Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Factors which influence a student's studies and Education in India

When I was counselling in India, many parents would ask about tips  to improve their children’s academic performance. Unfortunately they would ask this question too late i.e. when the exams were fast approaching and when there was little time to make a difference.
Here are  my thoughts  about the factors which influence academic performance in students.
Children’s academic performance or understanding of school subjects is influenced by a whole range of factors. For convenience I have divided them into factors outside the student and factors within the student.

  • Needless to say, a student who has adequate nutrition, sleep, both physical and mental health, calm and peaceful surroundings at home and school, will have less problems to distract him or her from studies. Of course, having all these factors in itself will not guarantee that the student will study well.
 If quarreling parents think that kids are not affected by their fights, think again. If these parents think that avoiding fights in front of kids will fool them, think can sense undercurrents of hostility in the family and these family hostilities  affect most kids.

  • Teachers who (1) Like students (2) Like teaching (3) Love the subject they are teaching (4) Have excellent teaching skills and who have the capacity to inspire students are the ideal teachers. But tell me how many teachers have these qualities? In all my school life, I had 2 teachers who were ideal! And 9 ideal teaching staff between PUC & PhD i.e. over a period of 9-15 years! This number is less than 20% of the teachers I had. Most teachers in India are the type who will kill whatever little interest you had for a subject! I had many teachers who were bitter and took it out on the kids! They were bitter about their salary, life in general, the school authorities, etc. 

  • Good texts, labs, libraries, space, time and equipment for sports activities and most importantly a safe and friendly environment:
The texts I studied in school, more than 30 years ago were ranging from good to mediocre. My favourite ones were the English texts i.e. New Horizons, English by Stages, Radiant Readers and various MacMillan publications for non-detailed texts. The English poetry books and a few English texts I had in primary school were printed in England and I still remember how engaging the stories, how  smooth & glossy the pages, and how  lovely the  illustrations (woodcut lithographs) were ! (these were the prescribed texts in the National English School in Rajajinagar, Bangalore in case any one who studied there remembers…around 1974-77 maybe. The text, English By Stages and the poetry texts were from England). The texts for social studies, mathematics and science were not the least bit inspiring  and were barely informative.
  •  Some qualities a text book should have are: Be attractive to the student. The information should not be a stream of facts but there should be an emphasis on “How” and there should always be some content explaining how this information is applied and is useful in life. The texts I had (published by state government of Karnataka) simply gave facts and no explaining what caused the phenomenon and I simply could not remember the facts, without knowing why and how something happened. The facts should be woven into a meaningful context in the lessons. My lessons (social studies for example) seemed like a stream of barely connected facts.
  • Teachers taught me stuff such as formula in geometry and algebra but never ever told me why those formule should be learnt  nor did they tell about the applications and uses of the formule. How is this formula useful, why should I learn it were questions I had in my mind all through my school. If I knew why I had to learn it, besides 'for passing in the exam', I would have found learning more meaningful. Because of the apparent meaninglessness of the formula I was forced to learn,  I simply could not learn or remember them. I still remember how meaningless the damn a+b whole square and a-b whole square stuff seemed to me in school. It was only recently, while googling, that I realized the applications of algebraic equations in measurements when quantities are unknown. If my great Guru had explained at least briefly, it would not have been meaningless and my brain would not have rebelled so much against learning.                                                                                                                                     Similarly, many kids today, question, why they should  study Sanskrit. There are pretty good reasons why but the teachers do not explain, convincingly as to why one should. Kids then develop a boredom and resentment towards Sanskrit as they are forced to learn but they dont see it as useful. Teachers have to realize that learning should be made intrinsically attractive and valuable to students. Without intrinsic value, students will have ot be brib ed or threathened and bribing and threathening is  tedious for both the student and the briber/threathener i.e. teachers * parents.
  • Hands on learning  helps students understand and learn better than simply reading facts from the texts. There should be work-shops and labs right from grade one for kids to enjoy, remember, apply and make sense of what they learn. When I suggested this to a mother of two, she said she can teach 5 facts and experiments in one hour while it would take more than an hour and a lot of work, equipment and trouble to do one experiment to illustrate one fact. I tried to convince her that the kids will never forget the fact by actually doing one experiment but she was vehement in her arguments saying that the syllabus was simply enormous, the school was not up to speed and she had to rush through the syllabus before the exams started!
  • Which brings to mind another fact about school education in India……the syllabus is huge and in order to finish, the lessons are crammed and there is neither  joy nor meaning in the teaching and learning…the goals of the schools, parents and society itself seems to be to finish covering the syllabus, put them through schools, universities, see that they get good ranks so they get into good (read lucarative) jobs. Whether the student enjoyed learning, whether he found it meaningful, whether he was inspired to do something different with this learning,  are not in the equation at all. Because the syllabus is huge,  teachers rush through in order to 'complete' the portions. Therefore, the kids have no clear understandinng or what is taught, their basics are unsound and this is reflected in many ways...their inability to apply what they learnt practically, some stupid mistakes they make, their inability to understand nature's phenomeon such as rains, etc. The kids end up learning by rote and are unable to think independently and problem solve. This inability to think, this blind following of rules and acceptance without questioning of 'facts' are some of the most exasperating behaviours I see in my country men and also in people from countries with a similar education system.
  • I think all schools should buy or get the films from agencies such as National Geographic, BBC, NASA, etc. Seeing a volcano erupting and listening to the information about the volcano simultaneously has a greater impact on the child than reading about volcanoes from a text (with lousy black and white illustrations). I still remember the winds we had to study and how they affected the monsoons in India. It just did not make sense to me and I had great difficulty remembering them as the teacher (or text) never explained what caused the winds, why they happened during those months, etc. And remember neither I nor majority of students had access to information from internet or encyclopaedias or television educational programs  in those days.
The emphasis on rote learning, the non-encouragement of creativity, independent thinking, the emphasis on conformity are all the damages done to millions of kids psyche in schools, decade after decade. Sometimes I feel, I learnt to think independently, trouble-shoot and  think logically, only after I started working! I had to unlearn what I had learnt in schools and colleges, and completely rewire my thinking style! To me, kids in India are born normal…..once they start school the process of brain and soul damage starts and continues till your education ends! Then, the lucky few, manage to unlearn and recover from the systematic damage caused by the education system and society!
  • I am not even going to go into sports for kids in India. Majority of schools do not have playgrounds and those who do have playgrounds do not spend enough time on sports activities. I am seeing that most urban kids in India today are not exercising and many many are overweight. Kids do not get space near their homes  to play nor do not get companions of their age to play for various reasons. Most parents are busy making the kids complete homework or attend classes (like drawing, dancing, singing, etc) after school and so kids have limited opportunities to play after school. These days many kids prefer indoor activities such as television, music on ipods, internet, etc to physical games. While I see a few boys playing on the streets or parks, girls after reaching their teens hardly ever play outside, due to fear of being sexually assaulted (highly common in India...both verbal and physical assault)

