Monday, 27 July 2015

Google Generation

Six years ago, I thought that my 10-year-old son was becoming a video game addict so I hid his Nintendo DS. He came home from school and hunted tirelessly for his most cherished device, but to his dismay, he could not find it. Then, instead of asking me about his console, he turned the computer on and googled: ‘How to find a lost Nintendo DS?’ His move made me laugh, as I thought to myself amused, “Oh my God! Look at this 21st century kid! His ultimate source of information is the Internet!”

My son’s case was not a one-off; he represents the digital generation. The digital revolution emerged in the 1980s, and gained pace in the 1990s due to the rising popularity of the Internet and the use of hypermedia. Marc Prensky, a literacy expert, calls today’s children “digital natives.” According to him, children of contemporary society are “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet. On one hand, it is true that surviving in today’s world is impossible without knowing the digital language. But on the other hand, a big question is, “How much exposure is appropriate at a certain stage?” In my son’s case, I had to ask myself how much exposure to the digital language was appropriate for a primary school student.

My 2012 PhD research was related to the perspectives of the newly arrived English as a Second Language parents compared to those of primary school teachers in Australia. During my research, one question I asked the participating parents was about how they consider the use of digital devices by their children from the point of view of learning. All of them unanimously agreed that they were extremely worried about their children’s excessive exposure to technology. They agreed that a ‘certain level’ of exposure was fine; but it was hard for them to set limits on their kids’ digital activities. They were not sure if the use (or misuse?) of the Internet was fostering or hampering their children’s learning.

The Internet, along with digital devices, has definitely benefited society. At the same time, they have their disadvantages. For example, it seems that children have forgotten to read print materials, to play outdoor games - they have even forgotten how to use their brains. Google seems to be the solution to all problems. ‘Copy and paste’ has given birth to a new generation of plagiarisers. Even though a lot of the information online is useful, much of it seems to be unreliable.

Another problem that is prevalent due to the widespread use of the Internet is children being exposed to the massive collection of pornography. A research study conducted by Michele L. Ybarra and Kimberly J. Mitchell in the US indicates that up to 90% or more youths between 12 and 18 years have access to the Internet. And a vast majority of the children, 87 percent, that look for sexual images online are 14 years or older. Such inappropriate sexual materials can adversely affect children’s emotional and sexual development.

These days it is impossible to imagine a classroom, especially in Western countries to be without computers as a teaching/learning aide. In the case of Nepal, although all classrooms may not be equipped with computers, almost all children that attend schools in urban areas have easy access to them either at school or at home. So, it was interesting to read in the article, ‘Computers ok? Not in Silicon Valley’ that the Waldorf Schools - founded worldwide following the humanistic teaching approach based on the educational philosophy of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner - do not allow the use of technology in classrooms. Students are not only discouraged from using computers at home, but at school as well. Surprisingly, many employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard, along with the chief technology officer of eBay, have sent their children to a Waldorf Primary School in Los Altos, California. The Waldorf parents argue that teaching-learning comes from great teachers with interesting lesson plans, not from computers or video games.

The war between technology advocates and traditionalists rages on - and that is going to be the case for a while yet. Sure, prudent and limited use of modern innovations such as the Internet and computers can lead to a better informed society that is fluent in the digital language. But it is just as easy for people to become hopelessly inebriated due to uncontrolled exposure. Being a part of the digital age can be a blessing or a curse - it is up to you to decide what it is going to be for you and your children.

(Published in an English Daily The Kathmandu Post on Sunday, July 26, 2015)
 [The pictures on this blog are posted here with permission from their owners or have been gathered from various sources on the Internet. If you are the copyright-holder to any of the photographs herein do not hesitate to contact me. They will be swiftly removed if desired so.]

Friday, 24 July 2015

Tug of War

Every other person I meet these days proclaims, "I'm spiritual," or "I'm practicing spirituality." Their claim makes me contemplate on the vast area of spirituality. How can one be a spiritual person just like that? Is it that easy? A psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed a theory (1943) named Maslow's hierarchy of needs. He mentioned five levels of human needs, and self actualization, which is closely related to spirituality, falls on the topmost level. According to him people  move towards self actualization only after they  have fulfilled other four levels of needs: physiological needs, safety needs, love/belonging and self-esteem respectively.

So, I do not stop wondering, "Have these people already fulfilled all the needs of lower levels to reach the highest level of spiritualism?" I wish I could also portray myself as a spiritual person but I cannot make this big claim about myself. My curiosity led me to observe those "spiritual" people more closely.

To my great disappointment I did not see them practicing spirituality in reality. I found them massively engaging on fulfilling their safety needs, love/belonging and self-esteem. Well, it is one thing to "hear," "read" or "know" about spiritualism, but in my understanding to be "spiritual" is completely different. A Western Hindu spiritual leader Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya clearly states that spiritualism is not the "accumulation of knowledge" but it is "practice" in life. One can earn a PhD degree on spiritualism but it is not necessary that the person is spiritual.

