Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Thursday, December 31, 2009


jan 1, 2010 will see my exit from mumbai and city-life.
wife and I are moving bag and baggage to point return.

the plan to to simplify life and live self-sustainably in synchrony with nature.

we will spend jan 2010 in acclimatising ourselves with the changed specs of life and settle down at PR by the end of the month.

shall continue writing here at Fun, yeah , but likely that the tenor and content will change considerably as it will be a chronicle of travails on the farm and related events.
it will be a challenge to stay out of the invasive reach of media (which i have enjoyed).

hope to see you all here and there :-)
happy new year and this also happens to be my 500th post.
decent going.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

food, water, etc - scary times ahead

climate change, food , water and environment issues are common themes out here.

in a very enriching, but eerie interview on dna money over the xmas weekend, lester brown of the earth policy institute shares some very deep concerns of the movement of the above themes.

on hunger...
As a result of persistently high food prices, hunger is spreading. One of the United Nations Millennium Development goals is to reduce hunger and malnutrition. In the mid-1990s, the number of people in this category had fallen to 825 million. But instead of continuing to decline, the number of hungry started to edge upward, reaching 915 million at the end of 2008. It then jumped to over 1 billion in 2009. With business as usual, I see a combination of the projected growth in population, the planned diversion of grain to produce fuel for cars, spreading shortages of irrigation water, and other trends combining to push the number of hungry people to 1.2 billion or more by 2015.
on food production...
Perhaps the most alarming recent world agricultural event is the precipitous fall in China's grain production since 1998. After an impressive climb from 90 million tonnes in 1950 to a peak of 392 million tonnes in 1998, China's grain harvest fell in four of the last five years, dropping to 322 million tonnes in 2003. For perspective, this decline of 70 million tonnes exceeds the entire grain harvest of Canada.
on the convergence of the fuel and food economies...
There is a massive new demand emerging for cropland to produce fuel for cars--one that threatens world food security. The United States has quickly come to dominate the crop-based production of fuel for cars. In 2005, it eclipsed Brazil, formerly the world's leading ethanol producer. So the price of grain is now tied to the price of oil. Historically the food and energy economies were separate, but now with the massive US capacity to convert grain into ethanol, that is changing. In this new situation, when the price of oil climbs, the world price of grain moves up toward its oil-equivalent value.
on overutilisation of ground-water...
We get the feel that we're doing well in agriculture - but the reality is that an estimated 400 million people are today being fed by overpumping, a process that is by definition short term. A World Bank study shows that 175 million people in India are being fed by overpumping aquifers. In China, this problem affects 130 million people.

After being self-sufficient in wheat for over 20 years, in early 2008 the Saudis announced that, with their aquifer largely depleted, they would reduce their wheat planting by one eighth each year until 2016, when production will end. We cannot escape the water intensity of food production.

we need to take drastic action and NOW, there is little doubt on that.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

potholes and coincidences

was in pune for the last 2 days over work and relatives.

heard this:
drivers in ahemdabad are the worst in the country. "they honk at potholes."

met him (again):
travelling back to mumbai, i called in a taxi from the pune-mumbai taxi service.
and of all the thousand odd cabbies, i get Mr. S Khan again. remarkable.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

learning from leaves

i heard about this intricate design of nature at a workshop over 2 months ago.
it was about what was the difference between green biomass (fresh leaves/grass) and brown biomass (leaf litter).
the leaf, as it prepares to fall from the stem/branch, gives back much of its nutrients to the stem/branch in a true display of low wastage.
this link explains the process very beautifully.
But why do trees (and of course shrubs) drop their leaves in winter? Surely this is terrible waste of resources as the plant then has to replace them all – plus a few extra – during the following spring?

The winter season is always guaranteed to bring two things. The first is far lower light levels while the second is terrible weather.
With the lower light levels leaves will become increasingly unproductive, but with a drop in temperatures the plants metabolic rate is also reduced and so photosynthesis can effectively stop.

With regards to poor weather conditions, a combination of strong winds, snowfall and freezing temperatures would provide any large broad leaved tree a serious risk from damage if they kept their leaves in place. Firstly, heavy snowfall would remain in the canopy placing huge stress on the branch framework, and if you combined that with strong winds you’ll definitely have a recipe for disaster. Of course, the leaves of deciduous plants are particularly sensitive to freezing temperatures anyway as internal cells are easily ruptured when exposed to large enough ice crystals.

The lesser of two evils is to absorb as much of the available and usable nutrients that are within the leaf structures as possible and then lose the remaining ‘leaf husk’ before snow appears. Of course – as with many things in nature – nothing is wasted as the following leave litter is broken down further by bacterial activity to create a humus rich mulch.
there is much to learn from leaves.
to leave one's life richer than one found it is what the leaves do. it is what we must also do.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

dams of maharashtra - bhandardara and vaitarna

spent 2 days at the picturesque bhandardara MTDC resort. it is famous for a 90 year old dam on the pravara river for provision of water to ahmednagar city.

while we were there, we also managed to drive through the just as picturesque vaitarna dam.
a lot of mumbai's water supply is from here - over 150 kms away.

and the lake levels looked low (with no earlier standard for comparison, i am surely biased by the reports which indicate low levels).

in short, it was a nice exploration into the small/medium dams of maharashtra.
recommend to readers.
stay at the MTDC resort - book in advance either in the monsoon season or in the winters.
there are a couple of other resorts, but MTDC (for all its other faults) has the best location and excellent food.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

WTF news of day - weight dropping

a chilean weightlifter - elizabeth pobtele - delivered a boy.
well so what is WTF about it?

she was unaware of being pregnant (along with her coaches etc), and delivered in the middle of training.
good for her - she can now compete in lower weight categories.

i blame it on overuse of tight fitting spandex and mind-numbing steroids.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

where is the juice in tomatoes?