  • In India, use of physical and mental punishments by teachers and parents to make kids study better or stop misbehaving is common. By mental punishment, I am referring to use of verbal abuse, threats, humiliation, shaming the student in front of peers, etc. I am very relieved that this has reduced considerably in ‘convent’ schools in urban areas but not so in rural areas. I remember when I was punished (which was frequent as I was weak in all subjects except English!) I was filled with anxiety, shame, fear, and these emotions in fact interfered with my learning than make me learn faster. Why cannot teachers see that?
I had a tough time studying even when I was not anxious and my brain simply froze when the teacher yelled at me or hit me. Unless teachers identify, why a student is not able to grasp a lesson, they should not take any action. Why cannot the  teachers analyze what is the problem with the student or what is the impediment which is hindering the student from learning?
A good teacher, who is not overburdened with too many students may be able to give individual attention to each student and know each students style of learning, strengths and weaknesses and may identify the problem. However some times this is not possible. Then the student can be referred to a school psychologist who assesses the child.

  •  The problems of referring a child to a psychologist in the school: (1) most schools do not have psychologists; (2): very few psychologists have the training, to identify and deal with student issues; (3): the stigma attached to visiting the school psychologist as you can see by this incident:  My friend was a psychologist in a school while I was a psychologist in a hospital; I once had a student from her school visit me in the hospital; I asked the student’s mother why she did not approach the school psychologist and she said that she did not want the other students to tease her son, when he visited the psychologist in the school.! This is another issue in India….the shame, secrecy, stigma around seeking help for psychological problems.
  • Studies have shown that at least 15% of children of any age experience psychological and psychiatric problems which can interfere with learning. ADHD, autism, dyslexias, developmental delays, emotional and conduct disorders are a few of them. The challenges these kids face in Indian schools is even worse than what the 'normal' kids face. However, I am out of touch with schools in India today and I have heard that it is better than before...I hope this is true. Most schools in India do not accomodate special needs children; in the past (maybe even now) I have seen teachers verbally attacking learning disabled kids with biting sarcasm; I have seen an epileptic child forced to leave a school as he had a seizure in school( the principal said he did not want other students to be scared when this child had seizures and so he had to kick the epileptic child out of school).                                                                                                                                            A new study done in one of the Scandinavian countries puts the prevalence of physical and mental disorders as high as 45% ! Which means that one in two kids has some problem or the other!
 To me, learning requires the following qualities in a student and deficits in any of these qualities can hinder learning:
  • Motivation or interest: A student who is interested in learning a subject, who finds the subject interesting and exciting, will study, inspite of obstacles in his path. The topic of study should be of intrinsic value to the student.
  • Attention: a student with adequate attention will be able to focus. A student with attention deficits, who is hyperactive and cannot focus on one topic for a sustained period, will have problems.  Even a student with poor or inadequate attention can focus if the subject is interesting or if the teacher makes it exciting. 
  • Comprehension and learning: A student needs a certain amount of intelligence to understand what he is learning or being taught. Like all human qualities, this too varies from person to person; the more intelligent will grasp quicker while the less intelligent need more time to comprehend. Parents and teachers should realize that intelligence is distributed unequally and they should therefore have different expectations from different students. The teachers  should also learn to value and appreciate the hard work of the students who have scored less instead of critising their low marks. When a student has done his best, appreciate that! Do not compare the better performance of a brighter student and critisize this student! `
  • Memory or working memory: Once a matter has been learnt, the student has to remember, at least long enough to spit it out in the exams! It would be ideal however if he retains it for life and applies the learnt information when needed! Students with a poorer memory have a harder time as they seem to forget what they learnt and fail to do well in exams. I also suspect that students who learn by heart without understanding are more likely to forget than those who have understood the matter.  
In India, most exams seem to be tests of memory than anything else.
  • Application of what we learn: This is the ultimate usefulness of education. If a student cannot apply what he has learnt, the whole purpose of schooling is lost.
  • Dedication to studies/hard work/discipline: I am not going to elaborate on these qualities. Suffice it to say that I know a few students who were brilliant but did not work hard and they did not do as well as the hard-working brilliant and hard-working average students. Students who are disciplined, students who have good time management skills, who do not ‘enjoy’ all the time but focus and study  even the boring subjects, do well.
  • Sound knowledge of basics before moving on to higher levels of study: What I mean by this phrase is that the child should know the basics thoroughly before he moves on to the higher levels. For example, know your additions, subtractions, divisions and multiplications thoroughly before you move on to higher level maths;
My marks deteriorated as I went to higher classes, especially in subjects, in which I did not have a through understanding of the lessons covered in the lower classes. Lack of understanding of the topics were due to factors such as (1)the teacher explaining once and I did not get it and was too ashamed or scared to ask her to explain again; (2) I missed the class as I was sick and when I went back, the teacher had moved on to a related topic but I did not understand it as I had missed the previous class; (3) Teachers rushing through syllabus without giving the students enough time to fully understand and assimilate what is learnt.(4) teaching in a superficial way…by superficial I mean the topic is not taught indepth and all aspects are not covered; for example, in maths, only one type of problem is solved by the teacher and she moves on to a new topic entirely. But the students cannot/have not learnt to solve problems which are slightly different from the example she taught.(5)For some reason, one aspect of a topic remains unclear, inspite of the teacher trying her best and the student trying her best. Any matter, which is taught about this topic in higher classes, is doomed to failure as the basics are not sound.
I find that lack of basics is the biggest issue faced by students in India. I am not basing this statement on any research but basing it on my own experience and that of students around me, now and before.
If you had a lousy teacher in 5th standard, there is no point in getting a good teacher in 6th standard, as your basics are poor!
Things will work out for you only if (1) the 6th standard teacher, makes an effort to check out your 5th standard basics,
(2)repair them if needed and
(3)only then start on the 6th standard syllabus.
Students have many gaps in their  understanding of  many subjects by the time they reach high school and the high school teachers simply do not have the time to ensure that all the students are completely confident with their basics i.e. middle-school syllabus, before embarking on teaching the high school stuff.
Another miserable thing which happens is that these kids opt for science subjects in standards 11 and 12 (PUC), which dooms them still more! How many kids with mere 50-60% opt for science subjects in Bangalore! How can they even imagine they will understand what is taught in classes and labs in the 11th and 12th grades, when their high school chemistry, maths and physics is shaky?  (I still remember my dad’s disgust when a graduate student of his told him that Bangalore received 100 inches of rain the previous night! This guy is too old to be taught about rain measurements and with his masters degree in science, how can he be excused?
In my opinion, the abysmal quality of manpower in India is due to poor education and of all the aspects of poor education, I think, poor basics is the most influential.
 Effect of lack of basics as you move to higher grades:
There is such a huge snowballing effect as the stuff you have not understood properly, accumulates as you go to higher classes, that in the end, you feel so helpless. This snowballing of what I did not understand in science and maths started in 5th grade and by high school, nothing the teacher taught was entering my head l! I was desperately trying to memorize what I did not understand and you know how difficult this can be! I put my foot down and told a firm no, when my dad asked me to take science in college. Only then did my years of low-self-esteem, shame and anxiety cease!  The snowballing of subjects I did not understand in school, has played havoc with my self-esteem to a great extent! And I am sure it is the same for millions of other Indian kids!(and maybe kids from all over the world too)
  • I have noticed that neither teachers nor parents(most of them) take an analytical view of their kids inabilities to learn. They do not try to find out why the kid is doing poorly in studies. They attack the child or push him to study, without taking the time and effort to find out the exact areas of concern and trying to work on those specific areas. I have had parents making statements such as “ You better improve , or else….” Or “ I will buy you a computer if you get 90%....or “ If your marks do not improve , you will have to stop going to play cricket, in the evening”. These threats are so irritating to the student and also, often ineffective.

