Wednesday, June 24, 2009

THE GREEN LEAP

“Vishnu Dayal Galeria doesn’t know a solar lamp used for an hour means one kilo less carbon dioxide in the air. But a fortnight ago, when his family bought a couple of solar lanterns, they unknowingly contributed to the global green effort, thus suddenly finding a clean, affordable escape from generations of darkness. Thus, more than 15 million (1.5 crore) families are helping India combat climate change.”

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times, June 5th 2009

Frankly, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that alternative sources of energy have already made more inroads into India than I had known. Baby steps have been taken and millions across the country are benefitting from these wise decisions. While authorities who hold the reign of our futures in their clammy hands ruminate & debate over what can be done to combat climate change, people in most rural areas are already showing the way. According to various articles, something like a small environmental revolution seems to be underway. That’s definitely something to crow about! Some of the instances mentioned are truly signs of good things to come. Tamil Nadu will soon have a railway coach factory that will run on wind power. Farmers in Kerala are using manure-based gas for cooking, instead of forest wood. Villagers in Orissa are planting trees on barren land. Himachal Pradesh has provided low energy consuming CFLs for free. As I write this, the monsoons have finally arrived in Mumbai and unimaginable respite has swept across the city. The air-conditioners have been unplugged & the humble fan is back in action. Children & adults alike are literally soaking in the weather with unabashed abandon. Still, the rains have been anticipated with a sliver of fear every year since the deluge of 2005, which was one of many disasters across the globe – a small but significant aftereffect of global warming. And the painful memory of that makes these baby steps to combat climate change all the more significant and meaningful

All said & done, these are still remote instances. Can this become a reality ALL over the country? One of my respected professors had once quoted, “Where there is a will, there is a RUNWAY!” Verily, if we will to soar with purpose & enthusiasm, then the mountain shall definitely come to Mohammed. Renewable energy is the new mantra, the manna to help tackle most ills plaguing our climate. Renewable sources of energy like solar energy, wind, biomass et al need to replace the more polluting & redundant coal generated energy and nuclear energy we are so dependent on. India is among the world’s five biggest storehouses of coal and depends heavily on thermal power — a major source of carbon emissions — to generate 70 per cent of its energy. Imagine the sheer curtailment in the amount of greenhouse gases by using renewable energy! But for it to be a successful investment for the future and become the spine of energy generation, it needs to become the main source of energy rather than languish as an alternative. To an extent, this requires renewable energy to be decentralised and be offered at an affordable price. That is something our sarkaar needs to look at. On a mass scale, awareness about the benefits of renewable energy needs to be all-pervasive, consequently catching eyeballs & imaginations of concerned citizens and the government. On this front, the print media and Greenpeace India is doing it’s bit to garner popular opinion & petitions towards the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh to pass a Renewable Energy Law as swiftly as possible to make this fledgling energy revolution an integral part of our future. The Green Idol campaign has already made its’ rounds in Mumbai & Bangalore and is headed countrywide for increased support for the Renewable Energy Law (www.greenidol.in)


Like you, even I am sceptical how gathering petitions alone will solve the crisis that we’re facing today. But if putting in my vote might get our voice & opinion across to those who make the decisions, then I’m all for it. And I’d rather know I’ve tried than sit at home & complain about mundane things. There’s so much YOU can do. Climate change is killing our planet, and consequently killing us. And before you look away, remember that the “US” includes “YOU” as well. Help save the planet for YOURSELF!

Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon had quoted a historical statement and it rings true today for every step we will take towards actualizing a cleaner, greener India.

“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Go on, take that small step, make that giant leap …


Monday, June 22, 2009

AN EXILE UNTO ITSELF

The Scream by Edward Munch

Apart from the bai-sexual jokes circulating about a shine-less actor these days, the other piece of news grabbing eyeballs has been the racist attacks on Indian students in Australia. Demonstrations were held, memorandums submitted and diplomatic relations rendered awkward. Hopefully, tensions will ease soon and life will go on as usual. Or will it?


In a world already divided by boundaries, language, religious beliefs & ideologies, further division & derision on the basis of color and features is disgusting. For long, many foreigners have taken potshots at us and have literally, made us feel like sh*t. As Indians, fortunately, we have largely been an extremely tolerant lot and forgiven many their trespasses, because as Mahatma Gandhi had wisely quoted, An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.” Racism in any form in any part of the world is an unpardonable offense & those who indulge in it are not fit to be called human beings.


