Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Very special arts....and people

Empowering the less privileged and disabled.......saving the environment by recycling plastic......critical issues worldwide, and which many are striving to do. So it's doubly praiseworthy when the two are combined together---this is what Very Special Arts is doing, quietly, efficiently, and with commitment.

Many of us who have grown up listening to cassette tapes and watching movies on video cassettes are now in a situation  where they can no longer be used, with tape recorders becoming obsolete! Yet, it's difficult to relegate them to a bin/garbage, so I was looking around for a place where they could be used. Thanks to a friend who referred me to someone who manages a NGO ---where the poor and disabled are taught to weave (with plastic/tapes) items like bags, napkin holders etc and also to make candles, among other things.

Children from The missionaries of Charity homes attend classes held daily from 9 am to 1.30 pm.

Another impressive measure is the free computer classes for children. Expensive courses like Designing are taught for a nominal amount.

Saturdays are for extra curriculars and recreational activities, which translates to public performances and participation in events.

You can find the details on the site:


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Ms.Sunita Narain.... a crusader for the environment.....

CSE, the Center for Science and Environment, headed by a great environmentalist Sunita Narain has been doing monumental work in spreading awareness and fighting for environmental issues. She is the editor of an excellent magazine, Down to Earth. A recipient of national and international awards, and listed among the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine 2016, she is also an amazing human being----petit and elegant, unassuming, simple and warm, belying her gigantic stature in the country and world.

On 4th June (eve of World Environment Day)  her book of essays, culled from those published over the last 25 years (it was also the 25th anniversary of the magazine) was released. "Why I should be tolerant" was released before a packed house. A panel of 4, including Sunita Narain  and leading journalist Ravish Kumar discussed various aspects of environmental issues, which are covered in the book. Among the current topics raised by Sunita Narain and Ravish Kumar was the proposal of converting Lutyen's Delhi (an oasis of green) into a smart city. Sunita also elaborated on her choice of the title, when questioned about its aptness!

Signed copies of the book and other publications of CSE were on sale at the venue. It was a memorable program, and any one attending is sure to have come away with a feeling of pride and admiration at what an individual and her organisation is doing, and hope for the future.

Some of Sunita Narain's most memorable assertions during the function:
"Environmentalism of the poor is happening, but we are not listening to it

The most powerful nations would like us to believe that there is no other side.

In an information rich age, we are knowledge poor.

Anything that is inconvenient is ignored in the international climate discourse.

Part of the problem is that we think everybody else will solve it.

Why I should be tolerant is because we can't let the rich take charge of the future at the cost of the poor.
We are in a world where getting an inconvenient opinion out is very difficult. That is intolerance.

You might look at these links to read articles and learn of the excellent work done by Sunita Narain and her team, and her untiring efforts over the last 3 decades. It is thanks to her that ordinary citizens have been alerted to toxicity in food items and even paint.




No words are enough to do justice to her unflagging commitment and contribution to make the planet a better place................

Ms. Sunita Narain before the book release

and even if you are not fluent in Hindi, do look at the videos of Ravish Kumar's  popular program Prime Time (on NDTV Hindi)---he is a journalist par excellence, possibly the most balanced/objective in the current scenario. He has gained widespread recognition, and very recently, the recipient of the best journalist of the year award.



Ravish K. giving a sound bite to a news channel after the release

Mission Netaji

The title of this post is the name of a movement/organisation which has devoted itself to resolving the mystery of what actually happened to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, undeniably one of the greatest freedom fighters India has known. It was reported that he died in a plane crash, but the theory has too many doubtful aspects, as revealed in Ïndia's greatest cover up"by Anuj Dhar, one of the founding members of the organisation. His unrelenting efforts  has garnered huge public support and led to the government to agree to declassify files related to the case. The process of declassification has just begun...

On the 27th May, Anuj held the audience captive for over 3 hours, when he discussed the various possibilities, enumerated in his latest book "What happened to Netaji"? With clear, precise slides and commentary, he convincingly explained why the plane crash theory can be debunked. His passion and dedication is admirable and inspiring. His other books on the subject are "Back from the dead"and "No secrets"---must reads!

You might look at:



A special full moon

April is the month of a special full moon, known as the Wesak and celebrated by many, specially in the Buddhist tradition.....it's a special day for Pranic healers. A glimpse of the setting this year...

Change is constant.....

Spring gives way to summer......the "before"and now say it all....




perceptibly lighter!

Cotton pods burst and litter the ground....

The dominating color now.....

Monday, April 18, 2016

Changing colors!

As the last flowers of spring are fading away in anticipation of a harsh summer, there are still bright splashes of color......while the trees are not far behind........

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

...all creatures great and small.....

It was a routine morning walk at the Siri fort Sports complex this morning, when we saw the sky darkened over by dozens of crows, swooping around a white object on the path----approaching closer, we found a small and very frightened and white owl...its round eyes even larger with apprehension. People simply walked past...fortunately, a member of the staff happened to come down the road, and the hapless bird was picked up and given shelter, while I called up Wildlife SOS, known for their rescue efforts of animals, big and small.
The purpose of this post is to highlight :
a) the apathy and attitude of many city dwellers.....when the staff member was trying to help the bird, walkers stopped to click photos, and then ask him why he was bothering
b) common people are more rooted to the earth and nature, as seen by the gardeners who watched over the owl and gave it sips of water, while I went home to get a cardboard box for it
c) the professionalism of the SOS rescue member who responded to the call promptly and with great care. I had read about their efforts and made some contributions, so it was good to see their action in reality.
 Read about the organisation here   http://wildlifesos.org/

Perhaps human beings need to remember the last line of the verse---The Lord God made them all....and learn to give the voiceless creatures their due.

