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July 13, 2018

Agri Experiment 2

Filed under: agriculture, social change — neosurya @ 11:23

On 27th June, I purchased around 250 Kgs of Neem cake, 15 Kgs of trichoderma and transported it to the village.Thankfully, it fitted in my car and we did not need separate transport to carry to the farm. This will be added to a tractor load of goat manure, allowed to process for 15 days. This mix will be added to the tree saplings that I had planted earlier. Hopefully, it will lead to the growth predicted by SVS in the previous blog post.

One of the steps in farming is to run a dozer and flatten the land. On 30th June, I and Santosh were visiting the farm. I noticed that a fully grown neem tree was lying flat on its side. The Dozer driver had been careless and felled the tree. I asked Kiran to give the dozer driver a piece of my mind. While visiting Shabbar’s farm, I noticed that a JCB was just finishing up. I immediately took the JCB to Serenity and setup the plant straight again. Santosh is a close friend from Engg college, and was visiting after 18 years on 29th of June. And what do I do? Take him straight to the farm :).  Full album is here. A few photos of Santosh and me:


On 8th July, we did our first real planting on the farm. We used an automatic plough + seeder machine that connects to a tractor. You can see Jyostna riding the tractor in this video:

We first planted Kandulu on our 1.67 acre plot. I had planted small trees about a year ago. Kandulu were planted in the rows in between. We planted Jonnalu and Kandulu in Kalyan’s 2 acre plot. More pictures are in this album. All costs will be sumarized in this google docs.

The dozer and plough are not necessary steps, and some of my friends in the vicinity are experimenting with complete do-nothing or natural farming.

Came across this you tube channel that discusses diseases of tropical plants: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbHHfYfegnUAujJ3ACYVR3Q

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July 7, 2018

Poverty vs sustainable society

Filed under: social change — neosurya @ 00:53

During a discussion with a friend about sustainability, he pointed out that a few decades ago, our society ate hand pounded rice. The rice was separated from husks and pounded to get the grains out. This rice was then washed to remove the hard barn. Everything was boiled and then passed through a wicker basket. Then, we spoke about the need for modern technologies (white polished rice), plastics, medicine, vehicles and briefly pondered over the uselessness of many knick-knacks.

My friend spoke about how one should not flaunt wealth if they are asking someone to be sustainable. We should be conscious of what someone thinks of our behavior. This, I am unable to agree completely.

Ancient society was sustainable. But someone or the other flaunted. Yes, flaunting is bad. Flaunting is an assertion of self worth, a very bad (and often futile) attempt at domination. Humans always tried to exhibit some form of domination: strength, knowledge, religion, beauty, wealth to name a few. Heck, even animals select spouses based on some form of flaunting/domination/control.

If we somehow become a society of true saints, we may have a chance of completely giving up the urge to flaunt, or to dominate.

I would stand for:

  1. A society with few rules that can be enforced effectively.
  2. Truly free access to the worlds knowledge.
  3. Environment for a person to decide their own limits of wants/desires, be at peace with oneself and others.
  4. Access to quality food, air, and water for most species.

Anything that offers more will most likely create an -ism that will fail, or in the worst case the -ism will become a demon. (communism, fascism, nazism etc).

And to the original question of flaunting – it is common knowledge that Gandhi preferred to travel in third class to understand the plight of the ordinary man. A few more questions:

  1. Did all great leaders do it? No.
  2. Are all leaders who travel by third class Mahatmas and are all first class travelers thieves? No.
  3. Will society ever get to a stage where every ordinary man can afford better class of care? I dont know.
  4. Should we create a society where everyone has an opportunity to move up from third class to first class & vice versa? Yes.
  5. Should we ensure minimum standards for every type of common good provided to citizen? Yes. (Like the second sleeper, or the current standard toilets in general compartment)
  6. Should we create a society where many people out of their own free will are not judgmental about whether someone arrived in third class or first class? Yes.

