Music – The Science and Memories!

Music – The Science and Memories!

Music- All of us love music, it is an indisputable fact. All of us love different kinds of music. Our playlists could give insights into our personality, to someone carefully going through it. Music has a special place in lives and we have rejoiced our happiness, celebrated our success, found solace at some of our worst times, channelled our angst and helplessness through music. There is a song for every occasion.

So what is the science behind this effect of music in our lives? Research  ” reveals how wide networks in the brain, including areas responsible for motor actions, emotions, and creativity, are activated during music listening”. Listening to your favourite music releases neurotransmitter – Dopamine the ‘motivational molecule’ (laughter also releases this) and listening to live music, or playing music with others releases Oxytocin the ‘trust molecule’ in our brain. Professional musicians brain scan reveals a more symmetrical brain and thicker corpus callosum – the band of nerve fibres that enables communication between brains hemispheres.  For more facts on how music affects our brain visit bebrainfit.

What is more amazing is that one would never forget to play an instrument, just like one can never forget to ride a bike after they have learnt it. I kinda witnessed it this afternoon, at my neighbour’s. They had an expensive keyboard tucked away in a corner and on asking, I came to know that their son had won the top prize in his school for playing a Bollywood number. After much cajoling, he did play the starting few notes to the song, it was as if his fingers knew where to go. It had been more than 5 years since he last played. This made me wonder, what makes us not forget.

Excerpts from human-memory.net, explains how the memory of learning to play an instrument like guitar or piano, embeds itself as a muscle memory. So one can always start playing a tune from the procedural memory, just vaguely at first and after a little practice to playing the song completely.

Long-term memory is often divided into two further main types: explicit (or declarative) memory and implicit (or procedural) memory.

Declarative memory (“knowing what”) is memory of facts and events, and refers to those memories that can be consciously recalled (or “declared”). It is sometimes called explicit memory, since it consists of information that is explicitly stored and retrieved, although it is more properly a subset of explicit memory. Declarative memory can be further sub-divided into episodic memory and semantic memory.

Procedural memory (“knowing how”) is the unconscious memory of skills and how to do things, particularly the use of objects or movements of the body, such as tying a shoelace, playing a guitar or riding a bike. These memories are typically acquired through repetition and practice, and are composed of automatic sensorimotor behaviours that are so deeply embedded that we are no longer aware of them. Once learned, these “body memories” allow us to carry out ordinary motor actions more or less automatically. Procedural memory is sometimes referred to as implicit memory, because previous experiences aid in the performance of a task without explicit and conscious awareness of these previous experiences, although it is more properly a subset of implicit memory.

Also, anterograde amnesia effects only the declarative memory and not the procedural memory. So even an amnesiac could play an instrument even when they have completely forgotten all other information related to the who they are. An article talks about how the musical ability and the musical memory of a British Conductor were intact, even after he had contracted a brain infection that left him with a memory span of only 10 seconds.

Another aspect of music is the nostalgia it brings with it, Christopher Bergland writes in psychology today about the clear vivid memories that a favourite song evokes of faces, emotions and locations. A study conducted shows that music can elicit strong responses from people with Alzheimer’s disease. ” A piece of familiar music serves as a soundtrack for a mental movie that starts playing in our head. It calls back memories of a particular person or place, and you might all of a sudden see that person’s face in your mind’s eye” says the author Petr Janata, associate professor of psychology at UC Davis’ Center for Mind and Brain.

The first time I heard 91.1 FM radio city in Bangalore, the first private radio channel. It was a song from the movie “Fiza” and the memory of what I was doing at the moment and the joy I felt listening to it for the first time on Radio, is forever etched in my mind.  Sharing a pair of earphones and listening to Lenny Kravitz’s ‘Again’ on our sony walkman phone in the college canteen. That is always gonna be with me. On a bad day, within the first few days of starting work caught between missing the care free days of college and standing on the threshold of adulthood, remember listening to Rammstein’s “Nebel” and just feeling lighthearted. I definitely remember all the concerts. Conversation with friends and the emotions felt during a concert all are still clearly visible. An acapella group singing Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal”  in ‘The Sunday Jam’ and the happy gratitude one of member showed to me for being ‘such an enthusiastic listener’. The song ” Ennodo Nee Irundhal” from movie ‘I’ was the lullaby for my son for many days, humming it to ask for it.  The first song a special someone sang for me “Vennilave” from ‘Minsara Kanavu’ over long distance call, make up for some unforgettable memories.

Music is magical. Keep listening and keep living and loving!!!

