Posted in Environment

rich man’s trash is poor man’s treasure.

Meditate on this. Marinate the words at the bottom of your heart to defreeze and thaw and later consume with loads of thought and consideration. Think ‘Slumdog Millionaire.’ Think ‘Sillu Karuppatti.’ Think scores of, thousands and thousands of ragpicker kids …

Netflix documentary featuring Bangladesh ragpicking little boys and girls ‘Children in Need’ (parts 1 & 2) (Tales by Light) may be the latest to expose to the world the disturbing reality humanity tries to shrug off and move on. Filmed for UNICEF by Simon Lister with goodwill ambassador Orlando Bloom, scouting the inhospitable terrain with clogged drains and damp slithery surface, this is one episode that moved me to the core. Childhood snatched from a vulnerable age, with innocence lost and exposed to hazardous chemicals and drugs, how the children endure their harsh lives with a smile on their lips as only kids can, is heart-tugging. The title for this post is picked from the series.

Whether it is this Dhaka story or the Tamil flick by Samudrakani, they had onething in common for us to dwell upon: rich people’s trash becomes poor folks’ treasure, how sad. Even a gaudy little trinket with its lacklustre can gain the attention of a skimpily clothed urchin, combing his/her way through the debris. For the brat, this is like a trophy to cherish. The smart ones among them know what to look for: recyclable toxic stuff. Handling the rubbish with bare ungloved hands, the children are unaware what they are up against. This is why perhaps we the consumerist society have to exercise caution as responsible citizens and dispose wastes with care, with due consideration to the young ragpickers. Invariably underage kids from poverty stricken families end up near the garbage mounds looking for a livelihood for subsistence. The pain of having tender hands sifting through rotten garbage and medical refuses sans safety aprons or boots is highly unsettling. When the school is skipped, we already have a community problem brewing in our hands. Unemployment and crimes are only the following inevitable steps.

We have a massive dumping yard near Velachery in Chennai. In all probability, the wetlands of the area have been taken over for the complex civic responsibility of waste disposal. Only solace is that, my hometown seems to have better organized dumping grounds than the ones in Bangladeshi capital. Of course, there is a difference between a filmy angle and a documentary exposing acid truths.

The Pallikkaranai Velachery marshland is now transformed into an alarming size garbage dump for the metropolitan city. This is no more a single waste disposal problem for the twenty million strong denizens of Chennai. Now we have an environmental issue to tackle. The wastes dumping is driving out the winged visitors including exotic species that had made it a sanctuary for centuries for their breeding season. The Velachery lake is shrinking, and the ground water has to get toxic progressively.

Is there a better way we can handle this mega socio-economic issue. I wonder what my successive state governments have been doing. Sleeping over the matter?

  • Is it possible to move the Perungudi and Pallikkaranai/Velachery dumping yards to somewhere not closer to any waterbody or residential colony.
  • Details of landfills allocated in the city for the purpose.
  • Landfills identified for future use. Long term planning and management of waste disposals.
  • How about restoring the Pallikkaranai marshlands and the Velachery lake to former pristine conditions.
  • Can ragpicking kids be kept out of the garbage sites. Strict vigil mandatory. How can illegal child labour function within government controlled areas.
  • Rehabilitation programs for kids rescued from garbage dumps including schooling and vocational training.
  • There must be a mechanism in place to sort the toxic wastes that are not recyclable from the organic piles. Apparently the non-decomposable are dumped into landfills earmarked for the purpose. How functional is the working system.
  • Is the incineration of bio medical wastes prompt.
  • Is bio mining undertaken in Chennai dumping yards
  • Waste management is a science. It ensures air quality for city residents.
  • Data on energy sourced from the wastes by our state government.
  • Is there any designated power plant.
  • Stats for revenue inflow from garbage dumping yards.
  • Ruled out in scope from this blog post: sewerage treatment

It brings to my memory a little boy under ten years who used to come to our house every week for collecting plastics and bottles and newspapers when I was in school. Not much of plastics then. In fact none at all. Even Aavin milk was delivered in bottles. Anyone opened the aluminium foil top to lick the butter as I did? The ragpicker boy’s skin used to be duskiest with a shade of gleaming blue but he used to have such sharp features. My grandma never took money from him. My dearest old lady. I am talking of a time in late 70s and early 80s. One week instead of this boy with sparkling eyes, a very old woman draped in dirty torn cotton sari and blouseless, came for collection of disposables from us. When we asked her about the boy she said, he was her grandson and that he had died from a snake bite a few days earlier, but life had to go on. There was no time to mourn. The woman kept coming back for years. Never did we take a single paisa from her in exchange but all our neighbours did robust business with her. She went door to door with her jute sack one day of the week. May be it was wednesday I am not sure. She must have been over eighty then. I am suddenly reminded of this poorest family. The boy had no parents. The grandmother was his sole custodian. With the boy gone and forced to work, the oldie used to halt in my house steps for good length of time for water and rest. I think my granny who lost my mom, her daughter, found some kinship with her on some basis. Never did the old woman and grandson collect garbage from bins. They had personalized it long back. I didn’t know how the boy carried loose change but the old woman carried it in her ‘surukku pai.’ She paid for the old newspapers and bottles by weight, the weighing scales for which which she carried on her head.

Even now we have waste collectors in the city doing rounds in our streets. But they can’t get slicker. Use a mic to announce to you their presence. Pedal around in a ‘meenbody’ tricycle. They must be making decent living by the look of them. It is however from my grandma I learnt never to make money from wastes. Or barter or bargain with streetside vendors or small sellers. My househelp periodically clears my extras. I have never so far asked her how she disposes them. Or for what rate. A headache is off for me. This is mutually beneficial. Keeps my house clean of unwanted junk.

It is only the organic wastes mostly that I throw away in garbage bins. Using liners in the waste bins that are organic and decomposable as well. Very conscious of what I dispose. Some friends do make compost with waste. As I shuttle between two cities mostly, I have no fixed plan for organic disposal as such.

Indians still do not distinguish between organic wastes and toxic wastes. My toxic wastes are lumped in a box to be disposed every week, as I said, by my househelp. Recyclable are separated.

There are small merchants I believe in some streets where they take non-disposable toxic wastes such as computer monitor, old tvs etc although I cannot understand their motive.

Vendors in India do minimize the waste issues to a considerable level in my opinion. At micro stage, it is taken care of. India could be a leading country when it comes to recycling the old and used toxic plastics. Glaring example is exchange of old saris for recycled plastic buckets from streetside hawkers! Most housewives in India indulge in this luxury!

It is only the material that sifts out of vendor hands that ends up in garbage yards.

Chennai corporation has privatized sanitary works in the city. Garbage collection and disposal are far better in last ten years or so.

Swachch Bharat was a roaring success until Covid struck. Now garbage is getting heaped in our streets once again.

