17 September 2007

Of art and math; move over Leonardo

An acquaintance of ours, Mrs. Y, has been asking me for a while to conduct an "Understand India" session at one of the various organizations she's a patron of. Understand India? It sounded too broad a brief, and I agreed, without a single clue what I was going to do or talk about. My abysmal Japanese notwithstanding.

Once I was given the brief it didn't sound that bad. "Think of a typically Indian activity for kids, that is typically Indian." All right. That didn't sound too bad. But as D-day loomed, I hadn't thought of a single thing that was "typically Indian". Then I realised, that I'd comitted to this session on the same date Ganesha chaturthi, and inspired by that, I said I'd show kids about Rangoli. That was quite safe. No one in Tsuruoka, other than me of course, can tell good rangoli from a totally mediocre one. And it was as typically Indian as something I could think of. So I shot off an email to Mrs. Y about what I was planning to do, links to some sites about Rangoli, and some rangoli designs, and said that all I'd need was coloured chalk, and some rice flour or chalk powder.
My plan of action was very simple. Demonstrate a podi-rangoli, give the kids some patterns, let them draw some with chalk, and we wind up. I totally underestimated the center director, Ms J.

Come D-day, I drove to the center, and was welcomed by a bunch of totally enthusiastic kids. And Ms J was all smiles, and said that she'd organised everything needed for rangoli. Imagine my surprise when I stepped outside, and saw bags and bags of colours. No jokes, there were a dozen hues of coloured powder there. I was stumped. How??

I'd not counted on Ms J's utter resourcefulness. She did her own R and D about rangoli, and was wondering what could be used since traditional colours were not available in Japan. Apparently she was taking a walk by the beach when inspiration struck. She took half a dozen kids and seives to the beach, sifted a few bags of sand, and dyed them with printer ink. And these are wonderful colours she came up with. I was, and still am, amazed at her solution.
I showed the kids how to mark dots, a couple of samples, and once they coloured those, they went on to design, draw and decorate their own creations.

The kids all seemed to be having the time of their lives. And after a bit, the supervisors jumped in too. And the entire driveway was a riot of colour.

Some kids started drawing rockets, etc. They gave free reign to their imagination, and kept drawing masterpiece after masterpiece.

But it wasn't all smooth sailing with art.

My art at least.

One kid said she wanted to colour this pattern. I was happy, and told her to go ahead. She was quite happy, and confided to me that she was very fond of mushrooms.
Sigh... and here I thought my diyas looked so pretty.

During the introduction, Mrs Y introduced India and Indians to the kids as mathematical geniuses. Genius?? Well, the kids started throwing numbers at me, asking to multiply them mentally. And these were numbers they could manage. All under 20. At this point, the imp in me took over, and I started demonstrating the finer points of vedic mathematics to these kids. Just a couple of 'sutras', but sutras that I was very very sure about. The very elementary simple ones. Soon I had kids writing numbers on the board, and writing out the answers before they could key in and get the answer from a calculator. God, that was some ego trip! The awe on the faces of the students, and teachers alike, had to be seen to be believed. So in this neck of the woods at least, we have kids thinking that Indians have a second brain for mathematics.

Thank goodness they didn't want to look at my marks cards.


Dents said...

oy, teach me some sutras... Unfortunately (fortunately, rather) the only sutra is know is kamasutra :)

hema said...

dents, high time vidya( ur mom) knows it

hema said...

brush up on vedic maths

Vidya said...

Dents, er.. there's something called email :) comments are too public ... hehehe

Preethy said...

Ah! Vedic maths! Haunts me even in Tokyo!

Ms J must be a a good (South) Indian bahu reborn or something.Puts me to shame.

Mushrooms ha ha ...!!

Tys on Ice said...

wht a lovely idea! rangoli in japan! who wud hve thunk?

Vidya said...

Preethy, your post was my inspiration to go on a vediic mathematics trip, and was it sooo worth it!

Tys, very safe what?? no one can tell good rangoli from bad, or bad rangoli from abstract art :D imagine trying the same stunt with a desi crowd.... or where there are likely ot be desis other than moi!

antrix said...

Wow.. you still remember vedic maths! respect :)

BTW, isn't the kid a bit too young to be loving mushrooms ;-)

Anonymous said...

very good desh seva doing!!!

hey check out www.nakeddesserts.com

p.s. its not objectionable


Vidya said...

Thanks, Antrix...
All those years of education, and something to show for it :)

are you dropping hints?? if you want me to make u brownies, get ur backside to Mysore... sometime in December.

Vani said...

What an interesting post, Vidya! Loved the mushroom comment! :) I didn't even know there was something called vedic math with sutras..

TBC said...

I just had to go look up Vedic maths before I understood it completely:-)
Loved the mushroom/diya comment. lol:D