Someone said: There is enough in the world for ones’ needs, but there is never enough for greed. But what is greed? Let us say I have a shirt, and a woolen jacket. My neighbor does not have it. Am I greedy?

Is it greed if I am wearing an Armani jacket and my neighbor has no clothes? When does using an expensive clothing become flaunting? Does it cross the threshold the moment I buy it, or does it happen when: (a) I wear it to a party, (b) I wear it to a non profit event, (c) Openly make fun of those who do not have it, (d) Make judgments in my mind about those who have it.

Then again – what is greed? A rich man can afford the best treatment for his child in the best hospital. A villager has to rest with whoever is available in the vicinity. Should the rich man give up the facility to take his children to the hospital. Should the rich man take responsibility of all children?

June 10, 2018

Improving villages through knowledge

Filed under: education, social change, Uncategorized — neosurya @ 13:26

Read a report about how laptops distributed in Rajasthan to school-kids were lying unused. The Govt must encourage experts to engage more thoroughly with students. Giving laptops is great, but empowering teachers, and asking industry experts to work closely with students is more necessary.

On Sept 29, 2016 I donated 2 laptops to the Nareguda ZPHS in Vikarabad Dst. Photos from that are here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/Gd1m7U3PSfvVvgFR8.

Since that time, I have been trying out a few ideas on technology based education at this school:

  1. Skill labs where experts can interact with children in ZPHS. Document that describes some of the details is here. I and  Dr Konda Kishore have started a lab at the Nareguda ZPHS. A few videos are here. 
    1. Photos from different events: (a) Certificate distribution for the first set of students who finished our course on computer science. (b) First written exam on computer science. (c) Class on binary numbers.
  2. Automatic vending machine to give nutrition based food. Design is here.
  3. Continuous assessment of students and teachers. A part of this was tried out during my stint at CMU Africa, and I will be trying that more seriously a the ZPHS. Maybe by end of 2018, I should have more definite progress on this.

March 17, 2018

Different rooms for men and women

Filed under: politics, religion, social change, Uncategorized — neosurya @ 23:26

A few months back, I and my wife were invited to the 1st birthday of our friends son. The family was in India on a visit from the United States to renew their H1B visas. As part of the trip, my friend was celebrating his sons’ first birthday. As I reached the venue, I called my friend for directions; he told me over the phone: “Yaar tu pehle aajaa. Phir gaadi park karke famliy ko laana” (You come first, we will go to the car; I will show you where to park and drop the family).

I hugged him and said “Yaar, bhaabhi kahaan hai? Beta kahaan hai?” (Where is your wife? Where is your son?).  My friend pointed out: “Yaar, unka entrance is taraf hai. Woh hamaare me ladies alag baithte hai naa.” (Friend, the entrance for ladies and children is elsewhere. In our custom, women sit away from men). I was surprised. I was further dismayed to see that the location had well-lit promenade entrance for men. Women had to go through a dimly lit narrow lane, and take an even more narrow side door. A set of stairs took them through a narrow corridor up into a hall for the ladies. Outside the separate hall, all ladies had to wear burqa. The ladies also could not come into the enclosure where the men were dining. I protested and said: “Yaar, you never do this in the US. Why here?” He had no answer for me.

My driver later asked me: “Sir, why were there only men at the event? And why did madam go to a different location? That entrance was not good sir. Is this a Muslim event?”. I had no answer for him.

In parts of Hyderabad, several marriage/party halls have separate sections for men and women. They advertise this feature openly. Everyone in Hyderabad knows that in Muslim events, women rarely come out. Even if they do, they sit in a different place.  In some cases, there is also a possibility to have a different level of service offered in these two sections.

In an article written by Mr Harsh Mander,  he says: “…speakers lament the political consensus across the spectrum that Muslims are a political liability”. Mr Mander says that all Muslims are abandoned. But are they? Indian society is one of the most pluralistic. It has the third largest Muslim population in the world [Source]. The number of Muslims in India is close to the Muslim population of all the Middle East countries added together. India is the only secular democracy with such a wide variety of religions in significant numbers. True, countries like the US and France have secular constitutions, but their individual minorities are less than 1% of the population.

