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.