National Education Policy Awaits Your Inputs…

Ed Policy

The draft of the National Policy on Education (2019) is out.  The nine-person Committee under the chairmanship of Dr. K. Kasturirangan which put together the report (based on large public consultations), mentions that ‘the guiding principles of the policy are Quality, Affordability and Accountability’. The policy they say, attempts to look at education ‘in a single organic continuum from preschool to higher education and also touched on related sectors that form part of the larger picture’. The education of the next generation concerns all of us. This is an opportunity to give our inputs to strengthen it.

 

The 420+ page document can be seen on https://mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/Draft_NEP_2019_EN_Revised.pdf.

Comments can be given on https://innovate.mygov.in/new-education-policy-2019/.

To get into the reflective mood necessary to do this, here is a quick selection of thoughts and quotes from those in India who have thought deeply about education.

Hope this helps!

FROM TAGORE

The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence.

Education has its only meaning and object in freedom–freedom from ignorance about the laws of the universe, and freedom from passion and prejudice in our communication with the human world.

Education means enabling the mind to find out that ultimate truth which emancipates us from the bondage of dust and gives us wealth not of things but of inner light, not of power but of love. It is a process of enlightenment. It is divine wealth. It helps in realization of truth.

In education, the most inspiring atmosphere of creative activity is important. Primacy function of the institution must be constructive; scope must be for all kinds of intellectual exploration. teaching must be one withe culture, spiritual, intellectual, aesthetic, economic and social. True education is to realize at every step how our training and knowledge have an organic connection with our surroundings.

FROM MAHATMA GANDHI

 

An education which does not teach us to discriminate between good and bad, to assimilate the one and eschew the other, is a misnomer.

Unless the development of the mind and body goes hand in hand with a corresponding awakening of the soul, the former alone would prove to be a poor lop-sided affair.

Persistent questioning and healthy inquisitiveness are the first requisite for acquiring learning of any kind.

True education must correspond to the surrounding circumstances or it is not a healthy growth.

I believe that religious education must be the sole concern of religious associations.

A balanced intellect presupposes a harmonious growth of body, mind and soul.

The emphasis laid on the principle of spending every minute of one’s life usefully is the best education for citizenship.

FROM DR. S. RADHAKRISHNAN

Education aims at making us into civilized human beings, conscious of our moral and social obligations.

Education must develop democratic attitude. Educational institutions should train people for freedom, unity, and not localism, for democracy, not for dictatorship.

Education has for its aims not merely acquisition of information but the capacity for discernment.

FROM INDIAN EDUCATION COMMISSION (KOTHARI COMMISSION) REPORT, 1966

Of all factors which determine the quality of education and its contribution to national development, the teacher is undoubtedly the most important. It is on his personal qualities and character, his educational qualifications and professional competence that the success of all educational endeavour must ultimately depend. Teachers must, therefore, be accorded an honoured place in society.

The academic freedom of teachers to pursue and publish independent studies and researches and to speak and write about significant national and international issues should be protected.

Strenuous efforts should be made to equalize educational opportunity.

The school and the community should be brought closer through suitable programs of mutual service and support.

With a view to accelerating the growth of the national economy, science education and research should receive high priority.

A major goal of examination reforms should be to improve the reliability and validity of examinations and to make evaluation a continuous process aimed at helping the student to improve his level of achievement rather than at ‘certifying’ the quality of his performance at a given moment of time.

FROM JIDDU KRISHNAMURTHY

Education is not merely a matter of training the mind. Training makes for efficiency, but it does not bring about completeness. A mind that has merely been trained is the continuation of the past, and such a mind can never discover the new.

Education is not merely acquiring knowledge, gathering and correlating facts; it is to see the significance of life as a whole.

Conventional education makes independent thinking extremely difficult. Conformity leads to mediocrity.

The function of education is to create human beings who are integrated and therefore intelligent.

Education should help us to discover lasting values so that we do not merely cling to formulas or repeat slogans; it should help us to break down our national and social barriers, instead of emphasizing them, for they breed antagonism between man and man.

 

–Meena

On Time

“Time you old gypsy man, will you not stay? Put up your caravan just for one day?

