Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Rethink on the Indian Pledge...




Wednesday, May 07, 2014

More to the Beach than Meets the Eye...


Don't these queries make you curious at least, even if they have not created any consternation in you?

If you visit the Thengapattinam Beach between Trivandrum and Kanyakumari, you can see solid concrete octopods (core locs) - thousands of them being stacked to build seawalls and breakwaters to protect the fishing harbour. It turns out that ports and coastal structures are being built along India 5400 km long coastline without getting to know enough about the coastal dynamics.

Cdr Puthur has suggested a theory of how coasts get formed and get eroded, in clear language and with convincing logic. Travel along the coastline "long necklace ornamented with beautiful wave-lashed beaches, with sands white, brown, golden and glittering black" with Cdr Puthur and Google Earth. If you love the beach and the vast open sea, you must undertake this journey to realise that beaches are eroding, and may completely disappear in the not too distant future.

A story so well told, but certainly not fiction.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Friday, March 21, 2014

The State & The Sea. And The State of the Sea


Crows are intelligent birds. All you need is a few minutes of your time and plenty of patience to observe the creature foraging for tidbits. I could do just that for a whole hour when I visited a popular beach in the Kovalam stretch on a mildly sunny Sunday morning in February. Several tourists reached the beach and set about such a routine - spread a beach towel or mat, leave belongings, use another towel to lightly 'hide' them, before heading seaward.
My subject crow waited in the wings, hopped down from a perch, stepped and jumped on the sand to reach one set of spread-out stuff, and  tilted the head to delicately peck at the covering towel to try and look for the right kind of stuff - if any - left by the careful tourists. Did I say I watched patiently? The crow beat me at that - he exhibited due diligence, patience and perseverance while looking for what he wanted.




 

 

But this post is not about this crow or any other. This is about a different kind of patience that both fascinated and shamed me. A family of three stepped into the water, each parent automatically taking turns at watching out for their young child, who would alternate between adding 'brick and mortar' to her sand castle, and playing in the shallow waves. 
This post is not about this child either. This post is about one of her parents.


Even as I watched the crow, the child, the tourists' (by-now familiar) routine (prepare spot on beach, wade into the water, wade out in a while, lie down to sunbathe), I could not help but notice that particular tourist - the parent - make several trips in and out of the water. 

Each trip back from the water saw the parent hold a short stick, with something hanging at one end, reach the adjacent rocky ledge (the ledge serves as the access to the Kovalam tourism police post) deposit the item, walk back into the waves, and repeat this sequence. 
In between trips, the parent forgot neither to help out with the child, nor to have the pleasure of wading and swimming in the waves. After all, that is the purpose for which many tourists make a beeline to tropical shores - to escape extreme winter elsewhere in our country and in the world. 


Back to the parent. I counted 21 trips. Then I gave up. Convinced that this parent cared for the child, and cared equally well if not more for the kind of world in which that child was growing. 
If one tourist can try to fish out rubbish from the sea trip after patient trip - all in the course of a brief morning sojourn to the beach - in the hope of trying to 'clean up' a portion of the beach to be used by the child, imagine the enormity of our individual and collective responsibility. 
We - each of us - have to stop dumping waste as we please
We also have to start cleaning the mess to which we have collectively contributed.

“Many of the fishermen here have been telling that recently, more than fish, it’s plastic that gets caught in their nets,” he said, pointing out that with more efforts on from various quarters to pump the city’s waste into the sea, shoreline fishing was being made a sitting duck for the ill-effects of all kinds of pollution, and not just plastic." [Quoting from  "A turtle’s tryst with waste" (local newspaper report dated 8 Feb 2014)]

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Stop the Cloning of Cities!

Indian cities have been trying hard at developing into clones of big cities across the world, and succeeding. (Aside: In the matter of solid waste management they are just clones of each other). Bangalore was a laid back garden city till about a couple of decades ago, even though it was the aerospace-cum-electronics hub of India. If we put together all the pros and cons of living comfort, standards of living, and quality of life, we will find that the present Bengaluru has unfortunately lost its overall charm.

