Tag Archives: British Council India

What’s so perfect about a ’10′ anyway?

Apparently, none of us really look good. We are all either too fat or too thin; our hair and skin are not of the right colour or texture; or some part of our body is not of the right shape, or size. If only that one aspect were different, if only…

WHAT IS BODY SHAMING?

In its broadest sense body shaming is, either overt or covert, criticism of deviance from an accepted body norm. This body norm attempts to codify how the body should be presented and represented if it needs to be perceived in certain ways – as beautiful, or as ugly, or funny, mysterious, etc. In its most simplistic and hyper-analysed form, one can think of a body norm as a two-dimensional table where body features or traits point to certain “meanings.” This is how “tall, dark, and handsome” means a desirable lover in romantic pulp fiction or in sitcoms, a short, bald, or fat guy has come to mean a shallow loser who provides comic relief.

WHY DO WE DO IT?

We have always been body shamers. We are social beings and there is an awareness of (consciously or unconsciously) agreed-upon norms. We show our conformity to the tribe by reiterating and reaffirming these norms. One way this happens is through the choices we make about presenting our bodies (including but not limited to body shaping, styling and even colours). However, sometimes we pledge allegiance by interpreting and then communicating value judgements (“I don’t think you should shave your moustache; it makes you look womanly” or “look at how high she wears those trousers”). In saying something positive, we may by accident, be body shaming.

WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?

The body norm is neither universal (apparently, women with tiny feet used to be quite the thing in China) nor timeless (think of the robust beauties of renaissance art). It survives and is replenished through its agents – us. One way to fight body shaming, especially its more pernicious effects, is to offer a genuine counter discourse – one that stops short of a too lazy normalisation, one that is more inclusive and diverse in its representations, and one that not only accepts but also celebrates pluralism through its language. We have the agency and herein lies hope.

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Written by Anshuman Manur, Teacher of English, British Council – Chennai

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Hey skinny! Your ribs are showing!

Is fat really the worst thing a human being can be? Is fat worse than vindictive, jealous, shallow, vain, boring, evil or cruel?

J K Rowling

A number of new words have been added to the dictionary since the turn of the century. Many are interesting- wackadoodle, bookaholic, some are weird- schvitz, TPing, and a few abbreviations of existing words that we can’t be bothered to say in toto- adorbs, bestie. And then there are a few that should never have come into existence- Body-shaming! Fit-shaming! Skinny-bashing! -, which are however being used in increasingly vicious attacks by unknown others, imaginatively called Trolls! 

Jokes about people’s bodies are not new. Neither is it new to create unrealistic body types as benchmarks- stereotypes that sections of the population feel compelled to conform to. Nor is this a gender specific, contemporary trend. ‘Hey skinny! Your ribs are showing!’ In the 1920’s this caption for a mail order workout course showed a skinny guy being beaten up by a bully in front of his girlfriend; until he followed the course, became buff, and beat the bad guy up! It reinforced stereotypes that a man had to be strong, muscular and attractive, not a bag of bones. Captain America, anyone?

If thin is in, in most places, there are countries where the opposite is just as painfully true. In the West African nation of Mauritania, thin is definitely not in! Young girls and teens are force fed, much as one does a goose for foie gras; a fat girl is a prosperous girl!

There is no doubt that things have changed. The beach bully of close to 100 years ago has migrated. They now shame anyone across the world with impunity, hiding behind the anonymity that the internet offers. The quest for the perfect body shape has led to an increase in the number of young people afflicted with eating disorders who hate the way they look.

As the wheel of fashion turns, things will change. Just as the Rubens-women of the Italian Renaissance gave way to the corseted shape of Victorian England, in turn replaced by a celebration of the almost boyish women of early 20th Century, this idea of beauty too shall pass. So, why all the fuss over an ephemeral idea?

If only we could accept people for who they were and not how they looked.

