimov

The mass of humanity has been increasing throughout history; and it is still increasing, but is doing so at the expense of other forms of animal life. Every additional kilogram of humanity has meant, as a matter of absolute necessity, one less kilogram of nonhuman animal life. We might argue, then, that the earth can support, as a maximum, a mass of mankind equal to the present mass of all animal life. At that point, the number of human beings on the earth would be forty million million, or over eleven thousand times the present number. And no other species of animal life would then exist. 

I re read - it is forty million million? hmm.. the good earth is dying for sure. And how do we even know we are ignorant? And our mass has no direction I guess.


worthy crop

Excerpt from the book The Roving Mind by Isaac Asimov

If, then, we tried to develop a society that made sure that pregnant mothers were well cared for and babies well nourished everywhere, if psychological and social surroundings were healthy everywhere, if we developed a system of education that encouraged intelligence everywhere and if we made no artificial distinctions of appearance, language, or ways of life - if, in short, we developed a sane and just society - we would find ourselves harvesting highly intelligent children all over the world, and it would be a crop worth more to the human species than anything else conceivable. 

Well, sigh. If we....


Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Excerpt from the book Feynman's Rainbow by Leonard Mlodinow

There is a flip side to the comforting knowledge that everyone is stumbling through the fog, and that is that it is a pretty good bet that many of them are not stumbling in the right direction. Who is going down the blind alley and who is on the road to success? Whose work will be remembered and whose forgotten? What is worth doing, and how do you know? - Leonard Mlodinow

Explore. And like what Feynman says - 'Check out what other people are doing. Open yourself to others'.


finding potentiality

Excerpt from the book Feynman's Rainbow by Leonard Mlodinow

A scientist's work is normal activities of humans carried out to a fault, in a very exaggerated form. Ordinary people don't do it as often, or, as i do, think about the same problem every day. Only idiots like me do that! or Darwin, or somebody who worries about the same question. "Where do the animals come from?" or "What is the relation of species?" A scientist works on it, and thinks about it for years. What I do, is something that common people often do, but so much more that it looks crazy! But it's trying to find the potentiality as a human being. - Feynman to Leonard

Finding the greatest potentiality of human beings' activity in a certain direction is the key. It is to do something with an intensity that is out of the ordinary. 


the ordinary world

Excerpt from the book Feynman's Rainbow by Leonard Mlodinow

Don't think it is so different, being a scientist. The average person is not so far away from a scientist. He may be far away from an artist or poet or something, but I doubt that too. I think in the normal common sense of everyday life that there is a lot of the kind of thinking that scientists do. Everyone puts together in ordinary life certain things to come to conclusions about the ordinary world. They make things that weren't there, such as drawings, such as writing, such as scientific theories. Is there something common in the process? I don't see such a big difference between that and the scientist's work. 

For instance, an ordinary person can lie, and lying takes a certain imagination. And you have to make up a story that is sort of reasonable with nature, and it might even have to fit with certain facts. Sometimes they do a good job. They don't have to be scientists or writers.

-Feynman to Leonard -

Well, there is a lot more an ordinary person can perform. All of us are ordinary in someway or the other. All it takes is to be and make! (SV's saying)


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Beautiful Tree by James Tooley

Since I could not sustain my curiosity of reading this book, I bought it and finished reading it. It is one of the best books I have ever read on the subject of education. As the signature line says, it’s the “personal journey into how the world’s poorest people are educating themselves.’ Thanks to James Tooley, the author of the book for his brave attempt to bring in some of the ignored realities across the nations. Without his radical thinking and self motivated efforts, he would not have found out an alternative that already existed to the current public education system.

James’s dedicated efforts and brilliant research in India, Nige­ria, Ghana, Kenya and China chal­lenged some of his pre­vi­ously held beliefs about the impor­tance of improv­ing pub­lic edu­ca­tion in the devel­op­ing world. Con­trary to the insis­tences of pol­i­cy­mak­ers, bureau­crats, and development experts, James found that there are very many low-cost pri­vate schools oper­at­ing in even extremely poor areas.  I could very much relate to this because of my own experience and the places I grew up during my childhood. Places were filled with private schools (they used to call ‘convent’ schools). Even if they do not teach anything in English, they were named as ‘English’ Schools. After reading this book, it became very evident that it’s the same case with all the developing countries. The objective is to give ‘Education’ to all and the only option for the poor is to opt for the free education at the government schools. But parents and children across the countries are also concerned about having alternative options and the quality of education at the government schools. As James writes, “The poor engage in self-help and vote with their feet,” leaving the state services for self-funded and self-created alternatives.

