Sunday, July 17, 2011

Essential Polluters - 2

How do we solve a problem like plastic and petroleoum?

I don't believe there is a solution except to stop using them completely. Which means we would have to find alternatives to these supported by tremendous political will power (in our country, this is nothing short of a miracle to ask for) to implement the alternatives... rather than bow down to pressures from businesses with vested interests.

Until then, a few things I try to do (as meagre as it might be… I am a firm believer in every drop counts):

(a) carry cloth or paper bags & minimize on the use of plastic bags (a bit obvious, that)

(b) if i do get bottles & containers in plastic that are reusable, I try to use them as much as possible - as storage, as holders of miscellaneous stuff, as food containers to give away.

(c) If there is plastic that I cannot reuse, I give it away at the scrap dealer (or kabadiwala) even if I have to give it away free, because they are some of the most resourceful people. Yes, believe it or not, the scrap chain is so systematic that they process anything that can be put to some use.

(d) Walk short distances or as much as I can instead of hopping into a cab or an autorickshaw (on a good day, I count it as part of my weight-loss program). Or use the public transport (wherever it's possible) - buses, trains/metro, when I have the time (I try and make a little extra time).

(f) Volunteer, donate or be an online activist with organizations that can work harder for the environment than I can.

I do have my 'lazy' days when the little voice in my head says, "Take the cab, it's more comfortable, less noisy" and I even succumb to it… but hey, I am no saint :). I know that there's much, much more that I can do but it's a start and soon I hope to get to the 'more'.

Some places you can check out for more info:

A few interesting articles to browse through:

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Essential Polluters - 1

Do you ever wonder how two of the most used and essential items, today, have also become the worst things that man could've invented?

1. Plastic - the world just cannot do without it… moi included. As hard as I might try, I cannot eliminate it completely from my life. It comes as the packaging around the food items I buy, as bottles & jars that hold cosmetics… heck! I even use plastic wrap, sometimes, as double-protection against oozing liquids while traveling.

2. Petro-products - As much as we tout the advent of electric cars and solar panelled vehicles, we are so hooked on to our racy speed machines that giving up on fossil fuels is just not going to be any time soon. Additionally, in India, what about the perpetual power problem that most states face. How do large manufacturing industries, hotels, retail and office complexes run their businesses when faced with prolonged power cuts? Generators….huge, gazillion-tonne ones which use diesel/ kerosene to run them.

Usage of both while highly helpful, are major contributors to environmental pollution building up across the world.

Not that I have any solutions to the pollution problem... not even close to it. But that doesn't stop me from thinking about it or trying to reduce my contribution to the mess.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A little civility perhaps?

I can't presume to talk of other countries, I haven't travelled enough. But in India, land of the oldest 'civilisation', do we know the meaning of the word 'civil'?

A few familiar instances come to mind:
Traffic Jams: We try & squeeze into every little break we get irrespective of the lane we ought to be in or inconsiderate of the incoming traffic on the other side, we firmly plant ourselves on the wrong side of the road waitingfor the jam to break-up and rush headlong ahead. And the honking!!!.... enough to hope the vehicles could sprout wings and fly away.

Mobiles on airplanes: How often have we heard the beep & buzz of phones going off while the aircraft has barely touched down? If they did switch those devices back on 5-10 mins later, would the earth shatter, I wonder? And some of them actually have the gall to be irritated when the cabin crew repeats they be switched off!

Pedestrian crossing: Instead of slowing down you'll notice some motorists speeding up, seemingly more intent on running the pedestrians down, as if the sight of people crossing is equivalent to 'incentives' in a video game... kill...kill!

On the flip side, there are pedestrians who walk on the roads blithely like a walk in the park, completely unconcerned that there is moving traffic all around them or jay-walkers crossing the roads as and how they please, sometimes making a dash across the road missing the oncoming vehicle by a hair's breadth... a sort of 'catch-me-if-you-can'.

Jumping traffic signals: Unbelievable, but yes, the number of times I have seen motorists look furitively around for a cop & if they don't spot one, take off while the lights are still red. And this is not only a two-wheeler or an auto-rickshaw's domain, even drivers of the big cars are party to it - chauffers probably earning brownie points from their employers for saving a precious couple of minutes and if the car-owners are driving it themselves, getting their 'cheap-thrill' of the day by being 'bad'.

This also makes me wonder if we are capable of self-regulation or do we need a 'policeman' at all times, but that's a discussion for another day.

And my absolute favourite (or not): Talking loudly on mobile phones in public areas: Mostly in closed, confined spaces like restaurants, buses/trains, airplanes. Helloooo... do we really want to know the details of your conversation? Get a life, people!

There's lots more... litterbugs, people on their phones while driving... but let me be considerate to my blood pressure and stop right here.