It is not the case with India alone. By and large most of Asia is like us. We do not treat our wastes the way they must be.

Thankfully many of us back home are moving to organic decomposable carry bags and reusable cutlery and cookware and serving sets once again. This can make a world of difference to Mother Earth, how much ever small step that could be.

Pest control too is organic these days. My request to everyone to go for such a pack, in case you opt for the treatment at your place.

When I see little boys and girls on barefoot climbing over mounds of garbage in dumping yards even in reels, I wish this comes to an end soon. The precious kids may be the only breadwinners for their families at times, yet this cannot just be the way. It has to be stopped forthwith. I am shocked that the human rights activists have not done anything in their capacity to better their plight or remove these little hands from handling piles of toxic rubbish. Is there no controlling authority at all out there. What happens to child labour laws. No scribe going for cover story. No tv crew to film headlines or breaking news. No minister to visit and tweet later at least for publicity stunt…

*********************

I once gave my used laptop (three years old) to someone who needed it. I was surprised to learn that last year, over five years since I gave it up, it is still working but has to be plugged in always as battery has died. The power of giving your bit to the needy. This small snippet of news really warmed my heart. What we so carelessly dispose off is such a cherished treasure to so many, many. Now all our laptops we service, restore and give someone who may need them after deleting data completely.

Mobile phones with lithium batteries etc., need not have to be disposed off. How many phones after all would we own in a lifetime. I think our back lockers or our wardrobes can still hold a cache of them. Until humanity devises a methodology to dispose off them in a nontoxic manner or finds a way to recycle them, let us safekeep our used phones, laptops etc without tossing them out to fill one more landfill.

Posted in Environment

Lounging Space

As we take our daily walk in the parks of Doha, I am sorely reminded of how I am missing even this small privilege in my hometown Chennai.

Even today if we are to scrutinize the old blueprints/location maps of vintage landholdings/real estate properties of our metropolis, we can find that, there were many, many identified lung spaces situated right in the heart of our good old Madras that could have been converted to parks. We could have had these beautiful landscapes and walking and cycling tracks had not the public places earmarked for community utility landed in private hands during successive corrupt Dravidian regimes. Not even the reserve forest areas have been spared, violating laid down norms. Illegal encroachments get legal sanction with periodic regularization: that is Tamil Nadu.

Today if we see the skyrocketing of real estate prices in Chennai, it is not without a reason. Those middle-class families born and brought up in the city for generations cannot afford to live in the heart of the city thanks to our corrupt politicians. A 3 bhk apartment with car park in city limits costs in crores that most of us cannot afford. Only those old families who owned houses prior to the 1970s in Madras are now proud houseowners in the heart of the city. Of course there is the new rich always who have been able to afford expensive homes. A small percentage of the upwardly mobile can realize their dreams. But by and large, the middle class sections of our society have been pushed to the peripheral suburbs, that Chennai has seen multiple revisions of the Outer Ring Road in last 20 years. The next revision may peg the road at Kanchipuram. Not a joke.

City is sprawling in all three directions no doubt but there is also this sense of hopelessness in the old time Madrasis that they may not ever afford a modest home within the city limits. I have known so many many Mylaporeans who had to settle for properties 40 or 60 km afar as the city became unaffordable to them.

Only the IT guys and the NRIs and business community apart from settu (!) and bhai (!) and (both of whom are notorious for unaccountable money, the second especially for hawala) can ever buy homes now in Chennai. Believe me, had those of us few lucky not inherited anything from our parents, we would be holed up against our will somewhere in Perambakkam or Medavakkam today who knows! Seriously!

Agreed the OMR and ECR and the new business districts of the city. City center is shifting and it is no more our Anna Salai. But if you check the working population in the IT industry, you may find that a vast majority of them are floating population who do not know old Madras like you and me.

Violations in ECR and OMR are rampant, with handing down of ‘wet areas’ to IT parks in silver platter.

What about the landed estates doled out to engineering colleges and medical colleges that mushroomed during MGR and KK period.

Parks have been specifically lost to the denizens denying us a breathing space to unwind, except for our crowded beaches. Even the beaches seem to have lost their charm. How beautiful were once the Santhome beach and the Marina (Gandhi) beach. Santhome was our regular.

With very few parks left from the pre-independence era, we have had one or two even from this minimum taken over for development activities. Glaring examples are the Thiru Vi Ka Park of Shenoy Nagar and Nehru Park in Egmore that have turned out to be Metro Rail stations. Initially there was a promise of restoration of green cover although it remained a mystery how a underground metro rail station can be fitted out with a park anywhere. Now there is not a single word to this benefit and covid times have made things worse.

Googled on this and was pleasantly surprised to discover hundreds of parks listed in Chennai Metropolitan city limits! Few do survive against all odds. Wouldn’t want to talk here about the optimally utilized Nageshwara Park in Myalpore or the Panagal Park in T. Nagar. Or the Anna Nagar Tower park. These are the much needed respite to the locals. Memories of going to Nageshwara park with my father and feeding the deer and rabbits there still stays fresh in my memory. Adyar with its concentration of parks can be called the garden of Chennai.

There is one small park even in Harrington road. Most of the surviving parks in Chennai are as small as this one. There are quite a few like this even in Anna Nagar every kilometer. These are hardly parks, still even this small space is smartly utilized for walking and other health purposes by our citizens.

Thiru vi ka park and the corporation ground opposite it used to be hotcakes. Next to them is a swimming pool. They are of immense utility for the residents of the area. With the Thiru vi ka park closed, the corporation ground is seeing excess crowds that it is not able to handle.

The Eco Park in Chetpet and the Semmozhi Poonga in Cathedral road are like small solaces compared to what has been stolen from the general public.

Good that our temples have tanks in front of them. Congested Mylapore has some breathable air thanks to the three temple tanks situated in the thickly populated area. For this reason, even our temples have saved some precious space for our public. This is how now I view our temples now. When I see 100 acre temples like Thiruvannamalai, Tanjore etc., my first thought is, ‘Appa, they can’t plot out this area for real estate!’

To what pitiable condition have the Dravidian governments reduced us public.

There is a lean patch called park even in Haddows road. I realize that even a few mercifully saved square meters of public land is now touted as park by our city corporation.

I wish there are more parks opening up.

How about parks on reclaimed land from sea.

Mumbai is mostly on reclaimed land from sea.

Here in Doha, the Museum park where we go for regular walk is on reclaimed land.

But I understand that what we have is a bay here that has backwaters whereas Chennai has roughest seas. We are a port city.

Project technically may not be feasible.

Besides, this may be one very expensive investment that the government may not prioritize.

How about hanging parks with a walk way.

I am aware, the damage done by successive govts with making a piecemeal of our public places and doling them out to corrupt politicians, cannot be reversed now for practical reasons.