Modern society has identified many ways of grouping people: religious, ethnic, economic etc. Society MUST create secular framework to accommodate a common interest. But each group also MUST accommodate the requirements of secular society.

Mr Mander, the real sad part is this:

A entire community is not allowed to celebrate cultural events with both sexes in a single room. Leaders of that community openly support many other glaring discriminations in plain sight. And no political party has the courage to suggest that this needs to change. Every religion will try its best to interfere in the public life of an individual. And every Govt must deny that to every religion. It is dangerous for political parties to be partial and allow one or the other religion to take over public life. Till this partiality continues, we will have a Surya and a Sayyed who cannot share a common space. Till this partiality continues, we will have vote banks governing in the name of democracy.

No religious group is perfect. Hindu society is trying very hard to remove its own share of drawbacks. (I am not going to discuss the definition of Hindu). We are fighting female infanticide, dowry, discriminatory religious practices, and Inshaallah we will win against these ills. We need many like you to point out ills in the religious community and also point out possible solutions.

But in the name of Ram, Rahim, or maybe the Indian constitution,  will the Muslims accept reform? Will they say that we do not need to marry four women, we do not need a separate MPLB (Muslim Personal Law Board), or at the very least do not need different entrances to our marriage halls? Often times, burqa is defended saying that it empowers/protects women from unruly elements in the public space. I wonder what empowerment or protection is obtained by having separate areas in an event like birthday, marriage, engagement, eid, or for that matter in a mosque?

No group will leave its familiar customs and practices easily. They will use every rule and ruse to ensure that status quo continues to be maintained. Every group has to be coerced into following the common minimum. The Congress is completely complicit in ensuring that Muslims were never asked to introspect. Ergo, Muslims were never able to reform. In doing so, the Congress has ensured that these Minorities always stand out as a different group.

I dont know if the BJP will be any better. The BJP will cause more harm if it pushes the appeasement pendulum to the other side. Sections of the BJP are showing signs of rabble rousing. Secularism is a process of ensuring everyone reaches a common ground, while retaining their independent thought. It is a complex phenomena. Political parties have to raise to the occasion and be bi-partisan.

The full comment by Harsh Mander:

Over the past months, I have been urged to join a series of meetings called by Muslim leaders and youth. The mood is always sombre, submerged in despair. In these meetings, speakers lament the political consensus across the spectrum that Muslims are a political liability. Political parties are unwilling to field Muslim candidates, to speak of issues of violence and discrimination that afflict large Muslim populations, even to openly seek Muslim votes. In one of these meetings, a prominent Dalit leader said, “By all means come in large numbers to our rallies. But don’t come with your skullcaps and burkas.”

This article says that Darul Uloom Deoband has instructed Madrassas to not accept Govt grants because they do not want to follow Govt regulations. The Darul calls this “Govt interference”. Is this a right step for the unity and secularism of our country? To quote the article:

We have our own disciplinary codes, uniforms as well as syllabus to follow and don’t want the government interfering in these matters. We don’t want the government to ask us for details of daily attendance of students and teachers and other such things.

January 23, 2018

Different title, same content

Filed under: India, social change, Uncategorized — neosurya @ 10:17

The same news article with a different title can give readers very different impressions to readers.