But who says Indians are always at the receiving end? We as Indians need to see beyond ourselves and cock the mirror to be able to witness our own fractured reality and our misdirected ire against fellow Indians just because some of them look like phirangs or follow a religion contrasting that of the National sentiment or speak a language which is not spoken nationwide. Yes, our country does have its differences on the basis of caste, creed, color and religion but that’s another story altogether. My grouse, as of many who do not “look” like Indians is that how do we cope with being branded a ‘foreigner’ after we, our parents & our grandparents have lived all our lives in India? Why is the warm feeling of acceptance always a fleeting illusion? Why does “but I’m an Indian” become an oft-repeated phrase for us? Why do we face & will keep facing taunts all our lives?


Generalization is preposterous. One bad fish does not make for an oceanful, and India absolutely cannot be seen as a subconsciously racist country. I thank all those large-hearted people who’ve accepted people like me as one of their own, but on a countrywide scale, I can’t help but wonder what lies in store for us who are Chinese/ Nepali/ German/ Nigerian / British/ American and the like by blood but Indian by birth, and proudly so . Mutual respect might not stop some around the world from continuing with their disparaging attitude towards us, but the least we can do is honor the Unity in Diversity tag that we so pride ourselves in, to be one in principle and action. Unless we achieve this singular goal, we have more to fear from ourselves than our neighbouring countries.


The statement of a North-eastern character in Chak De India might have gone unnoticed in all the grandeur of the movie, but it strikes a chord with all those who face my predicament. The line went thus – “How would you feel if you were treated like a guest in your own motherland?”


Seriously, how would you feel?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

BACK BEFORE YOU KNOW IT

After the pleasantly salubrious South African winter, Mumbai’s fiercely unkind summer came as a rude shock. No two thoughts then, the short sojourn to Pune turns out to be just what the doctor ordered. Setting out in a pal’s swanky new car, foraging through the baleful traffic, I see the vehicles playing a teasing game, coming seductively close to one another but never touching hands, never brushing lips with each other. The swarm soon parts and the long flyover above part of the Arabian sea signals the arrival of the suburbs, or as I like to call it lovingly, the ‘jungles’ – just because it is so damn far away! The pace picks up on the expressway, and a few hours pass by indulging in conversation, some idle and some relevant, tossed with a generous helping of good music, laughter and mischief. Soon enough, we’ve left a hulking city to reach an equally chaotic junior one.

My stay with friends is at the Appointment House, a British era mansion in the Army Cantonment area, extremely reminiscent of school years spent in the lush & tranquil environ of Dehradun. . A mansion of similar architecture in school(since it was started by & for the British elite) , with slanting, thatched roofs meant to let the rain drop by and impossibly high ceilings to keep the house cool, would accommodate 28 boys, with six beds in one dormitory, a shoe room, a changing room & common toilets!!! Let me assure you it never was a tight squeeze. Not when the house was as capacious as this, not when the bathrooms are as big as kitchens and the living room alone as big as my entire house! Add to that a huge lawn and a massive backyard which hosts a servant’s quarter and a potential space for a sports facility. Once beyond the mansion’s gates, the hush becomes our consort and the outraged surroundings are mercifully placated. There in that house, I wish those moments wouldn’t slip away in a hurry and yet, there is never a dull moment, with healthy servings of laughter, cheap jokes, recollections, anecdotes and baatein kuch ankahi si :) And when the conversation threatens to die down, the pitter patter of rain on the roof adds music to an already magical setting.

In the short period of time spent in Pune, I glide dreamily through the simple pleasures of life (which I just can’t stop endorsing of late). Feeling the first rain as it runs down my body, soaking mind & body and rejuvenating the spirit with enthusiasm noveau. Sharing one puny umbrella, resulting in four very wet & cold friends. Chatting up a dear friend with whom exists an unexplainable bond over a cuppa coffee in a proper “coffee house”. Ruining a brand new shoe in a puddle of rain water. Sitting in the lawn on easy chairs, feeling the night rain give you goosebumps as it traces your face & bare arms. Facing power outages gleefully. Wrapping oneself up from head to toe to brave the cold, and still refusing to go indoors when it gets too cold. Seeing shadows where there are none, and noticing with trepidation hunching figures behind the branches, flower pots, chairs, curtains… Letting the imagination run wild, getting scared and scaring others as well.

Wanting a hug.

Wanting to give a hug.

The night in the house is spooky, with the sheer ampleness & the vacuum-like silence adding to it.

(I’m 8 years old again, waking up at abnormal hours in the night and experiencing dread in spite of the reassuring snores of dorm mates around me. My solace is to shut my eyes tight & pull the bedsheet over me, hoping it will be adequate to keep the spirits out).

When the bedsheet is pulled down, the sun has risen and it’s time to go back. The feet are dragging and the mind is unwilling to return. A hearty breakfast, a merry conversation and hugs & goodbyes later, the road is our domain again. The drive back is punctuated with more rain, a hilly landscape dotted by grey clouds, and a honeyed, dulcet voice singing sweet nothings in my ear :)