Category Archives: memory power concentration retention

Make reading a part of your daily routine

Reference: The DNA newspaper, Mumbai print edition, June 25 2017, Sunday. (Rya Jetha: (The writer is a 17 year old Indian-American, currently studying at Bombay International School)

Note: Although this article may not be directly to the topics of this blog, namely, math or the kinds of levels of concentration, memory power and retention required for intensely competitive Math exams like IITJEE, RMO/INMO (of Homibhabha/TIFR), it certainly suggests the benefits of good reading habits, which directly impact the development of the intellect and overall personality of a person/student of any age. I only mean to share this “feeling” or “opinion” of mine…) – Nalin Pithwa.


What’s In It for you:

  • Reading facilitates interaction between our own experiences and the world beyond our own.
  • Reading allows us to create an image for ourselves that is intimate and personal.
  • Reading gives us the opportunity to rekindle the bond with ourselves that is neglected and wilting.


Our brains are perpetually fed with images. Images of skyscrappers billowing flames, images of celebrities strutting down the red carpet, images of scrumptious Mediterranean food platters. Images, images, images. Everywhere. On billboards as we navigate through the intersections and flyovers of our city, on our social media feeds, on television, on newspapers covers. With the tentacles of the media being ever more agile and developing finer capillaries by the second, nothing is left to imagination.

What about creating the image? What about allowing our brains to somersault, cartwheel, and back flip once in a while? How do we periodically escape the reality impressed upon us, where our brains are spoon fed and mollycoddled by our circumstances? How do we give ourselves the space to be active creators, and not dormant receivers?

The answer is reading. Fellow teenagers, I bet you just rolled your eyes, thinking “easier said than done!” I couldn’t agree more. Who has the time or inclination to read when there are standardized tests to rigorously practise for, laps to swim, tracks to run around, places to be and people to meet? It doesn’t strike me as particularly surprising when teenagers regards reading as a pastime belonging to a previous era, a time when minutes elapsed slower and free time was available in enviable abundance.

Apart from the obvious advantage of reading —- expanding our vocabularies and knowledge, improving focus and enhancing writing and comprehension skills —- I see another benefit to reading critical for teenagers in the 21st century. Reading facilitates interaction between our own experiences and the world beyond our own. Reading allows us to create an image for ourselves that is intimate and personal —- an ability we have lost as thousands of visuals assault us on a daily basis. Sidetracked by the hyperactivity of the world we live in, we lack a connection with our own experiences  and creativity, and reading gives us the opportunity to rekindle the bond with ourselves that is neglected and wilting.

Teenagers are both victims and beneficiaries of the overwhelming bombardment of the 21st century. Instead of suffering from the onslaught of sensational news and enduring the blitzkrieg of our social media feeds, how about we acclimatize ourselves to a different kind of bombardment…of suspense, of plots, of twists, of complex characteers and vibrant settings! The possibilities are endless, and I assure you, the vibrancy and exhilaration is unparalleled by any Snapchat filter, Buzzfeed article or Trump meme. How about exploring the Taliban agenda in A Thousand Splendid Suns, or viewing the world through the lens of a migrant in The Sympathizer, and Americanal, or experience the trauma of World War II through the perspective of a blind French girl in All The Light We Cannot See, or delving into the history of The Gene, or exploring British occupied Burma in The Glass Palace, or living the psychological tension in The Girl on the Train. Take your pick!