  • Some new problems in some cities I have observed is the lack of safety for students which is a shame on Indian society. Girls especially those who have attained puberty, are not safe from the leers, dirty comments  and even physical molestations from men and boys on the streets as they walk to school or ride the buses. This is common in areas where the poorer sections of society live or in crowded areas. I am assuming that girls are safer in villages, which are smaller and everyone knows everyone, but this is only an assumption. Many girls form lower sections(by lower I mean, those who are economically not well off) are made to drop out of school and get married or work, even if they want to continue studies, for security reasons. As if marriage will protect the 14 year old!

  • Ill paid and over-burdened  teachers in a society which does not really respect school teachers is a calamity for education, students and  society itself. People in India do not respect school teachers as much as they did in the past. Teaching was (and still is) a respectable profession; however as it is so poorly paid, many people do not opt for teaching and as people seem to respect those who earn well, teachers, do not get as much respect as before. The poor salaries paid to teachers, is not attracting the best to teach.

And what about parents of students……..I can write tons about this but let me just stick to what makes the Indian parent different from parents of western or more advanced countries. Many Indian parents are more controlling and have a bigger say in their child’s education than in the west, where the kids seem to have greater autonomy. In most middle class families, parents pay for their kids education. And in return, the kid is expected to toe the line! study in  a course of parents choice(most south Indian urban parents want their kids to study engineering, medical or dental  than study for example plumbing, art or music) and even marry a person chosen by parents! Kids of parents who are educated, who can and do teach at home, kids of parents who value education above other things, are kids who are lucky in education. ( I always find that kids whose parents are science grads can help their kids out in science and maths which is a big blessing as most teachers do not do teach these subjects well)
From my experience with south indian parents, most push their kids to study hard because they, the parents are anxious. They fear for their kids future, fear that, in an increasingly competitive world, their kids will find it hard to get jobs, to earn a 'decent' living and hence they push their kids. And seeing the increase in population, the increase in demand and less of supply, their anxiety seems logical. Parents worry that if their kids, study less and 'enjoy' life more, they will be left behind; that if they study hard now, they can enjoy life later. But the later never seems to come! It is like getting on a treadmill for life, for some kids! Study study study. work work work, family. kids. more work. health problems. retirement. death!! Is it wrong for parents to push their kids to study? It it wrong of parents who are more easy going with their kids? 

I know this has been too long but I had to get this stuff out of my system! I hope the education system; all over the world becomes child-friendly and sound.
  •  I hope the system improves in the eastern hemisphere, where kids who don’t do well academically are looked down upon. All children deserve to be loved and accepted, irrespective of their academic performances.
  •  I hope the kids with disabilities face less rejection and more acceptance.
  •  I hope that  those who do not do well academically, get jobs which will enable them to stand on their own feet; they should be able to support themselves.
  •  I hope that Indians start respecting all honest labour ; that every honest  worker be he a sweeper or a doctor is proud of his job , does it well and others respect him and his work. ....if all jobs are respected, if all jobs allow for a respectable living, then this mad rush for engineering and medical seats, by the mediocore would finally stop.
  • I hope that the purpose of education is not merely to get jobs but to make the educated person a better human being.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bata Shoe Museum

I visited the Bata Shoe Museum at the corner of St.George and Bloor in Toronto, today. It is a nice enough museum (though not worth the 14 $ they charge). There were interesting exhibits including shoes worn by Chinese women (tiny,m tiny shoes!), shoes made of reeds and grass form ancient times, jewelled shoes of the rich from India, and many opther shoes and slippers from different ages, continents, people and  ages.

How would I improve this museum?

 Put in stuff about stockings & socks;

stuff about the variety of footwear one person needs today...bedroom slippes, bathroom slippes, summer sandals, beach sandals, winter boots, ski shoes, sports shoes, running shoes, walking shoes, dress shoes, etc.

A little more about the footwear industry in the world today, the various companies, the budget people spend on shoes, the models, the trends, the various professions involved in teh footwear industry, the future trends, etc.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Old bungalows of Bangalore

Old bungalows of Bangalore

We were pretty excited when my husband finally managed to collect enough money to buy a brand new Nikon D60 SLR. After photographing random things and people, we decided to photograph the old houses of Bangalore. We found a few old houses in Gandhi bazaar, where we lived and in Malleshwaram where I had lived as a child. We roamed around in different areas of Bangalore such as the Shivajinagar area and Chamrajpet areas too for photos.

The beautiful bungalows built by the British and also in the Indian style are fast disappearing and I deeply regret that the new generations to Bangalore will never get to see them! I too have not seen many of these buildings as they started disappearing before I started truly exploring Bangalore after 2000.

The reasons these bungalows disappeared/ disappearing seem to be mainly that the owners need money, their heirs want to sell and divide the money or break down the house and rebuild so that all the heirs inherit a flat each. Often the bungalows are sold to richer Indians from the North such  as businessmen, the NRIs, the software guys, and people who demolish the bungalows and build either office buildings or flats. Of course, none of the buyers keep the bungalows; every buyer demolishes the building he bought and rebuilds.

I have heard a lot of bitter talk from the Kannada speaking natives of Bangalore who rue that the best parts of Bangalore are being bought by the non-natives such as the Guajaratis. Basavanagudi and Malleshwaram are two areas of Bangalore which had only kannada speaking residents and now these places have been completely taken over by non-natives of Bangalore. Apparently Kannadigas cannot afford to reside in Bangalore’s best areas today or are choosing not to!

I had seen old bungalows in Bangalore with beautiful gardens in the front and with a variety of fruit trees: the ubiquitous coconut tree is there in every house; some houses had guava trees, mango, papaya, some had pomegranate, Nelli kai, and jackfruit; some had flowering trees such as the  Sampige tree.  Many bungalows also had croton plants at the front and also roses, marigold, the different varieties of jasmine(mallige)  and kanakambra, the humble tumbe huvu, the pleasant smelling Marga plants, the ubiquitous Tulsi and so on.

