Search This Blog

Friday, November 28, 2014

Two Different Points of View

Two very different points of view on the race issue now highlighted in the US. Both points of  view are valid, I think.

Dr. Ahmed talks here of the police disconnect with the black community and the over-militarization of the police forces when dealing with civilian populations. We say that about the police and para-military in various States of India as well, but in my view they are better than in the US. What do you think ?

An excerpt from the article below :

A different article (excerpted below, but you can read the full piece here) :

Among other things, the author points to cultural factors that are negatively affecting the black community from within : 70 percent of babies are born out of wedlock, and 50 % of all children grow up in father-less homes. 

The Painter who died young - Egon Schiele

In a Blog Post, Beth Caird talks about this major European painter, whom I had not heard of thus far..

Increase the size of the text above by clicking on it. 

You can read more about him here : And this evocative piece by Joshua Heineman :

This image from :

Race riots in the US

Race riots in America at first glance in some aspects appear to follow the rythm of Hindu-Muslim riots in India..

The comment in this article on the situation in the US now holds lessons for us too.. 

Read it here :

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Don't Panic !

The best documentary I have seen in a long time.. please do see it, with your entire family, immediately !

This World Don't Panic The Truth About Population

Could not some academics please propose Prof. Hosling for a Noble Prize, say for communication ?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Power of the Organ !

While out to see a 'Steam Rally' in the Cotswolds in England one day, my father and I came across this :

It was an Organ on wheels ! The music was sweet and folksy and loud ! The organ owner, David, told me that the organ is used at fairs and parties..

On a subsequent visit to the Cirencester church..

Isnt it awe-inspiring ? Picture taken by AM in Aug 2014

We saw this.. A Church Organ.. some 15-20 feet tall and perhaps 15 feet wide !

While the Organ was not being played that day in the Church, I have been able to hear simmilar instruments on Youtube since..

Listen to this impressive performance from Youtube, here..

We have not seen or heard comparable musical instruments in India.. but I understand that the humble harmonium is also a kind of an Organ ! See from Youtube here : Best Harmonium player - Part 2 -

Do read the story of the harmonium player in the notes below the video.

The embrace of the Sycamore..

On a visit to Cotswolds England, we were amazed by giant trees in the grounds of the cottages we stayed in.. Sycamores.. they were said to grow to be hundreds of years old.. Taller than the eye could see the top of, and almost as wide, they were an oasis of light green waving in the wind.. The video below will give you an idea..

I looked up Youtube to see other videos on the sycamore tree and found that over 11 pages of youtube search results, there were more videos on cutting sycamore trees than on them !

One stand-out video however, was this giant sycamore in woodland whose base had a hollow large enough for the video author to get into ! See here at Hollow Sycamore Tree on Fall Nature Walk - ThirdChoiceVideos HD -

Text information on the net was rich ofcourse.. I found the London Plane, The American Sycamore and the Chinar in India and Asia, to be related simmilar trees.. From wikipedia below..

And finally, this video.. brings tears to your eyes to think the giant sycamore we loved, started out as such a seedling..

Friday, November 21, 2014

Sparrows and Us

It is simple actually to integrate your life with those of wild birds..

Apart from the simple measures listed in the previous post (feed, water, etc.), have plenty of seating / work spaces in open alcoves around your house (balconies, aangans, lawn area, roof, terrace, etc.) so that you may spend part of your day in the company of birds.

When inside the house, ensure your windows look out at green areas (just plonking a couple of potted trees outside the window will do if you dont have a lawn) so when working or resting, you can glance up and notice the birds flitting around.

View from our Study window.

It is sad to find so many people lamenting about the disappearance of birds without taking the simple measures they could to help them. Worse, some people dont seem to feel their absence at all !

As Rob Dunn writes in the Smithsonian (Mar 2, 2012) : ‘Even if you don’t know it, you have probably been surrounded by house sparrows your entire life. Passer domesticus is one of the most common animals in the world. It is found throughout Northern Africa, Europe, the Americas and much of Asia and is almost certainly more abundant than humans. The birds follow us wherever we go.’ 

Sparrows and I

As an only child with busy working parents, the living creature i saw the most when growing up, were sparrows.. i watched them chirping away, chasing or grooming each other from the windows or when i lay in the sun in winter.

Image taken by Vijay Raman in Bhiwadi.

The sparrows were my family, you might say. My parents did not do anything to strengthen those bonds, but my grandmother did ask me to give a roti (Indian bread generally made at home) to the crow everyday - maybe he shared some with the sparrows !

In the mid-90s, my husband and I and our friends, began to notice we no longer had sparrows around our homes, or very few of them..

The newspapers started lamenting about the decline of the sparrows.. We were told the sparrows did not have enough food and water and we started to put out some. But we were not as invested in them..

