Feast for Thought

Not pontificating. Only trying to bat on the side of the environment. And ethics. And simple living. And slowing down. (And trying to learn and practise before preaching or teaching...)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Listen to the Hoolock gibbon as he mopes...

A Hoolock gibbbon at the Delhi zoo. He is depressed, no doubt.
Is he just waiting for delayed keeper-supplied meals?
Or is he feeling claustrophobic?
Or is he tired of indifferent onlookers?
See more Wordless Wednesday posts.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Tamizh month of Margazhi (Dhanu in Malayalam)

Just marking this very special month 16 Dec to 13 Jan - my efforts at briefly collating several aspects of the month.
# Krishna says - (Gita, 10/35)
बृहत्साम तथा साम्नां गायत्री छन्दसामहम् ।
मासानां मार्गशीर्षोऽहमृतूनां कुसुमाकरः ॥
Meaning: "Among the hymns also (I am) the Brhat-Samna; among the meters I am Gaytri; among months, I am Margasirsa; and among seasons, I am the flower bearer (spring).

# Gita Jayanthi (birthday of the Bhagavad Gita) was observed on 9 Dec ("Agrahayana (Hindi: अगहन agahan) is a month of the Hindu calendar. In India's national civil calendar, Agrahayana is the ninth month of the year, beginning on 22 November and ending on 21 December. In Vedic times, this month was also known as Maargashirsha after the nakshatra (asterisms) Mrigashira.")

# Then we have the Thiruvaadira festival for Siva, also observed as the Aarudra Darshan. (10 Jan 2009)
(In Tamil Nadu, the day's speciality, after due worship of Siva, is the combination of the offering Thiruvaadirai Kali and ezhu-kaai Kootu. In Kerala (my state-in-law) the Thiruvaadira Kali refers to the dance kaikottukali performed by groups of ladies on the same day. The offering to the Lord is the Tiruvaadira Puzhukku)

# Throughout the month, temples (and most small screen channels) in Tamil Nadu resound with Aandal's Thiruppaavai
Listen to the poetess-saint's compositions explained here (Tamil). Or simply listen to Smt MLV's rendition of the divine composition
(for day 2 and later, use tpavai2 to tpavai30 in place in the url)

# Here is a Thiruvempavai link as well - listen to daily Margazhi Tiruvempavai discourses
Know the meanings of the 20 verses of Maanikkavaasagar

# Then it is the turn of Vaikunta Ekadasi, the day of symbolic opening of the doors of heaven to devotees. (7 Jan 2009)

# Think Margazhi and this tamil movie song comes to mind -
Kaalangalil Aval Vasantham

# On all mornings of the entire month, the customary kolams in front of houses will also sport a flower (placed in a ball of cowdung) at the centre

# For more interesting information on Margazhi see
- Tsunami Disaster Predicted By Astrology
- Bhairava Ashtami

PS: Reader Lipi has provided valuable corrections as well as informative and instructive links (please see comments hereunder) - quoted below for ready reference -

"Regarding calendars:
In the (Indian) traditional calendar system, we have two major types - Solar and Lunar. The Tamil calendar, among others (likely Punjabi, Assamese ...) is solar. The majority of the others is lunar (telugu, ...) It may be a good indication of what type of calendar it is, based on when they celebrate their new year (All yugAdi calendars are lunar. The rest must be solar - baisAki, vishu, tamizh new year ...)

The two links below should give an idea of Traditional calendar concept.
Solar and lunar calendar overview
Lunar calendar explained

For those who think the 'panchAngam' - 'having 5 parts', is unscientific and a waste of time, here is a document published in 1935, by an eminent Indian Mathematician.

The training of Indian Almanac Makers ..."
PS 2: The title was amended based on the above.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

For those who appreciate Carnatic music

The December Madras music season has begun in Chennai. I will be content to catch glimpses of artistes' brilliance on the small screen, and read reviews by experts and critics in the newspaper. Raji gives the perfect preview of the ethos - complete with all the factors that make the festival in my home town so unique.

That's not all. For a further treat, Carnatic music buffs can also look out for Markazhi raagam, a first of its kind project that will present classical concert by Bombay Jayasree and TM Krishna in theatres. The worldwide release is slated for 18 Dec 2008.

Here's the link to the trailer

And these are the firsts that this project claims
"First ever classical concert produced to be played in Cinema halls.
First ever alternate content from India for Digital Cinema Theatres (Non feature programming).
First ever Classical music content to be shot and post produced in 4k resolution
First ever programme in the world to be shot with 7 Red 4k cameras.
First classical music programme that will be mixed in 5.1 (ie. 6 channel sound)
First classical music programme that will be mixed to THX certification
First classical music programme to be released in Blue Ray
First classical music programme that will be available on DVD and audio CD in 6 track surround sound."

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Dear Dr Kalam...

Greetings and salutations from an alumnus of your Alma Mater.

In 2002, you brought a whiff of change to India's topmost office. As President, you represented Change in so many ways - as an apolitical figure, as a Net-savvy technocrat, as a writer and most of all as an Indian citizen who felt as one among the masses and understood only too well their sufferings - in fact the perfect QRs of a leader of a democracy.

If only the position of India's President had had teeth, instead of being a mere trinket in India's political and governance framework. You would have set the precedence for the kind of Change that Barack Obama hopes to bring about in another democracy. It is not a waste of time to imagine - wistfully now - the possible changes that could have taken place from grassroots right up to the Executive in those five years when the entire Indian defence services proudly saluted you as their Supreme Commander.

A few days ago, I tried to put together my list of Ideal 552 for the Lok Sabha, and that list most naturally starts off with you, Dr Kalam. Though at present the list has just 5% of the numbers that are supposed to fill the Lok Sabha, I'd like to think that a workable cabinet is visible therein.

This is just an attempt at a possible, nay probable picture. You are not a politician, but as the Statesman that you are, your presence at the helm, as the Power that be, may encourage a largely indifferent bureaucracy to open their eyes, re-read the Constitution and make real efforts to abide by it, as they start to take in the current reality, and purport of 'We, the People of...'

Jai Hind!
Dr Kalam signs a copy of Wings of Fire

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Ideas for Change, post Mumbai 26/11

Among all the rhetoric and hyperbole overdose, it is refreshing to see some meaningful debate here and there in the media, e-mail and in other forums.
Can we ordinary citizens believe that this time, since the rich have been hit, it is likely that the Government will lend the ear that was hitherto deaf to the masses' cries? Let's hope so - CII, FICCI, and corporates have a huge responsibility and can easily make use of this opportunity to revolutionise political thought - something that middle class citizens and NGO's can only hope for.

