Namma Mysore

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I rarely log onto Facebook, but when I did after few months, I found this wonderfully written gem from my childhood friends Prakruthi and Triveni. Thanks to the two of you for sharing. Had to post it, since it echoes the sentiments of Mysoreans!

“Mysore cannot be experienced in holidays or weekends. Like a creeper growing and encircling the staff, you have to live, and grow with Mysore to experience it. You have to be with the ajjis who have seen you from the time you were soooo small, where the maid who works in your house is your family maid, your ajji had “recruited” her mother.

Sunset at Kukkarahalli Lake. Image courtesy: Blog.e-Mysore.com

Sunset at Kukkarahalli Lake. Image courtesy: Blog.e-Mysore.com

When you go on an evening walk, and the poojari of the Ram mandir, stops and chats with you, and moves on saying there is a pooja at 5 next morning, that’s Mysore for you.

When you walk a little ahead and the librarian says he has the latest copy of “Kasturi” or “Mayura”, that’s Mysore for you.

When the milkman sees you on a walk, and delivers an extra half liter without being asked, that’s Mysore for you.

Mysore is when you board a bus at the bus-stand and conductor-uncle gives you a ticket without asking. Mysore is when you collect little red ‘gulganji’ seeds on your way back home from KukkarahaLLi lake.

Mysore is when you come by the Tippu express, and you find someone going in your direction to drop you off.

Mysore is when elephants are marched in from the forests for Dussehra. Mysore is when you wait for your copy of “Star of Mysore”. Mysore is when the English movies are only at Rajkamal. Or Sterling.

Mysore is when you look for your KEB uncle to book tickets at Woodlands. Mysore is when there are student body elections in Sharada-Vilas. Mysore is the eternal SJCE-NIE feud. Mysore is when Jayciana is.

Mysore is when you got your project report bound at Venkateshwara Binders in Saraswatipuram.

Mysore is having grape juice at RTO circle. Mysore is buying vegetables at Agrahara. Mysore is buying plantain leaves in NanjumaLige, savoring the aroma of the agarbatti factory behind.

Mysore is eating ice-creams at Phalaamrutha or Penguin. Mysore is eating dosa at GTR or Mylari Hotel. Mysore is having biriyani early in the morning, near Philo’s church. Mysore is drinking sugarcane juice near Kukkarahalli lake. Mysore is munching corn-on-the-cob in the palace foreground.

Mysore is when I grew up in Mysore.

My Mysore.

Mysore before GRS, before the underbridge in front of Saraswatipuram Fire Brigade, before Infosys, before Ring-Road. Those who grew up in that Mysore will relate to me more than those who came to Mysore, for a three-month stint in Infy. Than those, who think Mysore is a good place to invest. Than those, who think chilling out in Mysore is just CCD or Pizza Corner.

Oh, how they misunderstand my pretty home!
I am proud to say I’m Mysorean.

I love my Mysore!”

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Manipur Ponies

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Manipur may be synonymous with Mary Kom and Irom Sharmila. But, it is also home to the  Mapal Kangjeibung grounds, the oldest polo ground in the world.

The modern version of Polo is believed to have originated in Manipur. The British discovered it during the colonial era and brought “hockey on horseback” to the West in the 19th century.
Today, westerners are coming back to Manipur to play Polo! The 2017 USPA-Manipur games just concluded in the capital Imphal.
United States Polo Association (USA) registered easy 9-3 win against Hurlingham Polo Association (UK)  today to clinch the title of 2nd Manipur Statehood Day Women’s Polo tournament.
A large sign near the scoreboard  reads: No Pony—No Polo.The Manipur pony central to the game of Polo is endangered, its grazing grounds disappearing.

Manipuri Pony. Image Source: www.horseindian.com

Manipuri Pony. Image Source: http://www.horseindian.com

The Manipuri breed, from Manipur in eastern India, is famous for being the original polo pony and is one of the most prestigious of the five Indian equine breeds. The Manipuri originally served as war ponies in the cavalry of the kings of Manipur, who were feared throughout Upper Burma.

The famed ponies central to the game of Polo are critically endangered species. Loss of grazing land, urbanisation and encroachment of wetlands are considered to be among the key reasons for the decline.