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Source: Google

These lines from a poem learnt by rote in school, still remembered. Time had a different connotation when one was just fifteen. It was more about the “present”, and something one needed to cram in all the activities of teenage life.  Today with several decades behind one, Time is more about looking back, while Time the old gypsy man seems to be flashing past at the speed of light.

Today we live “by the clock”. Not only are our daily activities monitored by the clock, we depend on Apps to remind us to get up, to drink water, and to call our friends. Interestingly, the regular linear time line, cut up into days and weeks, is barely two and a half centuries old. In ancient times, time-keeping was more of an art than a science. People in most old civilizations relied on natural events–the turn of the seasons, the waxing and waning of the moon as some ways to measure time.  Different cultures had their own ways of measuring time.

The concept of time has always been relative and contextual. An essay that I read explores these dimensions of time through different cultures and history. Titled Cartographies of Time, the two-part essay by authors Jonny Miller and Dorothy Sanders is fascinating reading. Sharing some excerpts.

In Madagascar if you asked how long something was going to take, you might be told it would be “the time of rice cooking (about half an hour) or “the frying of a locust” (a few minutes).

For monks in Burma there is no need for alarm clocks. They know when it is time to get up when “there is enough light to see the veins on their hand.”

The Andamanese, a tribe that lives on the Andaman Islands have constructed an annual calendar built around the sequence of dominant smells of trees and flowers in their environment. Instead of living by a calendar, this tribe “simply smell the odours outside their door.’

The Amondawa tribe that lives in the Amazon Rainforest have no specific word in their language for ‘time’ nor do they determine any discrete periods of time such as a month or a year. They only have divisions for night and day, and rainy and dry seasons. Even more intriguing is that nobody in the community has an age. Instead they change their names to reflect their stage of life and position within the community. What a wonderful way to go through life, rather than our obsession with the number of candles on a birthday cake!

The fact remains that time, at least the way we understand it today, is always passing. But what we make of it, is entirely up to us.

As the Dalai Lama has said: “Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend, or a meaningful day.”

–Mamata

 

Where Did They Come From?

Back to my favourite topic—Words and their quaint origins!

CLUE: Comes from an old English word meaning a ball of thread that could help you find your way through a maze. This, is turn, refers to the Greek myth of Theseus who found his way out of the Cretan labyrinth by unravelling a ball of thread. And, from there evolved the use of the word “clue” which refers to hints that help to solve a mystery (or a crossword!).

QUIZ: An invented word. The story goes that in 1780 Richard Daly a Dublin theatre manager made a bet that he would introduce a new word into the language in 24 hours. He sent street urchins to write “Quiz” (a word that he made up) in chalk upon every wall and bare surface in the city, and in a few hours everyone was discussing it. Since no one knew what it meant everyone thought that it was some kind of a test. It came to be used to mean ‘enquiry’.

BLURB: A blurb on the cover of a book may give us a clue about what is in the book.  The word blurb was coined in 1907 by American humorist Gelett Burgess. The cover of his 1906 book Are You a Bromide?  had the picture of a fictitious Miss Belinda Blurb in the act of “blurbing”,  proclaiming “Yes, this is a blurb.”  From then on covers of books used to carry text “blurbs” without the picture. The word blurb entered standard English in the 1920s.

BLOCKBUSTER: This was the British name in World War II for a super-large high-explosive bomb capable of destroying large areas. Within a few years of its use in military terminology the word blockbuster was used to describe other powerful things such as sports teams and hail storms. In 1954 the expression block-buster was used to describe movies that grossed over two million dollars. Today blockbuster is generally used for super-hit movies, but also to describe something that is powerful, exciting, immense and successful.

Surprisingly today we say that a movie “bombed” at the box office to mean just the opposite!

CARTOON: This is the age of blockbuster ‘cartoon’ or animated movies. Interestingly the word derives from the Latin charta meaning paper via the Italian form cartone (a big piece of paper). It originally referred, in the Middle Ages, to a preparatory sketch for a tapestry or other artwork. The modern usage emerged in around 1843 when Punch magazine used satirised drawings of the new Victorian Houses of Parliament, and continued to use humorous illustrations in its issues. In the early 20th century, it began to be used to refer to animated films which resembled print cartoons.

