Saturday, December 30, 2006

2007 the year of the Bond

One more reason to celebrate the new year as we are a few years from total destruction. The dudes in delhi would remark " aapa ko ki pharak penda heh!! "

TORONTO, december 29: A giant ice shelf has snapped free from an island south of the North Pole, scientists said on Thursday, citing climate change as a “major” reason for the event.
The Ayles Ice Shelf—66 sq km of it—broke clear 16 months ago from the coast of Ellesmere Island, about 800 km south of the North Pole in the Canadian Arctic. Scientists discovered the event by using satellite imagery. Within one hour of breaking free, the shelf had formed as a new ice island, leaving a trail of icy boulders floating in its wake.
Warwick Vincent of Laval University, who studies Arctic conditions, travelled to the newly formed ice island and was amazed at the sight. “This is a dramatic and disturbing event. It shows that we are losing remarkable features of the Canadian north that have been in place for many thousands of years,” Vincent said. “We are crossing climate thresholds, and these may signal the onset of accelerated change ahead.”
The ice shelf was one of six major shelves remaining in Canada’s Arctic. They are packed with ancient ice that is more than 3,000 years old. Some scientists say it is the largest event of its kind in Canada in 30 years and that climate change was a major element.
“It is consistent with climate change,” Vincent said, adding that the remaining ice shelves are 90 per cent smaller than when they were first discovered in 1906. Derek Mueller, a polar researcher with Vincent’s team, said the ice shelves get weaker as temperatures rise. He visited Ellesmere Island in 2002 and noticed that another ice shelf had cracked in half. “We’re losing our ice shelves and this a feature of the landscape that is in danger of disappearing altogether from Canada,” Mueller said.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Happy Birthday…Here is a tree for you

here's an idea from ajay jain, another extraordinary mortal who cares about his planet. read on......

There are enough companies who take care to make their employees and customers feel good on their birthdays. It could be in the form of a cake or a day off for the birthday boy or girl at office, or a card sent to a customer. How about making these occasions more memorable?

Plant a tree. And ensure provision is made to ensure it is nurtured over the years. No point having dead saplings and half trees lying around, right?

The logistics of tree birthday parties
Here are some tips that could help an organization do a good job of tree parties:

Where? Identify spots where trees can be planted. There are enough organizations who can help you. Best if it is within or near your workplace open areas.

Too many employees or customers to make it practical to gift each a tree? Have a monthly ceremony where you plant one or more trees.

Click a photo: When you plant a tree, click a photo with the employee/s who it is for. Give them that photo to cherish for life. If your customers are not there, send a photo of the tree and tell them about it.

Don’t want to hurt the sentiments of the tree? What sentiments? Hey, come on, you don’t send photos using paper made from trees, do you? Trees have feelings too. Post these online.

Find a tree manager: You need the tree to looked after. Find someone to do it. A staffer maybe. Or outsourced.

No time to plant trees and look after them? Never mind, you have an honourable escape route. Find an agency or organization to do so for you. Pay them. No, it is all right: you do not have to have your manager running around trying to plant a tree.

Name the tree: Don’t make the trees feel like orphans. Or be without an identity. Give them a name. Maybe even after your own brands. Kit Kat is a decent name for a tree. So is Fido Dido or Ronald McDonald. Even Volvo, Nirma and Bazooka will do.

What are you waiting for? You have a tree birthday to plan!!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

36000 marriages and the Polar ice caps

so there are 36000 x 2 suckers who are going to tell each other today that they will live with each other for the rest of their lives. well guys i have news for you. the fire that you lit to go around is one of the reason why the polar ice caps are melting :)))

seriously now is the time for couples to do something about their environment if they want to enjoy each other's company and have a long life. for all those who are taking insurances and buying property so that their children will have a nice life .... WELL READ THIS ...................................

A new scientific research report predicts that the frozen sea areas in the Arctic circle will be completely gone by the summer 2040 due to the impact of global warming resulting from greenhouse gas emmissions.

