Posts Tagged ‘life update’

waking dreamHello again, everyone! I’m just going to direct you to Lucid’s last post (or any of the ones we’ve posted sporadically over the last two years or so) in lieu of making my excuses (which have not changed). Instead, I’m going to get right to the point and fill you in on the good stuff.

Last you heard from me, I was bemoaning my lack of Life Skills. I am less-than-happy to assure you that there has been no significant change in that department. In spite of this, however, I have managed to trick my professors into believing that I am degree-worthy, as have Lucid and Fuzzy. Meaning we are now (somehow!) bona fide graduates.


And what’s more, we are venturing perilously close to Adult Territory. Lucid is now Employed (!!). Fuzzy is heading off to graduate school. And I… I am possibly going to graduate school, also. OR I am going to be an unemployed, overgrown child for the rest of my life. One of the two.**

Now that I’ve brought you up to speed, I am totally going to do the annoying BWC thing and turn the rest of this post into a review. To be fair, it was the reviewing that I missed enough to want to get back to blogging, so here it comes. A while ago, Lucid and I watched Baz Luhrmann’s ‘The Great Gatsby’. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit that I lovelovelove the novel version and I cannot imagine a film equivalent to Fitzgerald’s words. That aside, I still didn’t find a whole lot to recommend in this adaptation.

I think the central trouble I had was with the Gatsby character. I never, for one moment, bought into the legend. You could argue that he isn’t, in fact, meant to be a legend, but rather a man playing at being one. He is, however, meant to play the part well enough that those unacquainted with the truth fall for the facade. The oft-repeated “old sport” line, I felt, was grating throughout. It seemed like not even Tobey Maguire’s Nick Carraway (unquestioning Gatsby fanboy) bought into the tale. I wouldn’t fault DiCaprio (another solid performance) for this odd choice so much as Luhrmann. Secondly, while I cannot quite call it lazy film-making ( the detail on those sets!), more effort seems to have been expended on fancy (and pretty amazing, really ) visual styling than on story-telling. Ironic, since Fitzgerald’s story explicitly cautions against glittery exteriors. Nor can the argument be made, that this sense of superficiality is what the movie seeks to capture, considering that the eye-candy after all, seems to have been the movie’s most worked-upon aspect. It ultimately detracts from the story, with the end result being that the movie lacks that sense of unease, dissatisfaction and judgement that permeates the novel. It also reduces every valuable insight to be earned and discerned by the viewer to simplistic voice-over exposition. Dr. T J Eckleburg’s eyes, watching wordlessly from a hoarding, a stand-in for an all-seeing god, for instance, is delivered matter-of-fact not early in the movie (and then repeated to death just in case you overlooked its cleverness). Finally, the soundtrack. Although quite fantastic taken on its own, the contemporary music was jarring against the 1920’s setting, demanding greater suspension of disbelief than I could manage. I’m not certain if this was Luhrmann’s way of decrying the current state of affairs and reaffirming the story’s pertinence today. Unfortunately, for me, it sort of mixed both eras in the most unsatisfactory way possible.

Where the movie scores, in my opinion, is in that it does not romanticize the Gatsby character. By setting up Nick as being unclear in his mind, he is established as an unreliable narrator, early in the movie. This, along with several other cinematic choices, allow us to see the self-deluding Mr.Gatsby for the flawed character he is. Even as we watch Nick fall for Gatsby’s perceived modesty, it becomes increasingly apparent to the viewer that in the orchestration of his reunion with Daisy and all that follows, he is merely terribly controlling of his image and quite used to getting his way by less-than-noble means. Alongside Nick’s proclamations of Gatsby’s incorruptible Greatness and steadfastness, we are witness to a much different truth: that Daisy is but a selfish obsession– yet another fixture to be acquired in order to enhance Gatsbyland. Daisy herself is portrayed complexly by the always-wonderful ( I will profess myself a fan) Carey Mulligan. We are able to see how the impressionable Daisy is also complicit in the lie that becomes her own undoing. I think her character here best encapsulates Fitzgerald’s fears for what would come to pass through such irresponsible, decadent living. Overall, the cast is pretty fantastic, with good performances all around.

In closing, I think Luhrmann’s take certainly does add something to the Gatsbyverse and also sets the stage for future retellings . I just wish the story had taken precedence over the distracting fluff.


* We haven’t done that whole robes-and-tasseled-hats thing yet. But that is because college is ridiculous as ever and the official ceremony is scheduled for next year. I am leaving this can of worms unopened, on the topmost shelf, well out of my reach because, really, who wants to hear any more on that?

** Update: I may be an overgrown child, but gosh-darn it, I’m an overgrown child with an admission to grad school. Yeah!

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Numbers were never the same: P.K. S. in action.


P.K. Srinivasan (November 4, 1924-June 20, 2005) was an extraordinary person in the world of math education. I met him in 1998, while making a set of videotapes on innovative teaching methods in mathematics for the DPEP, the distance education cell o f the Education Department, Government of India. PKS became the chief protagonist of those tapes.