For instance, take this article in the Indian Express of Jan 23 2018. The title is:

Original version used by IE (Version 1): SC panel chief Ram Shankar Katheria ‘threatens’ cop in audio clip gone viral: Are you challenging Yogi? [This is clearly against the minister and favors cops]

Instead of this, let us change the title to the following:

Version 2: SC panel chief takes exception to cops who clear local SC/ST bazaar – Says Minorities commission will take action against errant officer. [For the minister, but paints cops as anti-SC]

Version 3: SC panel chief vs cops enforcing anti-encroachment. Who is correct?  [Borderline neutral in comparison with V1 and V2, but favors cops]

Version 4: SC panel chief pulls up cops who cleared minorities from the local bazaar. [Borderline neutral as compared to V1 and V2, but against cops]

Let the content be exactly the same, the title will totally change the readers perspective. And in these days of 100 media channels, who reads the article? At least in case of this specific article, it is mentioned that the minister was chairperson of National Commission for Scheduled Caste. I have seen articles that much worse in taking journalistic liberties.

Disclaimer: I am not against or for any specific party, person. But I do feel media is wielding undue influence. The article is reproduced below for those who wish to read the whole thing:

In An audio clip that is being shared online, a voice, purportedly that of National Commission for Scheduled Caste chairperson and Agra MP from the BJP Ram Shankar Katheria, is heard threatening a policeman.

The clip begins with a man addressing Sub-Inspector Mahesh Pal Yadav, in-charge of Bodala outpost in Agra. He claimed he was calling from the “MP’s house”, and that several people had arrived there complaining that Yadav did not allow them to hold a bazaar in the area. He seemed to be referring to an anti-encroachment drive in the area earlier. The S-I is purportedly heard saying he was merely following instructions of the SSP.

The man then ostensibly hands over the phone to Katheria. “Mahesh Pal Yadav-ji, Yadav ho tou gunda to nahi na ho tum. Yogi ko challenge karte ho?… Naukri kha jaunga aur jail bhej doonga dubara bakwas ki to (You maybe a Yadav but you are no thug. You dare challenge Yogi?… You will be dismissed and sent to jail if you do any mischief again),” the voice is heard telling the S-I.

Jis SC ki tune pitai ki hai usse application likh kar commission se tere khilaf FIR karke jail bhej doonga aise gundai dubara ki toh. Woh ro raha hai jisko danda mara hai. Commission me likh kar usse application likha le to zamanat nahi hogi aur naukri mein kabhi promotion nahi hoga. (Will get an application from the SC person you assaulted and send it to SC Commission to register an FIR against you and send you to jail, if you try that again. The victim is crying… You will not get bail if he sends an application and you will never get a promotion.)”

A voice — purportedly S-I Yadav’s — is then heard saying that he had not assaulted anyone and neither did he have anything against Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. SSP Agra Amit Pathak said an inquiry will be conducted into the audio.

Despite several attempts, The Indian Express could not reach S-I Yadav or Katheria for a comment.

 

 

 

 

August 29, 2017

Teenagers sell blood for food

Filed under: social change, Uncategorized — neosurya @ 18:29

It will not be surprising to see the above headline after a few decades, or a few years. If we go by this article on BBC, a Stanford/Princeton grad started a company called Ambrosia that is experimenting on injecting the blood of young people into older individuals. The claims, as per the article:

“It could help improve things such as appearance or diabetes or heart function or memory. These are all the aspects of ageing that have a common cause.

Each procedure costs $8,000 (£6,200) and sees the patient injected with two and a half litres of plasma – the liquid element of blood that remains after other cells have been removed – taken from young people.

I am fantasizing here, and grossly exaggerating. But, it still rankles me to think that several people actually came forward to buy the plasma. I guess this is civilization.

 

Same day, another article about a teenager (18 year old) girl committed suicide in full view of the social media. Apparently, 10 minutes before her death:

She spoke unsentimentally of her 19th birthday, which was to arrive three days after her death: “I was supposed to do something this weekend for my birthday. But in the end it’s not happening, I mean I can’t go – because of this thing.”

 

 

May 18, 2017

The mango cutter and his daughter

Filed under: daughter, social change, Uncategorized — neosurya @ 21:38

mango_cutter

Early morning of a May day, a father and daughter in the market starting their day. The father is expecting his business to pick up. His equipment – a gunny bag, a cloth, and a large cutter that is used to cut ripe mangoes that will be turned into pickles.