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 Written by Shailaja Mani, Teacher of English, British Council – Chennai

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Helping learners at NIT Patna get dream jobs

NIT Patna students engrossed in a group discussion

NIT Patna students engrossed in a group discussion

British Council successfully completed a Professional English Course for 50 learners at NIT Patna. This is a renewed partnership between British Council and NIT Patna after a successful training intervention in 2014. This time around we aim to train 500 learners (20 batches) at NIT Patna premises over four months (June- September 2016).

The 24-hour course comprises four main sections – interview skills, group discussions, CV writing and presentation skills taught at different levels – all aimed at helping learners bag job placements in their dream companies.

Students were seen participating actively in engaging, activity based lessons with several practice and feedback sessions built in for continuous improvement. Practicing their employability skills using simulations of real life scenarios has helped boost confidence in public speaking, improve fluency and prepare to sell themselves in interviews.

Student feedback has been very positive. Learners  particularly  appreciate the teaching methodology used and have quoted it as being ’perfect’ and ‘excellent’ in mid-course focus group discussions. On feedback forms 100% of learners were able to mention concrete takeaways from the course that will significantly improve chances of being placed with companies of their choice. They also appreciate the efforts of college authorities to liaise with British Council for English language training and requested us to ‘organise more (training) events like this’.

We hope to continue this training program successfully for rest of the 450 learners. As a team, we are very happy to partner with NIT Patna and help bright young minds to bridge the gap between capability and employability.

For more information on English communication skills courses please visit here.

If you represent an organisation and want to enquire about English communication skills courses, please fill the form here and we will get in touch with you.

Post by Tapsi Chhabra

 
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IITB, Mumbai starts again

British Council India will start its second training intervention at IIT Bombay (Mumbai) in August 2016 for another two years. After the success of General English courses for first year B tech students, IIT Bombay has renewed its partnership with the British Council.

The training intervention started in 2014 and entailed training students who need to develop English proficiency so that they have improved study skills (to understand subjects taught through the medium of English) and are able to communicate confidently in English.

We trained 4 batches or 80 students each year (60 hours/two terms); who were aware that the ability to communicate in English would directly influence their performance.

Our lessons were activity-based and sought to engage the learners; it gave learners an opportunity to develop speaking, listening, reading and writing skills along with grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation.

The students could track their progress through continuous assessments during the course and received regular feedback from the teachers. The teachers ensured that learner training threads were an integral part of the sessions as that encouraged the students to be confident users of English who could take charge of their learning.

Students in their testimonials stated that they particularly liked the interactive methodology used in the classroom and found the teachers to be friendly and supportive. Most students emphasised that they had acquired more confidence to speak English not only in the class but outside the classroom too.

Teaching Assistants (3rd year students) and Student Mentors at IIT Bombay played a big part in making English lessons a success as they not only motivated the students to attend lessons but also set up weekend activities for learning English.

We look forward to making the next two years a bigger success!

For more information on English communication skills courses please visit here. If you represent an organisation and want to enquire about English communication skills courses please fill the form here and we will get in touch with you.

Post by Kamini Taneja

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myEnglish launches in Bengaluru and Mumbai

Students of English in Mumbai and Bengaluru now have a reason to celebrate. The British Council marked the launch of its pioneering blended learning programme in these cities on 12 January, 2016. myEnglish combines the latest education technology and student-centred classroom instruction to improve students’ language skills, and more. The courses also foster essential 21st century skills such as time management, independent learning and critical thinking. While the courses are now available to more students across two new cities, they have been running successfully in Pune since May 2015.

The formal launch event in Bengaluru was well-attended as several eminent panellists joined members of the press and public for a discussion on ‘Better English, Better Opportunities’. The panel comprised experts from the world of business, education and technology; including Arvind Katageri (Senior Manager, Centre for Behavioural Excellence – Talent Transformation, Wipro), Ashwani Sharma (Country Head, University Relations, Google India Pvt Ltd), Lalitha Murthy (Consultant, Business English, Tata Consultancy Services) and Nirupa Fernandez (Assistant Director, English, British Council).