It is easy to get emotional, and rant on the ills that have befallen our social and political space, and one needs some effort to moderate one's thought. Here are some of them.
1. Using the services of ex-servicemen for the purpose of bringing about societal change.
Being one myself, I know for a fact that there are several others, who pursue new careers post service-life. Every six months or so, there are considerable numbers of men from the ranks who (try to) join civilian stream. The more enterprising end up in civilian establishments in suitable roles, more often than not in the security departments. This lot can easily form a formidable group of already-trained manpower, with basic skills and sometimes specialised skills.
In the absence of compulsory military training at pre-college or college level, I feel that ex-service persons will continue to be of immense help to society's larger interests if there is a system to absorb them as soon as they complete their tenure. Two immediate roles for these personnel are possible
- Lateral entry into local police forces, at equivalent cadre level.
- As organizers and trainers for community-level civil defence groups.

2. Restraining and regulating the media
With the events of the past week, topped by the Navy Chief's valid questions on current practices in Indian electronic media, the moderate voice feels an immediate need for media restraint for the public good, and ultimate purpose of bringing about societal change. With too many channels crowding air space, "there are many inexperienced reporters and producers in the TV-news business."
This juvenile media gave themselves a free hand. It is gut-wrenching to realise that the very means which can mean a lot for positive change in society, is misusing that power for low and selfish ends.
For starters, we could restrict news channels to a few hours a day - what they have to say can be maturely conveyed in the space of a few hours, rather than day-and-night-long hyperbole. In these days, it was extremely comfortable to watch sedate DD, and its 'rukaavat ke liye khed hai' brings on nostalgia.

3. Exercising your right to vote as a duty to your nation
Corporates and other employers can assume the responsibility to inculcate the value of the franchise in employees and other citizens. The Tata Tea company's TV ad message that espouses the citizen to vote (visit www.jaagore.com), reaches but a small portion of the electorate. The majority of upper middle class and elite are indifferent to this Right, and there are address-less millions who cannot exercise this right.

An American staying in India can cast his or her vote and have the satisfaction that the vote is precious, and it counts. [I am an Indian citizen who has served in the defence and other government service, but neither my spouse nor I have never had the chance to vote. We have always been away from home for the past 20 years, during which time several elections have gone by, we have saluted umpteen defence ministers, and always placed country before self. (I do not think any of the serving brethren have ever cast their vote. Postal ballot continues to be on paper. Let us hope EC carries out its promise for the next general elections). Repeated requests at the local municipality office (at native place) have yielded no results. Perhaps our country can also have a system by which all eligible voters declare their political affiliations when they attain voting age, and then each favoured party can do the running around to get their voters registered].

It is time to popularize the Right to Vote as a national duty to select the right candidate, among all classes of society. Awareness campaigns in the media, employers' impartial campaigns within the organization, and NGO's targeted campaigns to educate their respective flocks, and panchayat level campaigns among the local franchisees, can bring about discernible change in larger numbers of the public.

4. Bringing about long-pending legislation
We all hope and pray that in the ensuing session of Parliament, anti-terror laws will be debated, and necessary Acts passed to provide teeth to the action groups.

Let us also hope that political thought has the courage to focus on the matter of placing these long overdue legislations as integral parts of the Constitution.
1. The Uniform Civil Code, lest the moderates in the majority be alienated. [Article 44, under the Directive Principles of State Policy, says - The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.]
2. The Right to Recall. I am a citizen who believes that MPs and MLAs are accountable.
3. The Bill to bar criminals, and candidates with doubtful antecedents, from contesting elections. An earlier chance slipped us by, despite Dr APJ Abdul Kalam's requests for reconsideration.
(No harm in daring to hope for even this: 4. Right to equal protection for all citizens: can politicians be made as vulnerable as every citizen?)

5. Setting a common minimum programme
A possible common minimum programme for any party that comes to power can perhaps be seen as a level playing field for political parties, in the assumption that they started off with the right intentions. There are some basic national necessities which have been neglected for decades. If the Executive has a mandate to complete certain tasks every year on the following agenda points, irrespective of which party or personality is in the boss's seat, can't we hope to see inclusive growth and development?

- sanitation
- public health
- basic housing
- environmental rejuvenation
- healthy agricultural growth

Going a step further, it may even be possible to channelise thought such that we actually have a two-party scenario - the UPA+ & NDA+ (or equivalents thereof), with their respective regional units intact. (See also A two-party system is possible)

Some measures are possible in the short term - others in medium to long term, but none are unrealistic, one feels. Neither are they too idealistic.
We live and think in hope.

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Monday, December 01, 2008

An open letter to Barkha Dutt and her ilk

To BD (and others of your ilk who live by, for and off TRP)

I wonder how you will feel on reading an outsider's view of the immaturity shown by Indian channels - Attack Coverage Tests India's Nascent News Channels "Live Showings of the 60-Hour Siege Get High Viewership and Mixed Reviews; Hyperbole, Security Among Concerns"

Your TV coverage of the events of last week have shown that you and your ilk may feel for the public, but your ultimate interest is to cause sensation and improve your TRP ratings. Where once you were worthy of admiration - now one feels pity that you, who can form and lead opinion, gave in to publicity of the cheap variety. Where once your (BD's) 'We the people' was expectantly awaited- now the channel is heartily skipped, let alone your programme.

And one dreads to read and see news that you and your channel have won (or should it read 'gave yourselves'?) this award and that for covering these sad events. Indian visual media journalists and a few print journalists who worry more about page-3 non-issues need several lessons in sensitivity. No harm in learning them ASAP.

Do think about the following, once each of you have had a chance to catch your breath, and are no longer holding the mike, or poking it insensitively into a victim's face.
1. How can news be broken several times? If one channel has broken it, it cannot be broken again by the same channel or any other.
2. How can the same news be broken throughout the day and night? If you try to, you are crushing, grinding and making further mincemeat of it, and miss out on SUBSTANCE.
3. The 24X7 (pun intended) culture has done and continues to do much more harm than good.
4. You are instrumental in ensuring that public memory is indeed short - you'll soon find a celebrity or other page-3 non-issue to add colour to your channel even before the ashes of the victims have cooled. I challenge you to keep away from ads, Bollywood and cricket for a whole month.
5. If you need lessons on journalism, take them from Cho Ramaswamy (you must surely have heard of him), who prints his magazine 'Thuglaq' without support from anyone, least of all corporates - and he has a faithful and very critical following.

Each one of you 'intelligent fools' competed successfully to prove these words of E.F. Schumacher - "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction."

See an outsider's view of the immaturity shown by Indian channels - Attack Coverage Tests India's Nascent News Channels "Live Showings of the 60-Hour Siege Get High Viewership and Mixed Reviews; Hyperbole, Security Among Concerns"

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Leadership in short supply - Let the wind of Change blow East!