We have let globalisation and technological revolutions invade our urban spaces and our mind spaces so much, and at too fast a pace, that entire sections of urban residents have forgotten to pause, look around, smell the earth, and think of whole lots of other people to whom globalisation has meant deprivation, more financial burden and regress.

An area of the city, 8 Jan 2003 imagery

Same area 27 Jan 2013 imagery
Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) is a uniquely endowed, endearing, overgrown village. But it is increasingly obvious that this city is also hurtling down the ‘progress and development’ path blindly, with foolhardy zeal and no imagination whatsoever. Think of the city 20 to 30 years from now: only more glass facades, more high-rise match boxes marring the green skyline, and humongous concrete masses looking down on snarling traffic, tempers adding heat to treeless avenues...

Mahatma Gandhi is said to have termed the city of Trivandrum as “Evergreen city of India”, blessed as it is with plenty of tree cover, and nestled on small hills between the Western Ghats and the coast.

It is evident that with globalisation, newer technologies and industries invade and take over / overtake the very thought processes of a city and end up thrusting a narrow concept of development. Prosperity and well-being of a city starts to be measured against such yardsticks as ‘world-class’ infrastructure and the upward mobility of city residents. The public have also been manipulated and steadily moulded to believe in advertised images and perceptions of what is desirable. The unnatural creation and projection of images of perfection and desirability by the media, advertising, marketing firms, and authorities who tout ‘global standards’ delude the masses into believing that their locality and the city will attain that kind of picture-perfection - if they have wider roads, bigger buildings, more indoor comfort and malls in which to ‘chill out’. (Parks and gardens aren’t ‘cool’ enough, you see).

If you stand on a stretch of MG Road, you can easily forget that it is MG Road, Thiruvananthapuram; it could be MG Road, any other city. Do we need that kind of development that swallows a city’s original character? Nearly all of India’s metropolitan areas and urban spaces have gone that way. Cities have expanded to encompass suburban areas and have become nightmares to residents and the already (mostly) clueless administrators. Delhi’s tentacles extend to several sub-cities, Mumbai grows into the sea leaving its heart far behind, Chennai pincodes have grown to 600117 and Bangalore’s now joyless veins clutch outer villages. Why is Ananthapuri being compelled to follow those models?

  • Heritage structures and rich, green spaces on Government-owned land should be left intact, preserved for posterity while possibly serving some public purpose.
  • All the remaining green and open spaces within city limits – precious few of them – should serve as well-maintained oxygen pockets.
  • We need to reclaim, revamp and take care of public places that had had grandiose plans bestowed on them by successive Governments.
  • Why can’t we - concerned city residents – play a role in defining our vision for the city, guided by the principles of aesthetics, abundant local wisdom, heritage preservation and Nature conservation?
In this context, it is good to note the introduction of programmes like the new Urban Design Master’s course offered at the CET, Trivandrum. Let us hope that such courses inculcate a holistic, long-term vision for cities. The budding future town planners should realize that there is much more at stake than the fortunes of the brick and mortar industry.

A city’s growth lies not in numbers of Big Retail, multiple ‘brandnamas’, outsize cars, cooler and swankier malls, but in the numbers of residents who feel proud and happy about the right things – health, clean air, welcoming public places, mind-invigorating outlook of fellow-citizens. We must preserve what is left of the city’s character. Even if it means calling a stop to mindless real-estate expansion and ridiculous numbers of car dealerships.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

CharadupinnikkaLi

Profiles of 4 faces up for grabs.... 

