Posted in Food For Soul

The Dharmic : Quality Vs. Quantity

stay unique, render yourself rare,

never the sheep, but the one herder

-Viji lol

A friend has been recommending to me ‘Sapiens’ for a long time now and I finally got to download it for reading. (A review will follow). In this context, this is what is playing in my mind regarding the future of Hindu Dharma right this moment.

Quality or Quantity, which is your picking. I am someone who has always been of the view that our parents generation enjoyed a superior standard of living than ours even though today we find ourselves in the digital age that we can credit with simplifying our lives like never before. Neanderthals and other humans no doubt exactly enjoyed a better quality of life in a very similar fashion as foragers and hunters over the agrarian Sapiens who then heavily industrialized. We the modern day homo sapiens found the safety in numbers but are we getting increasingly miserable or do we live life as contented as our uncivilized brutish ancestors.

Who made it most successful in evolution? Homo Sapiens of course, over other humans. And the staple cereal crops such as wheat and maize and paddy when it comes to vegetation. The domesticated cattle and sheep and donkeys and horses and dogs and poultry probably stood better chances at the outset outliving the species gone extinct like the megafauna that included mammoth, marsupial lion etc. But to what end? Is there a more heartwrenching story than that of the drought animals or the milch cattle or the broiler chicken?

This may have relevance to the future of Hindu Dharma in my opinion. So do we Hindus still have to bother about the Abrahamization of the entire world. Let others go on and multiply in exponential like rats and rabbits, if they have to. The Hindu population that has survived to 21st century always has had a quality to it incomparable to others. If we have to perish as a community, let us without losing our values. This is already happening to the Parsis in India and elsewhere as we know. This community will go down history as one of the finest to have ever graced earth with their presence. Without diluting their standards, the community is disappearing right in front of our eyes. Nonnegotiable value system. Highly innovative, enterprising and in service of mankind in their own way. Parsis leave their dead to the vultures as meal.

We Hindus in India, even if majority as of today, are aware, it is only a matter of a couple or more of general elections for our country to go to the dogs. This can happen when the Hindu population of the country may dip anytime under fifty percentage and we cease to be officially the overwhelming majority community. Mercifully this may not happen in my own lifetime or who knows it may happen towards the fag end of mine. In any case, Hindu Dharma could be doomed irrespective of the relentless efforts put in by the present BJP govt and the new age self-styled Hindu gurus. Yeah, kind of makes me sad. But at the same time, reading this book (of which i have not over 20% so far), I feel an overwhelming relief to know that, when we have to go, we have to go with a bang, having lived well. I don’t believe in numbers either. I would rather opt for quality over quantity.

The author of the book Yuval Noah Harari, Israeli, avers the rhinoceros in the wild, about to go extinct shortly, living it up in the bushes on freewill is still well placed than the lonely and miserable oxen emasculated and yoked to the plough for a lifetime. Is this how we must count success in our life? Is this how we have to define evolution? Should it even matter who outlives who. What matters is, who lives it out the best. Short and sweet.

Adaptability comes with its own set of flaws. Flexibility is not possible without sacrifice. Do we Hindus simply have to do the number calculation and see to that we survive at any cost. Or should we go down with the vessel honorably like the Parsis. I choose the Parsi way. Is it rather too early to talk on this? Nope. I guess, it is time we Hindus resign to the reality. What the turks and the moguls and the british could not do to us through eight to ten long centuries, our own converted brown Indians may be capable of doing in near future: drive us to extinction naturally or unnaturally.

Helps me to come to peace now thinking of this. I am ignorant, not at all the learned, but in my ignorance, I still choose the Elephant over Shiva if it comes to that. My love for nature and wildlife supersedes anything that I cannot physically access or assess. It is more important to me to live as a true Sanathana Dharmi, not snuffing out wildlife and championing over the helpless. There is not an urge to prove anything to anyone or substantiate this or that. Neither is there the arrogance of ‘knowing better’ for we know not a single human who has returned here from the yonder to spell it all out for us in all clarity and honesty.

When I toured the Turkish museum in Istanbul, I saw an array of spears and other arms and ammunition including weapons of torture used on capture of enemy kingdoms. The jewelry were plundered. So were the French museums filled with loot from invasions. The American museums related the slave history and that of the Indians ethnically cleansed in entirety. In contrast in the rudimentary Shivaji museum at Tanjore, Tamil Nadu, India, I saw pots from granaries, agricultural and art tools, rewards for peasants and poets, etc. Mysore palace museum showcased exquisite jewelry and finest oil paintings, all desi Indian. It is painful to see artefacts from India as exhibits in world museums, acquired illegally or taken forcibly as done by the British. In India, every single museum piece is self-made, local. I attribute Hindu ethos for this one distinguishing feature that sets us apart from the Abrahamic world.

