March 22, 2018

The worth of water

"World sparrow day, can you believe that?!!" my friend exclaimed, rolling her eyes.
We were at our regular haunt to grab a quick lunch when she casually flipped out her phone for a random social network check.
On scrolling through the trending topics on Twitter, this unique hashtag had caught her attention.
"Anything becomes a social trend these days," I agreed.

Now who would have thought such a common bird like the house sparrow would have an entire day assigned to it. It wasn't like it was the Hawaiian Crow or Spix's Macaw, was it? After all, we were talking about the communally roosting, group nesting, ubiquitous house sparrow.

However, our curiosity got the better of us and we proceeded to click on the links listed under the topic, only to be astounded at what was written.
"What if this is as serious as it sounds?" we gasped.

The articles pointed out that the house sparrow is at a risk of extinction. A group of ornithologists confirmed that this is because of the pollution, emergence of rapidly increasing phone towers in cities, increasing use of pesticides as responsible factors. The harmless little sparrows find it difficult to procure their food (indiscriminate use of pesticides kill insects and worms in the soil) and water (due to drying up of water bodies because of climate changes), thereby resulting in a drastic reduction in their number.
It was shocking to read how industrialisation and modernisation is gradually depleting us of our natural resources, and how it is gradually destroying our environment by depleting our flora and fauna.
Be it the house sparrow or the northern white rhino, the world is facing a major crisis. And we have only ourselves to blame for it.

Consider the most basic and important of our natural resources, water.
"If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water." 
~ Loren Eisely 

Have you ever stopped to wonder about the irony of it?  Two-thirds of the earth's surface is covered with water. 75% of our body is made up of it.
We depend on water for agriculture, energy, manufacturing of electricity, transportation of goods etc. It keeps our communities healthy, our cities running and our economy growing. Directly or indirectly, it forms the mainstay of our existence, a crucial element for a sustainable future.
And despite all this, it is one of the most undervalued commodities in today's age and time.

We have screaming headlines constantly reminding us about how our country is at risk of water shortage. People in remote villages have to walk long distances in order to collect as much as a bucket full of water. To top it, factors like scanty and unpredictable rainfall, extremes in temperature due to global warming causes failure of crops that are responsible for a harrowing number of farmer suicides in rural areas. This is the kind of bleak reality faced in the rural areas of our country.

Factors responsible for this deplorable situation include:

  • Deforestation - Destroying forests adversely affects rain and in turn causes global warming, drying up of lakes and rivers, and depletion if water resources.
  • Industrialisation
  • Pollution - renders water unsafe and toxic for consumption.
  • Most importantly, undue wastage of water: 
Walk down any local street, and you are sure to find at least one public tap running open and unattended. Holi, no matter how much we nag of its disastrous downside on social media, is celebrated with great pomp and ardor throughout the country. Nobody stops to think twice about the wastage of water during this festival.
Getting late to office, we forget to double check the tap that is dripping.
Getting ready for a date, we spend that extra half an hour for a leisurely shower that could have been done with in fifteen minutes.

Little do we realise then the harm these tiny acts are causing us in the larger scheme of things. But it is high time we stop taking this elixir of life for granted. After all, don't they say, it is never too late to bring about a good change?
It is for this very reason that Livpure has introduced a brilliant ideology, 'Cutting Paani' to help us become more mindful of the way we consume water. Based on the concept of Mumbai's cutting chai, it is a sensitive initiative by Livpure to save water by asking for #CuttingPaani, i.e only half a glass of water, so that the other half (that would otherwise go wasted) can be saved, thus creating a positive impact in the future of water management.

Role of the Government:
The Government has also come up with policies like the National Water Policy, National water mission, Mission for Clean Ganga, and Bharat Nirman Yojana providing safe drinking water in under-developed areas to ensure some relief from the water problems faced by the common man.
But this is not enough. It is only when every individual takes it upon himself to save this invaluable commodity by practicing water conservation, that real change will be possible. Only then, can we make the future healthy, safe, and happy for our future generations.
Read the inspiring story of Chewang Norphel, fondly known as 'The Ice Man of India', who with his determined efforts made a huge difference in the history of water conservation and set an example for all of us to follow.

Here is a simple list of do's and dont's that we need to practice and promote in order to conserve water...

