Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

social service

this is the wiki definition

i have this theory of trained incompetence.
which simply stated says that trained people suck.
be it teachers or social workers, in the development sector, they come with over-the-limit-baggage. which is counter-intuitive to the work that they would like to do.

coming from the UL post, you probably can understand my point.

the current block of people in the SS sector have too much aahankar (ego) .

we need to serve, in the true sense, with no expectation. thats how SS will work. everything else will fall down the ravines.

pure service has multiple approaches and multiple dimensions. this variable is as unique as we all are. we need to find our niche and live it.

tough to understand and even tougher to do. lage raho, lage raho.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

universal love

this is a simple, old, well known concept.
espoused by a variety of greats right from buddha to buddha (the 'enlightened one' to the 'singur one')[1].

UL is quite fundamental to solving much of our failures, stresses, sadness, angst and all those negative feelings.

since many are familiar with the concept in theory, but never manage to practice, i have at times tried to bridge this gap.

the idea is to increase bonding between a group of junta with having an open, sharing discussion.[2]

so far i have had mixed responses. primary lesson, is to never try it in a party atmosphere. works well in classrooms or in workshops.

but UL rocks and we shall keep trying, even in parties.

[1] just a phrase and not to be taken in any form of literal meaning.
[2] participants are encouraged to share stuff they would nomally baulk at, but the experience is quite cathartic. useful to try.

Monday, February 26, 2007

plastic surgery

was on a flight last weekend.
interestingly, i was seated right behind medha patkar. was not 100% sure till i read the papers the next day!

while they served the breakfast, i counted 1 tablespoon, 1 teaspoon, 1 fork and 1 knife. all plastic.
assuming 150 passengers per flight times 200 flights per day (am using my orifices to get these numbers), thats at least 1.2 lakh pieces of cutlery a day = 4.4 crore pieces per year = 875 Tons of plastic per year (20 grams per piece).

am sure that they never reuse these, because the cost of sterilisation would be way over the cost of the cutlery.

i really hope they recylce them.

medhaben was really hungry. she really tucked into the food.

Note: the surgery in the title refers to my clinical work with the numbers.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


obsessively compulsively punctual.
that could be a line in my resume.

i have this huge 'respect time' thing going.
and interestingly, it is not something that was dictated into me via mumbai local train travel. which as you, my 4 readers, are aware are quite on the dot.

i read somewhere that it is an indian thing. in fact it is here. the japanese would just adulate me, and i could soon have my own temple in tokyo and osaka.
the most adored tamizhan in japan after rajnikanth. (see these photos and this article)
delirious japanese...i digress.

here's my take:
1. in government (admin and elected), they hardly care about anything, so rodent's backside to time.
2. private sector is very stressful on the executive and managerial workforce. people do 10-14 hours workdays peacefully. this makes time management last on their self-improvement list.
3. infrastructure is so easy to blame (many times, perhaps rightly so). all modes of traffic operate in completely non-forecastable zone. comes real useful to help out the chronic 'late latifs'.

so here's the thing that sparked this post.

4 of us for a 930am meeting on an impact study (its another post on how i get pulled into things that don't concern me). and no one except 2 around till 940. get a message from one 'telling' she is coming in late and 'encouraging' me to start off!!
do 15 mins of meeting (realising that the entire thing is likely to get repeated) when rest show up. in a harmless manner, i remark to the non-informer (you are with me, i trust) on perhaps she should just henceforth message only if she is on time. (well i know it is not harmless and is totally against the credo of this blog).
got ticked off roundly. i retreated with tail soundly tucked under legs.

in a totally non-related development, i will no longer be part of further meetings on impact.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


BEST runs a fairly competent bus system in mumbai.

if you have followed my earlier posts, i frequent their services a lot these days.

bus journeys are more interesting than train journeys. some reasons
1. less crowded
2. majority of seated passengers are awake
3. majority are not focussed on getting off/taking the right position etc
4. more diverse and more 'seeable' outside vistas.

and the top reason is because of the Master. this is how the bus conductor is called. a genius - whoever conjured up this title.

masters are a source of constant entertainment and noise. herding passengers, snapping their punches, soliciting tickets, ringing the bell, etc., they are always generating some aural stimulation.