Fortunately, efforts are being made to save the breed, the Manipur Horse Riding and Polo Association has been formed and they have established a stud farm now housing 130 ponies.
And in a rarity in today’s sports culture,

..the winners and runners up teams have donated the cash rewards for the promotion of Manipuri ponies!

Farewell Sir… A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

Bharat Ratna Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen “A. P. J.” Abdul Kalam, one of India’s rare gems.

Bharat Ratna Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Bharat Ratna Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen “A. P. J.” Abdul Kalam. Image source: One India

“My story—the story of the son of Jainulabdeen, who lived for over a hundred years on Mosque Street in Rameswaram island and died there; the story of a lad who sold newspapers to help his brother; the story of a pupil reared by Sivasubramania Iyer and Iyadurai Solomon; the story of a student taught by teachers like Pandalai; the story of an engineer spotted by MGK Menon and groomed by the legendary Prof. Sarabhai; the story of a scientist tested by failures and setbacks; the story of a leader supported by a large team of brilliant and dedicated professionals. This story will end with me, for I have no belongings in the worldly sense. I have acquired nothing, built nothing, possess nothing—no family, sons, daughters.”

You leave behind a great legacy Sir. All Indians are indebted to you for living a life dedicated to science and development of our nation. Your life was an example to all of  us. Thank you for being a humble, secular, and an EXTRAORDINARY human being. People from all walks of life, especially individuals occupying public offices have a lot to learn from you.

Ghoramara – Sinking of an island and a way of life

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Ghoramara Island (India), Lohachara Island (India), Bedford Island (India), and New Moore(India) are tiny islands located in the Sunderbans area. While New Moore and Bedford Island were uninhabitated, Lohachara was an inhabited island where more than 6,000 people used to live. Ghoramara is also inhabited.

Ghoramara, Lohachara, and Bedford Islands. Image source: http://ummoa.net Ghoramara, Lohachara, and Bedford Islands. Image source: http://ummoa.net

The  islands  Lohachara, Bedford, and New Moore  lying  to  the southwest  of  Ghoramara  have  already been  submerged and  Ghoramara is slowly being engulfed by the sea.

Ghoramara Island. Image source: www.matadornetwork.com Ghoramara Island. Image source: http://www.matadornetwork.com

Dr Sugarto Hazra, an oceanographer at the University of Calcutta says there is more than one cause of the problem.

“Cutting down the mangrove that used to cover the island, to make way for farming, destroyed the ecology. The mangrove used to bind the topsoil in position. Now it is being washed away. The farmers also used to dig wells to get fresh water for irrigating their paddies. But in time,  underground reservoirs emptied and then collapsed.  Added to all that, the sea level is rising around here, as it is everywhere in response to global warming. So the land is subsiding and at the same time the sea is advancing.”

Since these islands are part of a river delta, geomorphological changes, lack of proper dredging undertaken by the  Kolkata Port Trust,  subsidence have also been attributed as a cause for coastal erosion. The threat of rising sea levels may partly also be due to climate change. A villager from Ghoramara Island walks through the abandoned patches where many houses used to exist. Source: http://petercaton.co.uk A villager from Ghoramara Island walks through the abandoned patches where many houses used to exist. Source: http://petercaton.co.uk

The fact is that due to coastal destruction  a significant area of agricultural land and coastal stretches for fish drying have been lost rendering thousands of people homeless as ‘environmental refugees.’

Irrespective of the reason behind the sinking of these islands, one cannot underestimate the effects of human activities. How many of us can understand the correlation between environmental degradation and human sustenance?

Further reading:

Morphological Change Study of Ghoramara Island using Multi-temporal Satellite Data.

Application of a ‘bio-engineering’ technique to protect Ghoramara island from severe erosion.

Fine Arts College for the Disabled

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A concern shared among many individuals who cater to the disabled community is, how we, as a society relate to ‘disabled’ people. Instead of pitying them, we need to provide them with opportunities to develop their potential and recognize their contribution.

While conducting sculpture workshops for the disabled, an idea came to Chandrasekaran’s mind, to open a fine arts college for the disabled. Called “Ovvai Mulari”, the college has started accepting applications from disabled students for its three-year diploma course in sculpture, which begins in August 2015.

