Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Conservation Effort

Almost every tree in our complex and in the adjacent land - trees that we had been seeing for the last 10 years of living here, had been bent and broken by the merciless Vardah in December 2016.

Today, on Republic Day, we not only hoisted the flag as we do every year, but men, women and children participated eagerly in a drive to plant trees and recover the green.

When walking around the complex, I noticed a canna and remembered why it was planted two-three years ago.

When we were renovating our complex, on advise from one gray water expert, Mr Indukanth Ragade, we dug a well - a traditional well. It is dug where there is spring underwater and is also connected to our rainwater harvesting system. Being shallow, it is easy to recharge and improves the ground water level. This well is then connected to the underwater borewell so that the harvested water is pumped back into the system.

The canna bed receives water from the bathrooms. It is apparently good at treating the chemicals and also retains water underground... Thus adding to the water table.

While we may have the money to buy water, it disturbs me that we do nothing to conserve water available to us and also starve other regions by carrying away water from there.

We may still not be completely independent, but I think our dependence of water lorries have come down tremendously. The beauty of the shallow well is that you don't need to live in an independent house or a large complex. If there is water under your car park, you can dig a well there and keep it closed with cement slabs. Just make sure that it is connected to the RWH system as well as the borewell and is not going waste.

Imagine if an entire colony undertakes to divert rainwater thus! How much water we can pump back into the ground and start becoming independent...

I am not an expert and have tried my best to convey it the way I have understood. Rain Centre in Chennai maybe a good place for those living here to find out how to do it. I am sure other cities has such experts too.

Where the solution is within our reach, let's try these small methods to contribute and flourish. Water is precious and limited. Let's use it responsibly.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Bull F(r)ight

That time of the year and that debate again - should Jallikattu be banned?

Not fond of violence of any kind, I have never been a great fan of this game. I am not a convert either now.

The bull is tortured during jallikattu, given arrack, scared with firecrackers and made to run helter-skelter, goring and killing people in the way...

Now, the counter question - what will happen to the indigenous breed if this game is banned? They will be slaughtered... that is the fear.

All these points and counter points are frustrating. It is again and again about human beings, how they use the animals and what they do when that animal becomes useless... If a bull is bred, then, of course, it has to have an ROI and that is jallikattu. If it cannot be used for that purpose, it has to at least become meat. Or leather.

In this god-given nature, no other creature has any place if it is not useful one way or the other to man.

It occurred to me that unlike stray dogs (which are also neutered and killed because they are useless...) we do not get to see any stray cows/bulls. Do we have free horses or are they bred only in captivity?

What animal rights are we talking about then? Are we the custodians of all creatures on this earth? If a bull is useless, why not just let it roam around freely?

Long back, when I visited the beneficiaries of an NGO, I was struck by the fact that the cows they owned, when in heat, are impregnated with frozen and thawed semen of Jersey bulls. Isn't the animal allowed to even indulge in that one act one season in a year while man needs no season or reason to copulate?

The frustrating emptiness of our way of thinking does not even shame us... We question, support or dispute based purely on the assumption that the decision is for us to take.

Let the animals lead their lives. Let us lead ours... Where our lives intersect, let us respect the animal. We have a need, let us use them with maturity and restrain. But beyond that, let's not presume too much on our intelligence. Time and again, it has failed us. It is doing so on this matter too...

Sunday, January 8, 2017

'Mother' Earth

We call her the bountiful Mother
But desire her like a lustful Lover
Forever fighting
Like dogs in heat
When all we need is six feet

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Reaching Up

The dry limbs
Reach up to the hot skies
Mercy they seek
On deaf ears fall their cries

The hot sun beats down
Seeking rivers to dry
But only the riverbed
Meets its pale eye

Monday, October 24, 2016

This Diwali...

Every diwali, I can see awareness campaigns asking people to abstain from crackers. Yes, the smoke, the noise, the pollution...

This year too, I got a mail. " Diwali no more a festival to allay darkness. It has turned into a festival for thickening darkness. With one more bout of fire crackers, the killer pollution, engulfing life in its vice like grip, would only become more lethal."

It talked of the risk to children, the old and the vulnerable. No doubt, even the healthy get affected.

Any debates? None at all. I don't even believe that we should sustain that industry just for those employed in it. They suffer as much, and though it may help them make ends meet, they are probably better off finding alternative employment rather than continuing in that industry.

But something in me protests still. 

