Trash-busters @ OMR, Chennai

OMR Greens write-up0001A reader of TOI article – OMR residents go on trash-busting drives – left a comment, asking “Where does the garbage and trash go? How do you transport it ?”   Philo Stalwin,  a resident of Kelambakkam, provides the answer:  In a mail to  OMR Greens   Stalwin says the garbage that the local panchayat collects from households and streets is dumped in make-shift landfill  by the side of  a lake  behind the Puravankara residential complex that is under construction. The trash heap is set on fire ,  every other night, burning the dump to make space for more garbage.

Trash that is burnt,  unsorted,  may include used tyre,  plastics,  spent battery,  expired medicine , and substances generating toxic fume that spread in the wind in populated neigbourhoods.  Isn’t it time people living in emerging high-rise buildings took congnizance of this smouldering health hazard ?

Skeptics ask  OMR Greens,  ‘what is the big deal in trash-busting  when garbage gets dumped at the same spot the day after it is done’?  Trash-busting is not a waste disposal solution,  but a token initiative by a community group,  to create public awareness  that waste disposal problem  can only get worse, and eventually,  unmanageable,   if we continue to  ignore it.  And   a solution has to be sought with community participation.

OMR Greens is for  a cluster approach to creating infrastructure,  for effective waste and sewage disposal. Government and civic bodies never allocate adequate funds .  Trash-busting is our ways of mobilizing support for setting up area-specific,  locality-wise waste-to-energy plant.  It is  a residents  initiative to bring together,  neighbourhood people,  panchayat, and property developers , as joint stakeholders  in creating and sustaining  social assets such as  waste-to-energy plants,  sewage-free neighbourhood lakes,  community tree-planting in public space.

Hand-in-Hand,   an NGO runs  Mamallapuram waste-to-energy unit  fed on kitchen waste collected from households,  restaurants, and hotels.  They generate energy enough to light their 3-acre unit,  and also the street that leads from the plant to ECR. The land for the waste conversion unit has been given by the local panchayat. The Mamallapuram waste-to-energy plant is located on land that was used as a trash dump by the civic authorities.

Kelambakkam panchayat can learn a lesson here.   What they can do :

1) Set aside ,  for waste-energy conversion plant,   a part of the land that is now used for dumping and burning trash;

2) Seek guidance of  NGO – Hand-in-Hand, Exnora  IndrakumarVivekananda Kendra  –  to prepare a project proposal, and costs estimate.

3) Convene a ‘town-hall’ public hearing,  to share with residents  project details,  and proposal for a monthly waste-disposal charges  (like OMR Expressway toll)  to be  collected from residents,  shops, eating houses and corporates located in the panchayat area; and

4) Levy social infrastructure fee on property developers, in proportion to the scale, size and the number of apartments.

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Bilaal’s ‘barefoot challenge’

barefootkidI heard about Bilaal Rajan on NPR news.  The 12-year-old Toronto schoolboy has been going without shoes this past week (volunteer week)  to raise public awareness of the plight of less privileged children the world over.

When he spread the word on his  ‘Barefoot challenge’,  using Facebook and other networking tools, friends as far afield as Thailand,  Australia, Thailand and Afghanistan pledged to shed their shoes in solidarity with Rajan’s ‘shoeless week’ (Apl.19-25)  to highlight the plight of children who have to go without shoes every day.

“My goal is to inspire one million children to take action and help create a more peaceful and caring world. I want kids to find their passion,  get involved and make a difference in the lives of others”, says Rajan,  who has been nominated official  Child Ambassador for UNICEF Canada.

Speaking of his experience of going barefoot in Toronto,  Rajan told NPR radio reporter that he got strange looks from folks at the mall  who may well be whispering at his back. Rajan said if only they asked him straight at his face why he went barefoot,  he could say, “because millions of others do”.

At 4, Rajan sold oranges door-to-door, raising money for victims of the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat. Since then, he has raised millions for various causes.  At 8, he founded Hands for Help, an organization dedicated to heightening awareness of children’s issues and fundraising for those in need.

Lisa’s Bangalore 39

Tinu, 7, hyper-active;  fond of chicken biryani;  wants to grow up to be a policeman.

 Santosh,12, quiet; noodles; engineer.

They are among Lisa Morais’  39  children she came to ‘adopt’ during her volunteering stint at a Bangalore orphanage last summer.  Her work inspired others.  Suresh  messaged Lisa, saying he had decided to donate part of his pay for the uplift of the orphans and the disabled.

Other messages : 1) I am relocating to Bangalore and interested to do some voluntary work for children and senior citizensNash.

2) I am a montessori teacher; want to help disabled children…to work for them. Where I can go for this, in BangaloreShanthi

3) I want to stay with and teach orphanage students, doing a day job to earn my living –  Kamal

Who is this Lisa ?  She is a New Hampshire school teacher who did four months of volunteer work at an orphanage in Bangalore. The experience so impacted Lisa that,  on her return to the US,  she organised fund-raising events,  made slide-show presentations, and set up a blog  to spread community awareness about the orphanage.

Bangalore-based Grace Fellowship Charitable Trust runs a home for 39 orphaned and abandoned boys and girls.  The youngest of  the Bangalore-39  is Vincy,  eight-months;  and the senior most is sixteen-year-old Sugandhi.  Lisa lists them all in her blog,  with photo and thumb-sketch of their personality traits,  their likes,  interests,  and aspirations.

