Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Q&A with students

affected by the 26/11 episode, students from grade 7 and 8 from the riverside school created a list of questions.
i present my responses to these questions. you can also get to the site and present your answers.

1. Why is there so much anger?

Ans: Anger arises from a mismatch in 'what we want' and 'what we get'. This is not restricted to the material world alone. For e.g., 'I want a peaceful life' and 'my city gets rocked by a tragic terror attack'. And these mismatches get compounded when we see others getting something we wanted. In a society which celebrates and encourages 'more wanting', these mismatches are bound to increase.

2. What is going to happen next?

Ans: No idea. Don't trust anyone who predicts tomorrow. I plan to do a series of things to help me understand things better and try to improve myself. (I am leaving it a bit vague).

3. What can we humans do to accept each other?

Ans: Accept ourselves first, then our family. If we manage to do these well, then start expanding the circle. Kabir says "Bura jo dekhan main chala, bura na milya koi, Jo mann khoja apna, tho mujhse bura na koi" We will be helped on this path if we build our patience, our listening, our smiles and similar stuff.

4. Till when will we have to suffer?

Ans: Suffering is mandatory for a happy life. I rather die than live a life without suffering. Failures and suffering are our best teachers and we would be wimps if we do not endure them. Even the damage and suffering inflicted by the terrorists is now a text-book for us. As Kahlil Gibran says "Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding."

5. Is the world safe any more?

Ans: From the perspective of climate change issues, I would say that the world is becoming more dangerous. But from the perspective of human society, the world is as safe as you think it is.

6. Are the terrorists also insecure?

Ans: Most certainly. Who isn't? They face the exact same issues that we all face. Their angers stem from the same seeds.

7. What do they get by killing innocent people?

Ans: Tough one. They probably get the same sense when a soldier kills his enemy on the battlefield. Innocents, victims, enemy, friends are labels we give to each other. Our teachers say that those at the Taj are innocent, Kasab's teachers must have told him that they are the enemy.

8. Is our future negative or positive? What about peace?

Ans: That depends on what we take forward in our lives. The future is not fixed, it depends on the choices we exercise today. If we continue to deplete the rain forests, our future is bleak. If we are able to quickly restore the rain forests, then our future is bright.

Peace is a choice we all have. We need to continuously choose it. The more we do it as an individual and more it is done in the collective, the better is our future.

9. Why should humanity care about being human?

Ans: Who else will? For sure, the animals, insects don't care. Each of us is responsible for each of us. It is our duty and responsibility. So what if a few are not doing their part of the bargain.

10. Has killing innocent people given the terrorists their reason for living?

Ans: In most cases, the terrorists die in the same episode. They are somewhat like the insects which come just before the rain. These insects have a very life span and have a very focussed 4 hours of existence. The terrorists are also trained like that.

11. What is the role of education in terrorism?

Ans: The same role as its role in any other sphere (education/training creates V Anand and Kasab through the same structures). If education is the lighting of a lamp, in the case of the terrorist, the wick is stuck into a bomb.

12. Is technology securing our security or disabling it?

Ans: We ourselves are securing or disabling security. Technology is just a tool like all other tools. Don't blame the hammer if you whack your thumb while putting a nail in the wall.

13. Does a human life matter anymore?

Ans: All living things matter. Nobody can change that.

14. How should we deal with these situations?

Ans: It is tough to have one standard mechanism for all to cope and deal with such situations. First recommendation would be to purge the rage from the system. Second would be to discuss with one's peer group and come up with a list of questions (like you guys have done). It is a slow process and we need to be prepared for the long haul as the questions that will crop up in due course will expand to cover larger issues and topics.

15. Is the world going to break up into tiny groups? What about democracy?

Ans: So what if it does? Once upon a time, it was a collection of thousands of almost fully independent villages. We will need to understand the relevance of the multiple identities we carry (country, state, language, caste, locality, school, college, etc).

Democracy is certainly the most desirable form of governance. It will have to evolve from its current state. It needs more participation and more decentralisation.

16. When will the governments wake up? And wake up to what?

Ans: We have the responsibility to wake up anyone who is oversleeping including ourselves. The governments and the politicians are smart enough to know which way the wind is blowing. The onus is now on us (the wind) to blow in unison.

17. What will the new definition of freedom be?

Ans: Freedom should continue to be defined by what gandhiji defined as 'swaraj'. Swaraj implies self-transformation, self-discipline and self-restraint on a personal level.

Monday, December 29, 2008

nature deficit disorder

richard louv coined this beautiful term - nature deficit disorder from his book 'Last Child in the Woods'- which talks about the increasing disconnect between children and nature that today's society has enforced.
the potential depradations of this disconnect should be obvious even to the casual observer.

in this delightful interview (part 1 and part 2), he comes up with some superb snatches:
Pediatricians will tell you they're not treating very many broken bones in kids anymore. What they are seeing now are repetitive-stress injuries in children, which generally last a lot longer, sometimes permanently, compared to most broken bones.
It's the litigiousness of the society that's probably the reason schools put up "no running" signs on the playground.
I know I'm out on a limb on that -- but that's where the best fruit is.
If we were really interested in education reform we'd have a "No Child Left Inside" movement.
We're in danger of having a whole generation disassociate from nature. Not only because they didn't go outside as kids, but because of the message being sent, often unintentionally, by environmental organizations and by the news media: When it comes to the environment, it's too late. Game's over.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

engineer turned farmer

this is close to what i want to do and be...
there is one statistic in slide 7.
My target is a net income of Rs 100,000 per annum per acre. I have achieved up to Rs 50,000.
at this level, the maximum potential profitability is Rs 1 lakh per acre.
and after 10 years of working, madhavan is at 50% level.
two points:
1. our regular farmers must be then in a severe financial mess. apparent from all the suicides we read about.
2. farming allows only a certain level of income, within which the family should learn to live, for it to be a long term and sustainable occupation/life.

point 2 is key life lesson we (farmers) have forgotten. and has led to disastrous methods of mono-cropping, dependence on chemicals, etc.

it is liberating to read such fresh approaches amongst our generation.