Related stories
Not plenty of fish in the ocean due to global warming
Carbon dioxide emissions growth accelerating, reduction efforts fail
According to the study, by a team of scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the University of Washington, and McGill University, scenarios run on supercomputers show that sea ice could be reduced so abruptly that, within about 20 years, it may begin retreating four times faster than at any time in the observed record.

The increasing rate of melting sea ice is contributing to a positive feedback system, which feeds global warming further because open ocean absorbs heat from the sun rather than reflects back into space as does ice.

"As the ice retreats, the ocean transports more heat to the Arctic and the open water absorbs more sunlight, further accelerating the rate of warming and leading to the loss of more ice," says NCAR scientist Marika Holland, the study's lead author. "This is a positive feedback loop with dramatic implications for the entire Arctic region.

"We have already witnessed major losses in sea ice, but our research suggests that the decrease over the next few decades could be far more dramatic than anything that has happened so far," "These changes are surprisingly rapid."

The team of researchers studied a series of seven simulations run on the NCAR-based Community Climate System Model for studying climate change. The scientists first tested the model by simulating fluctuations in ice cover since 1870, including a significant shrinkage of late-summer ice from 1979 to 2005. The simulations closely matched observations, a sign that the model was accurately capturing the present-day climate variability in the Arctic.

The team then simulated future ice loss. The model results indicate that, if greenhouse gases continue to build up in the atmosphere at the current rate, the Arctic's future ice cover will go through periods of relative stability followed by abrupt retreat. For example, in one model simulation, the September ice shrinks from about 2.3 million to 770,000 square miles in a 10-year period. By 2040, only a small amount of perennial sea ice remains along the north coasts of Greenland and Canada, while most of the Arctic basin is ice-free in September. The winter ice also thins from about 12 feet thick to less than 3 feet.

There is some positive news in the report however. According to the study, mankind can still affect and slow down the melting trend.

The scientists also conclude by examining 15 additional leading climate models, that if emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases were to slow, the likelihood of rapid ice loss would decrease. Instead, summer sea ice would probably undergo a much slower retreat.

"Our research indicates that society can still minimize the impacts on Arctic ice," Holland said.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Conspiracy: Watch What You Inhale

The media has been full of stories of the KGB agent Litvinenko's murder by polonium 210. i found this in today's indian express. have fun and inhale to your heart's content. better do it near somebody smoking in a public place :)
When the former KGB agent Aleksandr V. Litvinenko was found to have been poisoned by radioactive polonium 210 last week, there was one group that must have been particularly horrified: the tobacco industry.

The industry has been aware at least since the 1960s that cigarettes contain significant levels of polonium. Exactly how it gets into tobacco is not entirely understood, but uranium “daughter products” naturally present in soils seem to be selectively absorbed by the tobacco plant, where they decay into radioactive polonium. High-phosphate fertilisers may worsen the problem, since uranium tends to associate with phosphates. In 1975, Philip Morris scientists wondered whether the secret to tobacco growers’ longevity in the Caucasus might be that farmers there avoided phosphate fertilisers.

How much polonium is in tobacco? In 1968, the American Tobacco Company began a secret research effort to find out. Using precision analytic techniques, the researchers found that smokers inhale an average of about .04 picocuries of polonium 210 per cigarette. The company also found, no doubt to its dismay, that the filters being considered to help trap the isotope were not terribly effective. (Disclosure: I’ve served as a witness in litigation against the tobacco industry.)

A fraction of a trillionth of a curie (a unit of radiation named for polonium’s discoverers, Marie and Pierre Curie) may not sound like much, but remember that we’re talking about a powerful radionuclide disgorging alpha particles — the most dangerous kind when it comes to lung cancer—at a much higher rate even than the plutonium used in the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Polonium 210 has a half life of about 138 days, making it thousands of times more radioactive than the nuclear fuels used in early atomic bombs.

We should also recall that people smoke a lot of cigarette—about 5.7 trillion worldwide every year, enough to make a continuous chain from the earth to the sun and back, with enough left over for a few side-trips to Mars. If .04 picocuries of polonium are inhaled with every cigarette, about a quarter of a curie of one of the world’s most radioactive poisons is inhaled along with the tar, nicotine and cyanide of all the world’s cigarettes smoked each year. Pack-and-a-half smokers are dosed to the tune of about 300 chest X-rays.