Unfortunately the current trend in Bangalore is to build the house on every square inch of land and there are hardly any trees in the compounds of the new houses. While a coconut sapling was planted in every house (for religious and culinary  reasons) in the past, today the lots are so small that the once ubiquitous tree is not planted at all.
There are no trees even on the roads these days. The trees planted by the government in the past such as the Gulmohur have been ruthlessly cut down now for the metro and there is absolutely no shade while walking on the streets of Bangalore.
The new areas on the outskirts of Bangalore, of course were farm land belonging to private individuals who converted their agricultural  their land to sites and sold these sites. Their greed has lead to their making maximum number of sites to sell and  roads with the minimum permitted width  and even narrower pavements, with no room for planting shady trees. Most of these layouts do not even provide electricity, water or tarred roads for several years after ‘development’.

Coming back to the old bungalows of Bangalore, they had high ceilings, were often a pale yellow colour (called Gopi colour), with some decorations on the outer front wall. They had red-oxide floors which are cement floors with a red colour. The first room would usually be a veranda where guest left their slippers before entering the hall i.e. the living room. Often the veranda had large windows and wicker/cane chairs for the people to sit and enjoy the garden while having a cup of filter coffee. The veranda opens into a drawing room where the family sat with guests and after the television came to Bangalore, the television was kept in this room and the entire family gathered round it to watch. There were bed-rooms off this drawing room and as you went deeper into the house you come into the kitchen, Pooja room, dining room if it had one, the bathroom and toilet. The backyard had the granite washing stone, where the clothes were beaten in the process of washing, a tap and squared off area where the servant or the women washed vessels and clothes, a clothesline for drying clothes,

But this plan of building is not of really old houses.  The really old bungalows had an open to sky space in the centre of house with rooms and a corridor to walk. The centre which was open to the sky was where women of the house dried pickles, chillies, cleaned the rice and dhals , combed their hair, chatted, etc. The house would have a large room also called the uyyale room i.e. room with the swing. These swings were fairly large, with a wooden plank serving as a seat suspended on iron chains. Adults would sit on this swing after meals and eat the beetle leaf and nuts or fruit. Or simply chat. Or even stretch out on the swing and nap.  I loved these old bungalows and recall the time when there would be sparrows swooping on the rice spread out in the centre, rain splashing on to the corridors, playing hide and seek in the several rooms. The houses were much bigger than the current day houses. However they were sparsely furnished as most people sat of mats spread out on the floor, in those days. One of these bungalows I know was in Chamrajpet and has collapsed due to it’s age, lack of maintenance and also I think as it was not built with cement. There was something so simple and attractive about it’s white-washed thick walls, with the sand dribbling out of the holes in the wall(where nails had been driven), red tiled roof, the large thick crudely hewn doors, the worn-out wooden doorsteps in each room, red-oxide floor,(in the hall)cement floor(some rooms)and the lovely cool Kadapa stone floor,  in the centre open to sky part of the house. My friends who lived here were financially constrained and did not have the usual rows of gleaming copper vessels lined in the attic of their kitchen. The only evidence of some modernity and wealth was the blue light from the black and white tv in their house! This house had fruit trees and coconut trees in the compound but these too are dead today. This house was in a site measuring 150 by 150 feet! Today’s sites measure as small as 20 by 30 feet! Many old bungalows also had wells, whose walls were lined with granite stones and they had a pulley and rope to draw water from them. My house had a well from which my dad would draw water daily after he returned from work in the evening and watered the plants. Now we have a motor pump which pumps the water.

Today I am debating whether to invest in a house in Bangalore (in case I return in my old age to settle) or not. I am torn with so much conflict about this decision that I do not know what to do!
Here’s my conflict: I have been vehemently critical of NRIs who buy sites in Bangalore and squat on them for decades doing nothing. The NRIs investing in Real Estate in Bangalore  drive up the prices and the hard working Bangalorean with his Indian rupees simply cannot compete with the NRI’s dollars ! It is so damn unfair to the Bangaloreans especially the salaried class and the hard-working but poorly paid persons! However, software engineers, business men, the rich and corrupt people have no problems affording real estate in Bangalore. If a site costs 10 lakh rupees it is 10 years salary for many Bangaloreans while it is about six thousand dollars for a NRI from USA and 6000$ is peanuts for him or her!
 My close friends, a school teacher and an artist, are slogging in Bangalore and are  unable to buy a house in Bangalore nor can they  cope with the rising rents. They simply cannot move to houses with lower rents as these houses are in unsafe areas. Meanwhile, I have at least a dozen relatives sitting in USA who own multiple houses and sites in Bangalore as an investment of their spare dollars. Some of these houses are even lying empty! There are also several Bangaloreans who own multiple properties while there are millions who own nothing. I am not saying that everyone should own real estate but there should at least be decent houses in decent areas affordable to all. The rise in  rents is driving several people to desperation.

Which is why I feel so guilty about buying a house in Bangalore now, when I am still living in Canada. To reduce my guilt  I could postpone buying i.e. buy a house in Bangalore when I move back;  but in that case I will be paying a lot more than I will pay if I buy today; also I will end up buying a house farther from the centre of the city than if I buy it today.
If I do invest in a house in Bangalore today, I would be depriving a hard working Bangalorean who is living in Bangalore but cannot compete with me.
But would the rates of houses come down if one NRI refuses to buy? If all NRIs refuse to buy, then maybe it will cause a huge dent in the number of buyers and then maybe the cost of real estate will come down.
Now should I be practical and safeguard my interests or be idealistic and not buy???

I am also frustrated and guilty about the environmental damage happening in India by the urban sprawl. The cities take the agricultural lands of the surrounding villages for buildings. In turn the villages take the forest lands for agriculture and in turn, the animals in the  forests are displaced and end up invading people’s places. Just recently the wild elephants came into Mysore city and killed people! Leopards attacks are increasing. Bear attacks in my village are mentioned. I remember wild elephants coming to Konanakunte in Bangalore in 1996-97.  This would not be happening if we did not encroach on the spaces both wild and agricultural.

When I discussed this with a cousin of mine who is planning to buy a house in Bangalore, she said that her buying one house will not cause the environmental and wild-life damage I was ranting about. But just adding up the Real Estate of the rich in India and the NRIs from all over the world in India, the sum of land is mind-boggling! Just adding up the sites and houses my extended family is sitting on currently in Bangalore, embarrasses me no end!

When I discussed with my mother about buying a flat in Bangalore ( I feel less guilty about environment damage, if I owned a flat than a house!) she was vehemently against it. She spoke of flats in Yelahanka which had neither water nor electricity( for lifts) and told that they were lying empty or unsold!
…….and I know for sure that I do not want to lug buckets of water up 12 floors by stairs  in my old age! My mother may be exaggerating but this is a very real fear.

The Karnataka government is notoriously corrupt and I am sure that the builders will get away with  constructing apartments  without amenities and the government will do nothing (as they have received bribes) to check them.

