A Crappy Affair

World toilet day
The UN has declared Nov.19th as the world Toilet day.
We have lived and grown up with toilets, of course during our younger days when we travelled we never used public toilets since we were worried about hygiene with the advent of pay toilets those are taken care off too.
The impact of open defection never really struck in, after all at school we were thought that one method of seed dispersion was undigested seeds in the faecal matter.
At the medical school the impact of water borne disease and zoonosis kind of seeped in.
Last year when I went with the Banega Swach Bharat drive of NDTV I realized the greater impact of it, there was a man who wanted toilets constructed because he wife died when she slipped as she went out the fields. Gone were the days people looked at costing, the issue that the public presented was know how, they knew they needed toilets, they wanted the toilets too, the issue was how would the sewage handle it self they did not want it let loose into the fields and rivers as it would cause contamination. The knowledge partners organized by NDTV addressed this fundamental issue.
maybe if a year back somebody told me that the international toilet day was linked with equality, dignity and gender violence and sanitation I would have rolled with laughter. But the exposure a year ago and working with the migrant workers have really opened my eyes to something larger.
I heard stories of villagers who want to send their daughters to school but the fact that there were no toilets and the trees had been cut off to widen the roads made them aware of the desperate need for toilets and trees.
On the flip side were elders who were psychologically comfortable doing their daily rituals in the open environment so they had bowel constriction when they had to use the toilets. Interestingly the resource person suggested roofless toilets and planting of trees, or keeping flower pots.
When we are dealing with the migrant labour and informal work force things take a different turn. In a supermarket or a mall there are staff toilets and toilets for the public, but in a village market, or construction site we have neither.
Some village markets have now come up with pay toilets but construction sites are still open. The workers have nowhere to ease themselves through their 10hrs of working. Neither do they have access to potable water unless they are carrying it.
It is easy to say that India as a nation has no sense of hygiene/dignity/whatever, to a certain extent yes, but if we do not provide the toilets where on earth are the people to go, they have to ease themselves so they will go into the shrubs if they are available or go in the open.
An year back I met a company that dealt with portable toilets, when we asked them why were these not used in places where temporary toilets were required, we were told
• Their initial costing is high
• They were western toilets and Indians were not comfortable using it.
By the way the company has come up with an Indian model this year. The waste was dealt with chemically so there was no odour emitted.
The sanitation maintenance people on the Indian railway have another thing to say. Yes, the train toilets are public places. The Indian railway has recently shifted to bio-cleansing toilet units, they put up signage’s to tell people not to throw their diapers, the sanitary towels and tissues down the toilet , yet people do so, particularly in the first class section which is supposed to occupied by the more educated aware citizens as opposed to the plebiscites of the sleeper class.
The international toilet day would be a great point to start an awareness drive, and toilet training—yes I use it deliberately because we need to learn how to use a public toilet, keep it clean and conserve resources.

The Informal Entrepreneur

The Informal Vendor in front of GMC-Goa

When we were in college we enacted a play, called the Kathe-swamy or the Ass-Seer, it was a tale of a dhobi whose only friend his donkey dies, and dhobi buries the donkey puts a head stone on it, one day a drunken unlucky prince falls over it, from the next day onwards his fortune turns and sobers down to become a good king of a prosperous country, so he erects a mausoleum around the grave, couple of years later when the dhobi wants to visit the grave of his donkey, he is not able to do so, as is a bustling shrine now, with vendors and tradesmen in place.

This story stayed with me for many reasons, one thing that struck to me was the tradesmen coming up.  This tradesmen emerging now has shifted to hospitals, and bus-stations. They start off as small vendors eventually we find a nice bustling market, like the one in front of GMC. Years ago there was nothing there, and then came the houses which catered to the needs of the caregivers at the hospital. Slowly the fruit vendors, who updated themselves to vegetable vendors, the newspaper stall, the tea stall

Over the last three months, we have people who come with homemade breakfast, the quantity is fixed, so once the day’s batch is over the person just goes back. Something along the lines of the curry points, and chapatti points of Hyderabad, or the Sāmbhar point of Bangalore.