Monday, December 22, 2008


sakharkar is his name.
it means 'sugar maker'.
and never has been a better example of 'living up to one's name'.

another artiste of highest caliber.
he details each process and the related success probabilities and associated costs assiduously. he must have had his fill of kanjoos and khit-pit customers.

he came over to quieten our noisy ceiling fans. and a fantastic job done.
spot on with timing, with cost and cleanliness.

marathis (even gujaratis?) have the most interesting surnames. all seem to be directly linked to their profession.
here are some links on marathi surnames. some frivolous and some decent.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

seeing, hearing is false, only trust serious research

the title is a poor translation of a brilliant kural.

was discoursing a batch of students who had raised many questions around J&K such as:
1. should we bomb pakistan?
2. is kashmir issue the root of all the problems?
3. why is india not rooting out the terrorism in kashmir?
4. what is the status of the border?
5. why dont we drive pakistan out of kashmir?

though we are all far removed from J&K, we still harbour serious positions and opinions on the state of J&K (though it is a fact that it is universally called Kashmir).
my responses to the students was around the title.

and i get back home to read the latest news reports, and...
the elections for the 2009 J&K State Assembly have been on for more than a month.
A mega complicated exercise by the election commission, as it is being held in multiple stages.
Media has been ebullient about the people's participation. Voter turnouts have been over 60%.

But then, here is some fresh info.

trust only serious research...but what is serious research anyways??

pattern or coincidence

this mail has been going around since a few days commenting on the sinister connection of the terror attacks in india in 2008 with the number 13.

May 13 - Jaipur
June - nothing
July 26 - Ahemdabad
August - nothing
Sep 13 - Delhi
Oct - nothing
Nov 26 - Mumbai
Dec - nothing

whatever be the case, (i would pitch for pattern) i can bet that on Jan 13, india will be on tenterhooks.

updated info based on airspy comment
Dec 13 2001 - parliament

out of pattern
8 Sept 2006 - Malegoan (suspicion is on Hindu terror modules)

wikipedia list of terror attacks in india

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

does our vote count?

may be, may be not...

but check out the latest results from the assembly elections 2008.

Nathdwara constituency - Rajasthan
Kalyan Singh Chauhan - BJP - 62216
CP Joshi - Congress - 62215
Margin of victory - 1 vote

TOI reports that Neena Verma (BJP) wins the Dhar constituency (MP) by 1 vote.

inclined to believe that every vote counts?

update on Dhar
Neena Verma (BJP) - 50510
Balmukund Singh Goutam (Congress) - 50509

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Flow - movie on water crisis

today's daily good led me onto this interesting movie - Flow.
talks about the water crisis.
the trailer is here.

i expect that it features the stories from india - plachimada, mehdiganj, kala dera, etc.

on this same note read this nat geo article on 'bottled water vs tap water' and the accompanying smashing photo.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

what is education for?

was forwarded an old (1991) commencement address by David Orr with the same title.
he is a professor of environmental studies and has approached this question from his area of expertise.
his list of myths...
1. ignorance is a solvable problem.
2. with enough knowledge and technology we can manage planet Earth.
3. knowledge is increasing and by implication human goodness.
4. we can adequately restore that which we have dismantled.
5. the purpose of education is that of giving you the means for upward mobility and success.
6. our culture represents the pinnacle of human achievement.
and his points through answering the question posed...
1. all education is environmental education.
2. the goal of education is not mastery of subject matter, but of one's person.
3. knowledge carries with it the responsibility to see that it is well used in the world.
4. we cannot say that we know something until we understand the effects of this knowledge on real people and their communities.
5. "minute particulars" are very important and examples are much more powerful than words.
6. the way learning occurs is as important as the content of particular courses.
i was drawn primarily because on his invocation of aldo leopold - the author of 'a sand county almanac'.
you can read his recent interview here on treehugger.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

last week onwards in africa

nigeria was torn apart by sectarian violence. over 300 dead.

and zimbabwe is facing a cholera epidemic which has already claimed 500+ lives.
and of course, they are facing a hyperinflation of unprecedented levels.

a bloody week indeed.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


the following thought has come and gone over the last week.
i even recall using the the phrase "these poor fellows".
but never found the space and courage to be direct about it.
the ten guys who came in and chaosed mumbai through their guns and grenades.
i forgive them. i don't hate them. they are the "poor fellows".

i borrow the following from a mail exchange from the author who wrote "Hotel Taj: Icon of Whose India?"

they (the terrorists) were as selfless and sacrificing as the commandos, equally brilliant and efficient in warfare like the commandos. the only problem has been they have been motivated by a ideology that taught them to hate and destroy in the name of religion.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Hotel Taj Mahal - India's Icon?

"no", says gnani sankaran among others things
very leftist, but raises serious issues which reflect our common perspective to the mumbai episode, as well as our overall approach.

i have always felt uneasy in 'rich settings' like the taj.
that comes from 2 notions which need to be worked upon:
1. being completely comfortable with oneself
2. being judgmental

Monday, December 01, 2008

delicate italian feet in mouth

the people are pissed with the politicians (hereinafter referred to as idiots).
the idiots say stupid things and do stupid things.
while these are gems of a high order, i would like to present a few which are even higher in my rating scale.
and they come from sonia gandhi, a more recent entrant into the idiot club.
"We can no longer sit back and let these attacks overwhelm us. Our response has to be effective and it has to be decisive," she said at the meeting of the party's highest policy-making body, Congress Working Committee, in New Delhi on Wednesday night. (emphasis mine)
clearly means that the UPA has to shelve their long-term, high-investment ass-expansion programmes.

and that's not all...
"They (people) must feel they have a government that is taking all possible measures to give succour to those who need it and, more important, to ensure that there is no recurrence of such traumatic acts of terror," the Congress chief said. (emphasis mine again)
overjoyed that the people's feelings are the topmost priority of the idiots.

the terrorists are seriously wasting their time trying to damage india.
our idiots are doing a splendid job of it.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

ATS deaths - Qasab se

the lone captured terrorist - Mohammed Qasab - has confessed to killing the ATS team and ACP Kamte, says NDTV reports:
my conspiracy theory on the ATS deaths has been 'officially' negated by this report.
but, any amount of "air-freshener" cover up can at best mask the odour, but not take it away.

it continues to smell for me.

