Author Archives: avid reader

About avid reader

Words do not describe a person. I am many things and yet nothing. I am an avid reader, reading her way through the pages of life. Some stories warm the heart and yet others have let me dry. I am a result of my life, and yet my life is part a result of me. Don't try to figure me.

The Giving Tree: Shel Silverstein

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I revisited the book as I was looking for a short read for my daughter. My search led back to this book I had read when I first joined a school as librarian. This was one of the first books I had read in a Read Aloud session . The story remained with me and has haunted  me or rather gathered roots in my mind. I am yet to read it to my daughter but now that I reread it I saw the book reach up to me in various shades which I had earlier skipped to notice back then. There can be several interpretations to seemingly short read of roughly 600+ words. I stopped myself several times when I happen to understand that it can be hated on many aspects just as it can be loved. I for once loved the book and still do. But what strikes me is that there are readers ho can be bitingly rude and give visceral reaction to the book because for them a positive and uplifting tale of giving without expecting anything in return is unaccepable.

Nowadays we are accustomed to reading a rather vaccinated version of tales that are meant to give lessons but without the bitter pill. But the, do they serve a purpose. These books might make a good read but often the lessons are lost in the trappings of he world. If we see famous children’s literature, it can be easily observed that the writers wrote with a clarity and skill that delivered the harshest of content but they did not compromise to spare the children the horrors of the world. Moreover, the morals were never explicit in content rather implied and gradually absorbed emotionally through the reading. Shel Silverstein under the garb of a gentle little children’s story has tried to pierce the fabric that makes humanity to unravel its numerous faults. ” Giving Tree” is a very disturbing book,  perhaps it’s because it’s intended to be so.

One of the most readily accepted interpretation is that of unconditional parental love. But then again it is a very sad and aching story, where the child never learns to  appreciate his parents and remains to be ever demanding even in his old days. This might ring true in today’s highly materialistic and monetary society, where parents try and suffice for lack of time with giving into demands the kids make. This only breeds a want that can never be satiated.

Yet  another is man’s greed as explained by environmentalist. It is seen as a reflection of man’s selfish exploitation of nature. Many women consider it a depiction of man’s subjugation, suppression and abuse of woman and woman’s shortcoming and cowardice to stand up for herself . The tree is referred to as “she”. An anonymous domain reflecting the same anonymity woman are forced to live with. It is also seen as

Many see this as an allegory for Christ’s sacrifice. This is because the tree, like Christ, gives herself entirely for the boy without questions and self thought. If seen as  a Christian allegory, it is a disturbing retelling of Christ’s terrible, painful, continuous rejection by man, and not the heart-warming tale of unconditional love and forgiveness we are taught. There is no repentance or remorse in “The Giving Tree,” and therefore no exoneration.

This book is a masterpiece and it would be a blunder if readers expect this book to draw morals we get from the Greek myths, the Bible stories and the old fairy tales, which were the staples of past generations. Today we expect books convey lessons where the characters  learns his/her lesson, a simplicity that is classic of today’s children’s literature. Children’s literature such as “The Giving Tree” plays a valuable role by helping children understand the ugly, beautiful, and complex truths of the world.

© Sigy George

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Plagiarism and Referencing Basics

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Plagiarism is a major threat for students and scholars submitting their works. The importance of Referencing and the dangers of plagiarism is lost on the students today since they are unaware about copyrights and its violation. Schools and universities rarely lay stress on the importance of giving credit to the original work that one uses while conducting research. With the information explosion and the ease of WWW, giving of due credit is easily forgotten and ignored. Thus, as a librarian engaged with students preparing to embark on a journey that can make or break their future, it is prime duty to teach referencing and impart knowledge about plagiarism. Here is the presentation on the same:

Plagiarism and Referencing Basics

Here is another one prepared for IGCSE Global Perspectives students.

