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, May 09, 2012

"Two Visionaries"

Captioned 'Beyond Words', have a look at this rare picture of two greats from opposite ends of the world, taken 82 years ago.
"In this rare photograph from The Hindu’s archives, Helen Keller, the blind American author and labour rights activist, greets Rabindranath Tagore at a meeting in New York in 1930."

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Tuesday, May 08, 2012

A Not-So-Golden Paradox

One is always surprised at the preoccupation with gold, the infatuation, craze and passion for the yellow metal in India, and elsewhere. The WGC (goldDOTorg. Ha Ha.) happily encourages any and all kinds of marketing gimmicks, including the kind about which Raji ranted in blessed-if-you-buy-jewellery-day.
Staying in Kerala, you simply cannot avoid lengthy TV commercials and full-page newspaper ads by gold 'supermarkets' (how vulgar that sounds!). Nor can you miss seeing driver-distracting, really loud hoardings and flex boards. Since women model the trinkets, it seems as though the model, the ad agency and the advertiser are happy to cover much more of the skin with metal than with cloth. You will end up wondering if metal looks best without other wear around hindering the view.
So there is demand. And there are sales. Implies that people have money to acquire that metal.
The number of gold loan sources is also up. Both banks and NBFC's. One implication is that gold loan is a lucrative business, with people pledging gold and more gold. One NBFC in this business of lending on mortgaged gold, claims - "Financial services and packages were always only for a privileged lot, but....wished it the other way and made it its mission to reach financial services and packages to the common man in the most simplified and beneficial manner, so that they also are part of the main stream."
The theft of gold is up too. In small and large amounts. From houses as well as - directly - from jewellery outlets.
Is there a nexus? God forbid!
And is Greed the common factor that drives all the three "businesses"?
PS: If you have been attending weddings frequently in this Indian state, this might have occurred to you too -
  • A bedecked bride is a walking ad for the local wedding centre.
  • If you have seen one such b.b., you have seen them all! (Not joking. A standard red brocade sari, several neckpieces that hang in increasing arcs, metres of stringed jasmine flowers arranged over an artificially lengthened plait). 
  • The groom of the day completes the picture in an off-white shirt and a dhoti.
  • The photographers are the day's designated film directors.

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Monday, May 07, 2012

Internet Haves and Have-Nots

We now have (further!) official confirmation of the Digital Divide in India.
Hardly 6% of households in urban India households have an Internet connection.
This figure reads as 0.4% for rural India.
Does this indicate infrastructure falling short or inability to afford the minimum (by today's standards) technology? Or a dismal combination of both?
Any talk of inclusive growth is at best laughable. You and I have the luxury of exploring 4G, e-social networking, shopping and seeking entertainment online when other 93% of our city and country cousins are nowhere near this kind of digital empowerment.
Read Internet revolution bypasses rural India: Survey.
To the average Internet-empowered home, the connection has become somewhat of a necessity. But among all the gigabytes that we devour daily, let us spare a thought for others for whom the Net is still a distant dream or a last priority.
And also hope that the Government's policies for empowering citizens digitally works in logical proportion with positive and meaningful efforts at ushering along national necessities like green and white revolutions.
In India, a second green revolution must be the precursor to Internet revolution, isn't that common sense?
Way back in 1996, a book titled Disconnected: Haves and Have-Nots in the Information Age was published. 16 years later, and well into the next century, the Net-Haves are all contributing to widening the gap from the Gross Have-Nots. The author William Wresch states this better - “We have met the enemy, and they are us.”
An excerpt from the book -
"If we are in a new age, this is an age that is still connected to the old age and still has many of its flaws. Yes, technology is producing some benefits and some freedoms. We know that the threat of satellite dishes was enough to scare South Africa into 54 creating a television network. Unfortunately, we also know the threat of satellite dishes has been enough to cause governments across the Middle East to ban their use. We know libraries across the world are now accessible electronically. We also know books around the world are still being burned.
We know that at this moment hundreds of gigabytes of information are being bounced from satellite to satellite across the sky. We also know that many of those gigabytes are lies. We know that some children can learn about the world by linking their classroom to thousands across the world. Other children wait for their classrooms to get a roof, a light bulb, a qualified teacher."

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Sunday, May 06, 2012

Life after the Civil Services Exam?

Every year, we read stories about young, successful civil service aspirants with professional degrees and how they cracked their exams and interview. What happens to them later? Say a year down the line, after their training at the elite Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration and when they reach their coveted assignments and postings.  
Does their zeal last? On reading the success stories, it is easy to think of a future where the bureaucrat does his job well and sincerely, without fear or favour....
IAS 2012 Toppers Shena Aggarwal and Prince Dhawan want to work for society
IAS TOPPER Rukmani Riar : fired by desire to do social service

Sincere wishes to the soon-to-be national administrators. Will they redefine 'Babus' and 'Babudom' to better emulate Bapu and his ideals for the sake of the nation?

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More from the Coconut Tree

The entire coconut tree and its constituents are usable during their lifetime and indeed in their afterlife.
Here are a few products originating from the coconut tree. (bark, as well as coconut shell). You'll get to see plenty at craft shows and handicraft outlets. These pictures were taken at the Shantigiri Fest 2012. One only wishes that they were even more ubiquitous, and replace plastic to any extent possible...
You should be able to make out rolling pins, all kinds of ladles, candle-stands, pen holders, fruit forks, chiratta puttu maker, incense stick holders, key rings...

candle stand (coconut wood)

Chiratta Puttu maker (coconut shell)
More products from the coconut tree

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Let's celebrate coir

At the Santhigiri Festival 2012, there is plenty of stuff to browse and spend a useful few hours. One pavilion showcases everything about coir, including the rugged machines needed to process the raw material, the wheels and looms that make and weave the stands into sturdy cordage, and the attractive end products from winter wear jackets to carpets, and from foldable umbrellas to rugged furniture, and geo-textiles (download brochure about coir geo-textiles)

 The machine that processes coconut husk 

Coir ropes being woven in a loom

Furniture made of coir

Gandhiji's portrait made of coir

a very efficient planter

Coir jacket
If you are interested to find out more about coir, visit

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