A rich life is what I would say the Hindus have lived. India is Yoga Bhumi not Bhoga Bhumi like the US who choose material way of life over higher consciousness. We are still living among great Dravidian architecture temples in the south many of which are easily two millennia old. We practise the traditional arts and crafts cherished and passed on to us over centuries. Hindu culture is the only continuous native civilization surviving to this day since at least 10000 BC. A soft power gifting the world with Yoga and Meditation and Ahimsa, the principle of non-violence, propagating vegetarianism and having for our ambassadors our physicians and scientists and techies and teachers, India is Hindu by soul. Dharma is our breath. Buddhism and Jainism and Sikhism, the branching folds from Hinduism are all equally thought provoking and non aggressive by nature. We Hindus proudly strut in our native clothes, speak the native tongue, and why our Gods are native as well! What a profusion of local talent: from classical music and dance forms to visual arts. Our cuisine! Even Bollywood has carved a niche for itself in the entertainment industry. So much original, authentic. It would be a shame if Hindus perish off the face of earth, but then all good things will have to come to an end someday.

Or would we the Hindus:

  • have a dozen kids just to boost our headcount
  • invade or plunder as every abrahamic nation under the sky has historically done with insolent pride
  • sell god door to door like carefree or harpic
  • sow poison weeds of hatred in the hearts of our sons and daughters so they turn out terrorists
  • live a low life sans art and culture
  • ape west anglicizing ourselves
  • surrender to materialistic aspirations, our souls
  • embrace the abrahamic way of life

I would rather if Hinduism becomes a yearned memory some day rather than linger behind with a ruptured soul. The world then would have lost something too very profound and precious.

Posted in Environment

Read The Price Tag

There is so much talk about new energy sources such as solar power. Could the manufacturing process of the solar power panels be entirely environment-friendly when the cells cannot be destroyed. The solar panels are made of toxic chemicals such as arsenic which find their way to landfills on decommissioning. Solar power, the end product, could be energy efficient and economic but what about the hidden costs. What happens to millions and millions of lithium batteries we dispose off. Are green buildings truly safe and nontoxic. A quick recheck into chemical emission from in and out of the structures may speak of a different story. The eco-friendly green structures with glass facade may be energy saving bringing in daylight and cutting short our electricity bills, but what is the cost we pay by way of exposure to chemical compounds that the building materials are composed of. Glass specifications may demand a matching support system. Glass may be sustainable and least toxic though. But is the effort worthwhile as against conventional concrete and cement structure. So much is spoken about desalination. Many view it as a problem solver with decreasing rainfall. Desalination of sea water removes salinity from the water by chemical process. This water then is recyclable including for consumption purposes. Nations have desalination plants pumping in water from their territorial waters, well within their boundaries, demarcated from international waters. What happens when salts get removed on repeated chemical processes? Desalinated water later undergoes further treatments of various levels fit for different types of consumption. The untreated water may be released to civic bodies for upkeep of public parks etc. The treated water filtered to specified degree of purification is certified potable. However, as the salt from the sea water close to shoreline gets desalinated, the residual salt content adds to the territorial waters which may make it super-salty than before. This extremely salty sea water is contained within a nation’s oceanic boundaries, by international maritime agreements. The salt mounds on desalination pile up within the territorial waters. With increased concentration over time, the salinity of this coastal sea water could rise to a level unsustainable for marine life in that geographic region. Ecology collapses. However, now technology keeps updating quick and the processes get more refined and superior by which minimal damage is accrued, nevertheless the build-up of salinity in a nation’s territorial waters as a result of desalination cannot be completely eliminated. Even wind energy has it pros and cons. The windmill blades are non bio-degradable as well like the solar panels we use for solar power. Imagine landfills over landfills filled by used and defunct solar panels and windmill fan blades. The power from the windmill turbines is of course not environmentally hazardous. Probably windmill energy could be the purest form of energy produced by humans. Dams and reservoirs dry up rivers and their courses as salinity from sea water enters land via arid low level deltas during monsoons. This can play havoc with fertile strips of land making cultivation and native vegetation unsustainable. No way can we substitute cleared primary/secondary forests with afforestation in new tracts. There is a factor called soil strength and composition. Native flora and fauna are specific to geographic locations. We cannot just like take over elephant corridors and plant alien vegetation species in river banks by way of substitution. Nature does not work that way. Nothing can be right when we go against nature. We the humankind calculate the short term gains and forego the long term benefits. Seamless transition from one energy source to another is next to impossible. Hybrid interluding phase precedes a total transfer. Almost nothing that goes against nature comes free. We will have to foot a hefty bill one way or other.

Posted in Extras

Hand me my thorthu not the bathrobe!

Inspired to write this 😀

We in India mostly prefer cotton towels not the fluffy turkish towels given our tropical climate. The turkish towels do not absorb moisture and are heavy but they probably keep you warm after a shower.

