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...)

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?