Grandma\’s Tales

July 6, 2007

Grammar – 35 Do you know the following words?

Filed under: Language — Rajesh @ 1:14 am

Are you familiar with these tech words spawned by the internet? Take the quiz:
netiquette, cookie, wiki, folksonomy, blook (that’s right!), me-media, godcast, blogoshere.
And here are the answers:
[1] netiquette: internet etiquette (ex: writing in upper case alone is a big no-no. It amounts to screaming).
[2] cookie: a file sent to a user’s computer after they visit a website
[3] wiki: a colloborative website edited by the users and contributors
[4] folksonomy: a word used for a web classification system
[5] blook: a book based on a blog or blogs
[6] me-media: a collective term used for personal content websites such as “Facebook”
[7] godcast: a religious service that has been converted into an MP3 format
People use these words all the time. Still, in a recent survey, a lot of internet users voted many of these words as extremely annoying. They found the word “folksonomy” particularly irritating. “I wince, shudder and want to bang my head on the keyboard when I come across the word,” one respondent wrote.
I can’t understand why people take this instant dislike to words. Words are letters strung together till you use them and give them meaning, right?
Do we associate some words with unpleasant memories and then every time we read it or hear it feel a shudder pass through us?
Do you have such “I hate it” words?

June 30, 2007

I am unable to speak well in English, ma’am!

Filed under: Language — Rajesh @ 12:27 am

Here is another request.
Could you please help me? I am a graduate from DU. Ma’am, my communication skills in English are very poor. Whenever I speak I’m unable to frame good sentences. Ma’am, please tell me how I can improve my communication skills and how to frame good sentences.
 Dear friend,
                     Do read my earlier post on this. I have listed a number of things you can do to be able to speak well. Many of us are unbale to spaek well in English simply because we do not get to hear good English being spoken around us. The best and the easiest way is to listen to English being spoken.
Do you watch BBC? Listen to their newscasts? Do it regularly. As I said before, how does a child learn its first language? By making sense of the sounds around it, right?
Watch English movies. Especially the old ones. Don’t you like Alfred Hitchcock movies? In these movies, the characters speak slowly, enunciating the words. At the time when Hitchcock made his movies, it was considered necessary to make the words clear and intelligible to audiences.
Read, read, read! Read at least 100 pages of a modern book a day. If you like thrillers, read Mary Higgins Clark – my husband recommends her books highly.  You know what, you could read comics, have you read the Tintin series? I love them! Ask book-reading friends what they are reading. Then go to the library.
Become a member of an online book club. Here is one: dearreader.com Here you get to read chapters from a book every week.   It takes only 5 minutes to read the daily portion. It comes to you via e-mail. You get introduced to a whole lot of authors and you could choose the book you want to read in full! Read the blog Suzanne writes every day as introduction to the book segment.  
Read the papers. I read three newspapers daily and catch up with the day’s news online as well. You could log on to thehinduonnet, timesof india, msnbc.com, rediff.com and whatever else that you like.
All in all, this is the formula. Surround yourself with the language. Constantly form sentences in your mind. Describe to yourself the things that you see, feel, smell, hear. When you write, try to be as accurate as possible. Why should you make spelling errors? Writing without mistakes is a habit. Cultivate it.
And finally, here is an offer. If you write a dialogue between A and B, each party saying five sentences to start with, I’ll be happy to check it for you.
All the best. Keep talking, reading and writing. Pickle yourself in English!

June 27, 2007

Oops, she did it again!