Friday, November 28, 2008

naughty nisha nixes 'namma' nadu

in the midst of all the mumbai maha-mayhem, cyclone Nisha slams Tamil Nadu.
Nisha!?!? where did that come from... another unnecessary American influence...

70 are dead and mega tons of water has screwed mega thousands of people.

for the first time ever, water has entered the ground floor of my family home in madras.

Mumbai ka Police Commissioner kaun?

am sure that a significant majority would not have answered this question pre 26/11.
am certain, that the same majority will not be able to answer this question today.

am also certain that a good number of the mumbai 's best will not be able to answer this question.

where has Mr. Hassan Gafoor been all this time?

the most obvious person to lead the entire counter operations would be the chief of police.
but there was nary a scent on Mr. Gafoor's whereabouts throughout the early stages of the attacks.
i just managed to find one news article at 1140AM on 28th Nov in TOI.

in fact, Mr Gafoor's online presence is negligible to say the least.
his appointment was a bit controversial as some quarters termed it 'minority appeasement'.

this is another stinkeroo...

ATS deaths - malodorous

ATS was heading one of the most controversial investigations - on 'hindu terror' through the involvement of Col Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya in the Malegoan blasts.

the hindu right wing had started assembling their might against the ATS.
1. shiv sena calls for state bandh on 26th Nov.
2. advani joins the sangh parivar chorus to release the sadhvi on 18th Nov.

and 24 hours from sena's bandh call, the ATS head - hemant karkare is dead in "mumbai 26/11".

the mumbai mirror reports how the terrorists got the ATS.

at 230AM on thursday, when i first heard the news, i was discomfited with this news.
now, it stinks.

p.s.: i forgot to add that ACP Kamte (in Pune), Inspector Salaskar have already been cremated and ATS head Karkare 's last rites will be on Saturday.
surely no time for any investigation into their deaths...

Thursday, November 27, 2008


...of our media for their drivel and sensationalist 'breaking news' approach. one of the NDTV reporters says, "The whole area has been securitised....". Times Now constantly harping, "Exclusive pictures only from TOI and only on Times Now..."

...of our intelligence bureau

...of our security forces - 21 hours and resolution. the most tragic image was a tired and struggling fireman trying to aim his hose into a 3rd floor fire at the TAJ with no water pressure.

...of the trolls that spew venom on the message boards.

...of our non-existent emergency response systems.

...of the ATS to have allowed their top officers to enter into the battlefield with inadequate preparation and gear with disastrous effect.

...of manmohan singh, who has single-handedly made george bush look efficient and decisive.

Intelligence (sic) Bureau

the IB is the premier agency handling sensitive counter-insurgency measures and of course filled with the top notch cops of the country.
this is their analysis of the "mumbai 27/11":
The Intelligence Bureau has confirmed that the attacks that took place in Mumbai on Wednesday night were an act of terror and aimed at disrupting peace and causing panic among Mumbaikars.
i think the terrorists are wasting their time in india, there are more than sufficient 'intelligent' gents around to flush the country down the drain.

safe from...

....the attacks
so safe ...for the time being...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

auto ignition

here are some general good links on the all pervasive Big 3 bail-out boohaahaa.

the big scare scenario being thrown about is the number of people who will be seriously impacted due to Big 3 becoming redundant!
most news available is throwing a 1 in 10 (of all US workers) number at us.
NY Times rebuts this here.

there are cuts and thrusts aplenty on the validity of a bail-out in a truly capitalistic auto market.

in many ways i view this as a good development.
with climate change being such a serious threat, which requires a phenomenal level of rapid and immediate cut down of emissions and all that, there is bound to be a serious positive impact on the physical environment.
but not of course, the social environment.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

i love a good recession

most reports indicate that the world economy is going to go through some 'root-canal' pain.
global-recession is around the corner.
but this is not whether this is going to happen or the economic theory or the corrective actions undertaken by the regulators, etc.
i have always received such news with glee, an element of 'i-told-you-so', a dash of 'serves-them-right'. a shake-up was required to reign in the rampaging power/money hungry capitalistic hordes!
it asserted that my moral position was superior to the rest of the majority in the capitalistic world.
it is obviously flawed from not only the same moral position, but from the devastation that a recession will unleash onto the ground.

i stand corrected.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

a must-see/must-read speech

just saw this over the web-waves.
a truly memorable and inspirational speech expostulating the power of the labour force and an impassioned plea towards building a new world by discarding prejudices.

the speaker is richard trumka (and certainly a trump card for obama), a trade union leader.

and it does appear that working class backed obama.

but the obama support is just part of the speech.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

asbestos or as-worst-as

india is sitting on an asbestos time bomb.
tehelka and infochangeindia has covered this story in detail.
a product that is banned in the European Union, Australia, Japan and New Zealand could not have been imported with such impunity in India. The slashing of import duty on asbestos from 78% in 1995 to 15% in 2004 only adds more grist to the conspiracy mill. No wonder cumulative asbestos imports have touched a whopping 7 million tonnes, up from a low annual import of 40,000 tonnes in 1960 to over 250,000 tonnes in 2006.
Appellate Body of World Trade Organisation while upholding chrysotile ban in France had soundly rejected the "controlled use" and safe use argument of the Canadian asbestos industry. In its 95th Session of the International Labour Conference on 14 June 2006, International Labour Organisation adopted a resolution for the elimination of all forms of asbestos from future use as the only way forward for protecting workers.
the entire report released is available here.
i loved the story"Asbestos Multinationals in India: The Experience of Turner and Newall" - page 44 onwards.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

waiting for change

the collective sighs, yippees, yays, phews and other high and low frequency sounds have passed us now.
obama has handsomely won and created a whole new paradigm in democracy in the USA. the man is super hot when he is on public display with a mike in front of him.
second to bill clinton in public oratory.
america has been heralded by him into the throes of change!!!

waiting to see it!!
have few doubts.

for the pedigree he has been colour-associated with --- mandela, martin luther king... he should get his primary focus on peace.

bajrang dal - 'militancy' to 'terrorism'

the bajrang dal is the militant youth wing of the vishwa hindu parishad (VHP).
they have perpetrated series of violent acts in the last months in orissa, karnataka, etc.
their tag-line is slowly being changed from militant group to terror group.

since the dramatic arrest of sadhvi pragya, the face of 'hindu terror' is emerging.
the convenient 'SIMI scapegoating' should finally end.

tehelka has run a long interview with their current president - prakash sharma.
it is good reading and a lot of cut and thrust.
i am quite amused by sharma's constant refrain to 'spontaneous reaction'.
sometimes i wish for spontaneous human combustion.

the mess that is our cities

2008 is an important year for population statisticians.
the population residing in urban areas will cross the 50% mark.
the UN estimates that this will move to 70% by 2050.
the 2001 indian census shows that 27.8% of our population is urban and increasing quite rapidly.
atanu dey at deesha is an active proponent of the creation of cities.

it is an undeniable migration and close to irreversible (unless the raj thackereys of the world have their way).

but the reality of the india's inept governance structures makes this process extremely scary, a point which is well brought out by kalpana sharma.

