Mandawa Castle

 

Wish you all a Very Magnificent 69th Republic Day!! Hope you enjoyed watching the parade on TV 🙂 🙂

Here are a few more pics of my recent travels across our beautiful nation – in the marvelous Shekhawati region of Rajasthan

These are photos of Mandawa fort (very popular for film shooting) that has now been converted into a hotel. We had a great stay there, but found it to be a bit on the expensive side – especially for food. Even though the food was superb, it cost almost as much as the room rent for each day!

If you want value for money, I would suggest that you stay at either Roop Niwas Kothi in Nawalgarh or Alsisar Mahal (both erstwhile palaces), and visit the Mandawa castle coffee shop for a meal. Their coffee shop has the best preserved and most amazing frescoes, and I was glad I ended up there. Their restaurant is also amazing with great service, but a bit expensive. There’s another wonderful restaurant called “Monica Rooftop Restaurant” close to the castle that serves awesome food.

 

Roop Niwas Kothi

Photos of “Roop Niwas Kothi” in Nawalgarh, Rajasthan. Stayed here for a few days during my recent tour of Rajasthan, and found it to be simply outstanding! 🙂 🙂

It’s an erstwhile royal residence now converted to a hotel. The rooms are very comfortable, the food is amazing and the service remarkable. They also have around 60 royal horses housed in stables on their premises and conduct regular horse riding expeditions. Planning to get fitter and try one of them sometime 😉 

In addition, this place is very close to all the main attractions (Havelis) in Nawalgarh, so I highly recommend it – great value for money.

Benefits of being Multilingual

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Writing again today on one of my favorite topics: languages 🙂

I’d like to reiterate again that it’s essential for Indians to learn at least one Indian language proficiently, in addition to English. And, if they’re in an environment where they’re exposed to more than one Indian language, they should try to pick up as many as they can. Picking up languages is a very easy task when you are a kid, and parents must motivate their kids.

This is nothing very surprising, it’s already happening in many places. Around the world, more than half the world’s population – estimates vary from 60 to 75 percent – speaks at least two languages! Many countries other than India have more than one official national language, for example, South Africa has eleven! Most South Africans can speak 3-5 languages!

I was lucky to grow up in Bangalore because I was exposed to English and Hindi (in school) and Telugu, Kannada, and Tamil (in my house and neighborhood). As a result of this, it was very easy to get some proficiency in all five languages. Bangalore is situated at the border of three states – Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh, so it’s a particularly great and multilingual place to grow up in 🙂 Many research studies have demonstrated that multilingualism has many advantages. Some advantages include: being able to learn new words effortlessly, being more creative, having better problem-solving skills and better communication skills.

Moreover surprisingly, researchers are finding a lot of health benefits that result from speaking more than one language, including faster stroke recovery and delayed onset of dementia! In fact, one interesting experiment proved that even infants benefit from bilingual exposure! In a study in Italy, 7-month-old babies exposed to two languages from birth were compared with other babies raised with one language. In an initial set of trials, the infants were presented with an audio clue and then shown a puppet on one side of a screen. Both infant groups learned to look at that side of the screen in anticipation of the puppet.

But in a later set of trials, when the puppet began appearing on the opposite side of the screen, the babies exposed to a bilingual environment quickly learned to switch their gaze in the new direction, while the other babies did not! Cognitive neuropsychologist Jubin Abutalebi (University of San Raffaele in Milan), says it’s possible to distinguish bilingual people from monolinguals simply by looking at their brain scans. He says that “Bilingual people have significantly more grey matter.” It has also been observed that individuals with a higher degree of bilingualism were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Given all these proven benefits of multilingualism, I think it’s worthwhile for Indians to make some effort to learn Indian languages.

