Palm Leaf Paper


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Long long ago in India, when children of your age went to schools known as the Guru Kula they had lots to study just like you but they certainly did not have to write as much as you do! They committed whatever they learned to memory and sometimes noted down some very important definitions or formulas on palm leaves for later reference. You see they did not have note books then as you have them these days! If you are wondering whether they were lucky, unfortunately they are not around here to answer your question but they were certainly an eco-friendly lot as they were not using reams of paper made from trees!!! In such a case you could always argue that the palm leaves they used were also sourced from trees! Very true, indeed! In those days there was really no dearth of palm fronds, besides the rudiments of language like grammar and core subjects like science and mathematics were reduced to verses running into two or four lines. These couplets and quartets captured the essence of the subject in as few words as possible. The student had to understand these formulas which were popularly known as “Sutras” and he needed to memorise them to help him remember of all the aspects of the theory at a later date.

They were tested on the subject from time to time orally just like you are tested, but then all of you also take up a written test to show that you have writing skills too ! Perhaps they were spared of the exercise because processing palm fronds into writing material was a long drawn process.

Centuries before paper was invented our ancestors hit upon the idea of using hardy dried leaves as paper.  They were known as “Patra” which means both letter and leaf in most Indian languages used till date. Students processed palm leaves not only for their use, but also for their teachers and scribes who were engaged in making copies of important manuscripts.

Processing palm leaves was no mean task, but it was certainly fun –filled too! Palm fronds cut freshly from the tree were allowed dry partially for a couple of days in  sunlight and then they were then buried in swamps for a week so that they become sturdy and later on the leaves were washed and dried completely in the shade.

Then they were cut along the borders so that they formed rectangular pages which measured eight to twelve inches in breadth and about an inch or two in height. Some times when longer sheets of palm paper were required they were sewn together using plant fiber.

Once the palm paper was ready for use a fine tipped iron stylus (pencil) was used to etch the words or diagrams on the leaf so that it made a depression without actually damaging the leaf. Then powdered vegetable dyes usually green or charcoal powder made from burnt coconut shells were mixed with sesame oil and rubbed over the leaves in such a way that the colours settle down in the depressions. Then the palm leaves were coated with turmeric powder mixed with sesame oil to add sheen and strength to the leaves. Then they were bundled together and wrapped in silk or cotton cloth for safe keeping. Our ancient texts like the Vedas, Puranas, the epics, scripts of plays and treatises have been passed on to us on palm paper.

Possibly this is the reason why we are able to see manuscripts preserved in this manner for over a millennium in a fairly good condition in spite of the gross neglect they are subjected to.

Over a period of time when paper was invented and mechanization made it possible for it to be easily available paper made from palm leaves made an exit. Today these processed leaves are used as canvass on which creative artists showcase their talent.

If you happen to be traveling in Orissa make sure you visit a small village called Raghuraipur in the district of Puri. There are several craftsmen and artists who make a living there by etching wonderful designs on processed palm leaves. Even little children in the village know how to make the longer lasting palm paper. Now that you have an insight into the method, why don’t you try making your own name plate on processed palm leaf?

Here’s Why You Should Go The PVC Way


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THE POWER OF PVC

By S.RADHA PRATHI

Abraham Lincoln once said that the best way to destroy enemies is to make a concerted effort to befriend them and then there will be no enemies left.  When we look around the world the one common enemy of all mankind happens to be plastics. It has been declared as the most destructive villain of the twenty first century. We have been told in all kinds of manners to shun it like plague. So we should. On the other hand if we give the material a fair chance and use it properly then it is quite possible that we can subjugate the villain and use his pluses to serve our purpose.

The concrete jungles are thriving skywards. The imminent need to use light, strong and sustainable materials is becoming increasingly valid.   Nowadays plastic doors are flooding the building marts. To begin with, we Indians have kindly considered the use of these doors as best solutions for bathrooms, toilets, balconies, terraces, door partitions, half door’s for children’s rooms especially in apartment complexes. Novelties like folded or sliding doors have become more feasible because of the enviable nature of the material to mold into any shape and size without ado. Industrial properties are also increasingly considering these plastic doors as a cost effective and low maintenance option.

So Poly Vinyl Chloride aka PVC is the latest buzzword in the world of builders, architects and environmentalists alike.

