Sunday, April 23, 2017

Teacher Tales: The Students' Farewell

Attended a students' farewell event at the Faculty of Journalism and Communication at MSU. It's the first farewell event I have been invited to in these eight years of teaching there (I am a regular at fresher parties). I taught this batch in two short stints in their first and second years and so I haven't had a chance to have a one-on-one with each student. It's also the first batch, where I have had to guide students through their dissertations and so there have been some students whom I've met more often, who've visited my home a few times, shared my meals and travelled with me. There were students who didn't show up in my class but would ask me questions as soon as I stepped out. Some are exceptionally good storytellers and moved me through words and pictures (still and motion). Today, as I delivered a speech that ended with the classic, "You can inspire others only if you are inspired," I wondered how their paths will diverge: Some will earn a lot, others will be famous, some will be silent crusaders of change, others will be content in the stability of the ordinary, some will be visionaries, some may marry quickly, some may keep searching for the one true soulmate, some may travel and work abroad, others will stay in India... And  then I thought, "They'll all do well in their own way."

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Why I don't drive

I am one of those people who can drive but choose not to. It's rare in a city like Vadodara where you have only autos in the name of public transport and even schoolkids ride mopeds and bikes. I did drive, albeit very cautiously, when I first married and moved here. I don't enjoy driving and a car for me is just a vehicle of commute, not a way to define me or what I stand for. We had two cars sitting in our parking lot and we were deciding if we should get a small city car for me to drive around. I worked out how many litres of fuel we'd be consuming and chose not to buy one. I'd rely on carpools, taxis, autos and inter-city buses and trains for transport. Anything within the range of 2Km, I walk to, unless I am in a hurry or am sick. Initially, I had people asking me why I don't buy a two-wheeler or car. I'd say I couldn't drive. Now I say, I don't want to keep hunting for a place to park. Sometimes I tell them, "At some point of time in life, I'll have lost the function of my legs and will have to be moved on wheels. I'd rather make use of them now." They laugh it off. Over the last five years, I have become very conscious of my individual carbon footprint. I remember the pride I felt when the power company in Australia wrote us a 'thank you' mail for using one-fourth the power used by a typical two-bedroom Brisbane household. I'd walk a lot in Australia too, because I didn't want to create my large carbon footprint.

Friday, April 21, 2017

AK-47, the True Symbol of Free Enterprise and a Measure of Human Rights Violations

I have been reading Roberto Saviano's brilliant book, Gomorrah, about the brutal mafia clans in an around Naples, Italy, and I haven't been able to stop myself from taking down copious notes. Here's an excerpt about why the author thinks the AK-47 is the absolute icon of free enterprise and its price a measure of human rights violations:

“Nothing in the world – organic or synthetic, metal or chemical – has produced more deaths than the AK-47. It has killed more than the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, more than HIV, more than the bubonic plague, more than malaria, more than all the attacks by Islamic fundamentalists, more than the total of all the earthquakes that have shaken the globe... AK-47s have been used by armies in conflicts in more than fifty countries over the last thirty years... It has been the prop for every role: liberator, oppressor, soldier, terrorist, robber and the special forces who guard presidents. Kalashnikov's highly efficient weapon has evolved over the years: eighteen variants and twenty-two new models, all from the original design. It is the true symbol of free enterprise. The absolute icon..."

“To calculate the state of human rights, the analysts consider the price of an AK-47. The less it costs, the more human rights violations there are, an indication that civil rights are gangrening and the social structure is falling to pieces. In western Africa, an AK-47 can cost as little as $50. And in Yemen, it is possible to find second- or thirdhand weapons for as low as six dollars..."

“The arms question is kept in the bounds of the economy, sealed in the pancreas of silence.”

Monday, April 17, 2017

Water drums and water woes

When I travel around villages I find a variety of water-storage drums. In many villages in Gujarat, you get water in a tap for an hour or two in the day. The villagers collect water in drums. The drums could be huge brass/copper vessels in a wealthy village home or it could be those plastic containers that are used as storage in the industries. And that's where the problem lies. Storing drinking water in industry storage vessels risks contamination of the water. Often highly toxic chemicals are stored in these drums and repeated washing also may not successfully remove some traces of these chemicals. We talk about providing clean drinking water but we must also think of low-cost storage options.

#BusinessForRural #CleanWater #ChemicalHazards #StorageIssues #Villages #contamination #SustainableDevelopmentGoals #SDGs