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 11, 2016

Between Articles 44 and 51A, can we bridge the gap? Need for a Uniform Civic Code, the other UCC


Ahead of Deepavali, our group housing society had completed a round of whitewashing of the stilt-parking area, and the internal faces of the peripheral walls. This had hidden all the randomly-designed paan-spit marks, accumulated over a few years. Residents must have hoped that the walls stay white for a good while, before a paan-chewer decides that enough is enough, and inaugurates a new round of auspicious-coloured designs on invitingly white walls.
Aren’t you heartily sick of seeing your ‘brothers and sisters’ spit here, piss there, jump queues and signals, throw garbage, pluck flowers, jaywalk on the road, drive on footpaths, tease small creatures, shout news on TV?

Are you entitled to speed up just because your car is more powerful?
Is your time more important than the person awaiting medical care in an ambulance?
Is it mere colour-coded artwork that the police have painted on roads and at traffic junctions?

Article 44 of the Directive Principles in India sets the implementation of the ‘Uniform Civil Code’ as duty of the State. The Wiki page on the Uniform Civil Code reads – “Uniform civil code in India is the debate to replace the personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of each major religious community in the country with a common set governing every citizen. These laws are distinguished from public law and cover marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and maintenance.”
Dr APJ Abdul Kalam has been the only decent and recent proponent of the Uniform Civil Code. In 65 years, we have had hardly a few statesmen at the helm. Instead we have been having plenty of people who are “smugly sure that their own religion is the finest in existence”, and therefore this UCC has remained elusive.

I admit that I am an ardent citizen hoping for this UCC to fructify, or for at least an informed, intelligent, sober debate on the issue. However I also feel that India needs a far more urgent look at implementing another UCC: a Uniform Civic Code, an as yet unwritten set of civic rules applicable to every citizen of India, irrespective of caste, creed, colour, gender, religion, community, educational qualifications, bank balance, VIP status, number of horns, marital status, security status, geographic location, historical ignorance levels, IQ, EQ, parentage, idiosyncrasies, political affiliations... even past misdemeanours.

In fact they are written down clearly; Article 51A of the Constitution lists eleven duties, reproduced here for the purpose of triggering forgotten high school lessons -
(a)      to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem;
(b)      to cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom;
(c)      to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India;
(d)      to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so;
(e)      to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women;
(f)       to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture;
(g)      to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life and to have compassion for living creatures;
(h)      to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform;
(i)       to safeguard public property and to abjure violence;
(j)       to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievement;
(k)      (who is parent or guardian) to provide opportunities for education to his child, or as the case may be, ward between the age of six and fourteen years.

These duties are truly high ideals for citizens to follow, similar to the Directive Principles of State Policy that imply some high ideals to be followed by the state. Unfortunately, these duties are ‘Non-enforceable and Non-justiciable’, that is, no citizen can be punished by a court for violation of these fundamental duties.
Are these fundamental duties merely a list of churchy clichés? Unfortunately, they are just that - unless constitutional amendments give the duties higher status. Thereafter we can expect citizens’ adherence because they can be enforced, and courts will be able to take cognizance of violations and award penalties and punishments. Till then, citizen self-regulation, like media self-regulation, will remain a myth. 

When will these amendments become an enforceable part of the Constitution of India?

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DIY... Let’s DIO!

The friendly neighbourhood cobbler, tailor, knife-sharpener, plumber, electrician and all other valuable roadside service providers are an endangered lot. We the conspicuous consumers are least concerned. When a household item needs to be fixed, we ought to give more than a fair chance to all these sustainable livelihoods – and ourselves – and avoid creating additional trash, a practice in which we have become amazing pros.

The mixer-grinder jar’s lid comes with a smaller removable top, which is used to add water while grinding. When we went looking for the small part to replace a broken one, we found that we had to buy the whole lid. I’m glad we decided against buying the entire lid, because back home, we found two things that could do the job. One was the lid of an empty bottle of Eno, and the other a similar lid of a small asafoetida box. So now i have an endless supply of these lids, enough to start a small-parts business, and can compete with the original parts supplier.

Our son’s watch has a well-loved and well-worn Velcro strap. Fair wear and tear took the zing off the Velcro, and out we went, looking for a spare strap. None of the showy, brightly lit welcoming, air-conditioned showrooms had one to spare. Back home, my husband gave the strap a good wash, removed the old Velcro, and went down to the tailor at the gate. That hard-working gentleman securely stitched on to the strap a new piece of black Velcro, and the watch is as good as new. It cost us a whopping Rs 20 for the spare part and the labour.