over the last year (mostly in the last 6 months), i have noticed that the tomatoes i buy are thicker/firmer and much less juicier than before.
so much so that when they are sauteed, they hardly leave out any water/juice.

we spent 2 days over the last weekend at krushi teerth in MP (refer relationship between plants and humans)
the tomatoes they grow are to die for.
cherry tomatoes covered the entire farm area like weeds.
and we cooked sambar without tamarind and only with these tomatoes and what a superb taste.

we then learnt that the current cropping of commercial tomatoes is fully tuned to transportation-loss-minimisation.
and a cursory search shows the number of hybrid varieties in the market.
while we check and re-check every label of the packaged food items we buy, we are completely lax about the fruits and vegetables we get/eat.

yes, it is time to grow our own food.

balle balle for punjabi school kids

private school teachers are a exploited lot.
they are paid abysmally low wages (Rs 500 to Rs 3000 per month), but made to sign vouchers which show that they are paid government approved wages.

with an increasing trend of enrollment in private schools, this would have just continued to escalate.

but the right to free and compulsory education bill 2008 was supposed to eradicate this malaise.
it legalised the norms that all recognised schools should pay teachers as per norms laid down by the respective state governments.

the punjab school education board passed a directive (keeping the above law and circumvention method) ordering all teachers to be paid by account payee cheque system instead of cash.

check out what has happened post that order:
1. schools discover new methods
2. non-complying schools are de-recognised.
3. all private schools are shut down to protest point 2.

good fun indeed for distant observers.
kids must also be having fun with the extra winter holidays.

Monday, December 14, 2009

relationship between humans and plants

all species develop relationships through their life-spans.
mother-child, husband-wife, etc, etc are the easy ones among all known species (except the asexual organisms).

adding humans into the animal kingdom, there is a very interesting connection between animals and plants, which superimposes and supercedes all relationships.
this was posed to us by this most remarkable naturalist/humanist - deepak suchde (yes, the bearded gentleman) as "what is this relationship?"

this is the relationship of breaths.
the exhalation (उच्छ्श्वस) of plants is our inhalation (श्वास) and vice versa.
no other relationship can be so intricate.

i am still staggering.

water management

totally awesome is this anupam mishra talk at ted india 2009.

while this example clearly illustrates our ingenuity in saving scarce water in desert regions, there is also an equivalent brilliance at the opposite end of the spectrum......our ability to manage floods and such devastations. simply the fact that the major civilisations were around the indus and the ganga is itself enough to tell us this fact.

what technology we have lost and are still losing is frightening.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

paid news - media fully compromised

sainath has pol-kholoed the poll-time greasy partnerships between the politicians and media houses.
in 2 scything articles, he puts the spotlight on the CM of maharashtra - ashok chavan.

it is plain disgusting that the fourth estate could behave this shamelessly.

TOI's ethics have always been at non-existent levels, but they definitely are the model that the others are following.

i still buy TOI. disgusting.

WTF of the day - town name

here we go again on names.

sivakasi in Tamil Nadu is planning to rename itself (based on numerology) to either sivakaasi or sivahaasi.

truly remarkable levels are being attained on the idiot scale.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

absurdities continue - IIPM

IIPM is at it again.
they have instituted the rabindranath tagore memorial prize.
and the absurdity is that they have pegged it in comparison with the nobel prize.

earlier coverage on IIPM.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

chennaites enjoy

veggie bazaar is here. online fruits and vegetable store.
they promise

they promise compassionate capitalism
We believe in making a difference to the community and hence we are implementing a number of initiatives right from Green Initiatives to donating a percentage of the profits from the sale of any one of our product category to Orphanages’ or Sponsoring for Children education. For eg: A percentage of the profits from the sale of all the products listed under any of the product category. This would be decided by the board of directors. The charities are nominated and selected by our customers, one representing each locality.
but will they be able to avoid the plastics in packaging, etc. i am not sure as they offer each vegetable in variety of cut/sliced/diced options....
try it.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

where our taxes go - 5

Rs 1.5 crores to transplant 100 trees from Andhra to Mumbai.

that is Rs 1,50,000 per tree.

this is treeson.

earlier WOTGOs.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


the indian corporate juggernaut is on its way to become a new form of East India Company.
says kasturirangan on indiatogether in this very interesting article - the indian mercantilist empire.

indian companies are buying/leasing vast tracts of land in africa:
Indian companies have already invested 4.2 billion dollars in Ethiopia. The land being leased out is even more mind-boggling. The smallest figure that I have read about is 30,000 acres; another article mentions a seventy-five year lease of 700,000 acres of land to a single Indian concern.
of course, this is a sophisticated form of land grab as the local farmers will be at the receiving end.
not only the indians, but a whole host of chinese and middle east companies are doing the same.

within india the land acquisition has been ongoing via SEZ and other subtle mechanisms:
The tribal regions of India are being denuded of their forests and their people dispossessed of their lands by various industrial concerns. Vedanta Resources, based in London but run by a billionaire of Indian origin, is being accused of a land-grab in Orissa. I can't get the exact figures, but just one aluminium mining project alone runs to about 1500 acres, and even that isn't the entire story. A university named Vedanta University and run by the same mining group, has been awarded 6000 acres of land in Orissa along the Puri-Konark main drive.

Who needs that much land for a university? The Indian Institute of Science is 400 acres. Currently, the largest university in India (by area) is the University of Hyderabad, which has 2300 acres, much of which is not being used for academic purposes. Why would anyone want two and a half times that amount for a university in Orissa, unless that the university is a pretext for a larger acquisition of land?

never imagined a scenario where we are the 'imperialists'.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

double estranged

the math is obvious.
bal thackeray has 2 sons - jaidev and uddhav.
jaidev married smita thackeray but they got a divorce. but she retained her place in the thackeray family, while jaidev was evicted. so jaidev is estranged from the thackeray family.............(1)

smita continued to increase her presence and power till bal thackeray was completely controlling the shiv sena. once uddhav took over, she has been relegated to the household activities.

but she makes it back in the news, announcing her intentions of joining the congress.
so that would mean she would be evicted. hence she will be estranged from the thackeray family...(2)

concluding from (1) and (2), there is a clear case of double estrangement.QED

Friday, November 27, 2009

new interesting blogs...

