Cool Buddies

44 little ways you can save the planet

Posted in Environment, Life by Ratheesh & Sharada on September 20, 2014
  1. When you leave a room, remember to switch off lights / fans
  2. Do not leave gadgets on Stand by mode unnecessarily
  3. Always hibernate your computers, switch off monitors when not in use
  4. Do not throw plastic covers containing edible items, always empty them into food pits, separate out and wash the covers before throwing
  5. Avoid asking for plastic bags in shops, always carry your bag or shop for lesser items that you can carry with two hands
  6. Adjust the refrigerator temperature / AC temperature according to the weather outside
  7. While buying electric gadgets, always check for their power efficiency and buy the most efficient
  8. Buy only as much as required, avoid wastage
  9. While running washing machine, always load it to the maximum extent to save on water and detergent
  10. Try to walk distances whenever possible
  11. When buying items, always buy ones that do not come in with lot of throwable packing
  12. Do not wash cars everyday, use limited water and no soap
  13. Use only 20% of prescribed (or advertised) amounts of cosmetics, toothpaste, ointments etc.
  14. Reuse vessels during preparation and serving, do not take new plates for second servings
  15. Always carry a mug and spoon for coffee in office to avoid paper cups / stirrers
  16. Do not use AC in car when not necessary
  17. Switch off automobiles at every given opportunity at signals
  18. Use the water from washing vessels / vegetables etc. for watering plants (but make sure they do not have soap mixed)
  19. Carry enough vessels when parceling food from hotels
  20. Use CFLs instead of bulbs
  21. Feed edible leftovers to animals – cows, squirrels, birds
  22. Make small notepads out of paper, use one sided printed paper for making notes
  23. Print non-legal documents on both sides, two per page to minimize paper
  24. Print only when absolutely required, do not print any documents that can be read online / on computers
  25. Always carry a hard kerchief / hand towels and avoid tissues
  26. Do not flush toilets to the fullest all the time, only use as much water as necessary to maintain basic hygiene. Use flushes that come with this feature
  27. While ordering food, always order less than the maximum require quantity, more often than not it will be sufficient
  28. Use power saving modes in computers, electronic devices to adjust brightness, switch off monitors etc.
  29. Buy locally grown vegetables and fruits, avoid exotics (at least limit their use)
  30. Give preference to locally made products within the state / country that minimizes transport
  31. Be vegetarian
  32. Always look for handmade alternatives made locally instead of industrially manufactures, it will use lesser resources
  33. Buy / Borrow second hand gadgets when possible
  34. Give away stuff that you do not have use for, you could prevent someone else from buying a new one
  35. Grow your own vegetables
  36. Avoid calling both the elevators, one will go waste
  37. Take a paper napkin only when you have to use it (not out of habit) and take only one at a time
  38. Buy good quality, durable material so as to avoid frequent use and throw
  39. Run a bath (using bathtub) rarely, use showers sparingly, use limited water in a bucket for showers
  40. Use good quality fuel, even if they are slightly priced higher than the regular, in the long run, it will save on mileage and wear and tear
  41. Buy clothes that are hand woven and colored with natural dyes, these will use lesser resources and does not contribute to industrial pollution
  42. Opt for electronic mailers, indicate that you do not like to receive hard copies
  43. Use unpolished rice, it is healthier and reduces processing effort
  44. Turn off Wi-Fi, locator services on phone when not in use to save battery

Inherited Guilt (Poem) – by Ratheesh Pisharody

Posted in Environment, Life by Ratheesh & Sharada on September 7, 2013
With controlled steps, progress we did
Whispering to each other, intrusion was forbid
Temptation to explore, invitation to be lost
A pained heart and a soul that wept
I pay today my forefathers’ debt
——————————————————-
Moments of pleasure that money can buy
Luxuries abound, approaching I shy
Chained to fit in, freedom unheard
A pained heart and a soul that wept
I pay today my forefathers’ debt
——————————————————-
Like a withered leaf on the forest floor
I slid through life, complaining no more
Contorted senses and a muddled mind
A pained heart and a soul that wept
I pay today my forefathers’ debt
——————————————————-
Caught at high sea, life lost its sail
Here me o Lord, I have started to wail
Darkness sets in, courage walks out
A pained heart and a soul that wept
A clear conscience, forever I kept

Amongst the Sholas [by Ratheesh]

Posted in Environment, Travel, Trekking by Ratheesh & Sharada on November 17, 2012

The temperature drop was drastic as we drove through a narrow winding road. The road would take us to Pudhiya Edam; where we intended to stay for a day. It had been long since Saleem had invited us to come over to this place located almost at the edge of human inhabitation.

Our landmark was the Muneeshwaran Temple, the gate after which we looked out for a curving, ascending, non-tarmac stretch that posed a challenge to our car but sent our adrenaline shooting through the roof. We bid the car goodbye at a turn where only the human body could go further. Carrying our luggage we reached our destination by noon. Starting early from Bangalore, it took us hardly a day.

With a stream running alongside that befriended you with a musical welcome and promise of constant company; with dense sholas that surrounded the huts you will be caught surprised that such paradise exists just round the corner from where you parked your car. The ambience of the place immediately got us hooked.