IGNORAMUS: This used to be a favourite word of mine when I was in my teens—just liked the sound of it, and had fun using it to describe people! The word has its origins in legalese. Grand Juries in England wrote “ignoramus” on the back of rejected proposals for indictment to mean “we have no knowledge of it.” The implications that they did not wish to hear anything of it may have led to its later use to describe someone who knows nothing of anything.

The more I read about words, the more I discover what an ignoramus I am!

–Mamata

ignoramus.jpg
Source: Google

Disillusioned!

Strange is the English language

‘Disillusioned’ is a word

But ‘illusioned’ is not!

Which seems to imply

That ‘illusioned’ is so status-quo

That it does not need to be discussed

That it is the state most people live in

That it is the ‘reality’, (Oh! World of contradictions!)

That there is nothing unusual about it

So taken for granted that is will not be mentioned often enough

To make it worth having a word for.

 

And that brings English in its core sensitivity

So close to the concept of Maya

–Everything in the world

A grand illusion

 

But whatever the philosophers and semanticists have to say

About the reality

Or the unreality

Of the world and words

 

I only know

That once you are disillusioned

It is very difficult to be ‘illusioned’ again!

–Meena

The Lacy Brittle: Beawar Til Papad

Indian sweets are yum to the Indian palate. But they don’t lend themselves to hyper-levels of visual appeal enhancements as do cakes and pastries and other sundry desserts, as portrayed in various TV shows.

One traditional sweet which is intrinsically beautiful and delicate is the Til Papad from Beawar. A mono-layer of sesame and thinly sliced pistas and almonds in sugar syrup, each papad is see-through. Just hold it up to the light for a lacy view of the world beyond!

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At some point in my life, I studied in Mumbai, and it was always an adventure to reach Jodhpur, where my parents were, for the vacations. One such journey must have entailed some portion being done by bus, because I distinctly recall wandering around the Beawar Bus-stop. And that is when my fascination with this sweet began. Several shops were making the til papad. Basically til and nut-slivers were cooked in sugar syrup, which was taken off the heat at just the right moment; balls made of the goo; and highly skilled cooks rolled them out, one til-thick. It was amazing to see them at work, for they had to work with hot goo, and roll it really fast and thin.

A few weeks ago, someone from Rajasthan kindly gifted us a box of til papad, and that brought all the memories back.

Digging a little deeper into Beawar, I found that it was not one of the ancient cities of Rajasthan, the story of whose founding is part-history, part-mythology. Beawar was established by a British officer, Colonel Charles George Dixon, in the 19th century as a military cantonment. Situated as it is at a tri-junction of Jodhpur, Jaipur and Udaipur, it gained and still retains importance as a trading centre.

The people of the area were apparently as brave and war-like as from any other part of Rajasthan, and the British had a healthy respect for them. One source tells me that the name ‘Beawar’ originated from the term ‘Be aware’.

In recent history, Beawar’s claim to fame is its link to the Right to Information (RTI) movement. The RTI movement started with a number of activists demanding  transparency, after conducting investigations into wide-spread corruption at panchayat and block levels. The then-CM of Rajasthan, Mr. Bhairon Singh Shekawat assured them he would bring in RTI. But even after a year, this did not happen. So on April 5, 1996, thousands of citizens and activists congregated in Beawar. The protest took place at a busy traffic roundabout called Chang Gate, and lasted 40 days. This laid the foundation for the RTI being brought in.

So sweet little Beawar is strong too!

–Meena

 

ACT NOW!

5 June! The date conjures up so many memories! World Environment Day—a day to remind ourselves and the world of the fragile planet that we call our home, and how best we could do our bit to make it a better place to live. This day marks the anniversary of the Stockholm Conference on Human Environment held in Sweden in 1972 when the nations of the world gathered to share their concern over human progress at the expense of environment. Today nearly fifty years later, the world is sadly not a better place. A cause for grave concern, but not too late to act.

As young Environmental Educators with a passion, and sense of mission to spread this message, we worked in many ways. One of our lasting campaigns was Act Now—to share every-day tips to remind each person to do their bit. From the early 1990s, and through the next two decades Act Now remained the anthem for the Matriarchs.