The southern state of Kerala, also neighbouring one to my home state Tamil Nadu is famous for its ‘Thorthu’ or handwoven cotton towels that are richly absorbent. Kerala is a monsoon country. Entire India is known for seasonal rains but Kerala is too very popular even with foreign tourists who visit the state especially for its monsoon season (although in last two years the monsoons have wrecked havoc in the state triggering landslides and flooding). Tamil Nadu too has its share of woven white towels from Cooptex, Erotex and such handloom boards, yet the Kerala quality is unbeatable!

I have dozens of these thin weaves at home. I got a couple for my American daughter-in-law when she lived in India and asked her not to use a hairdryer but this towel. First hesitant, later on seeing its absorbent quality and quick drying nature with 100% cotton thread weave, she fell in love with this textile. I packed her over half a dozen when she left for US, urgently asking my Mallu friend to courier thorthus to me even in Covid conditions! When I visited US recently I had taken a few with me and my daughter wanted them. I have few more in Chennai. I must remember to courier her more when I visit India next. And I have to order online another batch straight from Kerala again!

Why do we need bathrobes or fluffy towels when we have our desi thorthu. It has to be experienced to be believed! And we can have a dozen and more to use at ease. Finally they come cheapest – from Rs. 60 for smallest size to max Rs.200 or 300 for those with widest dimensions. That is from under US$1 to 5 maximum.

So now I have decided to make our local thorthu world famous! For women, it can be as good as wraparound or sarong after our time in pool. A thorthu can be quite long and wide enough to go around us and cover our entire torso. For men too it can hang nicely on waist. So easy to maintain. For new born babies and young children who you want to wipe clean of moisture for fear of catching cold, nothing like thorthu to come to your aid. Especially for wrapping your head after a shower. There is hardly any work left for the hairdryer to do after you dry your hair with thorthu. You can rinse thorthu in the washbasin, as simple as that. Takes under an hour to dry in open air or just over an arm chair in our living! Space saving as well. You can stack two dozens in little space! Easy to pack and carry like hankie. Pristine white.

Economic and functionally best thorthu! Most authentic original Indian produce are this but then who wants anything ours? They all go for synthetic and toxic China stuff only 😦

Posted in Food For Soul


It pains my heart to write this.

We are all parents. We know the ways of our kids. I am the ’80s teen. I know even how way back in those days, we girls still cheated on our parents and got away with it. In an era where even short skirts were taboo, i have had among my friends circles girls who ‘crossed the line’ – if i may put it so. Who violated every single unwritten code in the morals and ethics book of their conservative, orthodox Hindu families. Today they are all happily married with grown up kids in twenties. Boys for their share smoked and boozed, as expected of them, behind their parents’ back. I have heard from my husband how boys from his engineering hostel even went to call girls. We are not here all saints from our turbulent teens. Many of us have erred, keeping with times. However that did not stop us from becoming what we are today. Every single one of us including the bold ones has made it, and that’s the most cheering news of all. What would have happened if the guilty had had to be punished.

In today’s world, our children are merely taking the next step in rebellion which is part of growing-up. Or coming of age. One of my regular cabbies told me once how a particularly addictive leafy stuff has spread like wildfire to each and every corner of Chennai, mainly sold in front of school gates and college entrances. Nobody made it to sports these days without a high from the campus. Or even to the examination hall. IT industry precipitated the matter. The acute stress levels chasing deadline after deadline cast the young men and women towards seeking a quick release. Parental and peer pressure nonetheless. My friends too aver how everything is freely available in the city and you don’t have to look far. Practically no locality is free of the net. Any government that is keen on securing the future of our youngsters must know where to look first.

I was discussing exactly this problem that I don’t even want to name with my son’s friends both in America and in India. They think this particular dried leaf one is no big deal and that they’re all canvassing to make it legal in India as it was until the 1970s when it was overnight declared illegal which pushed up its procurement costs and consumption rates. Now some vested interests even cultivate it for exclusive clientele. Some anti-social rackets naturally make a neat sum out of this as they get the younger gen hooked. Said the boys, it is tobacco which is worst but sadly or perhaps very cleverly its consumption is legal. I did not agree with the boys, but the same view is also held by my generation guys who are doing well in IT field.

I went for a single session counselling with a leading psychiatrist. One thing he told me was, the youngsters of today have to know if possible everything on planet. It is age-related. Or what you say in Tamil, ‘vayasu kolaru.’ They will eventually come out of this on their own by the time they hit their thirties. Only a negligible percentage become addicts. So he asked me to ignore if I might discover my son smoking or boozing with friends. He said, it was I who had to change not the kids. My generation has to wake up said the doc with enormous experience in the field who is also running a de-addiction center. I wanted advice on parenting with him. How to deal with a son in his twenties. Of course now my son is a father himself. I don’t have to keep an eye on him. Destiny has made him responsible. Some lessons, life can teach our children and it is better we remain mere observers. Sometimes it is okay to see our kids fail or fall. With a great restraint, we have to hold back ourselves from lending them a helping hand. The only comfort for our children must be that, whatever, we parents would love them unconditionally and accept them for what they are. And that we’d accept their choices wholeheartedly.

