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July 21, 2009

Proposal for a Dwelling – An ecological gated community in Bangalore

I do not know if this is desperation, or if this is strategic thinking. I am writing this in a bid to gather like-minded people who respect nature and can plan on staying together on a common area along the lines of a gated community. Yes, I know we have the private gated communities and BDA complexes, and oh yes – we also have rental accommodation. But nothing lets us live in a sustainable, ecological, vibrant community that respects nature and enjoys it.

I and Jyostna have been looking for land in Bangalore for quite sometime, and the options are not yet perfect. In too many locations, we have seen that builders focus on “herd mentality”. Land changes hands frequently with people mainly aiming for profit and not really looking at it as a place that can sustain life. Living has become equivalent to spoiling nature and living against it. Gated communities boast facilities like swimming pools which one hardly ever uses; they are too small to be of any value. But most seem to replicate a different place and are totally out of place with our reality (My blog post on Palm meadows in a desert). While even the human species needs to survive like any other, we believe it is possible to organize our own place in this measly planet of ours.

A possible option we are looking at:
Gather together a few like minded folks and obtain property on the fringes of BLR; for example 4 people buy one acre and we have ~10,000 sq foot plots for each family. Each family builds a house on 2000 sq. foot of their land and leaves the rest open. Rely as little as possible on external resources, and share some resources such as wind energy, well, security, ground-water recharging. Not quite Navadarshanam, but regular 9-5 working people who want to be close to nature and lead a calm life. The goal would be to live in harmony with nature, but retain several urban comforts. If it becomes really feasible, we could implement a gobar gas plant and other such, but that would be a stretch goal.

What it would entail:
In terms of money:
One acre of land about 10-15 Kms from Bangalore costs 48 lakhs. I have some options that I can talk about. If four families share one acre, the cost will be 12 lakhs per family. For 1,400 rupees per square feet, it is possible to construct a house that will be ecologically sensitive, and have among other features, it’s own sewage disposal and water harvesting. I have some figures from firms that do ecological designs of homes. For a 2000 square foot home, that would mean about 28 lakhs. The total seems about 40 lakhs. But with registration, electric connection, size of house, delays and other factors minimum-maximum cost could be 45-60 lakhs.

In terms of personal commitment:
Mutual respect that we will not violate building standards and not succumb to selling our respective 10,000 sq. feet of property in the form of parcels when the surrounding areas “develop”.

Best case scenario to make this happen:

20-25 families will participate in this, and we shall have a very vibrant community.
4-5 families will participate in this and they will have a nice place to stay.

BTW, we are not real-estate agents, we do not have experience in doing this. We think this is very difficult, we have a whole bunch of optimism, but we think the outcome is worth the effort. This is a five-hundred foot idea; the exact details can be worked out if and when folks think this is feasible. Comments are welcome.

What are we planning to do if this does not work:
Get a 40×60 plot in a decent locality in Bangalore, have an independent house. We may even have to revert to a gated community :(.

Comments are welcome.
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Palm meadows in a desert.

Filed under: bangalore, personal — Tags: , — neosurya @ 15:07

Several gated communities exist, but probably one stands out…Palm Meadows. See this blog post describing the same. I saw an absolutely amazing comment in the above blog by Gan Sharma. The full thing can be read here, it makes for amazing reading, and resonates well with my thoughts. A few excerpts:

….

I have always wondered and asked people in India – what makes them laugh and smile so much sitting where they are! You can enjoy India if you go with a sensitive mind. Imagine this – you live in a 30 apartment building, all 30 have cars, children, friends, outing, et all of best life; you laugh and return boisterously every night at 12 o clock – and the security man has to watch all of you 12 hours a day, with not an Indian dime in his pocket, does not know when his next tea will come from, his total take home of $ 72 a month vanishing in 7 days flat; he cannot touch with his money, what you can afford to throw, he has an orbit of rice and sambhar day in and day out. Can you be sensitive to him or do you habitually sermonize on how these incompetent security people sleep in duty? You will enjoy India if you are able to sensitive to lives. Otherwise, my advise will be, don’t go. Enjoy South of France. Remember one thing, no one is waiting with bated breath in India, they have their little lives to battle with.