We began our communications with a provocation: “Are you doing your bit to help save the planet?” “What can I do? I am not a scientist.” “Who me I am only a kid.” “It’s not my business. I don’t work in the government.” “No. I don’t really have time.” And then came the Act Now tips.

Sharing a few hacks (as they would be called now!).

Food for Thought: Get the family to eat together—its saves having to reheat food (thereby fuel) several times.

House Proud: You don’t have to tackle grease and dirt with hazardous chemicals. Mirrors, glass and windows can sparkle when washed with soap and water and rinsed with a solution of one part vinegar to four parts water, and dried with loosely crumples sheets of newspaper.

Grandmother’s Secrets: Remember the shining vessels and fragrant house? That did not come from a bottle. Copper scrubbed with tamarind really gleams. Brass shines when cleaned with a mixture of salt and flour, with a little vinegar added.

Every Drop Counts: Longing for a cool bath? Instead of letting the water run till it cools, why not fill a bucket and keep it to be used when needed?

Winter Warmth: Explore the possibility of installing a solar water heater for hot water needs.

Monsoon Measures: Place a few bricks under the rainwater outlets to prevent the soil from being washes away during a heavy downpour. Better still direct the rain water to storage tank or collect it in a large drum.

Water Wise: Rain water is pure, free and abundant. Store it and use it to water delicate plants with. Brass vessels washed in rain water retain their sheen for a longer time.

Bright Ideas: Cash in on nature’s power supply. Arrange your rooms so that work areas get best advantage of natural light. Why be cooped inside when you can use whatever outdoor space you have (even the steps) to read, sew, chop vegetables, or just chat.

Learn from the Banana: Consider the banana–neatly sealed in an attractive peel which keeps the flavours in and the germs out, and when discarded degrades to enrich the soil. Avoid over-packaged goods. Bring indirect pressure on the manufacturers by rejecting such products.

Take Stewardship: Look ahead using the wisdom of past experience and knowledge of current developments to explore innovative ways of ensuring the well-being of the earth. Let us do what we can, how we can, where we can. It can make a difference. Remember—There is no Planet B!

–Mamata

Distances Are Measured In..

Musings as the monsoons approach….

 

How strange to live in a world (or shall I say, a city)

Where distances are measured not in units of length

But in units of time!!

So that when Kiran says

“I am at Bannerghatta. How far is your place?’

I say not ‘10 kms or 12 kms’

But ‘40 minutes–keep your fingers crossed’.

 

And distances depend on time of day and day of week!

So that when Pramod asks me on a Sunday afternoon

‘How long will it take me to get to your place?’

I say ‘I will put on the tea. You can be here in 10 minutes.’

But when his wife calls on Tuesday evening and asks me the same question,

I say ‘Oh, oh! Our other guests will be here in 15 minutes,

And its going to take you at least 45!’

 

They also depend on time of year

For after the monsoons, when the roads are more holes than road,

A 1 km stretch is a 15-minute ride

While in winter, with the roads freshly—if superficially—done up,

It is a whiz-past of 2 minutes!

 

And did you know, distances depend on who is in town?

For when the PM or the FM or any other M visits,

We count distances in hours, not in minutes.

 

My science teacher, who poor soul,

Lived in as high an ivory tower as is possible,

Will be most deeply disturbed

Because it seems

That nothing is absolute anymore!

 

–Meena Raghunathan

 

PS: I live in Bangalore, most notorious of all cities in regard to traffic. But many others are not far behind, unfortunately. When will we plan for sustainable cities?

TEN DAYS IN NEPAL

May 29th is Nepal’s Republic Day. To mark this upcoming day, here is my friend Anuradha’s travelogue, which could help those planning a trip to this amazing country. Meena.

We planned a 10-day trip and booked air tickets much in advance by Nepal Air direct flight from Bangalore to Kathmandu @ Rs.14K /ticket for round trip. With Kathmandu as a base, we took a package @ Rs.1.3 lacs for 3 pax which included flight tickets from Pokhara to Jomsom round trip, a private car with driver, and accommodations in 4* plus hotels for 9 nights.

Day-1: We were off! Reached Kathmandu by evening.

Day-2 (Friday): Kathmandu local city sightseeing -Swyambhunath Stupa, Darbar squares of Kathmandu & Patan, Pashupathinath Temple.  The ‘Living Goddess’ of Darbar square, hand-made idols of brass and metals at Patan, ancient Pashupathinath Temple were the most memorable.

