Monthly Archives: August 2013


What are proverbs? They’re phrases containing the experience and observations of many generations; they’re the wisdom of the street and the philosophy of the common people and there’s one for every occasion.

As you read about my weekend, try to answer these 2 questions;

  1. Can you identify the theme of the proverbs used?
  2. Can you guess the ‘real’ meanings of the proverbs from the context?

I bought my father a mobile phone so I could keep in touch. But he told me he didn’t need it or know how to use it and to save money turned it off immediately, proving ‘you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink’. He’s always been the same and will probably never change, after all ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’.

I was thinking about how I could get my father to use his phone when my wife shouted from the kitchen “I hope you haven’t forgotten it’s my birthday tomorrow?” But of course I had. “It’s no big deal” I responded, ‘don’t make a mountain out of a molehill”.  Not convinced, she reminded me that I’d recently forgotten our anniversary. “But that was last month” I told her, and “there’s no point in ‘shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted’”. I told her not to bring it up or we’d argue about it. “It’s better forgotten, ‘let sleeping dogs lie’”. Husband and wife should not fight or hurt each other, just as ‘dog does not eat dog’.

I thought I’d redeem myself by cooking my famous fried rice. My children love it and so offered to help. That’s what families are for ‘birds of a feather flock together’.  I took them into the kitchen and explained what ingredients to use and in what quantities to use them. As my father says, what’s the point in having kids if they don’t help or ‘why keep a dog and bark yourself?’

Then, surprisingly I received a phone call from my father. I could hardly believe it! The radio was loud and the children were shouting so I went into another room to chat. He told me that he’d changed his mind about the phone and would leave it turned on and call me every week. I’d underestimated him; it seems ‘every dog has his day’.

Meanwhile in the kitchen, the children were being naughty, proving that ‘when the cat’s away the mice will play’. They’d experimented with the rice and added far too many herbs and spices in an attempt to improve its flavour. But it was a case of ‘curiosity killed the cat’. Curiosity also killed the meal. It was inedible and we all went to bed hungry.

The next morning, feeling guilty (and hungry), I woke up very early, quietly crept out of the house and went to the market to buy my wife some chocolates as a birthday present. ‘It’s the early bird that catches the worm’. When I woke her later and presented them with a cup of tea she smiled and said I knew you hadn’t really forgotten. “An elephant never forgets”. I replied, stuffing handfuls of chocolates into my mouth.

This article was first published in Prastuti, Anandabazar Patrika.

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Building ELT research capacity in India

Richard Smith, University of Warwick

In late July I completed a week-long consultations tour at the invitation of the British Council India, visiting two locations – the English and Foreign Languages University (EFL-U), Hyderabad, and the Central Institute of Education, Delhi University.

The aim of my visit was to initiate a three year (2013-16) project plan for an ELT Research Survey of India, adapted from the UK ELT Research Directory (a British Council funded initiative for which I have been the primary consultant). The proposed Survey will, for the first time, bring information about ELT research in India onto a single, fully-searchable online platform. While The British Council is the prime mover behind this project, work is in progress regarding a multilateral partnership between Warwick University, EFL-U and Delhi University in the first phase, and growing in subsequent phases with British Council contribution and management tapering off in a planned manner.

Consultations with EFLU and other South India-based ELT academics

Consultations with EFLU and other South India-based ELT academics

Consultations in Delhi

Consultations in Delhi

This visit follows on from a preliminary desirability and feasibility study that I undertook in February 2012. During the trip just completed we made very substantial progress in terms of:

  • securing firm commitments from key partner organisations and individuals
  • formation of an academic core team with participants from EFL-U and Delhi University
  • project planning for all three years of the programme.

This visit included consultations with over 30 leading academics in ELT from seven key ELT and Education organisations across India (with two joining the Hyderabad consultations and the other five the Delhi one).

Debanjan Chakrabarti, Head of English Research and Publications for the Council in India, also secured an important meeting with Dr Jagdish Arora, Director of INFLIBNET (the library network that connects all HE institutions in India). He immediately saw the merit of the project and offered to host it on the INFLIBNET server, subject to a MoU /contract that is also ratified by his organisation.

In addition to the core project consultations and planning, I also conducted a series of capacity building and mentoring symposia – two in Hyderabad (one for 40 Ph D and M Phil students, and one with research supervisors) and one in Delhi, jointly with Professor Rama Mathew, Dean and Head of the Department of Education / Central Institute of Education, for 30 PhD/ M Phil students and academics.Prof Mathew and I had previously made the final recommendations for the first ELT Research Partnership Awards, the results of which were publicly announced on 29 July.

