Green Building for a Better Future


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/627123/green-buildings-better-future.html

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.

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.

Enclose With Elegance


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neat Get a small quantity of white acrylic paint and colour the insides of your showcase. photos by author

Did you know that the showcase that adorns your living room is perhaps one of the features that is almost never missed by your guests and visitors? They pay special attention to the showcase because they are aware that it is the hotspot in the house which conveys a lot about the residents.

The trophies that assert one’s success, the souvenirs that stand witness to your travels around the globe, the antique piece which speaks about your aesthetic inclinations, the family heirloom that display your affection for your grandparents and so on and so forth, jostle with one another and proclaim your collective personalities as a family.

It is true that all of us who have arranged our showcases must have spent some time giving it our thoughts and exercising our creativity. However, we may have noticed that not all of them are always appealing or exotic. This does not for a moment mean that your stuff is not good enough nor does it mean that your showcase has become redundant. All the same, the lacklustre aspect could be attributed to several reasons.

For one thing, it may have collected dust and grime. Otherwise it could be overcrowded or sparsely filled up. Sometimes, we leave essentials like keys, bills, torches, money, matches etc in some section of the showcase for easy access, not realising that they could be an eyesore.

If you think that the above reasons are not applicable to you perhaps, you have never changed the arrangement over the years, giving it a sense of predictability, which will fail to garner the attention of your visitor. So, here are a few tips that will ensure that your showcase attracts renewed attention:

Remove all the contents of your showcase and clean them thoroughly.

Clean the showcase and the covering glass using soap and water. If the walls of the cabinet have yellowed or scaled due to age, rub the surface with sandpaper and scrape it completely.

Get a small quantity of white acrylic paint and colour the insides. If your cabinet is made of wood, a coat of ready-made wood polish will do the job.

Check if you have one too many articles that will look good when hung. Take stock of the number and fix little sticks on hooks (easily available in the market) on the ceiling of the partitioned area.

Sort out your showpieces either in terms of size or theme. If you are the sort who likes to rearrange memorabilia time and again, it will be a good idea to stick to a theme. On the other hand if you want to take things easier, identify a few things that you always want to display and change only the other items from time to time.

Make sure that all the unsightly wires that run through are carefully stapled and hidden away.

Toss in a few pieces of camphor in every shelf to keep it pest-free and fragrant.

Use an old newspaper to wipe the glass clean from both sides before sliding it over the showcase. Make it a point to wipe the glass clean at least once in a fortnight.

Repeat this exercise and bring variations in the display once in every three or four months.

Do not place damaged pieces, picture postcards or family photographs amid other things, unless it happens to match the theme.

Networking To Grow


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Construction labourers who flood the city need no longer feel lost in the madding crowd. A membership with Labour Net solves half their problems, learns Radha Prathi.

When the technological progress of man joins hands with a benevolent bent of mind, and help people to be proactive, indeed great things can be achieved to make life more meaningful. Perhaps it was this awareness that triggered the active members of MAYA (Movement for alternatives and youth awareness), an NGO based in Bangalore, to take a pointed interest in networking the labour workforce that has been flooding Bangalore consistently in the past few decades.

The growing city of Bangalore attracts masons, plumbers, electricians, carpenters and tile layers, among other labourers, from far and near. A random survey revealed that most members of the labour class did not have a social leg to stand on. When they met with accidents inadvertently or had to face some personal crisis, they found themselves lost in the madding crowd of the city. They could neither open a bank account for lack of address proof and other relevant papers nor utilise hospital facilities. These problems of workers were observed by the able volunteers of the organisation. They also noticed that even though there were many specialised labourers, residents of the city did not know where to go when they needed them the most and were also apprehensive about using the services of strangers.

MAYA decided to resolve the issue and the concept of Labour Net was born, just a year ago. Labourers from all walks of life can enroll themselves as members for a humble sum of Rs 100. This enrollment not only gives them a face but also an address. Enrollment adds their names to the Labour Net database and they are given identity cards. Whenever labourers need work or an extra part time job, they have to inform the organisation which will network with potential customers and help them out. Similarly, whenever people need professional help, they are free to approach the organisation, which will send suitable labourers to the spot.
Rajesh Gerard Joseph, co-ordinator of Labour Net, who outlined the function of the organisation, made it clear that the freedom of none of the workers is curtailed; they are free to work and live where they want.
Labour Net neither fixes the wages of the labourer nor does it suggest a suitable amount. Recently, every member was assisted to open a savings bank account in a nationalised bank. Medical insurance and accident insurance schemes have also been introduced to the members up to an amount of Rs 50,000 on an annual premium of Rs 450 per year for a family of five. Bala Krishna, a carpenter, is happy that he has a bank account and plans to take up the insurance scheme in the near future.

Interested workers like him are also trained by multinational companies like BOSCH in the use of latest tools and technologies. Masons are taught to maintain bill books, draft quotations and the finer aspects of accounting.
30-year-old Hari Sunder, a plumber, says his enrollment with Labour Net has raised his self- esteem. He no longer feels the necessity to seek jobs randomly or swear by his credentials because he is backed by Labour Net.
Labour Net has also coordinated with KIMS and the Seventh day Adventist Hospital which extend a “cashless facility” to their members in case of an emergency. As on date, there are about 4,700 members in the family of Labour Net.

Apart from the many facilities that have been extended to them, the fact that they have not been discriminated as locals and migrants has warmed the cockles of their heart.
The future plans of Labour Net include facilitating bank loans and helping labourers to network socially so that they do not lose themselves in the milling crowd. Mutually beneficial schemes have always been a success and Labour Net is one such too.