The panellists discuss 'Better English, Better Opportunities' at the myEnglish launch event in Bengaluru

The panellists discuss ‘Better English, Better Opportunities’ at the myEnglish launch event in Bengaluru

A lively dialogue ensued as the panellists discussed the role of English in the world of business. Lalitha Murthy from Tata Consultancy Services pointed out that while many new recruits may be confident about their English skills, what they may lack is the communicative competence required in the business world. Another topic discussed was the role played by technology in education. As Ashwini Sharma from Google pointed out, “Even a pen is technology” and in the debate that followed the panellists concluded that technology had always been present in education and that teachers have a responsibility to keep up with developments.

The launch was also attended by two myEnglish students, Ramchandra Kulkarni and Vishal Chandegave, who spoke eloquently and positively about their experiences on the course and about how it has helped them be more confident in their professional and daily lives. Read more about their experiences in The Times of India and the Deccan Herald

The myEnglish launch event in Bangalore was accompanied by a simultaneous press release in Mumbai and has generated a lot of interest among the press in both cities, with coverage in major publications including the Times of India, the New Indian Express, the Deccan Chronicle and the Deccan Herald. Several news websites and regional publications also covered the event.

For more information on myEnglish, please visit our course page.

If you want to register for a course, please leave your details here and we will get back to you.

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#DPF 2015 interview: Artist and curator David Campany

Nine questions with the keynote speaker for the Delhi Photo Festival 2015. David Campany who is a writer, curator and artist who works with photography.

1. You are a prolific writer. How do you balance your time between writing, teaching and curatorial work?

Ha. The real balance is between all those things and family life! Writing has become a vital form of thinking for me. I genuinely don’t know what to think, or even how to think about photography unless I’m writing it down. So the need to write is closely wedded to the need to think. Beyond that I guess I’m prolific because my enthusiasms for photography and for the uncertainties it generates have not waned since I got interested as a kid. That came as a surprise.

I thought photography was going to be another fad for me, like stamp collecting. Decades on, I’m still interested and still grazing on the lower slopes of my own ignorance. I would also say that photography can be a license to be interested in anything that it takes as its subject matter, which is pretty much anything. Politics, natures, cities, people, objects, superstition, science, history, anthropology, power, you name it. By definition, photography cannot be autonomous or isolated. It’s implicated in the world and the word is implicated in it. When photography is only photography it isn’t even photography.

2. What draws you to writing about photography? And as a writer, how difficult is it to interpret a photographer’s work for the reader?

I had no intentions of being a writer, until in my late twenties I was invited to write a couple of essays. On the basis of those I was approached to write a big survey book about photography in art since the 60s. I was teaching at that point, which meant I had spent a lot of time trying to express complex ideas and connections as simply as I could. The writing grew directly out of that. I write for my 19 year-old self, trying to interest him, prick him, help him notice things, tell him he’s not alone. Interpretation for others? I slightly wince at that idea. In writing about images one does, it inevitably. But it’s something a writer should be wary of. I don’t want to occlude what the reader might think about things. I want to supplement it.

An untitled photograph by David Campny

‘Limousine’, 2008, from the project Adventures in the Valley, by David Campany & Polly Braden

3. Where do you get the time to practise your own work as an artist? Do you view yourself as a photo practitioner?
I remember reading an interview long ago with the British artists Gilbert & George. They were asked: “What made you want to be artists?” A boring question but the answer was great: “We didn’t set out to be artists. All we wanted was to be with art.” That is a great answer because it is not a careerist answer. For what ever reason I’ve wanted to be with photography and I’ve not worried too much about what form that might take – writing, curating exhibitions, teaching, making photographs, working with found photographs, editing. In fact the last one – editing – is probably the key. Every photographer must edit and so must every writer.

4. What are the biggest challenges facing photographers today?

There are as many answers to that as there are photographers. If you push me harder I would say there are three things, in no particular order. Money. The high standards of the past. The dizzying range of possibilities offered by the medium.

David Campany portrait

David Campany portrait

5. Is there a crisis in photography at this time?

Photography has always been in crisis. It’s a modern medium, so how could it not be in crisis? That’s what’s so compelling about it.

6. Where does the future of photography lie? In photobooks, on Instagram and social media, or on the gallery wall and in art institutions?

