Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Illusions Mostly Occur Due to Top-down Perceptual Rather than Bottom-up Sensory Errors

There are various visual illusions that exhibit different perceptual processes. In scientific psychology, the question that always draws attention is to what extent perceptual processes are driven by the top-down perception theory as opposed to bottom-up information. Eysenck (1998) stated that bottom-up processing is reliant on external stimuli, whereas top-down one is influenced by prior knowledge, expectations, context, and so on. Carlson, Miller, Heth, Donahoe and Martin (2010) stated that the process of perception, in the case of bottom-up processing, starts with the features of the image that the retina captures. This information is then processed in a hierarchical manner by the successively higher levels of the visual system until the top of the system receives the information, and the perception of the object occurs. In contrast, top-down processing entails contextual information extracted from memory, and here the information is passed on from higher to lower neural areas (Carlson et al., 2010). Top-down effects are voluntary, whereas bottom-up is more of physiological in nature (Watanabe, Nanez and Sasaki, 2001). Top-down theory of perception is supported by constructivists like Bruner and Neisser, whereas bottom-up theory is upheld by direct-realist like J.J. Gibson (Shea, 2013). The conflict between these two groups of psychologists arises while interpreting optical illusions, which are images ambiguous in nature, and therefore, can be interpreted in dual ways. This paper will argue that illusions are the product of top-down perceptual rather than bottom-up sensory errors.

The top-down processing theory was proposed by psychologist Richard Gregory who argued that stimulus information gathered from our environment is ambiguous in nature, and hence in order to interpret it correctly, we need higher cognitive information based on our past experiences or knowledge stored in our brain to deduce a perception (Gregory, 1974). He believed that a lot of information (about 90%) our eyes see are lost by the time this information reaches the brain and hence, our brain needs to rely on the prior knowledge to make a perception of reality (Gregory, 1970). Our perceptions are hypotheses influenced by our past and therefore, if we form incorrect ones, then it will lead to errors in perception, such as forming visual illusions like the Necker cube. The optical illusion of Necker cube was first observed by Louis Albert Necker in 1982. The cube is ambiguous, because it can be differently interpreted by different people. At the intersection point, where two lines meet, it is unclear which is at the front, and therefore, it can be perceived in two different ways (Woodson, 1979).

The question that arises is if Gregory's theory of top-down perceptions involves interpreting an image based on a hypothesis, what kinds of hypotheses are they. Hypotheses vary from one person to another, because they are situational and are based on memory and past experiences. Therefore, the same optic illusion can be interpreted in two ways in two different situations. For instance, the picture below showcases a box.

When viewed alone, the picture engages your brain in bottom-up processing, because apparently, it does not involve any optical illusion. The three thin horizontal lines and two thick vertical lines seen in the picture do not give any special context to derive a specific meaning. Hence, it does not involve any top-down processing (Carbon, 2014). But if the picture is positioned in two different situations, the brain engages in making a perception based on hypotheses. For example, when the image is placed in between two letters A and B, the brain perceives the image as letter 'B', whereas when the same image is put between two numbers 11 and 12, the brain hypothesizes it as number '13'. This shows that hypotheses vary in different situations.

On the other hand, Gibson, who proposed the bottom-up perception theory, argued against Gregory's concept of top-down visual illusions on the grounds that Gregory's perceptions of reality are based on artificial images and not real ones found in normal visual environments. Gibson (1966) believed that perceptions are survival mechanisms influenced by evolution, and it does not involve learning. He claims that perceptions are direct and not the result of hypotheses as Gregory proposed. Gibson argued that when we receive information from the visual environment about an object's size, shape, or color, our brain perceives it as what we see (Gibson, 1972). The perception does not involve interpretation because the whole perception is based on sensory stimuli. According to Gibson (1972), perception is a bottom-up process because it follows a pattern of how the information is received. The whole process begins with an analysis of the pattern of light, known as optic array, that reaches the eyes, with all the visual information required for further processing. The information received is passed on to the retina where the process of transduction into electrical impulses starts, and these impulses are then relayed to the brain which triggers further responses along the visual trajectories until they reach the visual cortex for the final processing of information (Gibson, 1972).

