Watching The Sky

Chess is my obsession and the go to activity to release the stress or escape the burden of mundane reality. But watching the sky was the obsession this week. I even got up at 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. on the same night and went out to the ground to identify the stars/constellations/planets which adorn the sky. And Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Orion, Big Dipper, Sirius have welcomed us!

Few weeks backs I decided to start looking at the sky; also a fascinating activity to introduce to my son. We had attended a Science Utsav event at Ghatkopar, few months back, where the kids and the adults were shown the Moon and its craters using a telescope. My first ever look at a telescope at the age of 41!! Unfortunately due to unclear skies no other objects were seen. But, since then I wished to explore further. So, started googling to figure out how to start. The astroviewer link gives a skymap for a particular area. Initially, just went outside and watched; also showed son the stars that were visible in the sky. We started observing with skymap’s help and Orion was the first constellation we identified. Yeah!! The skymap shows all the 4 directions so you know where to look and you can confirm with the smart compass app on the android phone. The Earth Sky site has these weekly guides which are also useful. On the evening of March 18th around 10 p.m. we identified the Big Dipper. This month, March 2016, the planet Jupiter is visible very clearly in the sky. Some photographs were taken using the smartphone but the final output was not that clear.
The smartphone also proved useful. Some android apps which were installed –

  • Smart Compass
  • Indian Sky Map
  • Start Chart – The Star Chart app proved useful; just point towards the sky and it will tell you the constellation – how cool!!
  • We have been doing this for a week…

    Update: 14/04/2016
    Finally, we, a bunch of families, spent a night under the skies on April 9th. The program was organised by Khagol Mandal. The first session was about exploring the sky where the presenter used a laser torch to point out various objects. He also gave lot of technical information about stars, temperature, supernova, nebulae etc. The children got bored and impatient as they wanted to watch the sky with telescopes. We were already tired having spent the day doing various activities at Saguna Baug. But, the three sessions with telescopes were fantastic. In each session, 2 or 3 telescopes were setup. We got to see a very prominent ring around Saturn, Jupiter, an open cluster which was full of stars, binary stars of Saptarishi – Vashista and Arundhati, Mars, a globular cluster. The sky was showing a lot more stars than we have been able to see near our place in Mumbai. Kudos to Khagol organisers! The session ended at 5 a.m.

    2015

    1. Read more books than in 2014. Enjoyed What is Justice by Sandel, Youth by Coetzee, some of the books from A Very Short Introduction series like Marx, Foucault, History of Human Life

    2. Attended the Mumbai International Film Festival for the second time – watched 23 films – favorites – Taxi, Microbe and Gasoline, Risk of Acid Rain, Kaul, Agnieszka, The Forbidden Room, Songs My Brothers Taught Me, The River of Fables

    3. Started homeschooling

    4. Attended a literary festival in Mumbai – chai and translation sessions were the best. And, a wonderful story told by Gulzar in his soothing voice.

    5. Finally, got a chance to visit Mahabaleshwar in the off season – no crowd, relaxed exploration.

    6. Took son to two plays performed by Gillo – HANUMAN KI RAMAYAN at Bhavan’s and GULABO AUR PARIZAAD at NCPA

    Looking back at MAMI 2014

    The story of humans on this planet is the story of struggle; to survive and live with dignity; to feel part of something. Every human and the society they are part of have their own struggles. There is almost familiar themes running through these struggles – fighting the unjust government (Pride), people displaced from their homes and trying to start a new life in an unfamiliar country (Macondo), women fighting social prejudices and unjust system of justice (Difret, The Trial of Viviane Amsalem), economic struggle (Two Days, One Night), love. The themes are familiar but still the story needs to be told. And, cinema is one such medium to explore these themes.

    I have always wanted to attend an International Film Festival. My first attempt was MAMI 2013 but could not manage to fulfill my wish. But, MAMI 2014 happened and it turned out to be an unforgettable experience. Everyday I left home early to watch 4-5 movies per day, and returned home late in the night. The first show usually started at 10am. And, reached home by 11pm. My son was perplexed. I tried to share some stories from films to satiate his curiosity.