….It will help your psychology very much if you remember simply this fact – India is not living there to make your life comfortable. India has 1 billion people and majority is poor. India is trying hard to make lives of that majority better and is striving for the same. Every year there is improvement there. India is busy with itself, making its life better, its life tolerable; your comforts and Palm Meadows are immaterial to India. The main point is, can you make yourselves comfortable in what is India? It is a place where abject poverty interacts with Palm Meadows residents; the poverty goes back to T.V. and sees serials where people laugh and eat and do things which seems out of reach eternally for them. In an aggressive country, probably Palm Meadows residents routinely will get their throats cut; in India maids short change them for 2 dollars. I was amazed when a Palm Meadows resident was passionately out pouring about how a patch of grass has not grown properly due to bad maintenance and the unfairness of the same.

This is a good place to address the issue of a maid cheating; firstly, I have not been exposed to blatant theft; yes they try to make little money here and there – they have to survive. Mostly maids cheat, because we have no long term commitment to their lives; because we will pay a Rs. 2000/- bill at Pizza Hut or Baskin Robins, but negotiate the salary with the maid. If I approach a maid with a mentality that I am here to make one Indian family live well, you will see a long term relationship. None of us would have survived their lives, believe me and kept up the ethical and moral standards they have kept. The beauty of India is that moral and ethical standards are indirectly proportional to the social status. Why does a driver change jobs with no commitment? Because there is no commitment from the employer; what they pay is an immaterial small sum to the driver; his downsides of losing the job are not enormous. If he get a 40% raise with the neighbor, what is wrong in shifting? You did it in your career, didn’t you?

In India you will live happily and comfortably, if you treat all your servants and maids as you treat them in New York. We expatriate Indians want to have the cake and eat it too. We want the service and commitment levels of the advanced societies at the costs of ‘old’ India. A driver gets Rs. 6000/- – exorbitant and prohibitive? It is US$ 120 for the whole month of 12 hour duty for God’s sake!

I have a home in India and my maid has a key. Trust them; also give them long term solutions to their miserable lives, see how comfortable you are! It makes perfect business sense for you to pay the school fees for one year for your drivers’ child. Do it and see how loyal he is. Saying I am there for a short time is an excuse. You get committed to the country; the country gets committed to you. Otherwise, please you are there as an extravagant attachment, India is busy with its life. Approach your trip from this mental get up and I guarantee you a comfortable and lovely stay. What these small people need is not even what your money w ill do in their unsafe lives; the reality – a generous person like you is such an enormous comfort; such a lovable safety net. Like belief in God, it is not important whether you live up to that belief or not – you are a great psychological comfort; remember this, you will enjoy India.

….Food is the best part of India; you have food and food and food at unbelievable prices. You can go to any level you want, idli dosa camps to vegetarian authentic Italian joints – bars, wow, you can’t get enough. But what is lacking again? There is no great entertainment and places to go to daily inside the city, like what you have in each city in the West; you have to go to eating joints and bars with company, you can go to movies, some malls. Having said that, this is not entirely true too; do you have interest in traditional visiting places, culture, history, temples, and authentic food, you have enough to do. You can go short distances to great places. Socializing in India can occupy your whole life time.

….

Cheers friends. Finally, this issue of whether I will be happy in India is not an external question, it is an internal one. I have to be happy where ever I am. If I am completely happy in where I am now, why should I be asking questions about returning to India? Go to India from a happy position of being happy where you are and go to India to be happy. Happiness is in the mind. Really!

Found a very relevant post in the blog by “BIOME environmental solutions pvt ltd“; the whole post is here, excerpt below:

What if you and I came from a village with no education and had to live on the streets for 15 days before even some one gave us a job to wash vessels ? And what if you and I couldn’t open a bank account because there is no document to evidence your and my existence – Proof of residence and Ration card and what not ?