I was reminded of a day when I took my daughter to work. And this is another father who is taking his daughter to work. Such a contrast. What did I do to deserve this differential treatment?

April 26, 2017

Artificial Wombs and Sperm Banks

An article in the verge claims that an artificial womb has been developed to grow baby sheep. It is estimated that even human babies can be grown in a similar fashion. It is absolutely dandy what technology has achieved. As per the article:

Inside what look like oversized ziplock bags strewn with tubes of blood and fluid, eight fetal lambs continued to develop — much like they would have inside their mothers. Over four weeks, their lungs and brains grew, they sprouted wool, opened their eyes, wriggled around, and learned to swallow, according to a new study that takes the first step toward an artificial womb. One day, this device could help to bring premature human babies to term outside the uterus — but right now, it has only been tested on sheep.

…..

It’s appealing to imagine a world where artificial wombs grow babies, eliminating the health risk of pregnancy.

artificial_womb_calf

It truly is appealing…

Frozen sperm in a bank, no need to hold, push, or yank.
It has been done for you well ahead,
A brochure of well endowed men to eliminate chance.
Well winnowed to weed out the idiots,
No foreplay, or even any kind of play needed.
Why leave this to randomness,
The best seed is available, 24/7, everywhere.

Wombs a-galore in glass enclosures.
Prepared, sterilized and ready to go,
Can they integrate with instagram?
The baby to be visible as it develops legs and arms.
When it is born, watch live on skype,
Why go for the normal when the exclusive is on order?
Select a unique name using google, why risk asking mother, or grandmother?

What a wonderful world, full of opportunities.
Enjoyment forever, due process to eliminate all worries.
No waiting, dating, or exchanging of vows.
Feminists can rejoice, MCPs can party,
True independence from all troublesome activity.
Life can continue un-imbibed with technologies,
Is it not awesome to live with these certainties.

Wait there is more to come.
Why cant we have someone pay for all this?
After all we end up working for a company.
Maybe they can grow the base of their employee.
Selected, trained, and groomed from the womb.
Manufactured to precession to follow every rule.
Such a world, so full of possibility…

McBabies, oh that would be so dandy.
We could select from a menu,
Maybe “make it a deal” with a toy to carry.

December 6, 2016

Treatment of parents

Filed under: common man, family, social change — neosurya @ 17:23

I had a friend (A) who posed a problem a few days ago: We were speaking about taking care of his father (B). B had a regular job, but did not take particular care of his kids. Each day after office, B came home for a short while in the evening, and stayed to himself. Income was regular, and the mother of A was efficient. So, the kids were able to get a good childhood. But it was very clear that B had no real role in their upbringing. A’s life was not ruined because B’s income was more than sufficient. B however, was totally disinterested in family life.

B (the father), and B’s wife (A’s mother) were living in Bangalore. A’s mother had recently passed away. Till the mom was alive, A and his siblings (a sister in India and a brother who was in USA) would visit B occasionally. Festivals and other customary visits were kept up. B and his wife regularly visited A and siblings also. For about 3-4 months a year, B and his wife would come and stay with A. But there was no real love lost between B and rest of the family.

B continued to visit his kids after his wifes death. But B was not a pleasant person to be with. His friends were no more, and he would continuously complain about one thing or the other. No major physical or financial damage, but there would be no fatherly (or grand-fatherly)  involvement as well. He would have an unpleasant face all through the day, and entering his room was like seeing a person who is sulking his way to the other world. B would be extremely particular about his schedule, food habits, and general preferences about daily life.

The challenge was that B was going to be over 80. There was no disease in particular, but he was getting old. Senility was bringing on other challenges.

A argued that B should be sent to an old home while B was still in OK health. Once health went down further, argued A, it will be difficult for B to adjust to an old home. B did not want to be sent to an old home. B was saying that to get his (substantial) self-gained property, A and his siblings must take care of B at home.