Typical of such small urban centres is Nawada, the district headquarters of Nawada district in South Bihar. Barring a few reasonably broad paved roads, the rest of the city appears to be connected and disconnected with narrow pot-holed roads where all manner of vehicles jostle for space with vendors, pedestrians, and animals. The winners are the ones who are more dexterous.

Electricity comes sporadically. The rich have diesel generators and invertors. Most manage with kerosene lamps after dark. Many homes depend on handpumps either inside or just outside their houses for water. Sanitation facilities are suspect although there must be some sewerage, and there is little evidence of garbage collection as you see the piles of garbage around every corner with pigs and dogs competing for access.

Yet, this town has a history studded with the names of men and women who played an important role in the freedom struggle -- like Jayaprakash Narayan. The Sarvodaya Ashram he established is a couple of hours away from the city. And there are older reminders of a distinguished past that residents will tell you about, including its link to Buddhism and Jainism. Nawada is also home to the master of dhrupad and thumri, Siyaram Tiwary.

Its past notwithstanding, Nawada’s present reflects little that distinguishes it from other towns of an equivalent size. It exemplifies the acute problems that urbanisation poses in India – the absence of investment in infrastructure, the lack of planning and developmental norms and the poor status of structures of governance that could make a difference. There is a silent crisis afflicting these places that is affecting the lives of millions of people, yet no one seems to notice or care.

for example, the water supply situation...
According to figures quoted in ‘Status of Water Supply, Sanitation and Solid Waste Management’ prepared by the National Institute of Urban Affairs (June 2005), there are literally dozens of fairly major towns in India that get water twice a week or every alternate day. Although the figures quoted in the study are from 1999, and the situation in some of these towns could have improved, it is indicative of the extent of the water crisis in these cities. The worst off, according to the 1999 data, were towns in Gujarat. Surendranagar, for instance, got water for 30 minutes once a week, Gondal was slightly better off with water supplied for 20 minutes once in four days while Amreli received a supply of 60 minutes once in three days. Nine towns in Tamil Nadu had water either twice a week or on alternate days. Even Bangalore got water on alternate days.
entire article is here.

eat less oil and more sunshine...

says mike pollan in his letter to barack obama.
the food and agriculture policies you've inherited -- designed to maximize production at all costs and relying on cheap energy to do so -- are in shambles, and the need to address the problems they have caused is acute. The good news is that the twinned crises in food and energy are creating a political environment in which real reform of the food system may actually be possible for the first time in a generation.
his suggestions hinge on his concept to 'resolarise the american farm':
Your challenge is to take control of this vast federal machinery and use it to drive a transition to a new solar-food economy, starting on the farm. Right now, the government actively discourages the farmers it subsidizes from growing healthful, fresh food: farmers receiving crop subsidies are prohibited from growing "specialty crops".....
...Commodity farmers should instead be encouraged to grow as many different crops -- including animals -- as possible. Why? Because the greater the diversity of crops on a farm, the less the need for both fertilizers and pesticides.
to 'rebuild the food culture'...he says:
On the premise that eating well is a critically important life skill, we need to teach all primary-school students the basics of growing and cooking food and then enjoying it at shared meals. (emphasis mine)
this is certainly true for not only america, but the entire world.

back in circulation

spent a week each on either side of deepavali travelling and catching up at home base.
madras, coimbatore, bangalore, allenahalli (karnataka) were touched in this trip.
did the entire trip by rail (indian railways zindabad!!!)

by all measures, this was a defining trip for wife and me.
why and what this means will be another series of posts coming up.

good to be back on fanaa.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"doomsday scenario... looming if israel attacks iran."
says an old british hawk.
general time pass reading.

shreesh jadhav - super story

this is what makes a great start to the morning.
Shreesh Jadhav was ranked second across India in the JEE and completed his B.Tech in computer science with a perfect 10 CPI. A recipient of the President’s gold medal at IIT, he spurned all offers of plum scholarships from top foreign universities. Instead, he went on to do his Ph.D from IIT, Kanpur....He continues to positively impact the lowest rung of the social ladder. Recently, he helped save the life of 12-year-old Sarita, who developed a hole in her heart. Her operation in Bangalore cost Rs 3 lakh and on reading Shreesh’s email, I had contributed my bit, but was doubtful if he would meet the target. But, as I recently found out, Sarita was back home in Kanpur after a successful surgery, making me put my faith in Shreesh’s words that “there are a lot of good people in the world, we just need to reach out to them”.

Unmarried, he has dedicated his entire life towards a social cause. He joined the Ramkrishna Mission after his doctorate and, by now, has taught computer science to several thousand students at their university, besides managing various projects spread across the country.
whole story here.

hat tip: charityfocus

Sunday, October 12, 2008

LAFTI ideals

Krishnammal and Sankaralingam Jagannathan have been bravely soldiering on Vinobha's Bhoodan path - redistribute land from the rich to the landless.
Till September 2007, around 12,000 people had received 11,066 acres of land. The land is also registered in the names of women in the family. At a recent meeting of the Tamil Nadu Cabinet it was decided to waive stamp duty and registration charges to enable LAFTI to buy 1,061 acres in Nagapattiam to give to landless farmers at the rate of one acre per farmer.
their work has been recognised with the 2008 Right Livelihood Prize.
quite deserving.
one thing that struck me as awe-inspiring.
For Sarvodaya activist Krishnammal Jagannathan land represents freedom. A lifelong Gandhian committed to the philosophy of self-reliance, 85-year-old Krishnammal and her 95-year-old husband S Jagannathan began a movement in 1968 called LAFTI-Land for the tillers’ freedom.