“I have seen disabled and physically challenged people creating great pieces of art. Many don’t continue it due to lack of encouragement and sponsorship. My main aim is to encourage them, mainly the hearing impaired, by teaching about the new trends in sculpture-making,” said Chandrasekaran, who is a former principal of the College of Fine Arts, Chennai.

Mr. Chandrasekaran is currently funding the college on his own. I do hope our government comes forward and provides funding for such positive endeavors.

(Ab)Use of Antibiotics

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Antibiotics have saved millions of lives, mainly of people suffering from tuberculosis, meningitis and other illnesses, since the treatment was introduced more than a century ago. Today, unless strict action is taken to curb  the overuse and misuse of antibiotics, we could be heading towards a situation where these previously “curable” diseases may become “uncurable”.

Overuse of Antibiotics is leading to resistance. Image source: http://www.thehindu.com

Overuse of Antibiotics is leading to resistance. Image source: http://www.thehindu.com

In India, weak regulatory practices compound the problem, leading to complex challenges.  Many upper respiratory tract infections, including colds, sore throats and even some ear infections, should not be treated with antibiotics, yet often still are. The unholy alliance between pharmaceutical companies and doctors resulting in over-prescription of antibiotics for ailments is very much evident.

Sumit Ray, vice-chairman, critical care medicine at Sri Ganga Ram hospital, says, “We are seeing more and more patients who have already been prescribed very strong antibiotics at primary or secondary level hospitals. This is leading to an increasing level of resistance to antibiotics in the community.  This leads to a vicious cycle, where physicians at the primary and secondary levels have to go for higher antibiotics for even basic infections and we at the tertiary centers end up giving even higher (or the latest) generation antibiotics like carbapenems. Over exposure of these antibiotics have led to a situation in India where we are seeing increasing incidence of even carbapenem resistance. The worst is that there aren’t enough training and educational programs for doctors to learn to deal with such issues.”

Another factor contributing to the problem is treating healthy animals with antibiotics to boost production, leading to resistance. And via the food chain, this spreads to humans. India does not have any mechanisms to check the use of growth hormones administered to cattle to increase milk production.

Is our government listening? Apparently, yes. The Union health ministry in 2011  formalized a National policy for containment of antimicrobial resistance however, not much is known about the fate of the policy. One can only guess it to be similar to most other policies in our country which lack the tooth for effective implementation.

To create more awareness on this issue, a group of doctors formed the Indian Initiative for Management of Antibiotic Resistance ( IIMAR) to “promote prudent use of antibiotics so as to reduce the possibility of spread of antibiotic resistance.”

“The ignorance and callousness are at every level of the society – from care providers like doctors, to pharmacists, lawmakers, manufacturers and [even] the consumers.”

We should therefore make informed decisions for treating common ailments before submitting ourselves to antibiotics prescribed by doctors. Because, we are the ones who glean the benefits or suffer the consequences. Sensitizing the public to this problem, in a way could motivate political commitment to implement an effective policy.

Further reading:

Rationalizing antibiotic use to limit antibiotic resistance in India

Race against drug resistance

World Hydrography Day

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World Hydrography Day is observed on the 21st of June every year to commemorate the establishment of the International Hydrographic Bureau by 19 member states in 1921. In 1970, it was renamed as the International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO) and presently has 80 Member States, covering the vast majority of Ocean States. The United Nations has  urged all states to work with IHO to promote safety of International Navigation, Maritime Development and Protection of vulnerable Marine Areas.

India is one of the member states of the International Hydrographic Organization.

The International Hydrographic Organization defines hydrography as “the branch of applied science which deals with the measurement and description of the physical features of the navigable portion of the earth’s surface [seas] and adjoining coastal areas, with special reference to their use for the purpose of navigation.”

The theme for this year’s World Hydrography Day is “Our seas and waterways-yet to be fully charted and explored.” It aims to raise awareness and attract support for improving the current absence of authoritative depth data for many parts of the seas and navigable waterways in the world. For example,there are higher resolution maps of the Moon and Mars than for many parts of our seas and coastal waters.