...are easy to locate at the indibloggies awards.
the 2008 awards nominations are out and am going to spend some time looking up the nominees.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

2012 is watchable

am generally ok with doomsday scenarios as i believe that our depredations of the earth will, at some stage, come back to doom us.

2012 deals with such a scenario, albeit with a strong dash of mythology rather than aforementioned depredations.
i loved the SFX and the general scientific drift of the story, but could not stand the hero/family drama that linked the series of events.
somehow i could lose them in the overall plot just staring at the background where nature is going berserk.
and jimi mistry as the indian astro-physicist is quite appalling.

overall, i would recommend this movie as watchable.

Friday, November 20, 2009

must watch and must read

must watch pranav mistry - scientist at MIT
this awesome TED video had me hooked.

must read devdutt pattanaik - mythologist,.
his articles about indian folklore/mahapuranas are just a fantastic insight into our history and civilisational make-up.
he also spoke at TED India.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

PC vs Kishenji

the Union Home Minister vs the Naxal chief.
their interviews are the cover stories in this week's tehelka.

PC is (as usual), extremely articulate and lucid and is saying a lot of things which are positive indicators. such as:
1. There is no Operation Green Hunt. Name me an officer who has said this and I will take action.
I am totally opposed to staged encounters. It’s possible that in a gun battle between the police and those who take to the gun, people could get killed, but that’s unfortunately a battle. But if you arrest a person, he must be produced before a magistrate.
If any civil rights group or tribal representative will organise it, I am ready to come (to the affected areas).
I am prepared to request the Prime Minister to freeze all these MOUs and order a comprehensive review of all the MOUs that have been signed in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and South Bihar, and then decide which MOU should be implemented, with or without modification. I am prepared to request the PM to do that.
but he continually draws a line between centre and state, which i found jarring and a deliberate 'washing off hands' tactic.
also his response to the conflict on interests issues (he represent several mining companies as a lawyer) is quite tepid.

kishenji's interview in comparison is aggressive, unyielding, self-deluding and loaded with ungrounded idealism.
1. The PM should apologise to the tribals and withdraw all the troops deployed in these areas.
2. (long term vision is to)...
is to gain political power, to establish new democracy, socialism and then communism.
3. (on fund raising)...
There are no extortions. We collect taxes from the corporates and big bourgeoisie, but it’s not any different from the corporate sector funding the political parties.
guess that after one spends over 30 years fighting, one gets caught up in distrust and animosity.

parallely, arundhati roy is scathing in her last outlook cover story - Mr Chidambaram's War.

praying that these tentative feelers get stronger in the coming months and we see a full scale de-escalation of violence.

Monday, November 16, 2009

gems of names

my general interest in names is well known to the avid readers of this blog.
from name change ads, WTF is in a name and luke ronchi., i have ranted on suchlike topics.

from today's india-srilanka match, we have a gem...
UWMBCA Welegedara aka Uda Walawwe Mahim Bandaralage Chanaka Asanga Welegedara.
he is a good replacement of the recently retired Chaminda Vaas aka WPUJC Vaas.

of course, i am extremely impressed by welegedara's Mumbai connection (almost like he was born while his mom was between bandra to mahim).

those (like me who have been raised in the tempestuous days of Tn politics of the 80s), will of course remember the inimitably named KKSSR Ramachandran.

tum mile mein kilometer

tum mile (तुम मिले) is a recently released hindi movie.
while google's transliterate cleverly and correctly make mile into मिले, it just makes me exceedingly curious on why would one want to write hindi titles/words with the same unphonetic structure that is english.

Friday, November 13, 2009

holy snakes

lounging around an afternoon at my in-laws place in velachery - madras.
this place borders the sprawling (almost contiguous) jungles of IIT Madras and Guindy National Park and the Raj Bhavan (Governor's Bungalow).

wife exclaims - "look, snake!"
and lo behold, there was this nasty one, just at the door, facing away, but looking over into the house.
it was a rat snake (saara paambu in tamil), not poisonous. looked like this.

what was interesting was the reactions.
my in-laws were totally cool, and so was my wife (living for over 15 years on the IIT campus).
my dad was completely taken aback that such critters existed in the vicinity and was advising several precautionary measures to his totally un-flabbergasted samamdhi, who in turn was telling him about what the snake was and how non-venomous it was, etc.

back to our beauty (around 8 ft long and dark grey in colour) - seeing this mass of humanity surge towards him, he bolts and what speed!! just awesome. the difference between watching it on discovery channel and seeing it live is in magnitudes of googolplex.

after rushing back and forth, trying to scale the walls to reach his sanctuary, he finally gets a boost from a bush in the backyard and made good his escape.

for those who came in late, csm = crazy snake man, an appellation derived from a rant by matthew perry in a friends episode.
just to reinforce that i am very good with snakes:-)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

cyclooney city

that is mumbai - which gets an average of 2500 mm of rain in the 3 monsoon months.
totally freaky weather over the last 2 days. raining since 10th Nov around noon time (IST).
today was cyclone alert day.
phyan was supposed to hit in and around the city. and some marginal rain happened today.

the moment the alert sounded, almost as if to cook a snook, it cleared up.
nothing, nada, zip, zero since 2 PM today (11th Nov).
schools, offices all shutdown.
bloody waste of time and stuff.

this is not maximum city, post 26/7/2005, this is 'i-want-my-mum" city.

clarification - the looneys are not the civic admin (in this case), but the general junta and media. with whatever available info, the govt called it correctly putting safety first.
but the aam-junta, fuelled my media frenzy, has just lost their marbles.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

public confessions

andre agassi has made life rosy for the media and other retired tennis players/commentators.
with his autobiographical (titled "Open") confession on drug use etc, he has put the australians among the indians.
he has been berated by a lot of people for:
1. the drug abuse and here.
2. the sensationalisation to enable marketing his autobiography.

but i beg to differ.
i am completely in favour of public confessions.
gandhi set a lovely trend over 80 years ago with My Experiments With Truth.

we should all do it.
go agassi.
i forgive the wig.
you beat sampras often enough for me to like you...

