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...)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Benazir Bhutto: The daughter's turn....

Isn't it reminiscent of a day in May 1991? When another leader of promise met a gruesome end just before elections? I'll not attempt any more parallels, of course.

Benazir Bhutto's end seems to signify a kind of loss. Actually the feeling may stem out of the hope that this time around BB may have done / intended to do actual good for her country, after the elections?

We will await all the rhetoric from the media, and watch what kind of 'democracy', if ever, unfolds within our neighbour's borders.
May her soul RIP


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Legal use of '-in-law'?

A lawyer's nameplate in a posh locality of Chennai reads
Govt Law College

I wonder if he has law students or students-in-law in his class...

What is the origin of '-in-law'? One Google result says 'When you form a JV with your spouse, her (his) mother is your mother - by law!'


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Mindless Exploitation

The Chalakudy is my 'river-in-law', but means more than a river to me. A decade ago, the banks welcomed an awed bride into the family. That bride knew the value of water, and of pristine surroundings, having grown up in the city of the Adyar, the Cooum & the Buckingham Canal. Idyllic setting: house by the river, potable water, sandy banks, greenery as far as the eye can see...
In her westward journey, the river flows by the busy town of Chalakudy (Trissur district, about 75 km north of Kochi). A concerned writer laments that a seventh dam is planned at Athirappilly, where the river cascades magnificently. This, despite the fact that there are sane alternatives to generate the intended 160MW of electricity, and at much lesser cost than the dam's Rs 650 crore budget.

Over the past ten years, I have been witness to a rather rapid change in the waterflow. Upstream effluents and illegal sand-mining have almost stopped the flow, the water is murky, and weeds have taken hold, the river is little more than a canal now...
Locals recall the wide, white sandy banks at each turn of the river, and that they would routinely walk across the river to reach the town, and in the monsoon, the river came a-calling at one's door-step...
The intended dam will reduce the falls to a trickle and drown 140 hectares of forest area. Very high price to pay for insignificant gains.
May better sense prevail!
(here are 'then' and 'now' pics)
Here's a travel jotting of one of our Chalakudy sojourns

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"Mom, what's a...?"

Discussing a lesson on water pollution with my 9-year old, I explained 'landfill' while giving him a gist of waste segregation and disposal practices in our cities. A week later, I got proof that he had rightly assimilated what I meant.

I stack grocery wrappers in a small store-room attached to the kitchen, for reuse or for recycling. During a morning rush I had pulled out a wrapper from the stack, and down cascaded the whole lot. My son passed the store while readying his lunch-bag. Taking one look at the floor of the store, he pronounced..."That's Mom's landfill"

Thursday, December 13, 2007

That's cool. Another Google offering

I just tried out good young Google's online transliteration offering.

Here is a well known Gandhian thought that reads thus in four different languanges. All I had to do to was type out in English letters the word / words of any of the available Indian languages (Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada as of now)
Satyameva Jayate is of course a phrase in Sanskrit.
(Check your browser settings if you are unable to read the fonts. See Google's offers of help)

தமிழ் (Tamil) - வாய்மையே வெல்லும (Vaaymaye vellum)

മലയാളം (Malayalam) - സത്യമേവ ജയതേ
हिन्दी (Hindi) - सत्यमेव जयते
ಕನ್ನಡ (Kannada) - ಸತ್ಯಮೇವ ಜಯತೆ

But hush! Not a word to my son about this.....he's just started attending classes where he learns to read and write Malayalam. [Aside: This is his father's tongue, but submitted as his mother-tongue in school records; the mother's tongue being the much older sibling Tamil]
Sorry I digressed. As I said, my son, happy attending classes now, will be happier to give the classes a miss if he learns of Google's wonderful tool.
So mum's word is: mum is the word!


Saturday, December 08, 2007

Insufficient quorum indeed!

It's probably routine that the Rajya Sabha is adjourned due to lack of quorum.
["One tenth of the total number of members of Rajya Sabha constitutes the quorum for a meeting of the House"].

The latest was on Thursday, Dec 6, 2007, when the Upper House closed shop during a discussion on NREGP.

Not even a tenth? Isn't something wrong? Aren't we, the people entitled to know (under the RTI Act) whether the elected or nominated representatives are physically available at both Houses to do their 'job' of running the nation - at least during Parliament sessions?