See the picture that shows Charadupinnikkali or Urikkali (cord-plaiting dance). This is a life-size exhibit at the Koyikkal Palace near Nedumangad. Picasa Google rather likes the complexions, and asks who they are. If you fancy any of the four profiles, claim it, and I'll let Picasa know. 
urikkaLi

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Flaminco? Flamingo? Flamenco!... Flamenkarnatic


Flaminco? Flamingo? Flamenco!
"Spanish Flaminco Kalaripayattu Fusion" and "Spanish Flaminco Carnatic Fusion", reads the grand Kerala Sangeet Natak Akademi announcement about an event that was scheduled to take place at the Co-bank Auditorium in Thiruvananthapuram, during the recently concluded IFFK 2013.

Having heard of the Spanish Flamencoand with suitable expectations, we seated ourselves; among other 'expectant' audience. On stage was just the traditional lamp. 

Item Number 1: The singer has a mike, but he stands close to the dancer and, cheek-to-cheek, he chants a few mantras. There are no props on stage, but the 5-ft traditional brass lamp that both artistes light together. The dancer’s costume is a simple 2 piece garment, and her style is a mix of Bharathanatyam and Kathakali. 

Item Number 2: The dancer has changed into a flowing gown; a Spanish guitarist and drummer join them on stage. The singer croons Tulasi-daLa mula in a format nowhere near the classic rendition of that popular Tygaraja kriti. The dancer’s routine includes several mudras, footsteps, and yoga postures. The anupallavi is followed by a Spanish song, and the kriti resumes. The dancer has now adjusted her gown length, and performs more steps with a new prop: a cape-like shawl.

Item Number 3: The next piece is a Hindi bhajan. The slim dancer is now attired in an off-white skirt and half-blouse, and she performs more steps that reveal well-rehearsed combinations of classic hand gestures and dance steps.

About the performance:
The Voice of the Body is a performance by the Spanish dancer Mónica de la Fuente and Ravi Prasad, a musician and artistic director from Kerala, in which an invisible thread intertwines two bodies on stage that vibrate in unison. Breath becomes sound, voice and song, movement, gesture and mudra. The show explores the seed that evokes each emotion, weaving voice into body in search of the connections between voice and body. The invention of new vocal codes shapes new contemporary languages, sounds that illustrate each tension or action created by the movement of different forms of expression. Movement flows among classical codes of the performing arts of India and the spontaneous creation of others.
In this space for exploring the various languages of both sound and movement, connections and unexpected encounters take place which allow the richness of each expression to be savoured and reveal the paths of cultural encounters. Flamenkarnatic stems from the encounter and exchange between artists from India (Ravi Prasad) and Spain (Mónica de la Fuente as dancer, José Salinas as singer and Carlos Blanco on the guitar) who, rather than create a ‘collage’ of virtuosity, seek to delve into the deepest roots and find these expressions which are the ‘mothers of the dance and music of all ages’, as García Lorca stated. This concert is an intercultural journey undertaken by the gypsy tradition of Flamenco in Spain into its Indian roots along a path that returns to the south of India in an emotional encounter between Flamenco music, voices, Carnatic and Hindustani compositions and Flamenco dancing techniques.
(Apparently, the show premiered in 2012 in India. See “Twain in tune”. There is no post-performance review though. Why?)

So now you know. That we witnessed neither flamingos in flight nor the Spanish Flamenco. But why did the KSNA, not pay attention to this by-no-means-small detail in their announcements? 

For the other fusion - between a Spanish art form and an Indian martial art form, see "First theater performance of "Atma Malabar" at IFFK 2013

Friday, January 10, 2014

Some 'Bemusings' on Cameras and Photography

Unobtrusiveness ought to be the first lesson in photography etiquette for amateurs and professionals alike, before they pick up their instrument, lest it becomes a weapon that has the potential to disturb others in unexpected, unpleasant ways. I am proud to have photographer-friends who respect this etiquette.

The concert was about to begin. A piano-cello ensemble. The announcer introduced the artistes, and requested the audience to turn off the mobiles or “keep them silent”. As he walked off-stage, a popular ring-tone went off, so back he came, and reiterated his request. This time he included an extra-cautionary note: “Please note that there are no extra amplifiers, so audience cooperation is truly needed to keep the acoustic experience pleasant.”