Summer’s here: what cha gonna be doing?

Summer’s here: what cha gonna be doing?

The countdown to Summer holidays has started. Although it is for the kids, am sure, parents also wait for them just as eagerly. No school for another 2 months!

Aint that awesome! It’s two months of no studying and lots of play, of vacations and trips, of summer movies, of visiting family in different cities or within the city. Summer is all about being in the sun, hanging with the friends and eating everything cool and chilled!

For those families with both parents working, it’s either leaving the kid at the grandparents or having them attend Fun Summer activities.

And a little search online gives a plethora of options for kids and toddlers aged 2-15. From the basic, general learning, arts and crafts, music and dance, there is enhanced learning with robotics, Vedic maths, learning through experiments, a hands-on approach to science. There are the various sports like football and swimming. Nature and outdoors activities like adventure camps that take kids out for a hike, spending a day or two outdoors observing nature, the animals and also learning photography. Dramatics and theater camps. For all those interested in cooking and helping your budding chef, there are various camps that teach baking cupcakes, fixing little snacks for themselves. Do check out the buzzingbubs site for all the summer camp activities near you.

Although, these camps are good for kids to spend their holidays in constructive ways. They should also be having an unorganised holiday  – hanging with the extended family, bonding with cousins, making new friends through cousins, just hanging around with grandparents in the kitchen, in the garden, spending time with them helping with their activities. To hang with friends, without any agenda as to how the day would go, making up games and activities. Picking up some house chores. Time for self-exploration. And most importantly, learning to deal with boredom.

Boredom, kids need to learn to keep themselves occupied, even if it is just gazing into empty space, throwing a ball at the wall, make-believe play, holidays are the right time to learn that fun can be achieved without spending money!

How many of us lament, that our children don’t enjoy their childhood like we did, How holidays meant being on the streets, playing what-not – chuchand and laggori, playing hide-and-go-seek, statue, hopscotch to name a few, Cycling all day long within a defined perimeter, hopping from one house to another, showing up at home only for meals and if there are generous neighbours, then not even turning up for lunch.  Summer meant just hanging out on someone’s compound wall, talking nonsense and sometime being scared by older kids. Summer meant playing with everyone’s games and toys,  not bothered whether you owned them or not. If someone’s got something new, then everyone is gonna play it all summer long. Summer meant a meet up of all cousins in grandma’s house, sleeping under the stars, eating under the moon, loitering the streets, flying kites, chasing one another all over the place.  Summer meant, mangoes, panagam (musk melon and jaggery juice) and watermelon, everything chilled and cold was allowed, no restrictions.  Summer meant complete abandon. Summer always meant enjoying childhood.

Summer holidays should be best spent having an adventure like the kids in Enid Blyton’s ‘The Famous Five‘. If not, the next best is to have a summer like we did.

Let’s try to give our kids, a Summer that is full of what is now and what was then.

 

 

 

Self-Pity : The Downhill Road To Unhappiness

Self-Pity : The Downhill Road To Unhappiness

The very first line in “Road less travelled” by M.Scott Peck says this -“life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths”. He cites buddha’s teaching of the ‘Four Noble Truths’ and the first among them being that ‘life is a suffering’. He continues “It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

I read this way back in College when I probably just entered the 20’s. It was the time of rebelliousness, a time that I felt lonely even amongst a crowd, it was a time of immense self-doubt and self-pity. It was a time when I didn’t understand myself and felt that the world misunderstood me. It was a time of why me? why am the one to go through the pain in life? why am I the one to not find what I was looking for? why am I the one with a million restrictions? why am the one to be not happy? download (17)

So when I read the lines of M.Scott Peck. It was like a slap in the face, a wake-up call indeed. From then on, I have told myself, life is not meant to be easy, not with me or not on anyone. It might seem like someone has it easy, but then it is good to remind oneself that today might be the day of reckoning for their struggles.

When we wallow in self-pity, we are solely responsible for the unhappiness we are causing ourselves. The question we need to ask ourselves is if this is difficult life? What we could do about it. Also, look around and see there are people having it worse (even if it is not for similar issues) and just count one’s blessings and appreciate life for the less severity of one’s problems.

Also, we cannot be completely magnanimous with our problems, that we ignore them and brush them under the carpet.  They’ll always come back to bite us in the head, but we could do few things to assess our issues and see which path to take.download (16)

  • First of all, acceptance that our choices have led us to the situations that we find ourselves in.
  • Proportioning the blame to all parties involved for the problems and also taking a large portion of it to oneself.
  • Worrying less and figuring out ways to get out. Or if not possible to accept them as they are. Here I find the apt usage of the serenity prayer.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,Courage to change the things I can,And wisdom to know the difference.

