Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


was coordinating from mumbai some house spruce up work in bangalore being done by an agency.
was given a number of a krishnan, could not get through.
got another contact of a sayyed and got through.
spoke to him and fixed up the matter.

ending the conversation, i asked if i could get the number of krishnan.
sayyedbhai said, "krishnan, my assistant?"
i said, "oh, then i dont need, will be in touch with you."

my inbuilt bias assumed that the brahmin/hindu krishnan would be the boss of the muslim sayyed.

shame, shame...

Friday, August 24, 2007

somebody stop me

its evening and i am sitting at the entrance to the office (reception types).
2 agitated women walk in.
from the plastic hanging tags, i guess they are from the office in the nearest building.

they stand in front of the desk (around 10% of me is hidden by the monitor) and frantically look everywhere except at me.
they cry out plaintively, "somebody here?"
in my own style i reply, "i am somebody."

oops, they must have wanted to kill themselves (well at least an eye check-up...).
desultory enquiry about having some extra/left-over food (for at best 10 kids) and wanting to give it away to kids. how sweet and kind of them.
gave them some contacts of orphanages.
they ask, "will they come to pick up"

the bloody cheek, i say. again.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

an hour's salary for a worthy cause

Work an Hour 2007 is a unique, simple and powerful annual fund raiser run by Asha for Education.
these are the projects that they are supporting this year.
online donations are done here.

my first dalliance with the organised development sector was through asha and it was that experience that led me to jump into this space full time.

hotel sharada

my strayingaround friend writes about the best eating out spots in town.

this is my own addition to these hallowed spots.
the best tamil eating spot in the city (other than my own house) - hotel sharada.

located just after matunga labour camp on the road going towards dharavi's 60 feet road.
take the straight road from over the matunga central station bridge and wind along until just 50 meters before the 60 ft road.
from sion hospital, take the road towards dharavi/mahim and take the second left and within 50 meters you will see the board on your right.

also known to the locals as 'kuppan's tiffin center'.
the sambar is so good that people drink it.
every item on the menu is just outstanding (try any of the uttappams, dosas for a 'palate'ial experience) . the pricing is unbelievable (4 super soft ultra-delicious idlis for Rs 12 with unlimited sides). service is also ultra fast.

it is now almost a weekly outing here.
don't miss it for the world.
the sambar is so good that people drink it :-)

Monday, August 20, 2007

sub-prime surprise

the monster which has been wrenching the economic markets over the last months. 'sub-prime'.

my simple 6 step explanation to the uninitiated.
1. people bought a lot of real estate in the US under variable interest rates.
2. the loans were made into financial instruments and sold many times down the chain until in reached the big banks.
3. when the interest rates moved northwards the EMIs followed.
4. the borrowers were in the high risk (i.e., low income) category, they foreclosed the loans/mortgages.
5. not only did the banks stop getting the monthly EMIs, the flood of housing in the market depressed the rates (more supply, less demand).
6. chaos reigns.

business line has this simple FAQ style explanation on this here.
here is more on wikipedia.

this fascinates me because it simplifies the understanding of economics and global financial institutions.
so much so, that i used this example to exemplify the pitfalls of a consumer economy in my sunday class.

letter to my students

dear friends,

i send my sincere apologies to each of you.
i am sorry for many things i have done and not done as a teacher.

while teaching you to aim for the stars, i have forgotten to tell you to build a nice clean path towards them.
while teaching you to aspire for the best, i have forgotten to tell you that the worst will have to be converted to the best.
while teaching you to be healthy and clean, i have forgotten to tell that 'you' means more than just you.
while teaching you to walk with pride, i have forgotten to tell you that the walk is never done alone.
while teaching you to speak confidently, i have forgotten to tell you to do the same with your family.
while teaching you to continue your education, i have forgotten to tell you that life is the best teacher.
while teaching you to respect your nation, i have forgotten to tell you that your community is just as important as your nation.

my apologies once again.