It is not easy parenting in this century although I am now finally heaving a sigh of relief. But I have an open mind compared to even my hubby who is a lot more conservative with rigid outlook. I got to mix with my son’s friends and came to know both the girls and boys of the 90s better. Believe me, even our girls seem to love the brown leafy or root powder! The first time I got wind of the youngsters’ habits, like any average Indian parent I was shocked to the core. Or you can say my heart almost stopped. My other thought was like, ‘omg what’s happening to my good old Madras!’ But I roused myself to reality. I think I am better in dealing with crisis when it comes to family than my husband who can solve complex industrial issues but not matters of domesticity. I have had hours of discussion with the boys on delicate subjects. I think our Indian govt also has to be practical. Now why are we updating on every front. Windows 10 to 11. How many Android updates. You check even our Cowin website. How fast they are updating with facts and figures gathered from stats from all around the country. I am asking this simple question: why cannot our government do an analysis on the emerging lifestyle of our youngsters. We simply cannot have all at the same time. If you want more and more money, you have to take more and more stress. And to beat stress you need a potent stress reliever. As simple as that.

I felt a pain when one of the kids told me, how we the parents still could be luckier generation while their grandparents (our parents) could have been the luckiest of Indians in last 2000 years, for they not only lived in a peaceful era sans wars, but also were surrounded by green unpolluted environs; there was no reason to chase money; life was simple and sweet. Many of the boys and girls of 90s still aren’t yet married. And they already say, they do not want biological kids, and that they would like to go for adoption. S*x life of the kids also has hit an abysmal low compared to our generation. Stress is playing a spoilsport in every front. Such a listless generation is what we have in our hands. So disillusioned when I see some kids. Of course, not everyone is in such a deep despair. I hope the Khan kid is not targeted. A wrong is a wrong whoever does it. But then when you have a kid of the same age, you think twice before judging. As a parent, my heart goes out to SRK. This must not happen to any parent. I have caught kids redhanded in compromising circumstances. I ignored them but reported on them to their parents behind their backs. My friends are mature and know how to handle things. They never stir the hornets’ nests. How to untangle situations and get the kids without least damage is the knack of parenting, with not even the kids knowing. This kind of wisdom is god’s gift.

I do not deny that some mischievous elements are flushing toxic substances into India. Neither am I justifying abuse of any kind. I am vociferously against both. But we need to take care that we don’t hurt our children. They are still our kids. I felt bad for SRK and wife Gauri. Stars and billionaires also have families and more than all emotion and heart. We cannot keep bleeding them so cruelly like this. What kind of sadists have we become to rejoice when a celebrity suffers, only because he made it big. Well, let us allow law to do its duty. This social media trial of the starkid is unwarranted and heartless.

The cleanup of Indian Gennext has to start right from the capital Delhi. Let every school and college campus be combed which is a Herculean task I know. Reforming the youngsters must be our priority, not penalizing them. We gain nothing out of turning them into anti-establishment. Engaging the younger lot productively is the greatest challenge of our times as their attention span is shrinking. With more of economic comfort, they lack the drive to excel or prove a point. Boredom is one good reason for kids going astray. This is really nobody’s fault. It has to happen. It is natural for lethargy to set in given that we have cushioned them from rude jolts of life like our parents never did for us. In Tamil again we say, ‘muppadhu varusham vaazhndhavanum kidayadhu, muppadhu varusham thaazhndhavanum kidaiyadhu.’ This is merely a cycle. For my generation and my parents, growth was fueled by desire for better standard of living. None of us even owned a telephone or car. What do our sons and daughters dream of? We tae them on exotic holidays, we shop for the best brands for them. They have had everything in life without working for anything. They lack nothing and that is exactly the problem. The low they feel is perfectly understandable. How many of them are on the verge of bottomless abyss called ‘depression’ – just ask parents like me. There is not much to fight for, we have taken it all making things easy for them. This i am saying after having hearty talks with 90s kids.

Let us forgive our children and move on. Time is the best healer. I have handled personal crisis with my patience. How many secrets a woman’s heart can hold. Right from my teens to now, i have known secret gays to hasty abortions. Sometimes just keeping quiet will do. Things will work out for better by themselves. As for the kids of 20s, they are still our children. If they err, we have to embrace them and let them know, it is ok. We can chastise them politely but convincingly as we have the right. But to bring them about without damaging them must be our mission. I do not believe in harsh punishments. Neither am I for political agendas or selective targeting. ‘Kalavum katru mara’ one more Tamil adage to quote here. This too shall pass. I can only close with the unflinching trust and belief in our kids that they will be over the bend with time. All we need to do is to be there for them when they make it on their own terms.