Filed under: Government,Society — Rajesh @ 12:26 am

First it was the purdah. Now it is the spirit (some would say ghost) of a Baba she had communed with. Prez nominee Pratibha Patil definitely knows how to keep herself in the news.  She goes to Mount Abu, has a session with the Brahmakumaris there, comes out and says, “”I had a very happy experience here. The Baba came into the body of Hriday Mohini Dadiji. I did not know that he still talks. I thought he will say something and I will listen. But he had a chat with me and put me into difficulty. He also made me very lucky.”
You can see how this is totally in contrast with the way we have been trained to think by Kalam, the outgoing Prez who has spent considerable time and energy promoting Science and progressive thinking.
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against faith. I think one’s faith (or religion) is a very personal choice. To be able to pin our faith on whatever we choose to – temple, Baba, guru – is an inalienable right. It is uncultured, even boorish to make fun of people for what they believe in. If you find comfort in Irsha Yoga, I feel better listening to jazz and blues. To each, his own.
But PP is not you and me. She will soon represent a very important part of the world map. She will be anointed as the first citizen of the country. She will be seen as the model for the billion + of this country and as its representative abroad. When Kalam went out and spoke to world leaders about emerging technologies and India’s pre-eminence in rocket science, what did the world leaders think of India?
I’m not saying the Prez of India has to be standing on the cutting edge of technology. All I’m saying is that Kalam is a right-thinking person. From his position as President of the country, a position that would get him publicity and wide coverage here and abroad, he talked of:
[1] Good, well-rounded education for children.
[2] Hard work and encouraging achievement in fields that matter.
[3] A scientific temperament – the need to question things before accepting them.
[4] The importance of encouraging fine arts – he plays the veena.
[5] Pride in what is truly Indian – he grew a herbal garden.
[6] Total inclusion – in education and employment. A lot of disabled people met him and came away feeling he was their friend.
In the five years he occupied the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Kalam created certain benchmarks for what a Prez is all about. He stood for probity in public life, he stood for using power with responsibility, he stood for an India that was technologically clued in, an India in with the world without giving up its best practices. An India proud to join the world ranks without compromising its values. His insistence on interacting with kids wherever he went sent a clear message – this is where the future lies. Oh, yes, he was a people’s President.
Now we have PP.
How come we hear so many negative stories about her? She’s involved in shielding a relative charged with murder, said one report. She ran co-operative banks that folded without repaying creditors, says another. Her own pronouncements at public functions are not stuff that would endear her to all.
What bothers me most is this: After centuries of being thought of as a country of snake charmers, rope tricksters, oppressors in the name of caste and creed, we have emerged as a people who can take on the world. Our ability to learn, to adapt, to do business and be a part of the world community are all being recognised now. Our ancient systems, be it Yoga, the ayurveda or the Vedic chanting, our emphasis on mental equanimity and the need to live a detached life are all being appreciated. 
The world now sees India as a country of energetic, young people who are raring to make a mark no matter what the field is – tech, art, movies, cuisine – you name it.  We’ll soon have the maximum number of young people proportionate to the population. We are ready to take risks and go out and prove ourselves. Wherever they are, our young people are doing well.
Who should be our spokesperson now?

June 23, 2007

Grammar – How can I get my child to narrate a story?