And what do they do for us ? They build our walls, the roof above our heads, they ensure we get our water and our shit is taken away from our toilets. They clean our houses everyday, cook for us and throw our garbage out. They do all the “little” things without which our lives would be an insanitary mess, out on the streets……and then would our abstractions mean anything? I mean to us, would they mean anything to us?

Yeah, that supreme abstraction that we pride ourselves with, our work ethic, our “professionalism”. So we haggle with plumbers, masons, well diggers, maids, the works – to be cheap. We often trouble them for their payments because we think they are “cheats”. We pay less because they were not professional, they didn’t use the right tools. We are absolutely pissed off if while a project is ongoing the plumber suddenly has to go home to Chittoor for an emergency or when he suddenly has lost control of his labourers – “Hey that’s not professional!!. My garden will get flooded !”

When will we ever come out of the cosy shell of our abstractions – abstractions such as values, ethics, merit – that we define and define only in our own social context – Never asking ourselves what they would mean to us if we were different.

You’ve been with the professors
And they’ve all liked your looks
With great lawyers you have
Discussed lepers and crooks
You’ve been through all of
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books
You’re very well read
It’s well known
You know Something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

– Bob Dylan

July 20, 2009

Fear of the unnatural

Filed under: India, social change — Tags: — neosurya @ 18:59

This was an article by SANTOSH DESAI in the Times of India, Banglore Edition July 20 2009, page 12. The whole thing can be read here.

Awesome article related to the recent flurry of activity around homosexuality and article 377 of the IPC [1]. A few extracts from the article:

What is it about homosexuality and its apparent legalisation that causes such consternation?

….

The argument put forward is that partnerships of the same sex are unnatural. Men and women have been outfitted with sexual equipment in certain ways because they have defined roles to perform. On the face of it, this is a robustly commonsensical argument

The catch is, of course, that there is nothing very much that is natural about hallowed social institutions like marriages and families. These are cultural institutions that have been superimposed on natural instinct. Monogamy is not an inevitable natural condition but an institutional mechanism devised for a very specific purpose. Civilization is the human rejoinder to nature; it seeks to curb our natural instincts so that we can build a sustainable long-term habitat. Without a well-defined system of marriage, property rights, for instance, are difficult to administer and without these rights, the need to invest in the future beyond producing offspring diminishes.

….

strange, for culture almost by definition seeks to control what is natural. Culture routinely uses the body in ways not intended by nature. If we were meant to wear ear-rings, we should have been born with pierced earlobes, for instance. And certainly, nature did not mean for us to wear clothes; that is an act of culture alone.

….

We do not accept that humans were meant to travel only as fast as their legs can take them simply because that is the nature of our physical equipment, so why should we argue in this case?

…..

What is being called natural is being mixed up with that which occurs more often.

The conclusion of the article is a very interesting. Please do read all of it. The line in red above gels very well with what I have been mulling over for quite sometime. But I firmly believe that nature will have the last laugh, no matter what mould civilization seeks to put it in. BTW, nature could indeed have the last laugh on gay parades as well…


Hillary harps on GM food for security. Whiter organic food?

So she does, huh…

And what does the president of United States eat… Why, Organic food of course. This includes the White house state dinner, where the Obamas had apparently insisted that even the wines should be organic. Other links stating that the White house is turning organic: [1, 2, 3]

So, it is “technology” in agriculture for the developing world, and organic food in the developed world. Actually, it is technology for the poor people and organic food for the rich ones. Processed food is most popular in the west, and the US insisted that “Swine Flu” be publicly renamed as H1N1 virus since it could damage its pork processing business interests.

Apparently, the Bush administration was much worse, with Laura Bush openly advocating organic food in their kitchen and Bush policy driving exactly the opposite in American markets.

July 17, 2009

Water in the market – bottled water

If there were ever futures trading with water, I would be a millionaire. Several others would be too. I would have a lot of money, and I would be very thirsty too.

