Search for research
Scaling artistic heights
Smart-fat guide to eating
Vibhor Mohan on the effort to locate and catalogue ancient
The fact that most rare manuscripts of historic significance are scattered over scores of monasteries and institutions across Himachal does not deter the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in McLeodganj from the mission of locating them to make a database to guide researchers.
In the pin-drop silence of the library; the staff of the Manuscripts Department is listing and cataloguing Buddhist scripts, besides material in Sanskrit and Urdu, while the district-wise survey is still on. "Ages back, Tibetan dharma kings and translators, in association with Indian scholars, undertook the mammoth task of translating the pure teachings of Buddha into Tibetan.
To preserve and later spread these teachings, they were first written by hand on birch bark, and then engraved on copper bronze and also stone," says Lobsang Shastri, Chief Librarian.
However, he adds, most manuscripts in Sanskrit on the teachings of Buddha are believed to have been destroyed during the invasion by Muhammad Ghazni in the 12th Century, even though the translations in Tibetan were saved.
"Now, these are being translated back and made available in Sanskrit," says Shastri.
All this is being done as a part of the National Mission for Manuscripts sponsored by the Government of India to ‘safeguard and disseminate India’s rich cultural heritage contained in manuscripts.’
The mission is not confined to Tibetan manuscripts alone. Writings in Sanskrit and Urdu, having spiritual, medicinal and cultural value are also being located and added to the catalogue, with the affiliation of various institutions across the country.
The monasteries and institutions in Kangra district have already been scanned and teams of the Library have now been sent to Lahul and Spiti. The second phase would deal with manuscripts in Sanskrit, Persian and Urdu. Eventually, all the manuscripts would be digitalised for ready access. "Most manuscripts in Kangra district date back to the 14th century. But since a lot of travellers visited Kinnaur and other upper Himachal districts during the 10th century or before, we hope to find scriptures penned down in that era as well," he says.
The survey in Himachal has identified more than 13,000 manuscript data on Buddhist studies, vastu, sangita, darshan, chandas after covering five districts. More than 6,000 data has been computerised into e-granthavali software.
Interestingly, the manuscripts in Tibetan put on database so far do not have any illustrations or pictorial depictions, unlike the scriptures found in other parts of the country.
"These literatures represent the unique culture, customs and philosophy of India, Tibet and the Himalayan regions and are of immense significance in maintaining the continuity of Buddha dharma. Though the Tibetan Library already has a large collection of manuscripts, this National Mission would definitely help in developing a comprehensive database for students with a passion for history," says Shastri.
In a paper in a leading research journal, one of Britain’s most outspoken academics will argue that men have larger brains and higher IQs than women and are better suited to "tasks of high complexity".
Richard Lynn, Emeritus Professor of psychology at Ulster University, who has caused outrage in the past with claims that White people are more intelligent than Blacks and that criminal traits are genetic, will publish the work with Paul Irwing, senior lecturer in organisational psychology at Manchester University.
The study, due to be published in the British Journal of Psychology in November, concluded that men not only have larger brains but also have higher IQs, on average by about 5 points, than women.
This difference means that many more men than women have exceptionally high IQs and the authors claim that this means that men are more likely to win Nobel prizes and make scientific discoveries, according to The Times Higher Education Supplement.
Irwing had initially been reluctant to take part in the study arguing that he would have personally preferred not to have discovered that men had a biological advantage. "I came from a perspective that I would like to believe that all people, whether men or women, were equal in potential achievement," he said.
But he said that after resolving to put "scientific truth" above his personal political conflicts, he had agreed to work with Professor Lynn. The paper will seek to counter the academic orthodoxy that any sex differences are due to pressure from society to conform to gender stereotypes. Professor Lynn has argued that his attempt to overturn the widely held view that men and women are equally intelligent is like Galileo trying to explain to 17th century Italy that the earth revolved around the sun.
"A consensus paradigm is not easily overthrown no matter how strong the evidence against it, as Galileo famously found, so I have not been surprised to find people are still asserting that there is no sex difference in intelligence," he said. "However, some of those who have examined the evidence have begun to accept my conclusion." Most 20th century studies into gender differences had concluded that there was no difference in the average IQ scores of men and women. Those who acknowledged a difference have argued that it is "not worth speaking of."
