Monday, June 25, 2012

Why swimming can't help you lose weight...

I stumbled upon Lynn Sherr's book, Swim, while reading an issue of The Economist. I've started reading it and with every page, I've learnt something new. I always thought swimming is the best exercise and that it will help me put off weight. I've been swimming at least four to five times a week for the past six months. While I've certainly built some muscles and abs, it hasn't really helped me tip the weighing scale. I still weigh a healthy 57.5 kg, which is ideal for my height, but it's not 'thin'. In Swim, I learnt why:

"Alas, this otherwise ideal sport may not do much for our waistlines. While swimming can smooth out the figure and certainly burn fat, it does not directly promote weight loss. According to Dr Joel Stager, associate director of Indiana State University's Department of Kinesiology, that's because "losing weight is about efficiency — the amount of work done is divided by the metabolic cost of doing the work." The problem is that most people who need to lose weight are so out of shape, they can't swim far enought to make a difference. And the better swimmer you are, the less metabolic work you are doing. So as you become more efficient, if you're swimming to lose weight, you are defeating you purpose by getting better." Blame it, he says, on buoyancy, which, "reduces the energy expenditure associated with swimming." It's a dilemma, but not one that troubles Dr Stager. Weight, he points out, is not a good index, especially since muscle mass weighs more than fat." 


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Vadodara - The Big Lil City

This film on Vadodara is creating a buzz on social networking sites and in the local media. I do feel proud to be part of this city.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Bhavai in Vadodara

In Gujarat's villages folk theatre is still one of the most effective ways of communicating with a mass audience. I attended a folk theatre workshop organized by UNICEF and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan at Kelanpur village near Vadodara yesterday. This was my first chance to catch Bhavai and Daira performances. The idea of the workshop was to get more rural youth to learn these traditional art forms so that they would convey to the community at large messages on girls' education, prevention of child marriages and prevention of child labour. It also gave me a chance to interact with young men (even the women's roles in Bhavai are performed by men) from far-flung villages in Kutch, Banaskantha, Patan, Bhavnagar and Vadodara districts of Gujarat. I was particularly surprised when a young man, Adil, from a village near Mandvi in Kutch walked up to me and told me that he had seen me in Roadies on MTV. I told him it wasn't me. He wasn't ready to believe that. He then asked me if I was on Facebook! Soon, I had 10 young men surrounding me eager to talk to me about themselves and maybe even willing to invite me as their Friend on Facebook. I lied to Adil. I told him that I would join Facebook soon. "You haven't joined yet?" He was shocked!

Performers from Jagruti Bhavai Mandal, Patan dance to the rythm of the cymbals and pakhawaj. Bhavai is believed to have originated in the 14th Century.Veshas or Bhavai plays are also known as swang. In one of his long poems Asait, one of the most well known vesha writers, dates his composition as AD 1360. Asait wrote about 360 plays, out of which some 60 have survived.

A man plays the four-feet-long Bhungal at the start of a performance. Other instruments commonly used are pakhawaj, tabla, jhanjha (cymbals) and harmonium

Ta thei ya thei ya ta thei,
Ta thei ya thei ya ta thei!

Women singers as part of a group that performs Daira.

Sharma is a third-year college student in Vadodara. Bhavai is an art form he loves.

The men have to do their own dress selection and make-up.

Mixing entertainment with awareness, Bhavai is an important tool of mass media in rural Gujarat.  Each performance lasts up to 40 minutes. The end of the performance makes way for discussion among the community members and leaders about the issues that have been raised through the performance. It is one of the best ways to get the community together to talk about their problems.

More about Bhavai in India Guide's book, Gujarat:

"One of the most popular forms of theater in Gujarat is Bhavai, which is said to have been started by Asait Thakar, a Brahmin from Mahesana. Ostracized by his community, he used his poetic inclination and the support of his three sons to introduce this folk form that mixes dance, song and drama. It was traditionally performed in the village square and was characterized by farce and satire aimed at certain sections of society. The word Bhavai is derived from the Sanskrit root, bhava, which means expression. A typical performance begins with a prayer to the Mother Goddess. Characters known as Rangli and Ranglo introduce the theme and add continuity throughout the performance. Instruments such as the harmonium, sarangi (an Indian stringed instrument), pakhawaj (the two faced horizontal drum) and jhanjh (cymbals) accompany the play. Dialogues were originally in verse and often sung by the actors. Female roles were played by men in the earlier days of Bhavai. Each episode of a Bhavai is called vesh. Only 60 of the 360 vesh that Asait Thakar wrote survive. Some troupes still perform Bhavai while the contemporary street plays, enacted by social activists, have evolved from the Bhavai format."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Situations where the media 'misinterprets data'

Over the past few days, I've heard a lot of media-bashing from corporates, NGOs, government officials, school teachers and friends. They've been telling me that media just do not know what to do with the data that is presented to them. They either don't get it, or they don't know how to read it or they simply don't know how to use it. But hey, give us journalists a break. We are people too and we make the most of what we get, well, most of the time. While I am not defending the errors that creep into the stories while we analyse the data or simply quote it, here are a few situations that will help you realise why we make those mistakes. And you won't hate us all that much after you read this:

Situation one:
Guy wants to say something, writes something that means something else. 
Reporter writes what the guy writes. 
Guy says, "This is not what I wanted to say. You've misinterpreted the data." 
Reporter tells him, "Well, I cannot get into your head. You've got to write what you want to say."

Situation two:
Reporter is handed over a sheaf of papers in a press brochure. They make little sense but there's a very interesting looking graph. The reporter tries to make sense of it. He's not good with numbers. He asks the PR for help. Even he doesn't know. "But, the graph's important," he tells the reporter. So here's a reporter trying to make sense of something he doesn't know quite well but is supposedly important. So he tries to get the best out of what he's got. He goes over the mumbo-jumbo until his eyes get locked on a figure. "Ah! That's the story!" Just in time for the deadline!

Situation three:
Reporter meets three different NGOs working on the same cause. They come up with three different sets of numbers for the same parameters. The reporter is confused. So he calls a government agency. They give him another set of figures. The differences aren't minor. So which one do you quote? 

Situation four (Typically for press releases that are written in languages other than the language of the newspaper that the reporter writes for):
This could be tricky because names spelt in Devanagari would be spelt differently in English, Bengali, Chinese, etc. Abbreviations would be even more difficult to translate and quotes, well, they just get lost in translation.

The solution to this problem would be to offer a bit of clarity. While journalists love the way numbers pep up a story and make headlines, it would be nice if you would tell them what the numbers stand for and how they should be used. As for analysis or quotes, if you are too particular about how you want it written, you would rather write it your way instead of waiting for a journalist to interpret your thoughts.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Campaign for the School Enrollment Drive in Gujarat

These are the posters for the campaign for the School Enrollment Drive in Gujarat. The posters were on six different themes. I had to design them in a way that they would relate to a rural audience and could be translated easily.

Theme: Disabled children
Theme: Out of School children

Theme: Early Childhood Education

Theme: Education for All

Theme: Girl child education

Theme: Activity-based learning or Pragna campaign