PS: I checked with them later and heard that the owl is not injured (as we had thought), just scared and lost, since it couldn't see in the daylight. It is being looked after in the SOS office, and will soon be released in the wild.

.......a poem as lovely as a tree!

Joyce Kilmer summed it up best in "Trees"--beginning with Ï think I shall never see, a poem as lovely as a tree"and ending with "poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree"! The beauty and variety of trees never fail to amaze and soothe, as we re-discovered on yet another "tree walk" (will write about the earlier ones in the course of time!) at the Jahapannah  city forest (part of the ancient Ridge) led by a passionate and very knowledgeable tree expert, Ms.Kavita Prakash. In her easy, interactive manner, she led us, as always, along a route (which she always takes the trouble to check out and plan beforehand) with common (and not so common!) trees that we pass by, sometimes notice, but don't know anything about! She stops to point out special features, encourages us to touch and bond with the tree, gives a gist of its origin and uses...etc etc. At the beginning of the walk, each one is given a list of the trees that will be covered, along with a page reference to a classic work "Trees of  Delhi"by Pradeep Kishen (more of that later!) so that one can look up details. She also carries along "goodies"in the shape of a leaf/fruit/etc (which may not be visible in the season) to touch and feel.

Some of the trees we saw are natives of  the region, while others have come from far away lands, though non native trees tend to cause an imbalance in nature.
 We learnt about: the Lasora (the Bird Lime tree), Dhak (Parrot tree, self explanatory!), Katsagon, Ronjh, Cabbage palm, Saptaparni (named after its 7 leaves together), Buddha's coconut (popularly known as the Mad tree!), Subabool, Vilaiti Keekar, Maharukh (also known as the Maha neem), Khair, Siris (rattle pod!) Earpod wattle and of course, the Banyan. Kavita also pointed out trees not on the list....Mulberry, Footstool palm, Ritha and Kachnar, among others.

And here's some trivia gleaned from the walk!
The Dhak is the state tree of Jharkhand, where it grows in plenty. It is worshipped in Telengana, while there is a tree outside every Brahmin's house in Kerala!

The Katsagon has ringed rods, and protruding flower stalks to attract bats. Its wood is termite resistant.

The solitary Cabbage palm had been rescued from a barbed wire, thanks to Kavita who had noticed it earlier! It has a very fragrant smell, and so a great attraction for bees.

The Saptaparni is known as the blackboard tree, as its wood is used to make slates. It is also wrongly termed the Devil's tree (Shaitan ka jhar in Hindi) due to the frantic activity at night among its branches! Reason: the flowers bloom at night and attract insects, which in turn attract bats! It has an overbearing smell and large amounts of pollen, so very allergenic and unsuitable for those with respiratory problems.

The Banyan tree is the national tree of India, and signifies immortality and survival. Since it symbolises life and fertility, it is not cut, but worshipped by childless couples. It is also known as Akshay Vat, and was described by the ancient Chinese traveller to India, Huen Tsang.

It was a pleasant morning, and a couple of hours well spent in learning about and admiring the colors, texture (and sometimes, smells) of Nature.

If you are in Delhi, do join in a tree walk with Kavita (see details of her regular walks on https://www.facebook.com/TheSausageTreeNatureWalks/

or with Pradeep Kishen (rare, and generally through India Habitat Center).

Cabbage palm
............only God can make a tree!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Gardening for Health and Happiness!

The title of the post was the theme of the Kitchen Garden festival, aglow with the colors of flowers in full bloom, fresh fruits used in ornamental patterns! aromatic herbs, bonsai, cacti.......and of course, some stalls for snacks and drinks!

Traditional medicine

An Indian-US workshop on traditional medicine was enlightening and enriching.....with speakers from different traditional forms of medicine discussing (with some case studies) the impact and efficacy of traditional medicine, particularly in treatment and cure of cancer. The branches represented were ayurveda, siddha, unani, homeopathy, yoga and naturopathy.
We were there at the invite of Vaidya Balendu Prakash, who has successfully cured cancer with his herbo-mineral formulations.

There were stalls put up by different organisations; the most informative one was by The National Medicinal Plant Board, with posters listing the plants used for treating specific disorders, as well as live plants commonly used in ayurvedic medicine.

Even for us who live in the land of traditional medicine, the workshop was a revelation!

One of the many charts showing the use of plants and yoga for common ailments

Birds of many feathers!

It's time to take a look at the winged visitors to the Delhi zoo, as it's almost time for them to fly back home, after the winter migration! Rosy billed pelicans, black ibis, pond herons, little egret, and my very favorite painted storks......the photos say it all. I skip the animals in cages, as personally I do not subscribe to the policy of caging animals, for whatever reason, and head straight to the lake with water birds on and around it. So if you're in Dehi, do make a trip to the zoo, adjacent to the historical Old Fort (which merits a trip on its own) and marvel at the wonders of nature.

 Painted storks share space with the cattle egret....

 while pelicans socialise in the water!

or soar majestically over head.....

more painted storks on another island, with black ibis and egrets