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

https://midwaypersonal.blogspot.in/2016/10/trumps-3-am-tweets-rival-hyper-14-year.html?m=1

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

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.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

English education

Coincidentally, I got similar messages from multiple sources this week. One was a Whatsapp forward about NASA saying Sanskrit is the best language. NASA says so many great things about India and our sanskriti, I wonder why they don't move their offices to Varanasi or Rishikesh. (also why NASA? why not WHO or world bank or even Oxford university?)
The second was a short TedX talk, and the third was a talk by Shashi Tharoor.
Of course they were not of the same intellectual calibre.
The common thread was the English education.
While I have read some research that says early education must be in the child's mother tongue and I do believe that to be true after my experience teaching some children, we cannot deny that English education has been of great use to us. I notice even the most 'nationalistic' people do not advocate abolition of English as a medium of instruction.
It is maybe a case of the price we pay for this English education being too high.
Even small two room private schools in slums are now 'English medium', but their teachers do not speak fluently in English. The result is the children neither learn English nor their mother tongue with any degree of fluency. No one is familiar with literature of their own culture and the English stories for example, are too alien culturally for our children. (as a kid, I always wondered what anchovy was)
But what are our choices?
Ideally, instructions in the mother tongue till the 5th with English as a strong second language with the medium of instruction for science and a few subjects shifted to English in higher classes would perhaps be one way. But as an example, I schooled in UP, my mother tongue was Tamil and I was woefully poor at Hindi. If Hindi had been the medium of instruction, I may have failed in school......(or maybe I would have become proficient in Hindi). Could we have had a Tamil medium school in the small towns of UP where I studied?
What about a child in Telangana/Maharashtra whose mother tongue is Gondi?
I cannot see any good answers to this problem. 

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Tat tvam asi

There was a comment on the series broadcast on CNN (I think) on various religions, in which the presenter has chosen the Aghoris as an example of Hinduism. I do agree with the Hindu community in the US that it is a poor choice. But why don't they make a documentary about the principal Upanishads or Adi Sankara or ....to put out the counter point?

Be that as it may, the practice of  religion has also changed. 
It used to be more personal....you learnt slokas from your parent/grandparent, you went to the temple to pray, you did your pujas regularly. But primarily, one was also taught that hurting another jeevan was an act of aggression against god because 'tat tvam asi'  no matter who that other is...of another religion, same religion or even an animal..anything that feels pain must not be pained. If you did hurt others, as we all do sometimes, karma will catch up with you if not now, then in the next birth.

But that has changed......It has now become congregational with gatherings for every festival, competitively extravagant pandals, extortion of money, loud speakers, beating up others who dont believe in what you do, in fact that has become a badge of honour.

Maybe even hindus in India need a lesson in hinduism of the "Tat tvam asi" variety.

Monday, 6 March 2017

wages

Recently, I read that we, meaning Indians, devalue physical labour and that it may hark back to our caste system. I disagree in some ways. It was so in the past, and may still be so in terms of social acceptance, but definitely not monetarily.
In our local private schools, a teacher has to work from 8 or 9 am till 4 pm 6 days a week and gets paid Rs 2500 per month.
Also, a household worker, cleaning the house and washing dishes, gets paid Rs 3000 per month for about 2 hours' work per day, about 26 to 27 days a month.
A college lecturer is recruited at 15000 per month starting pay at one of the better private colleges...most others pay less....around  8000-10000 per month.
Municipal sweepers, do a superficial cleaning of our roads  working from 6 am to 2 pm and make Rs 8000 per month starting pay, going to 15000 for the more senior ones.

I call a person to clean my garden. He asked me for Rs 500 for 3 hours work, though the going rate is 500 for the whole day. Even at 500 per day, digging and clearing the garden, which is not heavy manual labour, just light garden work, pays more than teaching in a school.
But the best job is cleaning airconditiones..... about 20 minutes of work consisting of gently brushing off the dust, washing filters and outdoor units, fetches them Rs 500 for each AC

The other side of this coin is heavy manual labour...many women in the construction industry get paid 400 per day of 7 hours. They lift bricks and mix the cement, while the mason (male) sits and applies the cement that she mixes and gives him- for which he gets paid Rs 600.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Status of men

First men were these creatures who are under the control of women because they cannot resist if they see a woman late in the evening. They have to molest her....Not their fault, they are designed that way.
Now they are nuisances.... Telangana residential colleges for women will not admit married women because their husbands will be a source of distraction to them!
Those pesky men!!!
Like one standup comedian said, our governments provide a lot of material for them, they need not put on any effort.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Haldi ghati

The Haldi Ghati battle is immortalised in a poem I learnt in school. If I remember right, there were some verses dedicated to his horse Chetak.
This battle, where Rana Pratap fought valiantly, however resulted in his being forced to retreat.

Just like some valiant saviours of Rajputs did not like the imagined imaginary scene between Padmavati and Allahuddin, the minister for higher education govt of Rajasthan doesn't like this fact about the battle.
He has decided that Rana Prathap won the battle of Haldighati decisively and this version will now be in the history books used by the University.
While you are at it sir, can we please please have my great great great grandfather a Rajput warrior (I am a Tambram, but let's not nitpick) who decimated Akbar or Aurangzeb's army (it doesn't matter who) and ruled over the whole of India and never let the British set foot in India.
Incidentally, as a bonus for you, we can then do away with Gandhi and Nehru and other such people you don't like..no British rule, no freedom fighters.