meltdown - must see

gary braasch is a conservation Photographer and has documented the visible effects of global warming since 1998.
his audio slideshow - Meltdown is gripping.
do keep your computer speakers turned on.

home schooling

i have been an avid follower of this concept for children.
it means that the formal notion of a school no longer is relevant .
it is quite an established fact that parents play the most significant role in the education of the children (when compared to teachers).

while this is a popular movement in US and Europe, it is a recent but growing phenomenon in india.
well, growing fast enough to get onto tehleka.
the first quoted couple, manish and vidhi jain are part of shikshantar, which actively articulates de-schooling society.

i have been saying that i would never put my children (if and when that happens) in any school. now you know why...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

if ludwig was peter pan

then the headline would read:
Peter Pan pans Pan IIT.

or maybe
pandemonium at pan iit

or maybe
pan iit pants off

or maybe
pan iit handles issues worse than panhandlers
(no offence meant to the panhandling community)

or maybe
i should just stop.

Friday, September 26, 2008

media wakes up...

the MSM has been heavily one-sided in their reporting over the entire terror episodes.

looks like that tide is turning.
was reading the TOI today morning and was keenly surprised at these articles.
framed? and shocked?

and went online and kafila has detailed analysis of this trend - which is a welcome reversal.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

LHC - large hadron collider or ...

... Lehman's Huge Cock-up

i am certain now.
it has to be linked.
the LHC's big bang experiment started on the 10th of Sept.
mega anxiety was created over the potential disastrous outcomes of this (at least on India TV and Star News).
some poor girl apparently committed suicide over this impending calamity.

within 4 days, the american financial system busts wide open.

and within 4 days of that, the LHC's big bang experiment has had a magnetic meltdown.

tell me these are not related and i shall stop blogging.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

flushing disgrace

associated press reports that american medical institutions flush down the toilet over 250 million pounds of drugs down the toilet!!
for SI system inclined readers, thats over 10,000 Tons of drugs per year.
swell indeed.
no need to take an asprin, just have 2 glasses of water to take care of the infection...

how much of this is happening likewise here in india?
should be in the same region if not in multiples. most perhaps are going into waste dumping sites and eventually into the soil.

i have consistently been drinking water off the tap for the last few years.
may be such contaminations account for my large nose :-)

alternate media on the delhi encounter

blasts rocked delhi couple of weeks ago.
as again, the police/agencies go ballistic and run operations on prozac.

there is a major report on the encounter with militants in delhi which nails 2 'terrorists', 1 super-cop.
atif is killed and is purported to be the supermind behind all things evil.
the media goes ballistic and is totally reliant on nothing more than police feed.

here are 2 alternate commentaries:
countercurrents rips apart the initial attack.
The five youth living in the apartment submitted to the Delhi police their personal details, including permanent address, driving license details, address of the house they previously stayed in, all of which were found to be accurate.

Is it conceivable that the alleged kingpin behind the terrorist Indian Mujahideen outfit would have wanted to undergo a police verification- for whatever purpose- just a week after the Ahmedabad blasts and a month before the bombings in Delhi?

and the analysis at kafila is even more scathing (in assistance with imagery from hindustan times).
A number of disturbing questions about this ‘encounter’ are gradually beginning to make themselves known. I do not wish to repeat or reiterate them in this posting (though I feel that they need to be carefully thought about). I just want to share my doubts about particular thing that I can’t but help noticing while looking at the photograph. image is here. entire article is here.

there is a lot of narco-analysis and fluff like that...where is the evidence.
scary stuff.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

end of capitalism

after a thought provoking 'socialism redux' post, my further research (aka google search) shows that many thinkers on the blogosphere have espoused similar thoughts.

here are some samples (these are not examples of great economic writing, but just some samples)
American Capitalism has been offered as a solution around the world since the 1960s, but hasn’t gained much traction for one simple reason – it doesn’t work. It does not offer any solution for those market failures that arise on a regular basis. It certainly offers no hope for the largest market failure facing humanity today – that of Climate Change. We now see, through the nationalisation of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, an admission from the US Federal government that American Capitalism does not work. We ought not to celebrate too much just yet. The Keynesians came to the rescue in the 1930s and 1940s, but there is no parallel school of thought today. Perhaps necessity will generate it? Perhaps it is time for China, or India, to take the intellectual lead? full article here
the above view is about the failure of the capitalistic theory. which is certainly plausible, but i am not fully bought in.
the below view is about the failure of the practioners of capitalistic theory. this i have some sympathy for.
The recent request by US Treasury Secretary—and more importantly former Chairman and CEO of investment bank Goldman Sachs— Henry Paulson to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac with US taxpayer dollars is but another indication of this destructive and parasitic relationship between bankers, government and the economy.

That a private banker from a large Wall Street investment bank is also Secretary of the US Treasury is no coincidence. It is also no coincidence that once again, public monies from the US Treasury are being used to rescue private bankers and to indemnify their losses.

Receiving taxpayer dollars from the US Treasury for their private benefit is not new to Goldman Sachs. In 1990s, when the Mexican government defaulted on its bonds, investors at Goldman Sachs' stood to lose billions of dollars. They didn't.

Buried deep in the subsequent $40 billion US bailout of Mexico was a $4 billion payment to Goldman Sachs, gratis of the US Treasury indemnifying Goldman Sachs against any losses on their investment in Mexican bonds.