So now let us take a look at how this labeled baddie can be made out into a hero of sorts and put into use, so that he does not prove to be an impediment to our beloved planet.

Water Proof

The material is longer lasting than conventional wooden or metal doors because it is water proof. Hence it is non corrosive and has very low chances of gathering moss. Since the surface is non porous, it cannot absorb moisture, leading to expansion and contraction of volume during damp and dry weather conditions, even if they are exposed to the elements of nature.

Termite Proof

How many times have we not seen old doors made of lofty wood like sandal, teak oak or rose wood housing termites an other insects as they age. This is because these natural materials have a tendency to reveal crevices which many have been covered during the carpentry. Besides the layers of wood give way to new crevices while weathering and not much can be done about it with the exception of monitoring the door with pesticides from time to time. PVC doors will never give room for such anxieties given its synthetic and non porous nature.

Light Weight

Unlike traditional doors that flaunt their strength in proportion to their weight, PVC doors are opposite by nature. They are strong but they are not heavy. In fact they are about one tenth the weights of regular doors. Their lightness has proved to be a boon in disguise in high rise buildings which have to be super strong without being weighed down by their own mass.

Hassle free Installation

Installation of doors is no mean activity. It takes a skilled carpenter to fix a door that fits perfectly into its frame. As for PVC doors, any novice can do it hands down provided he has all the tools and screws. Even  if you are planning to install new PVC doors on old wooden or metal frames, it is possible to get a door custom made and fit it into the slot without too much trouble.

Scratch Resistant

PVC doors are highly scratch resistant. Since they are not and need not be painted there is no question of them succumbing to abrasions and peeling. Homes with pets and little kids need not worry about pawed doorways when they go with this option. One can happily put up posters, stickers and pin ups on this door without causing any damage.

Acoustics and Temperature

If PVC doors seem flimsy and a tad too loud for your tastes and concerns, it will help you to know that the doors have enough thickness to retain the acoustics and temperature of the premises and control the level of external sounds and air that can seep in like any regular door. As usual, thicker the gauge of the door, more the resistance of sound and heat.

Chemical Resistant

Manufacturers and dealers are often asked whether the doors can take the constant onslaughts of chemicals that are an integral part of the soaps, detergents and sometimes acids that are components of the cleaning materials especially in bathrooms and toilets. The answer happens to be in the positive. In fact  if the cleansers  smudge the door, they can be washed off as well.

Maintenance Free

Once you fit  a PVC door, you can happily forget about it . They don’t,  respond to weather, they don’t creak, they don’t need to be polished or painted from time to time and a little soap and water can have them sparkling clean without much effort. In fact public toilets that have already started using PVC doors can be looked upon as silent advertisements to doubtful future users amongst you.

Aesthetics

Those of you who do not want the door to stick out like a sore thumb, please remember that there are a plethora of colours and designs that are available in the market. As far as India is concerned people go in for wood shades that can pass off for the original. Then there are gaily coloured ones and even printed ones if you care for them. If you want any specific design of your choice, manufacturers are very happy to cater to your needs albeit for a higher price.

Low Cost Options

Apart from being eco friendly, these doors are also considerably cheaper than their usual counterparts. Since they serve the same purpose, the cost of building can come down by nearly twenty per cent. Besides, when your property is being taxed for its assets, the tax on wood will also come down.

 

 

 

Save Yourself from Rainy Days


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Radha Prathi, March 24, 2017

problem It has been identified that water has a tendency to seep into adjoining walls that are at different levels. 

Come rainy season, and urban India is on tenterhooks, when it comes to their houses.

The reasons for these are many, ranging from poor construction to lack of a good rainwater draining system. Sometimes, a good many number of building parts, or even entire buildings have little or no exposure to sunlight. Correcting these anomalies is beyond the realms of practicality. Such being the case, it will be only wise to take the next best recourse.

Architects, builders, consumers and the waterproofing industry have identified the problems associated with moisture in buildings and have come up with solutions that can keep the building dry for the most part of the year. When the rainy season sets in, they have come up with techniques that will get the water off the building fast, so that pooling and leaking of water into the structure can be contained. Adding slopes in the roofing area wherever possible and rainwater harvesting project incorporated into buildings can stem this problem to a large extent.