Day-3 (Saturday): Early morning drive to Chitwan—a distance of around 120 Kms. On the way, there is a popular cable car ride to Mano Kaamana temple. Saturday being a state holiday, there were long queue.  Though we spent half day on the whole process of cable car ride, it was worth it.  Reached Chitwan around 5.30 pm and checked in to Hotel Green Park. As it was already dark, no activity was scheduled. We hired an auto and went around Chitwan and nearby villages, spoke to local people, did some food shopping.  Annual Elephant festival was happening nearby and we dropped in. We enjoyed watching elephant racing and elChitwanephant Polo.

Day 4 (Sunday):  Chitwan National Park visit, Elephant safari, Boating, bird watching, visit to Elephant Breeding centre and cultural evening. Rhinoceros is a star of Chitwan. There are an estimated 600+ plus Rhinos here.  Elephant Safari of around 1.5 hours across a river and inside the jungle was an amazing new experience. We could see Rhinos, Deer, Crocodiles and rare birds.

RinoBird watching from a boat across River Budiramati was amazing.   Jungle walk with guide across National Park, viewing rare Himalayan medicinal plants, creepers, birds was truly educational. We were excited to see a just-born baby elephant in the breeding centre.

 

 

Day 5 (Monday): Drove to Pokhara from Chitwan.  Beautiful drive across rivers, valleys of Himalayan stretch.  View of Dhaulagiri, Nilgiri and Annapurna range of Himalayas, Matsyangadi, Sethi Gandaki and Gudi Gandaki Rivers.  Compared to Kathmandu, Pokhara looked more developed with better infrastructure.  Our hotel was right opposite the famous Fewa lake.   Visited couple of local places in Pokhara. As it was 31st Dec, entire city was decorated and Street Festival was going on.  We roamed around here and got to know about local Mela.    It was indeed a memorable great experience to be in Nepal’s happening Pokhara, on the New Year eve.

Jamsom flightDay 6 (Tuesday): Travelled from Pokhara to Jomsom by 7.50 hrs Tara Air flight.  Flight didn’t take off on scheduled time due to bad weather.  Till 10.45 am, we had no idea whether flight would take off.  Luckily weather cleared by 11 am and we were on the way.  It was a spine-chilling experience in a 12-seater charter flight, flying at a very low height of 30 mts among Himalayan glaciers.

Flight landed in a small place Jomsom, surrounded by mountains.  Temperature was minus (going down to -17o C). Stay was arranged in Om’s Home, a beautiful heritage hotel.  Understand Amitabh Bachchan stayed in this Hotel during shooting of his movie Khuda Gawah.  To our excitement, the same room was allocated to us.  We quickly freshened up for a local visit around Jomsom, to a lake which was frozen and a beautiful Morpha village.  Since it was off-season, not many tourists found and it was calm and heavenly.  The apple-growing Morpha village was very clean and neat with wooden houses.   Dining room at Hotel was kept warm by non-electrical boiler heater.  Internet connectivity was very good though it is a remote place.

Day 7 (Wednesday):  Mukthinath Darshan.  We started around 9 a.m. from Hotel by jeep towards Mukthinath.  There are no words to explain our experience of passing through the Himalayan valley. We filled our hearts and minds with the Himalayan view and took pics. We crossed Khinga, Jarkot, Kakbani villages, Kali Gandaki river and drove towards Mustang and arrived to Mukthinath base. After 30 mts trek, we reached the holy temple.  Our dream of seeing god Mukthinath has come true.  We bathed in icy cold holy water here.  We had a very good darshan as there were no crowds, thanks to the cold.

As we had read that ‘Saligrama’ is found at Kali Gandaki river, we requested our driver to take us to the river bank .  He was good enough to do so and after an hour of searching, we found a few.  On the way back we bought fresh Walnuts and dried apple.

Day 8 (Thursday): Departure from Jamsom by Tara Air and back to Pokhara around 9 a.m. Full day Pokhara local visit was planned.  We have covered Museum on Mountaineering-definitely worth a visit.  4.5 km boat ride in Fewa Lake was a wonderful experience.Peace Pagoda stupa at Pokhara was also interesting.