Saturday, November 07, 2009

king long

warped minds will warp their minds over this title.
king long is a famous name in mumbai as they have invaded the city over the last 2 years like no one.

ok, ok...
the fleet of the new AC buses used by BEST (as part of the Bus Rapid Transit System-BRTS) and of late by MSRTC (mumbai pune route) is king long buses. (on the mumbai-pune AC bus route aka Volvo, the king longs are improving their market share)

pic courtesy: Sharmeen Sahibole

these chinese-make buses are an attempt to woo the car-based travellers from the suburbs to the town-side. and from the initial looks of it, they are making an attempt.
currently BEST operates 10 routes.
we have taken 2 of them.
they are obviously very comfortable and all that. and tickets are in the range of Rs 15 (min) - 100 (max). pretty reasonable.

but if you are in a taxi/auto/2-wheeler and are behind the king longs, the heat/noise from the AC and engine is quite unbearable.

take it the next time you are in the city.

Friday, November 06, 2009

sustsainable living in cities - the remarkable dervaes

a medium sized home in pasadena, california houses the incredible Dervaes' family.
growing nearly 3000 kgs of fruits and vegetables in around 4000 sq ft of urban space is just mind-blowing.

their experiments with simple and sustainable urban living is now an award winning documentary - Homegrown Revolution.

met them at an interactive session in mumbai last evening.
a truly amazing experience to hear their experiences and the underlying philosophies.
almost a modern day fukuoka.
one thing that strongly resonated is their strong anti-monsanto slant :-)

please check their other website, Path to freedom.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

me vs the cola giants

regular readers will be familiar with my slant against MNCs, globalisation, privatisation, etc.

it is a good time to share the seeds of this slant.
Date: Dec 2003
Location: Chennai
Event: Asha Annual conference

my first exposure to development organisations (NGOs) and chances to meet 'like-minded' (much abused phrase) junta.
of all the people i met at chennai, nandlal master was the one who stamped his imprint.
simply, he became a friend.
nandlal, from varanasi, a simple weaver turned teacher turned leader.
a master-class story. an inspiration for me.

in the fight against the mehdiganj coca cola factory, nandlal played and is playing a lead role.
he and his brothers bore the brunt of police brutality against their agitation in 2004.

he wrote to me (and perhaps all his contacts) asking us to boycott all coke and pepsi products (for over-exploiting ground water).
without even getting to the reasons and allowing 'due process', i signed on the petition.....just because nandlal had asked me. that was how much he meant to me!

since that time, i have had a sip of aquafina once. that was a mistake of sorts. but have been utterly faithful to nandlal and that petition i signed.
also have been directly and indirectly pushing people of their cola mania/addiction.

have heard some rumours and stories about nandlal since then from his local peers. many were derogatory/defamatory. maybe true.
but i know/knew of a nandlal that i loved. and thats not likely to change soon.

good luck masterji. काके को उजड़ने की योजना में हम आपके साथ हैं. (i am with you in your anti-coke struggle).

kannamwar nagar

eastern express highway starts from sion and snakes its way through the central suburbs of mumbai till thane where it morphs into NH 3.
for its entire stretch post ghatkopar, it runs past some of the greenest parts of mumbai, namely the mangroves on the eastern seafront.
there is just one exception to this unbroken vista.
and that small township is kannamwar nagar, vikhroli east.
after seeing its name on several BEST buses over the last many years, i got a chance to visit this place to attend a wedding.
while it does not look any different than any other place, if one changes the viewing perspective, kannamwar nagar is a special place.
here is a bird's view from a long way up. the yellow line is the EEH and the small triangle on its right in the center of the image is kannamwar nagar.

coming in closer, the triangle takes on a defined form.

"what's so special?", you may ask.
the layout of this township is now visible below in a closer zoom and "doesn't it look pretty?". almost like a fluid flowing around a circular object.

so, on my last flight, i looked out while landing and could identify this beautiful location. it is a million times more beautiful than the above images.

Monday, November 02, 2009

last flight

i think i have taken my last flight of my life.
i do not see why and how i shall be able to take one again knowing its carbon footprint and also that i shall be mostly a drive away from family emergencies.

i shall miss looking at the cities and all sundry views from the top.
i will be happy to pass the claustrophobia, awful food, high pressure ramming you ears, etc.

the indian airports (can speak for mumbai and chennai) are nothing like how they were when i used to frequent them 7 years ago.
they are all sparkling and shiny all over the place.

we did something, which we reckon, that must rank as unique. from the airport exit, we took BEST to reach home. this is a stellar feature of the mumbai airport which allows public transport into the main airport exit area. all other cities fail miserably on this count.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

attacking trains - perspectives

big time drama happened today in WB on the Rajdhani express being taken over/hijacked by naxals/maoists, etc.
all ended well and no one was hurt and so on.
i agree that it is very troublesome and stressful and threatening (as passengers, as train Ops Research people, law enforcement people, etc).

but using the trains as a protest mechanism, these happen in mumbai quite frequently,
1. Feb 8, 2009 in Borivali.
2. Sep 2, 2009 in Nallasopara.

the latest one is planned and the mumbai one's are spontaneous.
but net net, the frustrations of the people result in violent behaviour.

of course, violence cannot be justified from any angle.
but i am just bringing together 'similar' incidents with different 'perspectives'.

p.s. - hey protesters, leave the trains alone

sardar sarovar - stories of displacement

indiatogether is running a series of articles by neeta deshpande covering the displacement (displaced by the dam) of the locals post the sardar sarovar dam over the narmada.

part 1 and part 2 are very readable. it is saddening that development is a many winners-many losers concept.
and that's never going to work. ever.

do follow the series.

while on the subject of water, here is a study - unravelling bhakra which highlights that the iconic bhakra nangal dam may not really deserve its legendary status.

for the record - i am anti big dams.