  • Do not leave the tap on while brushing your teeth. This is a common habit mostly in children and should be discouraged.
  • Ensure that there are no dripping faucets and taps in the house. If there are, get them fixed immediately. A man worthy of mention here is Mumbai based  octogenarian Aabid Surti for his undying spirit to solve the water crisis.
  • Collect all the water left over in bottles and glasses around the house. Instead of draining it in the sink, put it to good use. Use it to water your plants, or pour it all in a bowl for your pets or visiting birds.
  • Wash your car with water from a bucket or waterless car wash (spray on and wipe off)  instead of a running hose pipe. Although more convenient, the latter results in much greater wastage than the former.
  • Bathing with a mug and bucket helps you stay in check of the amount of water you are using, as opposed to using a shower head. Besides the former is a healthy practice as it involves patience and exercise. (Installing low-flow shower heads also helps cut down water wastage)
  • Do not promote distribution of packaged water bottles at events and functions, as this is how there is maximum wastage. Instead, install a filter whereby guests can help themselves to as much water as they want, thereby reducing wastage.
  • In restaurants, insist on pouring the water in your glass yourself. Or you could ask for Cutting Paani. That way you can monitor how much water you need and thus avoid wastage.
  • Last but not the least, do not forget to pass on this knowledge and awareness to your children as well. Teach them to value and respect our environment and natural resources. Lead by example. It is only when we become the change that we can inspire the change.

Besides these tiny efforts on our part, we can also incorporate some major water conservation practices like-

Water harvesting -This practice makes use of rain water. And works on the principle of infiltration and percolation.
However, this concept of groundwater recharging to is dependent on a number of factors like amount of rainfall nature of soil, landscaping, vegetation cover etc

Houses that collect the rain water from the roof and send it through pipelines to a built-in underground rain water tank from where it can be utilized for domestic purposes.

On a larger industrial level, the employment of waste water plants that adequately treat and recycle the water, thus aiding in conservation.

Soil conservation techniques, improvement in livestock management, judicial use of water for agriculture, improved irrigation facilities are other areas that need to be looked into.

All these initiatives can create a huge difference in the endeavor of water management. And can help us solve the water crisis in an effective manner.

So think no more. Lets save water every chance we get. And let it save us in turn...

As Sylvia Earl rightly said, 
"No water, no life. No blue, no green."

On the occasion of World Water Day, let us pledge to safeguard water and develop the habit of conserving, reusing and recycling..

I have signed the petition by Livpure and sealed the deal.  Have you?

March 17, 2018

From Hari to Hawkings: The politics of 'Chinese Whispers'

If I were to advocate a particular theory all my life, and some ignorant bubblehead, after my demise, declared that I proclaimed something absolutely contrary to it, what would I do?  Well, practically, nothing! Because the dead, unfortunately, cannot defend themselves (the likely reason why that someone would be abusing the opportunity). But if I was vested any semblance of power by the cosmic universe, I would use it all to haunt that opportunistic manipulator for the rest of my time, making his days as miserable as possible.
But enough said about me, and my wannabe afterlife  shenanigans.
Let's talk about what really happened, and the reason for my preposterous consideration.

It has just been a couple of days since renowned physicist Stephen Hawkings passed away, and the pseudo-intellectual political poltergeists in India have already started cashing out on promote their one major agenda, (no points for guessing), religion!

Now we all know that India has this way of turning everything into a religious matter. Be it the beef ban, clubbing scene for women, Darwinism theory of evolution, or the opportunity to juice up whatever little mileage that can be got from a dead scientist, who has been a legendary inspiration to millions around the globe, a politically charged Mind in India will find a way to make sure it all bottoms down its advantage using religion as a crutch.

So what happened was this. At the 105th edition of the Indian Science Congress, we heard the minister of science and technology, Dr Harsh Vardhan, eulogise the great scientist in an unique manner; by mentioning a rare nugget of his contribution to the field of science religion.

Dr Vardhan went ahead to announce that Hawkings had emphatically said on record that our Vedas might have a theory superior to Einsteins e=mc^2, equation of relativity.

When the media in the audience enquired about the source of his statement, the minister did what any self respecting Indian politician would do. He dodged the bullet by asking  the media to do their homework themselves.

