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By Somrita Ghosh
New Delhi: The best memories of students are perhaps of hostel life. From dormitory days to winning any sports event, from celebrating birthdays to supporting each other during tough times, the stories are never ending. And these memories are reignited in a new work penned by a headmaster and narrated from his point of view.
“With a Little Help from My Friends” (Rupa, pp 222, Rs. 250) is a tell-all memoir replete with some of Dev Lahiri’s fondest memories surrounding his college days, his decision to leave a well-paid job and re-start his career as the headmaster of a boarding school and going on to be associated with some renowned schools across the country.
His journey as a headmaster was also riddled with controversies. The book is an account of the challenges that come with heading a residential school in India to the loneliness and vulnerability associated with the job.
“Boarding schools are very important in today’s tuition-driven culture because they provide an opportunity to their students to acquire a holistic education,” Lahiri, who has been the headmaster of prestigious institutions like Lawrence School, Lovedale and Welham Boy’s School, as also as housemaster at Doon School, told reporters in an interview.
“Also, in most boarding schools, children grow up making no distinction between themselves on the basis of caste, religion, region and what-have-you. These schools also teach students to be very self-sufficient,” Lahiri told reporters in an interview.
Ragging and bullying often become a major issue in boarding schools. Lahiri too had to face the wrath of parents when his students became victims of ragging.
“The first step in tackling ragging is to acknowledge that it exists, which unfortunately most institutions are unwilling to do. The next challenge is to get the victims to speak up and break the conspiracy of silence that surrounds the issue. It requires a huge team effort on the part of all stakeholders – teachers, students, parents and the management to tackle this menace,” said the now-retired principal, who currently resides at Dehradun.
Talking of teenagers, Lahiri said that they need to be handled with a mixture of firmness and kindness.
“The boundaries that they can, and cannot, the cross should be clearly defined – and better so in consultation with them and with their consent. The most important thing is to “be there for them” and to make them know that they are respected and cared for – but that they have to reciprocate as well,” added the author.
In an era where parents push their children to extremes in education, Lahiri strongly felt that schools are not the place where a student’s career should be decided.
“In my view, schools should be the place where we open up the child’s mind to all the possibilities that surround him/her and equip him/her with the wherewithal to make the decision at the appropriate time – which is much later. Unfortunately, in our system we ‘box’ children in from as early as Class 9. Having said that, it is important to encourage children to experiment, explore and discover for themselves where their greatest talent (and happiness) lies,” Lahiri maintained.
The author also voiced concern over the Indian education system falling behind other countries.
“In India, school education has never really been a priority for our planners and so we are being left behind quite rapidly. The movement has been away from ‘content’ to ‘skills’ for the new world order, but in India the focus, by and large, is still on content,” he responded.
Lahiri also raised concerns over imparting education right way in schools and colleges.
“We have to give school education the primacy it deserves. There is no systematic, scientific programme of teacher training in this country and that needs to be a priority area. The focus in classrooms will have to be to move away from content and rote learning to encourage children to think for themselves, ask questions, be critical, engage in team work, take part in research and reference, respect diversity and communicate effectively,” Lahiri contended. (IANS)
Diwali is arguably one of the most auspicious and celebrated holidays in South Asia. It is celebrated over the span of five days, where the third is considered most important and known as Diwali. During Diwali people come together to light, lamps, and diyas, savour sweet delicacies and pray to the lord. The day has various origin stories with the main them being the victory of good over evil. While the North celebrates the return of Lord Rama and Devi Sita to Ayodhya, the South rejoices in the victory of Lord Krishna and his consort Satyabhama over evil Narakasura.
Narakasura- The great mythical demon King
Naraka or Narakasur was the son of Bhudevi (Goddess Earth) and fathered either by the Varaha incarnation of Vishnu or Hiranyaksha. He grew to be a powerful demon king and became the legendary progenitor of all three dynasties of Pragjyotisha-Kamarupa, and the founding ruler of the legendary Bhauma dynasty of Pragjyotisha.
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Narakasura was created, grew up to be strong and powerful but he was not satisfied with it, so he decided that he would worship Lord Brahma. He performed severe penance and was driven by the power of his penance; Lord Brahma appeared before him. Narakasura knew his mother loved him dearly so he asked Lord Brahma to grant him a boon that he would only die by the hands of his mother, Bhumidevi. Lord Brahma smile and ultimately granted him the boon.
Narakasura burst out laughing as Lord Brahma vanished. He thought no mother would kill their child so Lord Brahma had made him immortal. Drunk and maddened by his own power Narakasura brought all the kingdoms under his control and targeted Swargalok (Heaven). Even Indra (King of Gods) and demi-gods had to retreat in front of Narakasura. He kidnapped and took 16,000 women from the palaces as prisoners. Troubled by Naraksura's deeds the gods rushed to Lord Vishnu for a solution.
