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Languages and Sciences

I recently wrote an article in the ITI bulletin regarding the importance of language learning for STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) students.

Merits of language learning are often downplayed, especially for STEM students. Most of them live under this false impression that those good in science subjects cannot learn languages. This is far from true and while I admit that language learning requires time and effort, it is not necessarily an impossible feat.

Here is the link to the article: Languages and STEM

Hope you enjoy reading it.

Summers of Bengaluru

The weird and wonderful summers of Bengaluru: breezy mornings;  stuffy mid-mornings; scorching hot afternoons; thunderously wet evenings that make way for silent and comfortable nights. A few bright blooms hang around long after the spring beauties have left; bugs aplenty and birds going full throttle at the mating game — there is never a dull moment.

Ms. Cool-Blue breeze
Plays hide and seek
Early in the morning.

Vanishing, as the sun comes up,
she leaves us with promises
she doesn’t intend to keep

The sun starts work,
at 10 am sharp
to make the air stiff and stuffy.

He peaks at noon,
To boil us bare,
And make our tempers go off too soon.

The clouds descend
As if on cue,
To save us from his wrath.

But Mr. Sun, is not someone
To give up something —
so easily, so soon.

The wind too, is livid,
At Sun’s bossiness;
He blows in and out, and all around
Upending all that comes his way.

By evening time,
The clouds decide
to take matters into their hand.

In bursts and spurts
the rain comes down
to ease us off our pain

As the clouds silence —
the sun and the wind
And the night descends

Ms. Cool-Blue breeze decides,
to make an appearance again.

©Pavitra Baxi 2020

This post is a part of #Write52. A commitment to write every week something worth sharing. Find out more: https://www.write52.com/

Eyes

Claustrophobia has a new name: the mask.

As masks become mandatory in our lives and of those around us, we need to adopt a new form of communication. Muffled words and voices mean that our eyes have to take on the additional task of talking. Since eyes are the proverbial windows to our soul, our deepest, darkest feelings and emotions are on constant display and can no longer be supported or protected by words.

I wrote a poem on this new form raw and unguarded communication.

As we cover our faces and our lives,
only thing communicating
are our eyes.

Fear, frustration,
love and lust,
are easy to decipher,
difficult to cover up.

Can’t hide behind words
and their meanings.
We are on our own,
so are our feelings.

Looking up from
our phones
we speak a different language —
A direct one,
not sophisticated.

The new normal
is changing us once again,
to be more genuine,
not to be fake.

©Pavitra Baxi 2020

This post is a part of #Write52. A commitment to write every week something worth sharing. Find out more: https://www.write52.com/

March forth, wielders of words!

This week’s post is dedicated to you, wordsmiths! Amidst the chaos and the uncertainty, we only have the comfort of your words. Our body is under a lockdown; the only way to experience the outside world is through your words. Write more — for yourself, for me, for everyone.

Do you feel no one is interested in your words, especially now? I am here to assure you, that I do and I can say it’s true for a million others too.

The streets are empty
our homes are crowded
despair, fear and uncertainty
keeping hope shrouded

A handshake and a hug
A physical connect with the outside world
Is no longer advised or done

Your words:
In bits and bytes,
in print and voice,
bring us together in our isolation

When will it end?
No one knows
Only reassurance is
your words are there

to bring a smile
to help us cope
to make us dream and hope

March forth soldiers!
Protect us,
Distract us,
Engulf us in your words

Now more than ever.

©Pavitra Baxi 2020

This post is a part of #Write52. A commitment to write every week something worth sharing. Find out more: https://www.write52.com/

The mercurial mom

Freelancer moms!

Haven’t we all been called mercurial at some point or the other in our professional/personal life? I, for one, am bona fide mercurial — here’s why.

“mercurial (adj): characterized by rapid and unpredictable changeableness of mood” — Merriam Webster
https://www.merriam-webster.com/word-of-the-day/mercurial-2012-09-16

It’s not all that bad being called mercurial; you might just be Mercury (the planet) personified.
A fascinating planet indeed:
– The smallest and closest planet to the sun, BUT not the hottest
– Mercury orbits with lightning fast speed around the sun. A mercurial year lasts only 88 days, as it is almost tidally locked with the sun. HOWEVER, it takes an unusually long time to rotate on its own axis —a typical day lasts for 176 earth days!
– It has an exceptionally large and dense molten iron core, BUT has an unusually weak magnetic field.

A cornucopia of contradictions, this planet!
https://theplanets.org/mercury/

So, here’s an ode to all volatile, intensely passionate, creative, quick-witted, spontaneous, and distracted freelancer moms.

Always in step with the sun,
That’s my mercurial mum.