But Chennai can still have some breathing space. If we lack it, we can create one why not.

I am for hanging gardens on over-bridges with lookout platforms, and also for parks on reclaimed lands two hundred percent. If land reclamation is not ideal, we can still go for overhead parks. This is truly my dream and vision for Chennai.

There can be a park all the way from Besant Nagar to Chepauk zigzagging our skyline why not.

There can be a park overhead from Mogappair to Thiruvanmiyur.

When we could do elevated and subterranean metro rail sections at the same time, why cannot overhead parks be feasible in five to ten years. Just a thought. What revenue is our metro rail generating presently. How many years to break even. How many years did it take the MRTS to break even if at all it has managed that! So why not an elevated park crisscrossing our city skies?

Ambitious. Expensive. But NOT frivolous! Instead of promise of freebies for elections, how about our political parties promising something like this for the general public.

Chennai badly needs some decent breathing space. Lung space.

When I cross over a red tarmac road in a park here in Doha during my evening walk, on climbing a manmade incline (imagine a greeny green acre plus park with an artificial mound on flat desert surface, now that’s what I would call patriotism and love for nature), to the other side of the road, I station myself at the summit for a while. My heart longs for this kind of scenic view of my hometown Chennai from such an elegant elevated nature park.

Make such a park pay for itself like toll. Charge robustly or introduce membership. This way initially atleast we can keep off miscreants. Gradually the general public can have access to such parks. Vandalism not be tolerated at any cost. Post security and maintain the park shipshape. After all there is no shortage of manpower in India. Disallow most importantly, liquor in the skywalk park which already exists in my dream!

This is truly my dream project for Chennai.

India sadly lacks visionaries who can think ahead by a hundred or two hundred years. Chennai with the Dravidian muck are a hopeless lot. It may be too much on our part to expect them to come up from something grand and utilitarian like this.

An elevated green park can change the way we live in our city. This can change our lifestyle. This can change our thinking process. Chennai will become even more endearing!

And I realize i am daydreaming. Such a beautiful thought would not even cross a dirty stupid Tamil politician’s mind. My heart sinks.

Posted in Environment

the perfect pH balance.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on the acid-alkaline or pH balance in the food we eat and water we drink to simply everything we may consume. Ever since installing a water purifier at home some 15 years ago, I became even more acutely aware of the pH factor that can have a potential effect on human metabolism. Should monsoons fail, we are in for trouble. pH in the ground water we are forced to use gets skewed as the borewell depth falls and bottoms out. There is a limit to which even the RO machines can work.

In an effort to maintain a healthy pH balance, i add a slice of lemon to my jug of water to sip through the day. Of course, from long before pH balance started hogging the headlines, we have been taking antacids to counter acidity. Recently I was reading about home cleansing and facials. It’s said that using lemon too much for exfoliation can have a drastic drying effect because of the heavy alkalinity of the lime which has bleaching properties. The first anti-alkaline advice I have ever come across.

Rainwater has a pH balance of 5.5 and normal water 7 which is neutral. With natural water resources and abundant rainfall, India therefore could be an ideal pH balanced country. This can have a cascading effect on our entire environment including mineral resources and soil. India is an extensively agricultural country perhaps for this reason.

Where the pH balance is highly unfavourable, we may find excessive Sulphate and Chloride deposits making the earth unfit for farming. Typically these are arid desert lands we see with sparse vegetation. Oxygen levels in the air may be below normal.

India hardly sports extremes except for in our Thar desert. Our pH balance may be optimal otherwise. This is why such a diverse eco system is sustainable in our country with a stunning range of native phflora and fauna compared to other parts of the world. India’s wildlife thrives thanks to a healthy pH level.

Back home, I hardly feel my skin go dry although we have the longest summers and no winter. I don’t have to keep slathering moisturizers on my skin every single hour! I remain mostly chemical free except for some Ayurvedic external application for toning apart from regular soak in coldpressed coconut oil before shower. Covid has eliminated even the yearly once or twice salon visits for most of us, for even a basic clean-up. Yet by and large we in India can get along with minimal maintenance and almost nil grooming.

We perspire a lot in India and I feel as if our sweat glands are working overtime! Chennai as we know has the worst humidity. Sultriest. . There is no fluid accumulation or bloating as we sweat it out (not necessarily through physical exertion). Whatever the temperature, we are in the natural setting except for peak summer months when we switch on the aircons. I have come to appreciate a lot these small gifts from nature that I took for granted for years.

In Middle east, how many many tubes of moisturizers do I need to have to procure and stock! Summer means 24 hour nonstop air-conditioners and winter means dryness that comes with the chill. Least exposure to natural light and air as we step out into the open rarely. Skin ages fastest which can be slowed down only with the application of effective moisturizers.

Soil in the deserts is limestone (highly alkaline) which cannot absorb surface water. Sometimes when there is that rare rainfall and the water drains off surface without seepage, I really feel sad for these parched lands. How much ever oil there may be in Middle east, and even if India is a third world country, in my view India is still a blessed nation. In India, it takes a month of monsoons just for the earth to retain water on top. The first few spells are well soaked and you have no idea where the initial downpour disappeared. Understanding now the significance of the water absorbing capacity of our fertile soil, my gratitude for nature is even more pronounced these days.

Not a qualified expert to speak on the subject, I stop forthwith. But I do understand also why every shampoo, every conditioner, every moisturizer, every this, every that you may shop for today has this pH balance marked in constituents. Personally I go for the sulphate free shampoos. Our diets have the pH balance score, our veggies have theirs, our meat portions do… so much so that maintaining the perfect pH balance in our system is the rage!

Alkaline foods are preferred for their anti-cancer benefits. Alkaline rich food is also good for the heart (typically the anti-oxidants such as Omega-3 and green leafy vegetables). The recommended acid-alkaline ratio is 20: 80.

Posted in Environment

Desert Rose.

We have media and environment/climate scientists screeching how the desertification of India and/or other parts of the world is extensive, spreading at a lightening speed as we lose the green cover steadily to rapid industrialization and urbanization and/or even global warming. That the ozone depletion is happening at an alarming rate… This sounds ominous and one presupposes arid regions of the world to be unfit for human inhabitation. Far from truth, even the Sahara in Africa which is the world’s largest desert sustains not only human life but also an exhaustive range of flora and fauna native to the terrain. Desert vegetation is an ecosystem as well and as good as any other. For a balanced ecology of Planet Earth, we need not only the rainforests and the tropics and tundra and savannas, but also the equally important and flourishing desert lands that within their bounds host quite an impressive array of wild species from foxes and hares to snakes and scorpions and lizards, apart from specific vegetation unique to this geographic region such as the cacti and other succulents and thorny bushes that thrive with almost no moisture content. Not to leave out the ship of the desert: the camels that can go on for months without water.

