Friday, July 22, 2011

All is well!

I was reading a few pages from Dying Wisdom - Rise, Fall and the Potential of India's Traditional Water-harvesting Systems edited by Sunita Narain and Anil Agarwal, and I came across this interesting piece on stepwells or vavs of Gujarat that were mainly built between the 8th and the 14th centuries.

"The construction of a stepwell was usually associated with elaborate rituals and was an important event in the lives of the people. The construction of a big tank or well would begin with the king or the village chief making the first mark on the ground with a spade, while the priest chanted hymns, a ceremony called Vastupujan. Later on, the people of the area would continue digging under the supervision of the master constructor. The normal season for digging was after the harvest, when the sun is at its hottest and the land dry. After construction was over, the stepwell was consecrated with much pomp and show. Brahmin priests would declare the water to be holy and prescribe active use of it..."

While stepwells were used for utilitarian and irrigation purposes and as a cool place for social gatherings, they were also used for polishing weapons.

"Minerals, salts and other substances dissolved in the water of a stepwell often had the quality of brightening or strengthening materials, either cloth like satin, silk and cotton or metals. It was widely believed that the water of a stepwell called sari, in southern Saurashtra, added to the temper and sharpness of swords."

It's a pity that most of these stepwells have disappeared and the ones that remain, such as the ornate Ranki vav at Patan, exist only as monuments.

Monday, July 18, 2011


In the last two months, I've typed around 2,00,000 words. I didn't realise how many words people speak in an hour, till I started transcribing interviews for a research project at National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. About 10 minutes of clear recorded tape takes about an hour to transcribe. I had 20 hours of videos to work with. And though most of the content was in English, there were generous helpings of Hindi too. We Indians love to talk. And we have no respect for grammar, punctuation or pronunciation, when we do. So here I was trying to make sense of nonsense and put it down in the form of text that could be read and analysed (it was for, after all, a research project). An hour's time of video interview transcribes into roughly 8,000 words... in some cases, upto 10,000. My fingers were sore with all that typing (in spite of taking 15-minute breaks) and I cursed my QWERTY keyboard. Why? Because, in Jared Diamond's book, Guns, Germs and Steel, I'd read that the QWERTY keyboard was designed in 1873 as a feat of anti-engineering. "It employs a whole series of perverse tricks designed to force typists to type as slowly as possible, such as scattering the commonest letters all over the keyboard rows and concentrating them on the left-hand side (where right-handed people have to use their weaker hand). The reason behind all these counterproductive features is that the typewriters of 1873 jammed if adjacent keys were struck in quick succession, so that manufacturers had to slow down typists. When improvements in typewriters eliminated the problem of jamming, trials in 1932 with an efficiently laid-out keyboard showed that it would let us double our typing speed and reduce our typing effort by 95 per cent. But the QWERTY keyboards we solidly entrenched by then." And since the vested interests of hundreds of QWERTY typists, typing teachers, typewriter and computer salespeople and manufacturers have crushed all moves for keyboard efficiency for over 60 years, new generations of humans are being redesigned to use keyboards, instead of the other way round. I'm still on the lookout for an ergonomic keyboard. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Heal Your Body A-Z

Book: Heal Your Body A-Z: The Mental Causes for Physical Illness and the Way to Overcome Them
Louise L Hay
Publisher: Hay House, Inc
Pages: 123
Price: Rs 395

Reviewed by Eisha Sarkar
Posted on Times Wellness on Wednesday, July 06, 2011 

Several years ago, Louise L Hay was diagnosed with vaginal cancer. A 'teacher of healing', Hay was well aware that cancer comes from "a pattern of deep resentment that is held for a long time, until it literally eats away the body." Instead of opting for surgery, for "the doctors would just keep cutting Louise until there was no more Louise to cut", she bargained for three months to clear her old patterns of resentment. She went to a nutritionist  to detoxify herself and, in six months, the mental and physical cleansing paid off - she no longer had cancer.   

You may call it a miracle, but Hay's story does offer hope to those who are suffering from cancer. In Heal Your Body A-Z, she writes, "The mental thought patterns that cause the most dis-ease in the body are CRITICISM, ANGER, RESENTMENT and GUILT. For instance, criticism indulged in long enough will often lead to dis-eases such as arthritis. Anger turns into things that boil and burn and infect the body. Resentment long held festers and eats away at the self and ultimately can lead to tumours and cancer. Guilt always seeks punishment and leads to pain."

Hay proposes you rid yourself of these negative thinking patterns when you are healthy instead of trying to 'dig them out' when you are in a state of panic. She tabulates most of the known diseases from A-Z, from abdominal cramps to yeast infections, describes their probable psychological causes and provides new thought patterns and positive affirmations that will help you overcome the ailments. It offers tiny packets of hope in the form of the mental equivalents that have been compiled from Hay's many years of study, her work with clients and her lectures and workshops.

You may find it hard to believe that anaemia can be caused by lack of joy but Heal Your Body A-Z is a handy guide if you are willing to do the mental work to heal yourself. Do these affirmations really work? Well, it depends on how much faith you have in them and in your body's healing powers. For, no medicine can cure you, unless you want to cure yourself.