Sunday, February 28, 2010

School Exhibition Stories

Our school exhibition was held earlier this month and, as tends to happen at anything organized by our school, things got a little surreal.

One morning I went to school to conduct play rehearsals and found the auditorium locked because of some miscommunication about rehearsal timings. I was running around trying to sort this out, when my class nine English teacher caught me and dragged me into a nearby classroom. Some kids were rehearsing a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the exhibition’s English Literature room, and my teacher wanted me to give them acting tips. So one minute I was walking upstairs wondering how to get the auditorium unlocked, the next I was instructing a thirteen-year old Titania in the finer points of serenading a donkey.

The exhibition was still a few days away, so from here, things could only get weirder. Sure enough, a few days later I woke up to find two high school kids in our drawing room. One was heartily tucking into chicken salad from our fridge while the other constructed a Pascal’s triangle out of colourful cups. Why they chose to do this in our house – as opposed to their own houses or indeed in school – is still not entirely clear to me.

At the exhibition itself, a teacher set fire to the Chemistry room while demonstrating the dancing sodium experiment, and a maths prodigy tried to interest casual visitors in his project with the immortal line, “Ki bolchhen didi, apni polynomial equationer ekta root theke shob kota root bar korte chan na?” (What do you say didi, from just one root, don’t you want to find out all the roots of this polynomial equation?)

But my favourite story is that of the little girl pictured on the right. She was demonstrating Bernoulli’s Principle through an experiment, and this was her version of the principle: “When the air flows with a very high speed, pressure doesn’t have the time to fall on that place.”

Hat tip to Srijata for the quotes, and to Deyasini for the second photo.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Film Photography

The advantages of digital photography over film photography are so obvious and so numerous that I won’t even bother to list them out. But film photography has its merits too. Because the marginal cost of an exposure is relatively high, film cameras teach you economy; because they don’t offer the luxuries of instant review and multiple attempts, film cameras teach you perfection.

Manual focusing often gives better results than auto-focus, but most digital cameras have auto-focus and it is hard to resist the temptation of using it; my film camera, a manual-focus SLR, leaves me with no such choice. I also like the excitement of waiting to see how the photos come out. And finally, though I almost always use digital cameras these days, I admit to a nostalgic fondness for film photography and everything that goes with it, because it was with a film SLR that I first learnt to take photos.

I took my film camera on a trip to the Indian Botanical Gardens earlier this month, and I was quite pleased with the results.

Photo by Priyanka.
Minolta X-370s, 70 mm, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/250 sec.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Upupa Epops

My brother and I are directing our school play, an adaptation of Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie. And Haroun’s steed in the Land of Kahani, as you will know if you have read the book, was a mechanical hoopoe. Ever since we decided upon the story, hoopoes seem to have become a recurring feature of my life.

Last month, we went to school to discuss the script with our teacher-in-charge of extracurricular activities, and we noticed that the bird on the January page of her calendar was a hoopoe. And yesterday, after conducting rehearsals at school, I went to college for some work. Just as I had entered our campus, I spotted – of all things – a hoopoe!

Avian life on our campus is fairly diverse, but the last thing I had expected to see was a real live hoopoe.

Actually the last thing I had expected to see was a pterodactyl; nevertheless the hoopoe came as quite a surprise.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Appalling Art

Good art can be enriching, uplifting, and in rare cases, life-changing. But bad art is sometimes endearing in a way that good art can never be. On this note I present, for the first time on public display, two truly appalling drawings from my private collection.

My brother drew this when I went to my first Boy Scouts camp:

Note the clever wordplay: drawing room. And in case you were wondering, no, we don’t call our mother “mom”. But in my brother’s defence, he was a toddler at the time.

Senjuti, however, was definitely not a toddler when she drew this:

In a game of Pictionary last month, she was asked to draw Moby Dick. A right-thinking person would have drawn a whale and a harpoon. But Senjuti, being Senjuti, decided to draw the Famous Five. The curious-looking creature at the bottom is Timmy the dog. The humans, from left to right, are Julian, Dick, George and Anne.

Call me dirty-minded, but that is not how I would have chosen to represent Dick.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Cat on a Wall

The legal philosopher John Finnis argued that there are seven ‘basic goods’ in human life – goods that are fundamental, self-evidently good and irreducible to other things. There is much that I disagree with in the philosophy of Finnis, but there is one thing I like about this particular theory. The seven basic goods include such serious and weighty matters as Life, Knowledge and Religion, but – and this is what I like about his theory – Play is among them too. Finnis defines play as “performances which have no point beyond the performance itself, enjoyed for its own sake.”

Last night I went to Tibetan Delight to eat pan-fried momos. While I ate, I could hear an altercation in the background between the waiter who looks like Jimmy Neutron and the lady who sits at the cash counter (who I think is his mother).

After the meal, walking through the narrow alley that connects Tibetan Delight to the real world, I spotted a cat on a wall. There was a telephone wire stretched above the wall, and from it hung a pebble on the end of a string. The pebble was swinging like a pendulum, and the cat’s head went back and forth as she followed its motion. When the pebble came to rest, the cat stood up on her hind legs, stretched upwards, and with a light swipe of her paw, set the pebble swinging again.

I watched this performance for sometime, then Jimmy Neutron came out of the restaurant and joined me. Then his mother came out too, and the three of us stood there, silently watching the cat. After five or six swipes, the cat tired of the game, and with that air of supreme unconcern that only cats can muster, it walked away.

Until I saw the cat, I wasn’t in a particularly cheerful mood, because I’d seen two movies that evening, neither of which I understood. Jimmy Neutron didn’t look too cheerful either, perhaps because of the altercation. And his mother is one of those people who hardly ever look cheerful. But as we went our separate ways – Jimmy Neutron and his mother back to the restaurant and I to the bus stop – all three of us had silly grins on our faces.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Inbox (1)

I like people who respond quickly to emails. I also like:
• Compulsive doodlers
• People who enjoy cooking
• People who willingly pose for silly photos
• Enthusiastic people
• Fruit-lovers
• Organized people
• Clumsy people
• People who care for punctuation, and little things in general
• Guitarists who don’t showboat
• And many other kinds of people

But in this list of the kinds of people I like, people who respond quickly to emails have a special place.