We spent an hour or two just sitting at the dining area and talking. Interruptions when one of us spotted a bird here or an insect there were very frequent. In fact hardly a minute goes by without the Ghats exploding into some kind of activity.

Saleem suggested a walk up the hill all the way to Muneeshwaran temple and beyond. We readily agreed. In an hour we were walking up a non-existent pathway through absolute wilderness following Saleem into what we expected would be a spectacular culmination. And was it not?

Once right on top we could spot hills far, far away. And being a beautiful day when god woke up on the right side of the bed, the sky was a painting in itself. We spent a good amount of time up there before racing against the sun while descending. With Saleem to trust we almost believed that all roads would lead to our hut.

The hut was the ideal living conditions and complemented the surroundings. Made of earth, thatched roof and a floor polished with naturally available material you would be caught standing outside the door admiring the creators. Incidentally we never actually slept inside.

Come night and we spread some warm bedding outside the hut and moved from one dream to another, the transition, almost unnoticeable. Such was the beauty of the land.

Situated a few hours from where we lived, just a few kilometers from Talapuzha in Wayanad, Pudhiya Edam was definitely something we would have terribly missed if we had not made the effort.

Backyard Conservationist [by Sharada]

Posted in Environment, Life by Ratheesh & Sharada on April 17, 2011

Conserving rain forests, conserving wildlife, conserving glaciers, conserving endangered species – conservation is the buzz word now; the need of the hour. It is cool to be a conservationist at present, if you are not into conservation you are sneered at, looked down upon like the scum – like a fashion faux paus. It is the best time to cash in on the planet’s sad state; to make the most out of earth’s peril. There are various causes to choose from lest you are left behind due to lack of misfortunes. The chosen cause could be anything as long as it is related to saving the planet. “Saving the planet” causes are considered the elite in the conservation circles. There can be other “lesser” causes that could be close to your heart like child labour, however the conservationists are way ahead of these. The latest trend in conservation, thanks to the Fukushima disaster, happens to be anti-nuclear activism. Suddenly nuclear power has been promoted as the single most dangerous threat that the earth is facing.

In this age, a simple house wife’s meager effort to conserve the water that is over-flowing from a neighbour’s tank and getting wasted struck me like a sharp contrast and shook me up. As I got out of my bed and lazily walked downstairs one Saturday morning with breakfast being the only thing on my mind, I heard continuous flow of water outside our kitchen. I saw that our neighbour’s tank was over-flowing. The first thought that came to my mind was anger against the neighbour who had little concern towards world’s water problems. How could they afford to waste so much water when there is no drinking water in most parts of the world, aren’t they aware of the shortage of water and the water wars that are being fought world over. With the aroma of breakfast soon drowning these thoughts, I settled with the morning paper to enjoy my dosa. But soon I found my mom worrying about the water that was getting wasted. She wanted to see if I have some idea to route the water to our parched garden. I soon swung into action thinking of sleek ideas to connect pipes, thinking of water level, force, and physics of motion to see the most efficient way to change its course of flow into our garden.

With precious minutes past, with only thoughts and little action, my mom humbly kept a small vessel under the water pipe and started emptying this into our garden. The vessel would fill within a matter of seconds soon to be replaced by another vessel alternatively. My first reaction was ridicule; I told her how inefficient this method was – akin to filling an ocean with buckets of water. But her determination soon put me to shame and I decided to join the party, helping her fill up the small vessel and emptying it into our garden. Sitting beside this pipe, in our neighbour’s house and watching this small vessel fill up and my 67 year old mom’s excitement to see the plants being watered gave me a lot of perspective. I stepped down from my pedestal of earth’s conservationist and started enjoying this simple act of filling up small vessels of water and saving whatever little we could. I got completely involved in this activity and at the end of the exercise experienced complete satisfaction of being an active participant of what I would call “backyard conservation”.

With our busy lifestyles and “high thinking”, how easily we miss these simple but precious acts of conservation. Like the story about a zen master I read recently, who was considered as one of the greatest philosophers and when his country was in distress was called upon by the Government to save the country. His disciples came running to him and said “Master, the time has come, like you have always preached that we should save the people”. He simply smiled, got up and walked towards the pavement to help a beggar and said “It is not required to save the world, we only need to perform simple acts of kindness that can be of help to the needy at the moment and the world will be a better place”. And it is as simple as that. It is not necessary to think big and believe that you can save the world by doing great miracles. Simple acts make a difference to the world if each one of us starts to indulge in them at every available opportunity.

We have our Cartoon!

Posted in Animals, Environment, Humour, Links, Politics, Sarcasm by Ratheesh & Sharada on February 26, 2010

We have started another blog where we have released our own Cartoon Series. Called Quibbles, the cartoon series will attempt to comment on various social concerns. You can read more about it here.

End of World or End of Us? [by Sharada]

Posted in Environment, Life by Ratheesh & Sharada on October 7, 2009

End of World has been a favorite topic of fiction writers, film makers and astrologers for ages. Even the common man has been intrigued by the various theories around this. While some are drawn to it due to the fear of destruction, some others due to their religious belief that shows them a possibility of after-life, most of them are drawn to it due to the sheer amazement and action that it promises.

Why is this such a popular topic?

