cities inhabitable

air pollution

Hawa mein udta jae,
mora lal dupatta malmal ka
ooo…  ji… ooo ji

Hey girl. Don’t let your dupatta fly off your soft hands. Delhi is approaching. You will need it to cover your nose and mouth.

The air pollution in Delhi reaching alarming proportions is the top trending news these days. Of course for the weak lunged, most of the Indian cities are increasingly becoming inhabitable. After shifting to Bangalore when I went to a doctor friend for my persistent cough, the first advice he gave was to leave Bangalore.

In the WHO list of most polluted cities in terms of outdoor pollution, ten Indian cities have the honour of being included in the top twenty.  Delhi, which ranks fifth among Indian cities, gets highlighted the most because, the media men and VIPs stationed there think Delhi is the world.

Air pollution in cities has become a common phenomenon in hugely populated developed countries. Countries like India and China with their affluent population crowding the cities experience it the most. Recently there were newspaper reports that many city dwellers in China are forced to flee the cities.

In India, the major causes of pollution are industrial and vehicular emissions and inefficient cooking fuel. According to the WHO report the air quality in many of the thickly populated rural areas do not provide a back up for the city dweller.

Adulterated vehicle fuel and traffic congestion worsen the situation in cities. Following the example of China, the Delhi government implemented the odd even scheme to reduce number of vehicles on the road. But the impact of such schemes has not been on expected lines and these schemes are likely to end up as symbolic gestures in the long run as people find innovative ways to bypass the system. Maybe, the time has come for tougher measures like banning of all four-wheelers other than public transports and ambulances on fixed days.

Those who commute to office for less than  five kms can easily pedal to office. The healthier and more enthusiast ones will not mind the distance, provided there are dedicated cycle tracks. We need to create more awareness in this regard and the city planners must focus on decreasing traffic congestion and encouraging people to pedal around the city.

The sharp increase in use of personal vehicles can be attributed to increase in purchase power. But economic empowerment of people cannot be and should not be reversed. No doubt pollution is a byproduct of modernisation. However, scientific development in one field can be used to counter the ill effects of scientific development of another field. We can focus on developing technologies to have affordable cars like Nano or, improving the vehicles that run on no fuel. Further increase in standard of living makes people abandon basic bikes and cars in favour of luxury brands that consume more fuel. Problem is – it is the inessentials with money power who also influence legislative decisions. Thus, it becomes difficult to legislate and implement simple and practical solutions.

For a growing economy with a huge population the situation can only get worse as we go for more investment in manufacturing sector. Hope, side by side with the improvement of our ranking in ease of doing business,  we took tough steps to ease out our ranking from pollution index.

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This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

Get a copy of my book ‘Idle Hours- Humour|Memoir|Essays ‘to read more of my takes on  social, trivial and selfhelp issues. You may find some of them hilarious too.  

Sunday Musings and Random Notes #9

While last Sunday was spent hearing the sales pitch of established authors at the Bangalore Literature Festival, this Sunday I am taking the first step towards establishing myself as a book author. Or, so do I think.

I have finalised my first book which is a compilation of selected articles from my armory of published and unpublished compositions.  Even some articles which were published earlier underwent extensive revision. I tried to put the old wine in completely new bottles so much so that some bottles, that earlier opened from the top, now open from the bottom, making a few things go topsy turvy in the bargain. Of course, some new bottles have found new wine too.

Coming to the literature festival, this time it was heavily tilted towards the ‘left’. Kanhaiah Kumar, who was too afraid to come to Bangalore last time, was made the star attraction in spite of the presence of twinkling stars like Mrs Funnybone. The left have always dominated the press and publishing scene in India. Two years back they faced a minor threat and fear. Seems, this year their bullying bore fruit with the near absence of any right wing representation to bring in balance to the discourses.

This is a sad dilution of the festival’s original agenda. It was supposed to be a different literature festival that sought to bring contrarian voices to one platform. What happened in 2015 is detailed in this firstpost article. The only crime of the Sahitya Academy winner author Vikram Sampath, who was one of the organisers, was that he refused to join the band wagon of ‘award wapsi’ authors. This did not go down well with the so called ‘liberal’ authors so much so that they threatened to boycott the festival and pressurised others to do so, with the result that Vikram Sampath had to step down to save the festival. That is how the tolerant and liberal Indian intellectuals, who champion free speech, counter contrarian points of view.