PS: Hopefully our media covers equally Adani port as well. Again from Tamil, ‘aanai poradhu theriyalai, poona thaan paavam panni maattiyadhu.’

Posted in Political

Going for a killing.

My fave brand FabIndia courted controversy very recently with the abrahamization of their commercial for the Hindu festival Deepavali aka Diwali. The store called the occasion ‘jashn-e-riwaaz’ only to get whipped by the backlash that followed as the Hindu community typically came up with a kneejerk reaction. The popular global brand of Indian textiles must know after the Tanishq experience.

As a patron for many years of this exclusive chain store (which is only in recent years having this many outlets), i found the ad very offending. But more ridiculous is the way our netizens discuss the label in social media. One claim of a single visit to the showroom and of the poor quality for exorbitant pricing was dripping hatred and totally unjustified. A bevy of nonsense followed smacking of ignorance, most of all haughty and boorish.

The said advt was removed immediately from media once the sensitivity of the Hindus was aired in social media.

But for the netizens to dwell upon the slight and dissect it at length with such a nastiness is uncalled for. Fifteen years or so back, nobody talked of handblocks or vegetable dyes. This brand did it and had it. Procurement was directly from weavers when it was not the norm. Fabindia were way ahead of the leading names of present times. Their silks also used to be muted, not flashy. Men’s kurtas were top of the range. Still are. The store attracted me with it its understated elegance. Now they have diversified into a variety of consumer/lifestyle catalogues all of which are of uncompromising standards.

Were they overpriced? May be as I said it was possible when they hadn’t expanded much and when we had limited branches to shop from. Their line of clothing was unique and a fusion of contemporary with the artisan which commanded a price. In that way I saw them as trendsetters or fashion-makers. It was a time when online shopping was a far cry. And handblocks especially were not yet in vogue. FabIndia could have been exclusively having handdyed kurtas in those days. Even now when we have so many, many options to choose from, I love their loose fits. I love their silk kurtas and own almost all shades. The wash instructions are pretty clear: handwash in water or dryclean very many times. As a rule for handdyed fabrics, machine wash and dryer-spinner are ruled out. If we stick to instructions, their merchandise last longest. I have friends who have been using the brand for over two decades without a complaint. I could be a brand ambassador myself: i have done a lot, lot of shopping from them and they still have the class that most other sellers lack. As for Patialas, i don’t think any other brand has it like them. What a flow. Same for Chikankari collection. Elegance. Casual chic. Breezy fit. That is how I would like to describe theirs. I own dozens of their outfits – kurtas in silk, handblock handdyed cottons, straight pants, patialas, salwars. Last year for the first time i shopped for dresses from them as well. I am one totally satisfied customer.

Yestderday I was put off by the ad. But like Tanishq i must admit that Fabindia never compromise on their standards. If anyone finds them expensive or not upto mark, it means they do not care for wash instructions and they have no idea on fashion trend or market pricing. Handblocks are expensive whichever label they may be. Handblocks with veg dyes do fade away faster. Colours will bleed on repeated washes but will hold after some time. That is when the true beauty of the garment will come out. Then there is the element of human error in handblocking process which lends the fabric its authenticity stamp. The brand showrooms are posh and employ efficient staff. Shopping with them is an experience matchless, and rare for an Indian brand. Pricing is a product of many, many add-ons such as ambience etc. The ignorance of some parties is pathetic and comes through the way they discuss anything that goes against them. The obvious fact is that machine made textiles last longest with colour never running being factory produce. And ofcourse come hell lot cheaper! Naturally!

As for styling, as someone not good at accessorizing or understanding fashion, I can still reckon how Fabindia was among the first to introduce the semi patialas, the straight ijar pants, the harem pants, short kurtas, the wraparounds, boatnecks, chikankari the way we know them today, initiating a bold trend and making a powerful fashion statement. Such a new and refreshing look to the old wardrobe.

I said i wouldn’t go for the brand again. I will not shop with them for a brief time to register my protest. Then after decent lapse of time i shall return to the showroom. I have been shopping with them for almost twenty years now. If the brand has not repented, it is another story. What is not overpriced in this country. From cricket player to movie actor. Nobody is forcing consumers to buy them. Consumers are kings. They pay the right price for what they think they want.

Demonizing anything or anyone who does not agree with us is evil. You can condemn someone or something for the wrong, but not for everything. You cannot use the slip as excuse to character assassinate them.

Whatever it is, let us argue, let us badmouth and then let us forgive and forget. This kind of stoking hate and fueling hate is horrible. I have no appetite for this kind of negative emotion. Every opportunity must not be used to propagate hate..

And yes, Diwali is DIWALI only NOT FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS. No way Jashn-e-riwaaz. Don’t send me your season’s greetings for Hindu festivals. Greet me ‘happy Deepavali, happy Pongal, happy Navratri.’ Greet me by the Hindu name of our festivals. Big, big no to generic names to Hindu festivals or abrahamization of Hindu festivals or anything Hindu. We are Hindus and WE ARE NOT AND NEVER WILL BE ABRAHAMICS. We revere our Dharmic roots very much and we want nothing to do with abrahamics that have no relevance for Hindus. Hindus for over 2000 years or perhaps 10000 years. Hindu Dharma – the longest surviving continuous native civilization in the world. Yes, you will have to swallow it.