  • People like to believe in finite things, having a start and an end. So if they believe (or are made to believe) that the world had a definite starting point some billions of years ago, they would expect it to have an end to it as well
  • Over the years, thanks to the media, this “event of a lifetime” has been glamorized and glorified beyond proportions that people secretly wish they can experience this historical moment in their lifetime (even if they know very well they might not live to tell about it)
  • It gives us a chance to discard our wrong-doings to the world, learn from our mistakes and start afresh
  • Religious beliefs associated with this phenomenon promises people life after death and attainment of salvation
  • It gives one a chance to go wild on imagination and let one travel vicariously into the “unknown”
  • Have an excuse to justify our actions which have resulted in irrevocable damage to the planet and shrug it off by saying “Anyway the world is going to end, so how does it matter we throw garbage around or not…”
  • Gives us an excuse to support our indifference towards the state of the planet and our inability to do something about it by saying “How does it make a difference whether I go by a car or walking, the world is going to end anyway…”
  • For businessmen, it is a great time to cash in on the superstitions associated with this phenomenon and use it to promote their products

How would this happen?

There are several theories around how exactly the world would end. Some taken out of history books, some created in the modern era, some predicted by astrologers while some others conceptualized and proposed by scientists. However, so far, we have not found one unified theory that has everyone’s acceptance which can predict with conviction the exact details of how this would all happen. Some popular theories include – 

  • Natural phenomena that would cause the global temperatures to soar, trigger rapid melting of the polar ice caps and in turn raise the ocean levels steeply resulting in submerging of major portion of land masses
  • Meteor showers that can penetrate the earth’s atmosphere and cause huge balls of fire to strike the surface at incredible speed
  • Shifting of the polar ice caps drastically that would result in the reversal of hot and cold areas and in turn cause the destruction of the life forms which would not be able to acclimatize to the drastic changes
  • Drought, Famine, Earthquakes
  • Epidemics, pandemics that would spread across the countries and bring about sudden deaths of large populations
  • Alien Invasion
  • Nuclear war among the nations that would end up destroying the planet

These are just samples, there are more of course. It has to be quick, intense, dramatic and enormous.

When I came across this phenomenon way back in 1999, when one of my teachers introduced us to the terminology “Apocalypse”, I was fascinated as many of us would at first be. It was predicted that 2000 would be the chosen year for this, but we all know that 2000 came and went, nothing happened. Now the year to watch out for is 2012.

Amidst these theories of ‘doomsday’, there exists a school of people who believe that the end of world has already begun. It would not happen on a specific date and time of a year, but will happen gradually. It will happen slowly but continuously over a period of time, taking away small pieces of land, wiping away small populations of people and species of animals. If we carefully observe around us we already see parts of this damage – polar ice caps melting, raising the sea level, flooding some places and submerging pieces of land. Countries are in war against each other, there is an outbreak of epidemics and pandemics.

It might not be obvious at first, but on closer observation, the findings are chilling. However, this theory is not as popular since it lacks action and drama – two main factors that draw the minds of the masses.

How are people reacting to this?

Different people react in different ways to this phenomenon ‘Apocalypse’. 

  • Some start squandering all their money and desperately start “enjoying” their life • Some turn religious, philosophical, god-fearing
  • Some start “donating” their assets and start their preparation for salvation
  • Some panic, not knowing what to do, go into depression and turn suicidal
  • Some look forward to it like an “event of a lifetime” – very excited with their cameras loaded
  • Some look at it as an opportunity to improve their business
  • Most remain indifferent, pretending to be ignorant and live in denial

Is it really going to end?

There are two ways to look at this – when we say ‘world is ending’ do we consider only ourselves (human beings) and believe that if we do not exist, then the world does not exist. The other one being the planet is going to become “lifeless”, completely wiped out of all the life forms and cease to live up to its unique status of being the only planet that supports life and become like one of our neighbors.

For some of us who are selfish, it hardly matters, what is the point knowing if the world exists if we (human beings) do not exist? So both the options spell doom. However, for some of us who are optimistic, love the planet more than our race, respect nature comprising of all elements that constitute life, the second option is very promising.

To believe that the earth would survive humans and continue to exists and support other life forms, long after humans are extinct is an exciting proposition. It gives us a glimmer of hope amidst the gloom of destruction we have caused the planet by our selfish actions. There are very strong facts supporting this. The earth has existed before we came in, it has supported life before we came in, we have come after a very long time and our entire life span (time between first humans came in and now) is extremely small compared to the life span of our planet. The earth can heal itself. Whenever there is an imbalance caused due to a particular species, the earth has decided to eliminate it and move on. At the rate humans are destroying the planet, we have become like a “disease” to the planet. According to Dr. W.W. Armistead “… the earth is a habitat and life source for human beings. But to the earth, human habitation is a disease, and human beings are arch parasites. To the pristine earth, the coming of Homo sapiens signaled the onset of a chronic, global illness, the outcome of which is still in doubt”. The earth would one day decide to heal itself of this “disease” and continue to create other life forms.

We might have altered this planet a great deal, some of the damages irreversible (like we have caused some species to become extinct) but that does not mean the end of the blue planet.