References: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/opinion/sunday/the-benefits-of-bilingualism.html?_r=0 http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160811-the-amazing-benefits-of-being-bilingual

Fan, Samantha P., Zoe Liberman, Boaz Keysar, and Katherine D. Kinzler (2015), “The Exposure Advantage: Early Exoposure to a Multilingual Environment Promotes Effective Communication,” Psychological Science, 26 (7), 1090-1097.

On Indians and their Languages

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Decided to write on this topic today, because my previous article on this topic titled “Should Indians bother to learn Indian languages” was much appreciated on Facebook. If you’re interested in this topic, please read my earlier article as well, because this is a continuation, and I won’t be repeating the earlier ideas.

I like to write on this topic because I think of myself as an amateur linguist and love learning new languages and am familiar with seven languages: English, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, Tamil, French and Italian. However, I clarify that I’m “familiar” and not “proficient” because I can’t read/write in all of them, and as for French and Italian, my abilities are very poor right now due to losing touch. In addition, all the ideas I’ll put forward are just my opinions and can be disputed. You are welcome to question them or give me any additional insights.

That being said, I’d like to first start with English. It’s a no-brainer that it’s important to know English to ensure your employability. I’m in no way suggesting that it should be replaced by another language. But, I think the tendency that many privileged Indians have to look down upon or make fun of people who don’t speak English as well as they do, should change. Because, probably the only reason that their English is worse might be because they belong to a disadvantaged background, or because they come from an area where there are fewer English speakers.

Instead of doing this, we could channel our energies on learning our own mother tongue/any other Indian language well. By “well”, I mean proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing. If you are already proficient in all three respects, spend more time reading up the literature in that language. This is important because language and culture are interlinked, and if one diminishes, the other also goes down. However, I agree that there are always elements of culture we need to change to become more progressive, and am not referring to those (dowry, caste, female foeticide etc.). I’m referring to enriching components like literature, arts and music (e.g folk songs) that must be preserved. So, instead of making fun of someone else’s English, try learning your own mother tongue/any other Indian language better.

Apart from preserving culture, this is good because it will enhance your thinking abilities and problem-solving skills. Research has demonstrated that people who are bilingual have better problem-solving skills than people who know only one language, in the same manner, people who are trilingual have better skills than those who are bilingual and so on and so forth. It’s come in handy for me because though I’ve got a knack for getting into problems, am also very good at solving them because I’m familiar with many languages 🙂 😉

Lastly, I want to talk about the evolution of language. It’s interesting that we’re told to follow rigid rules of language like grammar and spelling, but we also know that languages evolved over time! If rigidity is the way to go, how did languages evolve?! That’s why I advocate that you must often break rules and get “poetic” whenever you can (as long as it does not cost you marks in exams).

Lastly, I’d like to state that I’m posting this article without much review and checking – with a large portion probably written in Indian English. I don’t understand why people have problems with Indian English, when they don’t have problems with American English! When so many Indians move to the US to study or work, they willingly adopt American spellings, in the same manner, they could accept Indian English. If we can acknowledge American English and Australian English, why not Indian English? After all, the population of India is much greater than the population of Australia and the US put together 🙂 😉

 

 

 

 

Should Indians bother to learn Indian languages?

 

Recently attended a talk by Prof. Neelam Mansingh (Padmashri Awardee, theater artist and Professor at Panjab University), found it very inspiring and informative, and would like to share the gist of it with you.

Prof. Mansingh started by talking about how studying or spending time on “art” might not get you a job or stop a war, but can lead you to appreciate and understand the finer elements in life and ultimately make us all better human beings. She probably explained it all much better in much better words, but that was the gist of it 🙂 🙂 However, what I found most interesting in her speech was that she spoke later on about the relevance of Indian languages and the second-hand treatment they get from us Indians, compared to English. I have been thinking along the same lines for some time and found it very interesting that she chose to speak about it.

She has been active in promoting Punjabi language and theater and has received many accolades for it. She recounted about how she had organized a play in Amritsar long back for her friends, most of whom happened to be convent educated like her and was taken aback to find them embarrassed that the play was in Punjabi rather than in English. Most of us won’t find this surprising because we happen to be more proficient in English rather than in any other Indian language. That’s fine because English is the most lucrative language to learn from a career point of view.

