Sunday, June 27, 2010

Blood Relations

Nishu (my nephew) and me

What is it with blood relations?

I was never too fond of children before Nishu came into my life. A few minutes with a child were ok, but anything beyond that got on my nerves. But I absolutely adore Nishu and my relationships with other children have also improved. Before Nishu, I wasn't able to talk to children much. Now some of them are actually fond of me.

When Nishu was about to be born, I used to fret that I wouldn't get on well with him. But now, I laugh at those worries as Nishu and me are best of friends. My mom used to tell me that it is always different with children of your own family. I was always incredulous. But I think there is some truth to it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Debates and Group Discussions at Inlingua, Delhi

inlingua is one of the world's leading language training organizations with over 350 Language Centers in 44 countries across Europe, Africa, Asia, North and South America. In India, Inlingua has centres in Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, and Pune. If you want to know more about Inlingua, you can visit their Website http://www.inlingua.com/

For their English Language students, all centres in Delhi organize Debates and Group Discussion competitions. And once in a quarter, students who have won in these competitions, participate in the Finals.
I was invited to be the guest judge for the 6th Activity Finals on June 19th and was looking forward to meeting the talented young students.

The Finals were held at the NCUI Auditorium near Sirifort (http://www.buzzintown.com/delhi/venue--ncui-auditorium/id--10169.html) and were attended by Inlingua Students and faculty members. The event started at about 2:00 PM and concluded by 5:45 PM. And the entire duration was full of fun.


Audience

There were 4 main activities:  
  • Lower Level Group Discussion
  • Higher Level Group Discussion
  • Lower Level Debate
  • Higher Level Debate
The event was judged by Mr. Vikram Bajaj, Director, Inlingua, New Delhi and myself.

 Judges
 
The Topic for the Lower Level Group Discussion was "Will computers replace teachers in the next ten years?" Participants were given 3 minutes for peparation. It was really good to hear the unique opinions. For example, there was one argument that computers cannot replace teachers because even though computers can provide data but they cannot guide you about morality. Another student talked about how facial expressions and body language are important aspects of teaching and as of now robots seem to be very far from doing this. Very thoughtful!!
 
The Higher Levels were assigned the topic "Is life imprisonment a good alternative to capital punishment?". Preparation time was again 3 minutes. This is one hot topic but I was very impressed by how the participants were able to think about this logically while retaining their passions about their opinions. The arguments were empathetic as well as pragmatic. On one hand, participants were talking about retaining capital punishment to set examples and, on the other hand, some argued that Life Imprisonment is pain elongated and, therefore, more severe. Again, it was evident that these were reasonable people who are well aware of the issues of the society and actively think about them.

  Group Discussion - Lower Levels

The best aspect of both the group discussions was that they did not end up in shouting matches. People were interrupting one another but mostly to give chance to someone who had not spoken till then. And even these interruptions were polite, for example, "I am sorry but I would like to interrupt. Mr. X here hasn't got a chance to speak yet. Let us listen to what he has to say about this." All of us could learn from this. Our regular discussions often end up in an attempt to out-shout one-another. And here was a group of young students who had an award at stake but still behaved politely.
 
The next session was the debates. Students had to stand up in front of the audience and make speeches in a language that they are still learning. One has to be very brave to be able to do it. And these students succesfully conquered their fears and performed.
 
The debate topic for the lower level was "This house believes that the national craze for cricket harms all other sports." A very sensitive topic considering that every other Indian is a die hard cricket fan. :-). The pattern was that each student got 7-8 minutes to speak. After that, audience asked questions and the students answered. Students were judged on clarity of thoughts, command over language, presentation style, manner of answering the questions etc. Speakers raised some good issues about lack of sponsorship to other sports, Deitification of Cricketers, and how performance brings rewards like in case of Sania Mirza, Abhinav Bhindra etc. There was one student, Baljit, who himself was once a national-level gold medalist in 800m race but had to quit the sport because of lack of sponsorship. All arguments were coming straight from heart.


  Debates - Lower Levels

The higher levels dealt with a more global "This house believes that social networking sites do more harm than good." Arguments circled around security issues, addiction, reduction of personal interactions, wastage of time on the -ve side and knowledge sharing, maintaining contacts, and sharing of thoughts and feelings on the +ve side. Obviously this was an issue that most of  the speakers were dealing with in their personal lives thanks to the ever-increasing craze of facebook and parents fretting about the good old days. Someone even mentioned that people waste a lot of time playing Farmville. I myself am a Farmville buff :-). But ofcourse I did not take that personally.

  Debates - Higher Level

Prize distribution was a happy affair and Mr. Bajaj made a very thoughtful speech where he highlighted how the quality of debates and the group discussions have constantly been going up. He applauded the fact that the participants all maintained decorum through it and gave each other a fair chance to speak.He concluded that what you have to say is more important than how you say it and appreciated the courage that each of the participant had showcased.

Winner of Lower Level Group Discussion, Ramandeep, Accepting her Prize

Winner of Higher Level Group Discussion, Deepak, Accepting his Prize

Winner of Lower Level Debate, Baljit, Accepting his Prize

  Winner of Higher Level Debate, Mohd. Kamil, Collecting his Prize

These types of activities are good initiatives. I would like to compliment Inlingua Delhi for thinking about it, organizing it, and persisting in the efforts. It is definitely a good way to help students gain better command over language and actually face the world with this skill. The enthusiasm in the students was very contagious and charged up everyone who was involved in this activity.
 Participants Enjoying Tea and Snacks

 Judges Indulging in a Little Post-Event Discussion

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Illusion

Through the mirror, she reaches out,
her arm outstretched.
I blink, she blinks, I smile, she smiles
She is real. I am real.

The beautiful vase, a gift, a memory,
the shining woman in gold,
Mystical! Beautiful!
It is real. She is real.

Lovingly, I lift the vase,
And hurl it at the mirror.
Anger, love, hate, peace
All exist, all are real.

Broken mirror, shattered ceramic,
chipped paint, threads, warmth.
melt down, leave nothing, but a void.
Was it real? Was she real? Was I real?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sunset at San Francisco



I love sunsets and find them beautiful.

Here is a picture from San Francisco shot with my Nikon D90.The hill in the background is home to Alcatraz.
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