Monday, October 26, 2009

jeevan vidya - madhyasht darshan

i have been hearing/reading in parts about the concept of जीवन विद्या (jeevan vidya) aka मध्यस्त दर्शन (Madhyasth means Mediating. Darshan means Insight (of reality - direct understanding of reality or knowledge)).

the concept is explained here in some level of detail here. i find it really fascinating.
to get my teeth sunk into it, i will need to do a 7 day शिविर (shivir - workshops).

along with vipassana, this is another self-discovery is shall be definitely doing in 2010.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

circular reference

winning is for losers...

after making this insightful statement yesterday(!!), i find that there are websites and movies with the same title.

Friday, October 23, 2009

mere paas...

a poor master of arts student falls in love with a rich girl.
the girl's father gets to know and berates him using big words like haisiyat (status), aukaat (guts), majaal (how dare), jurrat (gargantuan error), etc., and ends with "what do you have?"

poor guy says. "mere paas MA hai!"

ok, cheap one.
here is more...
1. injured eagle - mere paas claw hai
2. poor lawyer - mere paas law hai
3. poor cowboy - mere paas quick draw hai
4. poor lumberjack - mere paas saw hai
5. poor indian (red variety) - mere paas squaw hai
6. lech walesa - mere paas warsaw hai
7. poor vegetarian - mere paas coleslaw hai

ok. time to go.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

maha mess

the vidhan sabha election results are out.
maharashtra re-elects the Cong-NCP alliance into power.

my hopes have been powdered, but i had expected these results.

so here is a nice good bye to maharashtra.
the next 5 years will be destructive, if their previous 10 is any indication.

we buy trash

india is moving into becoming the leading importer of trash from across the globe.
According to an estimate, India imported around 16.8 lakh tonnes of ‘waste
paper’ in 2005-2006, valued at about $290 million. However, environmental
activists say that much of the socalled recyclable waste that is imported is
trash and ends up in Indian dumps, landfills and sometimes, even farmlands. In
September last year, environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman discovered that
ITC’s paper factory in Coimbatore had dumped hundreds of tonnes of municipal
solid waste — household garbage, in other words — from the UK into agricultural
wells in the area.

while the above article only covers paper and municipal waste, the highest value of trash imports is scrap metal. and plans to regulate it by the govt has been scrapped. how ironic...

Indian imports of metal scrap are worth over $1 billion per year.
"The DGFT and the customs took a bold and courageous decision to scrap the regulation altogether. This means you can freely export scrap to India."
The regulations were introduced to safeguard workers dealing with metal recycling in India, underlining that the country would not accept second-rate material.

old timers will recall that the metal scrap from the twin towers debris has been extensively used in india.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

amrut jal and amrut mitti

after attending the city farming working last month, we decided to put the training into action.
the key to life in the planet is the continuous work of nature in recycling the organic matter back into the soil.
this typically happens in forests with the help of animal, birds (their droppings).

so how does one replicate this natural process on a terrace.
through the efforts of shripad dabohlkar and deepak suchde, the concept of natueco farming has been created.
the former is the founder of प्रयोग परिवार (prayog parivar) (an incredible family of experimenters) and the latter is continuing the legacy.

the core of natueco farming, is around soil creation.
called अमृत मिट्टी (amrut mitti), this is the main object of this post.
its preparation is detailed here and is quite simple and aims to replicate the natural processes in a controlled environment. the process involves the preparation of अमृत जल (amrut jal), which provides all the microbes.

we went through the process over the last 3 weeks and we are now one week after laying down the layers of biomass and soil. in another 2-3 weeks times, we should have our first attempt ready to use.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

kamal - 50 years and counting

i grew up on kamal (and rajinikanth).
but kamal was always the main man.
from an inexplicable juvenile star-struck teenager to an explicable mature star-struck adult.
that's been one of the journeys that i continue to cherish.

more so, when i saw the celebrations of kamal's 50 years in cinema.
over 3 hours of people lavishing praise over praise on kamal (what else, one would say).
but nothing felt over-saccharine.
everyone (other than the nauseating anchors) behaved like a bunch of students saying their thank-yous to their fantastic teacher.
only that the teacher is still going to continue to teach them.

2 speeches just blew me away.
the last 2.
the penultimate was rajini's memorable anecdotes:

Rajinikanth in his speech referred to Kamal as “Kalai Ulagam Anna. Rajini added that he has enough material to speak on Kamal’s achievements for two days and in 1975 when he joined movies Kamal was already a very big star and could have easily overshadowed him in the 10 odd films they did together.

“ He never interfered with my character or tried to cut me down in any of the films we did together. Please note as a star he was much bigger than me and any director would have gladly chopped my role or refused to cast me, if Kamal had asked them. But after Ninaithale Inikkum, he called me and told me that it is better for my growth as a hero if we do not work together, and I gained by it,” was Rajinikanth’s simple straightforward explanation.

and so much more...

and kamal responds, like only he can.
first on the statuettes of his parents that his fans gift him:
i don't consider my parents as dead. they continue to live in my fans
and responding to rajini's anecdote, he brings forth their intimate friendship to the public eye.
Which actor in the world will be so honest and straight forward in his talk? There were stars before us but they were never as friendly as we were, and we have proved that two top actors can be healthy rivals. Rajinikanth will always remain my best friend forever.
and he remained dry eyed through his speech at the end of which he goes down on his knees and prostrates in front of the entire audience.
WOW level.

signing off,
unabashed mega fan of kamal

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

be the change (BTC)

obama massively popularised "be the change".
the quotations page says that gandhi said - "You must be the change you want to see in the world."
there are many websites with BTC fundas.
1. be the change
2. be the change inc
3. the be the change symposium

CNN ran (runs?!) a massive campaign around BTC.
massive amounts of collateral has been made with BTC.
it is becoming the favourite slogan of advertisers.
kate edmonson has a beautiful song around BTC.

so imagine my consternation and surprise when i saw this question.
the question raiser (Enuga Reddy) is a renowned scholar of MKG.
after reading the response, i decided to ask around.

so after checking with a few other scholars, it is confirmed.
the many variations of the BTC quotes DO NOT appear in the collected works of mahatma gandhi.
it is likely that MKG may have said something to that effect in gujarati and in passing and has been paraphrased by arun gandhi.

not that it really matters much.
BTC is something that MKG is likely to have said and surely enough he lived it more than anyone else.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

choices, tough ones

the LS elections just passed 5 months ago.
i did a prediction and fared miserably.

the maharashtra state elections are around the corner. on oct 13th 2009.
plans to boost voting percentage by shutting down the city is afoot.

against all that is me, i would prefer that the shiv sena-bjp combination comes to power as against the congress-ncp.
kumar ketkar's interview (loksatta editor) is a good read.
so is tvr shenoy's general analysis.
sainath has made it amply clear about how the farmers have suffered.

as much as i cant stand the right wing-hindutva chanting saffron combine, the cong-NCP have raped and plundered and pillaged maharashtra for the last 10 years.... a la ghazni, ghori et al.

so am hoping (not predicting) that ss-bjp come to power (sigh).

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

narural disaster week

8th Sep - 10 Sep - Flash floods sweep across turkey.
22nd Sep - massive floods in georgia, USA.
29th Sep - Undersea earthquake spawns tsunami and hots the samoan islands.
30th Sep and 1st Oct - earthquakes rock indonesian islands.
26th Sep - 4th Oct - typhoons ketsana and parma slams philippines, vietnam, cambodia and laos.
1ct Oct - 6th Oct - torrential rains drown large parts of AP and Karnataka in South india.

of course, they are all related.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

roy, millworkers et al

reading arundhati roy's interview in the TOI of OCt 2nd, we decided to hear her out as she was going to address the Mumbai Girni Kamgaar Sangharsh Samiti's (मुंबई गिर्नी कामगार संघर्ष समिति) 20th anniversary.

astute followers of this blog will immediately see that she has raised the issues covered in my post of Oct 1 - impending civil war.
even astuter followers of this blog will also recall my 'support' to the millworkers - mills to high street - phoenix from the ashes.

i like roy (even though i have not read her claim to fame - Booker prize winning - the God of Small Things) as i think her role is to conflate the multiple struggles going on across the country and bring each of these struggles to each others' notice.
another of my favourites - ramachandra guha - has had a slugfest with roy in 2000-01. i am inclined to side with roy on this one.

coming back to the event...
roy spoke sparingly (her hindi is woeful for someone who has spent years in the hinterlands) in a full blown marathi meeting, recalling points mentioned in the TOI interview.
also present was nikhil wagle - present editor of IBN Lokmat (the 24 hours Marathi news channel) and pushpa bhave.

happy weekend reading.

Friday, October 02, 2009

monsoon 2009 - baarish gul

i followed the 2008 monsoon over maharashtra reasonably closely.
not this year.
so remedying the situation.
'worst drought since 1972' screams TOI.
the india monsoon map tells the story (courtesy - IMD, Mumbai):
22% less than normal.
22/36 divisions are reporting 'deficient' rainfall

but the most striking statistic is the normal rainfall expected in each region.
the lowest is west rajasthan (256.8 mm per year)...quite obvious na, desert and all that.
but next is tamilnadu (285.2 mm per year). mind you that TN gets most of its rain from the north east monsoon, but this figure is still quite remarkable considering that kerala - a stone's throw away - gets a whopping 2071.2 mm a year.
the western ghats do a bloody swell job.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

impending civil war!?

tehelka reports that we are at a warlike situation.
this war is against the maoists aka naxalites aka 'terrorists'.
these people are supposed to have resorted to excessive violence against the state to stake their claim/people's claim.
their main geography cover some states in central india - MP, Chattisgarh, Maharashtra, AP, WB, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa. the government has made a monumental blunder by raising the Salwa Judum to counter the naxal violence.
people (with guns) against people (with guns) has never worked.

some simple nice people/orgs (like binayak sen/PUCL) have been accused of being naxalites/sympathisers.

coming back to the tehelka story which stung me:
Over this past year, the Home Ministry has been planning a major armed offensive against the Naxals, particularly in Chhattisgarh. According to reports, the plan involves stationing around 75,000 troops in the heartland of India — including special CRPF commandos, the ITBP and the BSF. Scattered newspaper accounts have spoken of forces being withdrawn from Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast; there is also talk of bringing in the feared Rashtriya Rifles — a battalion created specially for counter-insurgency work — and the purchase of bomb trucks, bomb blankets, bomb baskets, and sophisticated new weaponry. Minister Chidambaram has also said that if necessity dictates, he will bring in the special forces of the army.
why is it a scary thought?
The decision to launch such a massive armed operation on home ground — due to start this November — should have triggered animated political, civil society and media debate. But Operation Green Hunt — as the offensive is being termed — has been gathering force in almost complete silence. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister Chidambaram have variously called Naxals — or “Maoists” — “the gravest threat to India’s internal security.” Perhaps a military offensive against them is the answer, but is it the only answer? Is it the best answer? Will it provide a solution? Who will be impacted by this offensive? What will be its repercussions? Who are we really declaring war on? What are we declaring war on? Are we going into this with eyes wide open? Is there anything we should have learned from the seemingly irreparable psychological mess in Kashmir and the Northeast? These are the questions a democratic society should be asking.
himanshu kumar needs to be heard.
As Himanshu Kumar, a Gandhian and the only human rights activist on ground zero in faraway Dantewada where Operation Green Hunt is to be launched, says, “We can all be agreed on the premise that Naxalism is a problem, but why are these poor people attracted to a politics that will end in death? Have we created such a heinous system that death is more attractive than the deprivations and humiliations this system doles out? If that is so, why should I defend this system? All that these people want is food, health care, school, clothes and their legitimate right over their land. Yet, instead of weaning them away by strengthening the democratic process, if we are going to run our democracy only on the strength of weapons, I fear we are entering a dangerous and irrepairable state. We are headed for civil war.”
i am seriously worried.

Monday, September 28, 2009

WTF - chate gores carroll

the TOI (dassera edition - 28th Sep 2009) of today has a 4 page supplement of Chate classes. they run a behemoth of a tuition academy.
it is headed by a Prof Matchindra Chate (btw - all tuition center teachers are called 'professor' or XYZ 'sir'). i think he is a charlatan of the nth order.
in page 4 of the supplement is his personal letter to students (this was covered by dcubed couple of months ago), he writes:
In Ravindranath Tagore's poem, 'Alice in Wonderland': Alice soaks beauty of the nature while merrily wandering. She abruptly stops at some distance, since there are two pathways in two different direc-tions. She is confused to choose the correct path. Suddenly a cat arrives. She asks the cat the query she has. "Which way you want to lead?" the cat asks. Alice says, "I haven't yet decided." The cat reply's "Then follow any way, it doesn't make any difference."
and so it continues in manner which is more fantastical than lewis carroll ever imagined his wonderland to be.
it is remarkably WTF that Chate and his outstanding team at Chate classes is unable to track down such an elementary gaffe.

Friday, September 25, 2009

getting off the grid

the grid is the one that supplies a home with water, electricity, gas, sewerage.
in mumbai, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, Mahanagar Gas limited and BEST Undertaking form the grid.

getting off the grid would then mean to be able to live without external provisions of these facilities and utilities. implying self generation and usage minimisation.
i got introduced to this concept indirectly through the beautiful story of dhirendra and smita, evocatively chronicled by nipun.

treehugger interviews abe and josie, who have moved off the grid. their website chronicles their experiment. with a lot of pointers to aspiring 'off the gridders'.

we hope to get there soon.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

city farming workshop

this sunday, we are attending a city farming workshop.
the natueco city famring blog should become an important part of the mumbai webspace. and of course, the concept should become an important part of the mumbai space.

this mail which i got yesterday, assures me that it will be a wonderful workshop:
We would also like to reduce garbage generated at the premises and so request you to carry your own plate, a glass and a spoon for breakfast/lunch and herbal tea. MNP (Maharashtra nature Park, Dharavi) has the facility for you to be able to wash these. Please also carry your own drinking water so as to avoid "buying' the same.
Kindly bring a notepad and pen for taking notes, we will be providing you our booklet on natueco farming.You may also need napkin post the hands-on session.
this is a lesson to carry our own things wherever we go. simple and elegant.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

won't stop fighting

one of the most beautiful songs depicting the fight of the tribals and adivasis against the tsunami of 'development'.
गाँव छोड़ब नहीं (gaon chodab nahin).
watch and enjoy.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


yesterday (friday 18th sept 2009) was alvida jumma (अलविदा जुम्मा).
it is the last friday in the holy month on ramzan.
it is a very special day as it also indicates that Id-ul-fitr (ramzan-id) is around the corner.

on the suggestion of one of my friends, i kept a fast (रोज़ा) from dawn to dusk.
this was my first time ever. to stay over 14 hours without food was going to be quite manageable, but i was not sure about staying thirsty for the same time. it goes against my standard 2-3 liters of water/day.
so i decided to stay in the office the whole day (in air-conditioned environments) so as to prevent loss of water by sweating.
so i had a full stomach of water and a cup of coffee in the morning and that lasted me through the day quite well.
i could observe that life and time seemed to have slowed down. i kept looking at the time more frequently than before.

the breaking of the fast (रोज़ा खोलना) aka Iftaar (इफ्तार) is a pretty process.
we had gone shopping to Md Ali Road, which is a remarkable place most of the year, but during Ramzan, it is just moves up many notches.
if you can stand crowds (mumbai trains its citizens well in this regard), this is a must see. especially on alvida jumma.

i am considering fasting right through ramzan next year. but that's 11 months away.

now i wait for Id.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

changing names

marriage, numerology, weird names, and a few other misc reasons are why people change their names.
as per the rules, one needs to apply for this name change with the appropriate government department and after a period of time, the name change is notified in a gazette.
also the name changers are supposed to advertise this name change in the newspapers.

so here are a few interesting ones i read on way to pune yesterday.
"i have changed my name from Banarasi Abdullah Banarasi Bismillah Baba to Khan Mohammed Kasim Bismillah Baba".

"i have changed my name from Mohammad Naushad Mohammad Aqil and Shaikh Naushad Akil to Shaikh Mohammad Naushad Mohammad Aqil".

"i have changed my name from Vilas Karamanbhai Domania to Vaishali Ashwin Kumar Panchali".
i maybe forgot to add sex-change as one of the reasons.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Common School System - some exchanges

i had started endorsing the CSS since i read about it a couple of months ago.
first post was here and then a full fledged endorsement here.

in this week alone, i have had 2 chances to engage in direct discussions with groups in defense on CSS. one was initiated by purvsoutlet and the other was over email.

the obvious exchanges over free markets, parents choice, egalitarian society, etc. were thrown around and in a healthy spirit, the discussion ended without any judgment.

the email exchange, however, went into uncharted areas.
the critical points from the exchanges follows:

nm said

So I am feeling pretty confident that the high school agenda will come back with a bang. Also, there is a popular backing for it. There is a huge unemployed rural middle-class, middle caste youth, which will die to become govt. teachers – unlike upper caste, upper class doctors who don’t want to work in govt service. These guys can mobilise votes too.

csm response

I would like to believe that, if they did not press ahead with the RTE bill in its form. The speed at which Sibal pushed it through, is clearly an indicator of him getting major brownie points with MMS (which he has got in truckloads).

I believe that their social sector thrust will rest with the NREGA and stuff around those lines. I don’t believe that it will traverse to the main social sectors of health and education.

nm said

About the common school system. Come to Jharkhand – you can’t find a school, common or otherwise, in most of the villages there. The private sector is dominating the metros and the small cities, maybe. But where the law will really matters, there is nothing much and nothing at all but govt. I think, in principle, a common school is a good idea. But there is a history of progressive groups of the oppressed opting out of the common school system because they found it discriminatory – think of the Dravidian movement or the Dalit movement in Mah or the progressive Muslim groups in the Deccan and South. It will be hard to win these people over to a system which promises homogeneity, but not necessarily equality. Typical leftist problem of being unable to understand caste, culture – or see it as divisive and some kind of ‘false consciousness’.

csm response

The CSS goes hand in hand with local ownership. The latter has to be the lynchpin around which the CSS will evolve.

The govt school system in the villages have primarily failed due to this factor. As long as the government is “mai-baap” of society, no system will work.

Of course, it has to break through the rigid application of caste hierarchies. And I surrender that the last 60 years has not been able to dent this structure.

The progressive groups have moved out of the system and found their niches and school-ghettos. It has helped their social/economic progression, I agree completely. But it has further wedged apart society. If that’s the way it will be, I will not be any part of it.

To economically equalise society, the rich will have to give up their riches, along with the pulling up of the poor. In the very same manner, the upper castes have to get off their high horse.

I have direct experience in the former but zilch in the latter and hence am doing simple extrapolation.

And so far as all education continues to divide society on the basis of labour (in other words, demean manual labour), no system will eventually work.

Monday, September 07, 2009

definition of rich

in this article, gary north explains 'rich' as follows:

I have a peculiar definition of "rich." It is easy to understand. I know almost no one who has achieved it.

"You are rich when you quit your wage-earning job and pursue your life's top goal without ever drawing a paycheck again."

Note: I did not say "when you can afford to quit." I know lots of people who are rich by that definition. But they don't quit. This includes me.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The proof of riches is to unlock the golden handcuffs, hand them back to their owner, and walk away.

But what if you love your job? It pays a lot, you say, but you would be willing to do it for free.

Then do it for free.


To get rid of the golden handcuffs. Do not depend on them.

success versus significance

When men reach middle age, they face a decision point: success vs. significance.

If a man defines success as being different from significance, this decision point is a big one. Mid-life crisis is associated with it.

If he regards success as significance, he may have to make a career change. Most men's careers are not geared to significance.

The larger your allocation of time to significance, the better. The earlier you begin, the better. The justification for focusing on money rather than significance is that you need to accumulate a lot of money to finance your significance. When you reach your goal, turn in the golden handcuffs.

unlike gary north, i know a few people who are rich :-)
many write on this blog and many are somewhere in the fields of rural india.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

flaws in understanding the planet situation

i say "planet situation" instead of "planet crisis" as my understanding grows.
and this commentary accuses a lot of us (including obama) of not understanding this situation correctly.

(a) It’s us against the environment.

(b) It’s us against other men.

(c) It’s the individual (or the individual company or the individual nation) that matters.

(d) We can have unilateral control over the environment and must strive for that control.

(e) We live within an infinitely expanding ‘frontier’.

(f) Economic determinism is common sense.

(g) Technology will do it for us.

(Source: Gregory Bateson, ‘The Roots of Ecological Crisis’, in Steps to an Ecology of Mind, Ballantine Books, New York 1972)

read it. it is long but wise.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

the thing is, i really really...

the two phrases that slightly dumb down spoken language ...
1. the thing is....
2. ...really really...

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

bangalore bombers

no, it is not a IPL/KPL team.
nor is it LeT's new attack plan.

it is a fantastic group of environmentalists who are bombing the city with seeds....yes with seeds.
Nine Bangaloreans of this group called Samraksha Dharitri are on a mission to make the Garden City green again by throwing seeds balls (see box) over barren lands of the city.

The group meets every Sunday to chalk out a strategy. Stephen Anthony, a techie and president of the group, says, “First we zero in on the location. One Sunday, we decided to go to Bilekahalli. Five sub-groups were formed and they were asked the survey the vacant land where seed balls can be thrown. By afternoon, the sub-groups were back with the report. They had identified 19 roads and 62 vacant plots. We handed over 600 seed balls and asked them to go ahead with the task.”
and our favourite natural farming god, fukuoka, is the inspiration.
Seed balls are a way for distributing and protecting seeds by encasing them in a mixture of clay and compost. Dry organic compost, seeds and clay are mixed together. Just enough water is added to the mixture while stirring to make the concoction bind together. The mixture is then rolled into small round balls and left in the sun for a day or two to dry. Once dry, these balls are ready to be dispersed. Seeds balls are an ancient technique re-introduced by Masanobu Fukuoka, an advocate of natural farming.