  • Finding all other things to do, people around you and little memories to make oneself happy. Being happy is not a default mode. One needs to work on the thoughts that they have, control the ones that debilitate and enhance or build on the happy, peaceful, calm ones.
  • Also, accepting that whatever is happening is part of a larger design of life. That you are part of a butterfly effect.download (18)
  • And if it people that bother you, what could you do, unhappiness begets unhappiness, don’t get sucked into someone else’s mire.
  • And if you cannot accept a situation on a principle. Think if can you can circumvent it ? If not, no one is keeping a tab on whether you accept or not. Only you know it. By accepting something if you are able to go past it. Then accept it.  Live today to fight tomorrow.

No one wants to be unhappy, yet most us take a second to think to answer when asked ‘are you happy?’ Why can’t we just all say happy even if it is only for the moment. The moment that we feel good that someone’s being concerned about us? little victories are better for the soul than monumental wins.

Another point is, it is good to crib about your situation just for once or twice. Crib about it, take it out of your system and let it go. Find a friend, record yourself cribbing your heart out, eat it out (not a healthy option, but occasionally), dance it out, just wear yourself out. Coz once you have accepted the situation. You are stronger by that minute.

 

 

Boarding school: Parenting Delegated.

Boarding school: Parenting Delegated.

Boarding school- the magical place for all teens to get away from oppressive parents, from only meeting your friends some time to being with them full time. For all Harry potter Fans, the Hogwarts style schooling is a definite yes!

There are some with a different school of thought, who’d vouch for a Boarding school Experience. To enumerate few pros –

  • The kids mostly in their teens learn to adapt to new environs
  • They’ll have time to focus on varied activities within a safe campus
  • The teens would learn to become more self-reliant and decisive.
  • The teachers would be able to give much more individual attention to the teens and help them uncover their potential.

All these points would definitely make the teen much more ready as he/she would step into adulthood and its challenges.

But can this only be achieved in a Boarding School and not in regular schools living with parents?

In my opinion, I’d say, Opting for boarding school is like delegating your parenting work! Teens in their formative age need a safe place to disengage from schools and its activities, even if it for few hours a day. Pre-teens have just grown to start thinking beyond their home and family. They need to have a safe haven when discovering the world outside, and not be thrown into a completely new system, however capable they might be. Pre-teen is the time, parents need to be much more observant of their kids, actions and reactions. Not only to what they are saying but to start reading between lines. To lay a foundation for a healthier communication and trust between them and their kid. The kind of communication that lets them talk about body awareness, puberty and all that it entails.

As it is, kids stay lesser at home with parents, probably until they are 15-18 years, once they step out of home for education, there is no coming back. From education to work and to other pursuits of life. These 5-8 years if spent out of the home, then life is gonna be lived a weekend at a time, through video calls at a stipulated time.

Boarding school elevates certain aspects of living with same aged people to new levels: Peer Pressure. Peer pressure could make or break a person. What if one can’t stand up to the bullies? what if they as an individual is unable to stand out, be heard? to what extent can teachers focus on an individual?

When the responsibilities of the kids are on on teachers. Can one gauge unenthusiastic teachers? Can one limit the academic pressure the school puts on the kid?

Even if, Boarding schools are opted by parents who are always on the move or have demanding careers or by affluent parents who’d rather have the job done by someone else and mostly by parents believing that the boarding school system can give their kid that significant edge to succeed in life.

I believe that no matter what the situation is if it does not demand a boarding school, One shouldn’t opt for it as a choice.

A Blog: A piece of my intellect in the virtual world!

A Blog: A piece of my intellect in the virtual world!

Am an amateur blogger who’s just 24 posts old in the blogosphere. In this short time within the world of blogs, I have discovered a lot about me, my fellow bloggers and the readers!

Blogging has given me a window to showcase my thoughts – in written form and is helping me to convert my love for writing to an actual skill, that I am acquiring a little at a time. Am still testing waters of the online content world. Blogging has given me an opportunity to discuss some serious issues and topic which I probably couldn’t weave into a normal face to face conversation with people, lest I hurt someone’s sentiment.

I think therefore I blog

A show of camaraderie from a fellow blogger lifts one confidence that yes! someone gives a hoot to what I write. (friends and family are our first readership, but somewhere in the back of your mind, you know that they are favoring you). A fellow blogger’s like and appreciative comments are purely for your writing and nothing else! absolutely nothing else!