The bathroom mirror disintegrated and fell off the wall mounting in parts. The flat piece of mirror first came undone from the wooden base, and gently settled on top of the wash basin. The glass strips on three sides then detached one after another, and rested directly below. Instead of having to stare at the wooden base where my reflection ought to have been, off came this wooden base, awaiting disposal. We put off the errand of buying a new mirror to the weekend. For a week my husband managed to shave either from memory, or from habit, or both. Then I decided that the bottle of synthetic resin adhesive must help, and all the parts of the mirror submitted meekly to my commands as they allowed themselves to be fixed on to the base again and then be pressurised to stay on, overnight. Since the next morning, the mirror was back on the wall, ready and waiting to take on the worst of Snow White’s rivals. And yes, I might launch a mirror-fixing service too.

The tubelight fixture looked old. The tube too. Bracing ourselves for additional expenditure in buying a new set and getting it fixed by the electrician, we found out that end fittings costing Rs 20 a pair would suffice. We bought the end fittings, and then it was an endless wait for the electrician to turn up. Several days later, an investigation revealed that fixing those end fittings amounted to child’s play, and so we DIO – did it ourselves. Then we dutifully thanked the electrician silently – it was because he didn’t turn up that we had the chance to learn and DIO. 

Next time you are tempted to throw away and buy new, pause. Tell yourself that there has to be a better way than the use and throw path. Yes, you can let the friendly (sometimes pricey) neighbourhood service providers earn an honest job’s wage, but certainly try to DIY; it’s not rocket science.



Remember the popular tagline of a fast-acting glue? Well, when we DIO, we can even fix broken hearts.

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The Elusive Chair (TEC) - A Form Vs Function Debate

Have you sat in a chair and felt - "Wow, this is comfortable!"? 

Of late, we are spoiled for choice. We can sink into luxurious sofas, and lose ourselves in blissful sleep. You can plonk yourself down in luxury, and be counted among the couch potatoes. You can relax and sit back, looking around pleasantly as you await your turn in all sorts of foyers and lounges. 

But if your knees have aged before you have, they put up all kinds of protests when it comes to getting off the chair. All those waiting-room chairs 'receive' you whole-heartedly, but seem to turn the other way when the time comes to 'return' you on your feet. You just can't get up from them gracefully; they are awful for older / weaker-kneed people.

We invariably do not think twice about the chairs we see and use everyday, do we.

For several months now, I've been looking for suitable seating that responds to a few simple specifications.
- Sturdy enough for a senior citizen with limited mobility
- The height of the seat is 22-23 inches, a good 4+ inches above the 'standard' 18 inches
- the backrest is comfortable
- The cushion is not too soft; it should NOT sink inward.
- Must be available in both versions: with / without armrest.
- Must be reasonably priced
- No fancy attachments or silly frills

So we went up and down Delhi's markets searching for TEC. Happy furniture-wallahs welcomed us and showed us umpteen varieties of dining chairs, writing chairs, luxuriously inviting sofas, ottomans, executive chairs, bar-chairs, revolving chairs, lounge chairs, rocking chairs, elegant bamboo dreams, antique-looking regal thrones, but never TEC.

We located a carpenter and a sturdy-looking set of four second-hand dining chairs. When confronted with the need, he though about it, and eventually we decided on a plausible modification that could very well solve the issue. After that it was an eager wait for the "all-done-and-ready" call.
It remained a dream. The carpenter had bitten off more than he could chew, and our address read "Square One".

Determined to hunt down TEC, we set off to the famed Jail Road, known for furniture shops. After trudging from shop to shop, and checking out their dusty godowns, armed with a measuring tape, there it was, TEC, in foam and steel. It looked dirty and dated, but in a jiffy the shop-owner had it dusted and re-wrapped in new cellophane wrap. Did he have another, please? Oh yes, madam, er... no madam, just the one.

Thankfully I found a sturdy enough design that included armrests, with a not-too-soft cushion to be used as per need.


And that's why I now feel confident enough to launch TEC (Seating Consultants).

So how low (high) is too low (high) when it comes to furniture? You want a thumb  rule? 
1. Be kind to your knees. 
2. If you are happy with 'low', nothing can beat the Good Earth, the floor under your feet. 

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