I hope I come to some satisfactory decision soon! I keep reading in Epoch times about the huge environmental damage in China due to the rapid industrialization and growth. The floods, famines, droughts, etc are all due to the environmental damage by humans expanding their impact on nature and earth. How can I own a piece of turf in Bangalore, without contributing to this assault on nature?
October 2012: To hell with my guilt and to hell with the environment. I gotta think of myself and my life during old age when I am no longer earning! I  am  going to buy a plot in Bangalore!
 It is not as if a farmer is cutting down trees because I am going to buy the plot. The farmer has already converted his agricultural land into plots and he is selling them and I am buying one plot....which someone else would have bought anyway if I dint. The real estate values are going up much faster in Bangalore in Toronto and I would get more returns by investing in Bangalore than in Toronto. If I had made up my mind and bought a site much earlier in Bangalore... without letting my conscience interfere, I would have saved a lot of money!

Damn my conscience for causing such a loss of money to me!



Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Truth. Reality. Perception. Facts: Which of these is the most important?

Truth. Reality. Perception. Facts: Which of these is the most important?

These words pop into my mind with irritating frequency. I keep pondering about various events or the versions of the events I hear from others in order to get at what is the ‘truth’.

These days I am realizing that there are several versions of truth or reality or facts.

What about truth? ( I am writing what I can of truth…I know it is easy to Google and write better but I want this to be mine!) Truth is the opposite of false and truth supposedly gives a ‘real’ or ‘true’ picture of any item. Truth can be a fact. But when I recall talks I have had with people, I realize that truth is simply the perception of a person who believes he is being honest or ‘truthful’. When a person lies he is deliberately giving a false account of events  but when he is saying or thinks he is saying the truth, all he is doing is giving his perception of the events….the extent of the truth of his version is dependent on the extent of his objectivity and touch with reality. (‘In touch with reality', is a term used in   psychiatry and clinical psychology;  the person who has touch with reality is not insane or delusional while a mentally ill person has lost touch with reality and believes in delusions i.e. false ideas and  illusions or believing non-existent things) with And the truth is only as true as his perception or grasp of reality is !

Some more facets of truth I discovered over time and experience….
  • Truth has many many facets: The story of the blind men and the elephant may illustrate this point.
  • Truth may or may not be universal. That is, what is true at one place may not be true at another.
  • A statement may be true at a certain period of time. Truth is not permanent.Some laws of physics may be a bit more permanent than others but I would not commit that the laws of physics are a permanent truth!
  • Truth is often(and in my opinion, always) contextual. What is true in one context may not be true in another.
  • What is true in one culture may not be true in another. ( I am talking of a very very broad kind of truth here….. I am not sure if this is the right example I am giving here to illustrate this point but I am giving it anyway…Should women receive education? The west believes that it is true that women should receive education but a orthodox Muslim from Afghanistan may say it is not true;  )
  • Truth is not necessarily right. OR truth (or telling the truth) is not always useful or helpful or good. To illustrate this: my grandmother's story about dacoits chasing a man who hid in an ashram; the dacoits arrived and asked the rishis if they saw a man running; the elderly rishi told them, he did not see anyone come this way; the dacoits went away and then the Rishi's student asked, why he lied to the dacoits when he had taught them to tell teh truth. The rishi then explained  to his moron of a pupil that saving a life trumps telling the truth.

Reality: I am trying to figure out how to describe reality!. And I am also trying to explain the difference between truth and reality. God! It is such a temptation to simply Google, “Difference between reality and truth” instead of sweating my medium sized, under-worked brain!
Ummmm…. Reality could probably be  defined as what truly exists. Unreal could probably mean what does not exist or it could mean illusion or Maya.
What have I learned about reality? I have learned that perception is the greatest influence on one’s experience of reality. Therefore, different people experience the same reality in different ways. The greater the similarity between people, the greater is the similarity of their perception and ergo, their perception of reality.

Let me start with perception. (If you want definitions of these terms, dear reader, please Google! )Every one knows that perception varies from person to person, even of the same situation. Each person’s perception is influenced by the person’s past experiences, personality, current state of mind and so on.

Previously I thought that perception of only emotional events would vary. For example a quarrelling husband and wife would give two entirely different version of the same quarrel they had to the therapist and both parties swear they are telling the truth! Both honestly believe they are telling the truth but the therapist hears two different versions of the same event from both of them!

Now I am beginning to realize that Perception of even the most concrete mundane things can vary ! My perception of how big a car is different from that of someone who owns a fleet of huge cars. My perception of internet speed is different from someone whose computer is faster than mine or slower.

How important is each of these in comparison with each other?  When I was younger (and less experienced) truth and reality trumped everything else.
But after years of counselling (and living!) I am coming to the conclusion about the importance of perception over truth, reality and everything else.
I have found over time and after several experiences in my life and others lives that often, if not always, truth and reality don't matter as much as what one perceives as truth and reality.

So should one search for truth? Is it a waste of time…as all one will find is one’s perception of  truth and it may not be the ‘real’ truth, uncontaminated by one’s perceptions.
Would I accept someone else’s perception as truth because I respect their “objectivity’ or ‘honesty’ or ‘intelligence’ or whatever? No. Because I am again accepting someone’s perception over my own perception as truth.

If truth is contextual, transitory, variable, then is it worth the time to pursue it?

When illusions are more pleasant and comforting, would not illusions be nicer than the truth? When illusions give us hope, give us the strength and drive to pursue our goals, arent  illusions   more beneficial than stark reality which would probably make us stop in our tracks??? Are we not achieving more by pursuing illusions? Truth and reality would probably make us cut down our activities by 90% ! For example, I do not dust my house as the truth is it will become dirty and dusty again!

Hope and Belief are two other concepts I would like to mention in the context of truth, reality and perception. Hope and belief are two very very important human experiences which influence our behaviour. In some people, they may be so strong that truth or reality cannot shake these two!
In many events, they appear to have been more powerful than truth or reality! While reality says something cannot be done because of insurmountable obstacles, a believer may simply go ahead and do it! The story of a mother who rescued her baby from the top of a cliff comes to mind. Another example is the question about the existence of God. The truth or facts about God’s existence does not matter as much as the belief of people in this truth/non-truth. The truth is  irrelevant. What is powerful and relevant is people’s belief in God.

What triggered me to write this piece is that I am constantly perplexed by rediscovering that perception, however warped it is trumps reality or truth!

Monday, June 20, 2011

American Visionary Museum. Baltimore: Museum for the art of self-taught artists

I had been to Baltimore recently and visited the American Visionary Art Museum. This museum exhibits the works of self-taught artists. There were sculptures, paintings and machines devised by 'self-taught' artists. Some of the artists were those who had had mental illness, physical illness, some artists were children, some were house-wives and home-makers, some artists were engaged in various professions and so on.

