Green Building for a Better Future


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Every creature on earth worth its salt has carved a niche for itself in some portion of the earth by way of shelter to see them through the inclemency of extreme weather conditions. Such being the case, can man, the most intelligent creation of them all, be left behind?

Archaeological surveys across the globe have revealed that ever since the evolution of man, he has felt and acknowledged the need to be sheltered from extreme conditions exuded by natural elements. Natural caves chosen as residence by the Paleolithic man had all the makings of a rudimentary home. Gradually, he gleaned know-how from the natural life around him and learned to build secure liveable homes deriving his sources from nature.

We have come a long way since then. Today we have the know-how to build state of the art buildings with every possible facility under the sun. Yet there is much to be desired in terms of planning and having equal accessibility to these conveniences. Startling realities of life like congestion and pollution are wreaking havoc especially in Indian cities.

Alarming urbanisation on the one hand and the need for cost effective housing on the other is pressurising architects and builders alike to construct homes for just about everyone who chooses to live in the cities. Every prospective house owner dreams of having a sleek, functional aesthetic contemporary home that is reinforced with strength sourced from premium housing material at an affordable price.

The expectations of the public appear to be reasonable and the builders are only too eager to fulfil them but in the process. Hence, homes are built all over the place without really ploughing through the pros and cons of the issue. The housing sector is riddled with chaotic posers from environmental, economic and ethical issues. There are a plethora of other related aspects that need to be sorted out.

It is high time man realised that global warming across the world is not a coffee table topic of the “eco-friendly lot” anymore; it is a serious issue that needs to be reckoned with. Conservation of natural resources and abstinence from using non-biodegradable materials should become the sovereign duty of each and everyone who walks the planet earth.

This does not mean that man does not have the right to enjoy his life, build his home or do it up the way it pleases his aesthetic sense. Yet if man remembers the words from the “Good Book” he will understand that “Charity begins at home.”

Dignity of labour
Home builders, owners and users should realise that the strength of eco-friendly architecture can go a long way in replenishing or at least sustaining the natural resources to a large extent. For starters, we can circumvent the use of extensive machines in the building industry and rely upon skills of people, thereby attempting to revive dignity of labour besides empowering labourers economically.

Eco-friendly ideas span across several possibilities like building materials, construc-tion technology, attitudes towards workers, alternative lifestyle, passive solar cooling, embedded energy, localising the act and such others. No construction can have all these possibilities explored in one, but may adopt as many ideas as possible towards a greener future.

Using natural building material tempered with technology can prove not only to be cost effective but can revive several traditional time-tested building techniques by master artisans across India.

If this measure is taken seriously by architects, builders, interior decorators and prospective house owners alike, we will not only be supporting the livelihood of several masons and artisans but will indirectly promote and rejuvenate a dying art which is eco-friendly and the need of today.

These days, space is a constraint in growing cities hence most people have to compromise on translating the home of their dreams on terra firma and look forward to realising them in one of the floors of a high rise building. Strong and light materials will prove to be invaluable companions in providing more floor space and letting in light and air in good measure.

When we take practical realties into consideration, it is obvious that one cannot turn the wheel of time back and undo all the damage that has already be­en wreaked on earth yet, if the decisions we make while constructing or renovating homes can be examined philanthropically, it automatically becomes our duty to switch over to eco-friendly building material.

Living in the Present


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There are many a time we put off doing or experiencing something for a later date. It may not always be money. We reserve our best clothing, crockery, candles, and accessories among other things hoping to use them at a premium occasion in our lives. Our usual excuse for doing so is usually a feeling that the present moment is not ideal for the activity.

A tale from the Panchatantra speaks about the dangers of being in the saving mode all the time. Once a hunter shot a wild boar, the wounded animal pounced on him and ripped his flesh apart. The agonised hunter was shocked to death by the boar before it breathed its last. A jackal which was passing by was beside himself with joy when he saw the corpses of the wild boar and the hunter. He realised that he need not go around scavenging for food for several days to come. He circled his newfound treasure and saw the bloodstained bow. He decided to save the bulk of meat for future. He proceeded to lick the life fluid off the bow and in the process triggered the arrow that was ready to be shot, right into his open mouth.