Thursday's events have thrown up a humongous demand for LEADERSHIP. Not only in political space, but in the media as well - while all channels relayed events as is, many of them did not refrain from one-upmanship brownie points with claims like "our reporter was the first...", "these are exclusive pictures..", "we are bringing these to you live...".
Several bigwigs had their bytes prominently relayed by starved reporters. A few channels left their ad space and time intact - the viewer is a consumer after all!
Media gave themselves a free hand, and have assumed that they are beyond regulation.
The watchdog is actually a giant rat greedy for a large piece of the cheese.
(The exception seems to be a series of meaningful discussions moderated by Omkar Goswami in a business channel )
We need leaders who can inspire and innovate, and we need change!
Since November 4, I've been trying to compile a list of 'IDEAL 552', and find myself very far from completing the list. Each person herein has one or more of the following attributes:
1. Seen as clean / has integrity / believes in ethics
2. feel for the masses
3. can certainly make a change.
4. whatever the call, (s)he is a professional.
5. does not appear to have vested interests
APJ Abdul Kalam
Medha Patkar
Narayana Murthy
P Sainath
TN Seshan
Prakash Karat
Brinda Karat
MS Swaminathan
Amartya Sen
Sunita Narain
Ramachandra Guha
Mallika Sarabhai
Cho Ramaswamy
Binayak Sen
Naresh Chandra
Tarun Das
Omkar Goswami
MP Anil Kumar
S Gurumurthy
Sheela Rani Chungath
J Radhakrishnan
Shashi Tharoor
Woefully, my list stops here. Doubtless, you can think of others? (non-celebrities, thank you)
And Googling ethical Indians / clean Indians is of no help. You'll find several Influential Indians though!
PS - On seeing any of these names, if you wish to pigeonhole this blogger's 'ism' - try creativism :)
Adding to the list:
Kiran Bedi
Somnath Chatterjee
Ratan Tata
Vallabh Bhansali
Prakash Amte & Mandakini Amte
Dr V Shanta
Dr V Kurien
For more suggestions, please see comments below.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Stop the bail-out - Let them wake up!

Magsaysay award winner P Sainath writes that "The New York Times notes ruefully in a lead editorial: “Just weeks after the Treasury Department gave nine of the nation’s top banks $125 billion in taxpayer dollars to save them from unprecedented calamity, bank executives are salting money away in billionaire bonus pools to reward themselves for their performance.” Other bailout bandits have held meetings at resorts costing hundreds of thousands of dollars." Read The Jurassic Auto and Idea Park

Auto giants, related sectors, and other oversized Inc. have, over decades, "destroyed both existing and potential public transport. The ‘American Dream’ so far as the automobile went was an imposed nightmare. In Detroit itself, you can see the skeletons of a once alive transport system. All across the country, for decades from the 1920s, they bought up public transport systems and shut them down. Trains were shifted from electric to diesel engines. Sometimes, they were simply done away with and replaced by buses and then cars. Together with Big Oil, Big Auto converted electric transit systems to fuel-based bus systems. In one estimate: In 1935, electric train engines outnumbered diesel train engines 7 to 1. "By 1970, diesel train engines outnumbered electric ones 100 to 1. And GM made 60 per cent of the diesel locomotives." The electric rail system in and around Los Angeles was almost erased."

But it appears that not enough people are asking questions - 99% of the media empathise with the elite and the 'have-all-want-more'. Gelatine-back-boned legislators outnumber the sane few, not only in the land of patented dreams, but also elsewhere.

If Big Auto wants Government doles citing the millions of jobs, let them remodel their assembly lines to make buses and locomotives - public transport will revive, jobs will be safe.

As to possible brand names for the buses and coaches, here are a few suggestions - SORRY / BAILOUT / Autumn2008 / WE-WOKE-UP.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

HAPPY CHILDREN'S DAY - to the child in you

If today is Happy Children's Day, I wish you 365 days of happy children, and childhood!

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Headphones for deaf Ears"- buying what you don't need!

An illustration of how many people end up buying what they don't need (can't use?!)
You may have received this forward, attributed to 'an old man with old thoughts'. (If you have, please skip to bottom of post).
"LATELY, I have been thinking a lot about the Lehman crisis. Spending money that they didn't have and going beyond their means is one of the main reasons for their situation today. In fact that is the cause for the current economic crisis in the US.
When I see all this happening, I can only remember the good old days. Then, karz was bad. People looked down upon those who took loans. Parents would not give their daughter's hand in marriage to a man with loans.

But of course, the times have changed now. Everyone I know has a loan. The buzz word is EMI (equated monthly installment). Today, you can buy everything on EMI - a house, a television, an i-Pod. In fact I know of someone who just bought a fancy BMW 3 series on EMI, instead of buying a cheaper car outright with cash. I mostly prefer to take public transport, but then I am an old man with old thoughts!

Anyway, coming back to what caused the crisis. Imagine having Rs 2 lakh in your bank account, no regular income, yet buying a house worth Rs 65 lakh, in the hope of selling it for a higher price. Even if the price of the house fell by just 5 per cent (that is Rs 3 lakh), you will go bankrupt.

This is what Lehman Brothers did; with around USD 20 billion they went and bought assets worth over USD 600 billion. Isn't it suicidal and simply foolish?
I am sure things would have been different, had I been the head of Lehman brothers. But who wants an old conservative man like me to head a complex financial institution.

But there are a few lessons that we can learn:
1. Live a balanced life and avoid overspending.
2. Don’t buy things we don't need.
3. Don't buy Branded good's.
4. Don’t buy excess Food, Cloths, Cosmetics, Footwear, electronics and
Fashion accessories just think before you buy.
Tip: World still has a lot of growth ahead and the future holds immense opportunities for us. Let us make the most of it and save and invest it wisely instead of wasting our precious little on things we don't need.
5. Try to balance life with work (No one is happy to work in their (profession's).
6. Don't stress out your self, after work try to do some extra activities like swimming, yoga, walking, running where you can divert your mind from stress.
A thumb rule: Health is more important than money.
7. Try to understand each other (Wife and Husband) in financial matters and help each other.
Tip: As soon as you get your monthly salary, set aside a fixed amount, usually 35 per cent, for insurance, savings and investments. You can then spend the rest.
8. Not all loans are bad. Loans that are 'need based' (home loans, education loans) can always find a place in your finances against those that are largely 'want based' (Credit cards, personal loans, car loans).
9. Borrow only if repayment is financially comfortable.
A thumb rule: Keep EMIs within 35 to 45 per cent of your monthly income

In that respect, there is one American who I really respect – WARREN BUFFET. He has lived in the same ordinary house for over three decades, drives his own medium sized car and leads an extremely regular 'middle class' life. If that's all it takes for the richest person on earth to be happy, why do all of us need to take extra stress just so that we can get things which aren't even essential?

