Spending Summer Vacations


The young working mothers association of our layout got together in the middle of February. I was given the privilege of being party to their brainstorming session, despite being much older.   Even as their children were preparing for their final examinations they were planning ahead for the summer vacations. Wanting to give the best for their kids they planned a short trip to some exotic destination, preferably abroad. Then they wanted to enroll the kids in a couple of summer camps ranging from fine arts, sports, soft skills, cooking et al to keep them usefully occupied. I was involved in this melee to give an unbiased picture of the logistics regarding the timings, route and to allot responsibilities to parents on picking up and dropping off  the children.

Even as each lady was vocalizing her preference, I slipped into memory lane. During my summer holidays my brother and I usually visited our grandparents, various aunts and uncles and had a good time with our cousins. Each day we would be involved in some stages of preparing elaborate ethnic dishes and savour them in the late afternoons. Then we would sift through knickknacks and listening to stories about  family heirlooms. Playing with the dog, cats and kittens, reading our favourite comic books and books from the library took away most of our afternoons. The evenings would be spent with local friends at the park. Late evenings would see us help out with petty shopping, plucking jasmine buds sorting out our stuff and so on. We would be regaled with family stories across generations and then we would spend time looking at framed photographs which graced the walls and old albums identifying the people in the stories. Power cuts which were an integral part of summers in an era which did not possess alternate power options were spent in marathon sessions of reciting multiplication tables, conjugating verbs in different languages, playing word building or Atlas and singing songs by candle light. Sometimes we wrote long letters to friends back home or copied out address books, recipes and other such inventories using our calligraphy skills to the optimum.

As I slipped out of nostalgia amidst the chatter I jotted down the ground rules that were agreed upon. The kids were to be engaged from dawn to dusk hopping from one center to another in the route where parents could pick up or drop them en route to their workplace. The budget allotted was around ten thousand rupees per child. Never mind the interest of the child or the contents of the classes. I had a good mind to tell them that I did not subscribe to their ideas, but then remembered my role was to help them organize their schedules. And summer vacation for them was about keeping their kids safe and engaged while they brought home the moolah. The sands of time had shifted, so had the idea of a vacation !



Ethics Of Knowledge Sharing


S Radha Prathi, July 07, 2015, DHNS:

A glimpse at world history and its contributions to mankind will reveal that man has also been constantly evolving mentally in search of a better way of life. While one section of explorers worked hard to step up the “standard of living” by using science and technology, there were others who tried hard to understand the “truth of life.”

Yet, none of these personalities who broke new ground for mankind felt the need to consolidate the information on a universal platform so that mankind can progress further from the point of what they already knew about.

As a result, we have been constantly engaged in the oft repeated activity of “re-inventing the wheel”. A glance through all the recorded material on various subjects which is available at the click of a button is proof enough to show that many subjects have been discussed and analysed threadbare and have reached refined heights long long ago, even as we are fumbling with the hems of the subject only now.

For instance, the heliocentric theory or the presence of atomic energy was known to ancient Indians thousands of years ago but the world consolidated the same as scientific knowledge only about 400 years ago. This is but just one example among thousands of such discoveries that were made by ancient civilisations across the globe.

Today, the scenario has changed. We live in a technologically advanced world, and all the information we need on just about any subject under the sun is available in both “hard” and “soft” forms for a price. But apparently, there are very few genuine takers who utilise this information for the benefit of mankind or self improvement.

A survey among the student community shows that while the younger children prefer to be spoon-fed by their teachers and their guardians, older students use the internet specifically for playing games, chatting with online friends and occasionally looking up for information about their role models in the sports and cine field in that order. Students pursuing higher education use information relevant to their subject only when they are pressurised to look up for some information on their own.

Many a project work, seminar and thesis submitted by students happen to be plagiarised from a source which they do not even bother to mention or acknowledge much to the consternation of the authors, who sometimes accidentally stumble upon their work verbatim in another person’s name.

Plagiarised research
According to them, “If you steal from one author, it is plagiarism; if you steal from many, then it is research.” It is indeed a sorry state of affairs. Experienced faculty from reputed institutions can vouch for the fact about how many times the earnest research work of an entirely unique nature has been snitched in the most unethical manner by people in authority.