Almost immediately, the jackal fell dead beside his feast. The jackal died in his earnest bid to save the best for the coming days.

Those of us who are at least a couple of decades old must have realised that the precious moment that we have been waiting for may have come, but we may not have always had the time or the mind space to dig into our paraphernalia and fish out what had been saved for the red lettered day. It is also quite possible that our prized possession may not really rise to the occasion or we may have come across a better and a more contemporary and practical substitute to the stowed away goodies.

While it is pragmatic to save for a rainy day, it will do us a world of good to overcome our magpie syndrome and live each day to the fullest. It is said that yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery but today is the present. It is impossible to discount the valuable content of the saying.

Raising Our Daughters the Right Way


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Bringing up: In a world full of judgements and suspicions, we have to raise our daughters with the correct set of values.

Under the wings...Under the wings…

Archana insisted on homeschooling her twin daughters as she had nightmares about admitting her children to the kindergarten in the metropolis soon after being bombarded by stories of lurking paedophiles around learning centres. Vandana gave up her lucrative job because she wanted to be at home when her daughter arrived home at noon. She had heard horrific stories of children being administered sleeping pills in their milk at daycare centres. Meera laughingly calls herself the designated chauffeur of her kids because she is always driving them in and out of one class or another.

Lakshmi opted for voluntary retirement just when it was her turn to get promoted, to ensure that she could fund her daughter’s dream to study abroad. Suma, a qualified lawyer, decided to be a stay-at-home mother because she believed in the dictum “Better safe than sorry” (All names have been changed to respect their identities.)

What these young and not-so-young mothers have done for the apples of their eyes, is not unusual. Each of these mothers and several tens and thousands of their kind have been doing more or less the same thing in various capacities. No, they are not cynical or paranoid, they are just being careful. With reason too. We live in a world which is riddled by multiple standards, inequalities in every aspect, uncertainties and incomprehensible expectations. Hence, leading a normal life believing in the intrinsic goodness of fellow human beings is out of the question.

Now is the time for us to rethink our parenting strategies, especially where it concerns the girl child. After all, parenting is called an art and not without reason. We must prepare our daughters to hope for the best but be prepared for the worst right from the moment they arrive in our lives. Here are a few areas that need
serious looking into:

Physical well-being
A taste for a nutritious balanced diet punctuated with some form of exercise should be introduced right from the beginning. When a healthy diet and a physical regime coupled with personal hygiene become a habit, immunity levels will soar, and keeping healthy will not prove to be a challenge. Teaching them martial arts or sports or simply involving them in everyday household chores will help them build stamina and can prove to be a boon in times of need.

Modesty & morality
Modesty and morality should not be mixed up. Remember, being prudish can cost them dearly. They must be taught the difference between good touch and bad touch. Girls should be taught not to be ashamed of their bodies or the changes they undergo. They should be encouraged to spell out their doubts and fears. It will do well to sensitise girls to the fact that the outside world will judge them by the clothes, accessories and the makeup they wear, though character cannot be determined by the length of their sleeves or necklines.

Subjects like virginity, rape, honour, domestic violence, honour killings need not be drawing room conversations, if it feels delicate. All the same, there is no point in sweeping the subjects under the carpet and looking the other way when they do crop up.

Using such topics as a launchpad to clear the cobwebs of a growing mind can go a long way in preventing girls from becoming judgmental. The knowledge will also cushion them to some extent, if they are unfortunate victims of such
circumstances.

Coping with new age trends
Many girls go through a phase in life when they get their facial or body parts pierced or tattooed, when they colour, curl or straighten their hair or undergo cosmetic surgery on a whim and regret it later.

Depriving permission outright may not go well with everyone. So, the stubborn ones can be encouraged to try the temporary option and then if they really care for the fashion, then they can be told to take the plunge.