I never speculate. I’ve learned never to rule anything out. Ten years ago who would have thought printed matter would have had such a renaissance? The interest shown by photography in the art world has ebbed and flowed for decades. That won’t change. And who knows what individual brilliance will appear?

7. What are the exciting photobooks that one must look out for in 2015?

Justine Kurland will publish Highway Kind soon. I’m very much looking forward to that. She documents particular sub-cultures living away from mainstream society and its values. I presented a little preview of the work in my anthology The Open Road: Photographic Road Trips across America. David Batchelder’s Tidelands is published soon. He’s been photographing sand patterns on the same beach for years. Photography attracts all kinds of obsessives who ignore what’s going on around them and just do their own thing. The non-conformity of that is to be cherished.

8. While photography becomes a mass vehicle owing to the growth in technology and smartphones, will ‘fine art photography’ become increasingly more popular and accessible?

Fine art photography is for anyone but for everyone.

9. Tell us about your curatorial work, specifically your exhibition on Walker Evans for this summer’s Les Rencontres d’Arles. Its aims, challenges and reception.

Walker Evans (1903-1975) is as celebrated and canonical as a photographer can get. But the terms of that recognition have been pretty narrow, set by the big museums. His achievements were far wider. For example Evans made extraordinary work for mainstream magazines, setting his own assignments, shooting, writing the captions, designing his own layouts. He managed to fashion a sort of counter-commentary on America and its values from within its mass media. He hated celebrity, consumerism, waste and market-driven design. So instead he championed anonymous workers, conservation and vernacular culture. This work feels very contemporary, and it could be a beacon for all photographers with critical minds who have to ask themselves how they are going to survive without compromising themselves artistically or politically. So I spent years tracking down and buying up copies of the old magazines in which he published this work. I wrote a book about it and the magazines then became the basis of a traveling exhibition. I guess the project is an example of the way the official history of photography is still very much alive and contested. Exhibited printed matter is tricky, so alongside the original pages we made large blow-ups for the wall, to make them comfortable to read. The reception has been very pleasing both from visitors and the press. It shows there’s an appetite for this kind of rethinking.

About David Campany: David Campany, writes, curates exhibitions, makes art and teaches a range of modules in photographic theory and practice, from undergraduate to doctoral study. His books include: A Handful of Dust (MACK 2015), Walker Evans: the magazine work (Steidl 2014), Gasoline (MACK, 2013), Photography and Cinema (Reaktion 2008) and Art and Photography (Phaidon 2003). In 2013, he curated major shows of the work of Mark Neville (The Photographer’s Gallery, London) and Victor Burgin (AmbikaP3 and Richard Saltoun Gallery). In 2014 he curated three shows of the work of Walker Evans. He currently teaches at the University of Westminster, UK.

For more click here: www.davidcampany.com

Register for the 2015 edition of DPF 

For more on #DPF 2015, log on here:

David Campany is the keynote speaker for the third edition of the Delhi Photo Festival that will be held from Oct 30-Nov 8.

This post is courtesy of Gauri Vij, Delhi Photo Festival 2015

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World Voice Project: Master Trainer workshop in Delhi

The Master Trainer workshop held in August 2015 was a wonderful opportunity to re-connect with World Voice colleagues from our Himalayan partner states and welcoming back our dear WVP Artistic Director, Richard Frostick.

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Shubhangi Tewari, WVP trainer, conducting a session with participants

 

 

Having Richard amongst us, infuses us with loads of inspiration, new techniques as well as, ideas for the forthcoming WVP year. I re-call attending my first WVP workshop in March 2013. Watching Richard interact with school children and help them to find their singing voices was truly heart-warming. The positivity, love and ease with which he communicated with the students, has stayed with me and continues to inspire my own practice as a WVP trainer.