While some original works do get compensated monetarily, many a creative work like a poem or a script or a formula are changed minimally and used unscrupulously. It is shameful and disheartening to note that even the teaching community cannot be spared of this accusation.

Novices in the field sometimes help themselves to the notes and the ideas of their seniors without acknowledgement or even a pang of conscience. Perhaps it was because of this reason artists, artistes, scholars and experts in different subjects held on to the keys of their knowledge to their bosoms in the past, are doing so in the present and will do so in future.

The scenario will not change as long as people reject their moral scruples and refuse to follow code of ethics. Till such time the portals of knowledge at the experimental and research level will close their doors for the fear of being robbed of their ideas which cannot be compensated with anything that is tangible. This will result in waste of time as scholars will feel queasy about sharing their opinions and findings for the fear of losing them and end up going in circles for a longer time.

The time has come when information has to be processed into knowledge through experience so that the end product can be used for the betterment of mankind.
To do so, we have no choice but to stick to the old fashioned way of holding on to our integrity and honour and acknowledging the hard work and the earnest efforts of people who may have arrived at some results in their respective fields.

Teaching and learning, which are nothing but the two faces of sharing, will become
meaningful and joyful exercises when the originator (devil?) is given its due.

New Code For Buildings


India has put forth a National Building Code which is being enforced on all builders and land developers.

Fire protection and safety installations are the key concern of NBC, writes Radha Prathi S
Nature has a way of taking a toll on life and property when man expects it the least. While it is easy to blame it on carelessness, lack of planning, congestion and deforestation among other reasons for disasters, it is imperative for man to take stock of the situation and do his best to overcome the problem.                                                                                                                                                          Fire accidents are among the worst natural disasters. History stands testimony to the fact that great libraries like the ones in Alexandria, Egypt or Chicago, USA were vulnerable  to fire, and caused huge losses. The list of the great fires that have been maintained is unbelievably long and fills one with a sense of horror.

Architects have always considered the possibility of a fire accident whenever they have launched prestigious projects. Palaces, public halls, museums, hotels, theatres and libraries are generally provided with an emergency fire exit and also have fire hydrants of the period at handy points to prevent an accidental fire from spreading. In spite of all possible caution, fire accidents do happen on and off and disrupt normal life.

Fire fighting techniques have come a long way over a period of time. Today, we have technology to aid us in fire fighting. We have electronic smoke detectors and temperature change detectors which could be fixed in buildings in order to set off an alarm in the case of a fire. The market is flooded with fire-hydrants that are easy to use and increasing competition in the area has kept the prices nominal and has prevented many investors from burning a hole in their pockets. Fire exits, also known as emergency exits, are carefully constructed using non-inflammable material and non conductors of electricity. Builders across the world are trying to substitute inflammable material with non-inflammable ones wherever possible and are trying to incorporate as many fire safety facilities to a large extent. India has put forth a National Building Code (NBC) which is being enforced on all builders and land developers.

Fire protection and safety installations which form a key part of all constructions are the key concern of NBC. Technological advancements, increased use of electric and electronic products, poor city planning and a lack of green cover has inspired NBC to involve itself in the act of protecting the assets of the nation.

Several NGOs and private bodies have stepped in to assist this government policy by sensitising citizens about how it is important to protect their buildings from a possible fire and also how to react in the event of a fire. Fire protection professionals, project managers, consultant engineers, facility managers, insurance surveyors and security officers have been roped in to aid their challenging task.
Several firms such as Bangalore based Firepro Systems, Siemens, Gunnebo, Cardax and The Fire and Safety Association of India (FSAI) have been on their toes to assist the NBC in their respective capacities in its venture. The metros are a major cause for concern to the NBC more than ever before.

FSAI’s seminar

The authorities have realised the need to educate and sensitise people in fire management. It is with this intention FSAI hosted a seminar on Engineering a Safe and Secure India: Responsibilities, Challenges and Solutions to discuss the various dimensions of security problems. MC Mutthanna, who chaired the seminar on fire fighting said that he hoped more people would become aware of various methods of protecting themselves from the possible havoc that a fire can wreak.