By systematically harming nature, we are successfully cooking up a perfect recipe for our own destruction – the end of human race. According to Oren Lyons, Faith keeper and Chief of Turtle Clan – “…The earth has all the time in the world. And we don’t”. By taking a positive action, we are only trying to save our own race. The earth can save itself. It has lived, it has survived, it is a fighter. It will continue to survive.. long after we are all gone.

Footprint [by Sharada]

Posted in Animals, Environment, Life by Ratheesh & Sharada on August 8, 2009

I was sitting on my bed this morning sipping lychee twirl, one of my favorite flavors of juice and was wondering how this fruit looks like. It occurred to me that I have never seen or eaten it except for this juice or in ice cream flavors. I have no idea where it came from, where it is grown, how it is prepared. My mind was then drawn back to my childhood when I have drank a lot of juices – apple, pineapple, mango, chikoo.. Somehow lychee never has been in this list. Then I decided to do a small activity – making a list of all the items used in a normal day and trying to figure out how it landed into my hands. We use a lot of things everyday, we take a lot of things for granted, have we ever thought how much it might have taken to bring it to us in the form we are using and how this would directly or indirectly impact nature. We might dismiss this as an insignificant part of the colossal damage, however, on closer look we will be really surprised to know. 

  • Wake up to the sound of alarm – as simple as it might sound, sound of an alarm is one of the loudest and most disturbing sounds early in the morning. It might not hurt our ears as much as it might disturb a bird’s nest next to our window and confuse the poor creature
  • Toothpaste – Choose from a whole range of tooth pastes, blue, red, white.. whatever. Ever wondered what goes into making one (they almost never publish all the ingredients. Most of them that do not claim to be vegetarian have bone powder) and the process involves animal testing to ensure it does not harm human beings (I have never understood how we can conclude if it doesn’t harm an animal it doesn’t harm us, we are so different in constitution compared to an animal). And animal testing does not merely involve brushing a monkey’s teeth twice a day and see if they shine. It means the animal is fed enormous quantities of these chemicals till they show serious of some damage. And to produce one type of tooth paste, it might take thousands of animals who spend their whole lives in a small cage and eat tooth pastes all day!
  • Toothbrush – Tooth brushes are made of plastic, so as you change them every 3-4 months, you keep piling up plastics all your life (by the time you’re 30, you would approximately have used and thrown 90 brushes!). And we can only imagine what chemical reaction the plastic of the tooth brush would undergo when it comes in contact with tooth paste. And, if this did not manage to wake you up, the next one would for sure.
  • Coffee / Tea with milk and sugar – If you are buying coffee /tea powder directly from the place that grows and packs them, you are one of the blessed ones. If you are one of the not-so-lucky ones who buy from the supermarket, you might be buying Mexican coffee, thai tea from all the way round the world. Needless to mention, this would waste a lot of money and energy bringing it all the way to your country. Sugar (processed sugar) uses animal bones to make them white and sparkling (remember what they do to your teeth?). Buying packed milk, whether it is tetra packed or the most hygienically packed, would still come with a lot of unwanted pus, add-ons to make them white and creamy, and the poor cow would have to stand all her life and keep on supplying milk to feed the growing (human) population, so she is pumped with antibiotics and steroids to make her produce more and more milk. And it is better not to ask what happens to her calves, they are taken away almost as soon as they are born for the veal (tender skin)
  • Morning walk in the park – Now you might think, for once, this cannot be of any harm! This is what I used to believe. Of course, my joy didn’t last too long. While we listen to our favourite songs on the iPod and walk or jog, we are unknowingly trampling on a lot of tiny creepy crawlies (caterpillars, snails, small insects). They do not know a “park” is for fooling humans to believe there is some greenery amidst the busy city traffic and that it is better to keep away from these artificial grass and trimmed bushes.
  • Newspaper – This is an obvious one; think of all the paper that goes into making these pages and for what? One day worth of some news and a lot of ads! Of course we recycle them, don’t we? Some of us might do that, but once the trees are cut, we cannot grow them back from paper pulp!
  • Breakfast (bread, cheese, veggies, Tropicana juice) – We are not talking about homemade bread, cheese or juice. Most of them come from supermarkets and again might not be locally made. If you are using veggies that are homegrown or bought from local villagers, give yourself a pat on your back. Most of us buy exotic veggies (non-seasonal) from supermarket stores, just because they are made available and they look “fresh” and “colorful”, which means the supermarkets and giving a tough competition to the local vegetable vendor or the push-cart vendors who toil all day in the hot sun to make a few bucks.
