Facing Rain Challenges


Published in the Student Editon of Deccan Herald

We have been having erratic spells of rains this year. It is pouring cats and dogs at times, flooding our streets and sometimes our homes. And then as in all things the side effects follow. First of all there is a cut in electricity supply, elsewhere surging currents cause short circuits. Then old trees fall, sometimes old buildings give way. Storm water drains overflow, sewage pipes clog, potholes open up further causing incidental accidents. Television channels repetitively show gushing waters throwing entire cities, towns, villages, fields and roads out of gear even as the common man strives to get back to normalcy. Once the rains subside and the waters recede, illnesses take toll of men and animals alike. Mosquitoes breed and add to the chaos. These events have become a regular feature for a couple of years now. All the modern technology and scientific knowhow wring their hands helplessly, unable to help us out of the mess.

That was a verbal description of what all of us in the subcontinent are aware of. The reason why it has been narrated here is to help us understand the problem and find a permanent solution for it.

It is apparent that we are one too many people sharing space and amenities. All the same we cannot reduce the population immediately. The shared amenities can be multiplied, but that will also take time. There is hardly any space through which mother earth can absorb the rain waters to replenish her water table, but rainwater harvesting is quite an exercise and can be best done only in summer. Old buildings and roads can be repaired, but cannot be done right now. So you might be wondering what could be the point in discussing about things which cannot provide immediate relief.

For those of you who do not know it already, here is the story of the ant and the grasshopper. The two friends could not really see eye to eye about playtime. The grasshopper wanted to enjoy his summer to the maximum possible extent while the ant wanted to collect food and store them for a rainy day. Since the two of them agreed to disagree they went about doing their own thing. The grasshopper enjoyed himself thoroughly. The ant on the other hand scouted for food, picked it up and carried it to his nest. Soon summer flit past. It started to drizzle and gained momentum as heavy rains in the coming months. The two insects had nothing to do except stay back at home. While the ant and his extended family helped themselves to the stored food, the grasshopper almost died of starvation. There is a strong message in this story for those of us who care to identify it.

Spells of rain can cast a magical spell on our earth and evoke the poets in us. On the other hand rains can spell hell on earth especially in overcrowded and unplanned urban space. It appears that the rainy seasons of the past years have not taught us much, because we have still not been able to overcome the sudden chaos that is turned loose on us once the skies decide to open up. The reason for this is we have been behaving like grasshoppers hoping to cross bridges as and when we come across them. It is high time we start behaving like the ant and prepare ourselves for a rainy day. We can look around our homes, office and school spaces and make a list of all the things that need to be set right. Then we must start working on it at the earliest opportunity both individually and collectively. It is only then we can live peacefully and enjoy the rains at least next year!

 

 

Life (Re)Cycled


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Dhaarini rushed in, her school uniform all awry, her folded plait slipping out of the blue ribbon which contained it and even as she tried to dump her extra-large school bag on her study table and take off her shoes almost simultaneously, she announced loudly, “Amma!! Ajji!! I am the leader of the new environmental project for my class. Each class has to bring along all the plastic things that one can do away with at home to school tomorrow, the class which contributes the most gets a prize, and I must collect the plastics to contribute my share for recycling.”

Even as the child was chattering away, and was slipping out of her uniform, her grandmother Dakshayini, draped in a soft non-descript olive green cotton sari hobbled into the hall told the young lass that her mother was away from home for the evening hence Dhaarini was to change into comfortable home clothes, freshen up, drink up her milk and finish her homework before doing anything else.