Filed under: Language — Rajesh @ 8:19 pm

A reader writes:
Hello Mam , Can you please help me ..
I came across your name and your blog when I was browsing across ..
I have a 4 1/2 year old boy.
He is not good in story telling..
I believe the stories are taught in a very lengthy and action oriented manner (that is what I observed when I was allowed to participate in the class room session once) .
So he could basically understand the story and narrate it back in Tamil.But when I ask him to repeat the sentences which were taught in school he is unable to do this..
How can I teach him well the short/simple version of the story effectively ..
And I also it would be more helpful if you can share me the tips of how can I improve his oral communication skills..
Thanks in advance, Best Regards, Kamaladevi
Dear Kamaladevi,
                               “Communication skill” is an umbrella talent. It includes a lot more than story telling. Since your child’s immediate need seems to be the ability to tell a story with confidence, let’s concentrate on that.
[1] Forming simple sentences.  The easiest are the ones that start with “I”. So ask him to talk about himself. Try this: He stands in front of a mirror where he can see himself. Then he begins to describe himself.
I am a boy. I am four and a half years old. I am tall. I have dark hair. I watch TV. I like to play foorball … I go to school. I like to eat ….. I have a sister …
Once he has got these sentences right, he will get them right if he is asked to repeat them, go on to phase 2.
(When my kids were small, I would constantly ask them questions, wherever we were – outings, in the kitchen, out sitting – anything concering them, they had to choose. What do you wnat to do today? What do you want to wear? Which plate do you want? What do you want to watch today? Kids just loved it. Mom does everything according to their wishes! This “asking them” serves several purposes. Their sense of themselves, their self-esteem, their ability to make choices … Of course, I had this condition. They had to answer the questions in full sentences, not in a word or two.)
Phase 2: Once they are comfortable with the sentences, we need to put them in order. Now, about himself.  First, the description (what does he look like?), then what does he wear, what does he play, with whom does he live, what does he like to do the most? And finally, an ending sentence: I am a happy kid.
Phase 3: Time to expand his world. Ask him to describe you. He already knows many of the phrases used in description, like, ” dark hair”, tall, wear … etc. He just changes the “I” to “You”.
Phase 4: Now the third person. Ask him to describe dad, grandma, grandpa or the sister if he has one. In these sentences he has to add the “s” to the verb. Sunita is tall. She wears a frock. She likes to sing. She watches Animal Planet, etc.
Phase 5: Take a huge picture of a fruit/animal he is familiar with. He is then asked to describe it. He has to answer questions like, “What is this?” And the answers must always be in a full sentence. “What is this?” will be answered with a “This is a mango.” By the end of the Q & A session, he has mastered a number of sentences. The mango is yellow. It is sweet. We eat mangoes in summer. We cut the mango and eat it. I like mango juice. I have mango ice-cream sometimes.
One teacher I know gives them a cordless microphone for these sessions. Boy, do the kids love it!
Now for the story. Children learn to narrate stories simply by listening to them. Tell him a story every day. I used to tell the same story to my kids again and again. And I always narrated them in diffeent voices for different characters. For example, in the “Fox, crow and the vada” story, the fox and the crow had different voices.  And I emphasised the word, “beautiful”.  You tell your son a story, or “the” story every day – find out which one he likes the best – and he is bound to repeat it soon. While narrating, ask him leading questions. He feels part of the story. Keep the sentences simple.
Once there was a crow. He was hungry. (What do crows eat?) He flew everywhere. He saw a woman making vadas. When she was talking to someone, the crow stole a vada. He flew away…
You tell him stories. The kid will catch up.
Get him to narrate incidents that happened that day. What happened in school? Did you sing? Did you sleep? Did you play?
Ask him to describe the weather. Is it cloudy today? “It is raining!” “Look at the sun, it is shining!” “Look at the stars! [sing] “Twinkle, twinkle …
How did the kid learn to speak Tamil? Through constant listening, right?
Kids learn English skills in two ways. Through repetition. Through constant correction. You repeat, ask him to repeat. Only, don’t make it look like a chore. Start with “Hey!” listen to this!” and which child will not want to hear?   

June 22, 2007

Is it “Bye, Kalam”?

Filed under: Games People Play,Government,Society — Rajesh @ 7:42 pm

All right, folks. Here is a lesson for all of us. When Kalam said he would agree to be Prez again if there was no contest over it, we took it to mean he was above petty politicking. We took it to mean that he would be willing to extend his energies and time to doing something he did so well. As Karishma put it, he would give direction to the country – direction that would stay above politics of any kind. But that’s not the way politicians saw it. Here’s what one of them said:
“The match is over for Kalam…we do not expect the game to be started again. We are very clear about that,” Pawar said. “I know him. We have worked together and he will not be there (in the fray),” said Pawar, under whom Kalam served as Scientific Adviser when the former was defence minister. Describing Kalam as an ‘honest person to the core’, Pawar said, however, it was a ‘pity’ that a person occupying the highest post had suddenly started talking of a contest after having declared he was not interested in anything. The NCP leader took a dig at Kalam for saying that he would contest if he was sure of victory. “In a democracy, anyone interested in public life can contest Lok Sabha elections from whichever constituency one likes. But one cannot say that he will contest only if he wins,” he said. And the Left said that e-mails did not constitute popular opinion. ???
So you are an e-mailer? Digest this. Your opinion is not worth a 5-paisa coin.
What Pawar neglected to explain was why people who lost direct elections were inducted into the union cabinet through the backdoor.
Anyway, stung by these words, Kalam has decided to withdraw from the contest. He has made a statement to that effect. Kalam said he did not want to drag the office of the Prez of India into controversy. All the efforts of the UNPA have been thwarted as of now. So I guess, it’s good bye APJ the Prsident.