Hydrography is very vital for the maritime infrastructure and thereby the economy of India. This National responsibility is shouldered by the Indian navy and discharged by its hydrographic department.

Beach Survey by Trainees of the National Institute of Hydrography. Image source: http://www.nih.gov.in

Further reading:

India’s association with IHO and why is hydrography important for a maritime nation like India?

Chawang Norphel: Glacier Man of India

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Ladakh is an arid region with sparse vegetation and scanty rainfall. Glaciers are the fountainhead of water for farming communities in the area.  The Himalayan glaciers feed the region’s rivers which irrigate farm land in the northern part of the Indian sub-continent.  With global warming melting the Himalayan glaciers at an alarming rate, water shortage has been widespread , affecting numerous lives.

Meet Mr. Chawang Norphel, a retired civil engineer, also known as the Glacier

Mr. Chewang Norphel. Image source: www.outlookindia.com

Mr. Chewang Norphel. Image source: http://www.outlookindia.com

Man of India. He is waging a one-man battle to stop global warming melting the glaciers. He has developed a simple technique to harvest water into “Artificial Glaciers” using simple materials such as pipes.

By diverting meltwater through a network of pipes into artificial lakes in the shaded side of mountain valleys, he says he has created new glaciers. A dam or embankment is built to keep in the water, which freezes at night and remains frozen in the absence of direct sunlight. The water remains frozen until March, when the start of summer melts the new glacier and releases the water into the rivers below. So far, Mr Norphel’s glaciers have been able to each store up to one million cubic feet of ice, which in turn can irrigate 200 hectares of farm land. For farmers, that can make the difference between crop failure and a bumper crop of more than 1,000 tons of wheat.

Artificial Glacier process. Image source: www.india.youth-leader.org

Artificial Glacier process. Image source: http://www.india.youth-leader.org

The government had encouraged artificial glaciers in few areas of Leh. However, due to manpower and capital costs involved, this intervention is seen as a costly investment by experts.

But, what is remarkable is the willpower of Mr. Chawang Norphel to help the farming communities of Leh.

Climate Classification at a District Level in India

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Impacts of climate change on our planet have been well documented.   Over the period of few decades , the changes that have occurred seem to be significant.

According to a recent paper in Current Science, the twenty year old classification of districts on climate zones does not hold true today.

India district climate zones: Image source: www.makanaka.wordpress.com

India district climate zones 1971 to 2005: Image source: http://www.makanaka.wordpress.com

The study indicates

  • Substantial increase of arid region in Gujarat and decrease of arid region in Haryana.
  • Increase in semi-arid region in Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh due to shift of climate from dry sub-humid to semi-arid.
  • Moist sub-humid pockets in Chattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra have turned dry sub-humid to a large extent.

Jeffrey Sachs of the Earth Institute warns that four types of geographies will share the largest burden of climate change crisis. a)  the low-lying coastal settlements, b)  farm regions dependent on river water from glacier and snow melt, c)  sub-humid and arid regions that suffer from drought, and d)  regions of Southeast Asia facing changes in monsoon patterns.Most of India falls into one of these four zones.

It is imperative for us to comprehend the reasons behind this shift in the classification and identify the enabling mechanisms required to cope with this change.

State of India’s Media

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A documentary about the state of our media. Be it the elections, the Indian Premier League (IPL), stock markets, mutual funds, entertainment, or the daily news bulletin.  Can we hold a mirror to the glass buildings and ivory towers?

Editorial content is decided by marketing executives. Politicians/ political parties & industrialists have become owners or major shareholders, and owners have become editors. The amount of dedication and truthfulness – basically an urge to bring about positive changes through investigative journalism has somehow disappeared.  Even the reasons of getting into journalism have changed. And all of this has happened with active support from the top media houses – who now concentrate more on the business of news rather than news.

—Umesh Agarwal. National award-winning  film maker

No pillar is more important in a democracy than the fourth estate. Currently,  integrity standards of our news media seem appalling. However, despite the absence or decline in ethical standards across board, there are a few journalists  who take their job seriously. Some in the national media while some in the regional media.

As citizens of a democracy, all we can wish for the true journalism minority is “May their tribe increase!”