  • Bath (water, soap, shampoo) – If we are having “bath” the Indian way, we would use one bucket (approx 20 litres) of water. If we consider this very “uncool” and try to mimic the west here, we would use a “shower” which means we waste more water than we use. And this actually means denying pure water to some unfortunate people who would have saved it for drinking. Because the water that comes out of the tap is not recycled water, it is fresh water from our rivers. What the heck, we pay for it right? Of course we do, but that does not give us the liberty to waste it. There might come a day very soon where we might not even be able to get pure water for drinking. Ever wondered where the soaps / shampoo / detergent or any other chemicals we use go after we have flushed them down the drain? More often than not, they join back rivers and lakes and pollute them. So the next time you pick up a shampoo that promises to make your hair soft and silky, just turn the bottle around and look for the ingredients. You might find some cryptic names that you would not even have come across in your chemistry lab. And most of these companies do animal testing to make sure the chemicals don’t harm us, or cause cancer (which means the animals are made to pay with their whole life undergoing lot of pain and suffering just for our silky soft hair)
  • Dress up (clothes, hair gel, sunscreen, makeup) – Talking of clothes, let’s admit it, we are all brand freaks, aren’t we? Given a choice between a locally made cotton shirt and a cool Lee / Levi shirt, which one would you pick? (no points for guessing that the former would cost a lot lesser). Make up, hair gel, sunscreen, body spray or any other beauty or grooming products would mean unless you are careful to research about the parent company that manufactures it, you would be buying foreign products and /or the company might be doing animal testing. No company would admit that they do animal testing, they never show how the product was manufactured, and they always hide it behind the flawless face of the models that are trying to sell them. So all you see is this model, who looks absolutely out of the world and a product that would take you there.
  • Mobile phone – The radiations from the mobile phone towers and devices are harmful for health. Not just that, they might be interfering with the frequencies that other animals and birds use for communication. They can also have harmful effects on their tender brain.
  • Travel to office (bike / car) – Most of us use petrol / diesel run cars and bikes. This would mean, pumping a lot of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. We all know about the ever increasing problems caused by the greenhouse gases. So this is definitely a killer. And we are burning away fossil fuels at an alarming rate, as you can imagine, this has become a very precious commodity with wars being fought over them.
  • At the office (AC , Computers, generator, coffee cups, paper napkins, paper for printing) –  Let us take a typical corporate office as an example, we are enclosed in a building covered by glass on all sides (not necessarily windows) with AC running 24 / 7. And we wouldn’t be aware of power cuts since there is always a generator or a battery backup to keep the AC running. Most offices also come with a pantry with a coffee machine, with use-and-throw paper / plastic cups, paper napkins, which means a lot of paper used per day and a lot of garbage generated with little concern about where it goes. And the glass buildings are a major contributor towards global warming and not just that, they confuse birds that fly right into them and smash their brains in the process.
  • Lunch / snacks (eat outside in an eatery) – .We are more and more mimicking the western culture of use-and-throw. Even traditional restaurants use a lot of paper / plastic utensils to serve food (for hygienic purposes) which results in a large amount of garbage which is not bio-degradable. In good old days, the hotels would refuse to pack food if we did not carry a container for the liquids and most packing was in old newspapers. Now things have changed, plastic bags have taken over due to their convenience for both the hotel owners and the consumers. These days it is difficult to convince them to not give you a plastic bag.
  • Grocery shopping (supermarket, packed food) – On the way home from office, you pass in front of the supermarket and decide to stop for some shopping. Of course, you did not expect this, so you are not carrying a bag for the stuff you buy. No sweat, the shop owners are more than happy to pack the stuff in plastic bags. I remember a store near my house which had become unpopular because they frown when people ask for a plastic bag, they would expect people to bring their own bags. Next time you shop, just spend a few minutes examining the stuff you just bought. I bet most of it would be packed food! We are again aping the western culture here; in good old days you would have cooked most of these at home and maybe never even heard about the rest of them.
  • Watch TV (news, ads) – We are stuffed with 24 / 7 news these days. And we spend more time watching commercials than actually watching a movie or a program. Even prime time news is not spared; they are forced to take a break for the commercials. When was the last time you got a chance to complete a movie in one and half hours? We are bombarded with unwanted information all the time, this adds to our mental clutter. It makes us feel dissatisfied with our lives and leaves us a hope that buying that brand of washing machine would improve our family relations and get us sparkling homes with white spotless walls!
  • Dinner (for a change, home cooked) – We are totally dependent on gadgets in our kitchen to get things done and most of them require electricity. Gone are the days when cooking would take hours since it involved hand grinding, kneading, powdering etc. Now, it seems we are totally equipped to finish cooking in no time with all the latest gadgets that do the work for us, when we can sit back and relax! (unless there is a power cut)
  • Sleep (fan, cooler / heater, AC) – Global Warming is a big word, it is meant to be talked about in conferences by world leaders, it does not affect us common people. Right? Wrong! Have you noticed that you use the fan more often that you used to around five years ago? That you are saving up for an AC and want to escape the heat. Just five years ago, we had not heard of middle class home having AC, but now it has become a common practice especially in hot cities. This is a vicious cycle, since using these gadgets increase global warming, and we cannot stop using them because of the rise of temperature which is due to global warming! 

