01 December 2015

topography: paper versus ebooks

over the weekend, we took the kids to a bookstore after eons (i usually buy books for the twins on my own). i let them sit on the floor and go through all the children's books, while i selected a couple of story collections for them. in the midst of this, H wondered whether it was necessary to buy yet more books for them (they do have a fair few books, i know :P, and books are far from cheap here) when i could simply download stories for them on my kindle or phone (H has a few such stories on his phone, and the twins love them). my immediate response was that paper books in NO WAY can be replaced by technology, particularly for young kids.

i love books. i love to read. and, since moving to india, i love my kindle, because it is a means for me to read; without public libraries and second hand book stores that sell literary fiction (david mitchell, kate atkinson, sara gruen, linda grant etc), ebooks on the kindle were the only alternative i had. plus, living in a tiny apartment, there is no possibility of recreating a library for myself here.

intuitively, i know there is a difference between how i read a paper book, and an ebook. without holding the book in my hands, feeling its weight, turning the pages one by one or a few at a time to look for something in particular, my reading experience is different. i do not recall specific incidents/quotes from ebooks as well as i could from real books.

after this brief conversation with H, i did some googling, and i found this wonderful article that totally sums up my experience, with lots of further research and information. read it!

my favourite parts:
people report that when trying to locate a particular piece of written information they often remember where in the text it appeared. We might recall that we passed the red farmhouse near the start of the trail before we started climbing uphill through the forest; in a similar way, we remember that we read about Mr. Darcy rebuffing Elizabeth Bennett on the bottom of the left-hand page in one of the earlier chapters. 

In most cases, paper books have more obvious topography than onscreen text. An open paperback presents a reader with two clearly defined domains—the left and right pages—and a total of eight corners with which to orient oneself. A reader can focus on a single page of a paper book without losing sight of the whole text: one can see where the book begins and ends and where one page is in relation to those borders. One can even feel the thickness of the pages read in one hand and pages to be read in the other. Turning the pages of a paper book is like leaving one footprint after another on the trail—there's a rhythm to it and a visible record of how far one has traveled. All these features not only make text in a paper book easily navigable, they also make it easier to form a coherent mental map of the text. 

In contrast, most screens, e-readers, smartphones and tablets interfere with intuitive navigation of a text and inhibit people from mapping the journey in their minds. A reader of digital text might scroll through a seamless stream of words, tap forward one page at a time or use the search function to immediately locate a particular phrase—but it is difficult to see any one passage in the context of the entire text... the screen only displays a single virtual page: it is there and then it is gone. Instead of hiking the trail yourself, the trees, rocks and moss move past you in flashes with no trace of what came before and no way to see what lies ahead. 

"The implicit feel of where you are in a physical book turns out to be more important than we realized," says Abigail Sellen of Microsoft Research Cambridge in England and co-author of The Myth of the Paperless Office... At least a few studies suggest that by limiting the way people navigate texts, screens impair comprehension.
i will ply the twins with as many books as i can :) there are many advantages of e-reading and there are lovely apps for kids, which i am happy for them to make use of, but not as a replacement for paper books. the joy of watching them turn the pages of their books, move back and forth to ask questions and confirm something, is something that technology does not (yet?) inspire.  

#microblog mondays

26 November 2015

happy me, happy kids

“kids who have happy parents are more likely to be happy. That's pretty awesome motivation to figure out how to be happier” 

I read this on a blog yesterday, and thought, Yes! It is definitely awesome motivation to figure out how to be happier. I remember being pregnant, and being constantly told, ‘be happy, think good thoughts, it will affect your child!' 

With every fibre of my being, I want my children to be happy, to see wonder everywhere, to create their own joy and let misfortune wash off their backs easily. I was an anxious and timid child, and I don’t want my kids to go down that path. 

This article in time magazine is super helpful, listing 10 steps on raising happy kids, with lots of additional links. It’s long, but worth a read. The list of 10 steps is repeated at the end in brief, in case you are as overwhelmed with info as I was! Moreover, the steps are likely to make both parents and children happier :P 

The things I will try: 
Teach (and practice) gratitude 
Praise effort rather than achievement 
Teach (and practice) optimism 
Active listening and labeling 
More play time 
More laughter 

this poster/infographic on the same topic is also cute and informative. 

24 November 2015


after climbing into his school bus, m will turn around without fail, wave at me and say 'bye mumma', with the sweetest grin, before ambling off to his seat. his enthusiasm is infectious, and i always wave off the bus with a responding smile.. that moment always elicits an 'alhumdolillah for these two beautiful blessings in my life'.. the smile carries me home, until i am back to the grind.

this past weekend i realized that i would not be able to carry the twins for much longer. tall, their legs already reach my knees when they are in my arms. carrying them since birth, i cannot fathom what this means right now.. sure, all kids outgrow being carried, but i did not expect this moment to come so soon. i still have some time, and i will be more conscious about it.. if i could just pause time a little..

