Thursday, July 28, 2011

Anger Out of Control in S.Asia?

I subscribe to Shekhar Kapur's blog as I find it informative and well thought out. Take a recent article. It's about anger and how Shekhar feels it is going out of control, especially in S.Asia.

Ale Enfurecido by Alepando, free clipart
What are the benefits of getting angry?

Anger is agression - a natural defensive human condition. People get angry when they are hurt. Most people find that anger is also very manipulative. Angry people, very often, manage to get their own way which must surely be very gratifying. If getting angry helps us get our way, why would we want to control the emotion?

The downside is that it rarely makes the hurt that accompanied our anger go away. Uncontrolled anger makes us uncaring of the consequences for just a fleeting moment. In that moment, we lose control so completely that our anger controls our actions. It leaves us feeling sorry afterwards, full of regret for what we said or did. We wish we could take it back. Our anger makes the other person angry too. It rarely resolves the issue that made us angry with that person in the first place. In the long run it loses us a lot of friends and makes us feel hostile and unfriendly towards people. Of the two - a person with a cool head and one with a short fuse, I know who I would prefer to trust.

The best time to teach this skill is when people are young, very young. Which brings me to parenting skills.We are not born with parenting skills. Yes, most of us are nurturing by nature. But are our well meaning intentions for our kids enough? Is it enough that we want the absolute best for our kids and nothing less will do? Don't we, especially first time parents, need some basic training too?

For example, how do we best handle kids who throw a tantrum? How do we empower them with skills to express their anger in a constructive way? How do we teach them that resolving an issue is the only way to get rid of their hurt, and consequently, their anger? That the momentary gratification of throwing a tantrum will only leave them feeling lonely and bitter for a long time afterwards?

What are these constructive ways of expressing anger? Let me put it this way - if our kids are ill we take them to specially trained people, in other words, our doctors, for cures. If, or rather, when our kids get angry, we, as parents, need first to learn, and then to impart, constructive anger-channelling skills. Where do we learn these skills?

Online? Courses? Books? There's a lot of information out there on anger management. One of the best parenting skills books I've read is, the very wordy but worthy title

"How To Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen to Kids when They Talk"

Do parenting skills make our kids perfect? Assuredly not! We are humans with human failings and emotions. But parenting skills do give our kids the ability to express their frustration and hurt much better than before. It helps them quickly move on to happier emotions.

One last note on anger in our young ones - the makings of an aggressive bully. It is a habit to be nipped in the bud through adult intervention. It is neither good for the bully nor the bullied. The bully learns to use aggression to overcome what's in his or her path and when that doesn't work in adult life - at the office, for example, becomes frustrated, angry and eventually, probably isolated. I remember a young mum who used to attend school during breaks (in Mumbai) simply to prevent her toddlers from being physically hurt by bullies.

Good on Barrack Obama and Michelle for addressing bullying in schools. When it makes kids commit suicide, it is time for grown ups to step in. This link will give you the details to that story.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Slut Walk

The international "Slut Walk" movement that began in Toronto and went around the world was supposed to happen in Delhi on Jun25 2011. Not sure if it did go ahead. If it did, I doubt if the men who were targeted even began to get the message.
No two people are the same. You cannot designate behaviour to an area, a city, a country or a culture. You will constantly be proved wrong. I can honestly say that most of my friends, colleagues and acquaintances of the opposite sex are relaxed in the company of women. Women, to them are just other human beings to laugh with, to have a chat with and enjoy being with, as are other men.
Still one unavoidably meets others who foist their unwanted attention on women. This is how they try and justify themselves: 
  • ·        women who wear tight or skimpy clothes are asking for it, whatever “it” is.
  • ·        women who smile and chat with them aren’t simply being friendly but asking for it
  • ·        women who are out and about by themselves are asking for the same “it”
  • ·        women who go out with a man before marriage are also asking for it (from any man, especially from themselves)
  • ·        if women are asking for it, they are only too ready to give it
  • ·        that a man is only giving a woman what she deserves when he rapes he
  • ·        that his lust which makes him paw her or rape her in the first place is an issue to be sidelined 
  • .     that his desire to "punish" her legitimises his lust
  • .     that society has to overlook his lust and give his actions credence because he says he only wants to dish out deserved punishment. 
  • ·        that his having no control over his lust isn’t the issue. 
  • ·        that traumatising another human being isn’t the issue

    To change their mind set will take more than a slut walk. If anything, a slut walk will reinforce their conviction that they can and should do all of the above with impunity.