A newspaper could take the lead in presenting daily statistics not unlike schoolrooms, with a front page box item giving ready figures of number of representatives present, and also monthly summaries of each member's presence. I suspect that an hourly update by news channels and portals will reveal a lot about the quantum of 'precious time' our leaders have at their disposal.

I wonder how many of the honourable members were present when a delegation from Afghanistan visited to witness a Rajya Sabha session the next day?
Perhaps an attendance of 80% or above may be mandated as a criterion for a candidate's eligibility for re-election!

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Recipe? From me? Why not?

My choosy son and my choosier husband pronounced before they left for school and work at 7 this morning: “That was a good breakfast”. [As an aside - A working professional–turned freelancer cum home-maker, I have been continuously and increasingly priding myself on striking a good balance between housework and a home-based job].
My husband believes - I don't - that I belong to the Maxine school of thought, according to which the motto of the 'real woman' is: "I made it and you will eat it and I don't care how bad it tastes!"
More humanitarianly, I tag my table servings with “If it's tasty, you may appreciate the extra effort and thank your lucky stars; if it's not, it’s health food…"

Now back to the breakfast that you are waiting for: Tarla Dalal's Chawal ki Roti, made not entirely that expert's way, but with some wheat flour added to ease the rolling out effort. Here's the modified recipe.
Chawal ki Roti (with added wheat flour)
Preparation Time : 15 mins.
Cooking Time : 15 mins.
Makes 15 rotis.
1½ cups rice flour (chawal ka atta)
4 tablespoons cooked rice
1 cup wheat flour
2 teaspoons green chillies, chopped
2 teaspoons ginger, grated
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
3 tablespoons curds
2 teaspoons oil + oil for cooking
salt to taste
1. Blend the cooked rice, curds, ginger, green chilli and cumin seeds.
2. Combine this paste with salt, rice flour and wheat flour and knead into a firm dough using enough water and two tsp oil.
3. Make lemon-sized balls and roll out each portion as you would routine rotis.
4. Cook each roti on both sides until brown, adding drops of oil on the sides.
5. Serve hot with the following southern style rajma curry or pickles or other curries.
Rajma curry:
2 cups Rajma
3 tomatoes
2 onions
1 green chilli
1 inch ginger
1 tsp chilli powder
1½ tsp coriander powder
2 tablespoons oil
turmeric powder - a pinch
salt to taste
1. Soak rajma overnight, and pressure cook with salt and turmeric powder
2. Peel and finely chop onions, chop tomatoes.
3. Make a paste of tomatoes, half the onion, green chilli and ginger
4. Heat oil in a pan, saute the rest of the onions.
5. Add the paste, chilli powder, coriander powder and salt, and cook on low heat till oil separates.
6. Add cooked rajma and sufficient water and bring to a boil.

You are welcome to try it out, comment and correct.
But that was exhausting. My humblest salutations to mothers, grandmothers, chefs, Sanjeev Kapoor, Tarla Dalal, Madhur Jaffrey....

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Not once again!...yes, once more. Embedded matter in packed food item

Read an earliest post about foreign objects in food items like bread, biscuits...?
Well, yesterday it was the turn of an extremely popular brand of noodles, and the offending matter looks like fungus.
Note my actions at 8 pm, (even as the family twiddled their thumbs at the table, for dinner that was supposed to have taken mom two minutes to prepare):
1. I called the customer helpline, a number in Gurgaon. An answering machine - honest! - at the call centre asked me to leave name and number. I did.
2. The system and modem were already up and running next to the 'phone, so after using a magnifying glass and a LED booklight to read the mail-id printed on the pack, I wrote to the consumer / customer service mailbox...or so I thought.
3. Not one to easily give the browser a go by, I googled the company's India website, reached the contact-us page and submitted a brief message that included batch no, date of mfg, and details of 'discovery'.
4. By then, an e-mail alert showed a post-master's message - I realised that neither magnifying glass nor the LED light had helped me correctly. (I had typed customerservices@in....,consumerservices@in....)
This morning I received
1. a response to the webpage submission, and that's when I got the right mail id. (It is consumer.services@in.....)
2. a phone call all the way from Gurgaon assuring me of their concern and their quality standards, followed by the repertoire: our rep will meet you to collect the item and give a replacement....
I believe in fairness. I will give this third brand also a chance... (remember I had given a bread brand and a biscuit brand chances over the years?)