Though Gibson's theory provided an explanation for the direct perception of the environment, he, however, could not provide any logical reasoning for the optical illusions. He reasoned that the images used for optical illusions are highly artificial in nature, and the chances for such images to be encountered in real word are very rare (Gibson, 1972). However, it is not true that optical illusions cannot be experienced in natural environmental conditions. For instance, a stick looks straight if you hold it in front of your eyes, but if you put the stick in a glass of water, it looks bent. The stick looking bent is not an artificial image that we do not encounter in real life. The difference between the two perceptions is that in the case of the stick looking straight, the stimulus energy reflecting from the stick to the retina sent information to the brain that is the direct mental representation, which is supported by Gibson’s theory of direct perception (Favela & Chemero, 2016). However, in the case of the stick looking bent in water, the stimulus energy reflecting from the stick to the retina sent information to the brain that results in an illusion (Favela & Chemero, 2016). The stick looks bent, however, it is not really bent. This example of a bent stick suggests that Gibson's theory explains perceptions based on ideal viewing conditions, whereas Gregory's theory involves viewing in conditions that are not ideal.

When Gibson argued that the ambiguous images used for top-down theory of perceptions are unreal, he failed to take a note of a few factors. Firstly, it is true that some pictures with ambiguous features or two-dimensional or three-dimensional drawings used for experimentation purpose are unnatural, but we encounter a lot of ambiguous images in real-life situations that are not the result of unnatural lab experiments. The straight stick looking bent in water is one such example. The illusion of the stick looking bent can be experienced by two individuals at the same time. Secondly, perceptual apparatuses of different animals are different, and therefore, a natural image may produce optical illusion in a natural environmental condition because of how the brain perceives information (Favela & Chemero, 2016). For example, though the illusion of a bent stick in water can appear same to the eyes of two people who have the same perceptual mechanisms, the stick may look straight in water to the eyes of a gannet that has the capacity of accommodating light refraction at the boundary of air and water. Gibson failed to consider the visual capacity of the perceiver while dismissing optical illusions.

Direct realists like Gibson argue that since the top-down processing of perception depends on hypotheses while interpreting information, if the hypotheses are misleading, then it will result in a wrong perception of an image or a situation (Carbon, 2014). For example, making typos during texting or typing is common among people and the readers while reading through a typo use the filling-in phenomena by filling in missing details. In such a case, the brain simply extracts prior information from memory and rearranges or fills in the missing letters within the words. If the prior knowledge registered in the brain is faulty, then there are chances for the brain to make wrong hypotheses and erroneous processing of typos.

What direct realists overlook is that the fundamental principle behind top-down processing theory lies in making a connection between sensory inputs and our semantic networks. The knowledge base or the semantic network determines what kind of hypotheses an individual is likely to make (Costall, 1980). The hypotheses made by one individual could be different from that of another one, depending on their previous experience (Kohn, 2007). Since no two people have similar past experiences, their perceptual system varies. For example, if we read an old book where coffee stains have obscured partial information, some of the letters have become blurred, and the decay processes have made the white paper turn into a yellowish substance, we can read only the fragments of the text and then reconstruct the general meaning of what we read by making hypotheses (Carbon, 2008). In other words, we fill the gaps of missing texts and passages depending on our prior experience. The meaning gathered from the text could vary from one individual to another, as both have different past experiences.

Another good example is the famous man-rat illusion where the sketching is ambiguous in nature and not easily decipherable. So, one can interpret that the image is of a man while another can interpret it as an image of a rat (Carbon, 2014). For most people, the perception of the images switches from man to rat. This is a fascinating example of an illusion that demonstrates the mental capacity of a human being to switch from one meaning to another (Carbon, 2014). It also reveals the intriguing process of our brain that makes the initial perception through the activation of our semantic network. If one has the experience of seeing a picture of a man before, or if one knows what a man looks like or has heard the word "man", then one is more likely to interpret the ambiguous picture as an image of a man. If one's previous experiences were more associated with a rat, or another animal of such kind, then one is more likely to interpret the image as a rat (Carbon, 2014). 

Another factor that counteracts Gibson's claim that if the knowledge base is erroneous, then it will lead to perceptual errors is how our perception is based on the expectation we keep from a scene. For example, while entering a classroom, we expect to see a black or whiteboard and desks. If these objects are present in the classroom, we rapidly interpret them. If these elements that we are expecting to see in a classroom are not present in the scene, it leads to perceptual errors. Biederman (1981) showed in his experiment that there was an increased error in identifying fire hydrants when they were placed in kitchens. The same error happened in identifying sofas when they were placed in city streets. It happens because our brain is used to seeing an object in its designated place. The brain will have difficulty in processing information when the object is not seen in its usual context.

