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September 8, 2010

Cycle Yatra.

I recently joined the Bangalore Bikers Club. And the very first post got me interested. The post spoke about the “Swapathgami Cycle Yatra“. A brief note about the yatra:

it is a week long cycle trip into rural
Rajasthan. What sets this trip apart from a general cycle trip is that
we do not carry any money, electronic gadgets or first aid medicines
with us. We stop at villages along the route and find work to earn our
board and lodge.

The following you tube video is from the yatra in 2006:


February 27, 2010

Trip to Bhubaneshwar

Filed under: association for indias development, travel — neosurya @ 11:16

The family went on a trip to Bhubaneshwar – From 23rd January to 1st Feb. We had a report of what we did, and AID Bangalore was nice enough to mirror it. We are trying to raise money for a village school in Parlakhemundi. Please contact one of us at AID, or put a comment here in case you would like to contribute.

Here are some pictures from out trip to the school:

October 15, 2009

Feels wierd…

Bt Brijal was given an approval for commercial cultivation in India [1, 2, 3].I did my bit by sending a fax about this, and am consciously trying to do my bit by doing other things, and writing about them.Interestingly, the Govt body employed to be in charge of genetic products has been called “Genetic Engineering Approval Committee”. It’s URL has a one line explanation about its’ role. I am curious as to why this body is called the “approval committee” as opposed to “regulatory committee” or something else. Guess the underlying assumption is that somehow GE is already going to be approved and, once it is approved there would be little there to be regulated.  Incidentally, all the safety reports related to Bt Brinjal were from the company Mahyco itself (URL).

But this is not the only thing I am feeling wierd about…

China is pretty pissed that our PM visited Arunachal Pradesh [1,2], and our media did give a whimper of response [1]. China had sometime back also started issuing visas to J&K/Arunachal residents on a piece of paper, as opposed to stamping them on the Indian passport [1]. China’s attitude reminds me of a distant cousin who used to resort to cheap tricks in order to make me look bad in front of parents.

I believe that India can be very strong when it comes to things like these. But my belief aint good enough, a billion other folks need to share the belief. Ahem… well, a few among the billions would be OK.

July 20, 2009

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.

May 6, 2009

The metro war with Lalbaugh park in Bengaluru.

Many years ago, there was a plan to destroy cubbon park and build a freedom fighter’s memorial called the veera soudha. People protested, and there was a move to shift it “somewhere else”, the Govt. circular from that time says. Excerpt about the struggle at that time:

About two decades ago a large portion of Lalbagh was marked out for a massive Veera Soudha. Five thousand people gathered and protested. The Government breathed fire and the then Chief Minister made statements that they would implement the project come what may. But people persisted, and the Government had to back down. Which is why you now see no Veera Soudha in Bangalore, and Lalbagh is intact.
A decade ago, 32 acres of Cubbon Park were marked out for building a large hotel complex. Several of us protested. Dharma, Chandra and many others from Sanmathi stood there and protested for close to 40 days.  Not only the Government, but the entire Legislature was against us. They even made many insulting remarks against women, so lewd that the statements had to be expunged from the record. Eventually the plans to build a large hotel complex for the legislators were abandoned, which is why you now see the Indira Gandhi fountains.
The point is clear. It is people’s protests that stopped such disastrous destruction of parks then. It is only people’s protests that will stop the destruction of Lalbagh and Lakshman Rao Park, and give us a Metro that we truly deserve. Something that will last a hundred years, and something for which Mr. Yeddyurappa’s great grandchildren will also praise him and his wisdom in stopping the current alignment, his wisdom in re-aligning the Metro to save Lalbagh, Lakshman Rao Park and half of Bangalore.

We, the citizen wonder why the Metro needs to destroy Lalbaugh park and LR Park. As per a mail being circulated by Hasiru Usiru:

The Government passed an Ordinance on 22 November 2008 to avoid bringing the issue to the Assembly and Council for debate. This Ordinance is illegal because it has taken out a portion of Lal Bagh and Cubbon Park without seeking the permission of the Karnataka High Court as required by its judgements.

What’s more, the Government has directed the Horticulture Department to sell a piece of Lalbagh to the Metro at a price fixed by the Bangalore District Commissioner! A terrible precedent is being established.

The Karnataka Parks (Preservation) Act requires special permission to be taken before altering Lalbaugh or Cubbon Parks. This has not been done.

April 22, 2009

AID-Buffalo Newsletter, and the old days of starting AID-Buffalo

Filed under: association for indias development — neosurya @ 21:04

AID-Buffalo volunteers have now put together a quarterly newsletter. They have done a great job, it is a first for the chapter, and I mirror the newsletter here with great pride: sambhaavna_jan_mar_09

AID has come a long way from when we started in 2004. The first meeting of AID-Buffalo was held in Aug 2004 at the Flint Apartment Complex visitors center, across from the Jacobs management center. Karrishma used to stay in Flint vilage and helped get the place and organize the meet. I had sent out emails to some of my friends, organized a pizza party (Somehow felt that no one would come without food). Siva and Siddharth Bhat got sufficiently interested to continue being with AID.

I left for an internship in India, and returned in Jan 05 (Got engaged in the interim), and moved into an apartment at 55, Springville with Karthik, Amar, Amit, JC, and Sankalp. It was a totally excited, hyper set of folks; it took a bit of convincing, but once in, they did a lot of work . Anand Srinivasan walked into one of our CSH; he had recently come to Buffalo, and was looking for R&R I presume. He did get a lot of it in the years that ensued :). AID meetings were held in the CSE conference rooms in Bell Hall. Siva became the treasurer and managed our meager income; Amar took up printing of T-shirts. We had a couple of tables at the temple, and a table at the GISA event that summer. Kishore met us at the GISA event, saying his room-mate would be interested in joining AID. The roomie was Narasimha, or Rao as we call him. Girin and Ruchita also took good interest in AID.