I read an article in the TOI, page 14, July 17 2009, Bangalore edition title: “Stamping a new mark for bottled water“. The full article can be accessed at this URL, excerpts are below:

Though the consumption of packaged drinking water in India is just 1.7 litres per month, the packaged drinking water industry sees India as the most booming sector, growing at a rate of 25%. Jeffrey B Smith, general manager, global water business of Underwriters Laboratories (UL), tells TOI about UL’s venture to set up a water certification programme that will supplement the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) in India.

…..

We are currently analysing the challenges but according to our studies so far, fluoride and arsenic are huge contaminants here. Pesticide residues also. The issues are different in the West. For instance, in the US, iron levels are very high and there are concerns about aesthetics: the water should not smell, it has to look good…. We are here to add value to the issues of water scarcity and safety. Even though buying power is a problem with the poor here, most of the middle class prefers safer options, and that is huge for us.

Now they see packaged drinking water as a market, and an opportunity. Am I the only one who sees a problem in water, or am I just dumb….

Reminds me of the story “Welcome to the town of Allopath“, by Mike Adams. This was sent by my colleague, Shekhar who has a farm outside BLR. Gist of the article is that Allopath is a city with the problem of accidents. A doctor “Dr West” examines the accidents and concludes that they are linked to “skid marks”. If the skid marks are removed/prevented he concludes, there will not be any accidents. He recommends that the roads be lined with teflon that will prevent all skid marks. The accidents increase exponentially. A hermit comes along and recommends that the teflon be removed and that stop signs be installed to prevent the accidents. He is chided since he is not “qualified” enough to advise. Accidents continue, almost all of the city dies off. Several years later, the hermit is still living on, painting stop signs so that a new generation could use them.

Anyhow, I am also part of the middle class who walks the often trudged path. BTW, folks who got till here would like to read my other post on dry borewells in hyderabad.

July 15, 2009

Gandhi in an ad

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — neosurya @ 23:17

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the father of our nation is now in ads. Apple has an ad whose images can be seen on  their website. Video of the ad is here. A cellphone company in Italy has a video campaign about Gandhi.

Interestingly, Gandhi’s descendants had tried to litigate a foreign producer earlier, but lost the case because the Indian Government did not have jurisdiction over foreigners. An article from outlining his thoughts:

Meanwhile, CMG Worldwide put forward another business proposal. It wanted to be the sole agent for the commercial use of the Mahatma’s name. “I considered this proposal seriously because I thought it would be a good opportunity to police the use of Bapuji’s image and prevent any misrepresentation. The company was to refer every commercial project to me for approval,” says Tushar Gandhi. He recalls his failed attempt to prosecute the producers of the Nikki Bedi show, when one of the guests on the TV programme insulted Mahatma Gandhi. “No action could be taken against them because Nikki Bedi as well as Rupert Murdoch, the Star TV owner, were foreigners. I felt that CMG Worldwide would be able to tackle such cases better since they are abroad,” he says.

….

According to Tushar Gandhi, although no agreement had been reached, CMG Worldwide announced Mahatma Gandhi as one of its new clients. (CMG Worldwide did not respond to queries sent to it by this correspondent.) “If nobody in India understands why I was getting into this deal, it wasn’t worth my while to continue with it. I broke all ties with CMG Worldwide, and returned two cheques they had sent for the advertisement. However, I still feel that we relinquished a good opportunity to protect Bapuji’s image and get some funds for restoration,” Tushar Gandhi explains.

The author of an article says that he will never buy an Apple product because he has been put off by the ad. An excerpt from the article:

Were Apple merely selling computers it would only be grubby to use Gandhi’s picture. Instead, of course, they’re trying to sell each of us an image of ourselves. Which is precisely what Gandhi spent his life trying to help people strip away. In the fight for Indian independence (against the biggest brand name of his era, the British Empire), he succeeded in helping a nation shrug off its own internalized sense of subjugation, its own sense that Britishness, like Appleness, was superior. And he did it without trying to substitute the usual nationalist passions.