Day 9 (Friday): Sunrise view from Sarangkot is not to be missed.  The view of Davalgiri and Annapurna Himalayan ranges, sun rising on these mountain ranges can’t be explained but has to be experienced.  We were in no mood to leave the place and were there till 8.30 a.m. filling our eyes with mountain ranges and sun rise view. As next visit was to Nagrkot a long drive from Pokhara, we had to leave to continue the journey.

It was full-day awesome drive across river Trishooli, Sethu Gandaki. On the way, we visited an extremely old temple Changinarayan.  Wooden crafts and masks are famous here. We reached Nagarkot mountain peak around 8 p.m.  Our stay was arranged in Country Villa wherein each room is on a mountain edge and built in such a way that sunrise can be viewed from the room itself. The great Everest mountain ranges are visible from Nagarkot.  It is better to plan for more time at this beautiful place.

Day 10 (Saturday):  Morning, we checked out of the to drive towards Bhaktapur, a heritage city. Bhaktapur is famous for Thangka art and paintings.  City looked red–all brick buildings without paint. We visited Darbar square of Bhaktapur, saw beautiful sculptures and heard stories behind these.  We quickly finished our Bhaktapur visit so as to reach airport by 12 noon to catch our return flight.

Paintings

Reached Bangalore around 5 p.m. with amazing memories of Nepal, eyes filled with Himalayan glaciers, blessings of Lord Pashupathinath and Mukthinath.

Our observation of Nepal on our 10-day tour is that people of Nepal are very proud and concerned about the Himalayas and treat their land as God’s home.  Women are respected, they go all alone freely.  People are sincere and happy.   All the places we visited in Nepal were clean and well maintained. Rest rooms were hygienic. Garbage bins are available in most of the places and also getting cleared every now and then.  Nepal is truly a worth visiting destination.

–Anuradha Nagaraj

(Trip of Dec 2018-Jan 2019).

The Danseuse and the Turtles

May 23 is World Turtle Day. And this is my turtle tale!IMG_20190523_095146.jpg

It was an unlikely subject–not one that I would have volunteered for! Among the diverse subjects that I had an opportunity to learn about when I was developing a series called NatureScope India, Turtles happened to be the subject of the next issue. That was going to take some research on my part! As it turned out, I found out a lot about turtles, but also had the wonderful opportunity to meet someone extraordinary–Dr Priyambada Mohanty-Hejmadi.

Dr Priyambada was a member of our Governing Council in the early 2000s. Sarees being a greater passion for me than turtles, I always admired this elegant lady who used to wear the most beautiful handwoven sarees from Odisha. Then I found out that she was one of India’s foremost authorities on turtles! And that she was also one of the earliest and well-known proponents of the Odissi dance form. What an awesome combination!

Over 60 years ago, Priyambada was already learning Odissi, when as a student she represented Odisha at an Inter-University Youth Festival in New Delhi and gave a performance of Odissi. This was perhaps the first time that the dance was performed outside of Odisha. The audience was rapturous, and a review by a Hungarian dance critic, put Odissi on the pan-Indian map. Today this dance form has found a niche in the international arena.

Priyambada continued to dance, but also to pursue her studies in Zoology. She moved to the United States on a fellowship to pursue higher studies in Zoology. Though her dance workshops and learning continued, her academic work took precedence. Her research on marine turtles has been globally recognised.

Of the seven species of turtles in the world, five species are known to occur in Indian coastal waters—the Olive Ridley (the smallest), Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Green, and Leatherback (the largest). Sea turtle females come ashore to lay their eggs. Orissa is the only state in India which has three large rookeries or turtle nesting sites of which Gahirmatha is the world’s largest known sea turtle rookery.

Priyambadaji has been at the forefront of the efforts to protect the Olive Ridley Turtle. Not so long ago these turtles were endangered due to the disturbances in the areas where they nested.  With the active campaigns and efforts of a number of groups, and with inspiration and support from people like Priyambadaji, there is now a resurgence of nesting turtles. This February-March it is estimated that nearly four lakh turtles came ashore for Arribada—a Spanish term for mass nesting, to lay their eggs on beach at Gahirmatha that was declared a marine sanctuary in 1997 by the Odisha government.