    How did I choose which films to watch? Don’t remember now. I had not read too many previews; just a couple before day 1. So, just went with my gut feeling in choosing films to watch, for each day.

    One great feature of the festival is that the audience gets to talk to the producers, directors or the actors of the film.

    One of the defining experience of the festival was watching ‘Corn Island’. It is a beautifully shot film but has minimal dialogues. There is no dialogue almost for 20 minutes but I was completely hooked and eager to follow the journey of the protagonist. ‘Court’ was another movie which was unconventional but engaging, sometimes humorous. Here is a review

    A Dalit activist-poet is held ‘responsible’ for the ‘suicide’ of a sewage cleaner. ‘Court’ leads us through his arrest and ‘judicial remand’ and hearings, resulting in a film that is throbbing, urgent, vital, belying the sparse, near-documentarian manner of the telling.

    Some other movies which I liked -

    • A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
    • – A vampire movie shot in black and white

    • Refugiado
    • – A wife (with her son) running away from the abusive husband

    • Vessel ( Documentary )
    • – A woman’s fight to help women from around the world in getting abortions.

    • Gett, The Trial of Viviane Amsalem
    • – An enthralling court drama; mesmerizing performance by the lead actress.

    • Difret
    • – An Ethopian film which tells a story of girl escaping from the inhuman practice of ‘abduction into marriage’.

    • Lessons in Dissent (Documentary )
    • The Tree (Drevo)
    • Macondo
    • – The film explores the life of refugees in Austria.

    • The Fort (Killa)
    • – Story of childhood; beautiful background; some funny moments.

    • Labour Of Love (Asha Jaoar Majhe)
    • – A silent film

    • The Ambassador To Bern
    • – A political thriller

    • The Little House
    • Pride
    • – A fun film based on true events.

    • Two Days, One Night
    • – Will you accept taking a cut in salary/bonus if it would help someone to keep their job?

    Some of the duds I watched –

    • Dombivli Return
    • Honeycomb Lodge
    • Buddha In a Traffic Jam

    The festival was well organised; though there were some hiccups. Now, looking forward to October 29th, 2015.

    आदत

    मौत की सताने की आदत नहि, वो एक बार ही आति है
    फिक्र करना मेरी फीत्रत है, रोज मुझे बेबस karne ki उस्की आदत है

    Absurd

    In the words I find Joy,
    The self sours high,
    Life has no meaning,
    Death is the only ending,
    Conquer the absurdity of being alive,
    By doing what helps you escape from wondering ‘what to do in life’?

    Fears of homeschooling

    Some of the fears which parents usually have –

    1. Socialising
    2. What if the child needs to rejoin the mainstream school (for whatever reason)?
    3. What about the college admissions?
    4. How to respond to those who keep pestering why home schooling?
    5. Role of parents – if not capable to teach even though have knowledge or capable to teach but lack of knowledge in some subjects
    6. Choose a curriculum or just explore different subjects

    Books

    Has any book changed my life? First, I have to reflect what does the phrase “changed my life” represents for me? For now, not doing the reflection!

    Books introduce you to ideas which you have not yet encountered. Or maybe you have felt or experienced but you read someone’s writing and experience that aha! moment.

    ‘The Art Of Happiness’ introduced me to Buddhism. And, the main idea which I took away was that ‘Life is suffering’. It is not a negative idea. It just means that don’t ever expect that you will reach a state in life when everything happens as you wish. Everyday we end up facing some unpleasant experience as we interact with external stimuli in the real world.

    Howard Roark, in ‘The Fountainhead’ represents the idea of idealism. He was not ready to compromise.

    ‘The Kite Runner’ is a beautiful story. For me, it was about redemption. This paragraph is unforgettable

    Then I realized something: That last thought had brought no sting with it… I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.

    Code Complete – Oh! I read this book almost 8 years back. I was amazed by the writing and the ideas which I got introduced to. I was inspired to explore further and then dived into Agile philosophy; learned unit testing, writing clean code etc.

    Maths Novel -A Certain Ambiguity – This novel surprised me! A novel woven around maths!! This novel and the paper ‘A Mathematician’s Lament’ inspired me to look at maths again.