  In conclusion, it is worth mentioning that there are two groups of perceptual theorists: top-down perceptual theorists and bottom-up theorists. The first ones, known as constructivists, believe that perception is influenced by contexts, prior experience, and expectations. Bottom-up theorists, also called realists, believe that perception is sensation and is the direct result of external stimuli. Constructivists interpret optical illusions on the ground of prior knowledge, contextual information, and expectations, whereas direct realists dismiss the existence of optical illusion, calling it an unnatural phenomenon that does not take place in natural environment condition. However, optical illusions are not only two-dimensional or three-dimensional distorted images. They can be encountered in the natural environment too, as seen in the example of a straight stick looking bent in water. Direct realists also argue that the interpretation of illusions is based on hypotheses and hypotheses influenced by prior knowledge are prone to errors if the knowledge base is misleading. However, the determination of hypotheses to be erroneous in nature is not an easy process, because hypotheses are influenced by prior experience, expectations, and contextual information. All these three variables could be subjective in nature, and therefore, it cannot be stated with conviction that hypotheses could be misleading.

Biederman, I. (1981). On the semantics of a glance at a scene. In M. Kubovy and J. Pomerantz, Eds., Perceptual Organization. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum
Carbon C. C. (2008). Famous faces as icons. The illusion of being an expert in the recognition of famous faces. Perception, 37, 801–806  
Carbon, C. (2014). Understanding human perception by human-made illusions. Front Hum Neurosci. 8, 566. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4116780/
Carlson, N. R., Miller, H., Heth, C. D., Donahoe, J. W., & Martin, G. N. (2010). Psychology: the science of behavior (7th (International) ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon (Pearson).
Costall, A. (1980). The three faces of Edgar Rubin. Perception. 9, 115.
Eysenck, M. W. (1998). Psychology: an integrated approach. Harlow: Addison Wesley Longman.
Favela, L.H. & Chemero, A. (2016). An ecological account of visual “Illusions”. Florida Philosophical Society, 16 (1), 68-93. Retrieved from https://philosophy.cah.ucf.edu/fpr/files/16_1/Favela_and_Chemero.pdf
Gibson, J. J. (1972). A Theory of Direct Visual Perception. In J. Royce, W. Rozenboom (Eds.). The Psychology of Knowing. New York: Gordon & Breach.
Gibson, J. J.(1966).The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Gregory, R. (1970). The Intelligent Eye. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
Gregory, R. (1974). Concepts and Mechanisms of Perception. London: Duckworth.
Kohn, A. (2007). Visual Adaptation: Physiology, Mechanisms, and Functional Benefits. Journal of neurophysiology, 97, 3155-3164.
Shea, N. (2013). Distinguishing Top-Down From Bottom-Up Effects. Perception and Its Modalities. Retrieved from http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/philo/courses/readings/2013.topdown.final.pdf
Watanabe, T., Nanez, J. E., & Sasaki, Y. (2001). Perceptual learning without perception. Nature, 413, 844-848.
Woodson, P.P. (1979). A Test of Two Theories of the Necker Cube Reversal Illusion. University of Richmond. 1265. Retrieved from <https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/7573/8c68d6eae784b9dc4192061226132d126e89.pdf>

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Women Against Women

In the wake of the recent horrific incident in Delhi, some womenfolk have suddenly been stirred out of their impassivity into sudden sympathetic mode on the ordeal of their less fortunate sisters. Please don't misunderstand me, I am not being sarcastic and I am not generalizing women with my remark. But my observations and experiences in life have shown me that women themselves don't empathize with other women. Most of the time I have seen women, in group, either criticizing harshly the one woman who has taken a bold step in voicing protest against something wrong or playing the role of mute spectators, in a manner of complete indifference to something not concerning them, to the suffering of other women.For instance, take the rape case of Park Street in Kolkata. Who labeled the lady in distress as prostitute? A woman chief minister, who being a woman herself, can be expected to exhibit a minimum amount of compassion was the first person to put the victim's character under scrutiny. Just because the victim, a mother of two, didn't act by the rules demarcated by the society doesn't make her a prostitute. When the power holders of our country try to lessen the gravity of a crime by publicly calling the victim a prostitute, it sends the message loud and clear that rape on a prostitute is admissible and not liable to punishment. What is the definition of a prostitute? According to the dictionary meaning, a prostitute is a woman who sleeps with men in exchange of money, but in practical life the word is slapped on any woman not following the set of conventions drawn by the patriarchal society. 'Prostitute', a word of humiliation, is used as a very strong abusive word to denigrate woman.