Ten year old, Dhaarini’s enthusiasm did dip a little but in an hour’s time the young one complied with all the instructions of her grandmother and fished out a huge, black, plastic carry bag and started scouting the house for plastics which she considered dispensable. Being the only child she had scores of toys, pencil boxes, water bottles, sharpeners and clips among other paraphernalia which she merrily tossed into the bag without looking at them twice. Then she made her way to the kitchen closely followed by her granny and even as she rested her eyes on the neat stack of washed, use and throw containers which made their way regularly into their home during the days when they decided to order food or sweets from a nearby hotel, her grandmother eased them out of their position and placed it in the bag.  Then the twosome went to the bathroom and gathered empty plastic containers, frayed mugs which went into the huge plastic knapsack. Then Dhaarini climbed up the light aluminium, portable ladder placed in the bathroom and laid her little hands on an old faded and ugly red pot with a broken neck placed in the open attic in her grandmother’s room and instantaneously she heard the elderly lady forbidding her from picking it up. The child was taken aback a little, the pot was out of colour and chipped and had been around the house for as long as she could remember so she turned around to check what made the seventy year old, object to her choice of scrap plastic.

She heard Dakshayini murmur that the pot was bought by her late grandfather and hence should not be touched. The young girl did not find this statement to be explanation enough, so she reached out for the object again and this time around the objection was louder and clearer and the pot was taken away physically by her grandmother and was firmly placed on the tiled floor. She categorically told Dhaarini to keep away from the pot and walked away in a huff. The perplexed child got down from the ladder and went on pointing out that the pot was old and therefore fit to be recycled, but did not receive any response from the latter. Dakshayini plunked down into her cosy arm chair and was lost in thought with her eyes open, not looking anywhere in particular. Dhaarini took one look at her grandmother and instantly got the message that she was to leave granny alone for a while, she was familiar with her grandmother’s mood swings which were occurrences that happened once in a blue moon, but she was also sure that her grand old lady would bounce back to normalcy if left alone for a while. Even as the child tiptoed away, the older woman lapsed into nostalgia.

True, the pot had lost its use but it had traveled with her for the last forty years and held a special place in her heart. No one knew about it for the simple reason she never spoke about it.

Dakshayini was not highly educated but she had been to school for a decade and was literate in both her mother-tongue Kannada and the foreign language English. She kept tab of current events through magazines and newspapers and managed to read a couple of novels whenever she was able to lay her hands on them.  She gained a lot of worldly knowledge through her travels when she accompanied her husband who was posted in various places in South India. She was aware that plastics were not favoured by environmentalists as they were considered to be lethal to the earth nowadays. But then she had also witnessed another era when plastics captured the imagination of people in an unimaginable way. She was soon lost in an era, more than half a century ago, when she took over the responsibilities of a new bride in a large household in Rampura.

That was an age when rural and urban India used brass, iron and earthen vessels to cook their meals. A stainless steel utensil was considered to be a sissy in a kitchen filled with sturdy vessels because it lacked the strength and the endurance of being placed on an earthen hearth with a large flame. Such being the case other materials were not even considered as possibilities. When she longed for some fancy glassware in her marital home, her wish was discounted with a reprimand from her mother-in-law who was aghast that Dakshayini wanted to use glass wares which were used only by barbers of those days usually the ones handed down by the British “Mems.”

Being the third daughter in law of an orthodox Brahminical family, her frail constitution and relatively delicate upbringing did not permit her to handle the heavy kitchenware with ease. She was assigned the job of fetching water for the kitchen from the well which kept her on her toes for most of the day. She never once thought of shirking her duties but wished to goodness that the heavy brass pot used to draw water from the well could be replaced by something lighter. Her desire took shape into an obsession and then took the dimensions of a secret ambition as she longed to own a weightless set of kitchen ware day in and day out. She found it increasingly difficult to lift or set down the heavy vessels as she got weaker after two childbirths followed by a miscarriage. Every one in the family and extended family warmed up to her and offered her kindly tips on how to put on weight and get stronger. Sometimes they helped her out whenever possible but nobody really thought much of substituting lighter material, at least for drawing water from the well.