Read on -
The above message was dutifully forwarded to a cousin - an epitome of ante-1,2,3,4,5,6,7 above
(He's too busy to read blog posts, I'm sure)
He confessed - "Superb article….you should have sent it a couple of days back….I would have saved 800 Rs which I spent on a panasonic headphone….:( "

No marks for guessing who wrote this: "Of course when the same advice came from the wife before that unnecessary headphone was billed - it fell on deaf ears!! Headphone for deaf ears - what an absolute waste."

So I supplement old gentleman's message with 'QED'!
Pic courtesy - by kind permission of Webradio

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

November Medley - Bharat Ratna, National River, Half-White House

A decade from now, this is how I wish to remember November 5 of a certain year.
"1. The Government announced the award of Bharat Ratna to Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. The newspapers gave him a 1/2 inch space. No channel resounded with his music. A kid's voice could be heard - Who is he, mom?
(Image from India Today site)
Salutations to the Maestro.

The Ganga has been declared as National River.
Best wishes to the Ganga River Basin Authority - may they work with sincerity of purpose to stop pollution and degradation. The newspaper allowed Ganga to take up a little more space.
Perhaps one can feel much happier when listening to Bhupen Hazarika's Ganga behti ho kyon

3. (The thought occured that)  the White House in a certain Nation could be renamed a Half-White House. The newspapers and the channels went disproportionately overboard."
Image from infoplease.com

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Monday, October 27, 2008

1. Deepavali sights. 2. What does शुभ लाभ mean?

Sights are aplenty, sounds have been rather muted this year.Serial lights - readymade rows of flames!

Pretty and colourful decor for the puja areas
Mud lamps of all sizes and shapes, that will form the 'aavali' (row)
Pretty hands will be prettier - these hands will perform Lakshmi puja and will also prepare and distribute sweets.
Boxes that are used for distributing sweets and dry fruits - this is one of the simpler ones.
शुभ लाभ - These words are evident in small and big business establishments. What do they mean? In these days of unbridled private greed (as against public purpose), it will be certainly worth your while to look at what 'Shubh Laabh' means, sourced from a Feb 2004 TOI Speaking Tree article, by K S Ram.
"Good accrual or shubh laabh, is bound to impact your life positively. The important point, therefore, is not quantity but quality: Not 'how much' but 'how'. On the Scales of Life, less profit acquired in a fair manner is weightier than more profit acquired in an ill-gotten manner. Shubh laabh commits a businessman to all aspects of fair-dealing: Good stuff, justly priced, given away in correct weight and measure.
The principle of shubh laabh applies not only to business but also to those who are employees - whether they work for government or private organisations. It would be prudent for all to shun income acquired through underhand means and endeavour to work in a manner that justifies the salary received."

PS 1: I should have said "Pre-diwali sounds have been rather muted". Though cracker shops were not in evidence, sounds have been aplenty and we have received enough earfuls to last us till Diwali 2009.
PS 2: Also, higher-decibel fireworks are followed by audio alarms set off by cars' security systems; those screams, whines and sirens prolong the orchestra for a whole minute.



Friday, October 24, 2008

Coming to terms with a dialect of English

Perhaps I should call it the national language of USA, and even term it a dialect of English if I felt charitable enough. Or I could coin 'Amenglish' - on the lines of other thriving, 'cross-fertilized' tongues like Hinglish, Pinglish, Binglish, Minglish, and umpteen more commonly heard in India. Here are a few objective, light-hearted notes on the pros and cons of language evolution. You'll agree that they are just(ified).

Long ago, my English teacher had marked "Expression!" in red on the margin, while checking a certain phrase in my shool-level essay. I realised that the phrase did not read quite well, and that's how I learnt about "expression" in written language. Now of course, I go by the maxim "Does this phrase or sentence sound right to the polished ear?", and then continue. And I find that I prefer the language in its form that stayed back home on the east side of the Atlantic!

- You need to be politically correct only in the US, elsewhere simply, sincerely conveyed thoughts in plain language (used to) serve the purpose.
- Do we fill fuel, petrol or gas? - That depends not on the crude outlet, but on geographic location
- There may come a time when the colon, semi-colon, comma and their brethren are talked of as 'period' punctuation marks. (remember the clichéd panda who eats shoots and leaves)
- Thank goodness Maria von Trapp accepted the language as is. Remember her plaintive queries when she had to learn the language - "if freeze can be 'froze' and 'frozen', why can't sneeze be 'snoze' and 'snozen'?" and "if the plural of mouse is mice, why can't the plural of house be hice?"

Indian courts are spending years debating laws that may be anachronistic or otherwise. But I am now wary of a few words and their definitions. In the '80s I proudly joined in as my school's choir sang the school song, part of which goes - "the school with children all so gay". (I am sure the song has been overhauled by now). The composer could not have known the other definitions for the word, which have sadly overtaken the earlier, 'purer' meanings.
Also, it is likely that the next generation will wonder what the singer meant when he crooned "I'm happy, gay and contented, why can't you be happy too?". (Perhaps counsel could use this in court to coax a favourable ruling).

I wonder if HL Mencken gave a thought to those thousands of America's native languages and dialects when he wrote his book

English has been doing stylishly well over centuries, without these dandies - AP, MLA, APA, AMA, Chicago/Turabian, Harvard, CGOS, CBE, x, y, z... but why should I fret - these are writing styles in Amenglish, after all.

And don't tell me - "Be politically correct, or else!"


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chandrayaan - launched

That's another stride that India has taken.
Kudos to ISRO family and all of India.
Visit ISRO's website for information and images such as these.(The news channels overdo, with too much added masala, one feels)
What else was evident during the countdown over the past few days? One could hear professional-sounding amateur news persons talk about 'colonising', 'moon real estate development' and more -
Now for some hilarity:
- A major news channel devoted several bytes to a gentleman who has bought land on the moon as a gift to his family, from a website. Lends credence to the word 'lunatic'.
- The domain name BUYLANDONTHEMOON.COM seems to be available. Any takers?
- Read about the hoax at Museum of hoaxes
- Hope you feel reassured after reading Legal Loopholes Help Man Sell the Moon

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Monday, October 20, 2008

'Gate-pass' for Baby Manji Yamada

Glad to post a sequel to an earlier post (August 2008).
Baby Manji Yamada finally leaves for home in the care of Dad and Grandmom. Read details of the legal hassles that ended with the issue of a certificate of identity by the Jaipur passport office.
Here's a wish for Baby Manji - Bon Voyage! And have a happy childhood - the rest will follow...
PS: Want to bet if any of the 'ollywoods' find 'inspiration' in Baby Manji's story?