The talk has been recorded and will be edited and shared on the British Council India website as part of capacity building support for ELT research and also to provide guidance for the next round of ELTRP Award applicants.

Hyderabad's iconic Charminar

Hyderabad’s iconic Charminar

It was evident from my consultations with academics and other leading ELT professionals, from evaluating the ELTRP applications and from conversations with research students in ELT and Education that there are pressing needs for support and research capacity building in the field of ELT in India which the British Council is beginning to fill.



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Madras Memories

Madras to me is a place that brings back nostalgic memories of my younger days that I love to rewind time and again, just to tell myself that this city truly gave its people, peace and unbridled happiness in their daily life that was relatively free from the mad rush and uncalled for tension that is witnessed today. Those magical moments, when I would wake up in the morning to the wafting aroma of piping hot filter coffee, break my fast with steaming hot fluffy hot idlis drenched in sambar. Have time to stand outside the gates of Gemini Studios to catch a glimpse of the filmstars entering the place for their daily shoot and if lucky get a chance to shake hands with them. My next stop-over would be the famous Safire Theatre bus stop – the movie complex that housed – even in those days – three theatres only to check out the movie being screened in Blue Diamond – where one could enter and leave at leisure – and a favourite spot among college students then.

Commuting was not an issue then by bus, auto or taxi. Of course, I vividly remember the occasions when going out to receive a relative at the Central Station or at Egmore railway station alongwith elders in a taxi, I would be forced to duck below the window level to escape being spotted by the hawk –eyed traffic policeman and save the taxi driver from being penalized for carrying more than the permitted number of passengers.

Hunt for books would primarily be confined to the ‘Higginbothams’ – a landmark that is bang opposite to another landmark – the Life Insurance Corporation building – and if that failed, one could confidently go to the Moore Market complex for meeting their requirement.

Evenings were invariably reserved for a stroll on the shores of Marina Beach from Light House to Kannagi statue with a paper cone filled ‘sundal’ in hand and the waves periodically kissing your feet. On week-ends I had the choice of sabhas in T.Nagar or Mylapore to choose from, to watch some play being staged there. So much for pastime at a measly amount that did not pinch your pocket.

Post by: M.S.Vaidyanathan, First Week Winner

The views expressed in the posts and comments of the Madras Week blogs do not reflect the positions or opinions of British Council. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. British Council is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied here.

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Madras to me is…

My Journal:

In February 1986, I remember that as my first trip to Madras, I was in my middle school and was awe-inspired by the city and its massive and impressive icons and its people and its vibrant culture. That was a visit with my family for the purpose of getting blessings from the Pope John Paul – II who on his visit to Chennai addressed a huge gathering in the marina beach. The chennapatnam established over 374 years ago, the city of Madras and currently the city of Chennai is an enticing city with its enthralling attractions to the natives as well as foreigners.

My dad made sure that we visited the other tourist attractions like Vandalur zoo and Valluvar Kottam during that trip. Even though later in my life, I travelled to see even the world famous San Diego zoo in California, the Vandalur zoo has its own special place in my mind!

In mid nineties, I made my second trip to Madras to attend the counseling session in Anna University to do my M.Tech degree there. My next two years, I stayed in the PG Hostel of Anna University and enjoyed getting the taste of living in a metropolitan city. I just loved my college days, the canteen, the hostel, the redbrick buildings of Indo – Saracenic architecture, great friends to hang out with, all along in the carefree spirit of the youth …lovely days in Chennai.

The same year, I met my husband to be @ the Santhome church. It was an arranged marriage and in the dim light of the dusk that evening just outside the church, in the midst of my relatives and his, we took our first look at each other. It was meant to be, to live happily ever after.

In late nineties, I got married and went off to US. When we decided to return back to Incredible India, my husband opted for Chennai. Finally I made my home in Chennai.

To me, Madras has always been a place to celebrate the raga and the nardhana, the carnatic music and the bharathanatyam dance and a food lover’s paradise as well, from the olden days Buharis and woodlands drive in to today’s Junior kuppana. Madras has always been a great place for shopping and entertainment from yesteryears Moore market to today’s modern malls and bookshops such as Higginbothams to today’s Landmark and a stretch of wonderful theatres along the olden days Mount Road to today’s sathyam cinemas…

I love the city because it offers you a myriad of exotic arts and culture and tantalizing cuisine, magnificent heritage and cosmopolitan environment and peace and safety of a haven and wonderful, friendly people and the beautiful but ancient Tamil language, all at the same time with a modern touch as well. And to me, it is a great place because it holds special memories of my youth and today my daughter is creating her own magical memories of the place….!