Photo courtesy - goethe-zentrum.org
The concert commenced. The cello player faced the audience, but with head always bowed down, eyes running over the music notes, even as his hand ran over the strings. The piano artiste sat facing stage left, and presented a demure side view to the gallery. The end of each brief piece was topped up by a bow or two from the artistes.

If you have ever had the pleasure of attending an Indian classical music concert, you will be able to recall the lively expressions on the main musician’s face, his eye contact and occasional hand gestures (well-timed with the beats) to his accompanying artistes, and the overall life throughout the 2+ hour session. A still picture accompanied by a knowledgeable write-up of the concert can even compensate for a full video recording of the concert. (I have noticed that print media photographers leave the venue after clicking a few shots).

So for the life of me I could not understand what the camera wielders were trying to capture. They were obviously not the video-recording kind, they were too restlessly active in the execution of their task.
Now remember there were no amplifiers? Towards the rear of the hall these photographers were having a field day – literally, so much so that the clicks of the innumerable huge DSLR’s were by themselves producing beats, albeit discordant ones. Sitting among the audience, I was getting more ‘music’ than i bargained for - the frantic clicks of several shutter-release buttons! I wondered too what they were trying to capture. One artiste’s bowed head, another’s side silhouette, and the 'wooden countenances' of the instruments?

It turns out that not all camera wielders are professionals. Most are merely proud / flashy possessors of those long-nosed contraptions that are capable of prying uncomfortably close and deep. The extendable lens is like a relentless proboscis that tries to penetrate into another’s peace and privacy, thankfully without physical contact. An education officer with the world Wildlife Fund reveals that such fancy-camera wielders were making nuisances of themselves in forested areas intruding on wildlife territory without so much as a by your leave. Imagine the scene – a bemused elephant is staring at a trunk-like protrusion with a biped attached to the other end...

Another event, same venue. (called "The Voice of the Body" - Eka-dvayam) The show was a fusion of ‘Spanish Flaminco’ [sic], carnatic music and Indian classical dance forms, presented during the International Film Festival of Kerala. This time the irritant was flash photography. The stage was intentionally dark, but one amateur had to capture that darkness, after all! I think it is understood that you don’t use flash when taking pictures at shows that involve extra light effects.
(A word about international fusion experiments in music and dance. Who can carry out such experiments? Experts in their own field, who can understand, appreciate and respect other's music, not someone who exploits one form assuming that the viewer is an ignoramus. Having said that, I feel that critical reviews of fusion experiments are extremely rare! In this show, there was a Spanish guitarist, a Spanish drummer - who drummed on a box he was seated on, and the Eka-dvayam couple. The dancer changed and adjusted costumes - that could have been designed with more subtlety - right on stage, the singer's music was an unimpressive mix of chants and classical kriti/bhajan lyrics).

Unobtrusiveness ought to be the first lesson in photography etiquette for amateurs and professionals alike, before they pick up their instrument, lest it becomes a weapon that has the potential to disturb others in unexpected, unpleasant ways. 

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Downsides of Tourism, Progress and Development-2 - Holy and unholy truths


Are our temples too benevolent and too sacred to be maintained physically clean?

Why do pilgrims travel far and wide, in an effort to cleanse their souls while caring a hoot for the surroundings they visit? Be it Sabarimala, or Rameswaram, or any other holy abode of the Lord, pilgrims leave too many tell-tale (tell-truth actually) signs of their visit: used food packages, used clothes, used water bottles, and the worst habit of all: human expectorated spittle all over the place.

Rama theertham (most holy, but nearly dead)
There are well over 50 theerthams in the holy town of Rameswaram. 22 of them are located within the main temple and several more are scattered  over a few km distance in multiple directions.