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Providence issues visiting cards!

Today I'm convinced Providence hands out visiting cards, drives a car, and if required, even takes detours on way to work. Read on...

The errand - to drop middle-aged visiting relatives at the Hazrat Nizamuddin Station in time for a south-bound 11 am express.
The plan - Leave home (25 km from station) at 9 am, allowing for 50 minutes commute time, possible traffic delays and time to settle in reserved berths.

Leave we did at 9, and drove out the gate ... right into traffic Snarl No 1. It turned out that a tipper truck had overturned two km ahead, and the line was that long. A good 20 minutes later, we got past the culprit, and went breezing along, with occasional hiccups at Snarl Nos 2, 3 and 4.

At 10:30, we were short of the target by about 5 km, and held up in SNARL No 5, which was actually a stagnant sea of multi-wheelers. With the clock ticking away uncontrolled, I politely honked to catch the attention of the neighbouring driver.

That's when Providence wound down the window, lent a polite ear, quickly understood the situation and said - "Take the turn to the left as soon as you start moving, then a right, and you'll reach the station just in time". We - my guests and I conveyed our thanks, and continued with prayers - all that we could do sitting there!

Then Providence extended a visiting card and said - "Now let me do some good turn today. You keep right behind me and I'll take that route. In case you miss my vehicle, pl call at that number and I'll guide you". Miracle no 2 took over, the wheels started rolling, and our car stayed right behind Providence's - through a couple of long roads and several traffic lights (Miracles 3,4,5,6). At another junction, Providence had to part ways - after all other good deeds for the day were awaiting their turn at the office.

We were able to follow Providence's parting directions to the 't' - another 2 minutes' drive, stop in front of the entry to station to let passengers get off and run - "you won't be able to park first and then accompany them to the platform".

It was 10:56 when the first-time visitors to Delhi set off on the last stretch from the station's entrance to the door of the nearest coach at Platform No 5, a busy route that included other hurrying travellers, a couple of flights of stairs, and the ubiquitous security frisk and luggage inspection.

After parking, I waited a good 15 minutes for a 'safe and sound' call with thoughts of a possible near-future trip to the same station with the same travellers - after all they'd not seen enough of the city (only its traffic).
"We boarded the train with seconds to spare. Please convey our heartfelt thanks to our guide. We are making our way to our coach", said the Kerala-bound uncle. The message was duly conveyed forthwith.

Our guests' first visit to Delhi (and my first ever trip to HN) is going to remain memorable for several reasons...
And that's why I say: Providence gives out visiting cards - and does not mind the occasional detour!

PS 1 - You may think - Why didn't I hire a call-taxi? But then my guests and I must have entered Providence's 'to-do' list when the train tickets were booked, you see?
PS 2 - Hope I find the 'resources' to do someone else a good turn at some other point of time, just as Mr K did!
PS 3 - For the records - I'm happy to mark Entry No 100 with Providence in attendance!

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

US National Debt - Entropy in the 21st century

(image: news.bbc.co.uk)
Ridiculous? Incredible? Mind-boggling? Flabbergasting? Indecent? There is probably no single word to help convey all that the obese(!) US national debt figures will eventually mean to humans alive now and to several future generations.
So the counter ran out of digits, did it?
Where did it all go? We should surely be able to see where -
- in glass fronted sky-high edifices? - And among the debris in Afghanistan and Iraq
- in over-obese consumers' frames? - And in the hollow eyes and malnourished, bloated underbellies of the world's poor children
- in vulgar luxury infrastructure? - And in dried-up, empty farm lands
- in over-stuffed homes? - And in laid-bare forests
- in gleaming and overflowing supermarkets? - And in grotesque landfills and toxic oceanfills
Entropy - even as the word occurred in the mind, I felt that this term fills in where other words fail. In the field of thermodynamics, Entropy is "a measure of the partial loss of the ability of a system to perform work due to the effects of irreversibility", to cite just one of many definitions.
It is likely that implications of the US national debt will be explained as a kind of entropy.
Apparently it is - I'm not surprised at this - See Entropy: A new World view The authors "seek to analyse the world's economic and social structures by using the second law of thermodynamics, that is, the law of entropy. The authors argue that humanity is wasting resources at an increasing rate, and that will lead to the destruction of our civilization, which has happened before on a smaller scale for past empires. The book promotes the use of sustainable energy sources and slow resource consumption as the solution to delay the inevitable: death by entropy".

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Charkha

"Take to spinning to find peace of mind. The music of the wheel will be as balm to our soul. I believe that the yarn we spin is capable of mending the broken warp and woof of our life. The charkha (spinning wheel) is the symbol for nonviolence on which all life, if it is to be real life, must be based."
Mahatma Gandhi - Harijan, April 27, 1947, p. 122

If you are interested to learn spinning on a charkha, you can get yourself one from Khadi Gramodyog Bhavan. (This box charkha was sourced from the Chennai outlet)
Peter Ruhe of GandhiServe Foundation very kindly shares useful links for getting started with your charkha.
Assembling the charkha
Spinning tips
Instruction manual
To participate in vibrant discussions on personal experiences with spinning, you may like to join a Charkha online community.
Should we see some significance in this year's Oct 2? Gandhiji certainly may wish for that, as each Indian celebrates a festival that day.
About the Charkha: It's easy to assemble; the compact box measures 41cm X 25cm X 10cm.
Listen to Vaishnava jana to...

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Happy Dusshera / Navaratri

Season's greetings - it's festival time.

If you'd like one of these handmade (fabric paint on silk/cotton base), please leave a comment, or visit Kalasaras. These are offered as wedding or house-warming gifts.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

For the country - different shades

"An ace shooter wins gold and the Govt gives over Rs 1 crore in awards. Another ace shooter dies fighting terrorists and Govt pays out Rs 5 lakhs."
Somebody initiated that thought through sms.
The two had similar skills; the targets were different. Each did his bit, contributed his might (mite) for the country. But how very different are the consequences and after effects!
Even as I pondered over that, I came across these verses.
Dear Madame President,

Should I severe the ties that are almost a decade strong?
Should I chew my words and call my decision wrong?
Should I return the trousseau that my mother chose?
Should I turn all the festivities into an affair morose?
Should I go and tell him that I love him no more,
Shattering him again and making his heart sore?

Whose fault is it, dear madame, that I decide thus?
Would you say that it's personal and I should not fuss?
Nothing, my dear lady, is personal about a soldier's life.
For when has he thought of his mom, dad, kid and wife?
He, whose only call is the call of honour, forgets what he was
And becomes what he's forced to be- a number among the Olive Green mass.