The enterprise has a low cost out lay and margin according to the vendor is worth the effort of standing there. I do not know how it works with the food and health department, but for the care giver at the hospital, or even the rush hour on the move person it seems to work rather well.

What was more interesting is the kind of people who had put up these points, they came from fairly educated background,  one of them actually came in a Maruti Van in which she had a garbage bin too, disposable plates, she would sit in the car and when done just drive out.

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The informal home grown vegetable and handicraft market Adivaram Angadi at Secundrabad.

International Day against Nuclear Testing.

29th August is the International day against Nuclear Tests created by UN.  This was declared in the 2nd December 2009 session through the resolution that deals with effects of nuclear tests. The entire concept was to galvanize the banning of nuclear tests. This is achieved through symposiums, seminars, exhibition competition etc.

Yet an random thought does pop up, is it enough to celebrate international day against nuclear tests? What makes states detonate nuclear weapons if they jeopardize health?

On one hand President Obama outlines his vision of nuclear weapon free world, he forges treaties to reduce the number of and spread of nuclear arsenal and on the other, he upholds the triad of nuclear arsenal supported by every former US president.

What would the effect of nuclear testing be?NPT 3

On health we the Hiroshima bombs have revealed the effects which can be classified under four head.

  1. Initial stage that is 1-9 weeks where 90% of the death occurs, and the cause being thermal injury and about 10% of the deaths are due to radiation exposure. This phase claims the highest mortality.
  2. Between 10 – 12 weeks in the intermediate state where deaths occur due to ionizing radiation.
  3. From 13-20 weeks is the late period where the survive could exhibit certain amount of improvement.
  4. Over 20 weeks is the delayed period, the complications are numerous here, like the healing of the thermal and mechanical injuries, over exposure of radiation, there could be infertility and sub fertility, blood disorders, increased incidents of cancer.

Environment effects were studied in France. The effects were again long term and short term. There have been evidences of landslides, tsunami’s and earthquake being triggered. Fission products leaked into the biosphere and transfer of dissolved plutonium was found in the ocean and food chain.NPT 2

India as a country has not signed the NPT treaty because it would mean we would have to get rid of our nuclear weapons, or face crippling sanctions. Signing the treaty would put the country to  a disadvantage with Pakistan and China.  In a way NPT is quite discriminatory, with only five countries which includes India’s hostile neighbour china, would have the status of Nuclear Weapon State.  Nuclear energy is quite essential to India as it comes us self reliant when it comes to energy.

The treaty does not determine whether a country requires nuclear power, and there is no framework in the treaty to handle the requirement of nuclear energy. As President Pranab Da put it, NPT is a flawed treaty and it did not recognize the need for universal, non-discriminatory verification and treatment for every nation has the right to use nuclear purpose for peaceful uses, and restricting is not justified.

images courtesy Google Images.


constantly changing.

DSCN8317The clouds were clearing, usually this time of the year the shadow of the peak of Kudremukh was visible but with iron ore project the peak had scaled down the mountain ranges that stopped the water laden south-western clouds, resulting in the torrential rains of the western coast line of India had weakened.

When I look up, the peak stands though no longer straight and strong but a little stooped, I was  reminded of that evening with renowned Gulzar who grew up in the Paharganj region of Delhi sharing his experience.,

“when we were kids ” he said in Urdu laced Hindi,”Paharganj, mein Pahar tha, abh toh sirf naam hai,” he then continued to share the thrill of saving that “naya paisa’ for hiring a bicycle, and riding it downhill without applying the brakes. It was something that I could relate to, I mean riding the bicycle down the slopes with no break. He then went on to that point when he says you return to the place and it is not what you left behind, there are new vendors, in the market, new kids on the block the language is different too.