Is it therefore really correct to say, as Britain’s Health Protection Agency did this week, that the risk of having been exposed to this substance remains low? That statement might be true for whatever particular supplies were used to poison Litvinenko, but consider also this: London’s smokers (and those Londoners exposed to secondhand smoke), taken as a group, probably inhale more polonium 210 on any given day than the former spy ingested with his sushi. No one knows how many people may be dying from the polonium part of tobacco. There are hundreds of toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke, and it’s hard to sort out how much one contributes compared to another—and interactive effects can be diabolical.

In a sense, it doesn’t really matter. Taking one toxin out usually means increasing another—one reason “lights” don’t appear to be much safer. What few experts will dispute is the magnitude of the hazard: the World Health Organisation estimates that 10 million people will be dying annually from cigarettes by the year 2020—a third of these in China. Cigarettes, which claimed about 100 million lives in the 20th century, could claim close to a billion in the present century.

The tobacco industry of course doesn’t like to have attention drawn to the more exotic poisons in tobacco smoke. Arsenic, cyanide and nicotine, bad enough. But radiation? As more people learn more about the secrets hidden in the golden leaf, it may become harder for the industry to align itself with candy and coffee - and harder to maintain, as we often hear in litigation, that the dangers of tobacco have long been “common knowledge”. I suspect that even some of our more enlightened smokers will be surprised to learn that cigarette smoke is radioactive, and that these odd fears spilling from a poisoned KGB man may be molehills compared with our really big cancer mountains.

Robert N. Proctor is a professor of the history of science at Stanford University

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Global warming could cast chill on India’s growth story: UK report

This story was carried by indian express on oct 31st. hold your breath and read on......

NEW DELHI, OCTOBER 30: Global warming and climate change could affect India’s growth story unless a range of steps are taken to address the effects of increased surface temperature and its effect on monsoon pattern and river flows.
Meet to set up roadmap for saving ozone layerIndia Inc tops charts with 53% of global carbon credits demandMarket for greenExplainedGreen to black: India Inc tops carbon trading, firms cash in
This is according to a report released in London today commissioned by UK Chancellor Gordon Brown and authored by Nicholas Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank. In his 700-page report, Stern calls for an urgent shift to a low-carbon economy in countries like India which could translate into huge business opportunities for the developed world.
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair called the report the “final word’’ on why the world must act now. “The case for action is the final piece of the jigsaw to convince every single political leader, including those in America, China and India, that this must be top of their agenda,” he said.
There is a wealth of evidence quantifying the economic costs of climate change in India. Experts from the University of Reading have estimated that mean summer rainfall in India will increase by 10% — along with rainfall intensity — and this will be accompanied by more regional variations. This is likely to affect agriculture and, therefore, GDP growth.
The review identifies three elements of policy required for an effective response: carbon pricing, through tax, trading or regulation, so that people pay the full social cost of their actions; policy to support innovation and deployment of low-carbon technologies and removal of barriers to energy efficiency and measures to inform, educate and persuade.
Some of the key predictions, according to the Stern report, of changes over the next 100 years:
• Regional climate models suggest 2.5-5 degrees Celsius rise in mean surface temperature. Regionally within India, northern India will be warmer.
• 20% rise in summer monsoon rainfall. Extreme temperatures and precipitations are expected to increase.
• All states will have increased rainfall except Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu where it will decrease. Extreme precipitation will increase, particularly along the western coast and west central India.
• Hydrological cycle is likely to be altered. Drought and flood intensity will increase. Krishna, Narmada, Cauvery, Tapi river basins will experience severe water stress and drought condition and Mahanadi, Godavari, Brahmani will experience enhanced flood.
• Crop yield decrease with temperature and rise with precipitation. Prediction of loss of wheat is more. Rabi crops will be worse hit which threatens food security.
• Economic loss due to temperature rise estimated between 9-25%. GDP loss may be to the tune of 0.67%. Coastal agriculture suffers most (Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka), Punjab, Haryana, Western UP will face reduction in yield; West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh will gain marginally.
• 100-cm sea level rise can lead to welfare loss of $1259 million in India equivalent to 0.36% of GNP.
• Frequencies and intensities of tropical cyclones in Bay of Bengal will increase particularly in the post-monsoon period and flooding will increase in low-lying coastal areas.
• Malaria will continue to be endemic in current malaria-prone states (Orissa, West Bengal and southern parts of Assam north of West Bengal). It may shift from the central Indian region to the south-western coastal states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala. New regions (Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram) will become malaria prone and transmission duration window will widen in northern and western states and shorten in southern states.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Diwali, Crackers, Chemicals and the Ozone Layer

