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(Found this text of a speech I gave at my Toastmasters club (named “Innovators”, sometime in 2011, when I was organizing folders on my PC. Posting as is)
I come from India. If you did not know already, India is a land where you’ll find people speak hundreds of language and there are at least 30 languages with more than a million speakers. It is not hard to find people who can speak more than one Indian language. Typical of many urban Indians, I can speak in several of Indian languages too.
But there is one language that I can’t claim to speak, but I can understand quite well. This language is Samskrta. It is the oldest known language of India, and possibly one of the oldest surviving languages of the world. This language has influenced every other language in India to a varying extents, and has a literature that spans over four millennia. Even though it is not claimed as a mother tongue by any, due to the antiquity, and the influence it has on the vocabulary on Indian languages, it is still one of the 22 official languages of the country. Till the time of the colonization of India by the British in the 18th century, it was in fact the pan-Indian language for communication among the educated class. A great number of texts about yoga, Ayurveda (or the science of medicine), Jyotisha (or astronomy) and Ganita (Mathematics) etc are written in this language.
When I was in my elementary school, my parents enrolled me to Samskrta classes. I don’t remember being asked if I wanted to go to those classes, and I don’t know if I had any other opinion, it would have mattered! It was not a language that was taught in my grade school. These classes were held throughout the year, without even a summer break! What this meant was that I had to wake up early, take a shower, go to the class, come back home and then head out for my school. Sometimes, there were additional classes in the evening too. Going to these classes were the routine for me from the time I was in my kindergarten to about my junior year in high school. Since I lived in a small town, I could walk or bike to the classes quickly, so that was not a big problem. But I had to be always aware of these extra two hours needed in my day, when it came to preparing for tests or other work at my school, because I could never use the last couple hours before school to finish up anything!
Over the years, I passed through several levels in these Samskrta language classes. The classes were grouped based on the level, and not on the age. Since I started out early, I was almost always the youngest student in my class! Since Samskrta is not really a widely spoken language, there wasn’t much thrust in learning to speak the language, but the emphasis was on understanding the structure of the language, grammar and and appreciating literary texts. Some texts, specifically poetry had to be memorized too. As we all know, things that are committed to memory at a young age generally remain with us till much later in my life. Although I stopped going to my Samskrta classes during mid-high school, I still remember those verses memorized years ago.
Luckily, my interest in this language did not wane even after I stopped going to those classes. About five or six years ago, I tried to translate some poetry from Samskrta, to Kannada, my mother tongue; generally I started out by those poems that I knew by heart, from my age old classes! I started a blog to post these translations, and the positive comments from readers encouraged me to try out more. Then I had to look for other poems that I did not know before. Now that I am not that young anymore, and and can not commit these verses to memory, it was indeed a good idea for me to try translating whenever I found a new verse that sounded good to me!
To make a long story short, sometime back I was asked if I would like to publish a collection of my selected translations, and a book was published this year! The book is titled “Hamsanaada” and it is in Kannada. It got some favorable reviews in the press too.
As the verse on the opening page of my book says, needless to say translated from an age old Sanskrtit saying – “Start your kids on good things, when they are really young. The pictures etched on a wet mud pot will stay even after you use it for cooking for a long time!”
Dear Innovators, start off your kids to some good things – be it sports,or arts like music and dance, or learning a new language, or whatever else that they can grow up with, and take into their adulthood. With the current life styles, it may be a hard choice to put kids into many activities, and the kids may even resent them now. But I am sure you can find one or two activities apart from the regular schooling, that they’ll like or at least lean to not hate! I’m sure they will be thankful for what you did for them, later in their adult life, because the pictures etched on a wet mud pot, indeed stay forever!
Tomorrow, 20th February 2008, brings in the first lunar eclipse of the year.
A lunar ecliplse, unlike a solar eclipse is visible from more than half the earth’s surface. This particular eclipse is located very favorably to the western hemisphere. For sky watchers in the Pacific Standard Time zone, the totality phase of this eclipse begins around 7 pm, and ends few minutes before 8 pm.
You will not see this eclipse if you live in India, Australia, New Zealand, South East Asia, most parts of China or in Siberia.
Unlucklily for me, the weather is not really co-operating where I live. Tomorrow’s prediction calls for rain (and that means cloudy sky even if there is no rain :( ) So I may not be lucky enough to see tomorrow’s eclipse after all.
But I am really disappointed for my son. After showing a few things in the sky, this ‘sky bug’ has caught on him too. I had mentioned about this coming eclipse and he was really looking forward to see this event. Probably this could have been the first eclipse that he would remember into his adulthood. I still remember seeing those eclipses when I was his age, and I can feel his excitement. Alas, I don’t know if he gets to see this at all. Mercy Oh Weather Gods!
