G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

W H Auden: "But in my arms till break of day / Let the living creature lie. / Mortal, guilty, but to me/ The entirely beautiful."

Will Self: “To attempt to write seriously is always, I feel, to fail – the disjunction between my beautifully sonorous, accurate and painfully affecting mental content, and the leaden, halting sentences on the page always seems a dreadful falling short. It is this failure – a ceaseless threnody keening through the writing mind – that dominates my working life, just as an overweening sense of not having loved with enough depth or recklessness or tenderness dominates my personal one.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Art Spiegelman: "You know words in a way are hitting you on the left side of your brain, music and visual arts hit on the right side of the brain, so the idea is to pummel you, to send you from left brain to right brain and back until you're as unbalanced as I am."

विलास सारंग: "संदर्भ कुठलेही असोत, संस्कृत, इंग्रजी, बुद्धिवादी, तांत्रिक, इतिहासाचे, खगोलशास्त्राचे, आधुनिक पदार्थविज्ञानाचे, शिवकालीन व पेशवाईतील बखरीचे, अगणित ज्ञानक्षेत्रांचे, अशा वैविध्यपूर्ण ज्ञानावर लेखन- विशेषत: कवितालेखन- उभं राहत."

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Toys aRe us

Purushottam Laxman Deshpande “Pu La” -humorist, playwright, actor, music-director, activist and philanthropist- died childless. His wife Sunita and he decided very early not to have children (read Sunita Deshpande’s book “Ahe Manohar Tari” for reasons thereof). Did he miss them?

One of his best essays is “Dinesh”- a word portrait of his wife’s brother’s son. Pu La describes the mess Dinesh first creates with his toys (real and imaginary) every afternoon and then he is fast asleep among them without a care in the world. It’s very moving.

When our 13 year old son occasionally does something similar, my wife and I ask ourselves-“For how long?” We don’t like to answer it but we know it. Sadly not much longer.

By the way I liked my own growing up only to the age of 15!

Isabel Berwick has reviewed Eric Clark’s The Real Toy Story: The Shocking Inside Story on Toys and the Industry That Makes Them” for FT- June 8 2007.

“The toy business has always been a grown-up game, but in recent years it has developed in an odd way. Children are growing out of toys at an ever earlier age - known in the toy trade as KGOY (kids getting older younger) syndrome. Meanwhile adults are being infantilised, buying into a culture of permanent instant gratification through computer games, electronic gadgets and retro reminders of childhood, such as model trains. Toys really aRe us… By preferring easy over hard, fast over slow, and simple over complex, we are turning our backs on the fluency and thoughtfulness of the fully formed adult citizen, who can take informed decisions rather than be dictated to by marketing.…”By the year 2001, American children were seeing about 40,000 commercials a year, double the number in the 1970s.”

Clark shows that ”pester-power” is long-established. When Barbie launched in 1959, initial sales were disappointing. Mothers hated her as ”she had too much of a figure”. Little did they know, Clark writes, that the inspiration for Barbie came partly from an adult doll based on a German cartoon prostitute. It was the girls themselves who pestered to have the doll, and sales soared. This process repeated itself in recent years, when the Bratz dolls appeared. Inventor Isaac Larian put his heavily made-up, skimpily dressed (frankly, tarty) dolls next to Barbies and then asked young girls what Barbie reminded them of. ”Our mothers,” they replied. Larian had a hit, and by 2004, despite widespread parental disapproval, Bratz had captured 4 per cent of the UK toy market.”

Arvind Gupta-modern day Sage Agastya- a rare confluence of original mind and practicing hands- wrote an op-ed “Toying Around” for Times of India Dec 23 2006.

He said: “…Today, children are inundated with expensive toys. Parents seem to be in a hurry to buy the latest toys with flashing lights and sounds. Pedagogic learning is now associated with gloss and gleam. Children play with such toys for a while and then they throw them away. Instant gratification, instant forgetfulness seems to be the norm. Children need large chunks of time to play and mess around with things they like. This is how they construct their own knowledge patterns. According to Rabindranath Tagore, the best toys are those which are innately incomplete and which a child completes with her participation..

Children are eternal explorers. In their free moments they are experimenting and improvising. They are always making and inventing things out of odd bits and trinkets. They learn a great deal from ordinary, organic things found around the house, and without being taught. The main thing about scrap is that children can use it freely without adult admonishment. Traditionally children in India made their own toys — sometimes with the help of adults, often by themselves. Old pieces of leftover cloth were recycled into dolls and puppets…

These toys are a salute to the genius of Indian children. Much before the onslaught of the Barbies and Skullman — sexist and violent toys, children made their own toys and had loads of fun. They used local materials, often throwaway discards which didn't cost any money. Even poor children could enjoy them. Traditional toys evolved over centuries. Someone tried a simple design. Others added to it, and still other generations refined it to perfection. So the aesthetics, simplicity, utility, cost-effectiveness of a vernacular toy is a product of years, maybe centuries of R&D effort. And it is left behind in the public domain for subsequent generations to enjoy — magnanimity in an era of constipated patent regimes.

The best thing a child can do with a toy is to break it', might sound like an anarchistic slogan. But there is great deal of truth in it. Every curious child would want to rip open a toy to peep into its 'tummy'.

Our feel for things and phenomena are very crude. Our estimates of length, area, volume, weight and time are often off the mark. These concepts are merely 'covered' in the course curriculum and remain empty words. Before children can understand a thing they need experience: Seeing, hearing, touching, arranging, taking things apart, and putting them together. They need to experiment with real things. Children require a lot of experience, with different materials and situations before they start making sense of the world. The biggest crisis of Indian design is that educated people do not wish to dirty their hands. And there are no good schools for children of artisans. Burettes, pipettes, test tubes and fancy glassware often threaten children. Fortunately, in most schools they are kept locked in the cupboards with a grime of dust covering them. The need of the day is to do more with less. The great pioneers of science did their work with simple equipment. It is possible to follow in their footsteps. After all, the child's mind is the most precious piece of equipment involved.”



Artist: Whitney Darrow,Jr. The New Yorker 9 Dec 1944