It has been identified that water has a tendency to seep into the adjoining walls that are at different levels. Extra care during construction and plastering of these areas can control the damage caused due to dampness. Sometimes, water seepage can happen when there is error in the installation of the plumbing system. Then there are those instances when there can be inadequate surface preparation, improper use of primers, failure to take into account the thermal and wind movements of the structure etc which can undermine the strength of the construction over a period of time.

No matter what the problem, there are mostly ready-to-use products available that can repair possible damages to the buildings. If you are constructing a new facility, you can use them in the first instance, but if you are trying to protect an old home, you might have to walk that extra mile. Nevertheless, you can be sure that it is worth the effort.

Structural waterproofing

Open areas like balconies, porches and terrace slabs, which tend to be exposed to rainwater directly and for a longer time, will do well to mix admixes which will plasticise the walls and plug in the pores so that they do not retain water and absorb it later. As always, the market offers a range of these admixes with various grades of plasticising agents both in the paste and powder form. People looking at longevity of their constructions even have the options to fill hollow cement bricks with this mixture to make it waterproof from within.

Roof & terrace

It is universal knowledge that the roof and the terrace of any building are always exposed to the natural elements. This, coupled with bad upkeep can make the area develop cracks. Hence, waterproofing the terrace can protect it. You really do not need professionals to do this job, for the method is very simple. Sweep the terrace clean, wash it with clear water. Leak-guard pastes available off the shelf can be used to plug in cracks, dents and chipped area of the terrace.

Similarly, waterproof powder and chemical can also be bought in any hardware shop. Mix the powder as instructed in a bucket of clear water and apply the liquid to the surface with a wide paint brush. Apply a second coat after three hours and be rest assured that your terrace is safe for the next three to four years. As of now, there are no permanent waterproofing techniques for the roof; hence the need to repeat the exercise time and again.

Basement

Basement areas tend to become swimming pools during monsoons. The slope and the rainwater drains don’t help much, unless planned and executed well. You can prevent your basement from becoming redundant if you use appropriate waterproofing. While new basements can use structural procedure, old buildings have to first release the surface of the mould. Fumigation and subjecting the area to hot air blasts can clean it to a large extent. If the walls of the basement have started chipping or flaking, it will be worth the investment to get them plastered again before working on the floor.

Then, use non-metallic heavy duty floor hardener to reinforce the floor. Though this measure is costly, it has a long life and can be easy to clean and maintain. Waterproofing buildings has come of age. There are plenty of options in terms of both price and quality. The best time to waterproof buildings will be summer. Make sure that your homes and offices wear their rainproof cover before the first drizzle.

Eco friendly is the Way Forward -Ganesha Chathurthi


3rd September 2016

One cannot simply miss the terracotta images of gigantic Ganeshas peering through transparent polythene sheets serving as rain protection, lining the highways leading to the city and the main market places. Smaller versions of the lord and his mother goddess Gowri flank the bigger images. It is interesting to note that quite a lot of them are in earthy colours, with a glint of gold in places. They have been made by conscientious artists and will be bought by likeminded devotees whose hearts beat to the rhythm of nature. The online portals and niche studios that make and sell eco friendly Ganeshas had their order books completed several weeks ago. More and more people celebrating the festival publicly and privately are clearly responding to the cause of mother earth. It is heartening to note that little communities and social groups are coming together and working on sustainable solutions that can take care of the disposal of festive waste and the customary immersion of the idol post festival without wreaking havoc on our already overburdened lakes and ponds.

Well begun is half done! Looks like years of green campaign by the earnest are beginning to bear fruit albeit sporadically. The recent rains which flooded our cities over have also given a very clear signal that if we fail to take cognizance of violating the basic rules of nature, we must also be ready to face nasty surprises.

For those of us who are still not very convinced about all the furor over using idols that have been fired and painted gaily in toxic colours, we must realize that these idols run colour for a long time. The chemical nature of the dyes used may dissolve in water but not before first polluting it and taking a toll on the life of the fish and other creatures in the tank. Then the idol will take an extremely long time to disintegrate and disperse in water. Even the idols which use coir or hay as skeletal system to give it shape take quite as long too. The residual clay will enhance the silt layer of the water body. It will in turn enhance the height of the lakebed and become instrumental in rising water levels and consequent overflow of water during rains. Then there will be really no point in wondering how, the very Ganesha whom we worshipped reverently made life miserable for us.