(No wonder in Tamil Sanga ilakkiyam, there is mention of Palai (desert) along with other classifications of landform such as Kurinji (hills), Mullai (forestry), Marudham (cropland) and Neidhal(coastal) even if by Palai, Thamizh Nad had only parched drylands to show).

Fifteen years I have been flying in and out of Middle East, residing here on and off. Finally got a taste of the wild today, with a drive to the deserts. There is this adjoining stretch parallel to sea in the south that serves as a bio-reserve which is left untouched (bio preserves are identified for protection by UNESCO the same way they certify World Heritage sites/structures in India such as our ancient temples for instance). This means, any human interference is not welcome in this protected sphere. No development as there is not a hint of civilization. This piece of land is preserved in its true element, the way it has been out of human reach for eons.

Recall such a reserve in Azerbaijan where even scrawling/etching in stone walls in caves by ancient humans (probably Neanderthal) is preserved to this day. A walk through the rocky surface that has withstood the wear and tear of time and climate is in recent memory. Not to be compared with temple architecture please!

An oil country, equally interesting was the crisscrossing of oil pipelines that were terrestrial therein. I expected underground laying. But obviously the scarcely populated breakaway nation from the former USSR could afford it. (More on this later). As someone who has been a resident of oil & gas rich country for over a decade, I have a natural curiosity in these matters. May be I cannot lend a scientific explanation to everything to the dot. But a mixed mumbo-jumbo is possible 😀

Back in our desert drive, we came upon tall shelfs that have stood mute witnesses to the sea erosion that ate away the territorial soil leaving this land parcel in its current state as we may find them today. The shelfs were abutting with their bottoms neatly (or sometimes raggedly) shaved. Like they were some tall sandy mushrooms with heads jutting like the buttons. This earthly projection was visible from afar as we drove in some kilometers. I thought of the vague outline of the Nilgiris or the Tirupathi segment of the Eastern ghats that you could follow from a distance like a shadow, once you would be in certain range. Like moth-eaten piece of cloth, the tell-tale signs were everywhere of this beautiful work of nature. Awe-inspiring. With minimal human imprint, we find something so profound in such a natural setting. It’s as if time stood still.

Not that I have not been to any other desert. The Sonoran deserts of the west coast of the US were a different vegetation over the Asian, stretching all the way from Arizona to California. Interspersed with the impressive and towering Sequoia standing tall like wise old men, the interesting landscape is a beauty that is unique and specific to this part of the world sporting probably the tallest cacti in the universe!

I’ve missed setting foot on the Thar desert of Rajasthan in India. A desert in our backyard with an interesting folk culture and rural life that we love to freeze in celluloid but something most of us have not experienced firsthand…

The deserts of Middle east have a vast expanse. From what little I glean from the men who have been here from building roads in the middle of nowhere to working the oil rigs, I reckon that the waves of dunes differ every few hundreds of miles. These are the toughest men of engineering. Physically and mentally. They have stories to tell me always… of the earliest oil men who lost their track in the deserts and succumbed to heat… of warring tribes… and so on… Oman and Saudi have the silkiest unblemished flow of desert being largest nations. Soil variation (deserts have limestone terrain that explain the non-seepage of surface rain water) lends a degree of difference in the desert pattern and even in vegetation. Oman is well known for the ‘wadi’ or the desert rivers (or perhaps streams) that can erupt in an instance (being seasonal) washing away anything in vicinity including landcruisers and camels in a blink of an eye. A wadi is also essentially like a watering hole or place. In colloquial we may term it an Oasis. A replenishing or watering spot for camels and goatherds. There is some vegetation usually in and around a wadi.

In Azer, the sight of oil pipelines running on the surface amazed me. I came to know, as it is mostly a barren country, this is possible. I learnt a few things about oil production onshore as well as offshore from men working them. Over years I have been hearing a lot in fact. Fortunate enough to see a few oil wells from a distance. A single well means, the pressure is good. This may be just a small shed like we have for motor shed in India (in our homes). A small roofed square piece of land, out there in the desert. Just like that. Boxed in with a single spout. Connected to the pipeline. In such an easy well, oil needed no thrust or external force to bring it to the surface. It was bubbly flowing out free with no pumping. Blessed are such oil wells or nations with such a cheap source of crude oil. Sometimes the oil may be in depth and would have to travel a distance to be brought to surface. Carbon-di-oxide and other gases may be used to bring up the oil in such cases. More points or a couple of oil wells may be clubbed in such an event under one roof to facilitate the mechanical procedure. This may look like an extended hut with tiled roof. Power is solar mostly. A very complex process this is. Even working the oilrig that will bore into the earth for probable source of oil is not without risk, executed with utmost safety precautions in place. If the oil explored needed CO2 to be brought out crossing various other levels of gases under terra (such as the highly volatile and combustible methane), then the CO2 itself has to be managed well, brought in via pipelines. A friend was detailing how like the hot steam condenses into water droplets, the CO2 too condenses into liquid that has to be checked and prevented at every stage to maintain the gaseous state. An oil well had a life of ten years on average after which its yield would start dropping eventually forcing a closedown. Most oil wells in Oman I learnt worked this way. I believe, (lpg) gas is mined pretty much the same way as oil. It is even more risky business because as we know, hot steam is of highest temperature over boiling water. What a technology and how this oil and gas make our lives so simple, far away from where they are mined. In India, Bombay High is the offshore oil exploration we know of.

For this one reason, the deserts are kind of divine to me. Pristine and mostly untouched, yet yield such a black liquid gold so that the humanity can have a better quality of life… We float so many, many political theories… Yet here I find something so profound… that makes the world go on… Despite me I am humbled and lost for words… Mother Earth yields us so… much… with no questions asked…

Interesting that close to the oil wells, camels graze as families! My husband has seen quite a few wild camel families in Oman unlike the domesticated ones of UAE or elsewhere. That is because, the desert there is endless almost. Oman is in my bucket list, let’s see…

Apparently there is one huge untapped oil and gas source in Russia beneath the ice sheet that is the largest in the world, but the cost of mining is discouraging. Even if there are many sources of oil and gas around the world, one goes for cost-effective means always.

My husband was also involved with oil and gas projects in Malaysia where oil was mined offshore. His project was to build massive oil storage tanks (big round ones on elevated platforms). It always used to beat me how the south east Asian nation that was equatorial and so greenish, could be an oil country at the same time. The oil produced there was of aviation quality.

As the world slowly moves over to other energy sources from the fossil fuels, may be the oil wells will become a thing of the past in a decade or more.