The festival of lights Deepawali is again with us. I have this feeling deep down within me that we should seriously look at renaming this festival. It should now be called Patekeawali(with the number of crackers that are exploded) or Paiseawali(with the amount of money which is spend, some wisely and a lot unwisely), or it could be called Daruawali or Kharidawali with the amount of liquor which is consumed or the amount of purchases an average family makes.

In Deepawali it is the crackers which affect me the most. They affect me both at a physically as well as the emotionally level. Every time a cracker is lit I think of the money going up in smoke. Money that could be utilized for a poor child’s education. Besides the money it is the environment and the health angle that disturbs me a lot. Here’s why …….

Chemicals Found in Crackers and their affect on Health

Causes increased blood pressure and a disease “Itai – Itai” which makes bones brittle and lead to multiple fractures.
Can damage kidneys and cause anemia

Affects central nervous system
Cancer of lungs and kidneys
Young children can suffer mental retardation and semi permanent brain damage.

Nausea, vomiting, cyanosis, collapse and coma
Fall in blood pressure, rapid pulse, headaches and visual disturbances

Large amounts lead to dizziness, abdominal cramps, vomiting. bloody diarrhoea, weakness, convulsions and collapse.
Increased cancer incidents

Affects upper respiratory tract and bronchi.
May cause edema of the lungs.
Can produce respiratory paralysis

Particles embedded in the skin can produce gaseous blebs and gas gangrene.
Deterioration in the central nervous system.
Main Symptoms of exposure : Sleepiness, weakness, emotional disturbances and paralysis.

Phosphorous in PO4
Affects central nervous system
Acute effect on liver
Severe eye damage

Irritation in respiratory tract
Excess absorption causes “ Wilson’s disease” where excess copper is deposited in the brain, skin, liver, pancreas and middle muscular layer of the heart.

Skin irritant
Effects pulmonary system
Stimulates the sensation of vomiting.

Suspended particulate matter (SPM) exposure to the level of 100 ppm results in headache and reduced mental acuity. The effects are more pronounced in people with heart, lung or central nervous system diseases. Sulphur dioxide is readily soluble and dissolves in the larger airways of the respiratory system. This stimulates a contraction at 2 to 5 parts per million (ppm). At higher concentrations severe contraction restricts the breathing process.

Noise :High decibel level results in restlessness, anger, fidgetiness, impulsive behaviour and over-reaction to situations. Most crackers used have more than 80 dB noise that can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss, high blood pressure, heart attack and sleep disturbances. Children, pregnant women and those suffering from respiratory problems suffer the most due to excessive noise. It results in making them hyperactive or withdrawn.

To study the chemical composition, particularly of metallic and non-metallic components of crackers, Toxics Link got some samples of sparklers ("phuljari" in Hindi and "mathappu" in Tamil) and pots ("anar" in Hindi and "pusvanam" in Tamil) analysed at the Bombay Natural History Society Laboratory, Mumbai. The following were the chief findings of the laboratory tests.

The results showed presence of highly toxic heavy metals like cadmium and lead in addition to other metals like copper, manganese, zinc, sodium, magnesium and potassium in the fire-crackers.