Chairman of the Technical Committee Liaqut Ali Khan said a number of measures have been taken by NGOs to reduce the excise duty on safety products which may be active, passive, fixed or mobile as the case may be so that more people have access to the facilities.

The Karnataka State Fire Services which has been rated among the best in the country is of the opinion that the effectiveness of safety quotient is based on the importance given by builders to NBC.

The engineers who are working on fire safety products acknowledged that India still needs to have a concrete structure in place to propagate and formalise the approach to managing fire and safety systems. Anandraman, an engineer working on the project, said efforts are being made to make the fire dousing techniques suit Indian conditions.

Technology To Keep You Secure



Technology to keep you secure

Radha Prathi lists out modern technology available to safeguard malls, corporate houses, complexes etc, as safety is not to be compromised.

You can hardly find a news report in the media sans reports of daylight robbery, house breaking, shop breaking or murder. Every time one learns of these depressing events, the sense of insecurity mounts up. People from all walks of life are taking steps to protect themselves in multifarious ways. Blocks of apartments, shopping complexes and malls and individual homes and buildings alike are pulling up their socks and stepping up their security systems.

A few decades ago, a sound security system meant collapsible iron gates, larger number locks and security guards. These days the connotation of security systems has changed to a large extent. A survey of the latest safety system shows that it is based on the latest technology.

Available technology

The range of security devices available in the market can be mind boggling. There are devices covering several areas of protection and loss prevention. There are security cameras, motion sensors, biometric processors, portable wireless security, metal detectors, law enforcement products, burglar alarms for every portion of the house, including driveways and swimming pools. These devices warn the owner of intrusions and break-in by sounding off an alarm.

The alarm is programmed in such a way that it is not merely heard by the neighbourhood but can alert the nearest police station and also inform the owner on his cell phone. The safety devices can be operated through remote control, and even if the owner is away in a different city, he can keep a tab of his premises from a distance.

It will be interesting to note that these days, security systems have come up with innovative technological ideas to protect documents from theft, moisture, fire and termites, which will prove to be a boon to Government offices, libraries, law firms and any other organisation that need to protect its documents.

Technologically-aided library security systems installed in various libraries across the world prevent theft of books and also help the librarian to work efficiently.

Video surveillance, magnetic swipes, biometric system, metal detectors, mail bomb and explosive detectors are no longer exclusive gadgets for high-profile buildings under red alert; it is likely to become the order of the day soon. In fact, the security industry is gearing up to extend effective security and prevent loss of life and property to the maximum possible extent.

When a security system is so advanced, it is not surprising to note that it comes with a heavy price tag. Yet the super rich, apartment complexes, malls, hotels, hospitals and semi opened enclosures like exhibitions, stadia, shop owners of jewellery and high-end items invest in the latest gadgets to protect their showrooms and their homes. They have realised that there is no point in being ‘Penny wise and Pound foolish’, especially when technology can prove to be an effective preventive.

The recent terror attacks in India have resulted in the boom of private-security industry which has come up with electronic security solutions for a vast array of applications at sustainable rates. There are many companies which do not stop merely with the manufacturing of these safety goods. They take up the responsibility of installing them and also conduct a hands-on demonstration to teach the new owner to operate the new-fangled gadgets effectively.

Security training

Some companies also undertake the training of guards who can handle the security solutions in various parts of the building right from the gate to the godown.

First time users of this nouveau technology will prove to be wise if they install products with ISO certification. They could also do a little homework and check the track record of the company’s installations in different locations. This will give them an insight into the pros and cons of the matter and also the little nuances about the maintenance and upkeep of these products.

For individuals & masses

It is easier to accommodate these gizmos in buildings under construction rather than built facilities. Yet the process can be executed without a hitch if one uses the services of a competent electrician and mason, who can work according to the instructions of the installation engineer.

The industry caters to individuals and organisations alike, and most of them allow their potential customers to try out their devices before making the purchase. They also offer easy installment schemes and give a decent discount on down payments to facilitate more people to feel secure in more ways than one

Stop,Who Goes There?