June 21, 2007

APJ Kalam in the hot seat!

Filed under: Games People Play,Government,Society — Rajesh @ 7:25 pm

Oh, this is absolutely rich! Survey after survey by TV channels and newspapers and the mail to his own website clearly indicate the nation (at least the thinking population  of the nation) overwhelmingly wants Kalam to continue to occupy the R Bhavan for a second term.
The third front christened UNPA (ha!) has chosen him as its candidate. In some ways this is a masterstroke. The alliance’s first move, and they look like they are reflecting popular opinion, the choice of the people! The opposition NDA is sitting on the fence. The UPA is of course solidly behind Pratibha Patil. A woman for Prez! Look what we are doing for women’s empowerment!
And Kalam has agreed to be Prez if there is “certainty” whatever that means. In my previous post I had said that he wouldn’t want to “contest”. Consider this as the latest missile from the Kalam camp. Political it may be, but we’ll hope it has the same firepower as the ones he developed at the DRDO.  
This should intrigue all of us. Why is the union government so vehemently opposed to Kalam’s candidature? Why didn’t they want thim for a second term? How has Pratibha Patil become so crucial to the nation’s welfare now? Let’s think about it.
One thing seems fairly certain. In a democracy, is the government supposed to reflect “popular” opinion? If it resolutely refuses to do so, what can we do? I think we should start talking about it in every forum we can find. We can start by bombarding the Prez’s website. We can send letters to the press, wherever we are. Talk about it in public places. We need to make our opinion count. The government cannot arrogantly think that the people are incapable of thinking and the thinking for the people must be done by the 70+ guys sitting in the cabinet.
That brings up another question. Why can’t they take a poll in the parliament itself? How many of them want Kalam to continue? They are also people’s reps, right?
Pratibha Patil, meanwhile, has resigned as Governor of Rajasthan. We live in interesting times, as I said.
And MK has gone on record saying the third front has insulted Kalam by choosing him without taking his consent. By this logic, all of you guys rooting for APJ have insulted him too! Mmm…

June 18, 2007

Pratibha Patil, BS Shekhawat and now Kalam!

Filed under: Games People Play,Government,Society — Rajesh @ 9:37 pm

We live in interesting times. The third front met today (they are going to call themselves United National Progressive Alliance, mockingly, I feel) and have decided to throw their weight behind APJ for another term! The UNPA (hey, that sounds global!) is against any Congress nominee. They cannot be seen as supporting an NDA candidate either, can they? So who better than Kalam who has distinguished himself as a purposeful Prez and endeared himself to the nation?
Will Kalam agree to join the”race”? Not likely. Remember, five years ago he was the consensus candidate.
There was this hot debate on NDTV about Pratibhatai’s nomination as the Presidential candidate. “What do we know about her?” asked Shoba De. “”Where was her name during the process? She’s a convenient candidate,” bristled Madhu Kishwar. “Let’s give her a chance,” appealed editors of DNA and Outlook. “Why didn’t the media suggest a woman’s name?” asked a member of the audience. “She has impeccable credentials. How can you say all this about this most suitable candidate?” thundered Renuka Chowdhary. She didn’t have a very good answer for why the Congress did not bring up her name during the discussion stage. Give her a chance, yeah, may be, I thought. After all, Indira Gandhi was a (default) consensus candidate and what a PM she turned out to be!
But, did you read the news today?
Governor Pratibha Patil goes to Udaipur to take part in this function to mark the 467th birth anniversary celebrations of Maharana Pratap Singh. There she chooses to talk about Indian culture and the Muslim veil. She says the system began during the Mughal times, “to save women from Mughul invaders”. She then adds that there is a need to put a stop to such practices. “That alone will ensure real respect for women… It is our duty to discontinue such practices.”
Ms. Patil did not sound like a Congress woman at all. Comments like these are more likely to come from you-know-where. Also, her statement could be factually incorrect. As a person occupying (when she does) that stately building on Raisina Hill, this is the kind of remark she must keep from making. Who is the last person who said “she is non-controversial”?
If she felt compelled to talk about women’s progress, shouldn’t she have touched on equitable opportunities and the freedom of choice? She could have talked about education, she could have recommended healthcare. Instead she talks of the veil!
“This will ensure real respect for women” indeed! Has she talked to people who are imposing dress codes on women?
What if I want to wear the veil? Can I exercise that choice, please? Ok, there may not be Moghul invaders charging down on us, but how safe is my life now? You mean I throw off my veil and bingo, I am free, safe with assured opportunities for education and jobs and am allowed to exercise my rights? The glass-ceiling will come crashing down?
Just one last doubt, Pratibhatai. If the veil is so restrictive for you, shouldn’t that pallu over your head get the same treatment? What is that for? What is the need to cover your head and parts of your face?