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Monday, December 03, 2007

'Billion Beats'

If ever any public figure lives and breathes India and Indianness, it is our former president. You can see and subscribe to his recent venture at his website - a fortnightly newsletter or e-paper

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Is not 'gender' better than the 3-letter word!

I look forward to the time when application forms, website registration pages, railway reservation forms, and all data gathering documents read like this:
1. Name:
2. Age:
3. Address:
4. e-mail:
5. Nationality:
6. Gender: M/F
Most of us are likely to be more comfortable filling answers to these queries above than say such a list:
1. Name:
2. Age:
3. Address:
4. e-mail:
5. Nationality
6. Sex:
Why? So that the data gatherer pre-empts responses such as "once a week", "daily", "never", "often", "sometimes" to Item no 6.
No, I'm not trivialising an issue. I am rationalising it.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

The Power of Vishnu Sahasranamam- Vani's rebirth

A real 'story' as told by a close friend:
"Vani was in her early thirties when I first met her in a Mumbai local sometime in the late ‘70’s. She never talked much but her helping tendency was obvious. She boarded the train at the starting point and always found a seat. Instead of sitting through the hour-long journey, she would offer her seat – a luxury - to another lady.

My acquaintance too began this way – a few pleasantries exchanged over the train’s din. After a couple of months, she was not at her usual seat. Everyone presumed that she was on leave. In the busy buzz of the Mumbai life, no one thought twice about her till she came back after nearly 4 months. None of us could recognize her. She had lost weight, her cheeks were sunken, eyes lifeless, and to top it all, she had an almost bald head.
Out came the rude shock that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo radiation therapy. She hoped that she had won over the disease, but even before she regained her lost strength, it was found that the cancer had spread to the other breast, and the therapy was repeated. Left with no choice, she gave up her job. Her children were 8 and 10 years old.
We all wished her well and I did not see her after that. I had moved out of Mumbai after my marriage; slowly, memories also faded away.

Sometime in 2001, while at the lobby of Panchajanyam - a guest house run by Guruvayur Devaswom Board - a lady by my side enquired if I was from Mumbai. When I said yes, she introduced herself as - Vani. I just could not believe my eyes. She then narrated her story of survival.

After resigning her job, she went through the usual process of radiation and chemotherapy. More than the treatment, the side-effects were unbearable. The family bore suffering for a year; then her husband decided that they would move back home in Kottayam, Kerala. There she underwent Ayurvedic therapy, but to no avail.

Slowly her whole body was engulfed by cancer and she was almost bed-ridden. Her one wish was to visit Guruvayur. If she didn’t make it, her son’s wedding was to be conducted there. Slowly she lapsed into a coma.
No-one knows how the topic came about, but her mother and mother-in-law sat on either side of her and continued to chant Vishnu Sahasranamam (1000 names of Lord Vishnu). They continued with faith and fervour for 7 days and nights. When they needed a break, someone else would take over. Vani slowly regained her consciousness and became aware of sights and sounds, and the intensity of their prayer. She also joined in, and continuously for a year their house reverberated with the chanting.

Today I believe, she is somewhere in Dubai with her daughter, spreading the message of her recovery and helping others as usual."

28 Aug 2012 update.

Vishnu Sahasranamam download

29 Jan 2013 update.

Here is a VSN Blog whose goal is to inform how by reading Vishnu Sahasranamam one can really benefit. VSN Blogspot

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Amidst CSR efforts, let us practise ISR


Some of the current commercials appear to be efforts at quieting (not stifling thankfully) company conscience (if I sound cynical, I apologise). A tea brand's wake up call is certainly quite refreshing. Another brand's message 'This greeting card has been made using pulp from sustainably managed forests' is also heartening. Nearly all notebooks that my son buys from the local stationer carry a short passage about how the book has been made from 'bagasse, not trees'.

But back to the tea commercial. [For those who have not seen it - a youth 'interviews' a vote-seeking neta: Are you educated, qualified and experienced for this job - the job of running the country? The neta is discomfited; the commercial's message is for the citizen to not only arise every morn, but also be(come) aware.]


There it is: Being aware is half the battle won, and you'll soon be a practitioner of Individual social responsibilty.

In the context of environmental issues, we could categorize the kind of citizens we are:
1. The Downright Indifferent: "Have car, will drive, so what?" - Most celebrities and upper / middle calss 'haves' count in this category, even possibly those who lend their name and time to a good cause.

