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Friday, February 19, 2010

Painting the Inner Space…..Landscape of the Soul

“I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them” -Picasso

The lesson “Landscape of the Soul” deals with a comparative study of European and Chinese paintings. It touches upon various subtleties of reality and art. Art is one of the forms of expression like poetry, music and dance. All these forms of expression have an abstract nature as they can’t be defined and have to be felt or experienced. The lesson has three important areas of discussion: anecdotes related to Chinese and European painting, Daoism and how one of the philosophical doctrines of Daoism called “Shanshui” is reflected in Chinese paintings.


The lesson starts with an anecdote related to Chinese painting where an emperor commissions a painter named Wu Daozi to paint a landscape. Once the painting is ready, the emperor is invited and he appreciates the painting looking at the forests, high mountains, waterfall, clouds and men on hilly paths, birds in flight etc. in the painting. The painter is not satisfied and he invites the attention of the emperor towards a cave in the painting inside which he says dwells a spirit. The painter claps his hands and the entrance to the cave opens. The painter says, “The inside is splendid, beyond anything words can convey. Please let me show your Majesty the way”. The painter enters the cave and disappears. The painting too disappears from the palace wall.

What does this tale mean? Such tales were very common in China’s classical education. It was through such stories great masters made abstract concepts concrete. Such tales reveal that art has an inner life, meaning or soul. Only when one is able to see that inner life, one can understand its true meaning. The emperor had appreciated the painting only from the outer, the external. He could see the body of the painting whereas the painter showed him the soul, the inner life and meaning of the painting. Art and artist are one. Creator and creation are one and there can be no separation. Once a master was asked by a disciple, “Where has the creator gone after creating all these?” The master replied, “The creator is inside the creation”.

Chinese paintings are based on the philosophy of Daoism. Dao means “path or way”-the way into the mystery of the universe. The emperor may rule over territories, but the artist alone knows the way within. Life makes no meaning unless we undertake the inner, spiritual journey. It is said “Those who look out dream, those who look in wake up”. When Wu Daozi said, “let me show you the way”, he meant the way to the inner meaning of art or mystery of the universe. This is the spirit of Chinese paintings. They do not reproduce an actual view, but uses a real landscape to say something more. A Chinese painter, therefore, wants the viewer to take plural view points to enter into his painting and travel in it. He wants our active participation, not only physical but mental. His landscape is not a copy of a real landscape; it is a representation of an inner reality, a spiritual and conceptual space. According to Daoism, this universe is composed of two complementary poles, viz. Yin (feminine) and Yang (masculine). The interaction of these two energies makes the universe. Their meeting point too holds great significance though often overlooked. In Daoism, Landscape is called “Shanshui” (Shan-mountain, Shui-water) but it doesn’t represent a real landscape but the Daoist view of the universe. To understand Chinese paintings, one must understand Daoism. A Chinese landscape is based on the philosophical doctrines of Daoism. So, the mountains and water in the Chinese painting is representative of Shanshui and the unpainted space is representative of the middle void where the interaction between Yin and Yang takes place. Man is the medium of communication between the two complementary poles of the universe and you can see his presence too in the Chinese paintings.


European paintings follow delicate realism by reproducing an actual view of realtiy. The more close it is to the real, the better. The landscape in a European painting is a copy of the real landscape. It doesn’t represent an inner reality or meaning. It tries for an illusionistic likeness with the real. A European painter wants the viewer to choose a single view point and it requires no active mental participation of the viewer.


The tales related to European paintings reveal it clearly. In the story of Quinten Metsys, the painting was appreciated as the fly on the panel looked exactly like a real one. The same holds good for the story about the frightening likeness of a dragon to the real which repelled the painter himself from drawing its eye.

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video

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

DO YOU FAVOUR BABULI?

Read "Tribute" this way:

Babuli is highly sarcastic and critical of his wife and her plans of investment. Don't you think what his wife did is right? She is the one who runs the family, knows how to balance the expenditure for domestic as well as personal use. If she feels Babuli should buy a scooter, is it a big crime nowadays? She knows life and time are changing. The vicissitudes of economy is first felt in the kitchen. A woman knows it better than anyone else. I feel she is an ideal housewife.

She gives a very practical advice to her impractical and sentimental husband about selling the land in the village and investing that money in the bank. She knows the practical difficulty of looking after it staying away from the village. Isn't it a wise advice?