An episode from Nilakanta Vijayam underlines the importance and divinity of eco friendly worship. Indra the lord of gods never failed to venerate the deities at the dawn of each day. He would complete his ablutions and then collect a handful of fresh flowers before making a beeline to the banks of the celestial river Ganga in the heavens. Then he would carefully select a couple of rounded pebbles for worship, clean them thoroughly and place them on the sands along the rippling waterline. Then he would offer his prayers and floral tribute reverentially to those little stones (saligrama). Once done, he would return the pebbles to the water, (quite on the lines of how we immerse Ganeshas today) and go his way only to repeat the process the following day.

Now Indra the lord of Gods as we all know had everyone and everything at his beck and call. If he wanted to, he could have availed the most precious of resources to conduct his daily worship. Nevertheless he chose to pick pebbles from the river and return the same to its source the very same day. By doing so, he ensured that he did not disturb the natural order of things to display his devotion or faith. When the lord of gods can abstain from exploiting nature to express his faith, can we not?

This year around, let us ensure a pollution free Ganesha Chathurthi, filled with faith and lots of fun and the one that we will remember to be a model worth emulating in the years to come!

Being Sustainable


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Radha Prathi, March 25, 2016

Eco-friendly: Substitute plastic with terracotta wherever possible.

Building an eco-friendly home does not necessarily have to be an expensive affair. Neither does it mean that the entire building should be bereft of anything man-made or industry-processed. All you really need is a judicious mix of natural and man-made materials to strike a sustainable balance. 

In order to build an environment-friendly home, we need not avoid materials like glass, metals and high-density plastic. While they are not recommended per se, materials like PVC pipes are a blessing in disguise as they are strong, light and sustainable. If incorporated in the right manner, the right combination of natural and synthetic can cut down on maintenance costs in the long run and keep your abode eco-friendly too.

Homeowners who feel strongly about using natural materials should remember that not all of them are sustainable or practical in the present day. Having plastered clay flooring or a thatched roof may be eco-friendly, but does it guarantee safety or a long shelf-life? So, it’s important to have a well laid-out plan about the materials you want use. You need to ask yourself if they are the right ones for you. Additionally, how does it fare in terms of maintenance?

One needs to do thorough homework before actually going in to select eco-friendly materials. There are a series of considerations that you would need to factor in to ensure that sustainability exists throughout the home, including your materials. You need to ask yourself if the chosen materials are durable on the long run. This includes the materials that you would be choosing for your home’s infrastructure and the appliances. For instance, the flooring inside your home can be paved with partially polished granite, marble or jasper, while the areas exposed to the elements can be laid with clay tiles.
Choices galore

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can make a wise choice to lend a touch of sustainability to your abode. Here are a few ways of doing that:

The basics: To get started, go back to the basics and use wood or terracotta jaali grills wherever possible. Start with the floors. While it is expensive nowadays, good quality wood has the potential of being an investment for a lifetime. Additionally, it has an edge over vinyl flooring as it gives your home a much earthier look. Use of wood will not only prove to be more sustainable, but will also help prevent radiation and cut down on cooling costs. Yes, the electricity bills don’t have to be exorbitant even in summer.

A bit of both: If you are opting for glass panes or long windows, you can go for half windows that are divided in the centre. Here, the bottom half is made of wood while the top half is made of glass. This arrangement will prevent excessive sunlight filtering in during summers and help trap the heat in the room during winters. You can also replace the wood with terracotta jaalis for internal partitions. This is known to facilitate good ventilation at home.
Earthy materials: Plastic overhead tanks and sumps can be substituted with stabilised terracotta tanks, which will keep the water cool. Keeping in mind the same principle, terracotta can also be used to tile a swimming pool.

As for the home’s exteriors or facade, they can be plastered with stabilised rammed earth walls. If you are looking to make it more interesting, you can perhaps get a unique, traditional artpiece done by the master craftsmen in Rajasthan.

Light yet durable: Bamboo is another strong yet light, eco-friendly material that can be used in place of metallic grills, at least in the interiors of the home.
Money matters Building a sustainable home is certainly an expensive affair. But by using the right mix of materials, it can be made affordable. In fact, there are various ways in which you can cut down on the costs at home.

