About Me

Someone who fell in love with the written word early on in life and has been smitten ever since. Words are my best of friends, Words are my thinking cap. Words are all that I'll leave, When I go to take that long nap!

Monday, 25 September 2017

This Kanjak Pooja, worship little and big Goddesses in an eco-friendly way

It's kanjak time! That time of the year when little girls are pampered, worshipped and made to feel very, very special and important. They are showered with food and gifts...aah gifts and money. Pure bliss!

While the spirit and menu have remained unchanged over the years, fast-paced life has redefined the way this festival is celebrated. While some still like to invite little girls home, others like to take goodies to their home. 

In whatever manner you celebrate, make it eco-friendly. Ditch disposables and minimize trash for our planet. It can be easily done with a few tweaks:

1. Use reusable plates: 

If you invite kanyas to your home, use steel/ ceramic plates and cutlery. If you want to use disposables, use banana leaves or traditional leaf plates and bowls.

It's easy enough to follow that at home. Pay extra to your help to do the dishes or do the dishes yourself. Think of it as a part of worshipping Bhoodevi - the Earth Goddess. Don't trash Bhoodevi to appease other goddesses. Believe me, they're all related and angering one would anger the whole sisterhood! 

2. Ditch disposables:

If you are going to kanyas' houses, do not carry food in styrofoam or  plastic containers and ziplocs. The best way would be to carry all the food in separate containers or in that classic three or four tiered steel tiffin. When you go to a home, request the host for a plate and transfer a portion of goodies there. This is the easiest and the best option as it honors the first R of the 'Reduce, Reuse and Recycle' mantra

The only glitch here would be your hesitation and the log kya kahenge syndrome. In this day and age of disposables, why would anybody do this? Why, you ask? So as not to create trash. Our earth and oceans are spilling with trash, making life unlivable for many creatures. The fact that you are doing kanjak pooja points to the fact that you worship Devi. If you throw trash on that Devi in order to worship her, contemplate on what kind of worship it is and do you really want to continue a tradition mindlessly.

Just to make it easier for the first time, it's a good idea to inform all parents beforehand about how you would be doing it and why. Trust me, it's not that difficult. I have started carrying my own reusable plates and cutlery to parties and get togethers and I get appreciated, once people know the reason behind it. It also raises awareness and inspires others to do the same. More on this in a later post. I just wanted to touch upon it to emphasize that it can be done and no, you won't be ostracized socially. 

Food served in plastic, styrofoam and aluminum foil is not only bad for the environment, it's harmful for health too. You wouldn't like to harm little devis, whose blessings you seek, in any way, right?

If you must use disposables, go for leaf bowls and plates (hunt them as it's getting difficult to find them these days), uncoated paper plates or bagasse plates. You can also consider gifting steel plates with food served on them. Again, keep away from melamine or plastic versions.


3. Say 'No' to plastic bags of all kinds:

Avoid using ziplocs or plastic bags for giving gifts. A paper bag would serve just fine. Do away with plastic toys or gifts. If you don't know what to give, just a bit of money is good enough. When I was a kid, I used to love getting a 1 Rupee coin from each house.  Adjust for inflation and you're good to go. When you're 6, it's a great feeling to be the sole owner of a few precious Rupees. It makes you feel truly goddess-like and royal!

Last, but not the least, 

4. Don't mix it up:

Those single boxes, where halwa mingles with chana, and pooris try to cover it all up, are a complete non-no. My daughter refuses to eat such a mix.

As you also know, little girls are highly sought after on ashtami and there's only so much that they can eat. It's the parents who end up finishing most of the stuff and trust me, eating a khichri of these goodies is no fun for either kids or adults. A chana-halwa mix is served as prasad in temples, but as kanjaks are cosmopolitan now, they might not be used to that taste. So if you want the little goddesses to eat with interest, serve smaller portions and serve them separately. That would avoid unnecessary waste.

Have a beautiful kanjak pooja and worship the Goddess right. If you have other ideas to make the celebration eco-friendly, I would love to hear them.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Who will say "Michhami Dukkadam" to the Planet?

"Michhami Dukkadam - May my bad deeds become futile. If I have offended you in any way, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, word or deed, then I seek your forgiveness."  

You might have heard this request for forgiveness from your Jain friends towards the end of Paryushan or their spiritual and fasting period around August-September. Jains ask for forgiveness from everyone, be it old or young. A very noble thought indeed! We all commit mistake, knowingly or unknowingly. It's good to realize that and apologise, with an intention of not repeating those mistakes.

I wonder if Michhami Dukkadam is said to Mother Earth too. Should be, since Jainism is one of the most sustainability oriented philosophies in the world. (Recently, a Jain friend told me that they ask for forgiveness from nature as well.) 