It is through Babuli's words we get a picture of his wife. His opinions are no doubt that of the male-dominated society's perception of women. He tries to make his wife appear cruel (remember he compares her to a butcher!!!see the extent of male ego?)and money-minded. Think what moral commitment and integrity Babuli has...and you will feel shocked. Remember him saying how a “stranger” all of sudden can influence his life than his brothers. He treats his wife like a stranger who has no right to advise him or check him. He blames his sisters-in-law for initiating the family feud underlining that women are responsible for domestic splits.

Now look at Babuli's second brother. Again it is through Babuli we know him. How can you call it immoral or cruel if his second brother asks for his property? Don't you see that he is ready to pay for the land he demands from Babuli? I hope you all would call it absolutely sensible to have a legal and practical approach in matters related to property. It makes relationships smoother and stronger even or specially between brothers/sisters. No wise or matured man would call it selfishness or greed.

Second brother is a very modern and practical person. He knows that the times ahead are not what used to be. One has to be straightforward and not merely emotional or sentimental. No joined family is going to last when private property and family welfare, good education, good facilities etc. become one's priority. Moreover, what is the point in having a joined family of suppressed wails and grouses compared to a nuclear family of less inteference, the optimum in relationships and better facilities for new generation?

How can we trust the narrator Babuli who holds others responsible for his family’s downfall? Imagine what would have been the story had it been written from the point of view of Babuli’s wife or second brother? Babuli’s narrative is prejudiced and he paints many dark out of his own guilt.

Think and see the change in your understanding of the text. No text is a finished product. It gets life and meaning only with the reader. Every text is a social and political conTEXT.

The writer is a medium-THE LABURNUM TOP

Do you know why Ted Hughes compares the laburnum tree to a machine?

It is a clear example of the profound influence of industrial revolution where villages/countries are slowly giving way to cities and the natural bounty, agriculture etc. are replaced by concrete buildings, machines, industries etc. The poet too gets the picture of a machine in his mind since he lives in a world of machines. You can't expect a poet to compare the tree to a computer in Shakespearean age as there were no computers.

AILING PLANET

These are slogans prepared by me on the topic "Global warming/environmental pollution/sustainable development"

AILING PLANET, WAILING LIVES.
DEARTH OF TREES, EARTH OF WORRIES.
EARTH IS THE FOUNDATION FOR ANY BUILDING.
PLANT A TREE FOR EVERY STOREY,LIFE IS NO MORE A MISERY.
CONCRETE JUNGLE, ABSTRACT DEVELOPMENT.
EARTH IS A COSY WOMB,DON'T MAKE IT A SCARY TOMB.
EVERYTIME ICE MELTS IT IS NOT FUN.

THE VOICE OF THE RAIN

Whitman's poem "The Voice of the Rain" is not only about the cyclic process in nature but also about the cyclic nature of creative process. Every writer,poet or artist gets experience,ideas or motive from the land,ie, the world/society. He combines it with imagination(which is considered heavenly.so from the sky)and it gets a new form in writing or painting and returns to the world/society or people. So every "Oliver Twist" or every "Animal Farm" or "Gitanjali" is the result of this cyclic process. See how they beautify the world, our lives and thoughts!!

Music is nothing but noise/sound harmonised. One of the music albums of the genius musician Ilayaraja is titled "How to Name it? Nothing but the Wind". A Musician converts the common soounds into melodious music. The sound of a moving train is familiar to all of us. But when A.R.Rahman made it "Chik Puk Chik Puk railey.." or another musician made it "Dhadak Dhadak.." in Bunty aur Bubli, it became melodious music. Kamal Hassan film "Guna" has an excellent and brilliant example of how a conversation can be made a melody. "Kanmani anpode kaaathalan..." That is creativity.

Rain is the creative output of the earth.

My mother at sixty six

This poem by Kamala Das in class XII english textbook depicts the silent pangs of separation encountered by an aging woman, the mother as well as the daughter who knows the truth but is helpless due to changing life and times.

Separation from mother and the search for security starts from the day the umbilical cord is cut and a baby is separated from the most cosy and secure world,ie,the womb to a world of struggle and hurry. In a way everyone is searching for this cosy womb like security throughout their life.

It is also said that every girl likes a man who resembles her father and every boy a woman who resembles his mother. If you observe you would also find that most of our romantic songs are lullabies. For example, the song in the film "Bombay".."Tu hi re..."