Rao really put the next big change to AID. He introduced several things, including serving food at CSH :). The meetings moved to Cooke Hall, in Rao’s Biology dept. He pushed for selling Tops cards, we had a table at the Ganesh chaturthi celebrations in Winspear Avenue. I remember that we made daal for about 70 people at Rao’s house in Princeton court apts. At the Ganesh pandal, we got introduced to Sajay and Vidya. Vidya later became our secretary’s, and their house a regular hangour for AIDers. The Ganesh pandal hosts (Rupali and Abhijeet) were absolutely awesome; They donated the entire proceeds of that event to AID-Buffalo.

At about this time, I chanced upon the major find of “Vijay Loganathan Sambhandhan”. Seniors in Buffalo would pick up incoming students. I was assigned to pick up Vijay from the airport. The dude was ultra-disorganized. He had absolutely no clue as to where he should be going. I put my car in short term parking and met the man himself in the Buffalo airport lobby.

Me: “So, where are you going”

V: “I dont know man.”

Me: “oops. Let us leave your stuff at my house. How was your flight, you hungry?”

V: “Hungry man!!!”

Me: “You wanna come for a meeting, there will be food”

V: “Ya man, wats the meeting about?”

I really felt bad taking him to AID meeting; this was a young student who had come to seek dreams in the USA. On his first day off the flight, I take him to a meeting where we discuss India’s problems. But there was no go. The GISA president had not told me where to drop him; Vijay did not know where to go and was hungry. International flights can be terrible sometimes. And AID meetings after that, kinda bad. But man, did this guy rock in the meeting. He actually gave us constructive ideas. He advertised a get-together for all newly arrived students in his apartment and told everyone about AID. We got a whole bunch of volunteers. In due course, he also became the “murari of main street”. Abhinav also joined us around this time. He later introduced Anand Pandey to AID.

Abhijeet and Rupali later helped organize a dance program for us in the temple. Rao worked hard with Vijay and Swathi and a host of other AIDers to host Shobhana’s concert in Buffalo. Karthik got a whole load of money from Jaguar, BMW, and Ford.

AID grew. Jyostna and I cherish every moment spent with AIDers and hope that it will grow even more.

February 27, 2009

To GE or not GE…

Filed under: association for indias development, NGO, social change — neosurya @ 18:01

Got into a discussion with members at AID about Genetic Engineering; it was about whether one should support it or not. There were several aspects that were discussed; the question according to me is not about GE but about issues that NGOs have to pick up in general.

I will re-state a few salient aspects as points:

1. Science is often mis-aligned for profit. Science needs to have experimental
rigor and business ethics should be sound.
2. Science should have solutions that are reversible. Think harmful
gas leaks without medication in neighboring hospitals (Dow/Bhopal, industrial
effluents, Agent Orange).
3. Historically, when technology or a line of thought removes choice,
it is harmful.
This is not just about science. Its effects are more easily
understood in social problems. Think Mangalore – removal of choices for women etc.
4. No amount of testing is sufficient testing. Errors happen, and that is
acceptable. Hence, technologies must balance 1, 2, and 3 so as to
allow correctable and gradual acceptance.

As users of advanced technology, and more because we are NOGs, we have to
be aware of these aspects, and be clear about why a certain technology should,
or should not be supported. We cannot have ad-hoc approaches to each problem.

Generally, I am not against a particular technology, and that includes GE. But I would be most comfortable with a technology that supports these tenets.

October 16, 2008

“No Fridge”

So, I have been living without a refrigerator for the past few weeks. And I buy vegetables once a week and cook at home every day. A few friends asked me how I manage to keep things fresh. The following pictures show how it went; I had taken the first picture on Monday when these vegetables were purchased. The second image is from Thursday; one of the carrots has gone bad, but most of them are all right. The third and fourth images have been taken on Sunday. How to do it is shown in images 5 and 6.

Day 1: Monday

Day 4: Thursday

Day 7: Sunday.

Solution: A wet cloth.

For the skeptics among us, please recall the local bhaji-waala… Do you remember any refrigerators lurking away in a corner of their shops? Oh yes, one very intelligent friend pointed out that they have these cooling units at their homes where they store the veggies. Very innovative; I presume the units are capable of storing some 20-30 kilos of vegetables, and the thela-waala runs a very profitable business by paying for electricity in their shanties. Dudes, ever notice the gunny bags and the big wicker baskets? Wonder why the bags are perennially wet, dark and not dry. Put one at home with a tomato or two in it and you would know why.

Several vegetables and fruits are naturally capable of staying fresh for at least a week on their own. They only need to be draped over with a wet cloth for the time period. I am not suggesting that one should replace their refrigerators. I am not a fanatic Greenpeace activist. However, I would prefer to use technology when nature may not work; like making ice for your Patiala peg :). I also believe in eating fresh vegetables, and absolutely hate the “fridge stink” that tends to stick onto veggies.

BTW, a wet cloth does not work for everything. For example cracked coconut, or ginger. I am sure there are ways to keep them fresh for a few days without the use of a refrigerator. When I find the method, I will post it promptly. In the meantime, I have found a possible solution for keeping milk fresh. Figure below:

Keeping milk fresh: The most popular approach at Shekhar’s farm.

September 23, 2008

Tuition center work at Bangalore

Filed under: association for indias development, NGO, social change — neosurya @ 04:11

A report that I prepared on the tuition center for AID-Bangalore:

Had an exciting time teaching kids in a tuition center at a slum in Bismillah Khan Nagar near Jayanagar. Will be doing this every Wed from now on.

Blog at