Even though we call ourselves a country with a great culture and so on, it is cricket and films that dominate our fascination. Anil Kumble and Rahul Dravid took the limelight on the first day. On the second day, the session of the great classical dancer Sonal Mansingh was scheduled after that of Twinkle Khanna. It was heartening to see many audience  members leaving immediately after Twinkle left. However, this did not dampen the enthusiasm of the virtuoso who has seen so many vicissitudes in her life. Majority of the audience members who left were young people who would have definitely found the story of Sonal Mansingh highly inspiring.

sonal mansinghThis is not to undermine the achievements of Mrs. Funnybone.  Both were born with silver spoons in their mouths. In spite of upheavals in personal life and classical dancing not having the huge earning potential compared to acting in films or writing bestsellers (that have the potential of being turned into films), Sonal stuck to the pure form of classical dance and has led a modest lifestyle. She recounted how she had promised her grand father that she would never make dance a commercial venture and she has stuck to it in spite of facing financial difficulties from time to time.  For her, dance has been a journey of self discovery like any other sincere seeker on a spiritual path or a yogi.

I first saw Sonal Mansingh some seventeen  years back in a setting in terms of place and time that was not conducive to leisurely appreciation of one of the most intricate dance forms. We were in the middle of Kargil war and it was a forward base close to the centre of action. She came there with her Odissi dance troupe. For a soldier on active duty, it was a welcome temporary relief and a morale booster. What was appreciable was her timely gesture. Of course it  has become a fad for many film stars to visit defense units and interact with the soldiers. These are perfectly timed gestures too,  coinciding with the release of their films.

Earlier in the day a ‘white’ lady in a ‘bright’ sari was drawing a lot of attention. It was German poet Jessy James LaFleur. More interesting was the content of what she said.

I come from Germany and a high percentage of women there are subject to sexual assault. But, India has been portrayed in a very bad light by the media. I personally have felt very safe walking the roads of Coimbatore. Men have been pleasant while women have come to take selfies with me.

While limit it only to the media Madam. Our celebrity ambassadors who go abroad are no better.

So, Mr Amitabh Bachchan! Here is a lesson for you.  You are a great actor and I am a very hardcore fan of your acting. Let me remind you that you are also a son of a great intellectual.  Next time when you go to US and people raise question about crime against women in India, don’t be apologetic and react like a dumb ass actor who must always act and speak out the script handed out to him. Tell them without feeling inferior and with the confidence of your character Deenanath Chouhan:

Yes. There are crimes against women in India and we are working on that. But, with an ex-groper as the president and with 70% girls getting sexually assaulted during their preteen years,  your country has a far worse record and you do not have any moral authority to point fingers at India.

 

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This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

 

today flowers blossom in me

Usually, the commuting to and from the office is the most unpleasant experiences of a working day in a city like Bengaluru so much so that when someone asks, ‘what is the distance of your office from home’, I say, ‘it is one and a half hours to two hours depending upon the mood of the traffic of the day’. Of course, in terms of physical distance it is only 25 km one way.

But today while going to office flowers blossom in me.

In spite of the fact that it is a post holiday working day. Today is Diwali. It must be a holiday for the Indians in the north of the Vindhyas. However, for many offices including the central government ones, yesterday was the official Diwali holiday. The thin traffic indicates that in spite of it being a working day, many thought in true Indian spirit that a day like Diwali ruled in favour of staying at home over whiling away time on mundane office affairs.  I also learn that officially it is Diwali off day for some.

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian BloggersIt is such a pleasant experience to drive on Bengaluru roads on some of the busiest routes on a working day with thin traffic. I ruminate whether there is a remote possibility that in distant future a time will come when every working day traffic will be like this. Why limit the traffic problem to only working days. Even on weekends you may have a horrible time while negotiating with the Bengaluru traffic on many stretches. I am reminded of those lazy weekends twenty five years back when I used pedal around Bengaluru the whole day sometimes alone, sometimes accompanied by a friend. If I do it now the doctor may, in stead of calling it a healthy habit,  discount my life expectancy by five years.

But today flowers blossom in me.  Bangalore is a cool beautiful city. What make it hell are its potholed roads, made worse by the incessant rain of the last couple of weeks. And the bumper to bumper laborious traffic. Today, free from the care of the bumper to bumper traffic, I can smell and feel the cool breeze passing through the roadside trees.

Flowers also blossom in me for another reason.  Thank God, I am not a Delhite. I will be able to blast a few crackers along with my son and his friends at least this year. For I don’t know when the ban- cracker-to -avoid- pollution syndrome that originated in Delhi will infect Bangalore, which is as cursed as Delhi in terms of vehicular pollution.

Of course our liberal and secular sensibilities do not allow us to ban certain types of highly polluting vehicles and industries, and inhuman practices of privileged religions.

Wishing all my readers a very happy Diwali.

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my speech at the indiblogger meet, bengaluru

Well, I have been a serious blogger since last one year. Of course, I have been blogging for more than five years and doing some creative writing maybe, for last one hundred years.

No… no. I am not that old like Asha Ram Bapu  or RK Pachauri.

Actually I feel that it is not only me but also my readers who have taken my blog seriously after I joined Indiblogger, which is the best platform for Indian bloggers to network and show case talent. What do you say? How many of you here agree with me. Wow. Quite a lot. Great.