their money bag is organised like a dream. separate pouches for rupee notes, 2 and 1 rupee coins, 50 np coins. the 5 rupee coin is in their lower shirt/coat pocket. the top pocket is where the main loot is kept. all the notes are arranged in perfect order.

the top of the tin ticket box has a wet sponge for wetting the thumb before yanking off the ticket. the inside of the ticket box has this elaborate chart giving the ticket rates for each leg.

seeing them in action gives me a lot of joy. low brain work, high efficiency, high predictability, ordering masses of people.
will take it any day :-)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

talking vs doing

was invited by my colleague to join her in a meeting with a group of parents.
this was a education center we started 2 months ago and this was the first interaction with the parents. we needed to get their buy in on the things we do and answer questions and queries etc.
my presence was even more sought after since it was tamil strong community.

this is my first ever attempt at such a formal meeting, but of course i have spent a lot of time with parents informally on my community walks.

really had a blast. my style is very informal and irreverent (in terms of following formalities). lot of ribbing and joking and grandstanding.

the interesting conversation (which leads to the title) came after the end of the meeting. was cornered by these 4 parents who had number of questions. mostly it was around the quality of the formal school that their kids attend. needless to say, it is a poor situation. powerless and a feeling of helplessness.
my recourse is for them to band together. if they can fight for water, roads, etc., with a fury that singes politicians at the polls, they need to do the same thing with education too. demand their rights with the same vigour as they do for roti, kapda, makaan.

so when one women lamented that someone had promised to set up a school in their area itself and had vamoosed, i said this "pechuveerargal nariya per varuva, karmaveerargal kammi" (there are several talkers, but very few doers).
truly masterclass, kannadasan would have been proud. right out of an MGR movie.

my 2 colleagues were rolling with laughter.

but i mean it.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

maut tu ek kavita hai

from anand by hrishikesh mukherjee starring rajesh khanna and amitabh bachchan.

Maut tu ek kavita hai
mujhse ek kavita ka vaadaa hai milegi mujhako
dubati nabzon mein jab dard ko neend aane lage
zard saa cheharaa liye chaand ufak tak pahunche
din abhi paani mein ho raat kinaare ke kareeb
na abhi andheraa ho, na ujaalaa ho, na raat na din
jism jab khatm ho aur ruuh ko saans aae
mujhse ek kavita ka vaadaa hai milegii mujhako

Death you are a poem
a poem has made pact with me that I shall meet her
when drowning pulse will bring on painful sleep
when Moon carrying her yellow face will reach horizon
when days still in water and night close to shore
there is not yet darkness, neither light, not night not day
when body is gone and soul still breaths
a poem has made pact with me that I shall meet her


the setting of this dialogue is memorable.

reminded of this when i heard about the death of shahida. she was a teacher at the girls school at a community i work with. really strong girl and very young. a quite, hard-working, intelligent girl. spent 2 years with her and the other teachers to help them with training on english.

completely shattering. one so young. full of life. unfair.
so unfair.

jab milegi mujhko, tho zaroor sawal poochoonga, kyon ?

fight club

was walking down to dadar station after a totally useless meeting. was an ego massage one. but anyways, am somewhat used to these trips now.

serious skirmishes over the earlier week at the place where we are doing a project. was going there to try to resolve, peace keep, negotiate. classic us vs them and in this case, i am not even sure who is 'us' and 'them' for me.

on the pavement, 2 men were totally at each other throats. a couple of women trying to placate and the usual bystanders agape uselessly.
jumped in. almost forcibly took one of them out of the clinch. he was 'devotedly' invoking the entire matriarchal side of his opponent. never even looked at me. i was in the 'rehne do', 'chod do', 'tension nahin lene ka' mode. so this guy backed off.
went to the other guy who still was full of fight. did the same routine with him too.
in the meanwhile the first friend, comes back into the ring with a huge thick log, fully intentioned to introduce it to his opponents skull.
scary, but i rushed to his side, to disarm him. not much success. but hanging in there. the other guy even more incensed, started throwing tiles. getting worse. am now wondering if i should stay or leave. was with a colleague who was tut-tutting ( i guess).
the tile-thrower picked up a longish hacksaw and that's when i gave up and walked off. disgusted at my weak kneed, lily liveried attempt.

this set the pattern for the day.

at the project site. same results. the earlier confusion on us vs them added to the tone set for the day, no progress. may be some regression.
staff morale down, all eager to pack up and go and abandon the kids.
lot of egos at play. disguised under nice terms like respect, equality, etc.

will play out over the coming week.