Referencing & Plagiarism

Referencing and MLA 8 Basics

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Dear Friends, my tenure in The Shri Ram School taught me a lot in terms of IBDP curriculum. As a librarian I found myself learning something new each day and having to step out of the comfort zone to perform better. I am not much of a public speaker, but in my role as librarian I conducted workshops for IB students to help them in their Extended Essay and TOK. The task of teaching referencing and citation was upon me that left me with cold feet. But with passage of time, I became confident and learnt that mistakes only helped learn and teach better. In one such workshop I taught the students MLA 8 style of referencing. Below is the presentation:

Referencing and MLA 8 Basics

IB Theatre Presentation

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On 3rd August’2017, under the guidance of Ms. Uma Bordoloi(Theatre Teacher), I conducted a mini capsule on IB Theatre Research Presentation for IB 2 students. The aim of the capsule was to equip the students with skills to evaluate and judge the credibility of various sources. The capsule was based on the Theatre Research Presentation wherein each student would have to demonstrate a Moment of Theatre after having conducted research about the same. It is for this purpose that the capsule was designed. The students were guided step by step how to proceed for research. Please find below the Presentation.

IB Theatre Individual Presentation

Intellectual Freedom vs Censorship

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As a librarian, the hardest part for me has been when I have asked an eager student not to pick a particular book just because the teachers felt it was inappropriate for the age. The long drawn face still lingers with me, years after the experience. The incident made me think that how can a teacher be the judge for a child as to what he/she should read. Isn’t it impinging on the Intellectual Freedom of the student?

The school libraries play a very pivotal role in dissemination of information and promoting intellectual freedom. It serves as a nodal point of voluntary access to information and ideas in the form of books, periodicals, journals and other materials. They also serve as learning avenues for students as they acquire critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Thus stopping a student from accessing a material is equivalent to censorship, thereby flouting his/her freedom to read. And yet creating a curiosity in the young minds about the content of the book, as they say forbidden fruit tastes better.

The ALA( American Library Association) describes censorship as, “Censorship is the suppression of ideas and information that certain persons—individuals, groups or government officials—find objectionable or dangerous. It is no more complicated than someone saying, “Don’t let anyone read this book, or buy that magazine, or view that film, because I object to it! ” Censors try to use the power of the state to impose their view of what is truthful and appropriate, or offensive and objectionable, on everyone else. Censors pressure public institutions, like libraries, to suppress and remove from public access information they judge inappropriate or dangerous, so that no one else has the chance to read or view the material and make up their own minds about it. The censor wants to prejudge materials for everyone”. (http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/censorship/faq)

Being an avid reader, I was devastated as a student myself when I found some of the most popular classics to be banned for the flimsiest of reasons. But, on the other hand it also throws light on the issues that the authority fears the most, or the society wishes to suppress. For eg: Little Women  by Louisa May Alcott  was challenged frequently for having female characters that are independent, resilient and open to make their own choices. This was unacceptable at the time it was published. Similarly, Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie  has been banned and challenged on the grounds of promoting homosexuality and miscreant-ism!!!!! Any answers to that??? A book that is a classic par excellence, which is a blend of pure fantasy and magic, transporting the readers to an adventure ride is seen as objectionable !!!!. But then , the question arises: Who gives the power to curtail the freedom to read? and why? Please answer.

In my 9 years as a Librarian, I have invested my time, energy into acquiring all types of  resources for my students. I have made it a task for myself to satisfy their hunger and yet keep the hunger for more. But out of the blue,  there is an email, or a letter asking me to explain myself as to how I let myself fail at the job, and allow the students free access to all kinds of books. It is not pleasant to read or answer them since may parents and teachers refuse to understand my stance of defending a books, and end up using very harsh language against me. It took a lot of courage, integrity and character, not to answer them in their own tone yet defending my reason. Most often I have had to back off since Heads also do not accept the stance of why a particular book should not be removed.