James begins his journey in India and takes us on an unbelievable journey to the East Asia and African countries. He closely observes the efforts of poor communities in education, and finds competent, committed entrepreneurs in slums who have started schools in two-room apartments as well as entire buildings, catering primarily to lowest income neighborhood children. In his stories of these schools, he explores the young, passionate teachers, inspiring entrepreneurs, and self evolved teaching models that work to ensure that students are engaged and learning. A large number of the schools James surveys are unrecognized, since getting the permissions required for a license remain highly cumbersome. Yet he finds that even among the unrecognized private schools, average teacher attendance, and English and math proficiency surpass the apathetic government school system.

Although the existing system tries to give free education for the poor, it is inaccessible for a large mass of people. And in some countries it is expensive (requirements like uniforms, books, transport) compared to other private schools in the community. In our case in India, the universal education has been historically sidelined in government budgets, and school policy has suffered in the tug of war between the center and the states. And if such state-funded education has suffered from politics or bad policy, the only alternative we see is the explosion of private schools.

It was a very moving experience to read the stories of his journey to these countries and the way he achieved his vision. It was also deeply disturbing to know that so called development experts, the funding agencies and the government were not very helpful for James to carry out his research. All of them resisted him to perform this research in their countries. Sadly, none of them were even aware that the private schooling is creating such a huge impact in their own countries. Every person James meets with in any of the countries he visited kept repeating the same statement again and again – “there are no private schools for the poor. Private schools are only for rich people”. Some of them were even rude to him as well. Without making all those enemies, James could not have become closer to many others who were in need of his wonderful work. Well, what was discovered later was something miraculous.

It was delightful to read the chapter ‘The Men Who Uprooted The Beautiful Tree’. I was even more thrilled to know that the expression The Beautiful Tree was coined by Mahatma Gandhi. Starting with Gandhi and his efforts in making education available for all, James tells us stories about all those philosophers and thinkers in the past and made a world of a difference to the education system. I was also kind of surprised to learn that Dr. Andrew Bell in the 18th century learned from a school in Madras (now Chennai) region on how a community can self-educate themselves. He called it as the ‘Madras Method’ and published about the same. He was so impressed with this method that he returned to London in 1797 and published the description of his ‘Madras Method’. Following that, he was in great demand to introduce the system in British Schools. By 1821, 300,000 children were being educated under this method. His ideas were adopted around the Europe, and as far away as the West Indies and Bogota, Columbia. And eventually this method did so much to raise the educational standards across the world. The chapter ends of course with Macaulay’s accomplishments and his greatest contributions ever to the field of Education with some unbelievable statistics.

The last chapter deals with the potential solutions for all the challenges on hand. Some of them, includes, Milton Friedman’s voucher system and James’ discovery of alternative low-cost private education. To achieve 100% universal education for all by 2015, as one can understand from the book, countries need not depend only on the public education. They have a lot of alternative ways to look at it. Some of the problems that they need to address include dysfunctional/inaccessible public schools, educational quality and reliability on the system. What James proposes and also experimented in a smaller groups (of course ensuring complete care while implementing) are as under:
  • To extend the private schools to created targeted vouchers for the poorest 
  • The schools (private) can cash these vouchers from the agency providing them ensuring they are sustained and work more towards earning more vouchers by creating good name by providing good education. 
  • Furthermore the targeted vouchers can also include supplements for textbooks and even midday meals, to allow poorest to have the education that the wealthier-of-the-poor parents can afford.
James has given a very detailed explanation on all the potential solutions in the last chapter and also has worked on the potential objections that may arise out of them. But like what he says in the end “Even as things stand now, with current levels of aid funding and without touching any government funds currently being spent on public education, so with no need to reform and public finance, I reckon we could afford to send every out-of-the-school child to private school”.

It surely is an inspiring journey into the lives of families and teachers in the poorest communities who have successfully created their own private schools in response to the failed public education. James Tooley with his outstanding efforts of growing ‘the beautiful tree’ has touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. The book is a delightful read and gives a lot of hope.

Author: James Tooley
Pages: 302
Publisher: Cato Institute
Published: April 2009