Being feminine
Girls should be taught to appreciate and enjoy their feminine side. Since we live in a diabolical world, girls can be groomed to be soft-spoken and delicate damsels. So, they should be clearly told that they must not hesitate to protect themselves even if it means biting and kicking the molester on the face, or very simply amplifying their lung power.

Expanding the mind
Encourage your girls to have friends, go out and mingle. While dating or having a relationship is not wrong, they should also be taught when and where to draw the line and how to say no firmly when they feel uncomfortable. Writing a diary or pouring their concerns to an agony aunt can help them ease their tensions. Ask them to be careful about what they post and with whom they share on their social media sites, especially their pictures. With so much cyber crime going on, one can never be too careful.

A Tangy Treat -Lemon


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Lemon, which originated in the Himalayan valleys, has now travelled across the world. Today, it takes the most coveted spot in the shopping lists of conscientious cooks across the globe. Itssour taste and distinct smell can infuse a freshflavour toany dish.

Though every part of the lemon can be used for cooking, it is the juice of the fruit that makes it so special. There are severaldelectable delicacies that demand a dash of fresh lime juice.

However, lime juice can turn bitter and spoil adish when boiled or cooked. Hence, it is always best to add the juice right at the end, after the dish is completely cooked and taken off the heat. Avoid reheating food thatcontains lime juice.

You can makepaneeror cottage cheese by adding a few drops of lime juice to boiling milk for it tocurdle evenly. You can lace salads, pies, soufflés and ice creams with a hint of lemonif you enjoy itstangy taste.

Apart frommaking aclassic lemon pickle with raw green lime, you can preserve lemon too. Marinate deseeded and quartered lemons in salt, and leave them in an airtight container for a couple of days. You can then dry them in sunlight. Once the rinds dry completely, they can be used as a side dish or you can pickle themin a conventional way.

You can even make home-made lozenges bymarinatinglemons in a combination of salt and sugar, and drying them in the sun.

Lemon seeds have medicinal properties and can be used for stomach ailments.

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Self Respect Vs Ego


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Most misunderstandings and rifts in personal and social relationships can be resolved if people start discerning the difference between having self respect and being egotistic. Oftentimes the two traits are confused for one another. While the former is commendable, the latter can prove to be detrimental. The Mahabharatha chronicles the tale of the foremost Guru Drona who rose to great heights because of his self respecting nature and fell from grace because of his bruised ego.

The immensely talented man of humble origin gained employment as the teacher of martial arts to the princes of Hastinapura. Though the royal household came forth to sponsor his living expenses and that of his family, he politely but firmly declined the offer. Drona had a son about the age of the Kuru princes. Yet never once did the self respecting teacher encourage his son to partake or enjoy the privileges of his highly placed peers. He lived and provided for his family within his means.

Once, his child Ashwaththama saw his regal friends drinking milk. The curious child longed to taste the white liquid. When he expressed his desire to his parents, he was given a tumbler of wheat flour mixed with water which the child drank happily thinking that it was milk. Drona could have had all the milk his son needed. Nevertheless the self respecting man would not accept any help from his employers before it was time to collect his rightful Gurudakshina.

It was around this time Drona’s wife Kripi reminded him of his childhood friend who had become the king of Panchala and requested his friend to seek his help. Drona was reluctant in the beginning, but went along all the same to meet his friend for old times’ sake.

Unfortunately for him, Drupada refused to take cognizance of him and behaved high-handedly. Drona was deeply hurt when his erstwhile chum offered him cows by way of charity to a Brahmin as against the token of friendship. Drona vowed to trounce Drupada’s arrogance.

One thing led to another and to make a long story short when the master’s self respect manifested itself as his ugly ego he failed miserably, to the point that his dead body was beheaded by Drupada’s son Dhrishtadyumna.

Evaluation of Evaluators


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The citizens in the world of academics are only too aware that there are wheels within wheels. Students, their parents and their teachers know that the path to progress is many tiered.

Students have to imbibe what they are taught, customise their knowledge to cater to the needs of the examination system and then await results post evaluation. The process appears to be ancient, normal and warranted as far as one can see.