The fact that current US Treasury Secretary and former Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson also recently used US funds to underwrite JP Morgan Chase's private buyout of investment bank Bear Stearns and is now proposing to do the same with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is to be expected. For investment bankers, using public money to privately profit is business as usual. full article is here.

the times of india seems to have followed the lead.
they have a lead story on 'USA to USSR' and the 'end of capitalism'.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

socialism redux

the nehruvian economic theory drew inspiration from USSR's socialistic approach to economic development.
but there are certain 'twists'.
1. an economic advisory written by the leading industrialists of 1940s, the 'bombay plan' advising a socialist approach.
2. the first industry minister - SP Mukherjee - was the main architect of india's industrial policy.
SP Mukherjee later founded the party which became the BJP, the Jan Sangh. (incidentally a landmark intersection in mumbai near the museum, regal cinema and near the gateway of india is named after him).

ok. so where am i getting to. it is connected to what's burning down the markets.
since 1991, one of the things that the indian government is doing is disinvestment, i.e., selling their share of their companies.

state ownership - the core of socialism - has always been touted as critical screw-up.

so i ask, what is happening now with AIG and what just happened with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

new mumbai word - vikasak

new word in the hinid/marathi lexicon.
very technical.
i read it off the ganpati pandals mega-marketing
none of my office colleagues (all locals) could figure.

विकासक - vikasak
means.... in "builder"

विकास - vikas - means development.
but this is really a bit too much i think...

in some dictionaries, it may also means GOD.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

the story of the month

totally astounding. the 'bestest' inspiring story of this month.
of azharuddin... written by harsh mander - who has been there and done that.
from the modern day killing fields of gujarat, the most 'stunningestly' super story.

read here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

the SIMI story

SIMI is the Students Islamic Movement of India.
the 'villain' behind all the heinous violence happening in India.
vilified and 'banned' by the central government from 2001 right after the 9/11.
the police are certain that they are behind the recent blasts in ahemdabad, jaipur and earlier ones in malegaon, mumbai, etc.

not hard to believe.
pretty clear that there are several madrassas and muslim outfits are outfitting islamic youth towards 'jihadist' activities.
we hear a lot that the ISI has infiltrated many covert cells into our country and is funding/training SIMI activists to lead the terror assaults.

may be this is something that needs a unprejudiced mind. very unlike ours. and look at the reality through unblinkered eyes.
tehleka has run a very indepth series on SIMI.
it is very good investigative writing. and it blows away the myth that the indian/state government(s) and mainstream media are trying to perpetuate.
here is a series of articles which are must-reads.
  1. Tarun Tejpal’s editorial
  2. Ajit Sahi’s investigative cover story (Brilliant and a must read)
  3. The witch hunt against Shahid Badr Falahi (ex-president of SIMI)
  4. The judge who stirred the hornet’s nest by over-turning the ban.
  5. Shahid Badr Falahi’s interview.
  6. Tehelka’s internal struggle to cover SIMI.
what is apparent (even in the much media-frenzied "aarushi" case) that our police and investigative agencies are woeful.
they can neither punish the guilty not safeguard the innocent.
we will struggle as a nation.

latest news - the Supreme Court has extended the ban on SIMI till October as the government has requested for additional time to file their affidavit.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


purvi's comment got me thinking about this.
not a 'national poll', but a word coming out of the monster monsanto post.
erudite readers can figure the genesis.

sharing the best seeds within the local community through seed banks etc, has been a integral part of our farming practices.
i tend to think that the green revolution is one culprit in erasing such knowledge systems.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

monster monsanto

monsanto is a big agriculture company.
not just big, but gargantuan.
after enslaving the US farming community, they are targetting india's kisans.
Entitled A Second Green Revolution: Redefining the US-India Strategic Partnership in Agriculture, the report dismisses the need for research and says the need of the hour is to open up Indian agriculture to the private sector. To do so, changes in the existing regulatory framework can be effected with the aid of the US, which has considerable experience intervening in this field.
the first green revolution has left in its wake some heavy duty mess.
an organic farmer makes a great case here.

and india's political sector and private sector will willingly bend over backwards to accommodate their ambitions. the PM, CII, FICCI are all into the deal, but at least, the 'babus' seem to be suspicious.
Agriculture policy analysts were suspicious of the deal from its inception in 2006, during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the US......At the last meeting of the KIA, at which FICCI and CII were inducted on to the board, it became clear that private sector interests were expanding their influence.
this article quotes a Vanity Fair (VF) article.
found it, read it and was shocked at 'monstranto'.
it is super detailed, super interesting and super scary, but super impressed that VF runs such stories.

RTI gets a boost

shailesh gandhi has been has been selected for the post of the Central Information Commissioner.

he is just an awesomely determined dude.
he has been part of the revolution that is Right to Information (RTI).

this is his site with all the stuff that he has uncovered using RTI.

i have had the chance to spend time with him on 3-4 occasions and it has always been wonderful.
more power to him.

the ills of affluence

reading this article about the Nano stand-off at Singur left me bewildered.
there seems to be some casual reporting, but the behaviour of the protagonist.
Having surrendered his one-and-half acre farmland to the West Bengal government, 61-year-old Sushen Santra was banking heavily on the Nano project. His three sons—Subhas, Uttam and Bibhas—were beneficiaries of the project with two of them daily workers at the Tata factory. But the dharna and suspension of work by the Tatas shattered his world.
The resident of Pagepara in Joymolla neighbourhood put himself out of his misery by drinking a bottle of pesticide on Wednesday morning.
before the Nano-induced affluence, even the extreme poverty seemed manageable,
The family income had jumped from an average of Rs 45 per day from farming only to about Rs 300 per day
the irony is striking
...But the shutdown threatened that lifestyle, now bolstered with addons like a TV set....

Subhas recalled his father’s bewildered look after TV channels flashed that the Tatas threatened to relocate the plant from Singur on Tuesday night. “He heard the plant would remain closed till Durgapuja. He kept saying he doesn’t know how the family will survive more than a month without any work.
there is something called 'too-much information'.

