Thursday, July 29, 2010

Robot - Teacher?

Recently a newspaper article titled "Students, meet your new teacher, Mr. Robot" caught my eye. It said that around the world computer scientists are developing robots that can teach simple skills like household tasks, vocabulary or elementary knowledge. South Korea is said to be hiring hundreds of robots as teacher aides and classroom playmates. In fact, work is going on to create robots who will learn as they teach and therefore will become highly informed instructors.

Whew! Technology  seems to be moving at a real rapid pace, don't you think? Imagine a robot taking over the role of a teacher completely!! One thing for sure - knowledge wise I guess the robots will be far superior and maybe children will get more accurate information and information that would be up to date. This until any malfunctioning happens to the system! Imagine a school campus where one would see children and the robots walking around. Parent-robot meetings will be held where the robot I guess will give an accurate picture of  our child. This might be a scene quite out of a sci-fi movie. If the robots are correcting the exam papers too then probably it would be more accurate and  the percentage of error might be very negligible. Hence there will be no need for all those thousands of students to go in for re-evaluation. There will also be no last minute strikes that the teachers usually resort to just before the evaluation of exam papers. Fifth September will be celebrated as " Happy Robot Teacher's Day". Roses and other flowers will be given to the robots as token of appreciation!!

However the most important thing missing out of this entire picture will be the emotional factor and the human touch. The rustling of the the teacher's Saree, the sound of her bangle, the looks and words of encouragement from one of our favorite teachers (specially during the foundation years), the pranks that one could play on a teacher, the punishments that one would get for not paying attention! All these and more will be entirely missing. Even after more than two decades of completing our studies we still have so many fond memories of our favorite teachers don't we? How we still cherish those moments in our lives. Don't we all  remember that one teacher who changed the course of our entire life? 

So I wonder whether it is a good idea to have robots as teachers? Would they make for ideal teachers? As it is life is becoming far too mechanical so would this make the life of our children even more mechanical and wooden faced with no display of emotions? Or would it lead to more productive learning? I am confused. What do you as parents feel about this? Do let me know.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Act of love

Many of the lessons in bonding I have learnt have come from unexpected quarters. My maids!! I should tell you this. My maid hails from a very small village. Her family was once upon a time very well to do with lots of land. However, over a period of time all that remained finally was just a small piece of land. Her father was a drunkard and in one of his drunken bouts he struck his wife who was hurt very badly. The impact left her bed ridden and it was after a very long time that she was able to manage to cook and do a little bit of household work. Her legs couldn't support her and she could only crawl.

In search of a better future, my maid came to Bangalore and started work. She was so very hard working that pretty soon she was able to rent a small room and get her sisters to join her. I should say all the sisters equally worked hard. My maid being the oldest among all (Oldest meaning she is now 18 or 19) was the one who managed the entire finance. Once they were able to put together some money they had collectively saved, the first thing they did was to rebuild their ancestral house in their village as it was in a very bad condition.

Next thing that my maid did was to bring her mother from the village and take her to an ayurvedic doctor to be treated. Though she used to work in almost six households she would rush back home to take her mother to the doctor regularly. She would buy whatever medicine the doctor would recommend and plus take her mother for therapy. Slowly after a long and slow process her mother started regaining sensation in her legs. From crawling she was able to walk one step at a time and slowly is now able to walk much more comfortably. During all this, the father and her brother absolutely did nothing in contributing either financially or otherwise. All that was done was collectively done by the daughters and specially my maid who meticulously planned out the whole thing. And that too at such a tender age shouldering the burden of the whole family. I was very touched. What a wonderful act of love. Here were a few souls who went beyond their needs and selflessly did their duty with so much of love. An act definitely worth emulating for all of us don't you think?

I would definitely love to hear from you if you have come across people who have been selfless in their acts.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The different hues of relationships

In life I guess each one of us look for that special bond around which our entire life revolves. Human beings who are rightly called social animals form strong bonds. This is of utmost importance for the very survival of human beings. In our life time at all stages the relationships that we form give anchor to our life. Be it the the selfless love shared between the mother and the daughter, the son and mother, daughter and the father, son and the father, the grand bonding between the grandparents and the grandchildren, the now war now peace bonding between the siblings, the romantic bond between the just married couple which later blossoms into a beautiful relationship, that wonderful and fulfilling bond between friends; all these give stability to one's life and bring immense satisfaction when it is nurtured through the ups and downs in one's life time.

My last blog post "The grand bond"  got varied comments. Some said it took them down memory lane of all the good times that they had shared with their grandparents. Some said that this bond does help children immensely. Some said that being abroad this was one precious relationship that their children miss out on in their life time.

There were other comments too where some felt that grandchildren hardly spent enough time with the grandparents as they grew older. Some were of the opinion that having grandparents at home created conflicts specially in the area of discipline, while there were a few views that grandparents are taken care of only for the monetary benefits that they might bring in.