Whew! Finally, we have completed our guilt-trip through the day and it is time for some rest after all the brain churning facts related to seemingly innocent day-to-day acts. While we are having that much needed sleep, let us go over to the other side, to a village and get a perspective of a daily life of a farmer. Of course I am no farmer and have never lived in a village, but this is how I would imagine it to be like (the example chosen here might be an idealistic village which is not modernized and where people are self-sufficient) – 

  • Wake up to the sound of cock-a-doodle-doo!
  • Chew on neem sticks from the backyard for cleaning and polishing teeth
  • Fresh cow’s milk from your family cow which is lovingly brought up in a lot of space for grazing around freely all day and the milk is taken only after the calf had enough
  • Morning walk is not needed (since rest of the day is not spent sitting in a place) J
  • Simple breakfast of ganji (starch water from the cooked rice seasoned with some salt and pepper powder). The rice is grown in the land which is harvested by the farmer
  • Bathe in local pond without using soap or shampoo
  • Wear simple cotton clothes which is made by cotton grown in the village and made locally by weavers
  • Go to work by walk or by bicycle
  • On the way to work, meet up with a few friends and catch up on the news
  • Physical work to till the land from morning till evening
  • For lunch have home-packed ragi balls with sambhar made out of seasonal vegetables grown in the backyard
  • On the way back home, pay a visit to local fair (santhe) and pick up some basic stuff needed for home
  • Chat with friends, play some games for entertainment
  • Have a simple dinner cooked from home grown ingredients
  • Sleep outside on the porch with the cool breeze 

Now, you might protest saying that you are no farmer and you are born and brought up in a city and your life is tied closely to the city and your job is in the city. So obviously cannot go back to a village life. I totally agree and respect this. But this was just a comparison to show how simple life can be and how we complicate it with unwanted goods. Let us now see what we can do to improvise on our city life to be as close as possible to a self-sufficient village life. We cannot achieve 100% but you would be surprised to know how small changes can make a huge difference. 

  • Try switching to natural way to clean your teeth, it could be neem sticks (perfect) or atleast go for a tooth paste that is vegetarian and does not test on animals and manufactured locally (in the same country)
  • Use soap / shampoo / detergents that are locally made, contain organic or natural ingredients (lesser chemicals) and have certified that they do not test on animals
  • Try to resist temptation to buy news paper, instead subscribe to a e-paper or headlines
  • Buy coffee / tea from its source (coffee / tea plantations) and avoid using milk, use brown (unprocessed) sugar or jaggery
  • If you have a garden space, grow your own vegetables or else buy from farmers directly whenever possible (do not get fooled by corporates that claim to help farmers by buying from them directly, make sure this claim is well supported by facts). Use seasonal vegetables and fruits only. If you do not know of a source from where villagers are directly helped, then buy them from the next door vegetable vendor or push cart vendors (instead of supermarkets)
  • Always choose locally made products, grocery instead of branded, foreign items sold in supermarkets. Most of them are available locally and will work out cheaper too. Try and avoid packed / canned food, more often than not they contain chemicals to preserve them which might be harmful
  • Consciously minimize water usage all the time (washing, bathing etc)
  • Always carry a bag for shopping, as a rule. If no bag, then no shopping
  • It is cool to go to work on a bicycle. It is not just cool, it is healthier option too
  • Always buy locally manufactured clothes, shoes etc. Also take care to avoid leather, silk, animal fur etc. Do not go for branded stuff
  • Whenever possible make best use of natural air and light in homes and offices
  • In office, be proud to sport your own snazzy mug instead of using paper cups

 All these are simple yet very effective ways to help the world in our own small ways. It just requires some amount of extra research to find out the alternate products and requires some extra effort to turn off that tap when not needed. But it goes a long way.

The planet needs an euthanasia [by Ratheesh]

Posted in Environment, Sarcasm by Ratheesh & Sharada on November 18, 2008

That’s it! I am done. Go ahead and start destructing everything. All of you. Just go get all the weapons you can collect and start lynching this planet to death. I will not stop you, I will not come in the way. And I shall not distract you while you do it. I shall just sit and watch the whole thing peacefully. Once you are done, just let me know.

What are you waiting for? Ideas? From me? Sure, here are some.

Purchase the best electrical saw you can buy and start with your garden. Cut off all the plants at the stem. If you have got the time, uproot them. So that they do not come up again and invite those butterflies. Also, buy some cement and plaster the entire garden. No more mud and dust entering your sweet little home.

If you are done with that, move on to your street and cut down all those plants and trees in your street. No more noisy little bastards called birds disturbing your cricket matches. Burn the stem of those trees to be double sure. Create some panic and get together with others in your street, and cut all trees in your area. Tell everyone trees are dangerous and their children can get hurt when branches fall on them.

Now mobilise a mob and move towards the parks and forests and do the same. Do not let the momentum die down. Provide food and water to anyone who volunteers for such a cause. Do not stop till each and every tree in this city is destroyed.

Well, that was a good start. Now lets take care of all the vermin. Let’s start with dogs. You will need to buy some guns for this. If that is not easy, buy some poison. Mix the poison with rice, biscuits and/or milk and invite all the dogs in your street to your gate. Feed them this magical potion and release them from their lives. Again, plan to meet up with your friends throughout the city and ask them to do it too. I am sure one too many will be your willing partner. Do not stop at street dogs, conspire and do this to pet dogs too.

And why stop at dogs ( I said vermin right, anything other than human beings are vermin ). Do the same to cats, crows, squirrels, snakes, cows, horses, donkeys, pigs, rats, anything that is not human. Please take enough care not to harm humans lest you be called inhumane.