Monday, February 12, 2007

singur follow up

indiatogether has this good article on the SEZ development in china.

China has to feed 22 percent of the world's population on only 7 percent of
land. In July 2005, China's countryside had over 26.1 million people living
in absolute poverty and was home to 18 percent of the world's poor, according to
Chinese Minister Li Xuju quoted in the People’s Daily. Every year, an additional
10 million people have to be fed. Despite this daunting target, between
1996-2005, "development" caused diversion of more than 21 percent of arable land
to non-agricultural uses, chiefly highways, industries and SEZs. Per capita land
holding now stands at a meager 0.094 hectares. In just thirteen years, between
1992 and 2005, twenty million farmers were laid off agriculture due to land

staggering numbers. and will not be very different if we do the same senseless thing. as if we did not have enough of a problem with poverty already in our hands.

black friday

it is a very good movie. perhaps docu-movie/drama may be more appropriate. labels really dont matter.

the 1993 terror attacks is vividly and effectively dramatised.
i was in chennai and have very little recollection of the events even though i was quite tuned into news and stuff. black friday really makes telling viewing.

i really recommend it. and has piqued my interest to learn more about the dec 92 to june 93 period.

anurag kasyap is the director and writes here.
specifically on the making of black friday is here: part 1 and part 2.

Friday, February 09, 2007

singur and infosys

singur is burning. the tata/buddha/mamata story has been making a lot of buzz.
this from google news on all you would want to know.
shruti has an interesting note on the the issue

while this was going on and the overall SEZ fiasco across the country.

total set up across the board of corporate land grabbing. whatever the economists and the '9% growth' wallahs may say, tis plain in my eyes.

while all this was going on, i recall a conversation with my brother around 3 months ago. he tangentially indicated how the IT powerhouses were also culpable to the land greed sweeping corporate india. the conspiracy theory is quite simple:
1. they cant maintain the 30% growth forever. for the newbies, their headcount is directly proportional to revenue. so if they add 40% people every year, they could get to 30% revenue growth (salary increase, decrease in billing rates, currency drop etc are why i peg revenue growth lower than personpower growth.
2. still at low in value add chain. not really recipe for future domination.
3. their mysore site is mind boggling. forgot the specifics, am hunting for the research i had done a bit earlier. will append to this post later.

and then i come across these an article from HT's new Mint.
Infosys in hospitality business! denials notwithstanding, it is a yummy news for their CFO.

not for the farmers.

(Note: Mint requires registration - simple process really. So far seems to worth it)

direct communication

i get this a lot these days. or maybe i am noticing more now.
"can you please tell so-and-so to do this-and-that".

was a little bit hot under collar last evening when i got a message like this, and thats when this post was born.

is it a break down of communication or plain exhaustion or the classic 'passing the buck'.

whatever be the case, it needs to be looked in detail by the 'passer'. the passee (in this case, me) could also plays a role in breaking this chain, but then he/she then becomes a potential 'passer' facing the same 3 issues mentioned in the above paragraph. it is tough.

i have 3 nice ideas that could be used to address this: simplify, simplify and simplify further.

in line with the ideas, will stop here.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

kaveri amma

here we go again. karnataka and tamilnadu are at the battle front over the tribunal award which favours tamilnadu.
rediff covers the whole history of this dispute.

if you read the first link, scroll down to the comments. junta gone totally ballistic and connecting this to things totally unconnected. jingoism at its vilest best.
really unnecessary and indicative of how divided we are when it comes to points of conflict.
what was once the sole prerogative of the british and then the politicians - the divide and rule strategy - is now out in the open for all and sundry to use.

the real solution lies in developing a more vibrant local water management system at each village or block level. has been done in many places. indiatogether has a lot of research and articles on water issues.