2. The Aware-but-we-are-helpless kind: "what is the use if I refuse a carrybag, and the grocer willingly supplies an extra bag to a customer who asks for it?" - The vast majority of us are official members of this club.

3. The Aware & Angry kind: "How dare he throw waste out of the coach window?" - Busybees who have time for everything but social issues populate this group.

4. The Green Individual / Groups who strive come what may: Valmik Thapar, Greenpeace, Siruthuli, Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra
Let companies continue sincere CSR or conscience-placating efforts, may this last tribe increase.

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Green Whiff...

I used to despair that not enough of us educated literati of urban India are concerned about the environment and effects of our local actions that, put together have a global effect.
But recent messages in personal and group mail show that more people have woken up, and are gently tapping others awake.
In one group, members encouraged happy Diwali celebrations sans crackers.
In another, nearly all the members are vociferously protesting tree-felling in their beloved alma-mater.
Of course all this is like a drop in the ocean - one green whiff among millions of tonnes of CO2 emmissions and equivalents.
The neighbourhood grocer continues to tell me ' Madam you are the only person to refuse a carrybag - I will lose business if I don't stock them. I know that I can save a couple of 1000 rupees a month and pass the savings to my clients if everyone brought their own bags."
In my campus I see quite a few shops that say 'No carry bags'. I step into the shop to find rows and columns of merchandise in perfectly transparent polythene...
What we need now is ISR - Individual Social Responsibility efforts: What I, as an individual should do to bring some cheer to the outlook on climate change among other socio-economic issues?
I had long been thinking about ISR, I mean, like economy, charity and so much else, SR should begin at home, with each individual. I found a wealth of write-up on ISR, one of them is an educators resourse to foster SR in students, and portrays Gandhiji as the example for these skills of individual responsibility and civil involvement.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Kittens in my cupboard

"A dog has a master but a cat has slaves". If anyone still doubts the meaning of this maxim, it's likely that they have never been close to a cat.
They were born on September 1. The mother was a frequent visitor, having smelt a cat-adorer in the house. This cat-adorer (CA for short) was thus delighted to find three kittens in the cupboard among the household linen. A box with comfortable bedding was prepared and the babies instated. Father and son proudly showed off the litter to visiting friends, of course, if the feline and human moms were not around.
It’s said that cats shift the litter seven times during the nurturing phase. In this case, though, the shifting was done by packers and movers. Father and son moved the litter-box from cupboard to kitchen, kitchen to Room 1, Room 1 to Room 3, back to kitchen, a few days more in Room 3.

The babies opened their eyes when they were a couple of weeks old. They now had a play-box and a bed-box, each with suitable cut-outs for easy movement.
Have you seen kittens playing? – That’s a real sight for sore eyes, and you have this from a Cat Tolerator. On the store room floor were - a cobweb remover, an unused water can, and an empty PET jar. The three of them would climb, pull, push, bite, tumble over as they played with each other and these toys. And have several play sessions before falling all over mom to draw much-needed sustenance. As they fed, she would lick them clean in turn, and then all four would be peacefully asleep, with not a care in the world.

One morning I noticed tell-tale feathers around, and CA helpfully explained: “you see, she brings them things that they should be familiar with, to let them see, feel, and understand that feathered creatures are potential palate-pleasers”
That was time for the next shift. At Room 1, it was a squirrel's turn to serve as an example. During all these weeks, even as the kittens grew, another cat-lover was also developing…my son. After school every day he would visit with the family first before washing and changing for lunch. Usually one to pinch nose and turn away at such things, he picked up the broom and dustpan, and collected the squirrel’s remains and disposed of them – not before showing me the sight.
By this time, the knowledgeable CA had installed a third box filled with sand. I wonder if the mom-cat appreciated the fact – when I mentioned it to her - that such care had not been lavished during the son’s potty-training 8 years ago. [For a quick lesson on potty training for cats, see 'Litter-Kwitter']. Father and son meticulously change the sand every two or three days. But lessons in cat-rearing some other time.

A few days at Room 1, and the babies became tired of the same toys and scenery. It was Room 3’s turn, and my son was happy, he now had room-mates. Here they no longer needed boxes…there were plenty of places and corners and niches to run around. The laundry bag and several school project props were ample distractions. After play, the three would cuddle in the narrow space between the PC’s tower cabinet and the monitor, never realizing that a mouse was close by.

