Jal…The Rising

Be prepared. Get ready. Here is something coming. Too fast, too soon. It is going to hit us anytime. This is not the promotion of some new consumer product. This is not the latest in town. Oh yes, in a peculiar way it is. It is a very polite way of saying “the bells are tolling… be ready when they come crashing on you!”

The early warning for the oncoming Cyclone that is gathering momentum in the Bay of Bengal off the south-eastern coast of India has been issued. Keep your fingers crossed, say the experts.

Traversing at a speed of 120-140 kms, the supersonic cyclone – as the predictors of foreboding doom termed it – could hit Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, parts of the Orissa coast causing severe havoc to life and material goods. So how do we prepare for it? Of course both Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are gearing up for the inevitable. Fishermen along the sea-coasts are the most harried lot. But many among them seem to be unperturbed.

For the senior seafarers… it’s just another one of those sea-tantrums. “Yes, sometimes the sea is troubled. It is like any of us. It is good to be sick sometimes,” says a philosophical Jayamani at Tahzangkuppam. Another sea-hardy warrior muses “It is part of our life. The sea is everything for us. It gives, it sustains, it takes. Now and then, it acts a bit angry. So what? All of us have the right to be angry sometimes.” But the young greenhorns beg to differ. “Our parents and grandparents have seen many occasions like this. But for us, the Tsunami was a terrible experience, followed by the Cyclone Laila and now this. Perhaps in our lifetime, we will get to see more destruction than any generation before us,” quips Ramalingam as he stares into the waves breaking over the barriers. His friend Surya gestures “we have to live with it. Fishing has been our occupation for years. This will come and go.”

The northern tip of Tamil Nadu and the southern tip of Andhra Pradesh are expected to bear the brunt of the puyal accompanied by thundershowers and the furious rising of the sea.

Is then any preparation good enough to withstand the furious monstrosity of nature? Especially more so after the havoc we – humans – have perpetrated on Mother Nature? Perhaps this repeated bursts of fuming, raging violence of the vast ocean calls us to serious thinking & action?? Let’s wait, watch and hope that the landfall which could be anytime soon, will spare us in its wake!

Preparing for the Worst:

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Learning Beyond Textbooks

“I don’t understand what my teachers teach me half-the-time,” says Jayesh, a Std. VI student. His classmate Jyothika concurs “The textbooks are very difficult. We just read it because we have to pass.” Very often, it is burdensome for the young minds to grasp the contents of the text-books. If this is the case, how do teachers and others propose to educate children? How do you then inculcate a love for physics principles? Teachers and others have been trying to find various solutions to this dilemma. One of the many ways in which children learn is the play-way method.

Hence, Ashok Leyland and the Society of Automobile Engineers, Chennai have come up with the innovative ‘play-way’ method of engaging children to learn the principles of Newton’s third law!

Newton’s Third Law of Motion

They recently organised a Toy-Car Building Contest titled “A World in Motion.” Oh… to see the joy on the faces of these 200 children from across 50 city-schools who participated in this event. With coloured balloons propelling the cars forward, it did look as though the automobile principles which so many engineers have laboriously learnt are nothing but child’s play! What’s more the chassis of the cars were made from nothing else but paper and straw!

Creativity combined with the principles of automobile engineering and the concept of a pollution-free city road leads one to ask “does one have to pour over textbooks to be a successful engineer or are we all not simply born to engineer?” That’s what the children of classes V, VI and VII demonstrated. That is what the physics-teachers and the volunteer-engineers from Ashok Leyland displayed. Textbooks are necessary, but they are not the absolute. There maybe something within the child and the confines of imagination that may not feature on textbooks as yet!

I sincerely wish that in other subjects too, teachers and educators will realise that too much over -dependence on textbooks and classrooms can actually kill creativity than encourage it. Here’s to textbook-free learning like our young engineers!

Have a Dhekko: http://www.hindu.com/2010/10/31/stories/2010103161570400.htm

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Jal… The Passing

The recent KarthiTamanna starrer Tamil flick Paiya is notable for its foot-tapping, soul-lifting adada mazhaida…adai mazhaida… alaga siricha puyal mazhaida…pinni pinni mazhai adikka… minnal vandha kodai puddika… vaanum rendachu… bhoomi tundhachu…(Hey its raining… its raining… cyclonic rain with a pleasant smile… beating down… lightning… thundering… the sky split in two… the earth breaking… )

What better way to describe the Jal onset. It came in trashing, crashing, thundering, fuming, raging and passed over chaotically. It came and vrooom… it vanished. Of course it brought in its wake a telling destruction.

But, it was dismissed as a Cyclone with a whimper. Indeed what do those know who are safely ensconced in their cosy cushioned sofas! Ask those that were there. Ask those who lived it through the thick night and the wee hours of the bleak dawn. Ask those who ran for life. Ask those who were rushed to local dispensaries. Yes, most importantly listen to the woes of those battered, shattered and ensnared by the trap-net of Mother Nature!

Scores waited, watched, prayed and hoped that it would pass over. Come it did… with the sound and light effects late in the evening. Crash it did… on to the tiny fishing hamlets that dot the Northern Chennai coast-line. Boats flew, sand flowed inland, waves three times the normal height roared, danced and rocked into the thickening night. “Thank God, this time we were prepared. It did not cause much destruction,” says a relieved Chinnadurai. “We expected worse. It has not done much harm. We are lucky to get away with a slight battering. Of course, it could have been disastrous if we had continued to sleep in our huts,” exclaims an excited Nagamma while picking up shards of clay utensils and fixing the thatched roof that shelters her.

Similar situations exist all along the south-eastern coastline. The expected landfall did take place alright, but mercifully it had a much lesser impact than originally predicted. However, arrangements had been made for the worse, with the Disaster Response Force on alert. Teams of medicos and fire-brigade arrangements had been made. The local police personnel were also on high alert and did fantastic patrol-duty. Local committees were formed to respond to emergency situations.Yet, the hurtling jaal did manage to devour lives and property. Evacuations and relief measures notwithstanding it was a devastating blow to those by the sea. Heavy winds, rain, flooding were reported from many areas. All along the coast – Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh – the incoming sea simply flowed through hutments and crops! The resultant surge ensured that many fishing hamlets were completely inundated.

Many are relieved that this disastrous calamity has passed over. As Saramma voices with a sigh “we never know when the next cyclone will come. Some are already saying in two months there will be a worse one. What to do? We can’t stop living. We hope and pray that our future will be better.”

With a prayer on their lips and hope in their heart, the fishermen and their families prepare for a long haul. The sea too is getting calmer. The lashing, petrifying waves look their normal self once more. Youngsters and kiddies are back on the shore with their cricket gear! Life ebbs on by the sea… Come Cyclone, come Thunderstorms, come any-which calamity…. just like the waves that keep on with a determined resilience, North Chennai and other areas along the sea-coast grin & bear the vagaries of life and living.

Featured: Live Videos from Ennore & Thiruvanmiyur

The Passage of Jal… the Jaal:

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