    To change their mind set will take these men to start thinking of women as human beings, equal in intellect and sharing a common bond of humanity. More than anything it will take the fear of swift punishment from the law. It will also take my friends, colleagues and acquaintances and all of civil society to indicate clearly that only the perpetrator of the crime is guilty and never the victim.

    We are a huge country with many different communities and varied ideas of what is okay and what is not, living side by side. If some men use the flimsy excuse of women's mode of dress to justify their touching or molesting women, let civil society not let them get away with it. Let it be as abhorrent to civil society as to the women who are so violated. Let civil society indicate clearly that the perpetrator of the crime is the guilty party and never the victim and that under the common umbrella we all share, the Indian constitution, the perpetrators will be brought to justice.


    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    My First Review from INDIA!

    I said I would let you know when "Never Mind Yaar" is made available in India. I said I'd celebrate the milestone with a link to one of my favourite songs. Well, the song might be just a bit premature because the book is with my Indian Editors. Not yet published in India. They would like to get rid of my explanations for Indian words. I mean everyone, but everyone in India knows who a Daadi or a Chacha is.

    Why write all this today? Well there is a very special reason. I received my first Indian Review. Here it is.

    Monday, July 18, 2011

    How Should Secular Indians Organise?

    A previous post in June 2010 exhorted secular minded Indians to organise. The communal minded already seem to have, under the umbrella of a communal minded politician. The secular minded, on the other hand, are most disorganised. They are happy to co-exist and work or socialize with anyone they like, irrespective of the community they belong to. 

    In today’s climate, with the hardened attitude of the communal minded towards anyone who is different or anyone who, from their own community, is ambiguous about those differences, our laid back, easy going attitude simply isn't enough. 

    How do Secular Indians Organise in a safe and uplifting environment? My answer is guaranteed to surprise. It is simple, do-able and very effective.

    Here are a few key factors to a good organisation

    Accountability is important. It engenders trust. Take our politicians. We generally are wary of them as we feel their accountability to their electorate is lackingHere's a youtube video by Cass Wheeler and Ho Sun Yee on accountability I found especially useful.

    Awareness: Whether through a blog, website, word of mouth, ads or fliers, letting people know we exist is important. It helps us meet other like minded people. 

    My suggestion is, get involved with charities. 
    How would getting involved with charities help us fight communalism - a problem exacerbated by racist politics?

    Charities have both those characteristics - awareness and accountability. The members of any charitable organization will tell us how essential it is to put aside individual egos and work as a team for a cause. They will also tell us they
    • are normally there to right a wrong; to help alleviate pain and injustice.
    • are already organized into a formidable force that makes a difference.
    • are often under resourced but know how to utilise whatever is at hand to make a difference.
    • need all the help they can get. It doesn’t have to be monetary help. Morgan Hunt, in his article about the significance of volunteering time to non profit organizations agrees that donating your time is good for you; sometimes it is better than donating money.
    And I cannot think of any other approach that lets us be altruistic as we simultaneously acquire the many vital skills of belonging to such an organisation.

    This is but a start. This is what so many more of us than ever before, can do right now. 

    In conclusion, the first step to making our communal minded politicians accountable is through getting organized ourselves. Let us give a small portion of our time (daily / weekly / monthly) and our trust to charitable organisations that already exist. We can help them even as they help us get to know and appreciate one another, irrespective of the community we belong to. 


    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Mumbai Blasts - Again

    Why Mumbai? And why so often? Who hates us that much? And WHY?

    Are we an easy target? Is that because we are peaceful and don't interfere with others? Is someone trying to get cash for another major hate filled project? After all one of the three simultaneous blasts was in the gold market - Zaveri Bazaar.

    And another thought that comes to mind - Will we ever come to know answers to any of the above? Or not? Will we ever know the truth?