She brought up this subject whenever she found herself alone with her husband Guru, which was usually during bedtime when she became completely drained out after a day of heavy work. Guru understood her problem but was shy of being dubbed as a hen-pecked husband if he enunciated Dakshayini’s quandary in front of the family. He dismissed the idea or even the possibility of a lighter option, instead he opted for a practical and diplomatic way out of the problem by drawing at least ten pots of water for the kitchen besides filling up the cement tank for his beloved wife before the crack of dawn, before anyone else got up in the household. Though his help lightened her workload to some extent, she had to draw tenfold amount of water over the day to cater to the domestic needs of the large family. The brass pot used to draw the water weighed almost two kilos left her wanting for energy. Even as others failed to understand her crisis the drudgery worked on her mind and wore out her body day in and day out, as she went through her chores everyday.

Dakshayini’s craving for light pots and pans grew day after day though she was not quite sure how to go about acquiring them. Nevertheless she spent a great deal of time in designing her perfect vessels in her dreams and enjoyed herself in a make believe world of colourful, weightless objects which could be handled almost effortlessly. This abstract mental exercise gave her an inexplicit sense of joy and creativity and she enjoyed every moment of it whenever she was by herself.

A couple of years rolled along; but nothing much changed in Dakshayini’s life. Even as she lived in a make believe world of light materials, she was told by a visiting cousin of hers that a new material was introduced into the Indian market. It was called plastic and just about everything from toys to mugs, to bowls and pots were made from the substance. She apprised Guru of the information and he made a special trip to the city to investigate the news and came home with a red coloured plastic pot which he placed in the middle of the hall on arrival. The whole family gathered around to inspect the novel article. Dakshayini immediately understood that pot was meant for her though Guru did not actually give it to her in the presence of others in the hall. She eyed the pot from a distance without touching it and fell in love with the gift; it appeared light, bright and pretty strong too and would lighten her work to a great extent. Her dream had come true. She was elated, but she did not express her feelings because she did not want to be teased. She knew that nobody in the house could object to her using it, as Guru, the son of the house had bought it. As Dakshayini sat in the ladies quarters that afternoon after lunch she listened to every word that Guru gushed about the new fancy material. He described how the city was flooded with the material that was available in every possible shape, size and structure while she silently reveled in the fact that her unspoken vision had actually translated into reality. In fact it surprised her that she could listen to him with the same awe and without interrupting him when he repeated the same information when they were together in their room later on that day. She found it amazing that her dreams had come true and reminded Guru of her longtime fantasy ecstatically, but he did not seem to pay much attention to her claims. She swallowed her disappointment and chose not press the matter further.  After all, life became relatively easier for her as plastic replaced the heavy metals wherever possible.

Two years later, the large joint family disintegrated when her parents in law passed away and the three sons of the family decided to explore job possibilities in the cities which were on the fast track of industrialisation.

Guru moved on to Bombay with his wife and two sons. Dakshayini enjoyed being the mistress of her individual home and she learned to speak the local language and took a special interest in her sons’ education but most of all she took restrained pleasure as she welcomed stainless steel, glass and porcelain into her kitchen. Several decades later when her first born returned from the USA she procured her first microwave oven accompanied by a set of light plastic dishes that could be used to heat and cook food too. She was overwhelmed with a silent joy when she saw for herself that plastics had been designed to even withstand heating.

Life had changed for her in more than one way. She lost her husband, her first born decided to settle down abroad and she chose to stay back in India with her second son. She enjoyed the company of her little Dhaarini and participated enthusiastically in all her activities. The older woman learned to enjoy, appreciate and understand her granddaughter’s childhood which was so very different from her own childhood and those of her sons. She had mastered the art of coping with new situations in her life which was backed up by her enterprising spirit which helped her experiment, understand and give space to people, new things and novel experiences that crossed her life – with grace and dignity.

Her passion for plastics waned over the years as she became aware that the boon in her life was turning out to be a bane to the lives on earth. Plastics manifested themselves in demoniac forms and had gotten busy choking life on earth. Dakshayini was not insensitive to the ecological issues around her and was more than willing to avoid plastics and recycle them whenever possible as a rule. However parting with the old pot was altogether a different ball game. She had let go of most of her acquisitions over the years but could not let go of the pot, her first plastic pot designed in the laboratory of her dreams. It was a symbol of her ambition, success, youth, romance, emotional bonding with her late husband and most of all her vision. No, it could not be recycled!!! She could not possibly allow it to be recycled at least as long as she lived!!!