What is more,  Indiblogger now wants to take us to our next level. That is to make us published authors. I think it is every blogger’s dream to become a published author of books. How many of you don’t agree? Of course many of us here are already published authors.

I love this quote from Kahlil Zibran: To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has achieved, but at what he aspires to.

It is great that Indiblogger, Story Mirror and the Valley of Words have all come together to fulfill the dreams of aspiring authors. They deserve a big round of applause.

Coming to blogging, the comments and likes are not the only indicators that your blog is being read and liked. During official or informal meetings sometimes I come across people who tell me that they have been reading my blog regularly, even though they have never put any comment or liked the blog.

So, keep blogging. May our tribe flourish.

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Launch of Kuhase ke Geet ( Hindi version of Sashi Sharma’s the Song’s of Mist)

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Thank you guys for the fabulous gift hamper

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See you all in Dehradun

P.S:  Actually, this speech, being an afterthought could not be delivered. And  my time-machine is still out of order.

 

Alone in the World of Technology?

After their adaptability to the mobiles, social media apps like Facebook have become a rage. On these very social media platforms quite often we get ‘forwarded as received messages ‘ ringing alarm bells as to how real relationships have taken a back seat as people spend more and more time on Facebook, Whatsapp etc. .

This week’s Indispire topic too raises questions linked to the above propagated fears. It says, “In this world so connected with technology, we have actually lost our real connections. Technology has actually surpassed human interactions. Real time conversations became texting and feelings became status updates…. “.

I am reminded of an often repeated theme in twentieth century Bollywood films. The hero would go to a foreign country for studies. When he comes back after twelve years  no body is able to recognize him. Sometimes, the story would take a ‘comedy of error’ twist.  Now you cannot present such a story to the present skype generation. It is a great loss to the Bollywood script writers.

Barring the above notional loss, I do not think there is any real cause for alarm. Rather three are reasons enough to rejoice.

We can look at it this way. Now we leverage technology to save a lot of time.  No more do we travel 20 kms to a railway station and stand in queue for two hours to book that vacation ticket. We do not have to visit a post office to send money or a letter or a telegram.  Some even do not go to office to their official job. This in turn gives us more time for creativity, productivity or have real life fun.

Even though my wife is very active on social media, she does not miss her daily quota of enlightening and philosophical  face to face conversations with her neighbours. Now there are more topics for discussion. Like, why her dress from Amazon cost more than her neighbour’s.

Jokes apart, now she is able to connect with her daughter in Switzerland on a daily basis almost at no extra cost. Sometimes during the video chat my daughter closes in on the dinner plate and they both cry. In a way it has deepened the feelings. Imagine how we would have interacted ten years back. Maybe once or twice a month a phone call. Or, an international mail. Hardly can our daughter be out of sight, to be out of mind.

There has been no let up in my face to face interactions with my family members, my neighbours and  my colleagues, even though I use technology a lot.  Now, due to these latest developments in communication technology, I am able to make connection with those with whom I would not have been able to do so if these latest developments were not there. In fact technology has helped me to connect more with real people, far and near.

Thanks to their status updates, now I feel being connected on a daily basis to hundreds of my school/college mates and ex- colleagues.  Many long lost friends have been found. Those who are nearby still come physically to express their feelings whenever the occasion demands.

The fear that the virtual world created by  technology has taken over the real world is over exaggerated. Especially in the case of India. Or else, every year you would not be seeing larger crowds at public events and holiday places with their friends and families.

In fact technology is providing me less and less excuses to be alone. The virtual reality provided by technology is only a medium. The people I interact with through this medium are real. Does not matter if they are far or near. And sometimes even if I have never met with them.

What about our blogging activity and our real time interactions over so many bloggers from India and outside?

Before the era of computers and BPO did you hear of someone earning a salary in one year, the equivalent of his father’s life time earnings in a private or government service?

Or the senior citizens (and the non-IT guys) attributing all the ills of present Bengaluru, including cost of living and heavy traffic jam, to ‘those IT guys’.

Well, that could be a kind of loss to those attached to the idea of good old Bangalore.

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Indian Bloggers

Colours of a subzi bazaar – a photo essay

It is a Sunday morning. In spite of the plethora of companies offering online purchase and home delivery and the mushrooming of air conditioned super stores, one of the oldest vegetable markets of Bengaluru is abuzz with activities.

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Tol mol ke bol
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waiting for that first deal of the day
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May be the last lot of the season
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Windmills for tiny tots
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Keys and guns – for special customers only.
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Listen carefully – the strategy for the day
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Just a light partition –  for the mirchi alone

It is all about filling the jholissm9

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Nothing to buy – just out for a stroll to inhale the bazaar air
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No need for the mobile sister, we can talk just like that
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No no…. We do not have home delivery system as yet, please come down to the market sir.
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Do not go by looks. I only look green.
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Shall we close the deal now?