On my part, if you are interested in Math and Physics, you can try reading some of the following books:

  1. The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan by Robert Kanigel,
  2. Men of Mathematics by E. T. Bell, this is the book which had inspired (to some extent) John Nash, Jr., as a boy, and he later on became a Nobel Laureate, an Abel Laureate, whose life inspired the Hollywood movie, A Beautiful Mind. The movie in turn is based on the biography ” A Beautiful Mind” by Sylvia Nasar; you can buy these books also from Amazon India or some other place.
  3. Taming the Infinite: The Story of Mathematics by Ian Stewart.
  4. A Brief History of Time: From Big Bang to Black Holes by Stephen Hawking.
  5. The Physics of Superheroes by James Kakalios.
  6. Physics for Entertainment by Ya. Perelman;
  7. Surely, you are joking, Mr. Feynman!
  8. Sherlock Holmes, (Unabridged complete works) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,
  9. Super Memory: it can be yours by Shakuntala Devi,
  10. P. G. Wodehouse ! (This is, of course, for light reading and besides, who can forget The Inimitable Jeeves, the Empress of Blandings, and Bertie Wooster? 🙂 🙂 🙂 )
  11. S. Chandrasekhar, Man of Science, by Radhika Ramnath,

(I will try to suggest more such literature later, although, you can find many many like these on your own…)

– shared by Nalin Pithwa.

Safeguarding children from digital addiction — Kiran Bajaj, Principal, Greenlawns School.

Reproduced from The DNA newspaper, print edition, Mumbai, date April 17 2017, Monday; authored by Kiran Bajaj:

(From the Principal’s Desk) (The writer is Principal of Greenlawns High School, Mumbai.)

Generally, the word addiction brings to mind habits such as smoking, drinking or gambling, but in today’s digital age, addiction is more connected to technology. A child  could get addicted to iPads, television, or any kind of “screen”. Children develop an uncontrolled habit of indulging in certain activities even when they are warned that doing those things are not good for them.

Children are slowly becoming digital addicts. These days, some kids don’t just play with electronic toys but make it a part of their lives. Children carry their smartphones every where including the washroom as they feel disconnected from their social network without their phones. Today, young addicts include three year olds who scream when they can’t have their tablets to play on, or secondary school children who can’t quit “WhatsApping” or posting messages on Facebook, and others who compulsively play online games.

Toddlers are becoming couch potatoes almost as soon as they have the pram. No two children are alike and different children perceive the television medium differently. Studies have shown that watching TV at an early age does form a habit and that it has potentially damaging effects on their health. Some children watch TV while eating dinner, while doing homework, doing chores, etc. To prevent children from becoming couch potatoes, parents can encourage children to play board games, outdoor activities and socialize with friends.  Try to make the alternatives really fun at first, to help your child transition into watching less TV.

Families can help prevent addiction when there is a strong bond between children and parents, and a lot of parental involvement in the child’s life and discipline. Bringing in new games, books, and other activities will give children something better to do with their time while at home. For younger ones, simple sticker books and colouring books will keep them entertained for hours. Art and craft activities encourage children to use their imagination, as well as learning toys, puppet theaters, anything that gets your child thinking rather than just watching.



Nalin Pithwa.

PS: Thanks to DNA and Kiran Bajaj !

Are kids no longer learning multiplication tables in school?

This topic is very close to my heart and head. I had written a remark about this in an earlier blog article. 

Today, I suddenly found some “echoes” or “resemblances” to my views. Kindly let me re-blog, or share the opinions about this from today’s EETimes, authored by Max Maxfield, Designline Editor. The URL is pasted below:

Thanks Max and EETimes !

From Nalin Pithwa.

A remark on memory power, concentration and good math

I have come across several maths teachers (and principals and of course, parents) in Mumbai and Bangalore, who  claim that students don’t need to learn by heart, by practising writing daily multiplication tables from 1 to 30 at a tender age. Whereas this is the way I had learnt these multiplication tables. The argument forwarded is that there is now the influence of Western culture (meaning USA and UK) where students don’t learn any multiplication tables because this is the age of electronics/IT/calculators.

I have seen that this leads to severe dependence on calculators from a young age even for simple numerical problems; and in math syllabii/exams of schools of India, school kids make “silly” mistakes, which is a euphemism of numerical mistakes. In my opinion, a high numerical ability is a sign of a good IQ. Of course, we have all heard of Shakuntala Devi’s feats. So, also the feats of John von Neumann.