It has been of utmost importance to me to be judicial when dealing with students. They are like open pots. So I refuse to label a book that might prejudice a potential reader. I wish to fill them knowledge that surpasses all kinds of prejudices, biases and intolerance. I take it upon myself as a librarian to “defend the right to read, to speak, to learn, to explore, to question, to differ, to contradict, to grow, and to think?”. (http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/censorship/faq)

To educate my students, I organised Banned Books Week, to educate them about their Right to Read, Intellectual Freedom and Censorship. My efforts paid off. The display board outside the library was the ‘Talk of the School’. And even now I have students stop me and discuss as to why they feel its unfair to put a blanket ban on a books, or the judge of a book should be the reader. They were thinking for themselves and also questioning the rights of the author to be read , and the rights of a reader to read, reasons why a book was banned when the author wrote for the very same reasons to come to light, etc. The appropriateness of a book should not be handed down, rather one should judge themselves whether the content is suitable or not. Here,  I would like to add what Michelle Luhtala, Library Department Chair, New Canaan High School, CT, had said in one of her webinar: ” We will have a book for every child, but not every book in the library is right for every child”. 

Thus my job as a librarian becomes even more riskier since we are always under scrutiny for allowing the freedom to read. I would also like to add  that the mere presence of a particular book in the school library does not imply endorsement of the ideas expressed by the author. The library is simply acting as a a neutral provider of information . The freedom to read is essential for our world today to harvest young minds that make informed decision, and develop creative culture.

So dear all, if you find your favorite book in the library, be appreciative and grateful of the librarian who has been the voice behind it being there for you, defending  your right to read.

 

 

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There could be no better timing than this to be writing the book review for a book by Krishna Sobti. The 2017 Gyanpith Award winner, also known as the grande dame of Hindi Literature.

The book I am reviewing here is To hell with you Mitro. This book caused an uproar upon its publication owing to its language which is sexually explicit. Krishna Sobti wrote at a time when desires of women were to be suppressed and she did not openly express her desires. In Indian patriarchy, women have been given stereotypical roles as a mother, wife, mistresses or sex-object which man uses to gratify sexual appetite.  Sobti compels us to rethink the status quo through her strong and vocal female characters. Articulating provocative issues in her novels, she yanks society out of its comfort zones.

To Hell with You Mitro (Mitro Marjani) is the story of Sumitravanti, nicknamed as Mitro, the unstoppable daughter-in-law of the Gurudas household. Her mother-in-law aptly describes Mitro’s character in few words, “When she’s good, she’s better than the best. When she’s bad, she’s worse than the worst. If in a good mood Mitro is your friend and all her belongings are at your feet. At other times, she becomes so estranged that she spits on her husband. ” Mitro thus is an expression of Sobti’s uninhibited portrayal of female sexuality. She is what can be called physicality incarnated. She defies the set norms by expressing unequivocally her sexual desires and pangs. Her struggle is against the patriarchal structure. The basic honesty of her nature allows her to face herself and all she has believed in as unflinchingly as she faces her husband’s thrashing and mother-in-laws awed remonstrations. What makes Mitro special is her indomitable spirit. Even though towards the end she realizes the hollowness of her mother’s existence outside family, she refuses to buckle down under the patriarchal setup.

One of the basic theme of To Hell with You Mitro is that any positive change in the position of women cannot be brought about without addressing their position within family. Apart from being a set of kinship relations and household structures, family needs to be viewed as a power structure, maintained by patriarchy, through which a particular set of household and gender relationships are given meaning. The women are shown as subservient and at best a mute spectator to the happenings around them.

Thus, Sobti has shown an ideological dimension of family. An ideology which  is primarily patriarchal in nature, according to which there are preordained roles of men and women in family and outside it. This ideology of family describes and creates separate spheres of work for men and women. The unequal gender relations are valued not only by male members of the family but females, conditioned in patriarchy also support these norms with full devotion.