Now that all the trees are gone, and all the vermin have been shown their place, lets do some more damage. Pick up your car or bike or anything that you have that guzzles fuel. Fill it up with fuel and ride around the city day and night. If you can do it, just go for a hell of a long ride. If that does not sound practical, just switch it on and leave it day and night. Remember to fuel it up regularly. Get many people to do this along with you simultaneously. Do not forget, taking a flight is cheaper these days, so think about that. That should ensure we have exhausted all fossil fuels. That should also ensure the heating up of our planet real quick.

It would be really nice if you could also switch on all the lights in your homes and offices and leave it that way. Leave those electrical gadgets running too. Forever. Oh come on, you can do it. You have always done it, I am only asking you to do it in an organized way.

While you are on the bike or in that car, do not forget to incessantly honk your way through traffic. Also, if possible create some additional noise with the loudspeakers on your phone or switch on that radio. If many of you do it, there would be enough noise around to send those last two or three birds running for their lives (only to be shot down by one of your friends).

I actually erred when I said ‘human’. I should have told, ‘not to harm the urban-human’. We do not care about the rural ones, or the tribals, do we? So lets continue. Go buy all the expensive things you can buy (including vegetables) from all the corporates you can find. Fill up their coffers with your money. Let that poor farmer or tribal die. Why do we need them anyway?

Ah! Good job! Please do remember this. Do it together. All at once. I am sure it is going to be painless to mother earth if you do it together, and once and for all. Once you are done, some of us who go to bed crying about these oh-so-trivial problems can go on a vacation, without guilt or remorse.

Our planet needs a euthanasia … very soon.

Epilogue:

What bothers me today is the slow and painful death that our planet is going through. It is akin to someone who is my own, my blood, in death bed gasping for oxygen, pulling at the various wires inserted into her, screaming in pain and begging to be killed while a few hopeful doctors keep her alive. And that is the pain I do not want to see my mother go through. Hence my above mention suggestion, to end it all, with mercy. But remember, you, human might have the sword in your hand today, but you are by no means masters of this universe. The planet shall redeem itself, like it has always done, millions of years before you, and millions of years after you are gone.

– Ratheesh

Folk ‘Tails’ from Kerala [by Ratheesh]

Posted in Animals, Environment by Ratheesh & Sharada on September 22, 2008

“Why do we need to line up Elephants? Why can’t we have cows instead?”. That was me, asking my grandfather a very simple question. Both of us were among the crowd at Panangattukara Pooram (Yes, not Thrissur Pooram; there are zillions of other Poorams in Kerala). As my Grandpa stood there pretending he did not hear me through the ‘Panchavadyam’ (Folk music performed during festivities), I continued; “They can always make smaller dresses for the cows right? Of course, no one can climb on top of it and stand… or can they…”. That little incident was forgotten really long ago. My grandpa never answered that question and eventually he passed away.

Today, the larger question persists. Why! Why are these mere mortals dressing up such beautiful wild animals in ridiculous attire and lining them up for visual pleasure. Were these creations of god destined to be treated like slaves? Don’t they deserve better?

“I have wandered into a lunatic asylum!”. Those were the words of Swami Vivekananda after he toured Kerala and saw the caste based atrocities there. That was over half a century ago. But if you wander through Kerala now, you will be surprised to know that the statement holds good even today. The only difference is that now I am talking about atrocities committed on animals; I will try to stick to Elephants though.

For many of us, Kerala stands for Thrissur Pooram, Elephants (with and without make-up), Beaches, Backwaters, Kathakali, Cultural Programs, Ayurveda and a lot of Coconuts. But it is time we looked beyond that. At times I am proud when I run into a complete stranger, like a Kannadiga, North Indian or even an American and they are so happy to tell me their experiences of Kerala. But my head hangs in shame the moment pictures of Elephants tortured and street dogs killed go through my head. That’s the Kerala I see. The one I wish I didn’t have to see.

As a young boy I have committed the sin of going to the ubiquitous Poorams, along with my immediate and other family members. I have touched the rough Elephant skin as they struggle to move past human ocean standing all around Banyan Trees. I have stood in my verandah at my ancestral home and watched them tied to our trees. I have fed them large rice balls out of my hand with the constant fear of being crushed or eaten up. Eventually, the same memories crush me today. I wonder why no one, not a single elder told me how these magnificent animals were captured, tortured and trained before they could play the fool for us.

These gentle giants are captured using large pits, into which they fall; sometimes fatally injuring themselves in the process. Then they are dragged out of these pits and kept continuously chained for days. Although any Elephant owner/handler would deny the use of weapons to train elephants, the truth is, they do. They continuously keep this wild animal in control by using tools such as the ‘Ankusha’, which is a sharp hook attached to a rod. I have personally seen Elephants with split ears due to continuous prodding by the Mahout (I did not know the reason then).

Although I have not personally seen torture scenes that happen behind the rosy picture that Kerala paints for us, the visuals from a typical Pooram itself is proof. For that you will have to look through the odd-number of bejeweled elephants and coloured umbrellas. Take a closer look; you will see the Elephants moving their head side to side restlessly; you will see them flapping their ears to beat the summer heat, yearning for a tree’s shade; you will see them shifting their weight from right leg to the left waiting to rest; you will see them searching for some dust to bathe themselves in since the owners scrubbed them clean; you will see an animal that is begging for some dignity.