However, it was soon enough that the Twitterati did their homework, and realised that this teacher was going dramatically out of syllabus. In fact, not just that, he was following some misguided textbook to quote.

And so like any self respecting social-media addict would do, they decided to unleash their wrath on Twitter.
However, when a religious brigade starts, there are always people waiting to jump on. Some to start a fire and some to douse it.
There are rationalists and loyalists. Those who will defend without reason, and those who may reason but not defend. The Twitter wars never stop. And the public statement in question will be forgotten only when another outrageous statement takes its place. Which, by the way things are going, will not be too long away.
The source of the statement made by the minister, however, turned out to be a fan page by a man named Hari using the handle 'Stephen Hawking'.
Now cmon, falling for something like that! Aww...the Internet is definitely killing our grey cells, isn't it?

Imagine what the great scientist sitting somewhere amidst the stars in a parallel universe, must be thinking of this conundrum down here?
I'd read somewhere that Hawkings, known for his wit, had a high standard of humour, and if someone cracked a poor joke, he would express his disapproval by rolling his wheelchair over their foot.

If only he were alive today, we all know who would have been dancing around with a major limp...

March 02, 2018

From Holi to Hooliganism: the ugly side to a glorious festival

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Long long ago, the festival of Holi was started to herald the end of winter and welcome the beginning of Spring. However, with time, this occasion, also known as the festival of colours, this day that supposedly celebrated the triumph of good over evil, gradually changed meaning.
Cut to present day, the essence of Holi is almost lost in all its entirety, and it won't be wrong to say that a modern day ho(o)li-ganism has begun to replace it.

Mythology has many interesting interpretations of why we celebrate Holi. One is the fate of  Holika, Hiranyakashyapu's sister and Prahalad's paternal aunt, who was supposedly resistant to fire, was reduced to ashes when she tried to kill her nephew Prahalad, thus marking the end of evil and starting the custom of burning the 'Holika'--the auspicious fire, on the night before the festival.
Another legend talks about the blue skinned Lord Krishna sulking about Radha being fairer than him, and his mother Yashoda pacifying  him with the idea that he could colour Radha's face with colors of Holi to match his, thus commemorating the love between Radha and Krishna even more.
Still another popular legend speaks about the God of love, Kama, disrupting Shiva's meditation by shooting a love arrow. Angered by the disturbance, Shiva opens his third eye this destroying Kama. It is only later that Goddess Parvati convinces Shiva that it was her orders that Kama was obeying that Shiva brings him back to life. It is said that Holi is a reminder of the sacrifice that the God of love had made.
Honestly, all these legends not just made up good folklore, but more importantly imbibed lessons of love, respect and bonhomie to the celebration.

Unfortunately, over the ages, we have not just forgotten these stories regaled to us but also developed a crude and rabid mob mentality bordering on sadism and an uncouth sexist attitude.
Nowadays every community gathering has transformed into a potential space for hazardous activities. Be it communal disharmony, sexual misconduct or violence, we are living in increasingly unsafe times. To top it all, Holi is a festival that with its open culture of smearing strangers with colour under the pretext of celebration, proves to only be the proverbial match in the gas station.
Women and young girls are easy targets. The recent case of India's renowned singer, Papon, smearing an eleven year contestant's face with color and kissing her full front-face, has been a reason of controversy. Although the contestants family tried to douse the flames with some well rehearsed lines, the question remains. 'If a popular singer can dare to do this on Camera and get away with it, why wouldn't hooligans on streets dare to do the same?'
. In addition, Bollywood is largely responsible for this kind of brutish behavior. Holi song sequences often show an intoxicated hero, rubbing colour on his reluctant lady love, despite her disapproval for the same. All ends well on Holi, with the  hesitance being interpreted as 1) either the woman is a tease and no means yes 2) she magically realises she has always been in love after the colour-rub.
Of course, the intoxicated excuse always comes in handy. After all, 'Bura na maano, Holi hai,' no?
Well, No! That may work in reel-life. But it's definitely not going to work in reality. People are going to be offended with offensive acts, be it Holi or otherwise. And no dictum in the world is going to change that fact.

