Friday, 7 July 2017

ancient buildings

The thousand pillar temple near Warangal is being renovated by the ASI. They are using the ancient technique of building walls using river sand, kadukkai (terminalia chebula) and jaggery.  It has always surprised me that the Golconda fort has walls that look quite new and are still standing, whereas, modern day houses last maybe 3 or 4 decades at best and some of the recent flats look as if they will crumble in the second monsoon they face.
There is an article about how the Roman forts were built, and why they are still standing in some places. They used volcanic ash and lime, and treated the bricks by immersing them in seawater. Two different but very effective technologies. 
Many houses built in the 19th century, have walls that shine, sort of glowing walls. This was done by crushing shells from the riverbed and using that powder as plaster for the walls....mother of pearl walls so to speak.
These technologies may not be useful now since we cannot afford the river sand to build so many houses, but surely there might have been some technologies that we have lost, that could be of use to us now.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Anecdotes cannot be evidence of any phenomenon, but evidence is made of anecdotes.
I have lived in Hyderabad since 1986 and have employed a large number of maids. One of them who worked for me in 2002, had lands which she and her family farmed in Medak district. The government had decided to build the Singur dam on the Manjira river to supply drinking water to the growing city of Hyderabad. This was in the early '90s. They acquired lands from farmers, one of them being this maid's family. They did not get any compensation immediately, and having no means of livelihood, came to Hyderabad to work as flower sellers. She then took up domestic work and ended working for me and a few others. In 2002, the government decided to give her compensation for the lands and she went off for a few days to her village. After a lot of red tape, she got 25000 as compensation. Even in 2002, 25000  was a small amount, and it came almost a decade late. Somehow, she had the option of working as a domestic servant and was lucky to survive. How tough it must be for most people to be uprooted from their homes and told to fend for themselves with their means of livelihood taken away.
My current maid has farmlands in a place near Hyderabad, but her family cannot farm there since there is no water. All around Hyderabad, this is the story.........farmlands are fallow since there is no water. Telangana is a semi-arid region. We have an institute ICRISAT that does research on crops for such regions, but how many farmers get know-how from them and  raise suitable crops I don't know. It is definitely not a vast majority.
Israel raises tomatoes in the desert. I still remember a picture of tomatoes growing amidst desert sands that I saw decades back. So why do we not pass technical know-how more effectively to our farmers?
Do government departments have competent people manning them? This year, the Telangana government asked all farmers to sow chillies. There is now a glut and prices are low. Did they not do the math?
The state water testing departments has people who don't know how to test water properly. The forest department has planted a forest of eucalyptus all along the road to BITS Pilani Hyd....these are just some examples. We get frivolous solutions to serious problems like floating thermocol sheets on lakes.
Should not the administration get competent people to advise and then follow the good advice?

Saturday, 20 May 2017

There is a fledgling care industry aimed at the senior citizens in India. 
A few years back, old age homes were for the destitute or for those who had no one to look after them. 
Now we have homes for the elderly that nicely combine geriatric care with appropriate independence. 
One can buy a small flat or house in a colony full of senior citizens. These communities provide care and help and companionship for the elderly. 
Now I see some advances in palliative care too. There are also some home care organisations. All that makes me hopeful that in my old age, I will be able to manage without having to trouble my children too much.
But this comes at a fairly high price. So what about people who cannot afford it? 

Friday, 19 May 2017

I was indulging in some hyperbole, or so I thought, but it seems to have come true. Trump has actually done this, not in a tweet, but to the Russian ambassador.

Thursday, 11 May 2017


Keezhadi near Madurai is a site of a dig. For the first time, an archeological dig in this region is attempting to gather evidence of urban settlements in ancient Tamil nadu.

There are many stories of the Tamil Sangam in ancient times which implied the presence of  great urban settlements where literary seminars were held. It is said that much of the evidence was drowned in the sea after a great flood (maybe a tsunami) which obliterated the cities. Kumari kandam is believed to have existed many thousands of years ago. But the great ancient urban Tamilnadu theory had no archeological evidence. One reason could be that either some cities were drowned and some others like Madurai continue to be urban settlements where digs cannot be carried out.

An ASI officer from the Bangalore office has discovered many sites along the Vaigai which show evidence of ancient cities in this region. The team has done remarkable work in Keezhadi, the site chosen for the first dig. But as evidence of the urban settlements emerged, the ASI officer has been posted to Assam.

Monday, 24 April 2017

A brilliant solution to Tamil nadu's water woes......float thermocol sheets on lakes to prevent evaporation.
Another  case of the disdain people in power have for real experts.

There is a school dropout who was a weaver's son. His mother had to work 8 -10 hours a day on winding yarn in intricate patterns for weaving sarees. She earned just a couple of rupees. Her arms used to ache and she was constantly in pain. The  boy decided to ease his mother's pain and after repeated trials, invented a mechanical device for this process. There are a few examples of passion driven uneducated people acheiving great things.

But our minister is not one of those. The people in power are definitely not driven by passion to help other people, they are not experts and often not even intelligent enough to grasp what the actual problem is. So my appeal to them is  please, please consult real experts to solve problems; not just one, but a couple of them. Ask the people on ground what the problem is and ask how they think it can be solved.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Wages again

Another episode that makes me wonder.... sometime back, I landed at  Hyderabad airport and went to the taxi kiosk for a ride home. As I was alone, the policeman at the taxi counter got me a SHE cab. That is the rule they follow. I had a not-so-pleasant experience with a SHE cab about a year before this, nevertheless, I got into her taxi. The lady was quite nice unlike the previous one and we chatted on our way. She told me she used to be  an ICU nurse at one of the top hospitals of Hyderabad. Her husband died suddenly, leaving her to bring up two children. So she gave up her nursing job and took up taxi driving. I asked why, she said the income was far greater and she couldn't have managed on her salary as an ICU nurse.
While I agree all jobs are important, I would not have died without a taxi from the airport to my house. But without a competent ICU nurse, I may very well die if I was in one.
Some jobs are more important. So why are they not paid well? The hospitals charge patients exorbitant amounts for a day in the ICU, then why not pay the nurses well?
Wages are really skewed in our country. Teachers, doctors, nurses are not considered to be very important.