One of my female friends in college had problem with another girl studying in the same batch. The reason for her hatred towards the other girl was unknown to me since both of them had studied in the same school and knew each other a long time before even I met them. Now my friend used to call the other girl a 'prostitute' behind her back, the reason she explained was that girl used to roam around with a lot of boys. Now though all of us studied in the same college, I never had the opportunity to know the other girl personally until I enrolled for masters in CU. We happened to study in the same tuition class where I got to interact with the girl branded a 'prostitute' by my friend. She was a very decent girl hailing from a good family and nothing in her demeanor would speak ill of her character. But there she was a victim of slander by her own school batch mate. It is a tendency seen among many women to damage the reputation of another woman they have rivalry with by throwing mud at her character. A woman's character is a soft spot very easy to be defiled in our society.

A woman I know went belligerent on Orkut when ditched by her long standing boyfriend for another woman, she posted pictures of both hers with her bf and the bf with the new woman in the same album exposing how the man had cheated on her. The number of people verbally abusing her far outweighed the number of people supporting her stand. Starting from the word 'prostitute' she was showered with malicious remarks and defamatory emails. She told me that her friends from school even refused to recognize her after that incident and yes, she studied in a girls' school. The man she was in live-in relationship with for more than couple of years chose to marry the girl his parents chose for him, the reason was utterly nonsense. A woman who could consummate a relationship before marriage is not worth marrying, according to his family. But what about the man who played the same role in the live-in scenario?? 'Shonar Aangti', a golden ring that's what an Indian man is, impervious to all blemishes. This attitude of the society in putting the blame on women for everything boosts up the confidence of men with ulterior motives. Coupled with that, the lack of security measures for women, blatant insensitive remarks by those in power and incompetent police force all contribute to emboldening the perpetrators of crimes against women. That's why the number of rape incidents keeps increasing every year by leaps and bounds. According to statistics most of the rape cases after languishing for years in court either are nullified on the ground of consensual sex or cancelled due to lack of evidence.

In most cases, perpetrators of sexual violence are granted acquittal upon which they live a normal life with family and children, while their victims bear the brunt of mental and physical trauma, social ostracism and a lifelong ignominy. In our country it’s very easy to dismiss a woman or suppress her voice by slinging mud at her character. Just prove her a ‘prostitute’ and the case is resolved. It is easier to put a rape victim’s character under doubt than proving the culprits guilty of rape. What are the factors that determine a woman of questionable character? Well, the parameters vary from people to people. For some, a woman going out without shrouding herself in burkha or veil is a ‘prostitute’. For some, a woman going out or mingling with boys is a ‘prostitute’. Any woman acting beyond the set of boundaries imposed by the society or a woman questioning the restrictive and regressive social practices is a prostitute for some. As I said, it’s easier to label a woman as prostitute than proving a culprit guilty and since many power holders with their remarks make it obvious that physical assault on a prostitute is an allowable offense, not liable to punishment, if a situation comes when me or you might have our characters put on trial just like the Park Street rape survivor, you or me are likely to be branded a ‘prostitute’ and face the world with the stigma awarded by the government.


So ladies, before we talk about changing the outlook of society towards women, please keep this in mind next time when you bitch ugly about a woman friend of yours. It's the lack of unity within us that is always taken advantage of. Please next time when you see a woman being unnecessarily heckled by people just because she has taken a stance to protest against a wrong done to her, instead of joining the group hurling a volley of aspersions to the woman, please extend your moral support to bolster her voice. I know there are a lot of great women in the world, who continue to give us inspiration through their courage and undying spirit, but this article doesn't address them, it addresses that section of women who are first on the line in pointing finger at another woman.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Big Hole of Security in US Schools

An interesting question was put to me by my sister, "America, a land of opportunities and a dream destination for many, how could schools there after 31 school shootings don't have their security level strengthened a bit that anyone can enter a school premise at any given time and randomly shoot children and how could guns be accessible to any Tom Dick and Harry that any psychopath can target children and innocent people to vent his outrage?" Isn't a school supposed to be one of the safest places in the world so that mothers while sending their children off to schools don't feel fear of their children returning dead or injured riddled with bullets?