During the recent Master Trainer Workshop, I had an opportunity to share experiences from the World Voice Manchester residency program, which I had attended. Here I met WVP leaders and master trainers from across the world! We marvelled at the authenticity with which British Primary School children sang in languages from countries as diverse as Argentina, Chile, Brazil, the UK, Senegal, Ethiopia, Jordan, Palestine, Nepal and India at the residency finale concert in Manchester University.

world voice project Delhi

WVP workshop participants in New Delhi

It is the third year for WVP in India, and the state master trainers’ shared their incredible work with school children in Himachal, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Jammu, Delhi and the NCR. It was indeed wonderful to receive feedback from teachers that ever since they started singing in the classroom on a regular basis; the students were happier, smiled a lot more, were more energetic, alert, getting better at remembering facts or concepts and attended school more regularly!

On a personal note, singing is the most significant part of my life. I experience the happiness it provides on a daily basis. To be able to extend this joy to young people is the most valuable aspect of working with the World Voice Project.

Post by: Shubhangi Tewari, WVP Trainer 

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Inclusion key to museum success

Indian Museum Kolkata

The Indian Museum Kolkata is celebrating 200 years

Who is the museum for? Is it for scholars or students, for historians or curators, for out-station visitors or those living in the city? And casting the net a little wider who should run a museum? Is it the domain of a historian, a curator, an educator, a marketer or a designer?

Just some of many questions around people and inclusion that kept arising at the two-day conference on Strategic Transformations: Museums in 21st Century held in Kolkata. The conference coincided with the bicentennary celebrations of the Indian Museum in Kolkata.  Representatives of UK museums who took part in the discussions shared their perspectives on people and their role in museums, and museums and their connection with people.

For museums to transform it was essential for them to involve a range of professionals and not just curators, said Mark Taylor, Museums Association Director. “It is individuals from a range of professions, from accountants to PR to education, retail and marketing. And even the curators have to adapt, have to develop a greater range of competencies over and above simply academic knowledge of the collections.” His talk on Transforming people to transform museums can be downloaded here.

To attract a range of people to museums it was important for them to connect with people, highlight and discuss issues that were relevant to them. “Museums can highlight contemporary issues and trace their history. At the V&A we have even developed a rapid response collection, which allows us to raise debates on contemporary issues,” said Martin Roth, at a panel discussion. The strategy is to collect objects as soon as they become newsworthy, to reflect the way global events influence society.

Technology was also responsible for transforming museums, making them more accessible to people, even those outside their walls. Carolyn Royston, digital head of the Imperial War Museums spoke at length about attracting audiences online. “Many visit us online and then come into our museums. We’ve seen a massive change in online activity in the last five years, and we are now open 24×7 through our online presence. People interact with us commenting on our online collections, contributing comments.”

A museum is no longer a collection of artefacts and objects lined up for display. Collections now have to be curated to speak to people, be relevant to contexts local and global, and allow people to form a close connection with what they experience. And museums in the 21st century seem to be gearing up to that challenge — to be of the people, by the people and for the people.

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Creative Writing Course: The Charbagh, Delhi

The Creative Writing Course at the British Council, Delhi attracts people from all walks of life. Bankers, entrepreneurs and lawyers meet college students, research scholars and even retired civil servants, who are united solely by their desire to pen their thoughts and churn out the story lying dormant in them.

Ajay Todi is one such student who, in his own words, ‘had a truly memorable time’ during the course. Ajay was so moved by what he says is the ‘spirit of goodwill’ in the institution that he has penned a poignant story around the ‘Charbagh’ which is the inner courtyard at the Council and our very own ‘Garden of five senses’. His descriptions will strike a chord with anyone who has spent time in the Charbagh.

Teacher-author Kalpita Sarkar's Creative Writing class, Delhi

Teacher-author Kalpita Sarkar’s Creative Writing class

“Have you seen an oasis ?
Have you seen an oasis of calm in the middle of Delhi?”

Even before I could squeak my weak nays to these seemingly inane questions, Bubble had already put one arm around my shoulder and ushered me into the sanctum sanctorum, lavishly called Charbagh. Falling in love was something I’d done several years ago; I was sensing one more opportunity already.