Maybe it the search for something permanent lead people to philosophy , and each generation reburies certain wisdom of the past, in the fleeting drivels of modernity,  which is again mined by a minority, who not only restore it, but also polish it, and re-invent it as something extremely new and and highly valuable and refreshing as understood by the current.

Life does not really stop for anybody, nothing is really permanent in life friends circumstances, riches or parental love… that probably is the difference between the living and dead. Clinically death is body that does not change, does that mean change is life and stagnation is death? If I don’t change I die…its simple and scary at the same time. This actually holds good for a society too, it is never static, if it does not grow it decays, if it does not transcend a status quo for better then it does not remain the same, it changes for the worse. We do often entertain the illusion is remain unaltered and stand still in any situation, but that is the most fatal illusion of it all… for the moment we stand still the decay begins.

We remain us, that does not change and we are constantly changing there is nothing we can do about it, there are roads we traverse, not every road we come across in our daily life is one we have to take, standing still and being could be the best move. Then comes the cross road in a relationship that asks…”what is it you want from me?”

Acceptance would be the answer and acceptance would only come from understanding, life after all is series of natural and spontaneous changes, resisting them would create disharmony. As we let things flow naturally in whatever way they like, harmony is recreated.  You could call it love, a triangle made of  understanding, acceptance and appreciation, if any one component is gone the triangle looses an angle and its stable form. The world becomes two dimensional, for the love of the triangle lets keep love whole.

Indigenous Transport of Jamnagar

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first look Jamnagar


As we entered the reliance inspired town, our travel owes apart.

One thing I learnt from Neomi Duguid is not apologize for making conversation with the people on the street.

One interesting mode of transport I saw was the Chakda  It reminded me so much of the various mythological stories we hear about the Gods  like Ganesha who get their head chopped off and replaced by another animal. The vehicle looked really incongruous, as if someone had sliced the motorcycle in to half and attached a carrier to it, something in wanted to yell, “stop torturing the bike” like we respond to the tangawalla’s or Calcutta or the Victoria’s of Mumbai.

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Locally manufactured auto rickshaws which is a six-seater

These vehicles could transport up to eight people or if it was goods carrier then it functioned like a small truck. What the local’s told me was using these to transport small goods for definitely more economically, more over most of these vehicles were owned by the driver unlike trucks and tempo’s which were owned by someone else and the driver was just a paid employee. I do not know how that works in the economic ecology but that seems to be an import consideration.

Then there were auto rickshaw’s that are manufactured indigenous at Jamnagar, as a small industry.  The auto that we were in was a Bajaj, rear engine our auto driver pointed out these to us and told us, very proudly that those were locally made in Jamnagar and he was planning to buy one soon. Again here the attitude is using this vehicle instead of a Bajaj or the other one I forgotten the company name meant money stayed in Jamnagar instead of going out.

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the chakada– a motorcycle morphed as a goods transporter here.

Despite of the fact that the fares were not regulated and public transport swindled the visitors it was amazing to see to the sense of pride and innovation.


Maya-Matanga The Vanishing Elephants

world elephant dayI have just come across a book in our library called the Mathangalila. Mathangalila, is Sanskrit text written by author Nilakantha which deals with the science of Elephant. The book talks about Asiatic Elephants, diagnosis and cure of illness that afflict elephants, use of elephant parts in medicine. Folklore round elephants.

Elephants are very part of our cultural ethos, be it Indra’s Airavata, or the panel of Gajalakshmi fanned by elephants. Or the story of King Udayana who could capture a elephant with his powers of playing the Veena. Most of us are familiar with the line up of dressed up elephants that happens on Thiru-Onam.

Laksmeesha and Subhadra were the two elephant calves rescued from nagaraholle and housed in Udupi. Visiting them was  a thrill for my daughter, but she was always concerned that the elephant was away from its mom, and that they was no one who could give its favourite food.

The story of the elephant and tailor, the story of the Gajendra moksha they are all there but with the destruction of habitat and extensive poaching Elephants are slowly turning to pictures in a picture book instead of live majestic creatures that roam the world.