Post by: Annie Leovalan, Runner Up Winner

The views expressed in the posts and comments of the Madras Week blogs do not reflect the positions or opinions of British Council. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. British Council is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied here.

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Madras to me is…

A large, bustling, overcrowded, hot, but homely city. Thinking of Madras, I visualize a vendor yelling at the top of his hoarse voice selling the “filter coffee”.

Though not a foody myself, I feel Madras stands unique in food, with its melt-in-the-mouth pongal, deep fried vadais, pure, white idlis, and many more delicious delicacies.

Madras is the city of temples, dance, music, beaches and education.

What with its long, wide beaches, and the second longest beach in the world, the seaside certainly forms a popular tourist spot. Madras also plays host to quite a few prestigious universities such as Anna University, IIT and SRM and hence is an educational hub, along with its fine schools.

Traditional temples scattered across the city such as the Marundheeshwarar, Kapaleeshwarar and Parthasarathy temples together form a sacred city filled with God-fearing men.

Whenever the word, “Bharathanatyam” is uttered, a pretty picture of talented dancers, made up in the familiar saree attire with their prominent anklets dancing under a banyan tree is painted in my mind.

Last, but not the least is Chennai’s renowned Carnatic music festival occurs during the Tamil month of Margazhi wherein music enthusiasts from all over the world come to attend performances of this splendid form of music.

But, if you want to get a true taste of this diverse city, the best option is to board the “21L” bus at its starting point, Velachery, and get off at the end, Triplicane. This route takes you through the heart of this grand city so you can experience the sights and smells of Madras yourself. So, hop on a bus!

Post By: Aparna Ram, Runner Up Winner
Student of Sri Sankara Vidyashramam Matriculation Higher Secondary School

The views expressed in the posts and comments of the Madras Week blogs do not reflect the positions or opinions of British Council. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. British Council is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied here.

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Madras to me is…the constant and the change

Madras to me is the people, the culture, the city by itself. Its un paused self, the magic of being at peace in spite of being on a constant run between the rewind and fast forward buttons. Madras gives me independence, peace and security; a sense of being me, the way it keeps me spirited yet rooted.

May be that is why it is still being called “Madras”, in spite of being named Chennai more than a decade ago. The lingering nostalgia is what appeals me the most. I love the fact that I can still go nuts over “filter kappi” at Maami’s mess and can equally yearn for the crunchy frappe at any of the CCDs dotting the city’s urbanscape. Every other day I find a brand new Kumbakkonam degree coffee outlet popping up in the city competing with the mochas and baristas.

The best restaurants in the city offer me chocolate dosas and Mulligatawny soups! I forget myself in the plays of the city’s theatre groups, and forget the world during the Margazhi kutcheries. These happen alongside live concerts playing retros and the endless jazz throughout the nights. The fragrance of the city is still from the Mallipoo shops, though mixed with the scents of the orchids sold alongside by high end florists.

The indo saracenic buildings stand tall alongside boxed and glazed office complexes. I am not taken aback when I see the “vaasals” of glass clad IT buildings donned with “kolams”. Oh yes, it is not just the streets of Mylapore that are decked up with kolams!

The love for jewellery is immortal in Madras, just that these days it just doesn’t offer me the yellow metal. I get my bling for best bargains in the streets of Pondy bazzar, I shop for the Boho chic and hippie looks from the gypsies in Besant Nagar and for classic ethnic temple jewellery from the lanes of Mylapore.

A city that is easy on its routine, invariably gives me new surprises every other day. The constants in the city are the sandy beach, endless summers, and music-be it carnatic or the “kuthu” and gets its varying shades from its simple and modest inhabitants-you can’t fail to fall in love with these men with big moustache, women with long hair for their warmth and hospitality.

Just a small visit to the city will make you fall in love with its people, the culture and their lifestyle. And I can promise you that, you will leave the city, if ever, only with a heavy heart. I am just thankful to the city and its people for I learnt-


Post by: Valaikodi

The views expressed in the posts and comments of the Madras Week blogs do not reflect the positions or opinions of British Council. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. British Council is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied here.


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Madras to Me is…..