    On a personal level, everyone must hope family living in Mumbai is okay. 21 lives gone for no fault of their own. What a needless loss. Whose God allows such a crime? Some terrorists say they don't care if they die - life is expendable. Then why do they ensure their families are well looked after when they are gone? Why do the ones who preach them that life is expendable, reassure them thus? Is their family the exception to that concocted-for-convenience belief? Why don't they let their family join them in heaven? Why ensure their well being on earth? I think suicide bombers are as trapped by their circumstances (mostly poverty) as we are by the desire of those who want (and wish for) a different world order where they are in power - the ones who train and enlist these bombers.

    Before this becomes a rant, I know it isn't suicide bombers this time. This time the bombs were planted. Three in all. Simultaneous explosions as in the 1993 Mumbai blasts when there were eleven. As usual, the public rallied around to help the injured. Handcarts, trucks, motorcycles, whatever was at hand was used to transport the injured to hospitals.

    Is there anything the public can do before such an event? Some say it was a tiffin box lying about that concealed the bomb; others say it was in a car. Mumbai is chaotic. Too easy to leave something somewhere with no one paying attention. Terrorists love chaos and thrive in it.

    Perhaps only if we wring order from chaos will we be able to see things clearer. What can we do to prevent packages from being left about?  Be trained through television to be more vigilant? Perhaps drop written complaints or suspicions into boxes? A direct phone line? I think it all sounds like a logistical nightmare with millions of real or imagined suspicions and sightings daily.

    What should we do about vendors or the homeless - arriving into Mumbai in their droves everyday because there is no infrastructure in their towns and villages - clogging our footpaths. Do we turn them away? Mumbai never has. We feel helpless. Perhaps the government should stop collecting tax payer money for their individual Swiss accounts and start on infrastructure for our towns and villages.

    Somethimes I wonder if Swiss accounts were stopped, would poverty be wiped out? But that is another thought for another day.

    How else can we make our beautiful, coastal city less chaotic? How else do we make it difficult for terrorists to stop hurting us? Hope, for starters, the ones who set off these bombs are caught and severely punished. Hope their leaders are exposed and swiftly brought to justice. Hope we can do something to ensure there are no more bombs in Mumbai. Hope we know what that "something" is.

    People are not buying into platitudes from ministers who see an international photo opportunity and mouth platitudes about the "Indian spirit". This is what another blogger writes,

    So, it has happened yet again and all we get to hear is a confirmation from the Hon Home Minister “yes it was a planned terror attack”. Thank you sir for letting us know. Now what about protecting us? The title of this blog post - Bombed!!! Doomed!!! And Living On..... The link:

    India Today's link to today's (yesterday's) blasts:


    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Environmentally Sound Innovation To Make NZ Company Rich

    I have mentioned before that countries that come up with innovations to mop up poisonous, polluting gases from our atmosphere, our waters and soil, will be wealthy. Very wealthy.

    Well, what do you know? New Zealand's  Lanzatech has come up with affordable technology to mop up carbon monoxide from the atmosphere and produce ethanol. Who wants this technology? India, China and the US of A for starters! They have already signed deals with the company.

    Why are such huge volumes of carbon monoxide (and carbon dioxide) spewed into our atmosphere in the first place? They are the end product of human activities like transportation, oil refining, chemical production and manufacturing industries. Our mountains of garbage also release these gases. (links to why these gases are poisonous for our health are at the end of this article.)  That is why mopping them up from the atmosphere is of the utmost importance. 

    Morning Glory
    Countries the world over have strict regualtions about the quantities of carbon monoxide allowed into the atmosphere. They are aware of how poisonous it is to anything living (like human beings or this beautiful flower, Morning Glory by Netalloy downloaded from open clipart) and of the need for these regulations. Companies have had to take that one extra step of converting carbon monoxide their factories spew out into something less harmful. Yet others, although environmental laws are in place, have simply continued spewing carbon monoxide into the atmosphere as the enforcement of these laws in their countries have been lax.

    Many companies convert carbon monoxide into ethanol. Ethanol is a reusable and clean end product that doesn't poison our atmosphere. It has many uses. If used as fuel in transportation, for example, it wouldn't release carbon monoxide as its end product. The Americans already sell cars that use either petrol or a mix of 85% ethanol and 15% petrol   

    The technology for converting these poisonous gases into ethanol has been available for years. Put simply, this is what happens.

