July 19, 2009

Skipping stones

Childhood...whenever we went on a picnic and found a small pond or a lake, we looked for small flat stones and for the next one hour, all we did was throw the stones close to the surface of the water so they went zip...zip...zip...zip! It was addicting, and a lot of fun.

Did this at Shamirpet yesterday, after many years. For my children, it was an introduction to this fun outdoor pastime. A friend we met there told me this was now a 'sport' and had a name---'skipping stones', and that there were championships too, and that the world record was 40 skips, and that the French had manufactured a machine to determine the size-weight-velocity ratio of the stone that resulted in ideal skip...or something like that!

So I came home and googled 'skipping stones', and among other things, found this interesting info:
  • Virtually every culture has a term for stone skipping. The English call it 'ducks and drakes', Danes call it 'smutting'; in France, it is 'ricochet', in Ireland, 'stone skiffing'.
  • Eskimos skip rocks on ice; Bedouins on smooth sand.
  • Currently, the Guinness Book of World Records accords the title to Jerdone Coleman McGhee, a Texas engineer who in 1992 scored an incredible 38 skips on the Blanco River.
  • The grandaddy of all such skip-offs is held every Fourth of July on Michigan's Mackinac Island.
  • It was here in 1977 that John Kolar earned the all-time Mackinac record of "24 plus-infinity"---his stone vanished ominously into fog after two dozen skips!
  • There's also a book on skipping stones, called The secrets of stone skipping, by Jerdone Coleman-McGhee.
  • And what's more...someone seems to have come up with this quote: Skip stones, not school!
  • Shakespeare wrote about skipping stones in the original version of Henry V.
Whatever...I am happy I introduced this 'sport' to the kids yesterday!

Image from http://www.yeeha.net/nassa/blife.txt.html

July 15, 2009

Kabir

I always liked Kabir dohe in school. And one doha that I firmly believed in, and which always guided me, especially during my growing-up years was this:

Dheere dheere re mana, dheere sab kuch hoye
Maali seenche so ghara, ritu aaye phal hoye
(O mind, go slow; things happen at their own pace
A gardener may pour a hundred buckets of water, but the fruit arrives only in its season)


And now I am watching Shabnam Virmani's Kabir Project videos . While the videos are honest, meaningful and aesthetic, I wonder if it is because they deal with Kabir Das, and his ideas, which, now that I finished school (!) I realise, appeal to free-spirited and creative people. However, I must give Shabnam---and Shrishti school of art and design--- great credit for this research.

I was especially touched by 'Koi sunta hai', the video that intertwines Kumar Gandharva's life with Kabir's...both geniuses in their own right. Now I not only know the meaning of the songs in Nirgun ke gun, one of my favourite Kumar Gandharva albums, I also know how he sang them with so much feeling...it came from all the suffering he went through in his life, because of which he discovered Kabir.

Inspired by this video, I delightedly listened, on YouTube, to Kalapini Komkali (Kumar Gandharva's daughter; ah! she really sings like him!) and Bhuvanesh Komkali (his grandson).

And inspired by the Kabir Project, I also pulled out a book I bought a long time back, and began reading it. Written by Jaya Madhavan for Tulika, it is called 'Kabir, the weaver poet'.

Kahe Kabir suno bhai Sadho*!

(My mother sometimes calls me Sadhu!)

July 07, 2009

Michael Jackson

Why am I feeling so bad about MJ's death? I was never a great fan, just a curious onlooker, looking at his life from a corner of my eye. Yes, 'Beat it' and 'Bad' were part of my growing up, but that's all.

I would like to remember him as he looks in this picture, not the ghost he had become. Why did the people around him let him become that ghost? What were the doctors doing? And why is the media constantly harping over the bizarre aspects of his life, instead of simply celebrating his talent? Just let him be. Just let him go.

Celebrities, especially those who belong to your generation often become a measure of where you are in life. Even though I did not hum MJ's songs or follow closely, the twists and turns of his life, he was there somewhere, doing his thing in his own style. Something typical of my generation, or so I like to think. Perhaps that is why I am grieving so much.

My children have now begun to look at his videos, and listen to his songs; they think he is awesome. Something tells me he will become, posthumously, a larger-than-life icon for generations to come. Here's a link to Black or White, a video I discovered with my children. This is the only way I can say goodbye to him.

An apology to Africans

We have had a professional connect with Africa for a long time. While at ICRISAT during the eighties, we met and were friends with sever...