I loved this place for so many reasons. The main reason being that one need to only be creative and one need not be skilled or trained  in order to exhibit here!
In many cultures, people and children are inhibited; they do not believe they are creative and are pretty shy when it comes to displaying their talents. If we had such a museum in all the cities, towns and villages or at least a place where 'anyone' can showcase his/her works, for some time, for all to see, it would do wonders to boost their self-esteem and to foster their creativity and talents. In many cultures, even to this day, only the very skilled and talented are recognized and encouraged. Only people at the very top get to be in the limelight.  Those with lesser abilites are pushed to the background and cannot enter the limelight or show their talents. But everyone deserves to be encouraged to develop, use and show their talents. And this is where a museum of this type would help.

It would be fantastic if every Indian village had a museum of this type....  not a grand museum with expensive curators and all the paraphernalia but a simple space where the created products of the village people are displayed is enough; The effects of having a museum like this would be great. Firstly the joyful pride experienced by the  creator when he displays his works. Secondly the joy of the visitors who see the products and are inspired with ideas of their own. Third, the pride the entire village feels to realize that someone in their village is so talented.

The museum would be one major way of dealing with the sick hierarchies in the village, especially if those lowest in the pecking order display their talents. Many craftsmen belong to the lower castes and the lower castes are abused by those in the higher castes. I anticipate that this museum would deal a blow to the pride of  higher castes. (But my gut feeling is that the lower castes would not be allowed to either show their talents or  or see what is on display! Only last month, a Dalit was beaten by a temple priest for entering a temple in Tamil Nadu!) Many village artisans are of low castes and lower in the hierarchy; For this and many other reasons, their creativity, their talent and products are never really recognized or praised. I know for a fact that the potter, the iron smith, the fishermen, the weavers are some of the several people with some level of creative talent who live in Indian villages. Though their products are bought and used, they are never recognized for their creativity. In fact, I bet, the concept of creativity or the  Kannada word for 'creativity' is not known to my village folks! The museum, will help village people become aware of the concept of creativity; the museum will help them to recognize how creativity influences ideas and products; and finally, the museum  will help them to recognize creativity  in themselves and  maybe they will soon nurture the creative forces in themselves.
Women  would get to display their talents in this museum and men would realize how talented their women-folk are. I know for a fact that most men cannot do the simplest rangoli designs while illiterate women can do complex designs in mere seconds! Many village women are self-taught tailors and are pretty innovative in various ways. The museum will give these women a place to showcase their talents. The showcasing will give the creators, a wonderful sense of empowerment.

Village women have to be creative and innovative as they lack so many things their city-counter-parts have. For example,  I remember drinking delicious tea made by two village girls; they  did not have tea powder and they used  leaves of  the pomogrante tree!  This pomogranate leaves idea of theirs is original and they did not get it  by  googling... About 20 years ago, the people in my  village (and maybe  villages all over the third world) had little or no access to information through internet, television or newspapers and magzines. They had access ot radio but not much information on the radio too.

Dyslexic children in village schools are brutally beaten by teachers for their 'laziness'; children who do not do well in schools for various reasons suffer cruel punishments both at home and school by parents and teachers. These kids too will get a chance to proove they have talent in some area(though not in studies) through this museum. Kids in villages are pretty resourceful when it comes to solving various problems one encouters in villages. Whether they are creative or innovative or simply copied, I cannot say but I admire what I see and think they deserve to showcase their talents. Figuring out how not to get wet in the rains, figuring how to get the ripe mango, dangling from the highest branch, opening a jack-fruit without a knife, tracking your missing cow, are some problems they have to solve with creativity and innovation.

The physically frail aged people  who are unable to do much,  can also display their talents at this museum. I know for a fact that the aged (about 75-80 years and above) in many villages are illiterate or semi-literate. But they have a great knowledge of many proverbs, folk stories, folk songs, old customs, natural healing remedies, etc which have unfortunately not been passed on to the new generations. These can be recorded and showcased in this museum. ( However  recording seems difficult ....what with all the electricity failure; plus, hardly anyone has a video or audio recorder in villages).  This, strictly speaking, is not creativity but yet, the museum is the best way to capture these wealth of knowledge before it dies with them. Old people's creativity in villages, seems to be used for dealing with the day-to-day problems they face, such as manipulating their offspring, thier spouses & grand-kids (grown children aged 30 years to 60 or more!) to their ways of thinking!

I wish I had written down the similes, proverbs, stories my grand mother came up with for every single occasion! She had an amazing store of this verbal wealth and now all is lost after her death. Due to various reasons, the amazing quantity of  folk-lore has not been passed on to the current generation in my village. The current generations in my village, do not know Kannada fully and do not know English fully and talk with a mix of both. So much of my cultural heritage in the form of folk-songs, folk-stories, proverbs, superstitions, folk-remedies, stories of the previous generations who lived in the village, recipes, beliefs, certain agriculture practices,  etc  has been lost with the death of the aged and this sort of museum would be one way of saving the cultural heritage of the past in  all villages.

This museum would be of great psychological help in villages as many villages have this sense of inferiority when they compare themselves to city folks. This museum will help build their pride and self-esteem and decrease their sense of inferiority. This museum will help people realize that even in a village one can be creative.......People are pretty  creative in villages but this museum will help them realize this fact and believe in themselves.

The creativity in villages is seen in the fact that they problem-solve in  resourceful manners, inspite of a severe dearth of 'resources' ! They repair and reuse many things which many a city person would simply discard and buy a new one. They are self-taught mechanics who repair the motor pumpsets and cycles; many steal electricty from electric poles ! and these are guys with no formal training in electrical engineering or diplomas in any technical fields.  Many come up with ingenious solutions to problems in agriculture.... sometimes the solutions offered by the government personnel is not affordable and they come up with their own creative solutions. One solution I can remember here is the solution for the problem : "how to prevent ants from getting to the silk worms?" The solution is to  place the table legs (.. on which the silk worms are,) in plates of water and thus prevent the ants from climbing the table to get to the silk worms.

With a museum such as this in each village, the pride of every villager goes up; he or she will strive to solve more problems creatively and  not give up; each villager will realize he is no less than a city person and in fact he may be more creative. The displays in the museum may also inspire the villagers to become more creative and instil a sense of competition in them.

Similarly, the museums in the cities too will help the people. However, cities already have a few places to showcase the talents of ordinary folks. Frequent competitions and exhibitions are held in schools, colleges, work-places and some communities; there are a few places such as clubs where one can learn and display one's talents such as camera clubs and art classes.

 In cities, I would love to have this museum in the slums where the marginalized sections of society live. These are the people who need a boost in their self-esteem, who need to believe in themselves. A museum of this sort would work wonders, psychologically. People in the lowest rungs of the ladder such as house-maids, auto-drivers, garment factory workers, street vendors, etc need to believe that they have something unique, that unique talent needs to be exhibited and seen by others. This will help them realize that they have something more; that they are something more than 'just a maid-servant', 'just an auto-driver' or whatever.