    Carbon monoxide with the formula CO has no hydrogen (H) in it.
    Ethanol (C2H5OH) has a total of 6H. 2C and 1O

    Hydrogen would have to be added to carbon monoxide to form ethanol.

    In many industries the unwanted end products are exactly the above two - hydrogen, carbon monoxide - plus other gases. In steel mills the end product is carbon monoxide but no hydrogen. Many steel companies to date have converted carbon monoxide from steel mills to ethanol by adding the hydrogen required. Lanzatech has developed a microbe that can circumvent this step of introducing hydrogen altogether. Its microbe can actually produce the hydrogen required by using the carbon from carbon monoxide and the hydrogen from water. The process is so efficient that a lot of the water they use is returned to the reactor for reuse. Whatever the industry, whatever the proportion of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, the Lanzatech microbe can convert it to ethanol. Also, the process is tolerant to any number of contaminents (other gases) present in the reactor.

    The production of ethanol thanks to the L-microbe (whatever Lanzatech decides to call it) will now be commercially viable, extremely affordable and socially / environmentally sound.

    There are some companies that convert animal and human waste in our sewage to ethanol. But where Lanzatech promises to be different is that its microbe is as harmless as brewers yeast and its process affordable and efficient. I have no doubts that the three countries that have signed up with Lanzatech - India, USA and China - would have done their due diligence because not only are they all astute and business savvy, they have scientists equal to the best in the world.

    To conclude I'd have to say - 

    Thumbs up by Balex, open clipart
    Go Lanzatech!

    See how carbon monoxide poisons our health here. 
    How do we reduce garbage? 
    The seven secrets of good composting are a must read if you don't want a goey mess when you compost:

    Saturday, July 9, 2011

    Four Adults, A Toddler and 2 Dogs

    Today we had some people over who had to bring their dog along because he had nowhere else to go. I anticipated all kinds of trouble because their dog is the size of a pony and ours can just about pull rank over a chihuahua. I was distinctly nervous.

    "Worse comes to worse," I informed our friends by email, "we'll put one dog in the front yard and one in the back. "Don't worry" said the hubby, "It will be alright" - his idea of a solution. "If our dog gives your dog trouble," said our guest, "we'll put him in the car." That sounds like a solution, thought I, relaxing. "I'm sure it will be fine," I wrote back graciously with hubby looking over my shoulder, distinctly amused.

    When I received a call from my daughter - she has started calling pretty regularly much to my delight. The first time she called I squeaked out my delight and she, dry as ever, said with a little laugh, you sound surprised - well, when she called this time, I told her a little boy (as our guests have a 2 year old son) was coming to play with our dog.

    "Oh that's lovely", said my daughter, thrilled for our dog.

    "..and," I continued, "our friends are bringing their big dog as well."

    "Oh, I hope A... will be alright with that," said my daughter. "She is scared of big dogs."

    "Not to worry," I reassured her, "we have plans if the two dogs don't get along."

    Soon our friends were outside our gate. It was lovely to see them. Their dog on a leash they walked in. A... saw the giant and started barking. But I noticed she took two steps back. The giant ambled in and jumped on to a comfortable looking place. A's favourite seat. She went wild, jumping off all fours as she barked her protest.

    She barked when he was offered a toy to chew on, her toy. She barked when we fed him in her bowl and when he drank from her water bowl; She protested when he was allowed indoors for a little while and when we stroked him for being such a gentle giant. When she momentarily forgot the big dog invading her territory, our little vixen in disguise adored the cuddles that came her way too . I think, given time, the two could be good friends!

    The little boy was a darling. Ate mince and potato cutlets and roti dipped in gravy like a seasoned Indian, played with the hose, with the dogs, with half a dozen balls and then at the park kept his mum and my hubby on their toes as he discovered the swing, the adventure gym, the slides. His dad looked after their dog and I looked after ours. The adults had lots of opportunity to chat in between minding all our kids - human and canine.

    It is really good to have company from time to time.


    Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    The Computer Swallowed Grandma

    This was sent to me by my sister. I normally try and post my own original content. But couldn't resist this. I tried looking for the original author so I could acknowledge him or her. But all 985,000 results - well at least the first two pages said the author was unknown. If anyone knows do let me know.