June 17, 2007

Grammar – 36 (2) A good pun is its own reword!

Filed under: Language — Rajesh @ 9:30 pm

Well, it’s reigning puns now. A friend sent me the following on e-mail. See if you can crack them.
A MAN’S HOME IS HIS CASTLE, IN A MANOR OF SPEAKING.
A PESSIMIST’S BLOOD TYPE IS ALWAYS B-NEGATIVE.
MY WIFE REALLY LIKES TO MAKE POTTERY, BUT TO ME IT’S JUST KILN TIME.
SHOTGUN WEDDING: A CASE OF WIFE OR DEATH.
I USED TO WORK IN A BLANKET FACTORY, BUT IT FOLDED UP.
A HANGOVER IS THE WRATH OF GRAPES.

IS A BOOK ON VOYEURISM A PEEPING TOME?
SEA CAPTAINS DON’T LIKE CREW CUTS.
A SUCCESSFUL DIET IS THE TRIUMPH OF MIND OVER PLATTER.
A GOSSIP IS SOMEONE WITH A GREAT SENSE OF RUMOUR.
WITHOUT GEOMETRY, LIFE IS POINTLESS.
WHEN YOU DREAM IN COLOUR, IT’S A PIGMENT OF YOUR IMAGINATION.
READING WHILST SUNBATHING MAKES YOU WELL-RED.
WHEN TWO EGOTISTS MEET, IT’S AN I FOR AN I.
Can you list the words on which the pun has been played?

Grammar – 36 A pun can be fun!

Filed under: Language — Rajesh @ 7:03 am

Shakespeare used it a lot. “I’ll show my mettle” said one of his characters. “Mettle” stood for “metal” meaning money and “mettle” also means ability. You can see it is apt for a merchant to say that. This is a pun on the word “mettle”.
A pun has been described as  the lowest form of humour. You take a word and build a situation around it. A word that sounds similar to your original word is equally apt for that situation.  You crack the two meanings and laugh your head off.  You have caught the fun! Here is a set of puns that Basab Pradhan forwarded to me. Happy cracking!

The ability to make and understand PUNS is the highest level of language development. Here are the top winners in the International Pun Contest:
1. A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The Stewardess looks at him and says, “I’m sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.”
2. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. The one turns to the other and says, “Dam!”
3. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can’t have your kayak and heat it too.
4. Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says, “I’ve lost my electron.” The other says, “Are you sure?” The first replies “Yes, I’m positive.”
5. Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? His goal: transcend dental medication.
6. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. “But why?”, they asked, as they moved off. “Because,” he said, “I can’t stand chess-nuts boasting in an open foyer.”