INFLUENCE OF TRADITION IN FORMING AND REFORMING A NATION

Tradition has been so deep rooted in the Indian psyche that any reform it has undergone is seldom uninfluenced by tradition and myths. Of course, religion and religious texts represent tradition to a larger extent. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata have a considerably profound influence in our psyche that the very character of the Indians is rooted in the morals these texts have left behind. Every incident or issue, the solution to be sought for an issue etc. is referred back to these texts. What would have been the history of this nation if the course of events in the epics would have been different is a food for thought. Rama and Krishna are not characters for the Indians but people of immaculate character and perfection who form their role model and ideal and this gives these characters the stature of god. Though spiritual masters have tried to create awareness about the need to worship or comprehend the formless, they have not been able to do it but with a reference to religion or these gods. Take any book of a spiritual master, or the questions asked to such masters, you would be surprised to see that all of them centre on the discussion of religion and morality based on the epics. No attempt has been made successfully to break the pattern directly. Swami Vivekananda while talking about idol worship doesn’t say it is to be given up straightaway but puts it more cleverly without disturbing the pattern saying, “Start from the temple, but don’t end/die there”. Raja Rammohan Roy is credited with the abolition of Sati and widow burning but is said to have done it under a religious-compromising garb. He is reported to have said that Sati can be abolished as it is not mentioned to be mandatory in the Puranas. When Puranas do not recommend it as mandatory one can easily give it up! As a result, it invited less protest against him.

Jiddu Krishnamurthy and U.G.Krishnamurthy have been the only spiritual reformers who have tried to tread a fresh path but their influence, without surprise, remains confined to a negligible minority.

They blatantly condemn any attempt to generate a discussion on religion and the epics and bravely (it is a brave attempt as the Indian psyche won’t tolerate such insults to their beliefs) said that their belief system is their enemy.

Though Osho tried to speak the same thing, he made it more ornamental with religious pedantry and wise anecdotes making it more of an entertainment. Even he ran into trouble when he said that sex is one of the doors to God. It explains the limited perimeters of the belief system. You can’t come back alive if you make it to a rural religious festival in India commenting on the futility and the non-existence of God.

Literature of a nation is the psychological history of the nation, the thoughts it houses, the way it reacts to the external and the way it is trying to evolve. Here too the picture is not so different. The so-called modern or avant-garde writings have been speaking about the plight of modern man, his existentialistic quests and disillusionment from the framework of tradition. There have been umpteen writings on redefining epics and mythical characters in the modern context. But the base is tradition and it does the same thing what spiritual and social reformers have tried to do. The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor is another such attempt to depict the Indian independence movement on the basis of the characters and plot of the Mahabharata. The same trend has been widely seen in the regional literatures of the country. Innovation or revolution in literature has often been such bold (as it questions the credibility of the morals and stature of the characters in the epics/religion) rewriting or redefining of the so-called evil characters in the epics. Indian psyche has hardly undergone such ground-shaking changes like the West as reflected in Western literature. This explains why novel as a medium has hardly advanced in India and existentialism and absurd theatre do not make any significant impact on the Indian psyche. Indian psyche, it appears, has moved from solutions to problems and that diluted the intensity of problems. The Indian psyche always draws solutions galore from tradition and therefore no problem appears new. The spiritual and religious philosophy of the country has from time immemorial stressed the immortal significance of eternal truths and shrugged off worldly issues as too small to be taken seriously. It has been a reverse journey compared to the West. Tradition stands like an inexhaustible reservoir of life values offering constant solutions, being the eternal source of reference and thus unfortunately it curbs the scope of path-breaking reforms.
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By
Santhosh Kumar Kana

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

FATHER TO SON

THE ONGOING CONFLICT BETWEEN FATHER AND SON
An insight into the poem FATHER TO SON by Elizabeth Jennings

The poem revolves around a conflict between father and son who are in a serious communication gap. Though they live in the same house/globe, they are like strangers to each other. The father broods over this and this forms the centre of the poem. He introspects with an agrarian imagery where he feels he has sown his seed in a stranger’s land that forbids him from owning it. He admits that he cannot share what his son loves and expects him to come back home like the Prodigal/lost son in the parable of Jesus in the Bible. He is ready to forgive him and develop a new love from sorrow. But his son feels anger growing out of sorrow and admits the vain efforts of both in understanding each other.

This poem doesn’t merely depict a domestic conflict but touches upon the Creator-creation conflict/god-man conflict which gives an entirely novel dimension to the poem. Remember the Frankenstein story.

Had the poem been written from the point of view of the son, it would have brought in new scopes for discussion and debate.
“Your children are not your children…” from the Prophet can be recounted in this context.