Posted in Environment

Vanity In Pet Breeding.

After having white lab rats (not hamstrings) (bred especially for rearing as pets), it is time for (my grownup) kids to go for salamander fish (axolotl) in their aquarium (not really a pretty sight just like the lab rats however smart they may have been). We have had this conversation months ago and we are at square one on this yet again. How can the hyena be viewed vicious and the lion crowned the king of the jungle. Prejudices of many shades exist in our mindspace. One of the biting truths about pets we want on our home rug is that, most of us would like to have them for their vanity. Very few of the canines are bred for the watchdogs they are. Not many of us may be aware of the transitional journey our canines have had to undertake to grace our lives in the present, with their silky fur and satiny skin. The Pug for instance has been crossbred for over a century like any other canine so that what we have today is flat nosed, highly prone to obesity and heart disease and arthritis. The obsession to breed the perfect canine first surfaced in the American Kennel Club over a century ago. Ever since, countless canine lineages have been selectively crossbred and mixed bred that many dogs we have in modern times such as the German Shephard have very little in common with their ancestors from just a century before. The watchdogs of today have descended from the wolves of the forests, carefully domesticated and crossbred to alter their physical appearance and behaviour, to serve us as our friendly companions. The popular canine breeds such as the Cocker spaniel, Doberman, Dachshund, Golden retriever, Labrador, Lhasa etc., just to name a few, of present times have had a remarkable cosmetic makeover in last many decades. Selective crossbreeding brings with it its own share of health woes for the dogs as organs are mixed and matched, with the animal psychology or behaviour going for a toss. The new breed has to rewire the brain mapping and re-evolve. The results may always not be favourble even if aesthetically pleasing. For the pug as we see, the flat nose is the reason for serious breathing problems which in turn can put the life of the dog at risk. The Alsatian no more has the curved back but has gained pounds, all the time becoming less ferocious. A perfect manmade balance seems to have been struck here in taming the wolf to our advantage: less menacing, yet watchful and alert with a keen intelligence and sense of smell and ‘right’ canine looks. The human race’s infatuation with the purebred or the pedigree is equally harmful for the canines, as multiple congenital disorders are rampant leading to organ failures and a shorter lifespan. Human greed for pure bloodlines that are prized breeds has led to relentless (and at times commercial) inbreeding among the pedigrees that the purebreds today are not mostly immune to deadly infections. High mortality among pedigrees is a recorded fact. Whether selectively crossbred or mixed-bred or pedigree, the canines of current times have not had it easy to pamper our homes and make our lives more tolerable and easy. This is a good reason why we Indians must go for country dogs and strays among whom mixed breeding may occur naturally. We slam bodyshaming, but what have we done to man’s best friend over time. Exotic (amphibian) pets are fine if they are not intentionally harmed for breeding or when their species is not threatened with extinction . A big NO to wildlife especially the endangered as pets!

Posted in Environment

mission miyawaki

Someone from a club i am associated with has been instrumental in creating a small patch of what is called ‘the Miyawaki forest’ in a public park within city limits, pumping a little more oxygen into poisoned Chennai airs. That set me thinking.

Akira Miyawaki, the Japanese botanist, thought of this great idea of greening in bits and parcels wherever and whenever, creating tiny sustainable forests of native vegetation.

The Harrington road, the Spurtank Road, Shastri Bhavan road and even the Boat club as I remember from my school days are a far cry from the parched reality we have been calling our capital today. We chopped down trees in our own home. My in-laws place had at least two coconut trees, four Ashoka trees in the front and banana, mango trees and greens and flowering plants in the backyard quarter a century back. My parents surrounded their dream house with seven coconut trees, neem, mango and curry leaf trees etc. Not a trace of that green foliage exists today. Not only did we cut down the trees, we also cemented the ground so that monsoon downpour has no chance of percolating underneath the sedimentary topsoil layer, blocking any rainwater retention for ground water-table rise and moisture content. That is how good old Madras transformed into the concrete jungle we live in today as destructive transformation such as ours in every homefront changed the city for worse, polluting our waters and airs forever. Any breathing space was converted into spare bedroom without a thought.

That brings to my mind the lungs of the city our public parks and the dried up lakebeds, that metamorphed into housing colonies and private estates including lucrative professional institutions.