It truly seemed like an oasis of calm in the middle of a maddening city. The petite fountain spread its plume of crystal clear water, ruffled every now and then by the gusts of in-disciplined wind blowing either which way. The muscular Goliath pillars refused to smile, as they dutifully stood tall, perhaps asserting their supremacy as the worldly beings strutted around the hallowed ground – some aimlessly, others with dreamy eyes.

I noticed the brunette on the wall eyeing me with her burnished gaze. “Oh, it’s the face of the five senses”, Bubble exclaimed; the magnificent statue occupying pride of prominence in a place so surreal; charming to some, a source of jealousy for others. Fresh clean air filled my lungs, rebounding off the red stone blocks that adorn the majestic façade of the modern building that lies beyond.

The young palms in the corner soil-beds twist with joy, eagerly trying to catch high-fives with the swaying creeper vines that appeared to extend promises to meet them tonight. Amour at Charbagh under the summer sun? I’m game for a bet. Unable to straighten their stiff necks, tall poor-cousin skyscrapers alongside cast their furtive glances sideways, jealously eyeing the luck that this revered piece of earth enjoys; so near, yet so far – oh, to have been born in Charbagh.

And then the crows appeared; perched on the western wall, awaiting their turn; perhaps eager to amplify the din of traffic horns that has so far failed to disturb the tranquillity. All by itself, the peacock looks away in the distance, trying to catch a glimpse of its companion flying far on the horizon; while the bunch of ivy parrots search for a branch to rest; perhaps time for them to recover from the devastation caused by the now sulking bearded langur looking away with guilt written large.

The clutter of china breaks my thought – spruced in the corner, waiting for the napkins to arrive before they dish some healthy nourishment to eager rounded gourmands. Perhaps the grease would give them their deliverance for the day. With spotless white aprons, the freckled stewards try their best to mimic the MasterChef starcast; not that it matters. I am beginning to feel my stomach churn.

Bubble looked cherubic as ever with the soothing sun playing hide and seek on her cheeks; the chairs under the large brown umbrellas were far more comfortable than I’d thought; to think of it, I’d always preferred the stone benches under the winter sun. Summer was on
its way, I thought.

In the western corner, the aroma of coffee and muffins escapes through the half-opened window where the chirpy girls are unable to decide on their next rendezvous. “Care for a bite?” I could hardly hear Bubble amidst my stupor. “Oh, sure”, I said almost instinctively although not the least bit hungry – thoroughly satiated by the grandeur of the “Classic” meeting “Modernity” in a setting I had least imagined.

Ajay Todi
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Winning and losing

There are three kinds of people in this world, first, people who want change, second, people who simply don’t care, and third, people who are the change. Most of us belong to the second or first category; in fact I myself would be lying if I say I belonged to the third category. What is needed today is the conversion of people to the third category and that is what Debating Matters is all about.

Debating Matters is not about superficially arguing and advocating something you find preposterous. It is the change that it brings with it. From listening to experts debating to questioning the very existence of India’s democracy Debating Matters teaches you much more. The various motions touch upon the issues that need the youth’s attention. The amount of research and preparation required for any topic forces you to go deep into the issues and understand the problems that encompass today’s society. It shows you the sorry condition of today but teaches you that change will not drop down from the heavens; rather we will have to strive for it.

In a country filled with the “Wal’s” and the “marts”, where the internationally acclaimed soft power of a country is augmented when every terrorist gets VIP treatment, where liking a post on Facebook puts you behind bars but where politicians get away scot free with religious jibes , the youth needs to rise up and fight. Debating Matters provides a perfect platform for the youth to understand the functionless and stagnant limbo in which we live and raise our voices against it. It teaches us not to adapt but to adopt.

Winning and losing seems insignificant after the three days at Debating Matters. Debating Matters is something beyond just debating; it is after all, the experience that counts. It gives you a view of the reality and instills in you the desire to rise and to bring about change. Be it rape cases or India’s deteriorating political situation, Debating Matters gives you the opportunity to step up and paint your picture of a perfect India and then work towards it.

Sudhir Dhoot
Don Bosco, Park Circus

Don Bosco, Park Circus

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