Another interesting article about Gandhi, and how his image is twisted by our politicians:

Perhaps we should not be perturbed about such mischievous distortion of Gandhi’s writings. After all, we have had Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon pay homage at Raj Ghat.

This is the same Mr. Sharon, who has been indicted by an Israeli Government Commission as responsible for the killing of thousands of Palestinians in Lebanon in 1982. And we had Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi say on October 2 that his government was the only the State Government in the country to adhere to Gandhian principles.

July 14, 2009

Nameless villain of Ghajini

Filed under: movie — Tags: , — neosurya @ 08:31

In the train the female lead is trying to rescue a girl from a bunch of goons, and both of them hide in a toilet. There is an old guy sitting in a corner and the goon asks him where the girl is hiding. He says “Dus rupaiiye do toh bataaungaa” (Give me ten rupees and I will tell). The goon pays him ten rupees. The old man points towards the loo, the goon does his thing, the female lead does her thing, and the movie continues.

Every facet of Ghajani has been dissected, talked about, appreciated, and critiqued. The character of the protagonist was amazing. However, I found the above scene very interesting. The goon does not rough up the old guy; he actually pays him the money. Also, the old man could have just kept quite and said “Mujhe nahi pataa” (I do not know). In a way, the nameless old guy is a huge game-changer, maybe even a villian in one sense.

It is rather curious as to why someone would intentionally do a “bad thing” to gain temporary benifit. In this case, the bad thing was giving up the girls to the goons, and the temporary benefit is money.

I do not know if the director wanted the scene to be like this. But if I know enough about Amir Khan’s movies, it could be likely that he asked for this scene to be put in. Nevertheless, the director would have definitely not wanted the old guy to keep quite :). Sad incidents and sorrow sells.

July 4, 2009

Times of India ads on You Tube

Filed under: ads, common man, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — neosurya @ 09:05

The media houses have some really great ads these days. The Lead India Campaign “Tree” video is popular anyhow, but here are some more:

Ad about the Indian national anthem:

Aaj Tak ad on Eve-Teasing:

Aaj Tak ad on Smoking:

A video on Bombay (More nostalgic than real tho):

TOI take on a nakli 100-rupee note:

TOI hockey ad:

Commercial cricket, not a commercial on cricket:

Indian independence day (Dont know the source):

Corruption works:

July 3, 2009

Freedom Team of India – press coverage of our first talk.

Filed under: Freedom Team of India, India, indian elections — Tags: , — neosurya @ 11:30

Shanthanu Bhagwat who runs a very well-read blog is in India to talk about the Freedom team of India. The first talk by him was at the Indore Management Association on Wednesday. FTI’s first first press coverage was this talk event by Shanthanu. The article is scanned:

Article on Shanthanu's talk at Indore

Article on Shanthanu's talk at Indore

Excerpts from the article (Transliteration followed by the Hindi words):

madhyamavarga isa desh kii riiD ke samaan hai lekin maujuudaa daur me.n vah nirNaayak bhuumikaa nahi.n nibhaa paa rahaa hai.n| aaj sTUDe.nT voT dene se pahale puuchhate hai.n ki sabhii bhraShTa hai.n aakhir kise cune.n | ham kyo.n jaati dekhakar vot dete hai.n |

मध्यमवर्ग इस देश की रीड के समान है लेकिन मौजूदा दौरमें वह निर्णायक भूमिका नहिं निभा पा रहा हैं| आज स्टूडेंट वोट देने से पहले पूछते हैं कि सभी भ्रष्ट हैं आखिर किसे चुनें| हम क्यों जाति देखकर वोत देते हैं |
hame.n sochanaa hogaa ki swatantra hokar bhii ham swatantrataa se vyavahaar kyo.n nahI.n kar sakate| kyaa is desh me.n sabhii naagarik pulisa yaa netao.n se swatantrataapuurNa sawaal kar sakataa hai.n|