He demands nothing and goes about in silence.
Drinking and smoking, when clouds of desolation grow dense.
His mother awaits him and calls up time and again,
He switches off the phone to avoid that voiced pain.
His friends ask him to come (along with two Black Labels)
And see their plush houses and read therein their success' tales.

His wife will wait for months to get some surgery done
As, in that dilapidated SF, caring enough she finds none.
She would remember sadly her starry-eyed days
When what attracted her was his gallant ways.
Never did she realize, that foregoing her Doctorate in the UK
All she would get is this battered house, stale ration and his meager pay.

He was no less- in fact, better than some now white-collared ones.
Only, he thought romantically as one of Mother India's sons,
And chose the call letter from IMA, among several others,
And avowed his commitment to his land and his brothers.
He did push ups, while his colleagues abroad partied
His cousins wore designer labels, while he a "combat" dirtied.

He is unlikely to accompany his wife to that family function
Where she goes alone and starts crying from the junction.
'Coz how would she face her friends and cousins and siblings,
Who would judge her attire, and other material things?
She never was a hedonist, but now she feels the pain
And curses the day when he ceased to remain "sane".

For what else is this, if not utter insanity?
That he sacrifices his dreams at the altar of others' vanity.
He sleeps in trenches along with his boys,
And yet unable to buy his kids' favourite toys.
His kids are born and brought up in his absence
And he kisses their wallet-ed photos in silence.

For the first time, he demanded a share of what he deserves:
An agonized plea to the heads of the land he serves.
The petition goes from table to table, round and round
And he stands still, awaiting good, as if spellbound.
Someone, then, accuses him of hedonism and greed
And lists what he gets, and how it surpasses his need.

He feels cheated and in humiliation decides to take the call
To hang his starred uniform, once and for all.
But will he be able to carry through this decision?
After all, it was he who chose a Permanent commission!
When he decided to join, he overcome all resistance,
But when he decides to quit, he stands a bleak chance.

Why should I, then, be a fool and marry another?
Who, like his band of brothers, will find me a bother!
Why should I let go of my dreams to fuel his self-destructive fire,
When the nation that he serves will find no time to light his pyre?
Why should I, along with him, bear the burden that others discard,
And sacrifice all I have to be called an "emotional retard"?

Why should I not confront him and say-
"I don't want to marry you because you can't nay
What your seniors orders, even if I lay here dying.
I don't want to spend my life waiting for you crying.
I get hurt to see the attitude of the unsympathetic crowd
To ensure whose sleep, your commitment is clear and loud.
They begrudge you, your little pay hike,
This would enable you to buy your coveted bike.
Who weigh your life in an imbalanced scale,
And choose to ignore the path of hardships you trail."

....A soldier's betrothed
A footnote follows the above outpouring:
"This is how every young lady, who is in love with or betrothed to an Army officer, is bound to feel in the wake of the uncertainties surrounding the sixth pay commission. The ladies serve the organization in their own way WITHOUT being on the payrolls. They leave their careers and individuality behind to become a pillar to their men folk. With transfers every three years, forced separations and agonizing civilian apathy, the ladies are forced to limit their horizons. Does it not make sense, then, to shun the Army personnel altogether in the marriage market?"
Feel like quoting JFK's "Ask not..."? Do save your breath, spare a thought instead.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

'Green Earth Machine'

The newspaper today featured the efforts of Foundation for Greentech Environmental Systems at providing viable sustainability solutions stemming from deep concern for the environment. To one who swoons from despair over fellow citizens' non-green attitudes, especially towards their own garbage, the services offered by Asit Nema's team are like the smelling salts.
Among several answers to problems of municipal and domestic waste management, the GEM 'Green Earth Machine' is one that can easily and immediately be used by bungalows, apartment complexes, and even eateries. All you need to do is "sow" kitchen waste into the bin, throw in a few dry leaves or pieces of paper; you'll soon "reap" enough manure to sell or to use in your own garden.
At about Rs 2000/ per bin, your enjoy several returns - you have taken care of your wet waste, you have produced organic manure, and best of all, you return good earth to the Good Earth.
Fingers crossed, I now proceed to my apartment complex's management committee carrying Asit's message "Please spread the word among your friends and colleagues about GEM. We have a wonderful presentation to motivate people to get started and would be happy to come and talk".
Read the newspaper article here

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Redefining Growth to include sustainability

Agricultural growth rate: 9%
Economic growth rate: 3.5%

How perfect, if the growth rates read like this, and not the other way round.
Across nations, economic gurus, governments, media, news-makers - all bask in an artificial glow assumed from the near-double-digit rates.
Over the last year, when the economic growth figures read upwards of 8% and agriculture sector just over 3%, one wishfully thought - "If only they were the other way round".
Today, finally, at least one major TV channel focussed on the issue of redefining growth. (Rohini Nilekani's 'Uncommon Ground')
It is time humankind redefined progress, prosperity and growth. Economic indices will have to include only sustainable development factors as asset-creators, in any and all spheres of human activity. Our very existence entails environmental costs, and add to this each person's (thoughtless) actions, the environmental costs increase several-fold. As of now, very few persons are likely to listen to, let alone understand what people like Sunita Narain of the CSE caution about the kind of development we pursue.
Agricultural land is now as precious as forests. We can no longer continue to afford the conversion of cultivable land for industrial use.
After all what's the use of digitally created green pastures? Can they produce the grains that future generations will need?


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Happy Onam - Onaasamsakal - ഓണാശംസകള്‍

Onam - 12 Sep.
King Mahabali is welcomed warmly with colours and designs in the traditional Onam flower patterns - Pookalams.
Here's a visual treat of designs and colours.


Monday, September 08, 2008

Cold comfort, but the Problem is Inexorable Warming

"Madam, you are the first person to bring your own bag."
This, as I buy a few apples from the fruit vendor and place them in my shopping bag.
To me, this 'award' / 'title' / 'compliment' has been frequent, from greengrocers for the past several years, through my stay in localities in Bangalore, Coimbatore and now Delhi.
As I walk away, a thought occurs, and I turn back to enquire, "How long have you been fruit-vending in this locality?"
"About 5 years..."
"And in all this while have not customers brought their bags along?"
"No madam, they start to argue if I do not offer the the plastic bag..."
To say I am appalled or aghast would be to overstate feelings... 'sad' better relates to what one feels. But the ubiquitous colourless p.bag is evident all over. At the weekly vegetable market, "Bhaiyaa, give me another carrybag...", can be frequently heard while grocery-shopping.
Sprawling malls, wide roads, and tall structures - 'this is a mini Manhattan', a resident proudly claims, even as I discover that there is no practice of segregation of waste - yet.
And so I continue to hope for the best, while writing to housing society management committees, carrying my bag around, and looking forward to 'Clean and Green Delhi'... At these times, the vendors' compliments provide (little) cold comfort...
Wish I could flash these statistics every time - courtesy Poodwaddle.com
(click on the leads to the left, for more figures)
For large-print picture, see here

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Aum Gurubhyo Namaha!