Ensuring security for ones home is not a new concept. But the measures to do so, are becoming more and more high-tech, observes Radha Prathi

When we visit ancient buildings, temples, churches, forts, palaces and prisons, it is difficult to miss the huge locks, keys, padlocks and safety chains, that were used to provide maximum security to the inmates and the valuable things that may be present inside. With the coming of technology, heavy security ware, made usually of iron, gave way to lighter materials like brass and then to steel and even aluminium. The security scene frothed with brainteasers when complex number lock and treasure hunt procedures were incorporated to the security system to make the process cryptic and thereby complicated.

A journey through the security measures that have been adapted by the world through ages can be a fascinating experience as we gain insight into the necessity and the significance of the measure. Just like man has left no stone unturned to improvise the best safety measures for himself, so also here have been another set of people determined to break all the barriers (read locks), hence the industry that has set out to come up with infallible systems, is thriving on both, research and development.

Rising surveillance

Customised locks, unique designer locks with just one set of keys, number locks, double locks, etc, have met their Waterloo in one way or another. The increasing crime rate and insecurities have resulted in the introduction of several home surveillance products in India in the last few decades. Factories, organizations, offices, malls, commercial complexes and rich homes have availed this facility to a large extent but the general masses have been ignorant about them mainly because security was not so much of a hazard as it is today.

Industrialisation and urbanisation have fragmented the society we live in, beyond recognition. People hardly know their neighbours and everyone cannot afford a security guard. Most of the urban populace that lives in high-rise buildings, does have security devices besides security guards to protect the residents of the apartments from strangers, salesmen and possible theft. In such a scenario, people are realising that each one should take care of himself in the best possible manner. If technology can help man to arrive at a plausible solution at affordable rates, then one should not hesitate to avail them in the best possible manner.

More gadgets

Of late, several professional security companies in India have come up with popular home security systems, which are now gaining acceptance in the public. They include CCTV cameras, web cameras, electronic alarm devices, intercepting intercom systems, locks, digital recording devices, wireless systems, and surveillance cameras in various levels of coverage. When people go away on long holidays or when they leave senior citizens or children at home and are away for an entire day, these devices can be put into use in an optimum manner. These devices are interlinked and activated in such a way that if they sense anything awry the alarms will go off at the nearest police station.  There are several local companies that customise these devices according to the needs of the customer. Rajesh of Red Fort Technologies, mentioned that people prefer their surveillance systems to be connected to their relatives or friends who in turn, can alert the police.

Then there are automated devices like swipe cards, contraband detecting devices, identification tags, which are largely used in corporate offices, malls and in some homes that also function as offices. In some places that need high security, like forensic laboratories, high-profile boardrooms and intensive care units of hospitals, biometric devices have been introduced where a password is required in the form of a fingerprint or capturing the reflection of  the cornea of an eye to let the inmates in.

Ritvik, manager of  Dimensions Digital Controls Private Limited, based in Bangalore, a dealer and distributor of various home automated devices, mentioned that Bangalore is the happening place for the maximum sales of these devices. His company markets Zicomhome, a security system for homes, factories and offices. His product is a sophisticated electronic security system that has been carefully designed and comprises of  ‘colour video door phone outdoor unit‘. This outdoor unit has a doorbell and a camera that allows you to view anything that is 25 feet outside the door. It has a built-in light, which offers perfect clarity in darkness. The system also has a remote control which can arm and disarm the system. The sophisticated ‘colour video door phone’ can help see whoever rings your doorbell even without opening the door.

One can understand that security devices have truly come of age when devices like the magnetic sensor, gas leak sensor, are being manufactured and marketed to prevent inadvertent accidents and major disasters. The latest technology allows these fantastic devices to be linked to GSM mobile systems so that they can be operated even when one is miles away from the venue.

Internet based technologies, home security products, are putting the hectic lifestyles of people on a more relaxed mode when they can abstain from worrying about keeping their loved ones and their valuables safe — without worrying about keys, their duplicates et al…