Monday, February 1, 2010

CHECKLIST FOR CBSE ENGLISH-CLASS X,XI & XII


CHECK LIST FOR CLASS-XI

THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
The character of the grandmother (Physical description + Nature)
Village/Rural Education Vs City/Urban Education
Turning point in the relationship between grandmother and grandson
Return of grandson from abroad

WE ARE NOT AFRAID TO DIE IF WE CAN ALL BE TOGETHER
Sea voyage-main incidents (date wise)
Qualities/Values necessary to overcome adversities
Crewmen
Ile Amsterdam
Children (Suzanne & Jonathan)
The ship-Wavewalker

DISCOVERING TUT: THE SAGA CONTINUES
Study of Tut’s Mummy (Three phases)
C.T. Scan
Archaeology-changes over the years
Tut’s family line
Egyptian Mummy Project
Tut’s funerary treasures

LANDSCAPE OF THE SOUL
The difference between Western and Eastern Painting (European & Chinese)
Tales from the East
Tales from the West
Outsider Art
Shanshui
Daoism
The Emperor and the Artist

THE AILING PLANET: GREEN MOVEMENT’S ROLE
Green Movement
Sustainable development
Zoo at Zambia
Brandt Commission
Four Principal biological systems
Article 48 of Indian Constitution
Population Explosion (consequences, the best contraceptive etc.)
Era of Responsibility

BROWNING VERSION
Character of Crocker Harris
Character of Taplow

THE ADVENTURE
Rajendra’s rationalization of Gaitonde’s strange experience
Azad Maidan incident
Changes in Mumbai the Professor comes across

SILK ROAD
Darchen, Hor, Lake Manasarovar
Norbu
The journey-main incidents

SUPPLEMENTARY READER (SNAPSHOTS)

THE SUMMER OF THE BEAUTIFUL WHITE HORSE
Garoghlanian Tribe-characteristics
Character of Mourad and Aram
Character of Uncle Khosrove
Character of John Byro

THE ADDRESS
Pre-War and Post-War experience
Mrs. Dorling’s character
Character of Mrs. S
The way things were arranged at Mrs. Dorling’s house
The address


RANGA’S MARRIAGE
Narrative Style
Narrator-Shyama
Ranga’s character
Character of Ratna and Shastri
Ranga’s return to village-the reception
Ranga’s views on Marriage
English and Indian society
Hosahalli-description

ALBERT EINSTEIN AT SCHOOL
Einstein’s philosophy of education
Character of Yuri
Slum violence and Einstein’s disgust with it
Ernst Weil and Mr. Koch’s character

MOTHER’S DAY
Character of Mrs. Pearson and Mrs. Fitzgerald
Summary of the play


THE GHAT OF THE ONLY WORLD
The title
Character of Agha Shahid Ali
Shahid as a poet (The Country without a Post Office)
Kashmir and Shahid
Shahid and repartee
Shahid as a teacher
Shahid-national poet, not nationalist poet
Shahid and Shahid (witness and martyr)
Death, Kashmir and Shahid
Narrative style of Amitav Ghosh
James Merrill and Shahid
Shahid’s gregariousness
Shahid’s ability to transmute the mundane into the magical
Diaspora

BIRTH
Character of Joe Morgan
How did the doctor save both the mother and the baby?
Doctor’s views on love marriage.


CHECK LIST-class X

Julius Caesar
1. Calpurnia’s nightmare
2. The Assassination of Caesar
3. Brutus’ speech
4. Antony’s speech
• How he proves Caesar was not ambitious
• The will of Caesar
5. Roman citizens

A Christmas Carol
1. character of Scrooge(before transformation, after
transformation)
2. The Three Ghosts 3. Jacob Marley’s character

The Night of the Scorpion
1. father’s character 2.villagers 3.Indian motherhood 4.Humour

Ode to the West Wind
1. Activities on land, sky and sea 2.poet’s request to west wind


The Frog and the Nightingale
1. Character of frog/nightingale
2. the titled crowd 3.creatures of the Bingle bog
4. response from creatures of the bingle bog to frog/nightingale

Mirror
1. the qualities of the mirror described
2. comparison with lake 3.the feelings of the lady

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
1. wedding guests
2. character of the Mariner(physical description+nature)
3. the two reactions of the sailors to Mariner’s act
4. supernatural elements


The Tribute
1. Character of Babuli, wife, elder brother, second brother.
2. partition scene 3. Title

The Letter
1. character of Ali, Miriam, Lakshmi Das, postmaster 2. Miriam’s letter