Moving over to the north coast, we came upon shallow beaches unspoilt and clean. On the way, we spotted some mangroves as well where one can go kayaking but considering the corona pandemic and the local visitors there already, we gave it a miss. There were historic sites with rock carvings by ancient man who walked this part of earth thousands of years ago. Not as extensive as in Azer but I found the scrawls in the rocky surface equally impressive. The geometric patterns are fit for case study. So does that mean the iron axes were already in vogue. Or was this in Stone age when the etching was done with stone weapons. The beaches in this coast are secluded and so very serene. Beautiful laidback setting for a winter picnic. Will return soon.

I would want to add a few pictures here, not much.

Everything is in my memory, and that is great!

My eyes were on the scraggy bushes and date palms numbering against all odds. Putting up with the heat and sand storms. Bravo to any wildlife that exists here, sustaining this wonderful delicate ecosystem and surviving the tough rigorous life…

I have been on desert safaris yet I think nothing can prepare us for the real desert scene.

A few bedouin make-shift shanty homes here and there spoke of the love of the nomadic tribes for the world’s most earnest way of life. It aches my heart to think that even these folks are forced to civilize and conform with the rest of the humanity

Posted in Environment, Political

NEW EDUCATION POLICY (NEP) 2020 & ENVIRONMENT IMPACT ASSESSMENT (EIA) draft 2020

Let me do a copy-paste recap job on New Education Policy 2020 from the social media.

New Education Policy 2020

1. 10+2 board structure dropped
2. School structure will be 5+3+3+4
3. Up to 5 pre school, 6 to 8 Mid School, 8 to 11 High School, 12 onwards Graduation
4. Any Degree will be 4 years
5. 6th std onwards vocational courses available
6. From 8 to 11 students can choose subjects
7. All graduation courses will have major & minor
Example – science student can opt Physics as Major and Music as minor. Any combination can be chosen
8. All higher education will be governed by one authority.
9. UGC AICTE get merged.
10. All University government, private, Open, Deemed, Vocational etc will have same grading and rules.
11. New Teacher Training board will be setup for all kinds of teachers in the country, no state can change
12. Same level of accreditation to any college and based on its rating college will get autonomous rights and funds.
13. New Basic learning program will be created by government for parents to teach children up to 3 years in home and for pre school 3 to 6.
14. Multiple entry and exit from any course
15. Credit system for graduation, for each year student will get some credits which can be utilized when a break is taken in course and could come back again to complete the course.
16. All school exams will be on semester basis twice a year.
17. The syllabus will be reduced to core knowledge of any subject.
18. More focus on student’s practicals and application of knowledge
19. For any graduation course, if a student completes only one year, will get a basic certificate, if complete two years, then will get Diploma certificate and if completes full course then will get degree certificate. So no year of any student will be wasted if a break is taken in the course in between.
20.All the graduation courses fee of all Universities will be governed by single authority with capping on each course.

Education system to be at par with education in modern countries and future of our children to be brighter.

My Comment:

If New Education Policy is indeed implemented successfully, it will prove to be a turning point in Indian history for the better. Long since overdue. Vocational education and training to be at par with academic studies, which is a welcome move. Education will cease to translate to mere book knowledge. Practical application of one’s learning will gain impetus. School and college drop-outs will be minimal. Education being equally skill-based and on even footing with academic proficiency can ensure dignity of labour and bring about a more equitable society in the long run. Special children will stand to benefit. Knowledge imparted to be qualitative. Quality of manpower will see tremendous improvement. Holistic approach to Education. Development can be wholesome. We can have a far mature society in the making.

However the new policy sounds too very ambitious, but then knowing Modi and his demonetization and Balakot surgical strike and even the implementation of NEET for Medical entrance throughout India in one stroke and of course the revoking of article 370 in Kashmir, I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets things rolling as soon as possible, beginning with teachers’ training on war-footing basis (this is more important than going on war really), upgrading our schools’ infrastructures, overhauling the entire education system which is in kind of a mess… although I can’t rule out the possibility of the first few batches becoming the experimental scapegoat… Streamlining such a massive machinery of education is no easy task in India, especially given the very brief time frame…. then again I pin my faith on the one-man-army called Modi. No, he isn’t really a one-man army or your usual sycophant surrounded by gibberish fools. I understand, a totally dedicated, devoted team of thousands of engineers and medicos and technocrats and scientists and educationists and bankers and others work for PM Narendra Modi fashioning his policies for the nation over which the bureaucrats and Delhi Babus of the ministry have hardly a say. This education policy so well outlined could be the brainchild of such an expert team. How to standardize education in rural and urban dwelling. A big challenge here.

Environment Impact Assessment Draft 2020

The best efforts ploughed in by our prime minister with the New Education policy 2020 may come to a naught if EIA (Environment Impact Assessment) 2020 is to be enforced as well.

The draft EIA paves way for environment clearance for future (foreign) (mega) investments in India without adequate notification and assessment of the impact on nature and wildlife in India. Most of the protective measures instituted so far for safeguarding the natural environment in India can be bypassed, should the EIA draft 2020 be approved. This means, our rivers can get even more polluted or even be sucked up dry, and India can be completely depleted of its natural resources such as water, minerals, metals and forest wealth in no time. If the draft EIA is facilitated at the behest of MNCs, then in less than hundred years, India could become the next Somalia so that the present generation capitalists can live life kingsize.

https://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/environmentalists-voice-concerns-against-draft-eia-notification-2020

https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/tnm-explainer-why-are-activists-and-experts-against-draft-eia-2020-129566

Every highway bisecting the elephant corridor in India is one more nail in the coffin of India’s natural environment. Shiva can never become the Adi Yogi turning back pachyderms descending down the Velliangiri Hills of the Blue Mountain (Eastern Ghats) of southern India. Their home is lost. Pathanjali the ancient Yogic Guru, can have nothing to do with the Ayurveda brand promoted by destroying the forests of Assam. This is the only Dharma that I can reckon with.

https://sanctuarynaturefoundation.org/article/eia-2020-legitimises-environmental-damage

One of the best things about Nehruvian era was the unwavering protection of our reserve forests that are the natural habitat of some of world’s most endangered and exotic species of wild life, animals, birds and plants. These are the very lungs of India in this 21st century. India’s forest cover has remained vastly untouched over decades. Disturbing or encroaching upon Reserve Forest range and/or harming wildlife are non-bailable criminal offences. Forests department is very much functional. Which is why actor Salman Khan got into legal trouble when he shot the blue buck, a native species.

https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/travelnews/story/70392/guinness-world-record-for-indias-tiger-census

Indira Gandhi directed the Project Tiger which is bearing fruits today. India accounts for maximum number of tigers in the wild in entire world. India is also home to over fifty percent of the world’s elephant population.

https://swarajyamag.com/magazine/the-other-side-of-indira-gandhi-how-she-helped-save-indias-wildlife-habitats

Elephant population in the country is estimated at 29,964 as per the census conducted in 2017. The South Region accounted for 14,612 followed by North East with 10,139 elephants. The tiger population across the country is estimated at 2,967 as per the 2018 census

https://www.indiatoday.in/fyi/story/elephants-assam-india-poaching-deaths-population-1314727-2018-08-14

The current government has a policy for compensatory afforestation when prime forests are claimed for development purposes. However in truth, the secondary forests can never make up for and match the primary forests limb to limb. Despite our best and no holds-barred conservation efforts, forest cover in India is steadily shrinking, with loss of natural habitat for our wildlife reported every single day from every corner of the country.

https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/wildlife-biodiversity/world-elephant-day-india-s-jumbos-stare-at-a-worrying-future-66127

Science is for arts’ sake, never vice versa. This is my last word on EIA if this controversial amendment is to go ahead.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/centre-gives-over-rs-47000-cr-to-27-states-for-green-activities/article29289605.ece

Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Man vs. wild’ with Bear Grylls seems a cruel joke now.

