Friday, September 23, 2016

Ten Terribly Tiny Tales (Part 4)

Arthritis kicked in at 60,
Dementia at 70,
When he made it to the roof,
His rapture made him feel like the king of the world.

ACs are for the rich,
Equatorial country,
A 3-generation old induction motor,
The fan's going to stay, just like the perennial summer.

He was a wild one,
His father warned, "Don't go into the woods!",
The thicker he went, the more leeches he attracted,
The more he saw himself bleed, the more alive he felt.

Small black beads strewn across the living room,
The thread which was holding them lying on the floor,
"This is over", she screams,
Despite his promise, the house smells of nicotine.

Incessantly fighting, they never accepted their friendship,
"I'm moving to New York", she told her,
"How lovely it will be to never see your face again!"
Both smiled, already feeling a hollow in their hearts.

His swimming-schooling must've been on point,
All of 21, he beat the greatest swimmer in recent times,
Phelps needed a moment, LITERALLY, to catch up. 

Her finger felt heavy,
It was supposed to bring fortune,
Broken dreams, heart and family,
She let the ring flow with the river.

They say it'll cause cavities in your teeth or give you diabetes,
They say it'll make you fatter,
They know nothing about chocolates,
The bitter it is, the better.
An action film, a popular hero,
Yes he is called a "hero",
Not just in the story-line, but also in reality.
I'm just his stunt-man.

"Wings are made to fly", said the Little Mix lyrics.
Say that to a hen, or an ostrich, or a penguin,
Say that to a caged bird,
And say that to a woman who sacrificed her dance career for marriage.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

10 pictures taken in the past one year that sum up my love for travel

I agree the title of the post is extremely Buzzfeed-ish but I just couldn't resist posting this. Here are a bunch of pictures taken by family and friends over the past 12 months that remind me of one word: "Wanderlust"!

July, 2015

"Everyone is traveling": Every family member of my friend Roshini was traveling at that time and hence she was overcome by the desire to do so herself. I was dragged along as travel companion to one of the nearest Indonesian islands to Singapore. Even though we had a tryst with Bintan only for the weekend, we had quite a lot of rather "interesting" experiences.

September, 2015
Retard: My folks and I traveled to Spain and Portugal for a fortnight in Autumn of 2015. This picture is taken in Salamanca, a Celtic city in Spain full of castles, towers and churches. You can see my dad annoyed  at my cliched jumpshot pose walking away in the background.

Seagull be like whaaaaat: In the coastal town of Cascais, Portugal just after I tried to sneak in to a hotel restaurant to relieve myself in their loo but eventually had to use the public restroom for 1 Euro.

December, 2015

West Bengal
Amidst the Kopibaari: The first leg of my trip to India was to my hometown, Siliguri after two years. This is not too far from the town in field next to where my parents recently bought a plot of land.
Rey and the haystack: My sis-in-law wanted a picture on a haystack to generate a picture with that "rustic feel" of rural North Bengal. I followed suit, my brother obliged. In the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas, Dooars is rich in tea plantations, wildlife, simple people and good food.

Shady business: In Jaswant Thada, Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Sabiha's iPhone took better pictures than my Powershot camera. This is one of the only comparable pictures from my camera to her super-bright iPhone pictures. Let's just say I was mildly green out of envy in the Blue City.

Tip of the sand dune: This picture is one of the happiest. A bunch of Banjara women approached us and started singing and dancing amidst the sand dunes of Jaisalmer. The one who is forcing me to dance in the picture was sort of scary with blue eyeliner on her lips demanding more tip than what we gave her later on.

January. 2016

Pose a million times: Was in Bangalore for Spoorthy's wedding which is evident from the Henna on my hands which was yet to darken. Had to check out the much talked about Nandi Hills and Felix made it possible, both the trip and the photograph. Of course, Pauline and Fabien were good company as well.

March, 2016
Creepy cutout: This is on top of the tallest hotel in Bangkok, Baiyoke Sky Hotel. Who better to go to Bangkok with for Thai food and shopping than my mom who shares my love and taste for both!

May, 2016
Birds of paradise: Carey Island, less than 60 km away from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is a birdwatcher's paradise and popular among fishermen. I had gone there for the long weekend in May this year.

Until next travel plan execution!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

How clean energy and women empowerment go hand-in-hand

Like most, I was ignorant until recently about the term clean energy. Being an electrical engineer and researching in the field of electricity via renewable sources, it only occurred to me recently that when people speak of clean energy, they usually refer to electricity and water. They often forget that a large part of the world: mainly south/ southeast-Asia and Africa struggle with clean COOKING energy. The poor and the rural often rely on wood, coal, crop residues or animal excreta for fueling their cook stove. This may lead to health ailments and birth defects of progeny. Recently during a talk at the institute I work in, on being asked why such hazardous practices have not been reformed yet, the speaker simply replied, "Because most of the users of such cook stoves are women!"