Elephants are African and Asian. Fossil evidence shows that elephants of Sri Lanka were 5 tusks, and now they have shrunk to single tusk. The cost of ivory exceeds the cost of gold, so the greed has lead to poaching of elephants. Elephant meat and elephant skin leather are causes leading to poaching.

With the loss of forest cover the elephants are coming closer to human habitat causing destruction to agriculture and crops,

The world elephant day is celebrated annually on August 12th since its conception in 2011.  This day is dedicated to the preservation and protection of elephants.  To share the knowledge of elephants and to ensure better care and management of captive elephants.  The African elephants are currently listed as vulnerable, as their population is about 400,000 while its Asian cousins  at 40,000 are endangered. Studies show that they are only 12yrs from being extinct.

The world elephant day is an international event conceived by filmmakers Patricia Sims and Michael Clark of Canazwest pictures and Sivaporn Dardarnanda the Secretary General Of Elephant Reintroduction Foundation Of Thailand.





Negotiating Travel Trials.

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students waiting at the satya sai ayurvedic hospital and college Jamnagar

Last year September 18th we were travelling to Trivandrum, from Mangalore. Everyone in that train seems to travelling towards Trivandrum to appear the PG entrance exam in various streams. The only missing streams were medicine, dental and engineering.

This year it was Jamnagar.

It is my first visit to the state of Gujarat. We enter the state in the morning hours, suddenly the marshy wet rainy western coast gives way to pastoral flat lands, hues of green intermeshed with dull maroon soil industrially vibrant urban layout intercepted by now barren now crop rich terrain. The journey is really beautiful.

I had these visuals associated like Rajkot for some reason I imagined would be muffusal town with prototypes of Gandhi walking around, while Sabarmati would a village dotted with Banyan trees while Jamnagar in itself gave me the image of Jasma Odan.

When we did arrive at Jamnagar it was afternoon.  The first shock was the blazing sun and scorching heat after the comforting air-conditioned travel. Then came the usual pushy auto drivers. After 32 hrs of travelling we were quite exhausted. The food in the train was quite bad too, and we had not packed food like we normally did. With the stark absence of pre-paid auto’s we paid Rs.80/- for an Rs.50/- distance. Kids from Kerala were smarter; they had booked their cabs online.

The town seems to run by Reliance. My daughter tells, me that the Reliance township is just a little ahead. We see the Reliance logo and Narendra Modi everywhere.

we had to get to the Satya Sai Educational Institute campus, again the hotel told us it was a Rs.30/- journey, but the auto insisted on Rs 50/- since we had to get there we had no option but to take it.

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sitting under he tree, like the  Nehruvian colleges.

Once at the campus it was beautiful bustling with “oh! I am so cool” kids, the area simply seemed swarmed by them, I was reminded of the description of the Somnath temple in the book Moonstone, where says the hindoos entered the shrine in neat three file here the kids entered in groups, of various languages, some with parents, some with spouse, some just classmates whatever, and as we waited outside for the next hour it was quite interesting to see parents catching up with each other, some making phone calls, some like me reading books, of course I did try to photograph the wild sparrow but it was camera shy.

Gujarati’s being enterprising tea, fafda’s and samosas made rounds every 15mnts. There was someone selling cold water too.

The campus in itself is very nice, neatly kept open spaces, garbage cans at comfortable distances visible yet discreet. People sweeping the leaves shed periodically. Visitors chairs placed beneath the shades of trees, the chairs were intact and clean. No graffiti marring the surface.

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Parents waiting.

Exam over and when we had to return, the auto’s insisted on charging Rs.50/passenger.

It was nothing more than extortion. Like the return auto to the station was at Rs.!50/-

Here are a few suggestions.