Even if it is not impossible, but extremely hard to lead a spiritual life living in this physical or materialistic world. There are so many temptations which an ordinary human being cannot ignore. Until the circumstances are favorable it is easy to be spiritual, and as soon as there occur adverse situations it is the high time to test that spirituality. For this, self-observation is the best way to see your progress as a spiritual person. 

[The pictures on this blog are posted here with permission from their owners or have been gathered from various sources on the Internet. If you are the copyright-holder to any of the photographs herein do not hesitate to contact me. They will be swiftly removed if desired so.]

Thursday, 9 July 2015

सिक्काको अर्को पाटो

"अपार्टमेन्टहरुको चैं हालत नै भयो, होगि? अपार्टमेन्टमा लगानी गर्ने सबै डुबे। अब त काठमाडौंमा कोहि पनि अपार्टमेन्ट किन्दैनन्," एकजना परिचितले २/४ दिन अघि मात्र मतिर हेर्दै आफ्नु प्रखर विश्लेषण शक्तिको प्रदर्शन गरे। आफू पनि अपार्टमेन्टमै बस्ने हुनाले उनको तर्कसँग  म १००% सहमत थिइन तर अपार्टमेन्टको विरोध गर्न विशेषत: सारा संचारमाध्यम नै उल्टिएको बेला ती परिचितले यसो भन्नुमा के आश्चर्य थियो रआखिरमा उनको सम्पूर्ण सूचनाको स्रोत यिनै संचारमाध्यम न थिए।
हिजोआज अपार्टमेन्ट भन्नेबित्तिकै प्राय: सबै मानिसमा नकारात्मक दृष्टिकोण रहेको पाउँछु, म। तर वैशाख १२ गतेका दिन भूकम्पले सबैलाई मच्चाइरहेका बेला एक समय यस्तो आयो, जतिबेला हरेक व्यक्तिले ईश्वरसँग सिर्फ आफ्नु जीवन रक्षाको भीख मागे होलान्। घरबार, धनसम्पत्ति, रुपियाँपैसा जस्ता कुरा जोगाउने होस कहाँ थियो र त्यतिबेला! सबैका मनमा त्यो संकटपूर्ण घडीमा आफ्नु ज्यान मात्र जोगाउन पाए कत्रो न रण जितिने थियो जस्तो लागेको हुँदो हो। होइन भने कुनै टिभी च्यानलमा देखाइएको सिन्धुपाल्चोकको एउटा भिडियो क्लिपमा किन एकजना व्यक्ति, ", आइज! आइज! हेर्, हामी बाँच्यौं! हामी बाँच्यौं!" भनेर रनबन घन्किनेगरि चिच्याउंदा हुन् र?
त्यो दिनको प्रलयकारी भूकम्पले खालि अपार्टमेन्टहरुलाई मात्र त क्षति पुर्याएको थिएन नि! हेर्दा हेर्दै अरु कैयौं बलिया बलिया घर पनि ढलेनन् र त्यतिबेला? किर्तिपुरको पाँगामा एकजना सज्जन व्यक्तिले कुनै कन्जुस्याईं नगरी एक करोड खर्च गरेर भूकम्प प्रतिरोधात्मक घर नै बनाएका थिए। तर त्यो विनाशकारी भूकम्पले यो घरलाईसमेत देखिसहेन र कच्याक कुचुक पारेर भत्काइदियो।  यी सबै भौतिक क्षतिभन्दा बढी त्यो दिन मानव क्षति भएको थियो जुन हाम्रो राष्ट्रका लागि सधैंभरि अपूरणीय हुनेछ। वर्षौंदेखि बस्तै आएको आफ्नु प्यारो घरले किचेर कैयौं मानिसको ज्यान गएको थियो, त्यो दिन। भत्किएका भौतिक संरचना बिस्तारै बिस्तारै पुन: निर्माण हुँदै जालान्। तर त्यो क्रुर एक क्षणमा गुमेका निर्दोष जीवनहरु हामी कसै गरे पाउन सक्तैनौं। अझ ती गुमेका जीवनसंगै फुटेका, भत्किएका र तहसनहस भएका जीवित प्रियजनका मन शायदै पुरानै स्थितिमा पुगेर जोडिएलान्!
हो, यस्तो कहालीलाग्दो मानव क्षतिको कुरा मनमा आउँदा अपार्टमेन्टहरुले लगाएको गुन सम्झिन्छु, म। काठमाडौंमा त्यत्रा त्यत्रा गगनचुम्बी अपार्टमेन्टहरु भैकन पनि तिनले एउटई  मानव क्षति गराएको कम से कम मैंले अहिलेसम्म सुनेकी छुईन। यो आफैंमा महत्वपूर्ण कुरा होइन र? ती अपार्टमेन्टका भित्ता अवश्य चर्किए, फुटे। बाहिरबाट हेर्दा ती भवन डरलाग्दा देखिए तर तिनले आफूमा आश्रित व्यक्तिहरुलाई बचाए। यस्ता कुरा त संचारमाध्यममा आएका देखिंनन्।
कुलेश्वर अपार्टमेन्टस् 