This image is from the net. you can see the name of the painter on the left bottom.

It was not until 2011, when we had settled down in a new house with a small garden, that we truly developed a relationship with sparrows, and indeed all other birds who visited us. To begin with, the sparrows were few.. but as we put out feed (bajra - pearl millet), drinking water, bathing water and nest boxes, their numbers grew.

Now around 30-50 of them live in our full-grown Ficus tree (I have not counted them but watching their sorties in and out of the tree, and especially their morning / evening chirp chorus give me a sense of the numbers) most of the year.

Sometimes, they are inexplicably gone for weeks, which leads to much hang-wringing in our family !

Image by Vijay Raman. He entitled it 'Why we are running out of Nests !'

Thus I know from personal experience how you can 'grow' a sparrow population in your vicinity.. obviously try and avoid all things that would frighten them - loud sounds, people aiming toy guns at them or trying to shoo them away..

Sparrows need only a small entry hole to their Nest-Box.

Predators such as Shikra (a kind of a small hawk) occasionally visit (they have to feed their babies too !) but it is cats who should be discouraged..

In my earlier housing society in Gurgaon, our plenty-ful birds were all but wiped out by the ever increasing cat population..

It is also important to keep their feed-boxes and water sources clean, else many birds can die of disease.

Shikra - bird identified by Vijay Raman, picture taken by Bulbul in the garden at her home.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

One of the most important videos I have seen recently

Lois Arkin talks about the Los Angeles Ecovillage she cofounded and shows its many parts in practice. Its about how small communities can set up their own infrastructure and services, live much closer to nature, collaborate in many fun and useful projects, and finally, do it all within limited budgets. 

This is one among many shared gardens which grow things, there are play and relaxing areas, and work areas such as shared Tool Shops !

There are only two rules in using the Tool Shop - put things back where they belong in 24 hours, and dont get blood on the tools !

Canning of self-grown fruit in progress here by one of the community members. 

The young inhabit the complex, as well as the old. We generally self-centered North Indians have a lot to learn from this successful experiment.

Kirsten Dirksen uploaded this ecovillage video as well as scores of others that i have been watching recently, on tiny homes and self-help initiatives. 

I found this moving..

Man making his life in a tiny home after divorce..

He needs help with his upcoming spinal surgery.. 

Latest information is in updates on the same page and large funders get paintings he and a friend made (see till the last in ‘gallery’) – I think they are real works of art.. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Inspiration from Tiny Homes for Middle-Classes in India..

We already have variants of tiny homes in slums and low-income settlements in India.. but even the middle and upper-middle classes could draw inspiration from the tiny home movement.. following the example of America, we have been falling prey to increasingly large homes - 2000 square feet ! No, 3000 square feet ! Even 4000 and 5000 square feet ! Whether taking the shape of apartments or houses..

Here's an inspiring story from America itself..

Interesting Idea - Linear cities ?

Many ideas about sustainable cities / urban landscapes are doing the rounds these days.. Vertical cities as well as compact, dense conglomerations have been proposed as desirable paths to take. Here is one more option..

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Intentional Communities

Some studies say about 25 % of the developed world’s population is downsizing, moving to more ecologically conscious ways of living.. this was news to me ! many of them are doing this in the form of small communities that share infrastructures and services. These are called ‘Intentional Communities’..

Here are some links that might interest you :

There is even a tiny house movement ! See this : Woman lives in TINY HOUSE in Orlando, FL- (RV parked and legal)-

This video feels almost spiritual :

Micro-homesteading in WA with 10K microhome (84 sq ft) in friends' yard - 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Jan Nisar Akhtar

I must have watched Meena Kumari’s ‘bahu begum’ many years ago.. it’s a fine piece of luknowi dhalti hui nawabi shaan..

Famous Bollywood scriptwriter Javed Akhtar’s father Jan Nisar Akhtar produced this film.. I looked him up on Wikipedia :

Found in the Wikipedia entry that his wife, and Javed’s mother, Sofia Akhtar was a college lecturer in Bhopal, who brought up her children, supported her husband struggling in Mumbai, and fought cancer on her own !

Found this beautiful anthology of her letters to Jan Bisar when she was in Bhopal, and he was in Mumbai, translated in english. She died of cancer a few days after the last letter..

The translator of these letters to english, a professor herself, has this blog on Ghalib’s verses..

Friday, November 14, 2014

Monitoring violent criminals after release

Although this debate is taking place in far away New Zealand, I am in full agreement with such measures. Have tracked serious crime news in India, USA, England, and am also reading up on the same in New Zealand. These measures are essential to protect potential victims. Such crimes destroy families and bring fear for long periods to entire communities.