He had retired from the Muthialpet High School, Chennai but continued to work as consultant for schools as diverse as Rishi Valley, the TVS school in Mysore, and Corporation schools all over Chennai. I attended a conference with him at Rishi Valley and heard his exquisite clarity on concepts ranging from fractals to the Fibonacci sequence. But my favourite memory of him is teaching the Narikuravar (gypsy) children at the Corporation School in Saidapet, Chennai.

Unique way

He had a unique way of introducing numbers to Kindergarten children. He felt that because they learnt numbers mainly in sequence — as 1,2,3,4 etc. they never really grasped the concept of discrete quantities. So after first letting them rattle off the sequence, he would intercept by asking, “Now show me 3 in as many ways as you can”. Initially there would be consternation among the kids and he would smile, his eyes gleaming with a fiery excitement. Putting up one gnarled hand he would first show 3 fingers, and they would all chime “3”. Then he’d bend his fingers, put out 2 first, then one more and say “2 +1” and they would repeat, “3”. Next he’d put up four fingers and bend one – “4-1 = 3”. Then “2+2”, “5–2”, and so it would go on.

I have seen the excitement that erupted among those toddlers for whom numbers would never be the same again; nothing like the anonymous sequence that they began with. Soon all kinds of finger play broke out and PKS just stood smiling toothlessly, infinitely careful not to disturb that first moment of epiphany. Quite unobtrusively he’d introduced the concept of quantity, and also laid the foundation for the primary functions of addition and subtraction.

He had a vast collection of books in his house at Nanganallur, and once he showed me a World Encyclopedia on Mathematics to prove that it was not just the zero that India invented, but also the fraction. The world was afraid to break up numbers, he said, for fear the whole edifice would collapse, but Indian mathematicians proved that the concept of the ‘Whole’ was in itself quite relative.

Later, in the same school I was to see a wonderfully concrete demonstration of this abstract concept. Taking a long strip of paper he first folded it into eight equal parts. Then opening it out with the creases clearly visible, he pointed to the first part and asked the children, this time of 3rd standard, to name it. “1 by 8”. Yes, that was fairly simple. And so it would proceed till he reached the last part, to which in predictable sequence, the children would intone “8 by 8” and then like a magician he would close the paper and re-open it, pointing to the same whole again to which they would now exclaim, but with some thoughtfulness, “ 1” . And slowly the concept would sink in, that every number is merely a complete fraction of itself. From here, it was a small step to simultaneous fractions. Concept always came first for him, and only then the function.

However complex the concept he never prodded the students. Just waited patiently till they discovered it for themselves, and it seemed to me that they all did. I could barely shoot from excitement myself. Infinity lay right there within the interstices of the feeble chalk points on that faded blackboard and PKS helped us all to see it.

In the interview I recorded then he spoke passionately about his faith in education. “If a child falls sick, the doctor cannot blame him. It is his duty to heal the sickness. Similarly, the teacher has to find a way to clarify misunderstandings and release mental blocks about maths. He cannot blame the student.”


He had visited the U.S. on a Fulbright scholarship and Africa on a teaching deputation. He also travelled frequently to Delhi and other parts of India to attend conferences and workshops. But his real commitment lay with the under privileged. His son, Kannan Srinivas, explained recently that, to PKS, this was his personal form of patriotism, this abiding faith in children to “develop themselves under proper exposure”.

Another great area of fascination for PKS was the life of Srinivas Ramanujan. PKS was his first biographer, travelling every weekend after school closed for many years to Kumbakonam, in search of details of Ramanujan’s life. He discovered the house where he was born, the temple he frequented and the letters he wrote to his father from Cambridge. All later biographers from the West were to use these primary sources and acknowledge PKS in their works.

Here again the interesting insight from his son was that this interest in Ramanujan fed into his passion for math education. Rather than simply celebrating a genius, PKS strove to create a climate where more Ramanujans could flower. PKS will remain one of the most inspiring individuals of his generation.

– SOUDHAMINI ( Chennai based documentary film-maker)


1. This is one more reason why I shouldn’t read the newspaper ( Otherwise I will take these stories seriously and force them upon readers).

2. Who titles paragraphs  ‘Commited’ and ‘Unique way’? The rest of the article is really well-written and all, but seriously.

3. I had a teacher like that in my last year of school. I think I’ve mentioned him earlier, too. Anyway, he was awesome. Appreciating that even more now that I’ve a set of  utterly disinterested ‘teachers’ in The  Reputed College ( Just how this turned into a rant about college, I’ve no idea!) that I attend.

4. Sorry, I’m a Math-nerd.And a word-nerd.

Update on our lives: Lucid and I are miserable ( Because of college, in case any newer readers haven’t already heard). In addition to this, Lucid is also a Loser because she doesn’t go on the internet ( The  Internet! Where the normal people are!) anymore (also why she hasn’t been posting). Fuzzy’s college sucks less and she has Happy things to say, so we’re not talking to her.wakin-dream

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