The rich bio-diversity we have in India is unparalleled in any other part of the world, except for Africa. Gir Lions to Asian elephants, and Bengal Tigers to Single horned Assamese Rhinoceros, with the spectacular array of flora and fauna we boast of, along with the brilliant plumage of avian population co-existing with the 1.3 billion strong humankind is a miraculous feat we can find nowhere on earth. Well, I remember once driving through the sandalwood forests in Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. Sheer magic in the air. For how long shall we have this precious cherished gift? Man-Wildlife conflicts are on rise but so far we have been able to arrive at a truce. For the first time in Indian history however, nature stands to be beaten black and blue and man will trudge on merciless, leaving in his wake the carcasses of rotting wild elephant and tiger…

The price we have to pay for wanting to become the next China!

Posted in Environment

Biopiracy of India’s Indigenous/Intellectual Property By Corporate West

I may be an amateur blogger but I have blogged on this before. Pharmaceutical companies from US and Europe have patented what was/is originally traditional Indian home remedy/Ayurvedic medicine robbing us of our intellectual rights and entitlements. They have patented our bovine genes, native seeds, even part of Yoga (!) (and this is just the tip of the iceberg) to such an extent that in a very few years, we won’t have natural reproduction of anything in India. From foodgrains to animal breeding, US corporates will have to be paid royalty as they will hold back the poison seeds that killed the native flora. and the semen for our cattle. This is happening already right across the world and mostly the third world nations in Africa and Asia are since paying a heavy price for what is originally and truly ours. Biggest theft of the century. Recently I was visiting Arni, some 150 km from Chennai. My (regular) cabbie who drove me down, hails from Madurai. One look at the cattle grazing in the agricultural lands, he said the cows were IVF product and from the semen imported from US companies for a price . I was shocked. Such a layman he is, and not even a matriculate. But coming from a rural background, he knew these things growing up with farm animals and forestry, having worked as a farm hand engaging in cultivation before he left for the city in search of a job. He said the ‘Jallikattu’ (bull racing) was not just about reinforcing our traditional practices but about saving the indigenous bulls of India. As i have stated before in my previous blog posts, only the Asian cows can produce the brain stimulating A2 milk that is patented by America now! How is this. Now all efforts are on to deny Asia the A2 gene of cattle itself. You can sadly see the bottled A2 imported milk from US being sold even in Indian groceries! I have never supported foreign NGOs like the UNICEF or CRY or PETA or GREENPEACE for this reason.  No.1 International frauds who steal from poorest of poor nations without an ounce of ethics or morality. Nothing is here in India from America without an agenda. To save our native flora and fauna, the battles we have to fight! South America is an easy scapegoat. We saw the recent fires in the Amazon. For whose benefit.

I am linking a few more of my own clumsy write-ups (!) on Biopiracy of India’s intellectual/native properties by MNCs.

https://vijiravindran.com/2020/02/14/dharma-in-the-times-of-corona-virus/

https://vijiravindran.com/2017/01/21/wto-and-india-rethinking-indias-food-security/

The second link details the Karuvelam tree, an invasive species NOT native to India running dry the Tamil Nadu ground water table. My driver told me, some vested interests have obtained a ‘stay order’ in court stopping the removal and eventual eradication of Karuvelam from Tamil soil. I was beginning to see less of Karuvelam but the parasite species is back now in last one or two years with a vengeance.

Most north Indians could not relate to Jallikattu protests in Tamil Nadu. The south still has saved hundreds of indigenous cattle and canine species, breeding them exclusively until today. Even at Isha Yoga in Coimbatore,  for instance, they breed native pedigree bull and cow species without gene contamination. If PETA is allowed to have their way in India and if Jallikattu is to be stopped in Tamil Nadu, then there will be no reason to breed the native bulls and cows that are economically not viable. The Jallikattu is the greatest incentive for rural farmers to breed native bulls that are going extinct one by one. Today, natural breeding is very negligible in India where it concerns the cattle. Mostly commercialized artificial insemination. However, the exotic native breeds were excluded until now from the list. Looks like, not any more:

https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/2019/sep/02/tamil-nadu-governments-ban-on-the-crossing-of-native-bulls-with-exotic-breeds-angers-farmers-2027650.html

The following link highlights the importance of Jallikattu in preserving the indigenous bovine breed:

https://www.news18.com/news/opinion/jallikattu-may-be-important-to-save-indigenous-bull-breeds-but-its-not-enough-1631855.html

This is what the Jersey and Holstein are about to destroy once and for all:

https://www.biodiversityofindia.org/index.php?title=Native_cow_varieties_of_India

Difference between Indian and western bovine breeds:

Hindu temples play a huge role in the upkeep of pure cow breeds in ‘goshalas’ (cow sheds) within the temple precincts. Why cow dung and cow urine. This is why. Don’t be shocked, even the cow dung and cow urine revered by Hindus who were mocked for their belief systems are now patented by America for their medicinal benefits! Not that this is new to America. They have stolen strains of our turmeric, neem, basmati etc., that we did not bother to patent because we believed, it is ours, been ours traditionally for millennia. Government of India woke up only when an attempt was made to patent the ‘Surya Namaskar’ in Yoga.

“Goshalas’ are integral part of most ancient Hindu temples. However, the recent ones may not have them for lack of space.

The need for saving native seeds similarly:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/why-indias-native-crops-need-to-be-saved-from-extinction/articleshow/73237886.cms

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/sunday-times/these-seed-bankers-are-saving-indias-native-crops/articleshow/70106157.cms

https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/reviving-indigenous-seeds-silent-revolution-india-s-rice-growing-states-104257

https://twobrothersindiashop.com/blogs/news/the-way-forward-indigenous-seeds-for-a-stronger-safer-world-for-the-soil-and-its-people

I wish, anyone who browses through this post reads up every link. My small contribution to India in my own way.