I have begun to think that these are probably the small joys of life in some people's lives otherwise instead of increasing, these instances should be going down. But there seems to be no signs of that.

I obviously cannot generalise, there certainly are brave people who try to be considerate of the people around them but sadly, they are an ever decreasing tribe.

(pics courtesy: and

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Life sustaining cycle

An April sunset where the glowing orb seems to make one last attempt at its shiny best before it disappears over the horizon

The same evening, a full moon rises high in the sky. Through the trees, it appears as a white spot on an inky black sky.

Location: Vadivali lake some distance away from Lonavala, Maharashtra

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A street for a home & the sky for a roof

When I first started travelling to Mumbai on work, the biggest shock I encountered were the number of slums & shanties even in the most upmarket areas of the city. There were other aspects too of the city that I didn't particularly like - the hordes of people, the infamous traffic and the sultry weather (coming from Bangalore, weather's always a point to be noted), but these didn't bother me as much.

My only experience of Mumbai until before the work trips, was a short vacation a few years earlier where the sights and sounds of the city had been fairly distant given the antiseptic nature of holidays.

Now, when I commuted to work and back to the suburbs where I stayed at that time, the shanties along the roadside were the ones that troubled me the most (and continue to do so). The more fortunate ones have a one room shack of board or asbestos, these are lined up side by side in one long row. Cooking, cleaning, the children's play area are all outside the one room, that is literally on the road. The less fortunate ones have a plastic sheet over their heads as protection or nothing at all. For them everything they did - cooking, cleaning, washing, sleeping is under the open sky and literally street side. In both cases children, especially toddlers, not more than 4-5 years old play on these high traffic roads, sometimes without supervision when adults are busy or at work. The older children are rarely to be seen, I hope they are in school and not going to work themselves.

Most often I've heard from residents & visitors alike, "Oh, the population in this city is growing uncontrollably" or "I don't know how the government can allow these slums to develop in the middle of the city, they are vote banks so they get all sorts of facilities." Which are all valid points of view in themselves but do we really make an attempt to see the reasons behind the migration & the squalor?

I asked my help one day why she migrated to the city. She's a second generation migrant and her response was "Employment, there was nothing for us in our village... It's not like we like to live in small airless huts, we don't have a choice." She pays a rent of Rs. 2,000 a month for a one room tenement where she lives with her adult son, is sometimes joined by her daughter & grandson too. I then asked the young man in the office canteen why he left his home in distant Rajasthan to serve tea/coffee/snacks to people in this city. His response too was similar. "There was no way to make ends meet at home, so I came to the city to help my uncle in his catering business."

This seems to be the common reason why each day there are thousands of people entering the cities from far flung corners of the country - survival - for themselves and their families. They hope to send some money back to their families or save enough to go back to live better lives.

Think about it, most of us too have moved or are part of families where previous generations moved to the city for a better life, for better opportunities. We have been fortunate that our circumstances have been different and that made a world of a difference to the way we live, think & perceive life around us. Why should we then deny the immigrants in the slums a chance to make their dreams and aspirations come true.

While I am not advocating that slums, shanties & the homeless be given encouraged in urban areas, I just wonder how narrow can our outlook be? Obviously, life is a struggle for them. I am sure no one, no matter how unfortunate our circumstances, wants to live 5-10 ppl to a room or in shacks made of tin & asbestos or literally on the footpath.

If we can't directly help, the least we can do is to empathise with them and if possible support civic agencies in what they do. Don't you think so?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What 'ales'?

This bottle of beer in a club in Mumbai had 'Kingfisher' as it's label but 'Tuborg' embossed on it (above the label). Who's bottling whom, I wonder? (I can assure you, the photograph is not tampered with. It's way too much trouble for something as silly as this.)

Traffic jams can be magical

Stuck in a traffic jam? Look around and you will almost always notice something unusual, interesting and sometimes even magical. Like this setting sun that I glimpsed from between the trees...

Window to the world?

One of the gates into Mughal Emperor Humayun's Tomb has this balcony under which all visitors have to pass by. There is no mention of what it was used for. Hardly likely that it was a watch-tower or a guard house. It seemed more like a viewing perch (in a tomb?!).

The simplicity of the design and the wide open space in it appealed to me. I did look for a way up to the balcony, but it had been closed off.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I see trees of green... red roses too...

One of my all-time favourite songs, 'What a Wonderful World', has been airing on national TV recently. Normally, this would not be a cause for concern but fun... something to look forward to each time I turned the TV on (considering how often the advt plays).

Only, this version makes me cringe. Don't get me wrong, the singer is not bad at all, but one has to admit that Louis Armstrong's rich, powerful voice belting out 'What a Wonderful World' is as timeless as it comes. The more recent rendition on TV is a damp squib, almost wimpish in comparision. As I hear it being played over and over again, I have begun to subconsciously hit the mute button on the remote.