The school where I used to work in Kolkata was a very ordinary government run school but it too used to close the gate of entrance the moment the school started its session for the day. At least one security guard was placed in front of the gate throughout the time the school was in session to ensure that anyone entering the school did have proper reasons for a visit. The big renowned schools are all guarded with security personnel to keep constant vigil; every car is screened before passing the school gates. Thanks to almighty, till now we have no incident of school children being randomly shot at point blank range to their deaths. Despite a lot of law and order problems in our country, India is safe at least so far as killing people randomly on roads with guns is concerned.

Why these minimal security measures like screening people before allowing entrance in schools are not put in place in US schools to ascertain safety for children? Instead, most of the people are here talking about training teachers in gun usage. Is it a viable option for teachers to enter a classroom with guns making a school turn into a potential field of battle? Is there any guarantee that not a single student will be harmed caught between the exchange of gunfire between teachers and the assailant? What if a naive student out of curiosity taking the opportunity of the teacher's moment of absent mindedness clicks the trigger in the classroom shooting someone, may be accidentally, fatally? There are a lot of risk factors involved in introducing guns to teachers, rather, what could have been a very simple action like strengthening security in schools is totally out of discussion. The schools instead of giving guns to teachers could install armed security personnel at the entrance making sure every unknown person is frisked before allowing entrance in schools just like they do in airports.



Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Baking Gone Wrong

Cooking/baking mishap is a common phenomenon everyone cooking or baking in the kitchen must have encountered at least once (in my case pretty often) in their life. Sometimes out of unmindfulness we botch up a dish that we might have cooked umpteen times earlier by missing out on some key ingredients or blundering a crucial step. If while cooking, I enter a serious conversation with someone, chances of my forgetting something to add are ample with the final output turning awful in taste. Hence usually when I invite someone over to my place, I keep everything ready beforehand so as to avoid culinary disasters.

As if precautions are not all the time useful in keeping hazards away, sometimes, troubles come uninvited when a slight oversight in calculation can put a damper on all your efforts and hard work as it did happen yesterday while I set myself to baking a lemon pie.

Hours’ worth of pain in baking a lemon pie went down the drain when unknown to my knowledge the lemon rinds settled to the bottom of the bowl I used for mixing the ingredients and the turnout, denuded of the sweet lemony yellow color was looking pale white, to my absolute frustration. The thing went wrong from the moment in order to give scalloped edges to the pie; I changed the baking dish twice.

I admit I am still an amateur in making pies. It will take some time for me to get comfortable with the entire process of pie making. However, today I was determined to make the go successful until the shortfall in the amount of butter required caught my notice. It was too late; I didn't want to send my hubby rushing to the grocery store, third time in the evening. So I adjusted the flour and the remaining ingredients for the crust in proportion to the butter; still everything turned amiss for my one single mistake in using a pie dish smaller in size.

The crust came nice, thankfully, but the topping was in excess of what the pie dish could contain, so it spilled over. Panicked, I backed away from pouring the remaining topping batter into the pie dish and quickly putting my presence of mind into action decided upon baking a batch of lemon muffins with the residue. So I added baking powder and baking soda into the batter and just as I started spooning it into the muffin molds, my hubby gently reminded me of the muffins I baked few weeks back that were completely parched and chewy in texture as a result of my being forgetful to add butter. As luck would have it, I was forgetting butter this time too, but due to my hubby’s timely reminder I saved myself from a pang of throwing another set of muffins into the garbage bin. Since butter was absent at home on that day at that time, I used canola oil instead and voila, lemon muffins turned out really cool with color shimmering between orange and lemonish yellow. Gorgeous!

Alas! I can't say the same for the lemon pie, which to my utter dismay was pale white, the top a tad over baked. The reason for the distinguishing difference in color between the two goodies that were baked using the same batter was due to the lemon rinds accumulating at the bottom of the mixing bowl, the last dreg of which went into the muffins lending them a beautiful color whereas the lemon pie, to my oblivion, received a miniscule of the lemon rinds, the agent that lends color and flavour to lemon goodies and resultantly ended up looking drab.

On hindsight, I realize I should not have taken up the baking project at all for I was not feeling well that day since morning. You cannot expect perfect turnouts with half-hearted effort. Some pics of the baking gone wrong captured for your view:


Monday, September 10, 2012

Housemaid and A Newly Wed Wife

Life is a long road trip that puts us through a lot of hardships to test our perseverance, determination and courage and along the way we collect pebbles of memories; the pleasant ones bring smile to our face each time we cut back to those moments and those, not so pleasant, are pitched away to the farthest corner of our minds.