That same mail went on to say, "According to a Report by Save the Children, every 4th child in India lives in urban areas and they fall sick every month on average. They fall sick because of lower immunity. What affects their immunity? Essentially, ground water and air pollution damage immune system of children. Doctors associate high levels of suspended particulate matter and sulphur dioxide with increased mortality, morbidity and impaired pulmonary function."

Every month, the report says. But diwali is not celebrated every month. It is not even celebrated for one month. Just one day. So where does the pollution come from the rest of the year? 

"As per International Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences, our daily intakes of vegetables contain 21 times higher metal content. So apart from air and ground water pollution, our eating pattern also impact immunity. Having exposed to such conditions, a kid is prone to catch respiratory, liver and kidney problems.”

Daily intake - not just around the time of diwali but every day...

I will not labour the point. Is this post in favour of crackers? No? Is this against? No, again. 

Instead, I am just confused. I have a host of questions.

We have despoiled earth in the name of development.
We have polluted air in the name of progress.
We have even pierced the sky in the name of travel.
We have dried up water sources to satiate our thirst for wealth.
We are burning cities in the name of hate and fanaticism.

The food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the space we aspire to conquer - they all bear the brunt of our indiscriminate exploitation and insatiable greed.

Fight against crackers by all means. But if the rest of the year, we are going to continue to destroy this world, then this is mere tokenism. Meaningless and empty.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Models for Clay

Clay and some products
When Chennai reeled under the unprecedented rains last year, one of the causes was that the riverbeds in the city had not been cleaned in eons; all the muck that we had generously donated to the river built up into a mini dam at the point where the ocean and the river met; and the river started flowing back into the city, flooding its many streets and low-lying areas; many of which were built on beds of water bodies such as ponds and lakes.

It brought on discussions about how once upon a time, communities around the water bodies took it on themselves to clean them periodically and prepare it for the oncoming rains. The beds were desilted, removing extra clay and clearing the spring/fountainhead so that the ground could soak in the water and hold it for the communities to flourish around it.

The clay then - what happened to it? Why, it went to the potters and apart from the regular products made of clay, and during religious occasions idols of various sizes would consume a large part of the clay. Natural colours would embellish it and flowers and cotton garments would be draped around it. It gave a temporary boost to businesses and also gave people cause for celebration and hope before the harvesting season later.

When the time was ripe, these clay idols would go back to their source, the river, where they would dissolve easily without polluting the water.

Last year, a magazine ran a story on how Ganesha idols immersed indifferently in shallow waters are a potential environmental hazard. They are made of artificial materials, draped in polyesters. It is tragic to see a wonderful tradition, which was also introduced to synchronise with the natural cycle, slowly becoming a threat to the ecology.

Last week, I was heartened to see a video of clay Ganesha models with seeds inside them. Keep it in the garden after the puja and watch plants sprout. Yes, with care and thought, we can keep the tradition alive and enjoy the season without harming the environment. There are many rituals that are pointless. And many that have great depth and understanding of the natural cycle. If we can separate the grain from the chafe, and strengthen meaningful ones while discarding the rest, we can once again revive our national pride even while doing our bit for our culture, tradition, environment and the small scale industry.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Controlling Pests Or Being Controlled?

It was a horrible, yet familiar sight. My kitchen counter invaded by baby cockroaches.
Photo Credit: Srikant Ranganathan
Unable to stand the sight, I got the pest control people to 'clean' up my home. I was assured that the pesticide being used was not harmful and that it was safe for humans.

Since then, since so many years ago, I have been 'clean. I get periodic pest control done and have been cockroach free. Then when I got termites, I did termite control too done.

As a consequence, I do not have lizards in my house either. Or the one or two that come go away on their own due to lack of sufficient nourishment.

But am I happy and content? No! The king of pests, the mosquito, seems to have taken over my house. As I read and think more and more about the food cycle and human interference that is disturbing it, I am wondering if the same is not happening with regard to the mosquito menace as well. Who are their natural predators? Whom have we eliminated from the insect food cycle because of which we have such an overload of mosquitoes? We either have to keep all our windows and doors closed, cutting off all natural breeze, or have chemical means to reduce this nuisance.

A hard question to answer. I dread allowing cockroaches to invade my home. But I hate this forced self-caging to protect my skin and that of my near and dear ones from the mosquito bite!

Oh yes, my pest control service provider has something for mosquitoes, but that is effective for two months only! There was a time I was told cockroaches can survive even nuclear bombing. But I think someone overlooked mosquitoes. They can survive much more!

Who is smarter, finally? These tiny pests or man?