It's Teacher's Day today. (Read about Dr S Radhakrishnan, India's second President whose birth anniversary is celebrated as Teacher's Day every year in India)
When we were seniors in school, we always looked forward to this day, when senior students conducted classes for the rest of the school, while the teachers enjoyed the (much-needed) respite.
The Olympics just went by, and I remember one of my teachers - Mr MTW - the PT master of our fledgeling school in Chennai in the '80s. He is Discipline personified, and expected, encouraged and trained excellence in his students. He easily identified talent, and set up a morning regimen for atheletes, and his perseverance consistently paid off - the school performed well at several sports meets. He was also the teacher incharge of the Road Safety Patrol. Looking back after 20+ years, I wonder at the dedication of most teachers of that age, and earlier. (At that time of course, any kind of efforts at discipline seemed 'imposing', as well as tyrannical!) My batch, and a few junior classes, benefited from his presence during the four formative years of higher secondary studies.
It is somewhat disheartening to see the school's grounds now - what is left of them after multi-storeyed classrooms took over. The completely self-contained atheletics stadium is no more.
Mr W continues to serve in his profession elsewhere in Tamil Nadu now.
Salutations to you and all your brethren, Mr W!


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Jai Ganesha!

Can you make out 15 names?


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Jean Webster's 'Daddy-Long-Legs'

Ever read this novel? You have missed something! When Indrani wrote about hand-written letters, I couldn't help but remember Judy (nee)Jerusha Abbott.
I was happy to get it back from a friend just the other day, and Judy accompanied me all the way from Coimbatore to Chennai.
Read more about the book here, and get a preview here.
Though you may be able to read it online here, courtesy Project Gutenberg, you'll know that it can't equal the feel of curling up cosily well away from the computer, with a favourite cuppa in one hand and a book in the other...
[Then you'll what inspired the title Mummy long-legs...]

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Trees at temples

A pipal tree is usually found in front of temples. Sometimes a combination of two or more species (pipal / jackfruit / mango) mark the entrance to bigger and older temples in Kerala. (In Tamil Nadu you are likely to find combination of pipal and neem trees). It's interesting to see the canopy of mixed foliage, and the different barks growing entwined from their respective roots.
The pipal-mango combine is sometimes called 'Almavu' (intended as a pun for the word for soul in Malayalam).
Pictures of some of them taken during a 'Nalambalam Yatra'. Please click on picture for better views.

The tree(s) at Bharata temple, Koodalmanikyam, Trissur District

The tree(s) at Lakshmana temple, Moozhikulam, Trissur District
The tree(s) at Shatrughna's temple, Payammel, Trissur District.
This kind of parallel coexistence with intertwined barks and roots is likely because the pipal grows easily out of crevasses.
Actual Marriages of trees, and marriage with trees are religious customs in India.


Thursday, August 21, 2008


This is a common house spider in South India, seen here with her egg sac. If I am right, she is H. venatoria - read about this species here.
Ever since I set eyes on them, though, I have always yelled out 'Tarantula!' and my wonderful M-I-L would deftly collect them within the bristles of a broom and encourage the leggy creature to set up camp in the garden.
Now I don't mind them - they are willing caretakers of a lonely house...

Camera Critters
Afterthought - CC means camera-critters, not creepy crawlies! :)

PS 1. In case you are not yet spider-wise, Daddy-long-legs is actually a spider that does not look much different from the web it weaves.
PS 2. But another Daddy-Long-Legs is one of my favourite companions, and is put up in a shelf, too. More about that later!

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Denmark has shown the way!

Hail the Danes!
Now we know for certain that those who continue to deny that global warming is real, and those who think that efforts to combat climate change should begin with the neighbour, are all lazy ignoramuses, acting like ostriches.
Political will alone is enough to bring about a positive change. This applies equally to economic giants and growing economies. Where one eagle eyes untapped oil wells as the solution for energy crises, others think that they should be spared the emission obligations because they are 'growing'.
By introducing more oil-related taxes, CO2 taxes, and building-and-appliance efficiency standards, Denmark has enabled its economy to grow, but also managed keep energy consumption levels almost the same. Since the Arab oil embargo of 1973, Denmark has systematically focused on energy discipline, and today they are energy-independent. Here are just a few innovations that Danes came up with.
- Lights that operate on energy-saving motion detectors
- Flushing cisterns with two flow settings
- Dedicated bike lanes, so more people use cycles to work, rain or shine
- Recycling waste heat for home heating needs
Hope our netas stop yapping about the 'energy needs of a growing economy', and get down to the real business of taking a few harsh decisions. They should of course impose those decisions on themselves first.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Redefine fatherhood, Mr Yamada

Dear Mr Ikufumi Yamada
Your daughter Baby Manji waits for you to take her home. It is likely that you are taking all efforts to work out the legalities, (your baby, born of donated eggs, delivered by a surrogate mother in India, and therefore Indian citizen by birth). "Indian law does not allow the adoption of a girl by a single father". But you don't have to adopt - whoever heard of adopting one's own?
So I await an update in the news, about how you arrived to escort Baby Manji back to Japan. I had read this poem long ago: "Why God made little girls"- you'll soon find out, when you take Manji home.

"God made the world with towering trees,
Majestic mountains and restless seas.
Then paused and said , "It needs one more thing...
Someone to laugh and dance and sing.
To walk in the wood and gather flowers...
To commune with nature in quiet hours."
So God made little girls
With laughing eyes and bouncing curls,
With joyful hearts and infectious smiles,
Enchanting ways and feminine wiles.
And when He'd completed the task He'd begun.
He was pleased and proud of the job He'd done.
For the world, when seen through little girl's eyes
Greatly resembled Paradise."

Best wishes to you and Manji,
Manji's wellwishers.
PS: You can use http://translate.google.com/translate_t?sl=en&tl=ja, to read the message in this letter.

Link to newspaper story: The Hindu, 07 Aug 2008


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A home, far from the madding crowd

I have written earlier, and posted several pictures of this green campus. All day long birds sing, leaves rustle in the breeze, and branches sway to the wind, and this music more than makes up for the highway din, also filtering in through the window.
At daybreak and dusk, a real orchestra breaks out from a couple of generously-canopied banyan trees as crows, mynahs, cuckoos, warblers, sparrows and several other common garden birds of India exchange the day's notes, chirping nineteen to the dozen. You can't help but listen to distinct altos, sopranos and tenors as they blend to cheer even tone-deaf ears...
Those banyans must be the equivalent of dense urban neighbourhoods, for why else would a pair of mynahs choose a functioning street lamp to make their home? Have a look at this lamp that stands by our gate.
From where I watched them, the mynah's house looks quite inviting and cosy...