Immediately after marriage when we shifted from Pune to Kolkata, I encountered adversities galore in terms of managing household on my own. One after another maids came and went, each giving me tough time regarding regularity of coming, cleanliness and most important of all 'reliability'. Nevertheless, the girl we hired to cook made a favourable impression on me. For the convenience of understanding, I would address her as ‘B’ through the rest of the article. So 'B' was very young, few years younger to me and unlike other maids who were all older and hence tried means to put me down, she easily made her way to my heart by her obedient and friendly nature. In fact, within a matter of few months, she managed to earn my absolute trust and I began to rely on her completely for every small errand.

At that time I used to be pretty careless with my stuff which I kept strewn all over the place. But not for a single time the thought that 'B' could pick away anything without asking me crossed my mind. I found her completely trustworthy and to some extent as I already used to give a lot of things away to her unasked, I never felt that she would breach my trust by stealing. My mother, however, heckled by and tired of her maidservants cherished a different opinion. She warned me a lot of time to remain watchful with my things when maids are around, but I, used to the habit of throwing every caution to the wind, ignored her advice most of the time until one day when a big burglary took place in a neighbouring flat two floors down in our apartment builidng that I first thought of being cautious.

We used to stay in a 2BHK at that time. Most of the days, 'B' would go slow in wrapping up her work that I, in order to reach my workplace on time, was forced to go to the bathroom keeping my home unsupervised to her advantage. The idea was while I busied myself taking bath, she would be finishing off the last minute cleaning of the kitchen and the washing and drying of our clothes. Fortunately, I was a tad wise to keep my bedroom under lock and key. The other room with the attached bathroom had to be kept accessible to her for her need of rinsing clothes.

Many a time when I would give her something, clothes or foods, she would neatly tie them up in plastic packets which were aplenty in our house, thanks to our weekly shopping at the nearby supermarket and would place that at the entrance door of our flat. Most of the days I would find her squatting on the floor of our hallway waiting for me to get out of the bathroom and as soon as I would come out, she would hurriedly walk away, with the packet tightly held under her armpit, in the direction of the lift in our 12 storied apartments. Although many a time I was pinched by a sudden desire to see inside the packet she was carrying, I withheld myself every time from doing so on account of bad manners.

One day I completed my shower in less time than usual and came out of the bathroom early while the sound of clothes pounding against the marble floor of the bathroom in the next room came to my ears. That day I gave her an old salwaar of mine, which although was in pretty good condition lost my favour among the host of new dresses I got as gifts in my wedding, not to mention the ones dearly presented by hubby. So I gifted that dress to her in the morning of that fateful day and she loved it instantly, the expression on her face betraying her pleasure. Standing in front of the bathroom, I saw the plastic packet neatly folded up at the corner of our entrance door across the hallway.

Somewhat driven by my mother's constant counsel to practice caution, I suddenly felt the urge to check into the packet to verify my mother's speculation against my goodwill. There opened a Pandora's box when I pulled out one by one a lot of items including food and a bed sheet stashed away in a clever manner inside the salwar several folds under, out of the packet. What unfolded to me later on that she had been doing this, I mean, sneaking items from the kitchen and from my house under my nose ever since I reposed my absolute trust and began depending on her. That I never felt the need to check into the things she was carrying in the plastic bag only strengthened her confidence on my stupidity and gullibility and emboldened, she went on pulling off her stunt until caught red handed.

I remember one day while helping me with the pleats of saree, she casually enquired of my ornaments coffer, which though surprised me a bit didn't arouse any suspicion then. Now that I have become seasoned in the matter of keeping home well managed, I sometimes look back and feel surprised that for some people, it does not take a moment to betray someone's trust. As my goodwill fell flat before my mother's years of experience, I am left to wonder whether people economically deprived may ever establish a good sustaining rapport built on trust with the economically privileged ones. The question is open to discussion.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Kutch Work and Satin Stitches : Two Astounding Salwars

It's been quite some time when I made my last entry. With so many changes going around in my life, I got busy all of a sudden. Recently, only in last week on this day, my hubby became ill and passed out in the morning, scaring the hell out of me. In a foreign country where I have not yet been a month, if such unexpected thing happens for which you are not prepared either mentally or financially, it puts a lot of pressure on your nerve. It was one nerve-wrecking moment for me when I saw Debu lying unconscious on the floor taken by a sudden seizure. It's only in USA that quick help arrives at a phone call and I am lucky that this thing happened here else if the same would have occured in India immediately after relocating to a new place away from my hometown, I don't know how I would have coped up.