The evaluators take over from the point the students finish their examinations, and it is this factor that most students and parents are apprehensive about. Realisation dawns on them that the ball is no longer in their court; their results are in the hands of unknown evaluators especially when they take up the board or university examinations.

The routine of nervously scanning through the Internet and news channels for the forthcoming results can be quite draining to all examinees, no matter to which age group they belong. Though the law of cause and effect is well known to be proportionate, it is apparently not applicable in our desi educational system to a large extent.

It appears that the shloka from the Bhagavad Gita which says, “Karmanye Vaadhika-raste, Maa Phaleshu kadachana,” which means “You have the right only to do your duty, but never anticipate the fruit for your deeds” is applicable to the students who complete their examinations. That is why we find students spending their vacation with fingers crossed for the outcome of their performance.

The anomalies in the realms of examination results can range from appearing late to appearing wrong. Though all boards and universities do have channels for re-totalling, revaluation, availing copies of answer scripts and even provisions to appear in the court of law, the number of mistakes that happen have not come down considerably.

It is understandable that to err is human. After all, it is the teachers who correct answer scripts. It is quite possible that they could have made an error or two out of sheer oversight or fatigue. Considering the fact that they are also willing to recheck and award rightful scores when approached through proper channels also speaks for the fairness and the transparent nature of the system.

All the same, the students find it difficult to repose faith in the system because many of them have been unsuspecting victims of sheer apathy and convoluted processes which have scorched their spirits and singed their opportunities.

Shortage of evaluators

When the matter is scrutinised from the teachers’ point of view, many factors that seem to justify their slipshod job come under the magnifying glass.

Firstly, there is an acute shortage of evaluators. Since most teaching jobs are offered by private educational institutions, they have a floating population of teaching staff.

Teachers resign their jobs at the end of the academic year in search of greener pastures and are sometimes willing to take an unpaid holiday while in the process of switching jobs. This trend automatically shows a large dip in the number of evaluators during the annual academic break.
Teachers who are hired on a contract basis for the occasion try to earn a little extra money by hurrying through the answer scripts.

The teaching faculty with secure jobs usually decides to put up their price during this season and prefers to go on strikes and dharnas. They feel that it is probably the best time to make their presence and value known. The harsh truth is that teachers are the lowest paid educated class in society.

It is a fact that teachers are burdened with the onus of wading through a sea of answer scripts without respite and the remuneration mostly does not match with the effort put in.

Apart from that, the evaluators are answerable to the chief examiner as well as the students if they have bungled in the process of correcting an answer script or totalling the marks obtained. They can be even sued in the court of law for not taking up their responsibility seriously.

The callousness in assessment of students can be averted to a large extent if knowledgeable and conscientious teachers are chosen for the job consciously. In addition, they should be given their due importance, respect and remuneration. They will be only too delighted and diligent to carry out the responsibilities bestowed upon them. And then, the rest assured students can enjoy happy holidays.

Colour me Yellow


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Image for representation.Image for representation.

It is interesting to note that every household in our country uses haldi or turmeric powder in their food. This wonder rhizome has been used in vegetarian, non-vegetarian and vegan cooking in the powdered form for centuries now.

The condiment is an integral part of our culture, a mandatory ingredient in our cuisine, an effective curative, and is also used as a cosmetic. Its subtle spiciness can add a zing to just about any curry, pulses, rice, and even baked goodies like buns and breads. The secret of getting the colour and flavour of turmeric right is simple. The haldi powder should be tossed in just before the oil or ghee, which is used for seasoning, starts smoking. If you add it too soon, the turmeric will leave its raw smell behind, and later than the precise moment will lend shades of brown instead of the desired yellow, and will give out a burnt smell.

Turmeric is usually avoided in sweets. The exception to the rule being that a pinch of haldi added to boiling milk, while making milk sweets to lend it a pale creamy colour. If you are planning to add the herb in milk for therapeutic purposes, it is best that you put it right at the end, just before serving.

It is advisable to add sundried rhizomes instead of the powdered form while making masalas for rasam, sambhar, bisibele bath or vangibath at home. It will make a tangible difference to the taste, colour and potency of homemade masalas.

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