This time, I only heard that it was the turn of a chameleon, and thankfully I never got to witness the third lesson. But the domestic help who had remained mum till then, mildly told me… ”Madam, pl get them removed from the house”. She did not know that I had tried several times, and had always given in to two pairs of entreating eyes – if we don’t take care, who will? - and four pairs of liquid green ones…

I had my way when I got to actually see what the cat was bringing in…a dead mynah clutched in her jaws. The garage was warmed and the family ensconced. That was a Monday. On Wenesday my son said accusingly. "Because of you one kitten is missing”.

The (equally sad) CA explained to him that cats are naturally curious, B&W kitten must have ventured out to explore and may come back eventually. After a sober evening, when all was quiet that night, mom-cat called out, and CA opened the door for her. A customary few minutes of scratching followed, that was when they heard the distinctive meow from somewhere. Up jumped CA, and ran to the road, with mom close on his heels; the sound came from a house across the road. Feet flew thither, and mom reached baby first. Comfort feeding, warm milk, soothing words later, the house and garage settled again for the night. Absolutely no marks for guessing who was the happiest and most relieved of the threesome who came back ‘home’….

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Why not non-consumerism or anti-consumerism?

We hear about sustainable development and green technologies that try to positively impact on global warming and climate change. From vulgar market-mad-media-driven consumerism and mindless material acquisition, some enlightened elite few are moving towards green ideas, both elsewhere and at home...because they can 'afford' it. The emphasis is on changing the consuming habit from mere material acquisition to material that is a product of green thoughts, actions, and technologies...be it green homes, green AC's, green fridges, green clothing...green luxury!

Why do people hesitate to talk about anti-consumerism or non-consumerism? I feel I sound quite 'green' (meaning both naive as well as eco-conscious!).

Am I more eco-friendly if I reduce my consumption, or just because I switch to green stuff?
In India, we need to go ahead with radical efforts on sustainable development in every sector...even if it means slowing down the so-called economic growth rate. What is the growth rate after all? It is only an index of production, of buying power, in other words, of market-driven consumerism.

Instead, sustainable economic development would be a much better term on which to base all future Government policy and corporates' social responsibility efforts. That's when we can look forward to better quality of life (better literacy rates, life expectancy, lower poverty rates, well-utilised leisure time, better environmental quality, freedom, and social justice). Easier said than done utopic ideals? Optimism always helps...

Gavin Edwards of Greenpeace spells out what is already evident logic to the eco-conscious. "...you can have development and you can have action against climate change as well."

One way to do that is...let the powers that be squaggle over percentage emission cuts at international fora ... on our part, we could train ourselves to be sane users, not mindless have-money-will-buy consumers.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Nabha Sprusham Deeptam - Salutations to the women & men in blue

Touch(ing) the Sky with Glory - a phrase from the Bhagvad Gita (Ch 11, Verse 24) is the motto of the IAF, which celebrates 75 glorious years today - October 8, 2007. As the men and women in blue mark this day with parades and parties, their families continue to support them with happy homes, and contribute to 'blue skies' through community welfare activities.

I am proud of my batchmates who continue to serve in the Air Force, since their commissioning among the first batch of 25 women engineers in the IAF on 06 April 1993. They have served a good career span of 15 jubilee years - diamond to platinum - true value addition!

These professionals continue to be pioneers and set examples of the right kind for other aspirants to emulate. A good number of women have been commissioned later in other branches of the IAF [Education, Administration, Logistics, Accounts, Meteorological, Flying].

What will the morrow bring? Here's wishing you - Wing Commanders AG, BS, PKA and VG -the best, and all that you wish for, as you prepare yourselves for another career, and further satisfying balance at home. The best is yet to come!

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Ganesha idols

Ganesh Chaturti is celebrated with much fanfare and devotion every year. In most places (Maharashtra) idols of the beloved diety are immersed in available water bodies (sea,lakes) on the Anant Chaturdasi after the Chaturti. Not any different this year; except that the number and size of idols is sure to have gone up.
There is a mail circulationg with gory pictures of the revered idols washed ashore.

We need campaigns in Mumbai (besides other places) against this kind of practice.
Possible solutions:
1. Limit size of idol
2. Ban painted idols
3. Ban immersion in public water bodies.

One possible solution. In houses in Chennai, the idol - usually a small one, and never painted is always immersed in the well that is located in the premises (this is done on the assumption that the clay used for the idol was just that).