म भन्दिन - यी अपार्टमेन्टहरु पूर्ण रुपमा दोषमुक्त छन्। यिनमा आफ्नै किसिमका कमी कमजोरी पक्कै छन्। सुन्नमा आएको छ - कतिपय यस्ता भवनहरु सरकारी मापदण्डअनुरुप छैनन्। नक्शा पास गर्दा तेह्र तलाको गर्ने अनि बनाउन चाहिं सत्र तलासम्मको बनाउने खबर नि प्रकाशमा आएका छन्। यस्तो ठगी गर्ने काममा संग्लग्न हुनेहरुलाई त यथोचित् कारवाही गर्नै पर्छ - यसमा दुई मत छैन। प्रष्ट छ - व्यक्तिगत घरभन्दा यस्ता सामूहिक घर बनाउने काम बढी संवेदनशील हुन्छ किनभने एउटा अपार्टमेन्ट बिल्डिंगमा कैयौं परिवार रहेका हुन्छन्। त्यसैले यी भवन निर्माणमा गरिने कुनै किसिमका सम्झौता स्वीकार्य हुने छैनन्। सीमित व्यक्तिले नाफा खाने निहुँमा सयौं मानव जीवनसँग खेलवाड गर्न कहाँ पाइन्छ र?   

यहाँ मेरो बहस खालि के हो भनें सबै अपार्टमेन्टहरुलाई एउटई खाले लेन्स लगाएर आम मानिसकासामू प्रस्तुत् गर्नु उचित होइन। कतिपय अपार्टमेन्टहरु अझै पनि बस्न योग्य छन्। उदाहरणका लागि हामी बसिरहेको कुलेश्वर अपार्टमेन्टस्। काठमाडौंका ८०% घरहरु पूर्ण वा आंशिक रुपमा क्षतिग्रस्त भएको अहिलेको परिप्रेक्षमा मरमतको खाँचो त कुन् घरलाई परेको छैन र? यस्तो मरमतबाट भने हाम्रो अपार्टमेन्ट पनि अछुतो छैन। हाम्रो छिमेकी मेट्रो अपार्टमेन्टस् बाहिरबाट हेर्दा डरलाग्दो देखिन्छ। यहाँ कोठाका भित्ताभित्तै खसेका छन्। यसो आँखा उठाएर मास्तिर हेर्दा कोठाको दृश्य छंगाछुर देखिन्छ। यस्तो क्षतविक्षत देखिए तापनि मेट्रोको बनावट मजबूत छ र यो ढल्दैन भनेर इन्जिनियरहरुले भनिदिएपछि यहाँ बस्ने मानिसको चहलपहल बढ्न थालेको देखिन्छ, अचेलभरि।     
शायद मानिसहरुले सत्तोसराप गर्ने अरु अपार्टमेन्टहरुको बनावट पनि मेट्रोको जस्तै मजबूत होला। त्यसैले त ती यतिका भूकम्प र पराकम्पका धक्का झेलेर ठडिएकै छन्, भलै तिनको बाह्य रुप बिग्रिएको होस्। साँच्चै नै ती ढलेर मानिसलाई किच्ने सम्भावना भएको भए त सम्बन्धित निकाय, व्यक्ति अथवा सरकारले नै यतिन्जेलसम्म तिनको व्यबस्थापनका लागि कुनै न कुनै पहल गर्दा हुन्। कानमा तेल हालेर किन बस्ता हुन् उनीहरु

जुनसुकै वस्तुका असल र खराब पक्ष हुन्छन् भन्ने कुरा सबैलाई थाह छँदैछ। त्यसैले अपार्टमेन्टमा पनि यी दुवै भेटिन्छन्। मलाई चित्त नबुझेको कुरो खालि सबैतिरबाट यसका नकारात्मक पक्षलाई मात्र देखाउनु हो। मैंले अनुभूति गरेको, अपार्टमेन्टहरुको सबभन्दा ठूलो सुन्दरता आफू बिग्रिएरै, भत्किएरै भए पनि आफूलाई विश्वास गरेर त्यहाँ बसेका मानिसहरुलाई एउटी आमाले आफ्ना सन्तान जोगाए जस्तै गरी जोगाउनु हो। देश रोइरहेको र चरम संकटको अवस्थाबाट गुज्रिरहेको वर्तमान समयमा यो मनन गर्न योग्य छैन र? अपार्टमेन्टका सबै खराब कुरा एकापट्टि र एउटई असल कुरा, जीवन रक्षा, अर्कोपट्टि भए पनि यही पाटोले अघिल्लो पाटोलाई जित्तैन त? दु:खको कुरो अपार्टमेन्टहरुले मानव जातिका लागि लगाएको यो गुन प्रकाशमा आउन सकेन।