Jain philosophy believes that there is a 'jiva' (life) in all living forms. This life is to be treated with utmost respect and not to be hurt in any way. Non violence is a basic tenet of Jainism and has to be practiced  towards everyone, be it fellow human beings, animals, vegetation or even the smallest of creatures. Jain sages wear a piece of cloth over their mouths and noses, so that even smallest form of life does not get killed accidentally by inhalation or ingestion.

The concept of seeking forgiveness is being imbibed by many other people too. I admire that, but wonder, when will we, the human race, say 'Michhami Dukkadam' to the planet? 

Isn't creating waste and pollution, a form of violence?

Isn't mindless consumption, a form of violence?

Isn't endangering fellow creatures for momentary convenience, a form of violence?

Look at these pictures. 




That mangled plastic bottle? Yeah, it's the same as you threw away  when you were too lazy to fill your own reusable bottle.

That plastic bag? It's the one that you had mindlessly used while grocery shopping. You could have carried your own cloth bag.

That ziploc...it might be the one in which you had packed your lunch when you could have used a reusable container. 

And those disposables...remember the parties you threw or attended over the years? Plastic cutlery, styrofoam plates, takeaways, packaging - everything is in this great garbage stew, the likes of which dot our planet from end to end.

Though you might have occasionally put your waste in recyclable bins, the bad news is that almost 90% of plastic waste doesn't get recycled. Also, those soiled ziplocs and dirty styrofoam plates are beyond recycling. 


So where does all this garbage finally land?

It violates the earth.

It violates the oceans.

  
Dhigurah, South Ari Atoll, Maldives, Indian Ocean

It violates animals. 

A hermit crab in plastic scoop. Dhigurah, South Ari Atoll, Indian Ocean

It violates birds.

Albatross in Midway Atoll, Pacific Ocean. Picture credit: Chris Jordan. 

And it violates our own health and senses. 

It's high time we say Michhami Dukkadam to Mother Earth. 
Ask forgiveness for our past misdeeds and resolve not to commit the same mistakes again. 

How?

  • By bringing an eco-consciousness in everyday consumption and making earth-friendly choices.
  • Whatever we buy or do, run a litmus test of how would it get disposed? How would it impact our planet? Would it hurt someone when disintegrating? If yes, think of the least damaging alternative and use that.

Follow:

  • Reduce, Reduce and Reduce.
  • Reuse, repair, repurpose and recycle. 
  • Practice BYO - Bring your own bag, cutlery, plates, water etc. for outings, takeaways, parties and get togethers.
  • Dispose disposables. Single use products are a bane to earth's resources. Remember, the cost of our convenience is someone's life. 
  • Buy stuff with no or minimal packaging. Write to corporates to reduce packaging.
  • Speak up when you see something that can be changed in your community or workplace. 
  • Think. Think about the tweaks that you can make to your lifestyle or surroundings to be friendlier with nature. 
There are tons of ways and helpful websites, if we have the will.  We just need to take that step.

The earth is beautiful, kind and giving. It might still forgive us, if we mean 'Michhami Dukkadam' with all our collective hearts. 


Friday, 1 September 2017

A Little Less

Flooding in Mumbai. Smog in Delhi. Frothing lakes in Bengaluru. And festive season on our hands.
How do we celebrate?

Celebrations generally mean more of everything. Food, clothes, gifts, decorations, parties, visits. More consumption and consequently, more waste. Wasted food, disposed packaging and decorations, smoke due to crackers, unwanted gifts, increased travel.

How do we make it less painful for the planet and in turn, us? There is a universal law that whatever goes around, comes around. So if the planet suffers, we are bound to suffer along - caste, creed, gender, economic status notwithstanding.

When flooding, smog and frothing happen, we curse authorities. But when we are asked to cut down on our conveniences, we argue, complain and make excuses.

It's time to rethink ways in which we celebrate festivals. By taking cues from our childhood or maybe our parents' childhood, when life was simpler and unpretentious. When there weren't many choices, means were limited and simple pleasures were derived out of games, conversations, music, dance and arts.

Decoratives did not mean buying plastic garlands and lanterns. Bandanwaars made of flowers and leaves, decorated doors and altars. Houses were decorated with rangolis and mandanas, which in turn were painted with red colored mud and white colored lime, all natural stuff.

Sweets meant mostly homemade laddoos and burfis. Packaged sweets were hardly exchanged. Instead, we went to each other's houses to meet, greet and eat.

New clothes were eagerly awaited as they were bought occasionally.

My Mom recounts parties that she attended in her childhood. Food used to be a simple fare of poori, one or two curries, raita, one sweet, one savory and a drink. It was served in leaf plates and bowls. As for water or drinks, steel glasses were carried from home by each family. The origins of bring your own. Siblings used to fight over turns to carry glasses till the venue!