A footnote, should you have one prescribed textbook for college students? If you don't, maybe they will read too much and become JNU types.

our kid politicians

In Tamil Nadu, MLA s are "being kept in luxury with fine food and water sports" at a resort by Sasikala to prevent them from going over to OPS camp.
How old are they? You can buy their allegiance with a water slide and mutton biryani?
It happened in AP some 15 years ago I think .. MLAs  kept holed up in Viceroy hotel to prevent defection.

Even their debates on TV are like pre teens arguing with mom..."you did not say anything to him(brother) when he did the same thing last week....why are you scolding me now? You are always partial, if he does, it's Ok but when I do you shout and scream...." accompanied by copious tears.

We seem to elect pre-teens to our legislature and parliament. 

Friday, 3 February 2017

As education and literacy spreads, people should be more aware of the world around and be able to appreciate abstract concepts like larger interests, greater good, delayed but greater benefits, cause and effect . But it seems to be the opposite.
We are all now circling the wagons and loading our guns. World over this seems to be the norm.
Maybe democracy is a failing idea.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

What little I understand of economics is through anecdotes. Most middle aged women have dealt with maids whose husbands take away their money to drink or worse to buy goodies for his mistress.
The concept of going cashless and giving everything through banks, makes such women very vulnerable. At present, such women usually hide cash in the rice dabba or leave money with the "memsahibs" to be used later when children's fees are due. They are able to save some money from their husbands. If all money goes into the bank, the husband is sure to get hold of it one way or another and drink it off.
The money transfers to be given through various government schemes in lieu of subsidies or food will eventually be drunk in many cases. 
All over the world, it seems to be the same. The duly elected members of the opposition seem to have outsourced their jobs to the common people. See the debate/lack thereof in the previous parliament session in India  and in the USA, where are the democrats?

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Having said that, there has to be some way poverty is addressed. Time and again targeted subsidies and doles have been misappropriated and the targeted people left out.
Well I am a layman and not expected to understand this.

UBI

I lived for a short time in a village near Ooty where my husband taught at an engineering college for two years. The students from the college had gone to a tribal village in the forests for an NSS program.  On the Sunday of the week they were there, we went to visit them just to give them some encouragement. They lecturer in charge said that the villagers would not help the students in anyway when they cleaned the village, they just watched- they thought the students were working to pay off debt to the government. The men of the village were all at home watching programs on the free TV given by the government, living in the free house provided by the government, eating the 1 rupee rice and 2 rupee dal. No one went for work.
This is the effect of freebies, able bodied men not working because they have enough food, shelter without working.
Meanwhile, tea estates were closing down in that area, with only the big players like Tata and UNITEA able to manage the labour shortage. There's severe labour shortage in the Nilgiris.

The proposed UBI may also do that. 

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Some help needed

Some people do read my blog. So, dear reader,  the stats of my blog say the pageviews for my blog has suddenly gone up 10 fold or more. Usually, when I do not post much as is the case in the recent past, I get bout 400/500 pageviews, and when i post often, I get 1200/1500 page views per month. Suddenly this has become 7000 per month  and about 200 daily, even when I don't post anything. This is just unbelievable. I am not sure if it is just error in stats or some malware. Hence I appeal to anyone who can tell me if there's some malware activity and should I worry about it.

Monday, 9 January 2017

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/watch-meryl-streep-accept-cecil-b-demille-award-golden-globes-2017-961510

A speech by Meryl Streep about Trump. 

Sunday, 8 January 2017

I watch a TV series called Blue Bloods. It is about the New York police. The latest episode has a point that has always worried me. It is about recruiting into the NYPD, the questionaire asks if the potential recruit has ever fired a weapon on another person and if so, did he or she feel remorse. If the answer is "Yes", he may not be recruited since it is not desirable to recruit into the police force, a local gang member who has killed someone and not even regretted it.
However, there are soldiers who after serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, are now discharged from the military and are applying to the NYPD to join as police officers. They are trained to kill the enemy and not feel remorseful for the killing. That's their training. So these young men lie when answering the questionaire.
Now this is of course fiction. But it is a serious issue that I have always worried about. The army trains its men to fight enemies. To kill any enemy without hesitation. To shoot first, and not think about it. That training is essential to stay alive and active in the army. This training is very good and deeply ingrained into soldiers at a young age.
But when the government uses these same men to fight inside the country, to fight their own people, it is expecting these men to forget their training and act otherwise because you do not want them to shoot first. How can you expect them to undo training which is designed to be not undone?

The police are supposed to be trained differently, to ask before shooting, to look upon miscreants as their own people, albeit criminal, to not shoot except as a last resort. They must be trained well in crowd control, in detective work, in managing people, in minimising fallout of disputes in preventing mishaps, in traffic control etc etc.
Just as the police cannot do the work of the soldier, the soldier must not do the work of the police.
Governments must stop using the army for police work. It is harmful to the country, to the army and to the people.