· Both nitrates and nitrites of few of these metals were present. Both these radicals are oxidising agents that are a ready source of oxygen in the process of combustion.
· Oxides of sulphur in the form of sulphate and phosphorous in the form of phosphate were present in the samples. The mean levels of cadmium in the crackers analysed were 5.2 mg/100g. Anar and wire showed 6 and 8mg/100g, respectively.
· The mean level of lead was 462 mg/100g with a maximum in green sparkle showing 850mg/100g. Magnesium was found in huge quantities when compared to other metals like copper, manganese and zinc. The mean levels of magnesium was 2622mg/100g and of copper was 744mg/100g. Zinc was the least among the various metals detected with a mean level of 324mg/100g.
· Four acidic radicals --nitrate, nitrite, phosphate and sulphate-- were also detected. The proportion of nitrite, phosphate and sulphate in the crackers was almost similar and ranged between 1160 to 1420 mg/100gm, while nitrates which are strong oxidising agents, were found in considerable amounts when compared to the other three. Their mean levels were 1624mg/100g.
· Among these, oxides of sulphur, phosphorous and nitrogen are very corrosive and highly acidic while carbon monoxide, one of the oxides of carbon is an extremely poisonous gas whose presence cannot be detected by our sensory system as it is odorless.
· Carbon monoxide combines more than 200 times as readily as oxygen, so that low concentration levels have adverse health effects.

So guys burn not only your pockets, the ozone layer but also your heart, lungs and kidneys as mine are anyway in smoke.

Happy Deepawali

Friday, October 06, 2006

how to save energy in your own workplace

a mail forwarded which was initiated by one Mayur Shah. Hats off Mayur :) ;)

Here is a chance to make a difference, by devoting JUST 10 seconds a

You don't need to go anywhere, donate money, stage protests or shout slogans.

How? If you use computer to work, just remember to switch off your monitor every time you leave your desk. Very simple, isn't it?

What difference does it make? Roughly, normal monitors consume around 150 W.

Even if your screen remains ON for 1 hour per day without any use, energy wasted per day is 150 W-h (or 0.15 "units").

This is enough to light a small lamp for 10 hours! If you care to switch off your monitor each time you leave your place, you save electricity enough for basic household needs of a small family in a village!

If your monitor remains ON overnight, this figure becomes 10-fold - so you can probably save electricity for 10 families.

And supposing that you leave your seat 5 times a day and it takes 1
second to switch the monitor ON/OFF,you spend only 10 seconds a day for this deed which saves LOTS of energy on a long run!

Energy saved is energy produced !!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

E Waste- How to use it

Another friend of mine sent me a mail on various ways we can use parts of a computer. Have fun

There is philosophy of "Re-purposing" in the electronics hacker world, it basically means using your ingenuty and createvity to use an old/broken electronic piece for a purpose that it was not intended for !

- A dead Hard disk drive makes a nice wind turbine- the kind they show on discovery - you can use it to charge your moble phone, MP3 player, I-Pod with wind power. Just attach a small fan blade to the motor inside the drive, and when you point it towards wind coming in thru your window, you will get small amount of electricity out of the motor. Perfect for those re-chargable ni-cad cells, or recharging a moble phone, MP3 player, I-Pod etc. Needs very simple tools to build.

- The magnet inside a Hard disk makes a great 'anti-gravity' demo for kids [and the curious adult too] Just drop the magnet in a foot long copper tube and you will be amazed- it defies gravity- the magnet will fall thru a copper tube in 'slow motion'. it takes a l-o-n-g time to come out at the other end. Its very mysterious lookiing.

- A dead PC monitor is a great source of parts for building other electronic toys for kids ! Specially hi-voltage toys, that produce Deacula/Frankestine like lightning showers and sparks.

- A dead keyboard is a riddle - I am yet to figure out what to do with one :(

- a dead printer makes a nice toy to teach co-ordiante geometry to kids. Tye really 'get' the x-y stuff with a dead printer, because it becomes real when a printer shows it to them. Dead printers are also good source of parts for making kids toys.

-a dead scanner - humm.. there is a TON of stuff that one can do with a dead scanner - like a machine to recognise your cat/dog ; so the little door opens only when YOUR cat/dog is at the door etc - but it is a complcated endeavor. contact me if you are interested.