She felt relieved when she relived her past with the pot. She felt convinced that she was right in holding on to the historical object. When clarity refilled her mind she looked at the open door and caught Dhaarini peeking in to the room to check her grandmother’s mood. Dakshayini beckoned to the child lovingly and the little one who was waiting in anticipation rushed into her arms. After the youngster settled down comfortably between her knees, Dakshayini told her, “Darling, some things cannot be recycled; they have to be saved like relics or premier inventions just as they are conserved in museums. Every home will have some such piece or two which have to be treasured for various reasons. The old red pot belongs to that category, it has a story. I will tell you the story when you are old enough to understand on that day you take a decision whether you want to trash the pot or not. For the time being, let us rummage around the house once again to check whether we have left out other dispensable plastics.”

Even as Dhaarini nodded her pretty head in agreement, the clock chimed to announce that it was seven   and Dakshayini smilingly said, “Look even the bell is agreeing with us”

 

Musings on a Maidless Morning


https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/right-middle/musings-maidless-morning-721538.html

Every time our maid takes off without compunction or notice for valid and invalid reasons, I promise myself to buy myself an Alladin’s lamp. The genie would solve all my problems. However that has remained in the domains of wishful thinking till date. I have often wondered if the brainy Jeeves could materialize and shimmer in to do my chores with the same élan with which he helps his young master to sail out of troubles. Yet the mere memory of his subtly sly ways to achieve his agenda at any cost makes me think twice about my choice.

I remember what Letitia  Baldridge once said, “ When in doubt look what everyone else is doing.” Since I know that practically everyone in my radar is bearing crosses of different densities on maid miseries, I practically have nowhere to look.  So, I decided to travel down the aisles of history and literature and tried to figure out what has gone wrong collectively with our generation of employers of domestic help? Why is it that we are not able to awaken a spirit of loyalty amongst our helpers like our ancestors did?

We certainly do not expect the likes of the nursemaid like Panna Dhai who quietly replaced her own bundle of joy in the place of the baby prince in waiting of Mewar only to be killed mercilessly. Nor do we expect a reliable slave like Jamal ud din Yaqut who stood by Razia Sultana through thick and thin.  I am sure that none of us expect the cruel alacrity displayed by Malik Kafur in the movie Padmavat when he killed two royals in response to a question that was mouthed in half jest by his brand new master.

Following feudal system or enslaving individuals or practising bonded labour is completely unthinkable, for the law of the land forbids it. Movies, soap operas and novels which showcase “old faithfuls” do not seem to have inspired the blue collared lot, nor has all the entertainment been  able to educate employers on the secret of retaining employees successfully. Common sense quotients like regular increments, generous gifts, timely loans and advance payments do not seem to change their ideas of accountability.

House helps have become a tribe who can be loved or hated but can never be ignored. It will certainly do us a world of good when we accept that they are also people like us and they do need to take off. Never mind if they disappear way too often. So the long and short of it is to just figure out a way to function well in their absence. Then, watch out for Zen like calmness that will ensconce your person once you get into the Swalpa Adjust Madkoli mode!

 

Nourishing Neem


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It is impossible to pass an unworshipped neem tree, especially in rural India. Neem tree, also famously known as sarva roga nivarini, has proven to be a sure panacea for many physical problems. Here are the many benefits of neem:

Chewing a couple of tender neem leaves can deworm your stomach, help you recuperate from jaundice, and also help in regulating blood sugar. It can also treat mouth ulcers, bleeding sore gums, and can prevent tooth decay.

Regular intake of neem leaves after meals regulates your digestive system, and can also get rid of psoriasis.

Consuming tender neem sprouts or capsules for a fortnight to a month can detoxify the body and strengthen the immune system. A healthier immune system helps your body in fighting off many illness and diseases.