Lord Krishna and Devi Satyabhama were born to kill Narakasura
Lord Vishnu was born as Lord Krishna and Narakasura's mother Bhumidevi took the avatar of Krishna's wife Satyabhama. As Satyabhama, Bhumidevi was unaware of the knowledge of Naraksura being her son. Aditi the mother of all gods approached Satyabhama crying for help with bloodied ears as Narakasura had torn off the glowing earrings from the ears of Aditi.
Satyabhama was furious on gaining the knowledge of Narakasura's atrocities she asked Krishna to fight the demon king while she fights alongside him. Krishna agreed and they attacked the great fortress of Narakasura, riding his mount Garuda with his wife Satyabhama.
The furious battle unleashed. Krishna defeated Narakasura's general Mura and came to be known as Murari (the killer of Mura). Narakasura used several divine weapons against Krishna, but Krishna slew all those weapons effortlessly. The demon hurled a shakti towards Krishna, which mildly hurt Krishna and he fell unconscious. Upon this sight Satyabhama was enraged, she furiously pulled out a weapon of her own and hurled it at Narakasura's chest. Anxious Satyabhama turned to her fallen Lord, Krishna got up with a smile and he was completely fine. He was only playing his part. It was Satyabhama who was an incarnation of Bhoomidevi, whose hands were destined to slay Narakasura.
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Lord Krishna and Goddess Satyabhama had put an end to the Narakasura's kingdom of evil. As Narakasura lay on his deathbed he realised that Satyabhama was no one but an avatar of his own mother. He requested a boon from his mother, for no one to mourn his death. Instead, he wished for people to celebrate it with light and colours. They freed the 16,000 women who later married Lord Krishna to restore them of their honour in society, retrieved Mother goddess's earrings. This day is celebrated as 'Naraka Chaturdashi' popularly known as Choti Diwali - the day before Diwali as the triumph of good over evil.
Keywords: Diwali festival, goddess Laxmi, demon king, Lord Krishna, Satyabhama, the festival of light, Naraksura, Narak Chaturdashi
For all the great inventions that we have at hand, it is amazing how we keep going back to the safety pin every single time to fix everything. Be it tears in our clothes, to fix our broken things, to clean our teeth and nails when toothpicks are unavailable, to accessorize our clothes, and of course, as an integral part of the Indian saree. Safety pins are a must-have in our homes. But how did they come about at all?
The safety pin was invented at a time when brooches existed. They were used by the Greeks and Romans quite extensively. A man named Walter Hunt picked up a piece of brass and coiled it into the safety pin we know today. He did it just to pay off his debt. He even sold the patent rights of this seemingly insignificant invention just so that his debtors would leave him alone.
Anyone wearing safety pins that were visible began to be associated with the rock movement in the 70s. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Later, he even invented the sewing needles and a couple of other important inventions but never kept any of the patent rights.
When the punk rock tradition took over in the seventies, safety pins became a fashion rage. They were used as piercings and to patch clothes together. Anyone wearing safety pins that were visible began to be associated with the rock movement. In some cultures, the safety pins have become symbols of good luck.
Keywords: Safety-pins, Punk Rock, Brass, Accessories, Walter Hunt
In South India, Deepavali marks the end of the monsoon and heralds the start of winter. The festival is usually observed in the weeks following heavy rain, and just before the first cold spell in the peninsula. The light and laughter that comes with the almost week-long celebration are certainly warm to the bones, but there is still a tradition that the South Indians follow to ease their transition from humidity to the cold.
Just before the main festival, the family bathes in sesame oil. This tradition is called 'yellu yennai snaana' in Kannada, or 'ennai kuliyal' in Tamil, which translates to 'sesame oil bath'. The eldest member of the family applies three drops of heated oil on each member's head. They must massage this oil into their hair and body. The oil is allowed to soak in for a while, anywhere between twenty minutes to an hour. After this, they must wash with warm water before sunrise.
Women applying oil to the heads of men Photo credit: Indians in Kuwait
In some parts of the peninsula, soap is not used to wash off the oil because it nullifies its effects. Some cultures who do not like the oil to remain in any way on their skin wash it off with shikakai and herbs, which is a paste that is traditionally used as a substitute for soap. Sometimes, the oil is heated with flowers and spices as well and is less sticky than in its pure form.
The purpose of this ritual is to cleanse the body, detoxify it, and produce heat in it. Sesame is a very heaty substance and tends to heat up the body. This heat, or 'usshna' in Kannada, prepares the body to face the sudden cold that comes to the peninsula immediately after Diwali. South India has no smooth transition weather-wise from monsoon to winter. There are a few days of stable, rainless weather, and suddenly the cold winds descend.
In many ways, the celebration of Diwali is centered around preparing for winter, considering the amount of heat and light the rituals consist of – lighting lamps, bursting crackers, and consuming warm treats. Those who practice these rituals earnestly find the shift in seasons and weather quite pleasant.
Keyboards: Sesame Oil Bath, Diwali Ritual, Traditional Sesame Oil Bath