Advocating policy changes, supporting local NGOs to create awareness, and guiding plans for protection, while also pursuing academic research and writing, Dr Priyambada has been an inspiring supporter of the Turtles.

Dr Priyambada’s work in science earned her a Padma Shri. Her academic excellence saw her as the Vice Chancellor of Sambalpur University. Her passion for, and life-long immersion in dance has led her to write a number of books and articles on Odissi and related subjects.

I feel honoured to have had the opportunity to have interacted with this inspiring lady, who so graciously took the time to give her comments and guidance on the draft of the NatureScope book on Turtles. Priyambadaji truly demonstrates an interweaving of Science and Art, as beautiful as the sarees she wears!

–Mamata

 

Something to Buzz About!

Today is World Bee Day, designated by none other than the United Nations!honey-311047__340.png

This would have gone unnoticed had I not been reading about Bees for a lesson I was writing for a textbook. Having discovered that there was an international day dedicated to this small creature made me dig deeper–and unearth some delightful nuggets of information.

How did this come about? This was proposed by Slovenia (find that on the map!) on the initiative of the Slovenian Bee Keepers Association, and supported by the Slovenian Government. Following three years of efforts at the international level, on 20 December 2017, the UN Member States unanimously approved Slovenia’s proposal, thus proclaiming 20 May as World Bee Day.

Why Slovenia? Slovenia has a long and rich tradition of beekeeping as a major agricultural activity. Known as a Nation of Beekeepers–one in 200 of its inhabitants is engaged in bee keeping, and there are many levels of Beekeepers Associations. It is known for its unique wooden painted beehive panels and traditional beehive architecture. Even today, most Slovenian beekeepers use a traditional beehive called the AŽ hive, which was created over one hundred years ago.

Why 20 May? This is the birth date of Anton Jansa (1734–1773), a Slovenian beekeeper, the pioneer of modern beekeeping and one of the greatest authorities on the subject of bees. Jansa wisely said “Amongst all God’s beings there are none so hard working and useful to man with so little attention needed for its keep as the bee.”

What’s so special about bees? For most of us it is ‘Think Bees Think Honey’. Besides honey, bees also produce high-quality food like royal jelly and pollen, as well as other products used in healthcare like beeswax and bee venom.

While bees are the only animals that produce food that is eaten by other animals, as well as humans, we do not realise that every third spoonful of all the food we eat depends on bees. It is bees and other pollinators that pollinate nearly three quarters of the plants that produce 90 per cent of the world’s food. When bees go, we lose much much more than a spoonful of honey.

Bees are vital for the preservation of ecological balance and biodiversity in nature. They also act as indicators of the state of the environment. Their presence, absence or quantity tells us when something is happening with the environment and that appropriate action is needed.

So why should we worry? The number of pollinators is in decline around the world. In some parts, this situation has become known as “the pollinator crisis”. New reports are raising the alarm about the rapid decline in bee species and numbers that will pose a direct threat to food production and food security. The time has come to heed the words of Albert Einstein “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.”

What can we do? For those of us bitten by the honey bug, we could take up beekeeping.

In India Government organisations like the National Bee Board under the Agriculture Department, and Central Bee Research and Training Institute IMG_20190516_115618.jpg(CBRTI) of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) provide training to not just farmers or those who wish to commercially supply honey, but also to anyone who is interested in beekeeping. They can be contacted at cbrti.pune@kvic.gov.in.

For the rest of us, we can do our bit by making bees welcome. We could provide fresh, pesticide-free drinking water; bees need to regularly drink water, especially in hot weather. We can also grow bee-friendly plants. Trees like gulmohar, champa and amaltas, and flowering plants like marigold, sunflower, rose, and hibiscus are ideal for attracting bees. Vegetable and fruit plants like ladies finger, onion, mustard, coriander, cauliflower, cabbage, carrot, brinjal, tomato, chilli, papaya, lemon, mango, guava and pomegranate are also good at attracting bees.

While we can’t all transform into a Slovenia, maybe it’s time that we saw that bee as more than just a passing buzz!

–Mamata

May 22 also marks the International Day for Biological Diversity. Let’s start the celebration with a Bee!