To me the museum of self-taught artists would be a place without any hierarchy and that is one of the main things I desire. Lots of people and children believe that only some people are gifted. This prevents them from believing in themselves.
 Also, many new and creative ideas are snubbed and ridiculed the moment they are expressed. I have seen this happen often in India and the ridicule and snubs are targetted more often at the creator who is lower down in the hierarchy than being targetted at someone higher up. For example, a wife who comes up with a great idea is immediatly snubbed by the husband but if he comes up with it, he is "brilliant"!

 Another thing I have noticed in India and among the more conservative is that any new idea is rejected without even trying! Creativity, self-expression, any new way of doing something  is brutally repressed in so many ways by so many people! For example a 4 year old drawing a flower will be corrected, critisized and commented by some people..."That is not the way to do it".  "Draw it neatly" ; "Roses are red, not black. Why did you colour it black?" This constant barrage leads to the child or person having self-doubts and give up altogether!

I have observed that many people and kids in India are afraid of being different, and prefer to conform. This is because being or doing differently often invites harsh criticism. The upper classes, the artsy folks, the child-friendly, the people exposed to influences of the west are more prone to encourage new ideas but the majority of the people, prefer conformity. I have seen teachers being brutal to kids who even write answers which are correct but not in the same wording as dictated by the teacher. I have seen elders in a family accuse a youngster of being cocky or arrogant or telling, 'Don't try to show off"  if the youngster did something differently!

Sad to say, I do not see literacy making people less conservative in their thinking or more encouraging of creativity. Only a few people with education are truly encouraging of creativity.

I am hoping that a museum of self-taught artists will help set about reforms in the conservative ways people think by encouraging and appreciating new ideas and thinking.

 The museum of the self-taught artists will help people to believe in themselves. The sense of inferiority many in the east feel about the west, many in villages feel about the city folks, the sense of inferiority ordinary people feel when they come across power-houses of talent, will be reduced to some extent through a museum where any person can display his talents.

If this is achieved, I imagine that there will be a lot of happy and proud people.


Crime is the one area where there is  unbriddled creativity in India! I have seen the creative ways villagers steal from farms, cheat the farmers and try to cheat the government agencies such as insurances, banks, etc.  Creativity is seen in the city crime too. I wish that the creativity they use to commit crime was channeled into more legal and ethical areas!


I wish our law-enforcers were equally creative in dealing with the law-breakers!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why do Indians hate Pakistanis?

Last week, an African -American truck driver asked me ,'Why do Indians hate Pakistanis?' during our chat at a car-repair shop in Baltimore. That question set me thinking .....we (i.e. Indians and Pakistanis) share a lot in terms of our attitudes, dressing styles, food, taste in films and music, our accents, style of thinking and so many other things. Yet why do we 'hate' each other?

I have found that most Indians and Pakistanis with common sense and some depth of thinking do not casually say "I hate Indians or 'I hate Pakistanis" . Immigrants(at least those I have met) from these countries in other countries such as USA, Canada do not fling that phrase thoughtlessly. I know for sure that many many Indians and Pakistanis in USA & Canada have friends among the immigrants from the  neighbour country.

Yet I hear the phrase"I hate Pakistanis' flung out casually by Indians in India. You hear this sort of stupid comments from :
 Older age people ( I always make the mistake of equating older age with bad!),
Educated people and
People who have personally not had a  bad experience with any Pakistani in their lives.
These kinds of stupid comments irritate me so much that I have got into fights with the commenter and in turn, been accused of being a traitor! These people do not even quote any negative stuff done by Pakistanis from History books  to defend themselves. They do not even bother to read why the rift between these two neighbours occured. They simply hate or say they hate Pakistanis and that makes me think that these people,  are stupid people, prone to making stupid comments, simply to shock or seek attention.

I have heard a few North Indians relating the bitter and horrible experiences of their parents or grandparents during the partition and defend thier hate of  the other country. I can 'sort of' understand where their hatred comes from. But still, to hate, an entire country of people, who are like you in many ways, is unreasonable. But youth of today, who have a greater level of exposure to the events in the world and youth of today who have had no bitter experiences with Pakistan, to say they hate Pakistan, is utterly foolish.

 People from both countries have negative stereotypes of the other country and believe it without having had any experience of it. The cricket matches between the two countries is another event which flares up the tensions between the two countries. I feel so hopeless when I see teenagers in India talking rubbish about Pakistani people at the time of a cricket match. I have heard such stupid, thoughtless comments such as someone should bomb Pakistan or I will kill all Pakistanis, etc. Even children quote this rubbish while aping their older siblings or parents.

When I asked a child who said this, why he said that, he simply said, "Pakistan is our enemy". When I asked him why is it our enemy, he did not know. He was simply repeating what he had heard.

I wonder what is the point of an education if education did not make you think before you talk. I wonder what is the point of education if you do not have any depth in your thinking. I never hear these comments from illiterate people form my village...they are probably not able to show Pakistan on the map if you give them one! They are more concerned about their immediate problems such as rains ruining their crops than hating the people of some country they do not even know of !

I also suspect that hating Pakistanis is considered as being patriotic by many of my  idiotic countrymen. Instead of doing something constructive to prove their patriotism, many men bad-mouth Pakistan as a sign of their great love of India. Also as you already know, saying "I hate so and so" gets more attention than " I like so and so";  My immature, stupid, attention-seeking country men would like to grab your attention by saying something as dramatic but stupid as " I will kill all Pakistanis".

If the corrupt and lousy governments in both these countries paid more attention to the pressing needs in their own backyards instead of  warring with the other country, the people of both these countries would greatly benefit. There is so much to do in both countries such as improving  education, health and development of agriculture & industry; and  eradication of poverty, disease, unemployment, illiteracy, corruption, crime, etc.

When I see the wonderful benefits European countries enjoy as their governments spend less on defence against neighbours and more on health, education , etc within their countries ;  when I see the open borders and easy travel between European countries, I admire and envy them.

I wonder when the governments in Asian countries, will wake up to realize this.
 50% or more of the people in India do not have adequate food, clothing, shelter, health, employment or even somethings as basic as  drinking water and a toilet to pee and poop in daily. Yet, the Indian government spends billions of rupees on Weapons . I do know that defence of the borders is important.....

 but if I was a poor woman in  a Bangalore slum, and the government asked me ...."Do you want us to build you a toilet or should we buy Bofors to protect India from Pakistan, I would definitely opt for the toilet...I need more protection from leering men when I pee than I need India buying Bofors!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Facebook users

News about Facebook has been appearing on and off over the internet and newspapers since Facebook was launched. But this news  has not  reflected my observations about Facebook’s users and hence this article.

I  admit that my observations are based on very few(about 50) people, belonging to one narrow group (mostly young and middle aged Indians in south India and USA) and these observations do not describe all or even a sizable fraction of Facebook users.

