5 August 2020—How to Master Complex Subjects
The first Wednesday of August 2020 saw an invited speaker addressing CVV-ians as part of our Wednesday Webinar Series. The topic for the webinar was ‘How to Master Complex Subjects’ and the speaker was Sri Arun Surendrababu, Educator and the Founder of ‘Republic Learning’ (an EdTech Start-up) as well as ‘Habit’ (a training and consulting company).
The speaker divided the topic into three parts. He introduced an imaginary character (perhaps, to avoid hurting the feelings of the listeners) named Neel, who is lazy and has the habit of procrastinating. He asked a few questions about Neel and then enlightened the audience as to how a person can transform from a lazy procrastinator to a super learner.
Here are a few questions from those raised by the speaker:
- Why does Neel feel motivation is like taking a bath?
- Why does Neel get excited about new things, get bored soon and then quit and procrastinate?
- How did Neel find out that willpower is like a muscle?
- How did a simple tomato solve all of Neel’s problems?
- How did a Greek poet, who remembered everything, become Neel’s hero?
- Why did Dali and Edison sleep with metal in their hands and why should Neel too?
- How can Neel dream his way into becoming a super learner?
Part I: Finding Inspiration to Learn
The speaker, in the first part, explained why a learner has spurts of excitement, why willpower wanes fast and how a learner expects a magical turnaround. Addressing the question ‘Why does the motivation of a learner not last longer?’ Shri Surendrababu elaborated upon anti-motivation and the power of habits through the example of Eugene Pauli, a forgetful man, Basal Ganglia as the home of habits and how micro habits are key to one’s success. He then explained about procrastination, energy conservation and the function of the amygdala in processing fear. He also mentioned the ‘Pomodoro Technique’ developed by Francesco Cirillo to overcome procrastination. Describing the science of willpower, he quoted Phineas Gage’s case study in order to make the learners understand the importance of the pre-frontal cortex and the role it plays in building willpower. He also elaborated on the willpower machine, specifically how willpower works like a muscle and how it depletes in the short run and builds in the long run. He concluded the first part by suggesting a few techniques to build willpower namely meditation, exercise, a suitable diet and adequate sleep.
Part II: Focused Mode of Learning
In the second part, the speaker emphasized the systematic loading of information, deep work and the Pomodoro Technique. He also mentioned the art of memory and ‘chunking’ and demonstrated the latter technique through an activity in which the participants had to remember an eighteen-digit number. He followed it up with ‘chunking’ strategies such as creating a story based on the objects, associating numbers with images and imposing funny logic, to help one remember better.
Part III: Diffuse Mode
In the third part, the speaker explained the diffused mode of learning which helps generate critical insights and develop intuition and creativity. Touching upon varied expressions of creativity with examples of acclaimed geniuses like Edison and Dali, he also explained the anatomy of intuition in detail. As with the earlier parts, he demonstrated these with a puzzle. He followed this up with an explanation on the power of a dreamy sleep substantiated by examples such as Dimitri Mendeleev’s Periodic Table and Mary Shelly’s, Frankenstein, as an example.
The session concluded with a reiteration of concepts discussed and suggestion of a few techniques like walking, running, breathing exercises, sleeping and journal writing to transform oneself from a lazy procrastinator to one with superpowers. The Q&A at the end clarified doubts and added to the discussion.
It was indeed an amazing opportunity for students and life-long learners called teachers, to learn to learn better.
12 August 2020—A Lecture-Demonstration on Mohiniyattam
Mohiniyattam is a traditional classical dance form of Kerala with its origins in 16 century BCE. The uniqueness of the art form lies in its conceptualisation of Lasya, thereby making it one that is performed mostly by women. This gracious form of art developed through the Devadasi culture and was, later on, modified by two prominent schools or traditions of dance followed in Kerala namely ‘Kerala Kalamandalam’ and another established by the veteran dancer Kalyanikuttyamma.
The Wednesday Webinar at CVV on 12 August 2020 was a lecture-demonstration of this art form by a famous dancer from Kerala, Ms. Anupama Menon. She took the audience through the basics of Mohiniyattam, specifically the learning process for an aspiring dancer. She was accompanied on music by her husband Mr. Neelamperoor Suresh Kumar who is himself a renowned musician from Kerala.
Currently a Visiting Faculty at the RLV College of Music and Fine Arts in Tripunithura, Kerala, Ms. Menon holds a Master’s degree in Mohiniyattam from the same institution and an M.Phil. in Theatre from MG University. She is a trained Mohiniyattam dancer, commencing her studies in her childhood, and has performed at numerous venues across the globe. She has won many awards and recognitions including Nrittha Nipuna Award from the Nalanda Research Centre, Mumbai, and Padmavathi Nrithya Pratibha Award from the Cultural Ministry of Odisha. She is also a graded artist for Doordarshan.
The session began with a brief introduction to the history of Mohiniyattam and its evolution into the present-day styles and schools of thought. She explained and demonstrated the three categories of adavus (basic steps) and exercises that are done to improve one’s flexibility. Following this, she demonstrated eye exercises, facial expressions and hand gestures along with an explanation of their usages in performance. The webinar concluded with a beautiful demonstration and explanation of a few components that constitute a dance recital, generally performed when the dancer has completed her studies as convention dictates.
Vice Chancellor Prof. Nagaraj Neerchal, Dean Prof. Gauri Mahulikar, faculty, staff and students attended the webinar and rejoiced in the learning experience. There were quite a few questions from the dancers and dance lovers in the audience which were addressed by the speaker in the end. She also graciously acceded to a request to demonstrate a particular component of a dance recital to oblige a connoisseur’s wish. The session was hosted by Ms. Aashika Aanie Kurvilla, a third-year student of B.A. Applied Psychology at Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth, a trained Mohiniyattam dancer herself, and that added to the overall charm of the session.
19 August 2020—Chitra-kavya: A World of Wonders
The Wednesday Webinar on 19th August 2020 was a special one indeed. It was organised on the last day of the Sanskrit Month celebrations at CVV and preceded the much-awaited valedictory ceremony. Befittingly, the session was taken by one among CVV’s exceptional faculty of Sanskrit Language and Literature, Dr. Sudarshan Chiplunkar, Assistant Professor of the School of Linguistics and Literary Studies. The theme was also chosen accordingly and paid tribute to chitra-kavya (figurative poetry), an ancient Indian tradition of writing poetry in visual patterns, adorning Sanskrit Literature.
The audience, eager to learn more about this fascinating form of poetry which forms a picture in addition to painting one with words, was not disappointed. Beginning with a quick overview of types of poetry itself, Dr. Chiplunkar’s talk served as an excellent introduction to various chitra-kavyas which were in practice in our ancient Indic literary tradition. Following one of the prevalent classifications, his explanations wonderfully supported by visual examples helped one understand how verses would be formed into various designs or images of familiar things in life such as a flower, wheel, flag, drum, umbrella, snake, etc.
The skilful artistry of words, understanding of Mathematics and dexterous enterprise of the poet displayed in the unusual and clever arrangement of letters, in some of these Chitra-kavyas left quite an impression on the listeners. The enthusiastic discussion at the end of the talk reflected this as well. It wouldn’t be surprising if some of them later tried their hand at chitra-kavya themselves.