Let's make a few simple efforts this festive season.

Social get togethers in apartment communities, homes, temples? Do not use disposables. Borrow or rent dishes and cutlery. Guests can be requested to come with their own plates, cutlery and bottles. Too radical? Speak to people. Talk it out. Tell them why it should be done. Send them videos about pollution in oceans and overflowing landfills. Ask them to be a part of the solution. Every big change starts with a little step. People are mostly ready to do their bit. If you can't borrow or rent, consider buying extra dishes which you can use for your parties and then lend to others. 

Vow not to waste food. Buy what you can use and eat whatever you take in our plate. 

Decorate with biodegradable or reusable paper stuff. Club resources with neighbors to make a big rangoli. It fosters community spirit.

Gift with discretion. Does the other person really need or value your gift? If gift you must, choose an eco-friendly and bio-degradable option. Avoid packing the gift. Use a paper bag with a gift tag.

Get together with neighbors to burst crackers. Watch them when they burst theirs and invite them to watch when you burst yours. Limit them in any case.

Traveling? Consider using public transport to reach railway station or airport.

Little measures when undertaken by all, would create a mighty difference. 

Happy festivities, everyone!

Thursday, 26 May 2016

How to reuse jars - get rid of stickers from plastic and glass

Many a time, grocery items are packed in lovely jars. I love to reuse these jars for storing kitchen stuff but hate the stickers on them. Recently, when I tried cleaning them by soaking in water and then applying elbow grease, I was rewarded with half torn stickers which looked even shabbier! I wasn't able to throw away the jars because of the 3R principle (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) but at the same time, I couldn't get myself to use them. 

Then I turned to omniscient Google. (Is there anything that google can't answer!!) Google recommended to apply oil / peanut butter on stickers and leave them for 24 hours. I had a bottle of used oil - the leftover after frying - and I was delighted to use it in some manner.

Here's how I went about the whole process and you can too:

1. Apply oil liberally on sticker with brush or finger. Rub it well on edges. 
2. Let the jar stand for 12 hours. 
3. After the wait, try peeling the sticker from one of the edges. Chances are, it will come off partially. Repeat the process from all 4 corners. 
4. If the sticker doesn't come off fully, don't despair. Rub oil all over again, with more emphasis on the edges and let it stand for next 12 hours. 
5. This time, the sticker should come off fully. If there are still a few traces, you can reapply oil. 
6. Wash the jars with warm soapy water. 

My jars looked as good as new. And  without any ungainly scratches too! I was so happy with a job well done. The cherry on the cake was that there was absolutely no elbow grease required. This is a frustration free and foolproof method to get rid of stickers both from plastic and glass bottles. 

So what are you waiting for? Get going!






Thursday, 18 February 2016

The King of Houseplants

Are you the kind of person:
  • Who aches to have a dash of natural green in her house but has no time to fuss over it?
  • Who manages to kill even dead wood?
  • Whose fingers are the very antithesis of green?
  • Who has bouts of amnesia and forgets to water plants or is a travelholic and plants are left to fend for themselves?
Then, ladies and gentlemen, here's THE plant which is my latest heartthrob from the plant kingdom.
.
.
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Aloe Vera, also called as Gwarpatha or Ghrit Kumari

High on goodness and low on maintenance, it's a paragon of virtue. When I was away from home for a week and left aloe vera pots standing in a tub filled with water, they were alright after my return. Even if they are left without this arrangement, they turn a little off-color and less succulent but a week's TLC is enough to bring them back to their former glory.

I like to describe aloe vera as a gel that grows naturally, has no expiry date and comes with eco-friendly packaging. You just have to cut a leaf and scoop out the gooey goodness. The gel is antibacterial and moisturising. It has a cooling effect and is very good for cuts and burns. I have regularly used its gel for my face and body. It is good for hair too. When my daughter was in nappies, I used it for her diaper rashes. It works great for urine infections. Aloe vera is good for constipation, inflammation and arthritis. No doubt, the gel is avidly used both in cosmetic and natural medicine industry.


This gel is edible and is used in various forms. It can be had as a drink or eaten raw. My Mom eats it as a salad. In Rajasthan, where it is found in abundance, it is cooked as a sabzi. I also saw this being used avidly in Singapore where it was sold in supermarket veggie shelves. There were aloe vera yoghurts and juices. But the most interesting gastronomical use was as an ice cream topping! 


To top it all, aloe vera has been recommended by NASA as one of the top indoor air cleaning plants. So what are you waiting for? Just borrow a sapling from a friend and get the goodness home!

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Let's talk rubbish!

There is a set of people with whom I end up talking rubbish every time I meet them. In fact, I call some of them just to talk rubbish! 

