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'.