Even though the middle class and above has seen tremendous improvement in gender equality, it is yet to make its mark in politics. Due to a minority of women in the political field, there is hardly anyone to advocate for women in the poor/rural population who spend most of their time/energy collecting polluting fuels for their cook stove and cooking on them. There are lot of promises by the politicians on "power for all", lower rates for electricity and alerts to consumers in case of load shedding. Similarly, there are campaigns and voluntary work on education for all. But there are hardly any articles written on a certain village achieving clean cooking technology or the government providing subsidy for cleaner but more expensive cooking fuels to the poor.

There are exceptions of course. Global Alliance For Clean Cookstoves is targeting not only to achieve less polluting technologies for cook stoves but taking initiatives to train women and help them participate in national awareness campaigns in South Asia and parts of Africa. It is also working towards building capacity for enterprises and providing financial support to women entrepreneurs self-employed in clean cooking technology. Closer to home, i.e. India, the Surya Stove by Nishant Bioenergy runs on powdered biomass such as sawdust and has an automated fuel feeding and ash cleaning system. Project Surya is targeting the use of biofuels and solar energy for improved cooking stoves and exploring if rewarding women directly with funds from carbon markets will help in wide adoption of the stove. A startup called BioLite based in New York is using smart wood-fuel stoves to produce enough heat to cook food as well as convert the remaining to electricity. One of my colleagues has his own charcoal and non-charcoal briquettes enterprise producing fuel for room heating, water boiling and even large-scale cooking. (Visit: Namuna Biomass Homepage). They use agricultural and forest residues for briquette production. To produce charcoal, they create local enterprises consisting of poor families and purchase loose charcoal from them to make it densified. The enterprise is also training locals to convert invasive weed (Banmara) into fuel. Likewise, there are several other organizations/ individuals who are attempting to improve the clean cooking technology industry and involving more women in doing so.

The above is not based on extensive research but based on results fueled by my curiosity on why women play such an important role in clean energy. Despite people's best efforts, clean cooking energy and women empowerment have a long way to go. Until then, all we can do is make people aware of the perils of open stove cooking and hope that the government will pay a bit more attention to it as well.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Keine Ahnung!

Menschen (people) ask me why I am learning German. I want to say "Keine Ahnung!" which LITERALLY means "No idea!". But all I manage to say is something as feeble as, "I love Germany and Germans. I love the DFB: Miroslav Klose is my celebrity crush for 10 years." And then they chant the most stereotypical chant, "Life's too short to learn German."

To some extent I agree. For the ongoing 3 months, my Saturdays are mostly wasted panicking about the huge pile of German homework I have left to complete before the early evening class. I cannot just fly off for the weekend to see my parents or go travelling as I have made a commitment, an expensive one at that: hence I LITERALLY can't afford to miss a class. I spend a considerable amount of time wondering why a pair of spectacles is feminine and a pen is masculine while a notebook is gender neutral; why some words are so long that they incite hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia in me; why they have the same word for tomorrow and morning and the capitalization of the first letter makes a difference; why adjectives change form based on which part of the sentence they are used in.

It is true. German is a confusing language, but so are other languages. For example, Hindi too has genders for inanimate objects, Vietnamese and Tamil are pretty difficult to pronounce, Bengali has a lot of O's compared to A's. Mandarin has tens of thousands of characters, etc. Despite these challenges, each language is powerful and beautiful in its own way and requires time, patience, appreciation and inquisition. Here are some reasons for which I would like to be fluent in German:

1) It gives me the same satisfaction to hear someone speak in German as it gives when I see the waiter bring food to my table. Imagine how fantastisch it would be to understand what the person is saying as well!

<3 p="">2) I have probably liked the Facebook pages of all the footballers in the German national team. Imagine how wunderbar it would be to read what they post (I mean I more or less get it already!) and feel pride in deciphering every word of it. :D

3) Germany has a big name in academia and a big name in renewable energy. Some day, one day, near future or far, maybe just maybe I would want to study/ work there. Enough said!

4) German literary figures and musicians are world class. Bach, Beethoven, Goethe, Kafka all hail from Germany. The simple motivational quote in Deutsche, "Alles wird gut." brightens my foggy day. All will be good. I came across Franz Kafka's quote the other day: "Liebe ist, daß du mir das Messer bist, mit dem ich in mir wühle", which means "In this love, you are like a knife with which I explore myself". Hence, both in depth and simplicity, German literature has caught my attention.

5) Oktoberfest. My first tryst with beer was at an Oktoberfest celebration in university. I was not a big fan then, nor am I a big fan now of the pot-belly inducing cornflakesey flavored alcohol, but it definitely gave me the courage to try something new and I haven't ceased to try since (no I am not talking exclusively about alcohol).

Although this is just the beginning, and has been just the beginning for quite a long time, 10 years from now, I will probably be teaching other people how to speak in German. Sweet dreams are made of little things like these, even if I have miles to go before I sleep.