Friday, September 05, 2008

vinakaya chaturthi (vc)

aka ganesh chaturthi aka ganpati is the second in series of the festival madness that sweeps mumbai (post krishan jayanti aka gokulashtami aka dahi handi) and continues onto ramzan (aka id), navratri (aka dandiya), deepavali (aka crackers), christmas, new year (aka binges parties).
4 months of 'trance music' and unmitigated noise pollution (among of course the regular types of pollution).

in my childhood, vc was an austere brahmin (redundancy intended) festival occassion, where early morning pure clay idol woul be procured, medium scale puja (with very yummy food) would happen. as vinayaka was a bachelor, it was auspicious that the puja be done by one (if available in the house). so i have done the vc puja many times (with my dad donning the priest role).
the next day, the idol would be removed and kept 'in the well', near a tree and will 'dissolve' into the earth (from where it came from).
fairly simple and non-elaborate.

post 1998, after coming to mumbai, i started seeing the mumbai style ganpati celebrations - which most know is a mega mega event.
for some reasons, this never appealed to my religious/spiritual senses.
i fully appreciate the 'social mobilisation concept that tilak started. master-class idea.

in the 'God ratings', vinayaka occupies the top ten slots in the marathi manoos demographic.
in most other demographics, vinayaka is in close contest with tons of others - parameshwar (aka shiva), vishnu (and his top 2 avtaars of rama and krishna), the vast army of devis (lakshmi, saraswati, durga, vaishno devi, the ammans of south india), karthikeya (aka murugan).

coming back to today's times.
my new residence is right next to one of the prime visarjan (immersion) spots.
i awaited this year's vc with some trepidation.
yesterday was the 'first day' visarjan and it was ok. read this first-timer's experience.

it is quite a stunning sight to see the number of people participating and the amount of money that flows into ganpati festival. the mandals falling over each other to outshine each other in, what i think is, the most creative marketing contests of the year. and each year lalbaugcha raja emerges tops.
i think it is a sheer waste. if only all this energy and resources could be diverted 'usefully' (need not be my definition).

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

hiranandani gardens scam

'builder' is a ubiquitous mumbai terminology.
it is uttered with a lot of contempt and fear.
these guys rule the city's roost.
they mow down opposition without any qualms.
'redevelopment' is the buzz word.

one of the 'respected' and 'polished' builders is hiranandani developers ltd.
their flagship township - hiranandani gardens is in powai, mumbai. some of my best friends live there.
and i have seen it at extreme close up for over 8 years now.

mumbai mirror has run a low/medium quality investigation on the major scam that is hiranandani gardens.
In 1986 the government and MMRDA signed an agreement with the original 19 land holders of these 230 acres saying that the land would be handed over to them to develop it on the condition that 50 per cent of the residential units built would admeasure 40 sq mts (approximately 430 sq ft) while the remaining 50 per cent of the residential units will extend to 80 sq mtrs, roughly 860 sq ft (see inside for more details). Out of the 230 acres thus available for development Niranjan Hiranandani, who was given the power of attorney by the original land owners, undertook to develop more than ninety per cent of the land.
the amount of construction i have seen over the 8 years has been stunning, including the demolition of a hill to build a park!
the flat owners and the resident societies are in arms against this constant state of construction in the area. their complaints has led to a 'environmental pollution report' by the government.

but the extensive report has led to what is at best a minor 'feathery rap on the knuckles'. a Rs 3 crore fine, which has been paid up.
the remaining 'punitive actions' will lie ensconced in judicial gordian knots.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

farmer aspirations

regular readers of this blog would have noticed the coverage i have on farmers, agriculture issues.
there is a reason.
at some stage in life, i anticipate farming and living out of a village. this stage hopefully will commence within the next 2-3 years.

coming back to the present, there are some great examples of city farming aka terrace farming.
this is perfect for those who have terraces, which makes it impossible for over 90% of the city's apartment dwellers.
but the intrepid and innovative residents have designed their window protection 'iron grills' to serve as base stations for vegetation. solely intended to have some greenery around them, one wil notice pots of pots with a variety of shrubs.
so with the same available setting - the window grill - we decided to start the farming journey right here.
we already had the ubiquitous tulsi, and some other assortment of plants.
this weekend, we got more pots and seeds of 'french beans' and 'bhindi' aka 'okra'.
following the instructions, these are now planted and we are waiting like expectant parents.

simultaneously, we have created an 'aerobic' composting bin. almost all the kitchen waste is collected into this and over 6 weeks or so, we expect something useful that could be added to the soil.
this project is likely to get extended to another 10 pots.
so we think that once in 45 days, we could have a meal which has a significant portion of locally grown produce.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

poverty in india - hot off the press

the WB releases a press note on the latest poverty research.
the indian press go ballistic with this data, some saying "poverty reduction" and some saying "poverty escalation".
TOI has a chart

certainly doesn't look good. and from experience of being here and having a ear to the ground, poverty prevalence is real and omnipresent. and the data just reinforces real experiences.
whats keeping india depressed in the charts?
in my analysis, there are 2 key factors:
1. rising health costs - CV Madhukar takes this head on and i agree.
2. corruption - i had earlier blogged on it.

point 1 is closely linked to poverty and nutrition.
point 2 is closely linked to poverty and greed.

we will need to do 'forcible liposuction' on the leeches. there are now just too many of them to be able to just use salt.

bihar flood devastation - again and again

bihar is again in the midst of series flood damage. last year was ultra-devastating. and it happens unfailingly on an annual basis.

and once again it is not due to rain, but due to river overflow due to upstream rains.
the Kosi has breached all the banks.

i put up this picture just over a year ago while reporting the 2007 floods.
check out the latest photo from the TOI report on this year's floods.
the photo is a good match.
the report on the shift in course is quite damning evidence of too much damming.
too much trifling with nature.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

the next gen Amtes

we learnt that prakash and mandakini amte won the magsaysay.

as expected, news hounds made a beeline to their abode in hemalkasa.

tehelka runs a great story on them. only the middle part tangents out to covering baba amte (which i guess is ok for new comers).
it is quite incredible, the entire family has voluntarily taken over old/taken on new projects initiated by baba.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

walking through gold mohur

after a fun filled movie - jaane tu ya jaane na (dont miss the "pappu cant dance" song), my wife and i decide to treat ourselves to a kailash lassi - near dadar station, eastside.

walking down the lane from hindmata junction towards dadar station, we come across 2 textile mills.
on a whim, my wife walks into one (the Gold Mohur Textile Mill) and asks for a tour.
and surprise, surprise, the person there lets us a free unaccompanied walk through the premises.
it took some topping the JTyjn experience, but the 'mill walk-through' was amazing.
we saw the carding room. here is a carding machine. imagine standing in front of a football ground sized room filled with such machines. mind boggling. like this one.
and the classical iconic chimney. see the one at phoenix mills and a 3-in-1.
what an outstanding sight from right under it.
there is a lovely tank with tons of ujala-white swans.

gold mohur and 3 other mills were originally supposed to be sold to 'developers', but now there is a revival buzz. the guy there was certain that some mall is coming up there.

the story of the mumbai mills is pretty sad and depressing. these properties are at the center of the most severe pitched battles between the private developers, the government and the activists. here is a NDTV feature on the changing face of girangaon.
here are some vignettes from the net on this story, darryl d'monte's interview, the legendary datta samant, datta samant's interview
am waiting to read this book - One Hundred Years, One Hundred Voices: The Millworkers of Girangaon, An Oral History By Meena Menon and Neera Adarkar.