- there is lot of stuff one can make with old working motherboards. robots, light shows, and toys like that. As with the scanner thing above, this too needs a bit of technical know-how. not for ordnary mortals :)

peace to the world

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Banned Drugs floating around

A friend of mine sent me this mail. I have not personally validated it , yet I am putting this up for information and comments. India has definitely become a dumping ground for a lot of banned drugs and it is pity that the educated and empowered middle class also seem to care little.


This is a pain-killer. Reason for ban: Bone marrow depression.
Brand name: Novalgin

Acidity, constipation. Reason for ban : irregular heartbeat
Brand name : Ciza, Syspride

Anti-depressant. Reason for ban : Irregular heartbeat.
Brand name : Droperol

Antidiarrhoeal. Reason for ban : Cancer.
Brand name : Furoxone, Lomofen

Painkiller, fever. Reason for ban : Liver failure.
Brand name : Nise, Nimulid

Antibacterial cream. Reason for ban : Cancer.
Brand name : Furacin

Laxative. Reason for ban : Cancer.
Brand name : Agarol

Cold and Cough. Reason for ban : Stroke.
Brand name : D'cold, Vicks Action-500

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. Reason for ban : Bone
marrow depression.
Brand name : Sioril

Anti-worms. Reason for ban : Nerve damage.
Brand name : Piperazine

Anti-diarrhoeal. Reason for ban : Damage to sight.
Brand name : Enteroquinol

Friday, July 07, 2006

Summer Holiday Homework

Every summer holidays, even during my schooldays, schools give summer holiday homework. It is in a vain hope that children will continue to be in touch with their studies during summer. Of late I have got a feeling that it has become more of a ritual “it has been done all these years, so it must continue to be done!” With time, the homework has become complicated and professional. So much so, that we now have shops and establishments in Gurgaon who do the holiday homework for the children … the business of holiday homework! J Cool!
Parents, for all their righteousness and claims of being ideal guides, encourage children to waste their time during holidays by going for vacations, shopping malls and movies and then get the homework done by these establishments. I have this sneaky feeling that even schools know about these establishments, but as they say, “chor chor mausere bhai!” The general belief is (in some schools) when the parents feel fine about this system why should they bother to change it?

Holiday homework includes making charts and models on water cycle, plant/animal kingdom, culture of states in India etc. If I were to think deeply, on one plane, I would feel it is a waste of time as most of what is taught is never used. However if I think on another plane, education is a life-skill needed to prepare a child for the life ahead. All the above actually increases the general knowledge of a child. While he does this work he finds other things that might interest him and start a new process beside the main activity itself. All those children who take professional help, actually miss out on these interesting asides.

There is another thing that disturbs me. The day the school opens, one can see children with their parents carrying the charts and models to school. When I pass a prominent school in sector 4, Gurgaon, that gets very good results in the Board exams in the evening, I see a lot of the charts and projects made from thermocol and other material, littered in the main street. I am sure this litter catches the eyes of the teachers/parents and the principal of this reputed school too, as they come out of or go into the school.
Over the years, the event described above, continues to take place annually. The children and the vocal, educated parents have not questioned the school as to why senseless, uninteresting homework is given. If it is submitted, post-vacation, why does the homework find itself as litter on the main street, right outside the school main gate. If it has to become litter why isn’t the homework environmentally-friendly? For example, ‘collect the various types of soil in gurgaon’ so that in case the teacher/school feels like throwing out the homework, it comes to good use. (Incidentally I picked up the holiday homework of a boy called Hemant Kaushik from Blue Bells School Sector 4. The homework is a cardboard on which small plastic packets are stapled containing gravel, sand, sand and silt. I don’t see the class written on homework and I can see the teacher having put a tick mark and a scribble with red ink. It was lying on the main road outside the school.)

The various charts and themocol pieces then fly around willy-nilly, are swept up into piles and many times, callously burnt, creating pollution (over and above frustration!). Why can’t the school install recycling machines, if that is its view of holiday homework? I am sure all schools run as trusts/societies and thus, actively claim income tax deductions. Most of them get donations from individuals and the government. I am sure installing a recycling machine for paper and other items is not expensive. I am sure the same recycled products can be given back to children for their homework, the next years.. and the year after.