  • As most of the hotels are aware that exams are on, and students flock from all over India, have a pick up and drop from the Railway station and airport.
  • Also as you know most students will be attending the exam, and the venue is fixed, organize a pick and drop from the hotel to the exam venue so that the students are relieved of the haggling exercise, you could charge for the same.
  • Better still the Gujarat tourism/Jamnagar tourism to attend to it.
  • Ensure that the auto’s run on meter.
  • Like Bangalore have a meter card.


biodieselInternational day for bio diesel

August 10th is the international Biodiesel day. it is celebrated worldwide in honour of the  prime model of an engine that ran on peanut oil, in 1893. This event triggered the development of biodiesel as an alternate to petrol or gasoline

1977 witnessed a Brazilian scientist Expedito Parente inventing and submitting for a patent of an industrial process to produce biodiesel.  Tecbio worldwide is working on standardizing this fuel in collaboration with NASA and Boeing. This is referred to as bio-kerosene.

South Africa initiated the use of transesterified sunflower oil as fuel for cars in 1979. This technology was obtained by Austria from South Africa so that a biodiesel plant to be erected, through 1990 many European countries erected plants to produce biodiesel, as of now quite a few service stations across Europe provide 100% biodiesel.

What is biodiesel?

Biodiesel is renewable biodegradable fuel manufactured domestically from vegetable oils, animal fats or recycled restaurant grease. It is a cleaner burning option for petroleum diesel fuel, and meets both the biomass based diesel and overall advanced bio fuel requirement of renewable fuel standard.

The bio feed or source oils could come from a variety of oils, some of those being

  • Soyabean which is most commonly used. Mustard, jojoba, Palm oil, coconut, hemp are also used.
  • Waste vegetable oil
  • Animal fats like tallow, lard, yellow grease and the by products from the production of Omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Algae that are grown using waste materials like sewage and without displacing land currently used for food production.
  • Oil from halophytes such as salicornia bigelovii that can be grown using saltwater in coastal areas where conventional crops cannot be grown. The yields from this equals the yield of soybeans and other oilseeds grown using freshwater irrigation.
  • Sewage slugde this is an option that is attracting interests from companies like waste management and start-ups like infoSpi.

Biodiesel is beneficial both economically and environmentally, there is a huge reduction in green house gas emissions, deforestations, pollutions and the rate of biodegradation.

What Biodiesel means

  • Energy independence to economically challenged countries. For biodiesel can be used in any existing diesel engines.
  • Smaller trade deficit – instead of importing natural resources we can convert our own living resource power, we can to the tropics for bio-fuels this saves foreign exchange ,strengthens the national economic allows the country to serve its neediest citizens.
  • Economic growth is boosted as new markets are created for agricultural products and stimulate rural economy. This becomes very potent because two thirds the population of developing countries derive their incomes from agriculture. Many small farmers are too small to compete with the global market, this will allow them supplement their income. At the national level it would mean, developing a new industry and creating new jobs.
  • Biofuel also means less pollution as it burns more cleanly than gasoline or diesel.
  • Biofuel means less global warming, for the carbon in the fuel is from the atmosphere of where the plant grew. While fossil fuel adds huge amount of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere while Bio-fuel brings it down considerably, all most 75% cleaner there are cases where it has reached zero carbon dioxide emission
  • Biofuel exhaust is not offensive and does not irritate the eye or skin. If cooking oil is used there chances that you will get a whiff of your favourite food. J

To sum it up

  • Biodiesel is clean burning fuel
  • It does not have any toxic emission like the mineral diesel
  • It can be made from any vegetable oil such as Soya, Rice Bran, Canola, Palm, Coconut, mustard or animal fat like lard or tallow.
  • Biodiesel can be a complete substitute for mineral based diesel.
  • Biodiesel is methyl ester converted from fats of natural origin into a chemical process and it is not vegetable oil.
  • It is intended to be used as replacement for petroleum diesel or can be blended into the petroleum diesel in various proportions.
  • Biofuel can be used in a diesel engine without having to modify it.
  • The exhaust emission and the pollution in it reduces almost by 75%.
  • Biofuel is biodegradable.

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