Most of the ones frequented by tourists show plenty of signs of poor maintenance and care, by both authorities and tourists. At the Rama Theertham, no fish survives in the pond, you can see a few live ones struggling in a bucketful of water for the purpose of being fed by the pilgrims.


Lakshmana Theertham (maintained)
So what I mean to say is that there is no dearth of wells and water. Sea water, holy pond water, well water. All offering different tastes, and some possessing curing and purifying properties.

Jada Theertham (clean and clear)
One view of beach at Dhanushkodi

Villondi Theertham, on a pier jutting out to the sea

Rameswaram island has been invaded and taken over by packaged drinking water and immense amounts of plastic. So if you believe in 'Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu' seek solace within yourself!

a vessel merchant's ware is only packaged water

collections of used water bottles

Friday, December 27, 2013

Downsides of Tourism, Progress and Development-1 - "Water, Water Everywhere....?"

Truly bemused.
At the multiple versions of progress and development in my country.
We 'progressed' from a smaller car to a small car about 10 years ago, that takes us conveniently on short road-trips to simple destinations, for down-to-earth purposes.

Roads, cars, water
Earlier this week, we traveled to Rameswaram and Dhanushkodi to take in sights of the bluest expanse of seas, temples tiny and huge, holy theerthams, cyclone-ravaged ruins, and awesome achievements in infrastructure.
Salt in the making
 A modified salt-making process could provide potable water, surely?
Ruins at Dhanushkodi

Azure seas - sight for city-sore eyes, but livelihood for fisherfolk 

For faster and smoother progress
But with the senses long awakened to the rather obvious 'downsides' of tourism, we have returned with less solace (not that we went seeking any).
Women and girls with water pots in their hand and heads are a familiar sight all over arid regions in India, for a long time now, Independence notwithstanding.
Pan to Dec 2013. Here are impressions from the route to Rameswaram along the East Coast Road.
Is she asking me: What's new you think, lady?

A few potfuls. While we are guilty of 'enjoying' whole tankfuls...

"Yes, our business is prospering"

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Power of the Radio

Did you get to read "War of the worlds in the theatre of the mind"? 

I did, and sent a mail message to the author, appreciating the article, and the power of the radio. (The author is a retired Deputy Director-General of AIR and former Station Director of AIR, Chennai). 


I share the author's reply - "I greatly value your comments about my article on the radio play 'War of the Worlds' and your appreciation for AIR's Public Service Broadcast.As you have rightly said AIR, Thiruvanathapuram is an acclaimed leader in broadcasting. I had the privilege of heading that station during 2003-2004.You may be surprised to see the attachment to this mail (Letters to the Editor-The Hindu dated 13 Nov.2009) which always finds a mention in my presentations on how AIR is held in high esteem by the intelligentsia."


The attachment contained a digital copy of one of my letters to the editor (can be accessed online here). 


So have no doubts at all that "What goes around comes around"!  as Vivek just noted.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Insensitive ads

A couple of recent print ads seem quite insensitive / ironical,  or a combination of both, given the glaring and present reality.
Farmer, forgive the MoA for they know not.....

Own a piece of earth? cosmos? universe? Indeed!

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

A newspaper for kids in School



A little contrived I thought, but I wish them all the best.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Shimshipa Tree at the Trivandrum Museum campus

Shimshipa Vrksham, the species of tree associated with Sita at Lanka

Flowers of the Shimshipa tree

The canopy of the Shimshipa tree

Needed, such an Anti-Corruption Agency, a "Sharp-Fanged Outfit"

"One major reason for this difference is the KPK. Since it began operating in 2004, the KPK has investigated and prosecuted well over 300 cases, including dozens of members of Parliament, ministers, heads of government agencies, governors, mayors, judges and police officers. It has an astonishing 100 per cent conviction rate and has recovered state assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars." 