One of the most popular ways is recycling. It can add an old-world charm to your home. This appeal can be brought in by using fully intact parts of old homes that have been demolished. Think foundation stones, doors, windows, terracotta tiles and plumbing materials. In addition to these, you can invest in water harvesting and solar heating systems, along with low lighting to score high on saving.

After careful consideration of every aspect of your home, preferably in consultation with your architect, you will be able to identify the sustainable materials that you can use for your abode. A judicious mix of materials can help you to not only reduce the  building costs, but also to cut down on your carbon footprint.

Organic Cottonwear In Summertimes


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Filling old wine in new bottles is not alien to mankind, for man has a strange penchant for rediscovering the precious latent value of what he has left behind long ago, in the name of progress. This time around, it happens to be the wonderful goodness of cotton fabric.

It is that time of the year when you switch to cotton clothes right from yours socks, innerwear, shirts, saris, dresses, jackets, sleepwear, and sportswear among other clothes. Though the concept of cotton clothes is not alien to Indians, now the world market for cotton clothing is laying emphasis on the superiority of organically produced cotton over the regular cottons.

For those who are wondering about the difference, it will probably help to know that toxins and synthetic fertilisers are avoided while growing cotton and harsh chemical bleaches or dyes are avoided during the processing.

It will be interesting to note that today, coloured cotton is grown on the stem in shades of brown, reddish brown, green and yellow, making the material 100% eco-friendly besides lending a special softness to the texture of the cloth.

Experts opine that since colour-grown cotton is not dyed, it does not fade and the colour will actually deepen when it is washed repeatedly. Dermatologists feel that using sheets and pillowcases, towels and bathrobes made of organic cotton can prevent several skin allergies and also contain skin diseases.

Organic cotton clothing was unheard of a few years ago but as on date, it is available in many stores and online businesses. Since going green seems to be the mantra, fashion these days is also becoming eco-friendly.

Leading companies have taken a step forward in this direction and have come up with their latest collections consisting of jeans, shirts and other trendy apparels made from
organic fabrics, natural dyes, raw denim, real indigo and super light linen.

The designers have taken special care to complement the simplicity of the fabrics in designs that are stylish in order to make cotton look cool.

While the men have denims in earthy fabrics like organic cotton-blended and linen-blended, the women have a range of feminine colours like shades of red, pink, orange and lilac besides other colours to choose from.

Shoppers of organic clothing have a wide range of choice because popular international brands are in the process of launching their eco friendly clothing lines for the global market.

Natural fragrance

Experiments are being conducted to infuse long-lasting natural fragrance in natural
fibres. In fact, scents of lavender and chamomile have already been successfully incorporated in clothing.

The elitists who are looking for something truly exclusive are being pampered with clothes having cotton meshes to facilitate free air-flow in sweat zones with the aim to lend an invigorating and comfortable feeling to the wearer.

Just about every kind of dress for women and men have hit the market. Harem pants, flared pants, halter tunics, vests, crochet jackets, skirts, kimonos, kurtas and calm pants – fine knit pants that fall like a skirt – drawstring pants, Chinese kurtas and fisherman pants; name it and you can find one-of course for a price. Oriental designs like chakras, Swastikas, Omkara, Chinese sun signs, flower motifs in bright colours are doing the rounds to rope in the fairly conservative eastern buyers.

Even as the world is looking at cotton options, India too has pulled up its socks and started reworking on its khadi and handloom fabrics.

Besides leading boutiques and brand names that cater to clothing, humble handloom houses, cottage industries and rural textile co-operative societies have also come up with a range of exotic saris in organic cotton in a mindblowing range of colours and designs just waiting to be picked up at their retail outlets or handloom exhibitions conducted in various cities.

The revival of cotton in the market can be a boon in disguise to our country, for we already have a hoary tradition and a plethora of varieties already in place.

All we need to do is restart from where we left behind and delve deeply into the ancient secrets of long lasting natural dyes and fragrances. This measure can open new vistas of business to our country and step up our economy in the long run and, to some extent, repair the damage that we have rendered unto our environment.

As the planet is getting hotter each year, there can be no better way to look cool than with cool cottons keeping in tune with the environment around us even as the lush green cotton fields nod their pretty heads in agreement.