The native canine breeds of India at a glance:

https://www.dogspot.in/9-indian-dog-breeds-never-knew-about/

We had what is called ‘panneer rose’ (panneer is rose water in Tamil) in our house until my teens. The yield was like some 20 flowers a day from the plant that was potted in a big rusted tin. The only natural manure we used then was tea or coffee powder after usage. Friends used to get us egg shells to fertilize soil. Our maid used to get fresh cow dung whenever possible. This rose used to be pale rose in colour, smaller in size. Amazingly the scent of the Panneer rose still lingers in my memory. Now it is no more to be seen in entire India, having been outbred by hybrid rose cultivation. I have never smelled that panneer rose scent ever again either. Nearly close, but never the same. Similarly even if you take the original reddish maroon hibiscus, it has become a rarity with more of mixed colours available in the nurseries. May be the originals are available if you search long and wide. Rare lucky instances. Same fate for what we used to call the original ‘December’ flower and Samanthi (chrysanthemum). The original white and yellow Samanthi strains we had at home still stay fresh in my memory. What I get for Puja at home today is the foreign variety Samanthi that is richer in colour and somewhat denser. That somehow dilutes something precious about the original Samanthi i have grown up with. Original native Indian samanthi used to be hardly like this. Not so rich or alluring. But the aromatic scent of the Samanthi was the game changer. Lightly moving in breeze with an elusive scent, pale in colour, the original Samanthi used to look delicate and sweet. As someone coming from a community that relates to different native flowers in daily life – from wearing flowers in hair everyday to school, college, work to adorning our home and pooja (worship) and temples and wedding halls and celebration parties and grooms and guests with flowers, I can vouch for how much even  the flowers of India have altered in last twenty or so years. The native pedigree breeds have vanished almost completely from the scene which is shocking. To what extent the hybrids have done the damage will be next to impossible to gauge. We just no more live in the same India that was our ancestors, that kind of makes me sad. I am sure, the good old flower cultivators of Tamil Nadu/India will agree with me.

I don’t deny, our own greed and demand for more milk, more of food grains and even flowers may be driving our native exotic species to extinction, as we create an atmosphere where hybrid breeding with foreign species becomes inevitable to keep the supply chain moving.

How many of us can give up Chai for instance. I just gave up coffee although for a different reason. Now two months successfully without my passionate coffee. I became one less person harming nature and forcing more forest land into cultivation for coffee. How many of us can give up milk altogether.

Posted in Environment

Elephant At Crossroads

Humans are too very selfish and self-centered. Preoccupied with their list of priorities. What about the Wildlife. What happens to our wildlife. No place to go home to, caught in the crossfires? The case of the Indian/ Asian elephants traumatized by border skirmishes is of a serious nature.

As the CAA protests die down, I have finally chosen to voice my concern about the wild elephants crossing from India into Bangladesh and vice versa.

I am an avid supporter of CAA myself. Ever since I keep wondering, what happens to our elephants now. Are there earmarked elephant corridors between India and Bangladesh. Indian government hopefully allows in the Bangladeshi elephants. Is our government tagging the Indian elephants with any kind of identification collar. How to differentiate between the Indian elephants and Bangladeshi elephants. Census of Indian elephants could be reflecting an inflated figure in the absence of any distinction between the Indian and the Bangladesh elephants in the border areas.

Wildlife knows no man-made boundaries. The border dispute takes as much toll on wildlife as humans. Perhaps, far worse.

Crossing over to hostile territory may cost one one’s life:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/16/elephant-dies-1000-mile-journey-india-bangladesh

The tragic story of the mighty elephants separated by borders:

Elephants in a reserve forest along India-Bangladesh border struggle for survival

Indian elephants ‘strayed’ into Bangladesh ??? The choice of words is intriguing. So are our elephants numbered or radio-collared. I hope so. India to some extent takes care of the wildlife and keeps a headcount.

https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/nation/2018/12/10/indian-elephant-dies-near-rowmari-border

Elephants caught in human conflicts. Elephants in Burmese-Bangladesh border pay a heavy price thanks to the Rohingya Refugee influx.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2018/11/rohingya-refugee-crisis-elephants-bangladesh/

The Bangladeshi illegal immigrant elephants in Indian soil keep officials on toes:

https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2018/sep/11/elephants-from-bangladesh-keep-officials-on-toes-in-karimganj-1870363.html

A breather: consolatory safe passage to illegal immigrant elephants :

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/soon-gates-on-border-to-allow-indian-elephants-to-visit-bangladesh-and-return/story-rDybL52QkciEgnbU8jCDVK.html

Indian elephant shot dead in Bangladesh:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/Dalma-elephant-shot-dead-by-Bangla-troops/articleshow/46992927.cms

Man-Elephant conflict rages as Rohingya Muslim Refugees displace native elephants from their natural habitat in Bangladesh:

https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/governance/rohingya-refugees-face-the-rage-of-displaced-elephants-60531

The list goes on and on…

How many of the so-called liberals and leftists gave a thought to our wildlife bearing the brunt of border conflicts. The distressed elephants have nowhere to go, driven out of their homes to accommodate the so-called refugees. Is it morally or ethically permissible to settle the Rohingyas in elephant habitats that have been their natural home since the dawn of the universe. Let CAA include the Bangladeshi elephants with the list of Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh-Pakistan! The Indian tuskers too need a safe passage into Bangladesh and back. The jumbo population is dwindling at a very fast pace. The gentle giants that grace our beautiful country with their sunny presence may soon go extinct right in front of our eyes. Hopefully the governments of India and Bangladesh will resolve the elephant migration issue as well in our border areas. This is one special case of illegal Bangladeshi immigrant Elephants that may be given an exemption to overstay in India or seek asylum in India!

 

Posted in Environment

Say A Big ‘NO’ To Birth Control For Indian Elephants

Govt of India authorized the Environment Ministry to carry out family planning on Indian Elephants ?

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/environment-ministry-plans-to-use-immunocontraceptives-for-wildlife-population-management/article28307106.ece

I do not know how to stop this in my limited individual capacity. I am recording simply my unhappiness and disbelief and frustration here because of my inability to do anything about this.

https://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/india-elephants-immunocontraceptives-environment-ministry_in_5d6685dbe4b022fbceb43051

Already the Congress govt introduced birth control TO ONLY HINDUS and reduced our population systematically, limiting our family sizes to 1 or 2 kids maximum. Hindu population has plunged since the independence from 90% to 70% today whereas the minorities have more than doubled, trebled. Now is BJP trying to reduce even our Elephant (God’)s population? This is madness.

Mindless encroachment on wildlife habitat and especially on natural elephant corridors linking valleys and underpasses and mountains the way Mother Nature created it, is happening because of hectic industrialization. Can’t we find other ways to avoid human-wildlife conflict. India is home to wildlife especially Indian elephants, single horned rhinos, monkeys, Bengal tigers, Asiatic lions, cheetahs, first and foremost among other flora and fauna, and then finally to homo sapiens. Because even if we humans perish, nature will continue to have its way.  This wildlife is God given gift to India – and this beautiful nature. Are we even worthy of such a precious gift.