However, what’s really upsetting is that many of us are taught to look down upon Indian languages or consider them inferior. For example, in my school, we were strictly forbidden to use any mother tongue during breaks. It was done with the intention of encouraging kids to speak English, but many teachers would poke fun at kids who spoke in Kannada or Telugu etc. This attitude has damaging implications because language and culture are totally inter-related and inseparable. When you treat a language as inferior, you subconsciously also start to assume a culture as inferior. By that, you are depriving kids of the immense cultural wealth and literature that come with knowing a particular Indian language.

We Indians are not the only ones who are guilty of this attitude towards our own languages. When I read Tolstoy’s novels, was surprised to learn that many elite Russians of his era spoke in French to each other because they assumed French to be a culturally superior language compared to Russian! Of course, we must continue to learn and excel in English, because it gives us a competitive advantage in many ways, no doubts about that. But I think it’s equally important to stop having a derogatory view towards Indian languages.

And, it would be great if we could encourage our kids to excel in at least one Indian language (whichever is most convenient, depending on where you are), because it will enrich them and make them proud of their roots, by allowing them to experience the great culture and literature. I feel bad at times that I can only read Telugu (my mother tongue) with difficulty and cannot write in it 😦  That’s because growing up in Karnataka made it compulsory to study Kannada and Hindi in school, and learning Telugu separately would have been too tough. But, I feel so much the better for knowing Hindi and Kannada, and feel that much more enriched. So, it was really wonderful to see an accomplished artist and academic like Prof. Mansingh speak up for Indian languages (in perfect and impeccable English). 🙂 🙂

In Memoriam…

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Am going to soon move to another city and shift into another apartment. Have been busy sorting things out and cleaning up in that context.

It’s simply amazing how much clutter we accumulate over time, and how difficult it is to declutter. Was reading some online tips and one great idea was to “digitize to minimize” – especially for those items that you have an emotional attachment to. Am trying it out and this post is part of that digitizing process. Hope I succeed…..

Have owned this doggie for almost two decades now. Bought it in Dilli Haat (New Delhi) long ago, and he has travelled with me to Singapore, US, back to India and all over India. Finally mustered enough resolve to donate him to my maid’s kids.

Here’s a great verse by Lord Tennyson from the poem “In Memoriam” that he wrote after his friend’s death. People mistakenly quote this verse in romantic break-up situations, but it was actually written after the death of a close friend:

I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

 

It’s good to be a Spendthrift!

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In general, we end up discovering that most things in life that feel good (eating sweets, drinking alcohol, staying up late etc. ) are bad for you 😦 😦 However, I’ve finally discovered something that feels good, is good for you, and for the economy – spending!! A man who spends contributes more to society compared to the man who mostly saves! It might sound counter-intuitive, but its true. Below are excerpts from the essay “In praise of idleness” by philosopher and Nobel Laureate Bertrand Russell that explain the concept.

“…..As long as a man spends his income, he puts just as much bread into people’s mouths in spending as he takes out of other people’s mouths in earning. The real villain, from this point of view, is the man who saves. If he merely puts his savings in a stocking, it is obvious that they do not give employment………..If he spent his money, say, in giving parties for his friends, they (we may hope) would get pleasure, and so would all those upon whom he spent money, such as the butcher, the baker, and the bootlegger……..”

If you still have doubts, check out “The paradox of thrift” in google. The paradox states that if everyone tries to save more money, then aggregate demand will fall and, in turn, lower total savings in the population because of the decrease in consumption and economic growth.

So friends, go ahead and take that extra vacation, buy that designer dress or the latest gadget. Make “security” and not “wealth” your goal. There are very few things in life that feel good and are good, spending is one of them 🙂 😉

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_thrift

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bertrand_Russell