Note the inverted arch that serves as the threshold, and the warm glow that pervades by night, and the comfortable shade by day. I should remember to enlist this couple's services when we decide on building a nest for ourselves.
If you feel like writing to them, or sending them house-warming or christening gifts, here's their address -
Lamp-post No 3,
SP-3, Main Road,
Phone (pp) - 0422-268xxxx
You're also welcome to visit my winged neighbours any time...
Update: When I called the electrician and explained the dimness of the street light, I was warmed by the response. "Madam, why don't we wait till the young ones leave the nest?"

Camera Critters

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Coimbatore's 88888 campaign

Coimbatore city has its own share of do-gooders, Residents Awareness Association of Coimbatore, Siruthuli, Exnora International are a few action groups that do their bit, and show others the way to better civic and environmental sense.
Following on the lines of the Earth Hour observed by several cities, Coimbatore district Exnora has suggested that lights be switched off for 8 minutes at 8 pm on 08 Aug 2008. Small beginning, but commendable nevertheless.
(The timing will coincide with the commencement of the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony, scheduled for 8:08:08 pm, on 08-08-2008)


Thursday, July 31, 2008

The priceless - and the valueless!

Sorting household goods into 'retain' / 'give away' / 'recycle' heaps is therapeutic, I find. Unearthing this and that, from shelves, cupboards, niches beneath mattresses and old trunks, what do I rediscover? Some certainly priceless stuff, several more valueless - but each single item worth one or more gray cells of memory. Some 'precious' possessions acquire even more valuable sheen over the years; art, antique and jewellery collectors will tell you all about that. Several more goods take on measureless sentimental value - things even the kabadiwallah may refuse to carry away. In the armed forces, you acquire a collection of mementoes that grows with every place of posting - these are things that (should) mean the whole world to the person whose name is inscribed therein...

This time around, we have stuck to the decision that we would be ruthless - no room for things that were not used, not even seen, through 5 moves in 10 years. So here are the 10 boxes, (yes, we managed to meet the 10-box-challenge) of books, kitchen stuff, clothing, furnishing, and minimal showcase memorabilia, awaiting a move across the subcontinent.
As to other stuff, informative magazines (National Geographic / Outlook Traveller / Voyager) will reach a village library in Kerala, along with an antique but usable Pentium 133 Desktop. A few pieces of dated electronics will find their way to an electronics recycling mart in town. A variety of toys and other items should reach a children's home later this week.

Here are a couple of pictures showing one of the items from my priced possessions. Don't even attempt to tag a value to it! This is a handmade gift from a valued friend, who'll be reading this from somewhere in the globe, I hope...
(Please click on picture to understand it better)

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Catch them Young, this way

Have you been dreaming of seeing a whole generation sensitised to issues of Sanitation, Environment, Respect for Diversity and Individual empowerment? The Aseema Trust, Chennai is doing just that, through their novel project "Spin a Yarn.. Self and Society" in Ten schools of Chennai. With the support of Sir Dorabjee Tata Trust, Devika and her team have started to teach spinning of Charkha to 12-year-old students of ten local schools.
One wishes the team hurdle-free progress.
Aseema has found a practical way to perpetuate the spirit of self-reliance immortalised by the Charkha.
Look up the other projects of Aseema Trust here
Watch for a few seconds Gandhiji spinning at the Charkha here

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Of Man Vs Nature - Dear Squirrel, a confession

If you are a frequent traveller on Indian highways, you are bound to have noticed carcasses, small and large, of birds and stray beings, that have gone under many a wheel. If only we were not always in a hurry, we could train ourselves to 'live and let live'.
This is in memory of a friendly neighbourhood squirrel...read on.

I saw and watched you everyday
In the balcony, the trees and the lawn
Scampering with your family and friends
Seemingly care-free and happy

Someone wanted more light
So they cleared away the foliage
Your home in distant trees was saved
But I lost your winged friends

Forever, it seemed then
Before new green life sprang out
Irrepressibly kindled a spark
in the eyes again

Then I woke to renewed chirps
could watch you, and flying colours
Till one day as I rode out
You, usually quick, scampered the wrong way

Were you in a great hurry? My reflexes
were not enough - the wheel rolled
over your sweet nose, but that was enough.
I feel for you, as I do for the green…


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

60+ kgs of gold, and growing!

When I wrote on the subject of gold in GIAS, I decided to recount a related story here.
There was this girl whose name meant gold. She forbade her parents from buying silks and jewelery for her wedding, and with the groom's consent (he also had a hearty dislike of pomp and glamour), the wedding was a 5-minute affair, (extended, regretfully, by the video-people) conducted in the sitting-room of her parents' house.
Her father-in-law, hailing from a traditional gold-amassing state, was happy - after a fashion. He let the bride know that Interested Peers in the Family Circle queried him about the amount of jewelery the new D-I-L brought along. That bride is still wondering if her answer was passed on - "Please tell them that more than 60 kgs of Gold arrived in the house, and is likely to expand further!"


Friday, July 18, 2008

Hearts in the right place

Continuing from Raji's entry. Please help to spread the word, even if you have already acted on a mail forward.
This last-page picture from The Hindu caught the imaginaion, so I posted it here.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Message from a mother to News makers and News breakers

The media tells me
You keep your child
We only want his innocence
The ads tell us
You keep your child
Here are things he needs to grow

The jingle shouts out
so what if he's young?
He'll soon grow up. he should know this and that
The shows in page 3
propagate artificial glitter
and tell imagination to lie low

To them I try to say, gently at times,
Please - let him be?
You and I know that there is a world
beyond pixels and bytes
Spare his senses,
let him discover its rights and wrongs.

Having said that, let me share some age-appropriate anti-TV measures I have used over the years, whenever mindless viewing overtook the edutainment aspect. (Some of the measures are impractical for daily implementation).
1. De-tune the addictive channels.
2. Help the remote get lost
3. Disconnect cable connection. (When that's no longer enough, remove cable out of sight).
4. Keep the TV in a locked room
5. Discontinue cable subscription.
6. Turn the TV to the wall, as close to it as possible (ingenious, I thought - my latest option)
7. Pack the TV in its box.
8. Adult abstinence, leading by example - (my personal favourite)

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

A bright inflorescence - chethi flowers

Had brought the sapling from a neighbour's garden in Annanad (Chalakudy, Kerala). Blossomed after a year. This is the darker red variety of Ixora coccinea

The flowers immediately bring to mind the lyrics of the popular chethi mandaram devotional

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