When a paste made of neem leaves mixed with coconut oil and turmeric powder is applied to the face and washed off after an hour, it can leave it glowing.

Regular consumption of tender neem leaves can help you deal with fever, cough, aches and pains, sore throat, fatigue and nasal congestion.

Make your own insecticide by making little cloth bags of dried neem leaves and leave it in your provisions, clothes cupboards and bookshelves.

Bacterial infections in the nasal passages and respiratory system can be decreased by inhaling steam from boiling the leaves with a drop of eucalyptus oil.

This neem tree was outside our home.

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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.

 

 

 

Curious about Carom?


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Carom seeds

Carom seeds

The carom seeds, popularly known as ajwain, have been a part of Indian cuisine from times immemorial. Southeast Asian countries have consciously included these aromatic seeds in some of their common and exclusive dishes. The spice lends a tinge of heat and freshness to any dish to which it is added.

Since ajwain has its own distinct flavour, it is best not to combine it with other spices. It is particularly useful in curing digestive disorders. The spice has a magical way of lending diverse genres of flavours when employed differently.

If you are planning to use ajwain as a seasoning, then heat some ghee or any cooking oil of your choice and toss the spice when the fat is hot. When the spice inflates, turn off the heat and toss it into your dish. You can give your dosas, salads and buttermilk a twist by adding a dash of ajwain.

While baking some breads and buns or Indian snacks using besan flour as base, make sure that you add raw ajwain to the dough. If you don’t like biting into the spice unexpectedly, then consider adding a pinch of coarse or fine ajwain powder to the dough.

If you want an uniform and all encompassing flavour then make sure that you use a decoction of the spice. Toss a teaspoonful of the seeds into quarter litre of water and allow it to boil down to about 200 ml, add a pinch of table salt and crystal sugar to the decoction before taking it off the heat. Use this decoction while preparing dough for breads, chapatis or paranthas. This decoction can be cooled and stored in the refrigerator and administered a spoonful or two after every meal to overcome flatulence or indigestion.

Dealing with Embarassment


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Some of us go through embarrassing situations in life for no particular fault of ours. It becomes increasingly difficult to take a stand, especially when the people involved are the next of kin, good friends or well-wishers. A story in the Bhagavatha Puranam speaks of one such predicament.

Naabhaaga, an erudite scholar, decided to find his own fortune. He was well versed in all areas of rites and rituals. He knew that he could earn a great deal of wealth if he offered his niche services. For starters, he went to the Yajna conducted by sage Angirasa as directed by his father Nabhaga. The sage was very happy with the arrival of the young man.

On the sixth day, ceremonies, which involved a lot of nitty-gritty, had been worrying the sage. Naabhaaga did the needful efficiently. The Yajna was completed successfully. Sage Angirasa was very happy and satisfied.

In a moment of gratitude and generosity, he offered every bit of his frugal possession as Dakshina to Naabhaaga. The latter accepted his fee thankfully and took leave of the sage. Naabhaaga was waylaid by Rudra. The angry god accused Naabhaaga of walking away with what rightfully belonged to him. The young man was confused. Nevertheless, he walked back to the site of the Yajna along with Rudra. The duo found sage Angirasa in conversation with Naabhaaga’s father. Rudra presented his case. Almost immediately, Angirasa and Nabhaga realised that they had goofed up. Strangely, both of them in their zeal had overlooked that the last portion of the Dakshina had to be lawfully offered to Rudra. They admitted their fault sheepishly, clarified the matter and apologised profusely. Both of them found it highly embarrassing to dictate the future course of action.

Naabhaaga and Rudra understood the nature of the faux pas. Naabhaaga decided to iron out the matter. He did not play the blame game nor did he cock a snook at Rudra for being angry with him for no reason. Instead, he handed over the entire amount to Rudra. Angirasa and Nabhaga were overwhelmed with the turn of events. Rudra was touched by the integrity of Naabhaaga and blessed him with unlimited prosperity.

If any of us happen to inadvertently get involved in a slip-up, we will do well to display a generous and forthright spirit like Naabhaaga.