Is it frivolous writing? Or is it Serious writing? the beauty of blogging is that you don’t need to be just one. There is no label to stick to. A blogger can write up on anything that one fancies. It is as unique as the person who writes. Just like each of us has a place of our own in this big world. We have more space for each in the world of blogs.  Blogging gives one the freedom to be as raw as possible and stick to one’s core personality.

One of my fellow blogger Matheikal says this in his blog

“Getting published was quite a tough job.  Blogging made it easy.  Too easy.  Hence everybody – well, almost – became a writer.  But writing is not everybody’s job.  A writer must give something to the reader to think about.  Writing is about ideas.  It’s not just putting words together.  The reader must gain something.  At least something to poke his imagination.”- Matheikal on Bloggin and some thoughts

His words reflect on one of my criteria for a write-up. Even if critiqued for the post, am I reaching out to my readers in little ways? Have I tickled someone’s imagination, gave them a smile, or made them shake their heads in disagreement? Or have I piqued their interest in a book, made them sit up to read a serious thought. If I have succeeded in getting these done. I have climbed the first rungs to become an effective writer.

One aspect of this world of blogs that has enthralled me and aspires me is the fact that so many bloggers have been at it for so long. Their followers and view counts are a testimony to their skill and tenacity. It is humbling to know that I do have a long way to go.

Blogging as a platform for self-promotion, for products or ideas or to even monetize it,  is just an added feather in the cap.

At the end of it all, are we pseudo-writers? are we bathing in a delusion of being part of the literary world?

We may or we may not! what matters is that we are able to create a niche audience for ourselves. If being read by strangers, makes one a writer. Then we are to call ourselves so!

PS: This post is in response to IndiSpire Edition 162: #SeriousBlogging

 

Mohanaswamy: A Book Review and Beyond

Mohanaswamy: A Book Review and Beyond

The book cover of ‘Mohanaswamy‘, gave a glimpse of what was inside. This was my first attempt to read a queer literature. What made me borrow it was the fact that, a Kannada short story collection was translated into English. Also, the original version had won the Kannada Sahitya Academy Book Prize. Although there is no dearth for exceptional literary works in each of our local languages, I am limited by the lack of reading fluency in these languages. So I primarily stick to English. And when a prize-winning book presents itself on the shelf of the library with an exceptional review.  How would one miss it?

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In the words of Sudha Murthy who reviewed the book as  “Mohanaswamy touched my heart. I was unaware of his world, his fears and his dreams. A book of its own kind”. These words kept echoing in my head, for I too felt the same when I read,  it succinctly encapsulates the essence of the book from an outsider view.

The author of this book Vasudhendra says in the PS that ‘Mohanaswamy was his rebirth’.This book is a fictional story, but it probably reflects the author’s experiences in an exaggerated manner.

To the book now: Mohanaswamy is a collection of short-stories of a gay man – Mohanaswamy. An understanding of his world through episodes of his life. Episodes of pain and angst, rejection, betrayal and helplessness,  fear of ostracization, figuring out oneself without having anyone or anything to guide him. To wallow in self-pity and berate himself of the various spur of the moment actions, unable to control his instincts for physical intimacy.

A few stories of other gay men and transgenders spoke of complete intolerance bordering on cruelty. Of parents who although understood their gay son, but couldn’t bring themselves to love them as they would if he were straight. Unable to provide support and security to their own children. The uncouth ways of the rural people and lack of respect for humanity took me completely by surprise.

Many gay men in India end up marrying women unable to withstand the pressures of family and society.  The gay men or women are not only living a lie themselves but also ruin a chance of happiness and to a good life of another. An admirable trait of Mohanaswamy was that he didn’t do so, even when offered a platonic marriage.

To quote the book, “Kilimanjaro is so lonely! It conceals the blazing fire in its womb while masquerading as a cold, icy mountain”.  It is from the last chapter, of a trek to Kilimanjaro and Mohanaswamy draws from it a metaphor for his own life.  It was an appropriate end.

Now to go beyond the book.

In India, IPC section 377 makes it a crime to be involved in consensual homosexual activities in private.  If this law were to be repealed, the LGBTQ community would have a sense of belonging to our society and not stand apart to face the stigma of the society. Another point, I do not know if it is gay to be sexually prolific, but I do know, that even if gay or not, men/ women should have the decency to be monogamous in whatever relationship they have with their partners. Maybe, if it were to be legalized and gay people were allowed to marry and have children from surrogacy, it could bring about monogamy in the LGBTQ community, just a thought.