Well, relationships with people who matter the most not only bring joy but at times it does bring with it pain and anguish too.Who can forget the concern and worry of the mother when the child falls down the first time? Similarly the joy of hearing the word "Mama" or "Papa" for the first time is unforgettable. The trauma that parents undergo with teens at home is something else altogether.So happiness in relationship is gained by going through the ebbs and tides by taking things into our stride and giving the best shot with equanimity.

The needs and wants of the child vary at different stages of life. When they are young, they need constant  support of the parents or grandparents at all times. As they grow up they are busy finding their own calling and at that time the amount of interaction comes down drastically. Finally there comes a stage when the babies, now grown up will fly away from the nest leaving behind only memories. Measuring relationships in terms of gains utterly undermines the beauty of relationship.

Bhagavadgita says that the only relationship that is long lasting and one which is forever true and one which is selflessly given is the relationship between God and You. Relationships needs to be nurtured. So shouldn't we give our all  to each of the relationship that we have formed here and now and find true happiness?    

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Grand Bond

Every evening our apartment complex buzzes with lots of activities. As I go out for walks, I see school going children whizzing on their bicycles, teenagers talking about music or talking about the days happenings in their schools/ colleges, men and women doing their daily quota of walking, running or jogging, senior citizens enjoying either singing devotional songs, or having a healthy dose of exercise as part of their laughing club activity, young couple proudly pushing the pram with their cute little babies, maids taking out their wards to the play area and so on. 

That evening, as I was walking, a little girl about two years of age and her grandfather were walking hand in hand, both engrossed deep in conversation oblivious to the world around them! That pretty sight made for an enchanting picture for me. Apart from all the activities that goes on in the apartment complex that I have described above, what I enjoy the most is seeing the interactions between grandparents and grandchildren! It is a very heartwarming sight seeing the older and the younger generation sharing that very special bond with each other!

I see many grandparents leisurely walking their grandchildren in a stroller, some of them playing cricket, some of them teaching their grandchildren the art of cycling, and so on. When we go to the grocery store, It is a common sight to see grandparents indulging their grandchildren with lots of goodies like packets of chips, cookies or chocolates! The wide beaming smile on the grandchildren's face bears testimony to the fact that they know how easy it is to coax grandparents to get them all their favourites, which they very well know cannot be done with their parents!  

Both grandparents and grandchildren share a very, very special bond between them. What can be more precious than when the grandparents live together with their children and grandchildren? Who better to make their favourite dishes according to their whims and fancies and that too at all odd times? Yes, the grandmother. When they get hurt and need that sympathy factor who better than grandparents to fuss around them. When they get into some mischief and monkey business, who better to act as their shield than their grandparents? Who is their magic genie who can and will try to make all their wishes come true? The grandparents. Who better than the grandmother in her lilting, soothing voice narrating the epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata or Panchatantra at night and bringing all these characters live.

The unconditional love that grandparents have for their grandchildren makes this relationship a very special and treasured bond. These special moments show that grandchildren need their grandparents as much as the latter needs the former. While the grandchildren are actually passing through their childhood, the grandparents are reliving their childhood days through their grandchildren. And as I watch this relationship, I realise that both of them are actually acting as anchors to each other. While one is just beginning to fathom the mysteries of the world, the other enjoys in unravelling the mysteries during their twilight years once again.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Farming - Real vs Virtual

Farmville became a favourite hobby of people when it got started on facebook. I found a whole lot of them getting hooked onto that irrespective of the age group . My children also got hooked to it about a few months back. I could hear long and serious discussion happening about what trees to be planted, or which animal should they buy, or what they need to trade with their friends. They would also go onto farmville umpteen number of times. When questioned about the frequency they would say they had to do it or else their crops would wither!! I jokingly told them that if they were so very passionate about farming why not try real farming than waste time on virtual farming? They asked me where and how they could they do it?

That set me thinking. City bred children have no clue whatsoever about farming and agriculture. Though we say that India is an agrarian country so much has changed over a period of time. Agriculture has basically had farmers who over generations have been doing nothing but tending their fields. But so many factors have led to changes in the field of agriculture. Farmers faced with vagaries of nature, the burden of loan repayment, lack of scientific farming methods, their children going on to study and getting into different fields all these have contributed to agriculture taking a back seat.

I remembered the house help whom we had long time back. She had told me that she had enrolled her son into a boarding school. Later I asked her as to how her son was coping with his studies? She told me that he does like it and not only studies but as part of the curriculum the children had to also work in the fields early in the morning. I really liked the idea. Atleast children at a young age will come to know about the hard work that goes into bringing them that one plate of rice or roti to the table. Not only that I thought even if one child out of fifty in a class gets interested and takes it up as his future profession we will have more "Educated farmers" who would then bring about better ways of farming techniques and a different approach altogether.

The other day I read this article saying that a farmer in New Zealand has come out with a new scheme where children can go to his farm and look after a cow during their free time. Isn't this a way of building a bridge between the rural and the urban lot? Will it not be a good concept to introduce this as part of curriculum to our young children which would have a long term effect in the development of our country? This would also bring children closer to nature and teach them to live in harmony with it. Is it then not better to have real experience than idling time away playing a virtual game?