It is with the character of Mitro that Sobti using the character as a mouthpiece to deconstruct patriarchal norms and conventions. Mitro’s resistance against the repressive forces of patriarchy manifests itself in her transgressions. When she feels dissatisfied with her husband, leaving behind the age old sentiments of the much adored Sati and  Savitri ,she fancies about her escapades with males other than her husband.

Unlike her mother-in-law and elder sister-in-law, Mitro is not of the type of women who
feels content in performing subservient roles to their husbands thinking that this is what they are meant for. Her thoughts, actions, behavior are not even least controlled by the male. And what is more attractive in this bold diva is that she is fully aware of her physical charms. She thinks that she can win over any man as long as she has a beautiful,
attractive body.  Whenever and wherever she feels suffocated, she raises her voice, but never felt pathetic about her being a woman. For her there is no difference being a man or woman. She views both as equal, no one subordinate to other or dominant over other.

Mitro was met with a lot of agitation by the society that ‘expects young women to safeguard their sexual reputation and avoid being labeled as sexually promiscuous, while young men had to demonstrate their sexual reputation in order to enhance their standing with their masculine peer group’. But Mitro is open about her sexual longings. Her indomitable spirit and frank, open expression of her insatiable sexual urge is something totally unbecoming of a middle class married woman. Because of her openness in speech, she becomes the target of criticism by the members of her family. Her husband also finds her ways wanton and wild.

The high point is towards the end when Mitro visits her mother’s place and arranges for
sexual escapades with one of her mother’s clients in the very presence of her husband in the same house. Mitro realizes the hollowness of her mother’s existence outside family when her mother reveals her that now no one visits her mother and thus she feels terribly lonely. Now the same husband she cursed day in and day out now appears to her as a treasure she cannot afford to lose. By making a character like Mitro understand the importance of family life, Sobti perhaps reaffirms her faith in the institutions of family and marriage which irrespective of their restrictions, seem to her important and therefore must be preserved.

In this way in To Hell with You Mitro, on one hand Krishna Sobti made the other daughter in laws and the sons as mouthpiece of patriarchal norms and convention while on the other hand with Mitro she has given an antidote to patriarchy. Mitro’s family members reiterate the codes of patriarchy and for Mitro it is her chief task to dismiss these codes. She never follows patriarchal standards, whether it is in her speech, act, thinking or behavior

Patriarchy even today demands women to be silent, submissive, unselfish, timid, conventional, and with no display of sexual desires; contrary to all this Mitro is loudmouthed, domineering, bold, frank, unconventional, and openly displays her sexual desires. Towards the end she comes to realize the worth of familial and social norms but for her these norms also have meaning after personal individuality only. She understands the value of being virtuous and chaste , but that is not even a slight hint that she will bow meekly to patriarchy. There is no change in her even towards the end. She remains as vocal and expressive even in the end as she was in the beginning. All that changes is that she accepts the significance of following societal norms which are essential for a morally upright society, but this is not at the cost of losing her own individuality.

Nothing much has changed since then. Till date the desires of women are repressed and if a woman openly speaks about her sexual exploits or even her desires, she is easily labeled as promiscuous. The tongues start wagging and she stripped off her dignity and respect, leaving her cold in the dark society. Even an attempt towards the same is thwarted. For eg: Lipstick under my burkha,  is a movie that speaks about how the desires and dreams of women are licensed by the menfolk. Women seem to have no say over their own bodies when rape in marriage is normal. Thus, Mitro is an apt read in today’s times, when women need not hide their sexuality under a burkha.

 

“In memory of children, girls and women victims of silence.” — Edge of Humanity Magazine

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Artist and Photographer Simona Bonanno is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of these images. From her project ‘Chains Of Silence‘. To see Simona’s body of work click on any photograph. In memory of children, girls and women victims of silence. Silence can have many forms: it could be expected […]

via “In memory of children, girls and women victims of silence.” — Edge of Humanity Magazine

 

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