Another possible solution, which quite a few families I know have been practising: immerse the idol in a big bucket / tub, and pour the water after a couple of days to plants.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Coimbatore Corporation's efforts

At last a city corporation has managed to initiate a real effort at waste segregation. Two different coloured bins are being given to residents with indications as to what should go where. (Sadly in the advice, batteries are included in the general non-biodegradable category that will go to landfills - a third category for electronic toxic waste was preferrable - but let's be optimistic).

Just give a thought to the kind of waste that we members of educated urban households generate, and for which we are therefore totally responsible. It does not take much effort to segregate the 'wet' waste from the 'dry' waste; and we could go a long way in reducing the volume of garbage several fold...yes, several fold.

Next we need concerted efforts at large-scale recycling.
[Whatever happened to the 'zapping of plastics'?]

Again at household level, we could put away used envelopes, grocery wrappers, used toiletry and cosmetic containers, along with old newspapers for door-to-door collection, provided they are delivered to a good recycling agency.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007


I have a justified peeve. I am Indian-born, I live in India, and thankyou, but, no, let not the Net confuse me with 'Red-Indian', 'American-Indian' or 'native-American Indian'. Will we need to copyright our nativity? Or will we soon have labels that read Asian-Indian or India-Indian? As it is, if i google 'Indian xxxxx' I end up bemusedly looking at mixed results...


"Janmashtami is Krishna's Birthday"

...so says a popular Indian news channel to its viewers while giving sound bytes and video clippings of the festival. Is the viewing community so elite, and so far removed from Indian ethos, and so lost in the future, that we have to be told or be reminded about things and events uniquely Indian...
I am glad I know that Christmas is Christ's birthday, wonder if the channel will flash this as well?


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Fight for the North Pole

Here I am, worrying myself sick about global warming, climate change, and continued indifference of the Average Earth Inhabitant, and there they are - the five countries (US, Russia, Denmark, Norway, Canada) around the North Pole sitting smugly satisfied to see the melting ice, and ready to fight each other to get to the bottom! Not right, to say the least, and frankly speaking - vulgar!

Why this greed for control? Despite being fully aware of the short and long term effect of burning and depleting fossil fuels, why do these states seek even more?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Of bread, biscuits and (embedded) foreign things

Kanpur, 1999: One morning my husband was about to bite into a sandwich, and stopped in time…he stared at a black embedded object in the slice that had, well, several legs. After initial appalled reactions, we decided to call the (well-known) baker. The local telephone directory helped. We called, and were assured that utmost standards of quality were always maintained. A seasoned marketing person came pronto, collected the offending piece, deposited two crisp fresh loaves of very special milk bread, and left.
Bangalore, 2001: Same brand, same product, this time a different foreign object, but just as firmly ensconced and baked to perfection. Out went a call to the Yeswantpur source, history repeated. This time a young, enthusiastic and well-coached marketing person turned up to convey the ‘we-have-high-standards-and-quality-checks’ USP. This time we said ‘no, thanks’ to the replacement loaves.
Bangalore, 2004: It was the turn of a packet of sweet corn soup. My all-vegetarian family sat down to enjoy bowls of hot appetizers, when I noticed strange shapes and figures in a spoonful of liquid, that ought to have held clear soup with known additions. On closer examination, we decided that they looked like down (fine undercoat of birds). This time, all we needed to do was call the toll-free number. Person came, gave assurance, collected suspicious object (we had painstakingly separated and dried them), presented complementary soup packets. We were also invited to visit the factory and ‘see for ourselves the high quality scenario’.
Coimbatore, 2006: In the very last biscuit of a pack of internationally popular butter cookies was a piece of human hair (an assumption, of course). You now know the routine. Finger dials toll-free number, finger-owner answers queries as to when & where from the pack came and gives details of the product name and batch number. This time, we were honoured with the visit of no less than the head of marketing who happened to be touring from headquarters. I will not retype the rest of the familiar sequence.
Coimbatore, 2006: Black object in bread, local baker, assurance, invitation. (Baker said he’d send special wheat loaves, thankfully they never arrived)
Coimbatore, 2007: Object in the same brand of biscuit, international brand, toll-free number, only this time they sent the local agent.
Coimbatore, 2007: Black plastic tube 5mm long in slice of bread, same local baker, no response to phone calls. This time I know that Mr L of JMB, can easily place (on his mobile) the originator of the incoming call…

If one household has had so many occurences over this 8 year period, imagine the number of occurences that go unnoticed / unreported/ unactioned / ignored!
We all spend time watching and talking about the number of US recalls of 'Made in China' stuff, if only we used those hours to pursue our rights as consumers...