Zigzagging through the day
managing the home,
her work,
my play,

With a schedule that changes
every minute
it leaves me awestruck,
whenever she says —
“Yes, I’ve already done it”

Be it my school projects
Or baking for
the school bake sale,
Or the tenth errand
she had to run that day.

An authentic eccentric she is,
Just like mercury’s orbit;
Sometimes an ogre, sometimes a hobbit.

With ice-cold concentration,
engrossed in her work;
were you to interrupt
volcanoes are bound to erupt

She barely sleeps,
it takes a toll,
her iron core
shrinking ever more.

that iron core,
so bewildering —
dense but not rigid,
fluid and not fragile
Its magnetic pull
doesn’t hold you back,
it gives you wings to fly.

© Pavitra Baxi 2020

The Rubik’s cube — a writer’s tool?

It happened one sultry summer morning; I was sipping my coffee and watching my nephew solve the Rubik’s cube in less than a minute and repeating the feat over and over again.

Somewhat captivated, I asked him, “How are you doing it. Can you teach me?”

A pair of bewildered eyes shot back: “I can’t. It’s tough. You won’t get it”, he said.

I stared into my coffee mug and thought to myself — how tough can it really be? After all, I’ve tackled calculus in college and waded through the murky waters of thermodynamics. What’s not to get in this toy puzzle.

With a bruised ego and a steely resolve, I set out to unravel the mysteries of the cube.

Solving the Rubik’s cube

Ernő Rubik, a Hungarian professor of architecture and inventor of the Rubik’s cube, initially created it as a working model to demonstrate how individual elements of a three-dimensional models can move independently without the entire model falling apart.

He made a prototype cube by arranging a bunch of smaller cubes on a central pivot. He painted each side of this prototype cube a different colour. When he moved the individual cubes from their starting position — to demonstrate how individual elements can be moved without the model coming apart — the colours got mixed up. It wasn’t easy for him to get smaller cubes back to their starting position; rumour has it that Ernő Rubik took more than a month to solve the prototype cube. Not surprising at all, since the smaller cubes can be arranged in 43 quintillion possible combinations.

26 individual cubes make up the Rubik’s cube. Current models have a standard colour scheme: white is opposite yellow, blue is opposite green and orange is opposite red. With the white side facing you, red comes on the top, green is on the right, orange at the bottom and blue on the left. The centre cube of each side works as an anchor and guide. The aim is to move the edge cubes and the corner cubes in a sequence of steps to eventually match the colour of the centre cube. These moves, also called algorithms, make the solution sound mathematical and scary. But these algorithms are just a sequence of steps to get the individual cubes back to their starting position.

Typing “how to solve the Rubik’s cube” will give you 8 million hits in Google — a deluge of videos, blogposts and guides will confuse and scare you further. Most of these solutions, posted by smug solvers expecting you to read their mind as they explain the process, are difficult to follow. Out of the eight million solutions, I found only ONE video helpful. Here’s the link to it:

Do Rubik’s cube solvers have a higher IQ than mere mortals like us? I disagree. For solving the cube, what you really need is patience, perseverance and a decent sense of spatial orientation.

What’s in it for writers (and translators)?

Our mind is a giant Rubik’s cube of thoughts. Within the confines of the mind, thoughts move between the logic, emotion and action centres depending on our mood and emotions. We are always thinking: we think thoughts and then think some more on thoughts about our thoughts. A portable thought sorter is what we need…

Solve the cube — sort your thoughts

Working with languages, managing deadlines and our business: at any given time, a zillion thoughts run through our mind — multitasking at its worse. Solving the cube, I inadvertently sort my thoughts out by imagining the different sides of a cube as different facets of my life. Sorting is good but sometimes a quick distraction is what will work the best…

A welcome distraction

Writers are a broody lot; scrupulously analysing thoughts and endlessly searching for the perfect word or phrase to describe them. To maintain sanity we need short, frequent breaks. Fiddling with a Rubik’s cube does just that. It serves as a quick distraction because solving the cube needs full concentration. This shift of focus helps to decouple our thoughts, giving the overactive mind a much-needed break…

A substitute for coffee (or tea)?

Long working hours, mental exhaustion and the 12th cup of coffee means a numb body and an unresponsive mind. In such situations, a quick round of sorting the coloured cubes shakes off our stupor.  The splash of colour; the swift, deliberate movements; the elation of solving the cube from one of the 43 quintillion possible combinations — priceless!

When words stop making sense I dive into the world of misaligned cubes and try to set them straight in the hopes of aligning my thoughts, generate new ones and stop feeling miserable. Solace is in the fact that there is at least one mystery I’m able to solve without having to tear my hair out.