Did you say lunar eclipses are not so rare? Yes, true. But I have to wait for almost two years to see a total eclipse (Dec 21st, 2010) similar to tomorrow’s eclipse from my location. And guess what? The weather here in December won’t be any prettier either! So next realistic possibility for me to watch a total lunar eclipse with my son is on April 14th, 2014. By that time, I am sure my son would not remain the dreamy eyed little lad that he is today.
Oh well, that is a bit too far out to think about. But I can always hope that the god Varuna is pleased, and takes his clouds away to give us a clear view of the eastern sky tomorrow evening!
Anyway, if the skys are clear where you live, don’t forget to peep outside to see the eclipse!
To be accurate, the title should have been the ‘Road from Paradise’, for that is the road you will drive if you drove from Paradise, CA to Quincy, CA. Drive, I did, to Quincy. But not from Paradise, but from San Jose, CA area last weekend.
It was a leaf-peeping trip. California is not blessed with the typical fall foliage that the east coast of USA is known for. Not that I worry about it – because the absense of fall color also translates to more tolerable winters, and not having to scrape the snow off the windshield :) To make the long story short, this day trip to Quincy, CA in Plumas county was to enjoy the sights of the fall.
Most of the fall color wonders in CA occurs on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, bordering the state of Nevada. On the more popular passes on the western side of the mountains (like the highway 50, 80, 120, 140 etc) the vegitation is mostly coniferous, and hence evergreen, which means no fall foliage. Except in couple of passes like the Feather River Pass and the Yuba River Pass.
I knew this was a long road. At least 5 hours of drive – one way. So we made an early start @7 am. 3 + hours of drive brought us to the small town of Olivehurst, CA with a non descript main street. One Pizza Parlor. One gas station. One hardware store. And a break for us to eat our ಉಪ್ಪಿಟ್ಟು. And yes, there was some good fall color on the parking lot, sort or preface for things to come.
Maple leaf turning golden in Olivehurst, CA
California state highway 70 going from Oroville, CA to Quincy, CA is also called the Feather river canyon. The road meanders next to the north fork of Feather river, crossing countless bridges, and a few tunnels. There are several small dams on the river. There is a big dam one at Oroville too. We skipped seeing that, but I belive we crossed it’s backwaters.
A view of North Fork of Feather River.
From Oroville to Quincy, it is about 75 miles. The first 25 miles are uneventful. You go up about 2000 feet, and then come down about the same. The road is one lane each side. But the traffic was very light.
Bald grey hill
Even before we could spot any color, one of the sights seen from miles was a grey bald hill, with trees burnt from a forest fire sometime back. I was rally hoping that our drive would not be fruitless, after watching this hill for a while.
Finally, color starts showing up!
All along the Feather river canyon, you will see a railway track close by. I have no clue where the rails lead to. But we spotted several freight trains on our drive. So they should be leading somewhere :)
After a while. color started showing up everywhere! Some of these pics were taken from inside the car, and that explains the blurriness. Entire hillsides were drenched in color.
Color, color, and more color!
The road has it’s own quota of curves. But not as bad as some other sierra roads. It is in good state of repair. One thing is it does not snow much in Feather river canyon. Actually it is the lowest pass that crosses the Sierra from west to east. But at some really nice spots, there was no place to pull over the car and take pictures :(
More Curves, and More Color!
Finally, we made it to Quincy by 1 pm in the afternoon. Quincy is a sleepy town, (or should I say a village? I don’t know), but is the main town of Plumas county. It has a college and even an airstrip.
We found some nice picnic benches in front of the elementary school. My son later tells me that the building also houses the Plumas county board of education. Very nice place for our ಹುಳಿಯನ್ನ and ಮೊಸರನ್ನ!
Quincy Elementary School. The board says it was built in 1905!
Rainbow tree :) in front of Quincy School, and (perhaps the only?) grocery store
A street in Quincy, alive with color
Red sandwiched between yellow
A street in Quincy -Trees, and cars, and electric lines!
Good bye Quincy!
The weather was near perfect. Not cold, but with a tinge of cool air. After a good lunch, it is time to head back home. On the way back, I noticed the colors at some places were much brighter due to the changed angle of sunlight.
Orange clad hillside
Another curve on the Feather river
Almost exiting the Feather river valley.
The colors will be here for another week or ten days. After that, all there will be bare trees and bleak landscape. May be something like below.
First trace of winter?
I have read that Feather canyon is beautiful in spring too- thanks to hundreds of waterfalls that line the hillside. I sense it would be great, because I saw remnats of many small falls on the roadside. I hope I will do that drive sometime. No, definitely not next year. After having to go through myriad “are we there yet?”, “why not turn back and head home right now?” from my kids :) I want to give them a break. April 2009? May be. My kids will be little more grown then. Also I am sure the questions will be different. “Did we come here to see these little waterfalls, where you can’t even swim?”