historically, the indian civilisations have run really vibrant river based agricultural societies with minimal problems. the technology used in those periods to harvest water, irrigation systems, manage flooding, etc., are remarkable in their simplicity and ingenuity.

like we have lost and are losing tons of local expertise in most areas, this engineering and management knowledge is also draining itself into the oceans.

nevertheless, the sanctity of a central non-biased authority is totally trampled in this jingoistic jamboree. it is like saying, i will accept your authority only if you rule in my favour.

we have not seen the end of this yet.

moonset and sunrise

lovely full moon feb 1 and 2. some pics i took. not a patch on the real thing. hantingly beautiful.

moonset series

moonset 2

sunrise series

Monday, February 05, 2007

election results

1. am glad that the sena-bjp won in mumbai and other municipalities.
2. or perhaps i am glad that the others lost.

could be a mix of both.

statement 1 worries me a bit. statement 2 worries me more.
but without doubt, the congress and ncp are doing a pathetic job at the state level. it is a miracle that maharashtra is still managing investments and such-like with such magnificent bunglers at the helm.

interestingly, there has been a huge overload of coverage in all forms of media this year on the bmc elections. guys like agni and karmayog did a lot of awareness building campaigns, rating candidates, check lists on blogs.

still the overall voting went up only from 42% to 45 % over the last 2 elections. while other municipalities recorded much healthier voter increases. this is certainly a positive sign for our democracy.

still the points 1 and 2 are bothering me.

Friday, February 02, 2007


reached the bus stop.
was a bit tired with all the meetings and the load of things to do.

carrying these weights and sat myself down on a shop entrance.

busy people walking up and down.
what hustle and bustle and what energy this city's denizens display.

automatically i a m smiling. almost a plastic smile pasted on face:-)

a weary ba limping past. my full smile hits her.
she lights up. crooked teeth all stained red with excess paan chewing.
totally lights up. her face loses at least 10 years. totally awesome bisage (bengali for visage).
pumps me up. total weight reduction happened. reached home smiling.

ss has had a similar brilliant experience.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

the seva walk

More than 120 kids, 30 plus walk youth leaders and 6 adults all assembled to embark on an interesting experiment – the seva yatra.

Tusshar gandhi introed us to his idea of seva and even bapu’s meaning of – be the change. Very inspiring. He said that true seva is when one serves beyond his capacities. Unlimited.

With these words echoing in our ears, we all set off. More than 20 routes spanning most of central Mumbai. Exciting times ahead !!

Our group of adults even more thrilled at this chance and an unsaid weight of expectation to be able to inspire the kids alsoJ

I used this inspiration for the day. Mark and John did a silent trash pick up routine. Pretty simple and effective.

At start, one of the didis snapped her sandals. Immediate application and made it a barefoot walk. Me and didi. Connection to the earth is a good way to kick it off.

First stop was with a group of 4 hauling garbage into a dumpster. Led by the inimitable rd didi, we jumped in with full vigour. My first experience with gujju ‘dalits’. Quite a punishing routine and a feeling of ‘inescapable destiny’. Rd was doing a great job talking to them. It made being silent much easier!
I am good at manual labour :-)

All this while, plastic pouches were being hauled of the roads. Tons of them.

Next, a random bus trip. Ended up at a industrial ghetto. Met a group of kids playing. Group kicks into top gear. Nails clipped, faces cleaned, wounds washed and dressed, non stop trash picking. Used sign lanuguage and wild gestiulation to communicate.

time to head back. walking next to street slum. tons of kids and tons of picking up all through. great part was the recreation of the safai fauj at a bus stop. took just 2 minutes to spruce up the entire place. and without even making a beep this time.

back to start. kids all worn out from the walk and perhaps even the experience.
a lunch in total silence. to help think about the experiences.

a storm of voices, once we started the processing. so much was done, so much was felt and so much was thought about. more than one could do in a classroom type education system. the kids had done a whole host of reach-outs. very exciting and inspiring.

the journey has begun.

was left with a nagging doubt, did not feel i met tussharbhai's definition. not stretched enough.
is the zone too large to break out of now ? nope, thats my ego talking.

keep walking dosts. keep on.