For a long time, I have been thinking of entering a post on the recently finished embroidery projects but somehow could not make enough time. Just at the start of every year, I undertake several sewing and embroidery projects and along the way I get bored with the whole thing only to put them on the back burner for an indefinite period of time. As the news of Debu's onsite deployment came, I went into a mad rush to bring my unfinished and half-finished embroidery projects to a close for lots of raw materials bought at the cost of hefty amount of money would go to a waste otherwise.

This snapshot is of the one I stitched for my sister in law. The entire salwar kurta has been embroidered with kutch work or what is popularly known in Kolkata as "Gujrati stitch".

Well, embroidery is my passion, but upon shifting to Bangalore, once I got myself occupied with a hectic schedule, I hardly could manage any time to pursue my hobby. Corporate jobs are too demanding of your time. So just when the time came to pack things up again to relocate to a new place, my sense suddenly reminded me of the unpleasant experience during out last relocation when I lost quite a valuable important items. I didn't want the same to be repeated again and so was the rush to finish the ones which are in half-finished state.

That way during our trip to Kolkata prior to flying to USA, I could have some salwars stitched for myself and some to be gifted away to my relatives. However, despite my painstaking effort, only three embroidery projects were done and dusted with on time. One is the salwar where I did kutch work and presented to my sister in law. Another is a bed cover done with the rare palestrian knot stitches and gifted to my mother. Unfortunately, my hubby forgot to capture the pics of the bedcover so can't upload them till we visit Kolkata again. Last one is a salwaar kurti for myself. I have used very fine satin stitches along with sequins to add an extra resplendence.

The photo above and the ones below are of the salwar kurti I embroidered for myself with delicate satin stitches, fishbones and seed stitches accentuated further by a line of sequins. It has been tailored into a salwaar now paired with a baby pink pant and baby pink dupatta. I am looking for an occasion to wear it. I promise to upload some pics of mine wearing it.

 While working on the motif, I was planning to gift it to someone when completed, but greedy me, I fell in love with the turnout. Hence, I kept it for myself :D

Now, some more projects are underway, one of them is a silk saree. My sister in law gifted the saree to me on my wedding registry. The saree is beautiful, but with a thought to add some more blings, I am doing mirror work on it. Just can't wait to finish it, but 12 yards of saree is not dead easy.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Deadly Piranha

Today in the evening I was watching a programme on Animal Planet about piranhas where the fearless wild life enthusiast Jeremy Wade with nerve made of steel embarked on a venture to find out the truth behind piranha stories of eating humans alive within minutes. In his quest of finding out the truth, Jeremy threw himself into an Amazon river filled with piranhas to see if they would attack him or not and what triggers their feeding frenzy. But interestingly piranhas didn't attack him. Next in a swimming pool, a cluster of piranhas were made to starve for a day. The next day Jeremy threw a piece of meat into the pool to see their reaction and piranhas devoured the piece of meat within minutes. He then dived into the swimming pool but to his astonishment not a single piranha showed any interest in him. He probed deep into the case of an accident that occurred in the 70s when a bus spun out of control and headed on to the Amazon River. Around 40 people were dead and eaten alive.

The revelations he came across during the investigation is quite amazing. Piranhas don't attack their victims unless they are hungry, of course and unless the victims are hurt and bleeding. When the victims are in helpless condition or someway catching their attention, like in an incident piranhas attacked a group of 8 people swimming in the sea and their flailing arms and legs in the water during swimming caught notice. In the event of about 40 people eaten alive after an accident, the victims, injured and stuck inside the bus were desperately trying to come out and this helplessness alerted them about potential victims. If you stay still in water swimming slowly without thrashing about unnecessarily, chances of piranhas attacking you is slim, so I presume upon watching the programme. Hats off to Jeremy for his bold dare devilry and what's amusing he calls himself a "human guinea pig" every time he takes a risk upon himself.

Curiously enough, prima facie piranhas look quite cute, just like other small fishes but a close view revealing their razor sharp teeth give a hint of their murderous nature. Those of you interested in catching glimpses of the programme may check out the following videos: