Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

mumbai LS elections

constituency - key candidates (my forecasted winner in bold).
note that the forecasted winner does not indicate my personal preferences in any way.

1. Mumbai South - milind deora (INC), mohan rawle (SS), bala nandgaonkar (MNS)
both deora and rawle are sitting MPs in this redrawn/delimited consituency. deora is charming and erudite and all that, but is likely to lose a close contest even though MNS will take away some of the marathi votes from SS.

2. Mumbai South Central - eknath gaikwad (INC), suresh gambhir (SS)
gaikwad was the giant killer from 2004. he beat, manohar joshi (ex- CM of maharashtra). gambhir is a newbie and may find it tough to wrest this from the incumbent.

3. Mumbai North Central - priya dutt (INC), mahesh jethmalani (BJP)
almost a no-contest.

4. Mumbai North East - kirit somaiyya (BJP), sanjay patil (NCP), shishir shinde (MNS)
somaiyya is a veteran social-political figure in this area and will run this through quite confortably.

5. Mumbai North West - gurudas kamat (INC), gajanan kirtikar (SS), abu asmi (SP)
close to call. i would think kirtikar will tubmle the might kamat as asmi is likely to be the spoiler with cutting heavily into the INC traditional north indian/muslim vote bank. my erstwhile acquaintance, rishi aggarwal is also contesting as an independant.

6. Mumbai North - ram naik (BJP), sanjay inrupam (INC)

others predicting.

since the last 2 months - internet and TV based campaigns are all over the place. we have been buffeted by the jaagore, one billion vote movements.
but check out the polling percentages in the silicon cities of india - pune and bangalore.
abysmal and atrocious. this is a lesson in understanding that "great campaigns do not translate to great results". it is like the model in the ad being more popular that the brand advertised for.
and large scale social changes take years to fruition.

other links:
1. election commission of india
2. indian election
3. websites of political parties

Monday, April 27, 2009

11th hour

saw the 11th hour (T1H) last evening.
in combination with the inconvenient truth (TIC), this movie raises much needed awareness on imminent and important issues around human existence.

while TIC was about one man's mission, T1H serenades a bunch of great experts to talk about their specific understanding of the issues facing the earth.

3 particulars notable and striking points were made by:
1. Oren Lyons - "And in time, it (the earth) will regenerate, and all the lakes will be pristine. The rivers, the waters, the mountains, everything will be green again. It will be peaceful. There may not be people, but the earth will regenerate. And you know why? Because the earth has all the time in the world. And we don’t. So I think that’s where we’re at right now."(emphasis mine)
2. David Suzuki - "I see a world in the future in which we understand that all life is related to us and we treat that life with great humility and respect. I see us as well as social creatures, and when I began to look back and say, 'what is the fundamental bottom line for us as social creatures?'...I couldn't believe it because it seemed so hippy dippy, but it was Love. Love is the force that makes us fully human."
3. Paul Hawken - " We need to be slower; we need to be smarter. Slow means disengaging from consumerism as the main avenue of experience. It doesn’t reject any consumption, but it says, “We’re not going to live our lives mediated by stuff sold out there in the market. We’re not going to base our identities and our meaning on what we buy. Instead of the long commute, the bigger car, the bigger house, let’s enjoy the local produce and have time to ourselves. Let’s understand that things are thieves of time because the more things you have, the more time you have to spend working to pay for them, the more your life is chained to a rhythm of perpetual purchase.
Being smart means reintroducing a term from before the Industrial Revolution—frugality. Frugality does not mean poverty or deprivation. It means the wise use of resources."
i liked T1H's approach to portray the immense potential and challenges that we face as a species and how solutions are well within our reach and the call for individual, collective and political action.
do watch.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

the pressure of looking good

has forced harsha bhogle to look like this.

i think it looks atrocious.

grass roots person

in hindi is ज़मीन से रगडा हुआ खिलाडी
came out in a conversation last evening with a friend.
we were talking politics, when he popped this gem.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

fundamental issues in the indian education system

this post is going to try to continue to add salt to the turmoil expressed earlier.
this is likely to be a mish-mash post with a variety of thoughts that i had articulated in mails to others over these very topics.
there is a good enough point to start from - what is education for? this i fully agree with.

Now, why is education such a mega issue/problem in India?

Historical Issues
1. The British created the currently prevalent education system with a clear objective to fill in their requirements for bureaucratic staff. That the same system continues till date indicates a lack of intellectual investment is crafting a system which reflects the changed situation in India at the time of independence.

Societal Issues
1. Growing economic gaps between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots' – leading to a disparate structure in the types of schools available for different sections. Mirroring the caste system in society, the schools also have been thus classified in their own casteist hierarchy (i.e., government schools are for the poor and so on).
2. It is widely believed that education is the solution for most social evils. And as an escape from poverty. In the current design and delivery of the system, I seriously doubt these theories.
3. Disparity between what is taught in school and what happens in life.

Structural Issues
1. Lack of adequate Govt investment as % of GDP.
2. The clarity issues over division of responsibilities between the Center and the States. Education is on the concurrent list.
3. The incoherence between the supply and demand of teachers – while the appointment of teachers is with the primary education departments, the creation of teachers (Colleges, etc) is with the College education dept. be continued

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

patience and youth

i have been very taken in by this line from one of kabir's bhajans.
कहत कबीर सुनो भाई साधू, साहिब मिले सबूरी में
सबूरी (सबूरी) indicates a state of patience (सब्र) mixed with belief and alertness.
i found this really nice piece written by atanu (of deesha fame) in the days of usenet quoting this stanza in a random conversation.

i was trying to explain this concept to a couple of students who i was travelling with in a cab.
not sure if anything went past their defiant bombay-induced 'go-get-it' posturing.

but nevertheless, i returned home to see an ad which almost deifies 'impatience'.
what chance do i have?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

out of school children, education...turmoil

getting kids into school.
i would think that this the biggest investment made by society, which includes:
1. parents getting admissions into nursery/kindergarten.
2. major projects like the SSA (Sarva Shiksha Ahiyan).
3. major NGO initiatives across the country.

the statistics show that the number of out of school children is dropping.
good news?
i think not.
partly due to shocking news like this.
partly due to my interest in home schooling.
partly due to the depressing culture of schooling.
partly due to the intense "business-ification" of education.

1. schools have a significant role in society and society has a significant role to play in schools. undoubtedly.
2. there are many great schools and admirable educators out there. but, most prefer to operate in heavily walled confines and hence are probably creating higher imbalances.
3. schools should shape society but is also a reflection of society. a circular reference problem.

this is just a reflection of the turmoil in my mind. solutions are still far away.
to be continued.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

a brief insight into the state of education

can be got from this tragi-comic post on deesha - atanu in conversation with his nephew.
Me (Atanu): So which grade do you go to?

Sibling’s son: I will be going to class 12 after this summer vacation.

M: Which school?

SS: I go to college.

M: What’s it called?


M: What does that stand for?

SS: Don’t know.

and so on it goes to highlight the level of 'i dont care for school/college' bravado.

in his analysis...
I told the parental units that the problem is that they are basically making their son stupid by giving him the false impression that learning has something to do with paying a lot of money to “tuition.” What is being missed in the whole exercise is the main lesson: that you have to read stuff to understand stuff. No one else can read it on your behalf.
I told the parents, you have rewarded his unreasonable behavior with goodies and thus reinforced the behavior. The kid now knows that all he has to do is threaten to leave home and he will get his way.
and in conclusion...
It may appear as if the kids are screwing up. I don’t think the kids are the problem. It’s the adults who are primarily to blame. And the retarded system of “education.” It needs change. Too bad that the change will happen too late to help the present kids.
retarded system of education!
i agree.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

the 2000 odd towns

in india (pop <100,000) are one neglected, in-a-big-mess situation.
kalpana sharma is doing a series on these towns and the issues they face, the local innovations and the governance factors.
here is part 1 - slumdogs and small towns.

earlier coverage on 'the mess that is our cities'.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

bird watching = meditation

meditation usually has an image on someone in a 'legs-folded-pose' type, chanting silently and stuff like that.

that's only one form of meditation.

the true essence of meditation, is when one is able to disassociate one's mental presence and physical presence and able to be at peace.

this can be achieved through multifarious methods.
one of these, which i have been recently introduced into, is 'bird-watching'.

it is quite an extra-ordinary practice. like viewing birds through a prayer-lens. a lens which instills devotion and bhakti.
to be still, to be patient, to be slow, to observe the intricate details in the plumage, the beak, the song, the tree/plant on which they plant themselves, etc, etc., is like eating a mango, drinking coffee or watching a flower bloom:-) sublime experience.

it is definitively meditation.
and highly recommended.

whats your favourite game?

i ask this buoyant 8 something year old girl, who has gleefully ensconced herself on a swing, oscillating to much joy.
she named 2 games, which i had never heard of.
she went on to explain that she played them at the malls and both of them involved some violent 'stepping on something', 'firing at something'.
she also named the 2 malls where she played these games.
the swing, झुला, i remember, used to be the sole occupant in the top ten list of favourite games amongst girls। but that was over 10 years ago.
needless to say, i shuddered at how much out-of-sync i am with the latest generation. and this unsynchronised state is likely to stay.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

morning at a zen garden - pune

the quick trip to pune.
catching up on the effervescent folks at the urban ashram.
who took me to taljai hills.
to the zen garden created by pandurang tambe.
a simple man who has spent over 7 years years regenerating a plot of 3 acres in the midst of a degraded forest area spread over 500 acres.
and just as a simple, ordinary citizen.
the Pune Municipal Corporation 'arden' report of 2006 says:
Making good use of his morning walk time for gardening, Mr Pandurang Tambe, a resident of Sahakar Nagar, single-handedly transformed a 3-acre wasteland into a green patch on the Taljai Hill. He used the process of Trap water, percolate water and changed the look of the land.
so a bunch of 7 of us landed up at this spot and joined tambe kaka in this work.
today was essentially de-rocking the slopy section of the hill.
uprooting rocks (all igneous) of all sizes was the plan.
the small ones get gathered in piles which he then uses to create bunds to prevent water/soil run off (erosion). the large ones become spots of assembly for people's backsides.
for over 2 hours, we had a blast - all this just by simple labour of shifting rocks and watching his dedication, simplicity and energy.
just rocking.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

pesticide - free village

the overuse of pesticides and the deleterious effect it is having on rural communities (mainly) and urban consumers is well known.

Penta Srirampuram in Andhra Pradesh is showing the way forward.
the beauty of all this is in its simplicity.
de-complexing the human actions (aka - "do nothing") is the solution.

now the connections:
1. i worked for 1 year in 1995-96 in a chemical plant making Penta erythritol. (2 connections - chemicals and Penta)
2. the surname of the village bears close resemblance to my alter-ego.

Friday, April 03, 2009

the genius of the indian villager

is the title of a 50s article by TS Satyan - a renowned photo-journalist. the life of the Indian villager, a life of pathos, hardship, and ignorance to the casual visitor from the West, but to those who know him and his heroic struggles against man and nature, he is a giant among men, beloved of himself and of God.
hat tip - indian writing
reading this conflated with this sad but brilliant story about bhushan just staggered me.
“I’ll prove my father wasn’t wrong when he took up farming, I’ll bring my family out of debt,” says Bhushan, who took over the family farm at barely 13 years of age when his father committed suicide in 2003.
the villager's genius stems from the spirit.