Green cover is shrinking at an alarming pace not only in our metro, but in entire India as the pressure on land is increasing steadily with elephant corridors and even the protected scheduled forest areas taken over for industrialization and/or urbanization. The promised afforestation is not happening. We cannot take over prime and secondary forests and then try to substitute them with tree saplings along river banks by way of compense or like an afterthought. Things simply don’t work that way. Native vegetation cannot be replaced by foreign species even if that could be teak. Teak cannot stand for neem or banyan. (By foreign, here is meant anything not local or native geographically to a particular area. In India, localization may be as specific as a district or state.)

the miyawaki forest-vertical garden in gn chetty rd, chennai, one of the many in the city these days…

But the little bit of greenery that caught my attention in city roads by way of kind of vertical gardening made me wonder if this is Miyawaki forest attempt as well! Other cities like Bangalore are far ahead in trying to infuse little of oxygen into atmosphere compared to Chennai, I know, but somewhere we have to have a beginning.

Terrace gardens are another big way to go green, even if that may fall far below desired level of greening. We have to remember that trees have to be replaced by trees and not with mere potted plants that do not root out and trap moisture in soil. Our city must have native neem, mango, peepal or the sacred fig, banyan and ashoka trees planted more not merely the aesthetically appealing flame-of-the-forests for street side shade.

Gardening is no more a leisure activity, it is our dire necessity. Forestry is our basic requirement today. There is an ongoing debate on commercial forests about which I am skeptical as it can encourage more prime-secondary forests falling prey to development agenda. Native vegetation also may come under threat with commercially viable alien species becoming popular choice.

I am resident of an Arab country where they are greening their arid landscapes expending millions of dollars that the city I live in middle east seems far more greener than the city I come from in India. From transplanting Amazon trees to virtual desert lands to creating fresh water lagoons from the sparse drizzle that hardly graces these parched limestone terrains, the locals and government go out of their way to ensure a little quality oxygen content in their airs, which is admirable. For this, we have to love nature first, we have to care for our environment. We have to love and respect our country first as well. We must cringe at damaging and destructing mother nature as we do in India so ruthlessly. Alas, in India, we have government and gurus who happen to think economic progress and God can be found by deforesting and industrializing, what do we do!

how about a hanging garden for Chennai…

Let each and everyone of us at micro range create our own little Miyawaki today that at macro level we can bring in a transformation in India over a period of time. We read of inspiring stories of how individuals raise forests, sustain vegetation and preserve waterbodies even in India. It is time we do our bit to giving back to Mother Earth what we have taken from Her.

A typical Miyawaki we have already been having in Hindu temples by way of ‘stala vrksha’ – the native tree and vegetation for centuries. The concept is really not entirely new to us. All we need to do is expand from here by and large to cover more and more tracts with greenery.

Posted in Lateral Thinking

Gender Neutral & Unbranded.

Recently shopping, i picked a cute dress for my newborn granddaughter. My son and daughter-in-law put down the one in pink i selected for our baby saying, they did not favour the typical pink colour associated with girls. Embroidered on the front was the word ‘princess.’ My grownup kids found it too sexist and vain to their taste. Who says blue is the colour for the boys and flowers are for girls. The clothes I observed, they went for, were kind of unisex. This was not the first time I heard on the relevance of going for gender-neutral clothes from the young couple. They tell me how the discrimination started right from a child’s infancy with pink dresses and baby dolls given to girls, and the shorts and shirts and cars being boys’. My children are also against introducing brands to kids which is why they insist, they would have to forego ‘Barbie’ doll for their daughter. It’s important that the playthings or toys would not be gender-specific. From Walt Disney to Pokemon, the young people said, they would try to keep their baby away. Instead, unbranded animations and books on wildlife and nature would be introduced. . Which is why they opted for a neutral name for their baby as well. Well, my granddaughter goes by a tree name. Her middle name is an exotic African wild animal going extinct. Her surname is a concept or way of life. There is no religious hint to the name. This way the couple who have adopted plant-based dietary habit, cut through genders, races and nationalities, saying they do not believe in borders.

Born and raised a vegetarian in India, ideas such as crossdressing and freethinking do not go down readily with me given my conservative background. It remains to be seen how successful the new parents are going to be in carrying out in principle, their kind of universal ideology.

Looks like more guys are on the block sharing the neutral perspective. However, one of my friends opinioned that even this kind of lateral thinking, and even activism which is one step ahead, can be luxuries unaffordable to masses. You have to be privileged to afford the ‘unbranding’ exercise and be choosy about consumerism.

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: Harriet

Strongly Recommended.