Also, on a human level.  Why is so difficult for us to accept someone gay? why is it that they need to hide who they are when they did no wrong but being born so. Contrary to popular belief, being gay isn’t a choice, its not a lifestyle one chooses. If it were a choice, am sure many would give it up. Coz the life of a gay person isn’t easy. It’s never easy to always have a facade, to lead a secret life. Moreover, how does one’s  sexual orientation a marker of a good character or personality? There are many heterosexual monsters parading as decent citizens of society.

Let them be, show some inclusion. For every human craves for love, understanding, and acceptance of one as they are.

 

Part 4: College adda’s and pocket-friendly joints

Part 4: College adda’s and pocket-friendly joints

Follow my blog with BloglovinThe heydeys of Engineering, back in 2003, when the jeans were bell-bottomed when girls carried backpacks and not handbags when Yamaha’s Rx’s lined the parking stalls when college canteen served food not more than Rs.15 each. College was an amazing 4 years of life lessons and fun! more so it was good to be in mechanical engineering – the chilled out department.

By virtue of being in Mech, it was quite often that one would see more of its students not in the classroom but outside. This invariably meant a lot of time spent in the canteen or in other college adda’s (hangouts). To list out the adda’s and other eat-outs – The Canteen – epicentre of the college life, the Bakery (sagar bakery), food court of the medical college ( fancier than the engg canteen), the rolls and darshini’s, the chaat place by the bus stand and much more.

The college canteen – I have lived off canteen food for most of college days, even when I had my own lunch box, the home-food depraved hostel boys would gobble it up and buy me food in the canteen. The main criteria for a canteen – cheap food, was met. The coffee was Rs. 5, the apple cake (the leftover’s cake) was Rs. 5 and the bisibele bath was Rs.10 or 15 (don’t remember) and the one tasty dish of our canteen was the masala dosa (tasty by acceptable standards alone). If it were internals/exams or record-writing for the afternoon lab. The canteen was our sanctuary!

Then we do step out for much more tastier options- The sagar bakery. Double egg full fry download (8)cost only Rs7  and Maggi was Rs.15, half tea/coffee was Rs.3. So a simple after college snack cost not more than Rs. 10! 😀 Maggi was not so frequent at first. But by the end of college,  “cheta oru maggi and full fry” were yelled out every day. The sagar bakery was its BMS (banana milkshake), bun omelette, egg and veg puffs and they did have many other edible food then went in-between the bun, but I just don’t seem to recall.

The medical college food court – Now this was a little far, walkable place, which had more choices and had a restaurant like a feel. Also like any other canteen, you can sit there the whole day and no one would throw you out. For non-veg options within walking distance and it had to be this place. I have had some yummy chicken noodles and Manchurian there. I loved that they gave a poached egg for one particular noodle dish. I was a regular there, it was a good place to read.

Info: the Ramaiah educational institutions spanned across a vast area, having a single road about 900 m, with gates at both ends. At one end – the new bel road was the hospital and the medical college and at the other end was the engineering gate. And it is said that within that stretch there were 13 canteens. I have not explored all just 3 I think.

The rolls place Kusum started in our 2nd or 3rd year and it was awesome. A single egg chicken roll would cost only Rs. 30 (now its Rs 50 or 70). That made an awesome lunch. If we felt a little pricey we would eat in for their chow miens.

The Andhra mess served some hot meals with pappu and rice at Rs.20(25). There were a couple of darshinis also doling out their version of chaats. A quick bite before boarding the bus.

for the time when we all felt way too pricey or end of exam treats we have gone to the chung-wah, or another Chinese place the new bel road. Now that road is lined with many fast-food joints and High-end grill houses and cafes.

There was a small burger joint, on the medical campus – Razzmatazz. He made some amazing home-style burgers with fries. I found out about this only at the end but frequented it even after college. There was a US pizza place which served unlimited pizza for just Rs.99. I think we treated ourselves after our last ethnic day there.

Also, I have enjoyed many days just walking through the IISc campus and the NAS campus to reach the Ramaiah Engineering Gate. IISc (before its security became a little tighter) has a normal canteen, but the ambience – just too good. The coffee board was just the right place to enjoy a coffee and a conversation. One should try to go through the IISc campus. You’d feel you have stepped into a time zone of sorts. The new bel road even now, with its canopy of trees beckons me sometimes. It’s a beautiful stretch to walk.

In the four years of Engg, I have tried to explore many a nook and cranny places for an easy bite. It was a good ride down nostalgia, yet again. Do share stories of your college adda’s.