Friday, August 08, 2008

lets spin yarn

gandhi advocated several radical ideas.
one of them is using khadi spinning in schools - as a means to educate children and finance the school.
Education to be universal must therefore be free. I fancy that even under an ideal system of government, we shall not be able to devote two thousand million rupees which we should require for finding education for all the children of school-going age. It follows, therefore, that our children must be made to pay in labour partly or wholly for all the education they receive. Such universal labour to be profitable can only be (to my thinking) hand-spinning and hand-weaving. But for the purposes of my proposition, it is immaterial whether we have spinning or any other form of labour, so long as it can be turned to account. Only, it will be found upon examination, that on a practical, profitable and extensive scale, there is no occupation other than the processes connected with cloth-production which can be introduced in our schools throughout India.
prima facie, it does appear as nonsense.
i recall that he also takes a moralistic stand on the fact that the money earned from taxing alcohol and tobacco is used to finance education and such monies are 'tainted'.

well.... my opinions have wavered significantly on this.
finally i am now at a place, where i entirely agree with his proposition.

and i found a school that does have spinning as part of the curriculum.
Shishuvan in Mumbai. superb name.
Check their FAQ site - which says why khadi?

i dont think current economics allow a financing arrangement in urban settings.
but gandhi did center most of his ideas on rural settings - where it is still possible/probable.

Monday, August 04, 2008

philanthrophy advice

sudhir venkatesh shot to fame with his famous chicago gangster research in the wildly famous freakanomics and his subsequent book 'gang leader for a day'

sudhir also writes in in the very avidly read freakonomics blog.

here is his series on "what to do with your $70 million?".
part 1, part 2 and part 3.
part 3 is the real thing!

some interesting parts:
1. classic traits of aspiring donors:

First, they confused charity with commerce: that is, they uncritically applied the language of outcome-oriented investment to efforts to change human behavior in social settings. Humans, alas, don’t operate neatly according to market logic, though incentives can shift behavior.

Second, donors seem reluctant to talk about their own self interest. Instead of admitting their personal desires, they speak of selfless charity. Of course, donors can do whatever they want with their money, but this attitude doesn’t help them grow.

2. here is a nice 'catch':
....whether they liked the results or not, they had to provide a second grant disbursement to the organizations (contingent on the fiscal responsibility of the recipient grantees). I felt this freed them up from the expectation of evaluating anything other than their own personal transformation. The three donors agreed on a “loss figure” of $500,000, meaning they would each give $1,000,000.
3. simple but powerful learning:

...they learned that poor families who have access to small amounts of cash — as little as $20 — can stave off problems that might otherwise spiral out of control. (Previously they dismissed the utility of using such small sums for change.) Of course, credit unions have long understood this — and one of the donors is now helping to fund organizations that replicate this strategy in New York.

They also learned that, in some cases, process is as important as outcome. For example, service providers who keep families together — despite dramatic improvements — are playing a valuable function in communities where things always fall apart. And even if a child’s grades don’t improve, sometimes staying in school is a huge mark of success for the family.

it is not over yet. we wait to see how this progresses.

hat tip: charityfocus

Friday, August 01, 2008

जैसा बाप वैसा बेटा/बेटी

the son has lived up to his towering father's name and achivements.
dr mandakini and prakash amte are the recipients of the magsaysay award for community service.

what they have done and are doing is simply outstanding.

more power to them.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

one week of rain...

...and maharashtra - which looked like this on 23rd July:

now looks like this on 30th July.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

RIP - Randy "Inspiration" Pausch

randy pausch is no more.
an utterly remarkable person.
go in peace.

earlier on randy.

Friday, July 25, 2008

TOI's media ethics

most of us like to hate TOI.
their celebrity-centric reporting, trivial-centric writing, business-centric philosophy, etc.

their expansion across to mutiple cities over the last months has been very successful. they are bashing up local leaders like the hindu in chennai, etc.

and it is correspondingly clear, that they are setting the benchmarks in media business today. what TOI is today, is what all our media/publishing houses aspire to be.

now here is one part of their their media strategy - which easily qualifies for the top unethical practice of the year award.
At around 2.30 pm on 10th May, 2008, at a construction site on Bannerghatta Road in Bengaluru, a lift being used by workers malfunctioned and dropped 18 floors, causing the death of 2 workers and leaving 7 workers severely injured. Sobha Magnolia is a 19-storey super luxury apartment complex being constructed by Sobha Developers. Due to the immense force of dropping from such a height, the lift repeatedly bounced up and down several times before stopping. Of the 7 injured, three have been discharged while the remaining 4 are still undergoing treatment. Each of the injured have suffered multiple fractures and other injuries.

On 12th May 2008, the Times of India reported that:

"Lift crash leaves 2 dead, 7 hurt

Two occupants in a lift died and seven others were injured on Saturday after the lift crashed to the lower basement at the construction site of a residential apartment on Bannerghatta Road."

Then, again on 8th June the Times of India reported that:


SHRC chief takes officials to task

The State Human Rights Commission has asked a private construction company to ensure complete and fair compensation to families of two workers who dies and seven who were injured in a lift crash in an apartment building under construction on Bannerghatta Road. The accident took place on May 10.…

The accident occurred on May 10 at the construction site of a multi-storeyed super-luxury apartment on Bannerghatta Road."

Note that the Times of India does not name the company, Sobha Developers in reports unlike all the other English and Kannada newspapers, which explicitly did so.

Why would they not name the guys... could be a big-ticket advertiser? well read on...
Apparently, Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd., the publishers of Times of India, has entered into a Private Treaty with Sobha Developers, whereby through this arrangement BCCL picks up law equity stakes in companies, in return receiving long-term advertising and other publicity deals.
whole story is available here on the hoot.