What is interesting is, I can’t fool any Malayali with my sweet talk about Elephants. The Malayalis have already fooled themselves into believing they are ‘Elephant Lovers’. That is what I get to hear when I talk about this issue. Some of my closest people have accused me of being ‘Unpatriotic’ so to speak. Most of them tend to think that ‘Just because my fore-fathers loved elephants, I should’. Now ‘love’ elephants, I do too; but not in a way that I make a fool out of it. I hate the use elephants in Poorams for the same reason that I hate Zoos.

People like to believe that they and other fellow humans (all humans) have done our best for the Elephants by providing them with large temple fields and lots of palm leaves to eat. But the ethical question is, did the elephant come into your home asking to be taken care of? No! They did not. You took them away from their homes, tortured them till they were driven to desperation and loyalty, and now provided them with what you believe is the best they can get.

As a ten year old, I had again enquired why the Elephant was crying continuously. I do not recollect getting a satisfactory answer then, but later in my life learnt the physiological reasons behind it. But today, I would like to believe that the Elephant cries, so that we may go back home smiling. The only statement I can make is; If you really ‘love’ an Elephant, let it go; let it go into the last remaining forests in Kerala; let them roam the wild and be themselves; let them live a life that they deserve.

Your Choice [by Ratheesh]

Posted in Animals, Environment by Ratheesh & Sharada on September 4, 2008

Do we always have to choose among items/theories/ideologies as presented to us by presumably knowledgeable people? It is an interesting thought, because to be honest, we don’t have to choose. Just the fact that you are made to choose indicates that the person providing you with choices has narrowed down the answers to what ‘he’ or ‘she’ perceives as the only possibilities. This thought occurred to me when I read an article ‘Confronting Empire’ written by Arundhati Roy. Quoting from the article, George Bush provides you this choice ‘You are either with us or them’ (i.e with the U.S or the Terrorists). Arundhati’s question is, do we really have to choose between an imperialistic United States of America and some fanatic terrorists. The answer is; we don’t have to.

More often than not, you and me have been presented with choices to become a non-vegetarian, a vegetarian, a vegan or a fruitarian. But do we really need to make a decision just because someone has made the classifications? Many a times I have spoken to my friends about why I am a vegetarian. But not once I have asked anyone to become one. The reason again is the same. I hate to ask someone to choose a lifestyle which I believe is correct. What I do believe is in facts, and the kind of facts from which you make your own deductions. Your choice (categorically) does not matter; but what matters is whether you have understood the impact of your actions and whether you are true to your own self.

What prompted me to write this article is the documentary called ‘Earthlings’ which I recently watched (links provided at the end). This documentary according to me is one of the most meaningful, emotional and powerful ones I have watched till date. It is about the abuse of nature (specifically animals) to satiate the homo sapein’s greed. Incidentally ‘Homo Sapien’ means ‘Wise Man’; but its left for us to decide if we have been true to that nomenclature.

There is nothing shown in ‘Earthlings’ that I did not know. But at the same time, it is disturbing and makes me hang my head in shame. The documentary talks about the various reasons for which animals are abused and treated like inanimate objects. Specifically, the areas of abuse are for food, clothing, entertainment, sports and in the name of science.

Although almost always the arguments raised by individuals fighting for animal rights delve into the area of non-vegetarianism, many of them forget that eating animals is not something that can be entirely avoided or eradicated. So the issue that needs to be looked into first is not whether we all need to start eating veggies, but what are our sensibilities and knowledge regarding how the meat comes to your table. Most my non-vegetarian friends have never really put a thought into how the animal is killed; how much blood is shed; how much pain is undergone by the animal and how many times it must have silently pleaded to the butcher before it lost its life and satisfied their palate. Many of my friends have dismissed these thoughts are sheer panic and melodrama, but I wish they knew better.

It is not just food we must be worried about (although that is the larger worry), but it is the utter disregard by human beings for the welfare of other creations of god when it comes to satisfying many of his other needs (greeds?). Clothing for one. How many of us have really bothered how that leather wallet in our pocket was made; or how that expensive lacoste belt was manufactured. Did we bother to inquire? When such topics come up, the usual argument is that from ancient ages man has been using animal products and we continue to do so. But that is far from the truth. Man was only worried about his needs then. And more often than not, he took his bit from the forest; just what he needed, and left the rest as it is. But in the current world, animals are being bred, grown, tortured and killed just for providing us with that expensive bag or coat. Remember that these animals might not have even got their mothers milk and warmth; they would not have known what the plants, insects and the sun looks like. They just lived to die and satify our greed.

We are all currently part of a world that is slowly, but surely disintegrating (and in a way responding to our exploitation). It all started with a Tsunami a few years ago, and there has been no looking back. If you really look closely you will see the connection between our lack of respect for nature and all the issues that we face in this world today. Take a break from your daily race and put a few minutes of thought.

Hoping for a better world.

Links to Earthlings Documentary –

Direct Link (Good quality download):
http://dl.veg-tv.info/Earthlings.avi

(I have not verified if these are good or full):
Google Video version
video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1282796533661048967

Youtube versions (3 parts):
http://in.youtube.com/watch?v=GhxKnys7Ryw
http://in.youtube.com/watch?v=7sRiH_Owq9U
http://in.youtube.com/watch?v=N8U9dw-9U4E

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