This, at least, will give the correct message about environment to the young minds to whom we only want to preach… and not show any practice.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Water Water Everywhere

Has it ever occurred to you that the quantity of water we waste is amazing? Forget the tap running while we brush/shave, shower/tub bath, or while we wash the dishes. While driving around the colony or on your evening walk just keep your eyes open and look around - especially during the morning and evenings. You will see men and women, maids and servants, in various attires, washing cars and their courtyards. Adding up is the extra run-off from coolers being refilled and gardens being quenched.

To begin with, I do not understand why people have to cement the driveways right down to the road. Isn’t it encroachment on public land? Add to this is the cementing of the pavement outside their homes. I have heard many of my neighbours tell how it helps keep the dust from entering the house. In a city which adjoins Rajasthan, at the same time, has a high quantity of suspended particle matter in its air, a little cementing can hardly help to keep the dust out, I wish to inform them. These cemented structures need to washed everyday, argument being “Washing keeps it clean.” So, first you create something to keep the dust at bay and then clean that cleaning structure. What’s more, the amount of water and time that is devoted to this activity, is amazing. The washing and cleaning with running water goes into overdrive on mornings after a late evening dust storm or rain. Women and maids with brooms can be seen everywhere, busily washing the front /back courtyards, cemented driveways and pavements.

Then, of course are all those uncles and aunties (in this aspect too, women are nowhere behind men) with hosepipes, dedicatedly washing their cars and 2-wheelers. I have noticed this gentleman, who can barely see through his thick dark goggles, with a hose pipe, first wash the exterior of his Fiat Sienna, and then within the bonnet and everywhere inside. EVERYDAY. At a causal glance, the car does not appear too new but assuming that he has been doing this vigorous a washing for a while, it is not unusual for the car to look old – perhaps it too, feels, and shows its tiredness with the wash-n-clean daily routine. The other day I saw this sweet thing who just written her 12th board exams, busy washing her car. As I knew her folks, I walked up to her and asked “Why don’t use a cloth to clean it?” After all, I continued, the amount of time teachers and schools have spent telling school children about the falling water table due to global warming or the decreasing rainfall, is substantial. Why should not the young take a lead in conserving water?
OR maybe, there is a disconnect between school sermons and what children see around them in society. School says honesty is the best policy and then the same school encroaches on government land and argues in a court of law that “the career of the children will be affected if you remove us from the encroached land. J” There are umpteen other examples of actions in dissonance with words.
It makes me feel very sad when I see water being wasted consciously because of an attitude which screams “ HOW DO I CARE!”
Water taxes are anyway very low and perhaps, public taps and public water are possibly the PM’s responsibility… or somebody else’s…. certainly not mine! So water from the tap in the park, or other public place, can flow on until eternity but I will not take the trouble to turn it off. Why should I? How do I care?

But is it really so simple to shirk off our individual responsibility for conserving this life-sustaining natural resource?

Maybe we should keep the mantra : Everything that goes around comes around. Amen!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Beware of Dogs

As I drove home this morning I saw this house with a signboard “Beware of Dogs”. I wondered why the occupants of the house had to call themselves names. Anyway what does “beware” of dogs mean? Is it that the occupants of the house can bite or that they are rabid, are it a general warning for people on the road, “hey, be sure to stay clear of all dogs on the street!” or is it another signboard which the owner of the house liked and put up; signs like “welcome, this is our home”, “Sweet Home” etc.

I think dogs (the animals) should get together to hold a protest against people who call them names. They should stop traffic, bite anyone - or everyone - who tries to reason with them, scratch government buses and deflate their tyres till they get their due recognition in society. Anyway nobody pays attention nowadays until you burn a few buses, break a few window panes and generally create a nuisance for the larger society. (What a pity!)

Dogs apart… another animal which deserves to be checked out, is the cow and her male counterpart, the bull. Cows hold a special place in Hindu society. Time and again, various organizations (and people) shout their lungs out against the “zulm” that is perpetrated on cows - how cow poachers, for their petty gains, are eliminating what all Hindus feel is sacred.