UPDATE: after i read this to them, with a poker face one boy said, "it's ok, bhaiyya. we forgive you."
one of life's exemplary lessons !!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

orissa - climate change

one of the 'hottest' topics these days on all spectra is global warming.
there are enough local signs each of us are experiencing which indicate changing weather patterns.
there is again much debate in the scientific community on the ayes and nays regarding the impact of carbon emissions on global temperature, etc.
i almost come across an article everyday in mainstream media.

here is a series from the sidelines on the state of weather in orissa:
The state has been declared disaster-affected for 95 years out of the last 105 years: floods have occurred for 50 years, droughts for 32, and cyclones have struck the state for 11 years.

read part 1
People like my mother remember six distinct seasons -- grishma (summer), barsa (rains), sarata (autumn), hemanta (dew), sisira (winter) and basanta (spring).....
Today, there are no such signs. Orissa has only two seasons: the rains and summer, with winter being a mild transition between the two.

read part 2
Constantly pushed back by the sea, the local residents find themselves in a unique situation: technically they are encroachers as their legal documents show their lands are somewhere inside the sea. In fact, the government still asks for land revenue and the villagers pay it to maintain their legal status.

read part 3
Going by the Indian Meteorological Department’s cyclone statistics for 1877-1990, the Orissa coast has been hit the hardest. Of the 964 cyclones that crossed the east coast during this period, 422 struck Orissa.

read part 4

why did you not clean this place?

yesterday was another anniversary of our Independence...or is it 'in dependence'.

the only guys who must be really enjoying all this must be those who rent out sound systems and flag makers.
tons of faux-patriotism and 'love thy nation' strewn across the media.
people are falling over each other to express their views. we could not get enough of it through the week.
today is the day after and i can imagine the tons of plastic tirangas that must be floating in the gutters from banal, useless events and functions. and the tons of e-debris from chain-SMS and emails exhorting the greatness of india.

so i was at this place where we had planned a community clean up. tried to be simple and unpretentious and focussed on garbage elimination.
organised a group of 10 youth and hoped that there would be more from the locals who would join in the campaign.
while the local youth stayed mere bystanders, the little kids joined us in full enthusiasm and gusto. totally rocking.
we tried to stay away from the 3 difference flag hoisting functions, but as one of them was right in the clean-up zone, we participated a bit.
otherwise for over 3 hours, the group clean up an football-field sized area of plastic and general pick-uppable kachra. an impressive sight it was once it was done.

here is the explanation for the title.
as we were on our way out, we got hailed by a group from one of the buildings. they came down and with a straight face asked us "why did you not clean this place?", pointing to an area in front of their building.
the bloody cheek, i can hear my readers thinking.
we were too tired to react as such and withdrew with simple explanations of our work and exited.

the bloody cheek, i say.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

the bihar we are not seeing

i wrote about the fascinating new bihar here - the bihar we don't know.
and during the same time and as i type this, bihar has been wrecked by flooding.

here are a series of news articles from rediff.
floods: Bihar will take years to recover
when the water recedes, our problems will multiply
images from the devastation

one of my friends used to do sales in bihar and he had once described this scene. and i used to be stunned just at the description.
this picture explains why.

Monday, August 06, 2007

close doors please

i wrote on double press about waiting for the lift.

seems that there is serious research done on this.
while my part covered human urgency traits (huts) when waiting for the lift, here is jerry pinto commenting on the huts when inside the lift.
“If you travel in Asia, you will notice that the DOOR CLOSE button in elevators is the one with the paint worn off, says (John) Kendall (director of advanced technology at Otis elevators). It gets used more than any other button in the elevator. When they get into the elevator they want to go.”

now this is getting some place

Saturday, August 04, 2007

poor tennis ball

i saw this in 2 newspapers on the same day in 2 different cities. while photos are misleading, this one would qualify for the 'asymmetry' award.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

sainath awarded magsaysay - say what

i am a true fan of p sainath.
and with great glee, i read today about him being selected for the prestigious ramon magsaysay award.

here is a red hot interview from

here are tons of articles he has written in the hindu and indiatogether in one convenient location.
alexander cockburn has this nice three part series on his tour of india with sainath. part 1, part 2 and part 3.

and wikipedia too has more on him and his work.


the bihar we don't know

when you think you know something, then you get hit by a stunning turn of events.
here is something to be really proud of that is happening in bihar.
funny how not much on this is being reported in indian media.

hat tip: madhukar shukla