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Connected Read: https://vijiravindran.com/2017/02/12/stop-cruelty-to-elephants-in-the-name-of-religion-now/

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I request PM Shri Narendra Modi ji to immediately look into this affair and stop any such horrific plan on its tracks to introduce family planning to the jumbo family. Modi ji,on this Ganesh Chaturthi day, I submit to you this humble plea. Save the Indian Elephant. Please do not enforce birth control on any form on our wild life especially our elephants. Cannot imagine India without our elephants. Can you imagine India without Ganpati Bappa?

Elephants are endangered species already. While wildlife lovers are worried about their dwindling population, it comes as a rude shock that our government is actually planning to control our elephant population. Elephants have none to argue their case or champion their cause. Already domesticated (temple)/captive elephants are denied their right to mating. Forced to feed on imbalanced diet such as too much sweet (sugarcane and jaggery) for instance, leading to their ill-health. Their spirit broken and crushed, chained and enclosed in claustrophobic small spaces. Separated as calves from their herds. Is this not cruel enough. In the wild, every single day, an Indian elephant dies a torturous death either stepping on an animal trap or brushing against an electric fence of a farmer or hit by a speeding train along the railway crossing. Is there none to listen to their anguish. What a heartless society we have become.

I will watch out for any roll back on the government order.

Posted in Environment

Best Gift On World Elephant Day: Man vs Wild with PM Modi and Bear Grylls, on Discovery HD

What a man! Interesting to watch one of his many facets that make him what he is today.

Walking the Jim Corbett with Bear Grylls – doing this at his age even if with invisible security cordon, is a feat. Yoga must be his fitness secret.

Luckily no wild elephant or a Bengal tiger crossed their path although PM Modi was quick and sharp enough to spot elephant dung in the thick bush. His observation is very good obviously. Wildlife spotting is not really that easy. In fact I have always spotted wild elephants both in Kerala and in Tamil Nadu only in the shoulder areas adjoining the national parks. Wild animals do not know of or respect man-made boundaries. Animal/bird watchers also must have immense patience for any ‘sighting.’ Rare are lucky spottings.

I caught my breath as our PM boarded the haphazardly hand-built coracle (by Grylls) (what we call parisal in Tamil). I recently took a (plastic) ‘parisal’ ride in Kodaikanal where the lake depth was not much. Still the risk of tipping over is enormous. In his age and position, I got alarmed and wondered aloud, whether the PM must be doing that. Of course, his security must have been hovering in the background. The coracles originally made of bamboo are very popular with rural Indians when it comes to river/lake crossings in lieu of boats. They come in handy especially when the river depth is not adequate for boating and the river width is easily navigable.

Fully drenched in rain, PM Modi was treated with as much affection like a son by Grylls. That was heartwarming. The PM answered back Grylls in Hindi for the benefit of all Indians including those who may not be knowing English.

To one of the questions on keeping India clean, Modi ji replied that Indians have good personal hygiene but lacked social hygiene. He couldn’t have put it more aptly. That is a 100% true fact. I realized this during our days in Malaysia. We Indians or those of Indian origin showered maximum. The Chinese went to work straight from bed and showered late in the evening. Showering too many times they believed, could get you cold and make you sick! Yet the Indians stank and the Chinese looked better. Probably this body odour is in our subcontinent gene! We Indians sweat more compared to many other races. Many friends and relatives have remarked on this aspect as to how we Indians maintain better personal hygiene. Yet our breath smells!! When it comes to social hygiene, we draw a big blank almost. Just look at the airport restrooms! You just cannot teach the concept of dry toilets to our masses! Water, water everywhere! Never mind, now many in the west are of opinion that wet toilets (meaning those fitted with hand faucets) are more hygienic, less infectious and environment friendly than those with toilet paper roll! In Yoga centers in India, you can see only Indian squatting toilets used by even foreigners comfortably. Its good for your knees and it is regaining its status. May be one day as they say coconut oil and groundnut oil are actually good (after denouncing them for years that is), the west will come around to this point. Even the way we measure hygiene is different in both worlds. That said, India leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to keeping the nation neat and clean. It is a social consciousness, not a government job. Still, ever since Swachch Bharat was introduced by Modi, I notice a welcome change. Even if it is not a lot, it is good and holds promise for a better future.

The conversation was kept minimal and interesting, going with the flow of the nature trail as Grylls and Modi walked through the tall bushes towards the river.

Normally I hope and look forward to wildlife spotting but today I was anxious!  For once, I wished the tigers and the elephants stayed away! Remember it was none less than the Jim Corbett! The weather seemed awesome and amiable. Untiring, more than anything else. I am sure the rendezvous and the trail itself were handpicked and combed and checked out in advance. That may account for no chance encounter with the mighty Indian elephant or the Bengal tiger by the adventurous duo. Or even the venomous snakes.

The dollops of flashback from PM’s life right from his childhood told in his own words lent the show some extra spice. What a humble background and what an austere brought-up PM Modi has had. What a contrast this is from the spoilt Nehru-Gandhi lineage. His ascension to power is not surprising. The spark is still visible!

Critics of course will say, this is all stunt. So be it. Neither I care nor does Modi Ji hahaha!  He is daring as only he can be. And he is curious. Very inquisitive. Open to learning. Not afraid to ask questions. Or try the turf. Not embarrassed an ounce! Comfortable in strange surroundings. It is easy to see why he is what he is and where he is today.  India is truly a very beautiful and diverse and rich country! I am proud of my nation in every way and all ways possible! Grylls seems to share an affectionate bonding with India as well…

However I would request our PM to stay safe in future and let this be his first and last adventure in unchartered territory. As Bear Grylls himself says, PM Shri Narendra Modi is the No.1 and most important man in the country. Precious, priceless gem. We want him to live a 100 years and if possible 200. Please take better care of your health Prime Minister, India loves you. Love and adore your spirit and your sacrificing self. Sometimes I even wonder whether we Indians deserve such a committed man.

My personal request to you Mod ji, is to ban elephants from our temples and palaces and processions and tourism industry and conserve them in our forests. This way, you will be ensuring that Ganpati lives on for 100-200 more bargained years before going extinct (which will happen eventually in under 300 years. Of course, this will earn you the wrath of Kerala Devaswoms, Mysore and Rajasthan palaces and tourism industry. But Lord Ganesha will bless you and the nation. If anyone can do it, it is you Prime Minister. Believe me this has nothing to do with the Church. And even if this is a conspiracy theory by the missionaries, you will still be extending a fresh lease of life for the Indian Elephant. If you don’t, our grand children from 2100 will not be seeing a single Indian elephant in flesh and blood.