My personal experience is not quite the same. We have a number of cows and bulls that have chosen to make the area outside our house, their humble abode. Every morning starting 5.30 am, they drift, from all corners of Gurgaon, towards the Promised Land and within no time, they have settled down in the vicinity outside. The tall neem tree, the lush grass and a general sense of peace make them feel at home, I guess!
Then begins the action. Various passersby feed them various things, vegetable and fruit peels, stale rotis , fresh ones, garbage, polybags filled with stale and rotting vegetables and much else. So much for the sacred! I have seen my neighbours run after these cows with sticks. I have seen others using stones to hit these poor bovines. Children throw holi color on them and fast moving trucks and other vehicles hit them and drive away casually…. Nobody seems to care.

Why this apathy for what we profess to hold sacred. My well-educated neighbour has a habit of throwing vegetable peels out of her house. And domestics have been instructed to throw the offending garbage not just outside their house, but some distance away on public land. They want the cows to feed on these but the cows should not do it beside their entrance. I suspect it is because then, somebody (who?) would have to clean the cow dung. The little domestic (too little to be a domestic, but that’s another story for another day) always threw the peels in a polybag. I day I caught hold of the little fellow and asked him why he was throwing the household garbage outside. He answered that this was food for the cow. So I quizzed him again “but how will the cow take it out of the polybag?”
He threw me a look that said what he thought of me. Weird! Later, I requested the lady of the house not to use polybags. She agreed, reluctantly, was not happy with my objection, but result: polybags are not thrown outside any more. HOORAY!

Moral: If you don’t like something in your neighbourhood, please object and talk to the concerned person(s) about it. No raised voices! No fighting!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Hindu festival Nirjal Ekadashi

Yesterday was a Hindu festival called “Nirjal Ekadashi” On this day various Hindu individuals and organizations distribute sweet water and other food items on the roadside. Hindus who celebrate this festival, keep a fast and distribute water and food are delivered of their PAAP and attain nirvana. Bhim the Panadava prince in Mahabharta also kept a fast and attained nirvana.

The streets and roads of this town was however littered with plastic cups, plastic and aluminum foil plates and other solid waste. I sincerely hope that all the guys who distributed food and water and celebrated this festival do attain nirvana. I am not sure of the safai karamcharis who will have to clean up the garbage and then inhale all the toxic fumes after the garbage is collected and burnt as these safai karamcharis wouldn’t know what to do with the garbage and will do what they know best. Light a match to anything dead and decaying.

I have a theory on burning garbage. I feel as in the Hindu religion the dead are cremated by burning them, burning and fire is ingrained in our psyche. WE associate death and fire so wherever we see dead/dried leaves, immobile paper/plastic and other solid waste items we cannot resist to take out a match and light a fire to cremate. Strange but everything in nature has a life even after death without being BURNT. The leaves, grass and other biodegradable matter produce manure that brings in fresh life. Maybe humans have a life after death. (they say that in the Hindu religion but it is more in terms of reincarnation) I would say each human has a life after death without being reincarnated. How about starting a garden after somebody who has departed and who you love. How about planting a sapling and naming it after the departed? How about taking care of a water body and naming it after the departed.( Life after death).

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

World Environment Day

June 5, another environment day comes and goes. As expected we have a state level seminar on environment where the environment minister and a host of other policy makers and people who determine our lives extol the virtues of environment.

I vaguely heard the minister talk about banning polybags. BAN polybags !!! Ha! Ha! How do you ban an item in a democracy for which people have a need? What next? Ban colas, ban nuclear energy, ban pornography, ban drugs. NO we still haven’t got it. The word is to manage. We need to manage things.

Economics is a very interesting subject. It tells you about supply and demand. If there is a demand, the supply will come into place. If not here then there would be some wise guy some place who will figure out how to supply what is in demand. YO! So you see I guess now we should remove the word BAN from the dictionary. WE don’t need to ban anything . We need to manage, we need to bring alternatives that are cleener and environmentally friendly, we need action and not talk.