This award winning Hollywood flick with Cynthia Erivo playing Harriet was on Netflix. The picture sheds light on socio-economics of America in the nineteenth century and how discontent is brewing among the black community who pine for slavery to be abolished. They leave no stone unturned to win over freedom from their slave masters and one way of going about it was to flee. Families stay united and keep track of/searching for the sold or missing members. There are underground networks who aid the fugitives in settling down when recruiting more ‘conductors’ to help rescue slaves from their miseries. Minty who later goes by her ‘free’ name Harriet Tubman is an exceptionally brave black woman who flees from her slave master in Maryland. Her flight to freedom wading through inhospitable terrain is incredulous. In Philadelphia her new home, she assumes the name of ‘Moses’ and becomes a successful ‘conductor’ directly involved with freeing dozens of slaves and ferrying them across to northern states from the dangerous south, either by road or rail or boat or even by foot as she proposes in the secretive Abolition committee (or society?) to which she is appointed. The freed slaves are to be gainfully employed in the underground railroad work. Real life story, Harriet is a very inspirational picture, a gripping watch. Period film set in eighteen hundreds, it is about the determined pursuits of the one bold woman who would not take ‘no’ for an answer. Harriet is forced to flee once more to Canada crossing borders as the Fugitive Slaves Act comes into force. As civil war ensues, Harriet leads a battalion and in the process frees hundreds of slaves as she lights up the beacon of hope for what is to come in future: abolition of slavery and freedom from slavery for the African American Blacks (called Negros in the picture).

Posted in Socio-Political

Humanity Is Basic Decency

Equality and Social Justice are basic human decency.

My recent visit to African American Museum in Washington DC reaffirmed to me a lot of my views. Finally I know I have no ill-conceived notions on equality and social justice. Its despicable, abhorrent that some of us must even come to think they must be superior to fellow humans merely by virtue of birth. I cannot help but find parallels between racial prejudice that seems to be interwoven with the birth of modern America and the caste prejudice prevalent in Hindu India that are strikingly similar in most ways. Only, in India, the assault is more on the mind even today.

Muhammad Ali, the boxer, comes across as the most dynamic sportsperson with a mind of his own. We all grew up watching him, yet the powerful statements he made and the principles he stood for have moved me to the core. Not stopping with mere words, Ali gears up into action. He truly makes a difference. What an inspiring life!

Parts of this museum, in spite of my anticipation, bore into my soul straight. From fictions on Africa such as those of Wilbur Smith, I had precisely imagined the slave ships and the slave trade. However nothing prepared me for the graphic details and illustrations. In India we had a slightly different story. The ‘untouchables’ were sometimes asked even not to be seen. In Kerala, they had to move shouting so that they could be avoided seen from their voices. Breast taxes were imposed on women. Cremation and sanitation duties still continue to be caste-based. The brahmins, baniyas and kshatriyas prospered at the expense of the shudras and the panchamas without a conscience. Denying knowledge ran in the Hindu ranks. Knowledge reigns supreme in some communities, not because it was shared. Knowledge became a weapon to some because it was NOT shared but kept within blood lines. There has never been dignity of labour in Hindu community. There has never been a sense of service. Divinity and service to humanity are totally de-linked. Animal sacrifice seems to have been replaced by animal abuse in the abode of god and in the name of god. The temple elephants! No Vedas were prescribed to be monopolized by a single community. Scriptures from later dates connived to maintain the supposed hierarchy or social order dictated by the upper castes as the Varnaashramaa expanded aided by the Agamic temples. Psychological damage done to the lowest castes of India by the upper castes is staggering, with the former’s sense of dignity stamped upon for centuries that they lost count of their self-worth. This is very much like the captive elephant psychology. The ‘broken’ mammoth comes to believe that it cannot break the shackles of steel chain rooting it to a spot. The giant believes its place is confined and is unaware of its might. Just like the lowest castes of India believe that they belong where they should, and remain ignorant of their true potential. Genes can have a limited role in knowledge and skills. Rest can be achieved by sheer practice and training, with inculcation of good knowledge. The lowest castes of India have been at the receiving end of history quite like the coloured races of America.

Knowledge is Empowerment.

America is a far healthy and mature democracy where there is scope for debate on sensitive issues. In India, the very channels for a reasonable dialogue are shut tight that anyone who tries to pry open the sealed doors may be christened ‘anti-hindu.’ Hindu Dharma has a future if and only if the Agamic structure is dismantled or is infused with representation from every single walk of Hindu life. The way forward is for the Hindus to become an inclusive society where social justice has a chance to prosper. Caste based occupations must be turned into professional ones as a first necessary step. Why should we have to be discussing this seventy five years since our independence.

why reservation?

I have absolutely no regrets that some friendships have been strained because of my strong views on caste prejudice. I stand by my unshakeable opinion which received a resounding thumping at the African American Museum! I think it is not just indecent but utterly inhumane to even consider oneself superior merely by virtue of birth. Denying knowledge sharing is selfish and cowardice. That wrong sense of entitlement has to be stripped off some.

By sheer coincidence or perhaps by cookie manipulation (!) i chanced upon ‘Harriet’ in Netflix. Logging out with wet eyes. Hats off to the brave, intelligent, inspiring woman! She reminds of me of the much demure Dr Muthulakshmi Reddy, daughter of a Devdasi who was refused medical college admit for her caste. She went on to become the first woman physician in India who later founded the Cancer Institute, Adyar, Madras (Chennai), one of the first of its kind.