हमें सोचना होगा कि स्वतन्त्र होकर भी हम स्वतन्त्रता से व्यवहार क्यों नहीं कर सकते| क्या इस देश में सभी नागरिक पुलिस या नेतओं से स्वतन्त्रतापूर्ण सवाल कर सकता हैं|
abhii tak hamaare 70 sadasya ho chuke hai.n aur hame.n puurii ummiid hai ki me.nbaraship baDhatii jaaegii| hame.n chune hue 1500 sadasyo.n kii jaruurata hai.n kyo.nki ham una bhaaratiiyo.n ko khoj rahe hai.n jinakii netrutva kshamataa kaa laabha desh ko mil paae|

अभी तक हमारे ७० सदस्य हो चुके हैं और हमें पूरी उम्मीद है कि मेंबरशिप बढती जाएगी| हमें चुने हुए १५०० सदस्यों की जरूरत हैं क्योंकि हम उन भारतीयों को खोज रहे हैं जिनकी नेत्रुत्व क्षमता का लाभ देश को मिल पाए|

Taarein Zameen Par?

Filed under: education, nature, personal, social change, times of india — neosurya @ 09:39

Our media is weird – on one end, it says that failure to succeed should not be considered as failure in life. At the other end, it encourages lack of responsibility. I will use a movie and a news article as an example, though my rant is about media in general.

Many folks consider the movie Taarein Zameen Par to have opened the eyes of parents towards  proper rearing of children, and in general how society should be tolerant in its measure of skill. But even in this movie, the boy Ishaan had to “win” a painting competition to become truly accepted by everyone. Some of my friends tell me “This is a movie.”,  “The masala has to be there for the message to go across”, “The movie has to run”. Unfortunately, this is the problem. If a movie would not succeed if it showed a failing hero, a real life individual has no chance. Fact remains that in India, every real-life individual has to win to survive.

And, this expectation of society for successful people is not wrong. Each society defines a guiding standard in order to distribute its resources. For example, there is a price for every product – the good items are expensive and the ordinary ones are cheap. This is not just true of our times, it is true across history. History never had a time where lack of hard work kept you materially rich.

A problem arises when sections of the same society insist on largesse. I recently saw this article in the Times of India (3rd page, Bangalore edition, July 3 2009) about a student who had consumed poison because he was to appear before a disciplinary committee. The article headline says: “a scared and sensitive youth, had been warned earlier, but continued with his reckless ways“. This fellow was a student leader and accused of drinking alcohol on the college campus thrice. I fail to understand how he could be sensitive and scared. Adamant would be a better word. Drinking on campus is also encouraged by most movies I have seen recently, including the incredibly successful “3 Idiots”.

An excerpt from the article:

Education has become a commercial commodity. Neither the giver or receiver of the information is emotionally attached to each. It has become very robotic how we relate to each other in an educational institution. What we need is emotional attachment. Teachers should make an effort to get emotionally attached to the student and vice-versa. Otherwise, it becomes very mechanical. Teachers would think, he is just there because he is paid and student because he has paid for the education, so he can get away with anything. When it comes to suicide, it must be triggered by an over-arching reason. Besides the stress faced in college, the student may have also been going through family problems, and all his pent-up emotions may have triggered the chain of events.

….

He should have been counselled first. It should not have gone to the extent where he committed suicide. Maybe he had the impression he was going to be dismissed, that’s why the extreme step. What happened was inhuman and too big a price to pay for such a petty offence.

So, if education should not be a commodity, will you be OK if one is not guaranteed to get a job after the education? If education should be also responsible for handling family problems, who would pay for such education? These are questions the popular media chooses to conveniently ignore. A few salient aspects:

  1. Education has been diluted to such an extent that almost every tom, dick and harry can get a degree without batting an eye.
  2. It is becoming very popular to demand guarantees for everything without taking responsibilities: jobs for everyone without hard work, education for everyone without fee, security for everyone but no sense of discipline.
  3. Dilution of individual capacity to work hard and succeed. A “system” should not provide anything beyond allowing you to work to the best of your potential.

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