Cutie Pie
1. character of Cutie Pie, scientists
2. experience in glass prison and escape
3. feathers and whiskers
4. How media is after sensational news and people have very short memory
5. Cutie Pie’s communication with C.H. Winters
6. racial memories

The Ultimate Safari
1. Title 2.character of the narrator, grandmother, grandfather 3.Kruger Park
4.Refugee Camp

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CHECK LIST-Class XII

SUPPLEMENTARY READER-VISTAS

THE THIRD LEVEL
1. What is Third level? 2. How could Charley realize that he was in the Third Level? 3. Sam’s letter 4. Intersection of time and space

THE TIGER KING
1. Prediction of the astrologer 2. The Prince’s passion for English 3. Tiger hunt 4. Steps to retain his kingdom 5. Hunting the hundredth tiger 6. Conceit of those in power 7. Humour and satire 8. Dramatic Irony

JOURNEY TO THE END OF THE EARTH
1. History of Antarctica 2. Human Impact 3. Life-changing experience 4. Study of past, present and future

THE ENEMY
1. Sadao in America 2. Wife, Hana 3. Sadao’s father 4. Harbouring enemy 5. Moral dilemma of Sadao 6. Reaction of servants
7. General Takima 8. Who is our enemy? 9. The American soldier

SHOULD WIZARD HIT MOMMY
1. The common pattern of Jack’s stories 2. Other possible endings for the story 3. Jack feels in ugly middle position-reason 4. Adult’s perspective Vs Child’s perspective

ON THE FACE OF IT
1. Character of Lamb, Derry 2.Title 3. Lamb’s garden 4. Derry’s change in perspective after the association with Lamb

EVANS TRIES AN O-LEVEL
1. Character of Evans, the governor(good- for- a giggle, gullible) 2. Preparations for the exam 3. Evans’ plot to escape-detail 4. Battle of wits

MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD
The Cutting of My Long Hair-Zitkala Sa
1. The discipline at the Carlisle Indian School 2. Prejudice against Native American culture and women 3. Judewin’s warning to the narrator 4. Cutting of the hair-the hardest trial 5. The narrator’s mother’s words about shingled hair 6. Indignities faced by the narrator

We Too are Human Beings-Bama
1. The fun and games that held the attention of Bama way back from school
2. A man carrying vadai to landlord 3. Untouchability/Caste discrimination
4. Her elder brother’s(Annan) experience with landlord’s men
5. Her elder brother’s advice

FLAMINGO

THE LAST LESSON
1. Linguistic conquest 2. Changes in the school
3. Bulletin board 4. M.Hamel and his inspiration
5.French language

LOST SPRING
1. Saheb’s story 2. Ragpickers of Seemapuri 3. story from Udipi
4. Garbage-meanings 5. Mukesh’s story 6. Bangle makers of Firozabad
7. Hurdles in becoming cooperative 8.Two distinct worlds.

DEEP WATER
1. Aversion to water-beginning 2. Experience at Y.M.C.A. pool
3. Steps to overcome fear 4. Narration of fear

THE RAT TRAP
1. The idea of the world being a big rat trap 2. Crofter at Ramsjo Ironworks
3. Stealing of thirty kronor 4. Meeting with the Iron master 5. Mistaken identity-Captain Von Stahle 6. Edla Willmansson 7. Christmas Eve
8. Christmas present & the letter 9. Essential goodness in a human being can be awakened through understanding and love-Selma Lagerlof

INDIGO
1. RajKumar Shukla 2. Problems of Indigo sharecroppers/peasants of Champaran 3. Gandhiji’s arrival at Champaran-measures adopted to help the peasants. 4. Cultural and social reform in Champaran


POETS AND PANCAKES
1. Description of Gemini Studios 2. National integration at Gemini Studios 3. Hierarchy at Gemini 4. Kothamangalam Subbu 5. The boss-S.S.Vasan 6. Story Department 7. Poets at Gemini 8. MRA’s visit 9. Visit of Stephen Spender –an unexplained mystery 10. Anti-Communist feelings at Gemini and South India 11. The God That Failed 12. Spender’s visit-no more a mystery 13. Humour& narrative style of Asokamitran

THE INTERVIEW
1. Various views on Interview 2. Umberto Eco’s versatility 3. Narrative
style-marked departure from regular academic style/good story teller 4. Interstices

GOING PLACES
1. Adolescent hero worship 2. Character of Sophie, Jansie, Geoff 3.Title
4. Fantasy Vs Reality 5. Sophie’s family background
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