    And now the poem

    The computer swallowed grandma.
    Yes, honestly its  true!
    She pressed 'control' and 'enter'
    And disappeared from view.

    It  devoured her completely,
    The thought just makes me squirm.
    She must have  caught a virus
    Or been eaten by a worm.

    I've  searched through the  recycle bin
    And  files of every kind;
    I've even used the  Internet,
    But nothing did I find.
    In desperation, I asked Google
    My  searches to refine.
    The reply from him was negative,
    Not a thing was  found 'online.'  

    So, if inside your 'Inbox,'
    My  Grandma you should see,
    Please 'Copy,''Scan' and 'Paste' her
    And send  her back to me.


    Monday, July 4, 2011

    Teaching Adults to Read and Write English

    I’ve always wanted to teach but somehow never really had the opportunity. Both my kids are at University and live in another city so I guess I do have free time now.

    Okay, I decide, it’s now or never. Let’s seriously think about it. Why do I think I qualify? Well I speak, read and write the language don’t I? As I soon discover, there’s more to teaching adults to read and write than just that.

    My first port of call is the volunteer centre. They inform me there are courses for would-be tutors. That sounds good to me. I'm glad I'd have some training before I am let loose on poor, hapless learners. Armed with an address I make an appointment with one of the organisations that runs these courses. After a few initial hiccups (my foreign face and different accent has led them to believe I want to learn to read and write and I have to clarify I want to teach) they enrol me for a teacher's training class.

    The course is to be a total of eighty hours – forty theory and forty, the practicum. Happy that things are finally moving in the right direction I land up for my first class.

    There are six of us in the class and a young teacher. She introduces herself – she’s been teaching this course for eleven years. Impressive! As the classes progress all of us trainee tutors realise there's more to teaching English to adults than we've suspected.

    Here are a few pointers. First, adults come with a life time of experiences and cannot be taught like kids – with no reasons given as to the relevance of teaching them certain things. And no! “You need to know this” doesn’t work. They lose the incentive to learn unless things are contextual or of relevance to each individual learner.

    Say, a learner wants to apply for a job or wishes to learn driving.  Her main worry is that she won’t understand what the driving instructor tells her to do or that she won’t be able to fill in the forms or pass the written test. How do you teach her to speak, read and write English with this in mind?

    You certainly don’t start with “A is for apple, B is for ball” You teach her the language with relevance to her final goal. Road signs, the road code, filling in sample forms are good places to start. Ask her if she likes the idea. It is essential to discuss what will be taught and why - to have the learner's buy in. These are adults we are dealing with, remember? For each learner, depending on his or her goal, depending on his or her initial degree of literacy, we hammer out different learning plans.

    There are many tutoring strategies for reading, writing, spelling, grammar, punctuation, technology and numeracy. As a trainee tutor, one feels grateful that all these methods are discussed and are therefore made available to each of us as resources we could use for teaching. We are told our ultimate goal should be to ensure the learner becomes independent and feels fulfilled; that he or she can learn anything they set their mind to; that they can contribute to society and express their points of view with confidence.

    One of the most original methods we are taught is “language experience.” The learner is encouraged to speak something contextual – for example a little about him or herself. As the learner speaks the tutor writes down what they say, word for word. (The learner already knows why you are furiously taking down every word he or she utters or like Eliza Dolittle they’d be extremely alarmed!) Then pointing to each word you’ve written you read it out aloud. Next, you ask the learner to read it out. Each learner uses different methods to figure out the words and if you are a clever or an experienced tutor you are able to point out their preferred style of reading to understand. If the learner consciously understands his or her own way of unscrambling what’s written, they notch up another skill - that of understanding their favourite style of learning or unscrambling. This helps them in whatever they undertake to learn in future.

    I am half way through my course. I'm looking forward to teaching although I am not as confident as I was before I started this course. What is even more humbling is that what I am doing is only an entry level course. There obviously is so much more besides what I'm being taught to teach. And there is the other unspoken fear. Will I be a good teacher? I'll keep you posted.

    One final word. There are a lot of free resources available online for whoever is interested in finding out more about teaching adults to read and write.

    Part ii.