H and i have started taking sabaq (religious classes).. not only am i happy for myself, but i am excited to share this religious journey with my spouse. i see it as a way to grow, individually and as a couple. Getting closer to allah is surely the purpose of this life, and doing that together with my partner is bliss.


20 November 2015

namaste; let's be human!

I am reading the sandalwood tree by elle newmark, which is a novel with two sets of stories, 100 years apart. An American woman in India during partition learns the story of two women living in the same town during the 1850s. as I read about the partition and its violence, I am struck by how little things have changed in today’s India. the following lines, “when you create borders based on ideology you create a reason to fight. When you live side by side, you create a reason to get along”, said by one of the characters about partition, really struck me.

Why is it that with so much history of violence and discontent before us, we humans have yet to learn how to live together in peace??

This wonderful poster is making the rounds on facebook, but world governments and extremists remain clueless. ‘other’ needs to be deconstructed. I am you, and you are me. And we are all god’s creation.

The Indian greeting ‘namaste’ means ‘the god/divine in me bows to the god/divine in you’. If only we could internalize this, live it out every moment.

17 November 2015

enjoying the moment

Since the twins, I find it quite difficult to live in the moment. While I have always been the kind of person who post analyzes everything, the twins have triggered a crazy loop of constant to do and worry lists. I also find it hard to just overlook the kids' crankiness and tantrums and enjoy myself.. This was particularly the case on our recent five day trip to Goa.  traveling with kids is hard, traveling with kids and another family requires even more juggling and patience and good humour.

Now, back home and in my own space, I will say that the trip was an overall success, with equal amounts of laughter and crankiness (kids’). In the moments of crankiness however, I was wondering why on earth we thought this might be a good idea..

Now I fondly recall the beautiful beaches, the sunsets, the kids laughter as they splashed in the pool or jumped at the waves in the sea.. the crying, the tantrums, the throwing up are just minor blips on a huge landscape.. why is it that I cannot see that when I am in that moment??

With my twins being three, I can foresee that this will be the case in many many more future trips. So what can I do to enjoy myself more in the moment??


02 November 2015

each day counts

Just before coming across this image on fb (from mentors channel), I had been planning to have a few hours of relaxation, reading and mindless internet surfing. Suddenly, it all seemed quite trivial in exchange for ‘one day of my life’.

On the other hand, every life needs relaxation. Books, movies, articles, quotes are all part of what make up life experience. So perhaps balance is the key.

The idea of exchanging your time and emotions for other things is important. If every minute of my day/life counts, then how many minutes are wasted in feeling anger/guilt/sadness, in thinking about doing something rather than just doing it, in being mean rather than kind, in pushing someone away?

This quote inspires me to be a better person, take more responsibility for how I spend my time on this earth. It reminds me of one of my favourite Rumi poems:

On Resurrection Day God will ask,
“During this reprieve I gave you,
what have you produced for Me?
Through what work have you reached your life’s end?
Your food and your strength, for what have they been consumed?
Where have you dimmed the luster of your eyes?
Where have you dissipated your five senses?
You have expended eyes and ears and intellect
and the pure celestial substances;
what have you purchased from the earth?
I gave you hands and feet as spade and mattock
for tilling the soil of good works,
when did they by themselves become existent?”

Which also reminds me that I have not read poetry for so long! Must remedy this immediately!  


29 October 2015

more focus, more productivity

in line with my previous post, and deciding that it is high time I practice some ways to improve my focus and hence productivity, I am going to try the following tips I came across from here and random online reading. 

-five more: instead of giving up when I am tired, frustrated or bored, I will work for five more minutes, edit five more sentences, read five more paragraphs etc. apparently, stretching your mind to do more works in the same way as stretching your muscles.. I totally learnt this from doing yoga, so am excited to try it out on my mind. (and coincidentally, the church sign I spotted yesterday told me ‘do a little more than you think you can everyday). so there. 

-‘wide angle’ versus ‘telephoto’ focus: sometimes I really need to focus on the text on my screen only, and crowd out everything else. at such times, it is recommended to use your hands as blinkers (U), which will not only work in the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ manner, but will also teach my brain that every time I do that, it is time to switch to telephoto focus. 

 -20 minute time slots: apparently, our ability to sustain attention on a particular task is an average of 20 minutes at a time. So I should set this time to get serious work done, and then take a five minute breather. Much better than random breaks and only five minutes of serious work at a time :P

I am excited to start with these three steps. If you have any other tips that work for you, do share!