Dr Irwing said: "We do not think that a 5 IQ point difference can be so easily dismissed." He said that this difference had a major impact for people with the highest IQs and meant that there was a much higher proportion of men than women at this level. He said there were three men to each woman with an IQ above 130 and 5.5 men for each woman with an IQ above 145. "These different proportions of men and women with high IQ scores are clearly worth speaking of and may explain the greater numbers of men achieving distinctions of various kinds for which a high IQ is required, such as chess grandmasters, Nobel prizewinners and the like," he said.
The researchers conclude that the IQ difference cannot sufficiently explain gender inequalities in the workplace—where men still grossly outnumber women at the highest levels of management.
However, the paper will also argue that women "achieve more" in life than men with the same IQ, "possibly because they are more conscientious and better adapted to sustained periods of hard work".
— The Independent
Bibhuti Mishra meets Biswajit Das from Kolkata who uses fish scales to fashion objects of art
There is a cycle rickshaw, a horse-driven tonga, Goddess Durga, Lord Ganesh, a pair of shoes, an eagle, jewellery and an entire cricket team - all made of fish scales!
Welcome to the unique world of mini-sculptures by 27 year old Biswajit Das the young man from Kolkata who has wowed onlookers in Bengal, Orissa, Assam and Tripura with the exquisite beauty of his art.
Biswajit is a self-made artist. Nobody in his family was an artist and he has no guru who taught him how to make these art works. "I lost my father quite early in life. But neither he nor my mother whom I lost recently was an artist. Ever since I remember I used to pick up odd things from here and there and make shapes with them! I have carried on like that and today I build models with any waste material you give me-hair, orange peel even potato and onion skins!" In fact his brother Dowel ,ten years younger and his co-artist, reveals that once Biswajit lost a tooth and he immediately began working on the tooth to make it a beautiful model.
Although he excels in mini sculptures he is equally good at bigger models. "I also make wall hangings with these and Feng Shui items are also made out of this," says Biswajit. But why fish scales? "Initially I used to build models with fish bones but then I took up fish scales. The first model I made was of a crane that was 2 cm high. It was sold for Rs 100 and I was encouraged to make it my profession. Orders come thick and fast and I have nothing to complain about."
A medium fish yields 250 gm of scales and he claims that with that he can make sculptures that could sell for a lakh of rupees! "The investment is low besides these sculptures are durable. They do not break and can be washed with soap. Coloured lights falling on them make a beautiful sight and these contribute tremendously to home decor," informs Biswajit who ekes out a decent living with his brother through fish scale sculptures.
He buys scales of the fish at Rs 20 per kilo but his mini-sculptures are complete they sell in thousands! The scales are cleaned and kept soaked in water for two days. Then they are washed with lime water. They are kept in water mixed with some chemicals for one day and later allowed to be sun-dried on getting washed with bleaching powder. This hardens the scales and then Biswajit gets to work on them with Feviquick, Fevicol and a hardner. A small scissor, a tong and a few needles are his tools. Recently he has started making jewellery items with these scales, the demand for which has shot up.
Biswajit has demonstrated his skills before Directorate of Handicrafts and Cottage Industries, West Bengal. His models of various animals and gods have come in for high praise. He has sold a pair of ladies shoes for Rs 10,000 and a model of a village for Rs5,000. The work is quite delicate and time-consuming. You have to have excellent eyesight too," reveals Dowel.
Biswajit has been awarded twice by West Bengal’s Small Scale Industries Corporation; but he is looking for better exposure for his unusual art.
Biswajit is also a poet with thousands of Bengali and Hindi poems to his credit. "I think a book of it will come out one day," his eyes cloud over with mists of hope.
Dowel has been inspired by his brother’s skill and success; today he sits with his brother and both of them weave dreams in fish scales.
Smart-fat guide to eating
Fat adds taste to everyday food. Almost everyone will vouch for that. Yet, for years, fat has been getting a bad rap. When we hear the word "fat" we automatically think "bad". And we are constantly on a hunt for food that is "fat free". But now could be the time to start following a smart-fat guide—to lose weight, to keep various diseases away or just to remain healthy and fit.