I had seen another father once like this. An old man, in his 80’s living near Tarnaka, Osmania University, Hyderabad. I had gone to him to seek legal advise. His room was on the first floor of the garage of an independent villa in Tarnaka. The villa was his own, but he had given the whole place for rent. His servant lived downstairs in the garage, and he lived upstairs. The room had a desk with an old transistor radio facing a window that overlooked the street. An old teak bed had been set towards one of the walls with a grayed out mosquito net that had seen more regal times. There were about 3 chairs in the room, but only one was empty. The others had huge stacks of letters and legal correspondence. There was a bookshelf on one side which recessed into the wall. It also probably held his clothes.

While discussing the legal problem, I had mentioned that I was from such and such company. The father slowly got out his sons card, and said you know him – “He is the senior Engg VP of ***. Do you know him? He is also into IT.”. This old man’s son was a very senior executive in a global multinational company. When I say senior, really senior – like the VP of a major engg. division of a Fortune 500 firm. He could have been my bosses bosses boss. The father was speaking about his son with pride, but it was apparent that he could not live with the son either. The old father made a point to mention that all his grandkids visit him during major festivals. “Even if they miss some due to exams, they come during Deepavali for sure.”, he said.

I have seen some unfortunate mothers’, father-in-laws, and mother-in-laws also in the same situation. Maybe there were good reasons to do this. Maybe the women or men created unhappy situations in the family. Maybe the father or mother were more nasty and looked mellow to strangers. Maybe there are some worse family secrets. Maybe this is a necessary feature of our modern, liberal, urban lifestyle. Maybe. Maybe not.

But I wonder, If we cannot take care of a mother and father who gave us birth, can we be good to complete strangers? If we give second chances to a terrorist, a murderer, a common criminal, why not parents? Maybe it is wishful thinking on part of a liberal society that humans are good. Maybe there is no true love among humans. Maybe. Maybe not.

April 16, 2015

Awesome money spinning methods or Skimming of customers

Filed under: India, law, market, personal, social change — neosurya @ 12:00

Interesting call with my mobile phone service provider:

Me: I got this internet usage bill for Rs 700 for March and Rs 300 for Feb. What is this?

Rep: Sir, 2G internet usage sir.

Me: I use a Nokia 1616, it cannot have internet usage. —- For the new-gen folks who have only seen smartphones, this phone has buttons, 255-colors screen, you get the drift —-

Rep: Yes sir, my system shows you are using Nokia 1616 as we speak. But sir data is switched on in the phone.

Me: How can a Nokia 1616 use 400 MB of data?

Rep: I dont know sir. Maybe some app is running.

Me: Look, can you please disable 2G service on this connection?

Rep: No sir, 2G comes free with every mobile phone connection.

Me: Dude, Rs 700 a month is not free. And you tell me you will not switch it off?

Rep: You will have to move to a different service provider. Our company will by default provide you with 2G enabled connection only. — In other words, we paid a lot of money to TRAI to license this shit. Money has to be recovered from somehwhere. —

Me: OK. — Facepalm —

Rep: For the charges, you will have to visit our store. — A polite way of saying, You will have to go there and shout —

Me: OK. Thanks.

—————————————End of call————————————-

One of my friends used to work for a leading mobile service provider. One strategy to get more money was to call unsuspecting customers to install ring-tones, or other “value added services”, but not inform them that these services would have a costly monthly subscription, or that these services would be delivered over 2G. Maybe we fell prey to one such scheme. Maybe there was indeed some app on the phone that is accessing data. I dont know.

I did not like the business practice of cashing in on users not being able to switch off services. But, a lot of modern services run that way. Individuals who create such plans and schemes also make the most amount of money in corporate orgs. Of course, technical people make money. But it is peanuts compared to the money made by such planners.

Makes me retch. But who knows how I would behave if I wanted to buy the good things money can get, and I had only an MBA and a sales job to get me there?

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