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How Do We Start Writing?

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Many of us, who have just begun their writing journeys, are struggling with this question. Invariably, most of us delay our writing assuming that what we want to say would develop in our mind first and then, we would put it on paper. This is also an excuse for postponing our writing. We keep trying to think of something substantial before putting our thoughts down on paper. We fear that without any thoughts we would be staring at the blank paper.
Some other times, we think that we know exactly what we want to write. It is all in our mind, we just need to put it down on paper. However, when we start putting it down, the entire structure begins falling apart. We realize that the structure we thought was reasonable cannot be supported through any evidence or theory. We feel that we have to start again.
In both aforementioned scenarios, we are making the mistake of assuming writing as a mechanical process. We think that it is just about jotting down on pen and paper or on our laptop. We think that we think through our minds and our hands just mechanically process it. This is one of the biggest problems of modern society, which has undue importance to the mind at the cost of the hand. The movement of our hands facilitates the flow of our thoughts. It is our hand that has the capacity to engage our mind in an extensive manner. Maria Montessori (1949), in The Absorbent Mind, has argued that the development of our mind remains stunted if we do not pay attention to the development of our hands.
We can start writing with a blank mind. We might sit on our desk with nothing to write but this act would help us to focus our mind on the task at hand. It would encourage us to pick our pen to write something. This would get the ball rolling and we would get into the writing mode. Once we force ourselves to write consistently for a few months, we realize that the more we write the more organize our thoughts become. Our thoughts develop and shape through writing. We may start with a brief outline or an overview but while writing our thoughts gradually pick up a logical sequence.
Writing everyday is the most important activity for a writer. Every time you think of postponing writing, you must remind yourself that it is you fear of writing and not the lack of ideas and thoughts.

Writing Challenge

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I have decided to take up a writing challenge to write 500 words everyday. It will be a fourteen week challenge in which I am planning to follow the writing process in order to write reflectively.

My performance in the last challenge was embarrassing. But that challenge definitely helped me deal with my fear of writing. I write more often now and writing also comes a little easier. That challenge also helped me post more actively on the blog.

Though quality of writing is a concern that needs to be addressed. So in order to improve my writing qualitatively, I have decided to seriously follow all five stages of the writing process. I am hoping that going through each of these stages will help me engage with my writing more. It will also facilitate reflective thinking.

Education For Peace

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News reports on kinds of violence being afflicted on almost all communities seems to dominate our lives. Merciless attacks by terrorists, unforgivable acts of violence against women evokes emotions more violent emotions amongst us. But then the question is will violence help? We all know that it won’t. A violent suppression of some communities is the main cause of this violence. Had we been given our due attention as children were treated equally men would not have imagined treating us like objects? Had the developed and the powerful been more just and less greedy and exploitative, we could have avoided such destruction. But this discussion is pointless because past cannot be changed. We can work for a better future and since I am a teacher I will try to explore the role of education in bringing peace in this world. The following section is derived from Richard Sennett’s framework as given in his book ‘The Craftsman'(2008).

Can craft centred education help us create a more peaceful world? Craft entered education is experiential in nature. This experience results from manipulation of raw materials through intellectual Imagine ourselves crafting an object. We will begin our work through an exploration of the raw materials and imagining how well we can use them to create the desired object. Playful manipulation of the object will help us understand its nature and properties. Then based on the nature of the material we will try to discipline our body in order to prevent breakage of the material. David Horsborough in his book on his experiences of teaching in Neelbagh has described this in a beautiful way. He says that the material exerts its discipline on the child and informs the child when (s)he is not using it in the right way. In the process, we learn from our mistakes and make a mental note of each mistake. We learn to deal with failures and strive harder to reach our goal. This facilitates continuous reflection. We slow the speed of our thoughts and life to match the speed of process we are engaged in. When all the hard work and patience pays in the end, we look at our crafted object with love and delight. It acquires a special place in our life.

This process helps us see in other crafted object that we come across handwork, creativity and passion of another being. Thus we develop an eye for appreciation of another craftsperson’s work.

Can destruction take a back seat in such minds? Can we see this education help in creating a peaceful world?

Doing Voice Over for Hind Swaraj

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I was invited to do voice over for preparing the audio of Hind Swaraj. This was my first time and I am quite excited.
Hind Swaraj is a political theory written by Gandhi in 1909. It is written in the form of a dialogue. This dialogue is between a reader and the editor. This form is known to Gujarati literature for a long time but the characters that Gandhi chose of reader and editor makes it a modern piece of writing. Hind Swaraj deals with a critique of Western civilisation and suggests an alternative that, according to Gandhi, would best suit the needs of India.

I was invited to lend voice to the reader. In doing so, I began exploring the nuances of this character. This reader is an impatient, opinionated, but thoughtful man. I am a woman, so while reading the text, I said that I need to change the gender in the sentences. The person coordinating it took a long pause and then said he needs to ask his superior.
However, this idea just stayed with me. How will this audio clip be received, if a woman played this role of an impatient, opinionated but thoughtful person? A woman aggressively (in a ‘manly’ manner) questioning Gandhi. Well, Gandhi would not have objected to it as he had a knack for dealing with issues that divides the society. Gender being one of them. He, probably, would have seen it through as an experiment. But, then, what about the contemporary Indian society? Can they deal with such a modern woman?

This is my first voice over and I must say I am quite excited about it. There could not have been a better book than Hind Swaraj for doing a voice over. I hope to pass my audition.

Imposing Furniture and Pedagogy

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Our classroom seating arrangement influences pedagogic interaction. We have known this for a while, but sometimes the rigid educational structure does not allow us to make changes so specific to our classroom.

Every time I enter my classroom (I teach post graduate students), I cannot help but remember John Dewey’s statement about furniture that is made for passive recipients. Furniture that is heavy and imposing, where students try to fit their bodies in. Furniture that is pointed towards the blackboard, thus fixing the seat of the teacher as well. In such a classroom, it is difficult to talk about constructivism and active participation. No wonder my students still have not develop ownership in their learning because they stare at me with blank faces expecting me to fill them with knowledge, something that they so unquestioningly believe that I possess.

Today, I have decided to change this seating arrangement for my class at least. These imposing desks which force me to teach instead of facilitate discussions will have to be arranged in a better way.

Mourning

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A forest was burnt down in the morning,
potted plant and surviving birds mourned
in my balcony.