 Ok, if you didn’t catch up with all of them, here are the answers. [1] carrion-dead animal / carry-on-hand baggage [2]  dam / damn [3]  The pun is on the  saying, “You can’t eat your cake (kayak) and eat (heat) it too”. [4]  Check out the word “positive”, as opposed to “negative” charge. [5] “Transcend (go beyond) dental medication” sounds like “transcedental meditation” a form of meditation practised by monks. [6] Have you heard the famous Christmas song “chestnuts roasting on an open fire”? These guys were chess enthusiasts, right? So the last part “chess-nuts boasting on the open foyer (the front part of the hotel) is a take on that proverb.

June 15, 2007

Sivaji=Rajnikanth+Shankar+AR Rahman+Sujatha-story

Filed under: Language,Movie — Rajesh @ 11:25 pm

It’s one of those rare times when a movie becomes a mega blockbuster before it is released. One must appreciate the timing of the release, though. The Ash-Abhi wedding got over and it’s off-season for sting operations. The BCCI was thoroughly snubbed by Ford, and CBI by the Argentinian court. And who wants cricket anyway? It’s hot and we need something “cool” and out came Sivaji. The movie is cool, it rocks!
Big news for the media, Rajnikant fans, theatres and those who make their fortune through pirated editions. Bottomline? The R,S,R,S combo sells.
There is no point trying to watch the movie the next couple of weeks. The price is too hefty for bragging rights. Thanks to audience enthusiasm, you’ll get to hear nothing on the screen. All the action will be off-screen. One has to be sure one wants to pay to see that.
I did the next best thing. I asked the man whom I had hired to drive me around town if he was planning to watch the movie today or tomorrow or in the next few days. No, he said. He was offered a ticket for Rs. 300/- He wasn’t tempted. He didn’t think the movie was worth taking leave for. He knew what to expect in a Rajnikant starrer. “In a few weeks the price is sure to come down. I’ll watch it then,” he said.
If he knew what to expect, why would he watch the movie at all? “Habit,” he said. “I’m a regular movie goer.”
So what did he expect in this movie? “Rajni’s style. The way he speaks. The way he produces things out of air. The unexpectedness (?) of his actions. The what-would-he-do-next? expectation. He is athletic, quick on his feet and funny. He looks kind. He is one of us. He is a comic, even in fight scenes. ‘It’s all fun mamoo,’ he seems to say. ‘Don’t take this seriously. Just sit back and enjoy yourself.’ And in the end everything works out fine, there is a message and the movie makes you feel good about who you are.”
Songs? “I’m not a big AR Rahman fan. He is too western for my taste. I like numbers that are folksy.”
Dialogues? “Yes, we like the punch lines. You can leave the theatre practising them. I think the punch lines are written first and the story is written around it.”
He is old. Is it ok if he chases a girl young enough to be his daughter? “Oh that? He is acting as the father as well. If he isn’t doing the role of the son too, how do we get to see the young Sivaji? With the wig and the make-up, he does look young, doesn’t he?”
[Special diet and make-up, high quality resolution, visual effects (VFX),  scan using a 4K resolution all done at Prasad labs. Some 30 people are supposed to have worked on it. The superstar’s skin colour and texture have been improved by special effects giving him a youthful look.]
The movie goes on for three hours! “Yes, that’s how it should be! We paid for it, right? We feel very satisfied we got our money’s worth.”
So, his real life is one thing. On screen he is an entertainer. We like his style, his mannerisms, in fact we’ll be disappointed if he didn’t give us that. We know the story (rags to riches to rags) but we go to see him, so it’s a good thing we already know the story. We can concentrate on what he does, without having to unravel the tale. All we care about are his presence and his punchlines.
Rajni did not diappoint the reporters when asked for an unrecorded punchline. “I am a king, I may be a king, Amitabh is the emperor,” he said, smiling.
UPDATE: Now it was Amitabh’s turn to deliver his punchline.”Comparisons are odious,” he told the correspondent in his baritone, measuring out his words neatly. “We have our own styles. I hear he is very popular in his state and all over the world, especially in Japan. He must be good to win such adulation. But he is he, I am me.”

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