Dr Pratima Kaushik, head dietician at the Vidyasagar Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (VIMHANS), Delhi, says: "Not all fat is created equal. Some fats increase the risk of heart disease while some promote health positively." And that’s a huge distinction. However, this doesn’t mean a go ahead on eating butter, whole fat milk or wolfing down meat cheeseburgers! What it does mean is that it’s fine to eat nuts and fish, and switch to olive oil.
So how do we decide? How do we actually sieve the good from the bad fat?
"Well, fat is fat when it comes to calories. Whereas fat (from any source) provides 9 calories per gram, good and bad fat differ in their saturation, the essential fatty acid content, and their source (plant or animal). The idea is to consume the right kind in the appropriate amount," says Dr Kaushik. In comparison to fat, carbohydrates and proteins provide 4 calories per gram.
Saturated fat such as red meat, eggs, butter, cheese, full-fat dairy products, coconut oil and palm oil, get converted to body fat. This kind of fat hardens the arteries, raises blood pressure, and contributes to many ailments, so these are on the taboo list. Also on the "No, No" list is trans fat, which is found in vegetable oil, margarine and shortening, cookies, crackers, and other commercially baked goods. (Trans fat is made when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil; the process of hydrogenation increases the shelf life of food that contains such fat.)
Good fat, says Kaushik, includes monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, and omega 3 - a group of fatty acids that contribute in lowering LDL cholesterol (high LDL increases the risk of coronary heart disease). Olive or peanut oil, avocados and most nuts - almonds, peanuts, cashew, pecans and pistachio - contain monounsaturated fat. Oil from sunflower, corn, soy and cottonseed are sources of polyunsaturated fat. And omega 3s are found in fish like salmon, rohu, trout, mackerel, sardines, surmayi and hilsa, in caviar, flaxseed, soybeans, tofu, and walnuts.
Eating fat - in moderation - is important for the maintenance of good health. "We need essential fatty acids to have nice shiny hair, good healthy skin tone; and we need them for our joints. A certain amount of fat is also necessary for proper hormone production, an imbalance of which may cause problems like PMS, or other hormonal aberrations. Besides, if hormone production is off, so will be your metabolism and that has a direct bearing on your weight," explains Pallavi Vaish, a dietician at Healing Touch Clinic, New Delhi.
New research shows that eating good fat can keep heart disease and stroke at bay. A study in Finland found that when middle-aged men substituted bad fat for good fat (like omega 3s and polyunsaturated fat), they were 60 per cent less likely to die early from heart disease than men who ate least amounts of good fat. (Archives of Internal Medicine, January 2005).
"If you consume olive oil, or some of the oils from nuts and seeds, you can actually lower your cholesterol. And this holds true regardless of gender," says Vaish. So how do you manage the switch to good fat from day to day? And still get what you need?
Apart from changing the oil you cook your food in, "Eat salmon instead of steaks or burgers, pass on the fried fish at your fast-food hangout and order a grilled chicken sandwich instead. Skip the French fries, and make your own healthy version at home - cut fresh potatoes into fries, toss in a dash of olive oil, and roast in the oven at 400 degrees," suggests Vaish.
There are other ideas too. Make a light tuna salad with a bit of olive or canola oil instead of mayonnaise. Create a salad dressing out of walnut oil, and celebrate with caviar. Sprinkle salads with olives, avocado and nuts rather than bacon bits and croutons. And snack on a handful of nuts instead of cookies and chips (these contain hydrogenated oil).
Says organic food expert and nutritionist Ishi Khosla, "I would recommend 100 gm of fatty fish (those that contain omega 3s) twice a week or 25 gm of flax seed or methi seeds 4-5 times a week. Sprinkle ground flaxseed on cereal or yogurt or toss it into salads, soups and stews."
A word of caution though. Good fat advice is not a license to go for fat helter-skelter. On a daily basis, getting more than 25 per cent of your calories from fat is still a bad idea. And adding a little good fat to an already bad diet does not work.
"Good fat works best when it replaces bad fat or bad carbohydrates," says Khosla. "So follow this new smart-fat guideline very carefully. As a general rule, keep the overall level of fat low and ensure that most of this is made of good fat." — WFS