Facebook is one place where you can lie even when you are saying the truth! How can yo do this? This is done by putting on Facebook only certain and NOT ALL information. For me, revealing only a part of your life on Facebook and concealing significant parts equals lying. ("....Tell  the whole truth...; Telling some facts and ommitting some gives a false picture and so this partial truth actually equals a lie)


The Facebook users I know are pretty secretive and selective about what they put on Facebook!
The most common secret not put on Facebook  is the love life of the Facebook user, especially those dating(i.e. not married).  'The love of his life is  definitely one of the  girls who are his  Facebook-friends  but it's virtually  impossible to   divine which girl  among the 50  is his love' !
The married ones of course do not face this problem!

While taking photoes  together is a current favorite  of  people in love, there are few or no photoes  of lovers on  Facebook....even if  hundreds of  such photoes exist!
There is no way of knowing, by Facebook updates alone, as to  who is truly playing a major role in the person's life. I know of at least three dating couples(whose families do not know they are dating) who chat a lot on Facebook, with friends; but  there is virtually no Facebook conversation with the person he or she is dating!
 Ergo, going only by what is put on Facebook, one can draw several erroneous conclusions about a person.


I have noticed that some Facebook users have a lot of friends on Facebook. However, I know them to be quite shy, reserved and having few friends in real life or is it real time?  Some users have lots of friends on Facebook but when I spoke to them, they expressed loneliness and revealed  they do not have any friends they can hang out with or ‘depend on’. This is a really sad state of affairs.
 I would rather have a few real friends I can hang out with, relate to, share interests and seek help from when needed….than have hundreds of friends on Facebook, whom I barely know and rarely meet. When I asked they why they have so many friends on Facebook when they have difficulty finding friends, they said they had Facebook friends because they were asked to be a friend and did not want to say no, they wanted to keep in touch, that they were on Facebook because 'everyone is' and they did not want to be left out, and gave me many such 'half-lame' reasons. (Half-lame is my term for  reasons which are  not fully lame and not totally valid either!)


Some people are pretty active in real life either with hobbies, their work and engagements with people. Some of them update their experiences on Facebook but some do not. This  misleads readers to drawing erroneous conclusions. The ones who update appear pretty active and give the impression of leading full and or interesting lives which may or may not be true. I have also come across  people who are busy or are   doing exciting things but  they do not  update their lives on Facebook....and this may mislead their friends, especially who tend to make inferences based on missing information ! 
The human mind constantly makes (a)comparisions and  makes(b) assumptions based on available information; The absence of information about people  who do not upload when contrasted with people who constantly upload, leads us to make wrong inferences about both of them.


People want their friends to have a certain image of them and so they only put such information which builds that image on Facebook. I know a guy who is suffering from depression and severe alcohol abuse but looking at him on Facebook, one gets the impression of a successful high-flying dude! I fully understand and empathize with his ‘lying’ ….. I am sure if I were in his shoes, I too would cover up my drinking & depression. After all, who would want to burden 150 Facebook friends with his problems !
But going by the image he projects on Facebook, no one suspects what he is suffering from and those 'close' friends who would have helped him,' had they known the truth', are not helping as they are currently clueless.

One more interesting behaviour I noticed on Facebok  is that Indian youth, when dating secretly (i.e. their parents and extended families do not know) do not Facebook-friend with cousins (same age) to whom they are/were close ! This is probably due to the fear that the cousin will leak information about the ‘dating’ to his/her parents!
I have seen my friends and family easily befriend on Facebook a person they do not know well …..but are very wary and hesitant about befriending someone they know well especially relatives! They would rather a stranger know their doings on Facebook than their extended family or family! God forbid that your cousin see your boy-friend on Facebook and unwittingly tells his dad who will tell your mother who will raise hell with you !
Censure about  their lifestyles such as their dressing, visiting pubs, chatting with boys, etc   is yet another reason girls (Young Indian) do not like to have relatives or 'older' relatives as Facebook friends ....if these conservatives  happen to be  Facebook friends, then the gals do not put  their photoes on Facebook(simply blocking access to photos is not entirely successful as these 'relatives can get their young relatives to show them the blocked photos!)

 There are also a lot of eager but clueless beavers like me who want to put up several photos of trips and other exciting stuff on Facebook  but  lack the computer and camera skills to do it ! I am now fed up of asking my husband to update my facebook with photoes and stick to simple writing.
 The need to share the information 'with some but not with all' also prevents me from putting stuff on Facebook.
Sheer lethargy or tiredness on some days also prevents some exciting information from going on Facebook. And later, it is too late to go on facebook. 
 All these above mentioned facts add up to the fact that   the information on Facebook  lopsided and not at all well balanced.
There is a lot of news out there about breakups on Facebook and so I will not write much about it.

 I do know of a person who is recently divorced and is unsure about taking off the wedding photos on Facebook (and thereby hurt the other person) or keep the photos on.
Whether to defriend or not the ex on Facebook is a huge dilemma for many. Many people who break up do not want to hurt the feelings of the other party by defriending but also want privacy…i.e. do not want the ex to know what they are up to now.
Whether to defriend all the friends and family of the ex (who are actually quite friendly with this person) or keep them as friends on Facebook is another dilemma many face. Even if they do not really want to defriend the friends & family of the ex, they realize that they cannot have privacy from the ex unless they defriend all links!
My grouse against Facebook is the amount of time my husband wastes on it! He goes to Facebook at least 15-20 times when at home and this drives me crazy! What riles me up is that we share a computer and he hogs it more than me....besides that,  he spends a lot of time  on Facebook doing nothing useful! I would not mind if he used the computer for  his office work or working on his photoes or did something active with the computer but his spending time on Facebook passively reading others uploads drives me nuts! Why does he need to spend hours on reading what his dozen cousins and scores of friends are doing today…everyday?


But I have also found a few upsides to Facebook. I have enjoyed following the lives of people who are leading more exciting lives than me ! I have one friend, God bless her, who works for the UN, in one or the other African nations. She lives in  dangerous places and  her work is very challenging. I know it is unlikely that  I will meet her any time soon and , it is a vicarious thrill for me, to read her updates.

I enjoy looking at the photos and the several funny u-tube videos put on by people.

Since I am morbidly curious and love to know about others, I can follow up on some of my friends……but as I already said, most are careful about what they put on Facebook and so ultimately there is not much ‘gossip-worthy’ stuff on Facebook !
My conclusion is that as far as the my friends and relatives on Facebook are concerned, there is no ‘dirt’ on anyone’s Facebook; If you want to know who went on a trip, who bought what car, who passed in exams, who got married, etc, etc, etc then go to Facebook.
However, if you are dying to know juicy exciting red-blooded stuff such as who is in love with whom, who broke up with whom, who had a fight with whom, then the regular grape-vine is the place to go!

Last walk at Sunnybrook park by the stables

Last walk because I can't take the mosquitoes.  I found this tree unusual... I dont know what these red berries are but th...