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.