Delhi, 2009: When we found a half-portion of a metallic blade - yes - embedded in a well-known brand of butter, representatives visited promptly. (Veta butter) 


Friday, August 17, 2007

When I hear the Anthem…

When a breeze rustles the tricolor
When all eyes look to the chakra
When the overture begins
My heart fills to the brim

To attention I stand
But let the mind travel
Back to the glory that was
And to the Future in our hands

Sentiments they may be,
Sentimental too,
Not wrong, not amiss, surely?
Don’t you feel as I do?

As the last strains fade in the ear,
I stare - to burn away the tear,
Add to history I may or not
Blur or change it – I dare not.

Will my son feel for the homeland?
If that doth lie in my hand
He will shed a tear or two - be assured
For the country - and his son will, too!


Mind your Language

A P and a Q
Brighten a day
Hold open the door,
Give another a say.

A civil word here,
A kudos-pat there
The place lights up,
And dark clouds beware.

Put U before I,
And reverse a Nay,
For a tap of your heels,
Could make the floor give way.

A sorry for a wrong,
Does not pinch you,
Check it out right away - do
And smile your way through!


Grow out of my arms

Grow out of my arms - my son - my baby,
Grow up a man well loved to be,
Go out into the arms of the wide-wide world
Grow out of my arms - my son - my baby.

Stride ahead with firmness of step,
Put forth your hand to aid and help,
Be it a friend, be it a foe,
Jus' remember - goodwill - it needs a hoe.

Take out the venom, put in the honey,
Lay the sweet open, for all to see,
Water a plant, pick out a weed,
Look to the sun - and place a seed.

When I could gather all of you to me,
I knew - the day will come early,
When your eyes and mind are ready,
To go out of my arms- my son - my baby


Thought for the Environment

What prevents educated persons from being environmentally conscious? What blocks their mind from seeing the consequences of their everyday actions?
Of late (I mean as long as 6 years) I look at tings through a waste-management eye - trying to answer the question “Where will this go once its useful life is spent?”
And then in my mind loom pictures of stinking landfills and rag-pickers rummaging through certainly toxic garbage.

Let’s take a few items of everyday use for starters.

1. The alkaline battery that toys, clocks, personal gadgets use: When you buy a pair of these cells, do you ever spare a thought to their after-life? A few years ago, Bangalore civic authorities had a scheme by which spent batteries could be deposited in a receptacle on MG Road for safe disposal later. (I wonder what came of that.) I had changed over to rechargeable batteries (not that I have shelf-loads of them) to use at home in toys, clocks, the camera and the remote. That's also the time I stopped buing battery operated toys as gifts. Admittedly it’s a merry musical chair kind of scenario. The clocks stop if my son wants to show off his toy car and its remote to his friends (and yes, the battery guzzler was a gift from a foreign-returned fond relative). You need to think more than twice before you decide to drive to the mall to pick up a few cells. If at all you have to use battery operated stuff, you will do well to resolve never to buy the non-rechargeable kind. Admittedly a higher cost now, but believe me, we have not even begun to fathom the ecological costs of our actions. And most likely, you have not heard of PES (Payment for Ecosystem Services) yet

2. The ‘carry-bag’: On every visit to the friendly neighbourhood grocer, I stare at shoppers taking away vegetables in white ‘carry-bags’. My perpetual entreaties / suggestions to the grocer fall on attentive ears – I am a regular customer! – but she expresses helplessness while also agreeing that she could save as much as Rs 2000/ per month if people brought their own bags. If I find myself at the shop without a bag? I come away as empty-handed.

3. The cups that crinkle: At meets, parties and social gatherings, stacks of this cup can be seen, meant for cool and hot drinks. They are crinkled after use and disposed of in and all around the 'Use Me' bins. Wonder who termed these 'disposable'. Of late use of paper cups can be seen, perhaps when the gathering is elite, or relatively small in numbers?

That's just a few of the items we all need to reduce / avoid using. The list is agonisingly long. Let's start somewhere, sometime...at home and now?
Spare a thought for the environment, it's never too late, or so I'd like to believe...