I recently read about a girl attacked with a semen filled balloon on Holi day. While I wouldn't argue with the validity of that claim, I dread to think what kind of deranged mentality would resort to such cheap and disgusting tricks.
If Holi has become all about this sickening power-play between the sexes, how different would it be from the infamous 'Gedi' culture of Chandigarh? Are we in the garb of religion and culture trying to keep that kind of retarded chauvinism rampant all over India instead of trying to destroy it?

Another reason I'm extremely against this festival is the effect it has on animals. Toxic chemicals and paints are equally (if not more) harmful to animals than to humans, but who cares? I see people drenching these mute unsuspecting victims with colour only to record their reaction on their phones and pass it on to their Whatsapp contact groups.
Somewhere in some parallel dog universe, I fervently hope they are doing the same to you.

Then there is the constant brouhaha about our water bodies being constantly polluted. We hear it in the news, watch documentaries made on the topic, discuss it at length in the face of epidemics or calamity, and then go back to leading our normal lives...until disaster strikes again. The brouhaha always stops at just that...being brouhaha. No action is ever taken against it. Add to it the air and noise pollution caused by the deafening music and drum-besting by the local 'gulaal' gang in every locality, not just disturbing the peace of the neighbourhood but also causing the tiny hearts of hapless animals to flutter with shock.

Now all those who are mumbling 'kill joy' under your breath, don't get me wrong.
I do not have anything against the festival. In fact, I'm all for the gujiya and thandai kind of celebration. In fact, I respect anything that revolves around a cheerful vibe and good food. But what I am dead against is the pulling in of non-consenting individuals (be it person or animal) into your idea of a good time.
So instead of gifting your children pichkaris this Holi, I'd say introduce them to colors on the canvas. Guide them to make art instead. Show them the magic of books and the myriad colours reading can add to life.

It is a known fact that irrational flinging of balloons from terraces cause majority of accidents today. Educate them of their responsibilities as future citizens of our country. Make them proud of our heritage. Lead by example.

And above all, teach them the meaning and importance of consent...
Because that is the most valuable lesson you can ever teach them. For Holi and for life.

Here's praying today blesses us with true colors of compassion, wisdom and serenity. Love and happiness to one and all.

Book review: The fragile thread of hope

Book Title: The Fragile Thread of Hope: A gripping emotional inspirational fiction

Author: Pankaj Giri

Format: Kindle (available in e-book)

'The fragile thread of hope' by Pankaj Giri had been in my TBR list since quite some time now. But truth be told, I'd plain forgotten about it. Had that not been the case, I'd have read and reviewed it earlier.
It was thanks to the author Pankaj Giri who recently mentioned it to me in a Facebook thread that I instantly picked it up from Amazon, guilt ridden for my failing memory.

'The fragile thread of hope' is a wonderfully spun story around the theme of family relationships, love, loss and hope. Set in the beautiful town of Gangtok, it transports you to North-East India, introducing you to different nuances in the tradition, culture, and language of Sikkim, and most importantly to Fiona and Soham.

Living lives that unknown to each other, and yet strangely connected, we see them journey through their own perils, struggling through the recurring themes of death and depression. Alike yet different in their own ways, they finally find a common thread that holds them together---the fragile thread of hope.
The author has etched his characters meticulously and with great finesse. Although Soham and Fiona form the crux of the story, you cannot help but give your heart out to Vikram, Soham's older brother, who plays a short yet vital role in the story.

The cover design is intriguing and rates high in abstract value. The language is free-flowing with an impressive vocabulary blending seamlessly in above-average story telling.
Ample use of metaphors renders the story a poetic quality but also renders a pall of gloom. Frankly, I lost count of the points where I actually had to put the book down to take in a deep breath, because I was too heart-broken to carry on. But the author should take this as a compliment.

The only issue I had with the story was the spiritual element, which I found to be too jarring (for fiction) at times.

The story has a predictable conclusion, but by the time you are nearing the end, you are almost wishing the pieces to fit in the expected manner.
I guess that is the strength of good storytelling---you know how the story is going to end but you are still looking forward to it.

To sum up, 'The fragile thread of hope' did not disappoint at all.
I think there is a lot of hope for the author in the literary world, and it's definitely not fragile.

Personal rating: 
4 out of 5 for the plot.
5 out of 5 for the writing.