Surely all our well-meaning whistle-blowers can get together and bring about a similar organization?
A ‘gecko’ with a taste for corruption - The Hindu

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Mid Day Meal Tragedies

In the defense organization where I served, every meal prepared in the mess for serving personnel is tasted by the officer on duty, well before meal time.
I am sure there must be such procedure in the MDM system of the HR ministry. It is possible that such a routine is not followed by (the mostly) indifferent staff?
Have a look at the MDM website. All features of the site relate to budget and monetary aspects of the scheme. A message to the new MOS - "In your tenure can you please make the HRD ministry’s MDM website relate much better to the human aspect?" did not elicit any response, of course.
Tragic incidents will continue to take place, while the website continues to offer, at best, bland / cold / hard facts transferred verbatim from the paper files at your ministry. Achievements would get recorded, and these unfortunate incidents will be found in only news archives.
Utterly saddened....
What it takes to deliver midday meal | Down To Earth

"Go Plastic Free: Find your Strength"

Friends, Indians, country-people, lend me your intellect-connected senses. 
I had the opportunity to speak to Mr Selvam, who runs a roadside recycling business near Ulloor in Trivandrum, Kerala. All sorts of plastic and packaging material do go for recycling. If only you would take the trouble of segregating the waste generated in your house. I do. 
I clean milk sachets and stack them
I empty polythene packages that dry grocery comes in and collect them over a period.
All you need to do is take the trouble of segregating readying them for the recycler. If you cannot deposit the stuff yourself, Mr Selvam and colleagues can arrange for pick-up. 

Dear friends, these days there are two aspects of public life that stink in this capital city of God's own country. One is the garbage, the other is politics. As concerned citizens, we can certainly do our bit for reducing the ill-effects of the former. As to the latter, we have to let our 'representatives' battle it out on the streets, in the Legislative Assembly, and at cozy tête-à-têtes with the media.


Have a good look at this infographic, courtesy  Go Plastic Free: Find your Strength


plastics mindmap-low-res

"The dishonesty in counting the poor"

The dishonesty in counting the poor
Excellent and hard-hitting... but targeted at people, already thick-skinned, who fortify themselves in air-conditioned boardrooms located on the top floors of glass edifices.
These 'planners' look at figures on paper and at numbers crunched out by lifeless statistical codes, and then doubtless carry out extremely specialised normalisation and other adjustments.  Reminds me of the STORY about a group of scientists who tested a particular pattern of monkey behaviour ("monkey ladder banana experiment")

Read Between the Lines - 1

"This is the point that I brought back to Washington — that it would be to the U.S.’s advantage to actually work with the Indians because there are things the Indian nuclear complex can do in their facilities that we no longer can do. There are people that they have and programmes that they have that we have abandoned.
As the U.S. looks seriously to get back into the nuclear energy business, it should look towards India as to how to do cooperative research for the benefit of the Americans."
My take: The interviewer's ndtv affiliations are apparent. The interviewee's current interests are not quite evident though. Also, what was the purpose of the current visit? 
"it would be to the U.S.’s advantage to actually work with the Indians" - more clarity needed here. US's ECONOMIC advantage perhaps?
"As the U.S. looks seriously to get back into the nuclear energy business, it should look towards India as to how to do cooperative research for the benefit of the Americans."
-this is somewhat clear. the "business" of nuclear energy
"What India can learn from Fukushima" should have been titled Experts continue to be Non-committal

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Opening India's door to More Junk?

1. Big Retail = Consumerism + High Volume Junk (Packaging + processed food).
2. Will the Govt look at FDI in Recycling and Waste management, please?
3. Will the Recycling be made a sector, and given importance, ahead of manufacturing?
4. Will Big Retail take all the junk back to their countries?
30 % local sourcing norm can't be met: Walmart

Shade - and shades!

Shade - and shades!

Lest we forget

Lest we forget

Think about it -

WISH YOU A RESOLUTION-FREE, CLUTTER-FREE, INWARD-LOOKING, LESS MATERIALISTIC, LESS POLLUTED, MORE EMPATHETIC, CONTENTED NEW YEAR