Why, oh why, couldn't they just use the original? The copyright might have cost a pretty packet, I assume (don't know for sure) but the telecom company (which is advertising) would probably find it petty change considering the advertising blitz they've been subjecting us viewers to since they launched a few years ago.

Anyway...leaving you with the classic version of the song. Happy listening!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Brain Damage

Gotcha! No...this is not a post eulogising the Floyd track or about a medical disorder. But it comes close, it's about an addiction that pretty much damages your brain & any coherent, sensible thinking along with it. In layman's terms, it's about 'love'.

In my 'younger' days (for academic purposes let's treat it as between 14 to 25 years), I must confess that I had never imagined myself as falling madly (or not so madly, for that matter) in love.

Through my teenage years, & a few after, the phase of romance novels, magazine and movies (which, incidentally, I quite enjoyed), never really changed my mind. They seemed too good to be true, it was hardly likely I would find love like in those stories. To me they were meant to remain between the pages of a book or on the screen, not real life. The cliched red roses, hearts, candies, get the drift... were not for me. The mushy bits were completely off-putting & unthinkable.

Then the unthinkable did happen. And I never even realised it. Me, the level-headed, cool, calm collected (or so I thought) not-so-young woman. First we were friends, then we became good friends. A couple of years later, when I realised that he was leaving town & I might never spend time with him or see him as often as I used to, I realised how much I missed him & why. I was in love!

Little did I realise what I was in for - a roller-coaster ride of gigantic proportions (& am still on it!). The red roses & hearts & mushy stuff didn't happen (wasn't either of our styles, Thank God.) But lots of other amazing things did... I found my soul-mate (if there is such a thing), I realised love needn't be binding or claustrophobic, I realised it made me more secure, more confident of who I was & what I wanted to do, it makes me go through my days with a smile in my head (I try not to show it on my face, I would look loonier than I already am) & much, much more.

There has been a lot of heartache too (& still is) - living in two different cities, being able to only talk to him, not seeing him, sometimes, months on end, not wanting to fight with him but wanting to give him an earful at the same time for something he would have said/done or not. The thinking & the speculating & the reading between the lines...of what he said & what he really meant, the days (few, thankfully) spent telling myself that falling in love was the worst thing to happen to me, that I should have listened to my head & not my heart, the frustration & the sadness etc. (pics courtesy:

My heart & my head have turned somersaults, been wrenched and tugged in different directions and into many shapes, bruised and battered. But they both have survived these 5 years (almost there). I keep my fingers crossed and fervently hope they go on for many, many more years. Forever!

To love someone deeply gives you strength.
Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage
~ Lao Tzu.

Thank you for being my friend, confidant, lover and soul-mate.

On a lighter note, I leave you with this comic strip below (pic courtesy: rtmulcahy

Thursday, January 27, 2011

2010 - the good, bad & ugly.

As the New Year begins, I am going to be really cheesy and put down my list of favourites (and not-so favourite things) in 2010. Yeah... yeah... I know - everyone does it, why should I add to the numbers, what's new etc etc.

Well...I have never made a list like this before, not even a mental one, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

(a) Making it to the end of the 2nd year of living in a different city, away from family & all things familiar.
(b) Some memorable movies (just when I had more or less believed they no longer made them like that anymore) - Inception, Alice in Wonderland, Social Network, Pipli Live, Udaan, 3 Idiots, Eat Pray Love...
(c) A good year at work despite jumping over hurdles and through rings of fire.
(d) The mad, crazy, fun moments in office
(e) The drinking, eating-out, watching plays, movies, shows...was intersting & good fun!
(f)Having the most fabulous birthday & holiday. It's the compay that counts!
(g) Starting this blog. (I shall strive to be more regular at it though)
(h) Some of the books that I've read & music I've listened to (numerous to list, there were some good ones!)
(i) Being with someone I deeply love & care about and having it reciprocated (technically, this doesn't count, it's a 'forever' thing...but who cares, it is a favourite!)
(pic courtesy: google images)

Not so favourite:
(a) Ending the year in a serious illness (thankfully, recovered!). Not to mention being unwell the mid-year too.
(b) The hierarchy, pseudo-democracy and nit-picking at work
(c) The 'lonely' moments. I so hated it! (technically, this too doesn't count, probably going to happen in 2011 too...but that doesn't mean I have to like them. Always was/is a complete non-favourite!)
(d) My fluctuating wieght...which never seemed to yo-yo downwards. Always hitting the upward graph or staying where it was. Sigh...where did my college days go... & my 26 inch waist.
(e) Saying goodbye to family & friends after a trip home.
(pic courtesy: images)

That's all in my list for the year gone by. Wasn't such a bad year after all. I am extremely thankful for the good stuff and hope to get over the bad. Here's wishing a far better year ahead...