I have conceived this blog as an informal script for a son et lumiere show that appeared in my mind’s eye:

COMMENTARY: The inexorable sweep of TIME swallowing eons, reducing mountains to dust, is moving noisily and pauses at the 19th century as viewed on a meter. The backdrop shifts from large mountains and finally ends at the sea. There now appears an open map of what Madras was then. TIME pauses in front of a large colonial house. In it are seen a British man and wife in period costumes. Over the sound of waves and rain, comes the sound of piano music.

Man’s baritone voice booms: “Nellie, shouldn’t you stop practicing on the piano even as I’m telling you I’ve been transferred to Mandalay?”

Piano music now stops.

Man’s voice continues “My transfer means we would’ve to leave this city of Madras which has been our home 8 years. As a civil engineer I’ve created noble public buildings and designed churches, some of which are still coming up. I’ve done my best to see that my work bears marks of excellence.”

Female voice: “John I’m not exactly pleased with the transfer. I‘ve got accustomed to this city.”
Baritone voice: “Can’t be helped! My superiors decide where I should work. We the British have created excellence in building this city and its infrastructure. We’ve set the pace and I am sure others who follow us would do even better.”

TIME sweeps past noisily crossing the 21st century and pauses at year 2013. Against the backdrop of a wide open large current map of the city of Madras, various citizens of Madras, men and women, cast in colored lights, voice their impressions of Madras:

Female voice: I love this city of Madras particularly its Marina which’s a paean to British efforts to beautify the city.

Male voice: In Madras streets we still have bullock carts hauling goods beside modern 18 wheel behemoths. Hawkers still cry their wares on the streets. Individual fishermen still go to sea on catamarans alongside modern trawlers. Temples and churches celebrate their festivals with traditional pomp and pageantry. Kite flying is popular. Of course there are golf courses! Common people play traditional games using cowries with game patterns drawn on the floor.

Female voice: This city has allowed all systems of medicine to flourish. Yoga is popular and I’m one of its key practitioners.

Female voice: Compulsion for peoples’ movement is creating the metro here, but it’s being blended to the city’s ambience.

Female voice: Culture and spirituality co-exist in my city of Madras. Church bells toll and temple bells chime amidst muezzin’s calls. Varieties of music and dance are performed by people from many parts of the world. The city is cosmopolitan for which I love it.

Male voice: Though my city is being modernized at a frenetic pace, its ambience has remained immutable.

I now add MY voice: Madras to me is a symbiosis of past and present, of tradition and modernity for which I love it. I’ll cherish the heritage that is Madras handed down by the British.
TIME’s sweep now goes past the present and fades out.

Post by: S.Govindaraj

The views expressed in the posts and comments of the Madras Week blogs do not reflect the positions or opinions of British Council. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. British Council is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied here.


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From ‘ELIPS’ to ‘ELISS’: New partnerships with the Maharashtra Government

The English Partnerships team in West India have much to celebrate. After the successful delivery of the first year of the Maharashtra English Language Initiative for Primary Schools (ELIPS), the English Partnerships team have signed another agreement with the Maharashtra State Government – this time for a four-year English Language Initiative for Secondary Schools (ELISS) project.

Signed by A.D Kale, State Project Director, Maharashtra Prathamik Shikshan Parishad and Sam Harvey, Director West India on 6 July 2013 at the Y. B Chavan Centre in Mumbai, the celebratory ceremony was attended by Rajendra Darda, Hon’ble Minister for School Education, Government of Maharashtra, Fauzia Khan, Minister for State, School Education in Government of Maharashtra, J. S. Saharia, Additional Chief Secretary, School Education Department, Government of Maharashtra and other state officials.

Addressing the gathering, Rajendra Darda reiterated to the audience the importance of English as a globally accepted language and said it was imperative for the students of the state to acquire command over it.

More than 65000 primary school teachers – per phase, received training across the state in the first two phases of the Maharashtra English Language Initiative for Primary Schools (ELIPS) project. Following this model, the RMSA (Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan) approached the British Council to design a similar project working with secondary school teachers from Government and Government-aided schools in the State of Maharashtra.

The ELISS project aims to develop the English language skills as well as basic communicative teaching methodology through face to face training and continuous professional development for secondary schools teachers. 550 master trainers will be trained by the British Council trainers, who will then conduct needs-based training for 20,000 secondary school teachers over a period of four years.

Several corporates and Foundations were part of audience at the signing and were exposed to the breadth of the British Council’s work in English and thus have now been drawn into exploring the potential of working together.

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