I think that it works “both” ways: learning multiplication tables by practice at a tender age develops a child concentration powers, and if a kid has enough concentration from a tender age, he can mug up/practise multiplication tables. This might also lead to “average” concentration span in kids, and if I may venture further, it will not give rise to ADHD.. ..I know this might sound simplistic solution….

I refer the reader to the child hood of Paul Halmos, famous Hungarian born, American mathematician, and one of the finest expositors of math. In his autobiography, “I want to be a mathematician”, Paul Halmos had written: “When my cousin and I were 8  and 9, our grandfather used to race us against one another in the multiplication of three-digit numbers in our heads, of course — no paper and pencil. I neither loved nor hated the game. I liked to win, and I liked getting the coin that was awarded to the winner. (Is that when I turned pro?). We were both equally good.”

My own dad had told me that he had learnt the fractional tables also, meaning, the tables of one by four, one by two, three by four, etc. and he told me that as a CA he knew all the volumes of Income Tax Law by Nani Palkhivala and Kanga!!

🙂 🙂 🙂

Nalin Pithwa.

Daniel Goleman : On focus: the hidden driver of excellence

On focus — by Daniel Goleman

Improve memory power —some views of human supercomputer Shakuntala Devi

Ref: Super Memory: it can be yours: Shakuntala Devi

Memory power is  an instant recall of facts or figures, physical/concrete or abstract.

Negative emotions like self-pity, fear, anxiety, depression, jealousy or any extreme emotional state of minds impair memory power, concentration power and retention powers. Make a conscious effort to weed out negative thoughts from your mind, to send it positive, harmonious messages. The great sage, Paramahansa Yogananda, asks us to remind outselves every day: “I am a prince(ss) of peace, sitting on the throne of poise, directing my kingdom of activity.” Memorize this sentence. Say it to yourself when you awaken each morning. Repeat it to yourself whenever you find yourself in a situation that threatens upon your mental equilibrium. Gradually, you will find that you maintain your cool more naturally under such circumstances or “exams of life”.

*** The development of memory power or concentration or retention power is gradual. A relaxed mind is necessary. So, do not start hammering yourself in your head or start cursing yourself that I still do not have super memory or  I still forget !! It is closely linked to your aim of life — and that is a big topic by itself —- do you have an aim of life — something you can put in one sentence; and gently repeat this aim of life to yourself several times a day. Then, you will develop an inner focus.

Shakuntala Devi had also advised not to go bed watching “Baywatch” daily in the night. It also means that digital video games, mobile games. even surfing the internet, cinema, play stations, TV serials, Bollywood dances/music/songs will bring down your energy and concentration levels. Put a curb on such garbage like activities !!!

A diet of nuts is very helpful for increasing/maintaining  memory power. Especially, almonds soaked in water overnight; baked salmon (rich in omega-3’s) or Sea Cod or Seven Seas; in India, in ayurvedic medical shops, you can buy “Shankhpushpi”, “Brahmi”, “Memorin Caps”. Or a course of vitamin B complexes.

Regular light exercise or outdoor games will work wonders by increasing endorphins, chemicals which create a positive outlook in life.

Also, you can have a hobby like drawing cartoons, or painting or playing  a musical instrument — something in which you are rapt, absorbed so that your conscious mind gets rest from intense intellectual pursuit and the subconscious mind takes over to finish the challenging Math/Phy/Chem/IITJEE/RMO/INMO problem. This will make your mind get compound benefits or your gains will multiply manifold like you will get 1+1=11

But, do maintain a “gross time table”. Sleep at a scheduled hour. Get up  at a scheduled hour. Min sleep 6+ hours a day. Lunch and dine on time.

Practise Anulom-Vilom daily twice or thrice a day for 3-4 min each. The regular practice of meditation makes us effective and efficient.

(I know all this is age old wisdom…)

More later,

Nalin Pithwa