Don't take me wrong, I am not a creep. I and this lovely bunch of people are members of garbage collection committees in our respective apartment complexes.
We attract each other like magnets and get excited about the topic of garbage. 

We can talk  for hours together about organic, recyclable , reject and e-waste, the finer points of categorization, the problems we face in motivating residents to segregate, the issues with housekeeping, vendors, BBMP etc etc. We lend each other a shoulder to cry upon when we face brickbats and are always ready with bouquets when a small battle is won, a milestone reached.

The world is a little more cleaner because we love to talk rubbish. I am glad to have these rubbish friends.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

How to be a green tourist

Why do we travel? 

Speaking for myself, I travel to see new vistas, gain new experiences, meet different people and enjoy a different style of life. While doing so, I always like it when the place is clean and people are friendly. Who doesn't! 


Recently, I travelled to Maldives. I was saddened to see that though nature has generously bestowed beauty on it, man has sullied it equally generously. Our walk on beach was marred by trash swept in by waves. Cans, bottles, diapers, CFLs, shoes, batteries....you name it, it was there. Who is responsible for it all? All those who have touched those shores and even those who haven't. Because waters don't know boundaries. If we create trash, it is bound to land (beach?) somewhere. Remember, what goes around, comes around?


Here are some steps to minimise our negative impact on the environment :


1. Use public transport: When you are a tourist, you are constrained on time and would be in a hurry to see places. Here, planning in advance might help. Read up about public transport, take help of your hotel and figure out places which are easy to reach by public transport. It won't just help you green your footprint, it will also give you a taste of local culture which you might not be able to experience in a cab.


2. Hotel tips:
  • Towels: It is very tempting to get a new towel everyday. But consider the amount of water, detergent and bleach used to launder hotel linen and you might want to reuse your towel. If dried properly, the towels are just fine to be reused. The same applies to sheets. Request for a change only when really needed. I generally carry my own towel and dry it on the towel rail where it gets ready to be reused the next day.
  • Water and electricity: Use them judiciously. Just because they are included in the price, don't be careless with these resources. Many hotels are doing away with bathtubs these days as they are water guzzlers.
  • Toiletries: Many hotels have now switched to wall mounted dispensers for soap and shampoo, which is an excellent initiative. This does away with small plastic packaged containers. Also, those little bars of soap just get trashed after a couple of uses. Wall mounted toiletries just need to be refilled and cut down waste.
If you're not a fan of hotel toiletries, carry your own and don't accept new ones from the hotel. If you've opened hotel toiletries, carry them with you and use them. Leave unopened ones in the room. 


3. Bottled water: It depends on the country you travel to. If you are in the developed world then you can easily drink tap water. As a rule of thumb, I carry my own bottle and generally request the kitchen staff to refill my bottles from the kitchen tap as I can't drink from a bathroom tap. I do get strange stares at times but I've never gotten a 'No' till now. In India, good hotels would have safe drinking filtered water. Just ask your bottle to be refilled when going for a day outing. Avoid bottled water wherever possible. It would not only save the planet, it would save your moolah too.

4. Dishes and cutlery: Try to carry your own steel plate, spoon and mug. When you order tea or coffee, you can ask to be served in your own mug. The plastic/ styrofoam glasses used to serve hot beverages are very harmful for health as well as for the environment. The same holds good for cutlery. Give a quick rinse to these dishes just after use and they would be good to go!


5. Avoid takeaways: Takeaways would ensue packaging and packaging would add to garbage. Avoid if you can. If you have to, opt for minimum packaging. Just get the food packed in a paper bag. Don't accept ketchup or mayo sachets which you won't use. Don't accept plastic cutlery or a carry bag. Again, if you've your own container, just get the takeaway in that.

6. Leave a green trail: Leave green vibes around. If the hotel has any outstanding environmental practice, appreciate it. If not, suggest green tips in your feedback. Someone, somewhere, always gets affected by what you say.

7. Refuse plastic bags: When you  step out for the day, carry your own little cloth tote, one of those cute foldable bags or even reused plastic bags. Whip them out whenever you need to buy anything and refuse plastic bags. I always pack a couple of cloth and plastic bags before my trip.

8. Maps and brochures: Take them only if you need them. If you have taken one and not used it, deposit it back while leaving. Sometimes you like to carry brochures back home to read at leisure. Be realistic. Would you really read them? A lot of information is available online, so use your judgment.

9. Buy ethical souvenirs: Choose souvenirs which are meaningful, boost the local economy and are not made of banned or endangered things. Don't buy kitschy or plastic stuff just for the sake of buying.

Travelling is always carbon intensive. Let's make it as planet friendly as possible.

Bon green voyage!