Sugandhi, described as calm, caring and helpful, loves noodles, and wants to be a teacher.  So do eight others. Others in the orphanage wish to be doctors, engineers, pastors and policemen.  Maybe,  their exposure to a host of other professionals,  such as scientist, aviators, techies and fashion designers, would widen their worldview.  Kamal,  Nash, Shanti and Suresh would do well to mobilise their professionl contacts for visits to  the orphanage and interact with the children about their profession.

The Bangalore-based volunteers could work with the orphanage trustees to orgnise group visits of these children to offices and factories to give them a feel of various workplaces.  Periodical visits to old people’s homes can widen children’s horizons.

How we connected with Liza

Cross-posted from Giving It A Shot

Getting people to smile

It may be bit of a tall order – getting people to smile, and  spread  cheer,  in trouled times such as the present  economic meltdown.  But it hasn’t deterred Bren Bataclan from trying.  In fact he has made it one of his life’s social  missions to engage,  literally,  people on the street to spread a bit of cheer around their neighbourhoods.  And here is how he goes about doing it.

 Boston-based ‘smile artist’  Bren Bataclan  leaves his paintings  around in public places for the taking.  The catch is in the note stuck to his paintings, which says, ‘This  painting is yours,  if you promise  to smile at random  people,  more often’.

Folks who pick them up are asked to e-mail Bren how and where they found his painting and what they felt about his idea. The  Filipino-American calls his excercise Smile Boston Project.  In his website  Bren says he leaves his paintings  at employment agencies,  hospitals,   stores and commercial estabishments that are about to close down under recession.  Folks who frequent these places  need cheering up.  And the ones who pick up Bren’s paintings feel obliged to walk the extra mile to spread smiles around them.  Bren says the purpose of  his paintings, and rather the unique  way of their disposal, is to make people in Boston and beyond smile more. positive_thinking_articleA graphics designer with masters degree in computer  animation Bren reportedly turns out 25 paintings every  week to be placed  at  sidewalks,  park benches, airport terminals, trains,  senior citizens’ centers etc. His cartoon-like paintings have found their way to many US cities and abroad.  It is said Bren has had his friends carry his paintings to be placed on  public space in New York,  San Francisco,  Djibouti,  Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and his native Manila.

It’s about giving,  sharing, and spreading smiles around, says Bren.  His  Smile Boston Project website  makes a cheerful read ,  of feedback from follks who picked up his paintings;  media reports, and  blog posts.  I reckon I am the 36th blogger to do a post on Bren Bataclan

Mumbai 26/11: Bloggers chip in

In the begining there were bloggers. And there was a  flash-flood of posts on the Mumbai terror strike.  Many of them, bloggers, went beyond giving vent to their indignation; beyond fault-finding, finger-pointing, Paki-bashing, and came up with thoughts on steps we need to take not to get caught napping, again.

And then, someone came up with the idea of putting  together their thoughts.  Based on  the  collective thoughts of 100 plus bloggers   Ashutosh Didwania,  a public spirited IT professional,  devised an online survey to  elicit public opinion. IndiBlogger  weighed in with their  support structure to promote the 17-point survey.

To be meaningful, each of us, bloggers or not, could do our  bit create public awareness  about the survey ,  by spreading the word among our e-mail contacts.  Agreed,  this online  exercise  is restricted  to the Net-empowered among us.  The  survey,  though limited in its reach,  is  significant for its scope and content,  I reckon.

To give you an idea of the preliminary response to the  survey that went online a couple of days back,  nearly 75  percent of the first 100 who responded  favour diplomatic moves,  rather than  any military action. While recognising that both people,  in India and Pakistan, are victims of terrorism, 68 percent is for people-to-people contacts,  online and  through other means,  in mobilising people’s opinion against terrorist groups.  One in every 10 respondants, however, made it clear that they would have nothing to do  with those across the border.  I wonder, wouldn’t you, how many nay-sayers are  there over there. 

Click here to access RIM survey.

Keep It Going, Dr.Natashekar

You don’t have to be a doctor to make a mark as a stage singer. But being one serves as your calling card to open the door of opportunity. I wonder if Dr Natashekar’s musical talent would have had such public exposure, if  the singer had been a shop assistant, instead of an ENT specialist. He is known widely as doctor who also sings well.

Left-handed compliment, perhaps. Dr Natashekar doesn’t mind. He is a doctor first; music making is his spare time passion. Point is, Dr Natashekar is not competing with Sonu Nigam. “Singing is my hobby, and I am happy that it entertains others,”says the doctor, who leads a similarly talented group of local doctors.  Styled as Geet Gatha Chal the doctors’ cultural group organises free concerts at Mysore’s Kalamandira. “We’ve been doing this since 2001,” says Dr Natashekar, adding that over this period Geet Gatha Chal has built a name for itself as a crowd-pulling music group. Inviting me to his next concert (Nov.9) Dr Natashekar suggested that I be at Kalamandira half-hour early.

I had gone to his clinic at Ramaswamy Circle with an ear  complaint; and we started talking music on seeing a trophy with a photo of Mukesh on Dr Natashekar’s desk – ‘I got this for our ‘Mukesh Evening’ concert in August’.  Dr Natashekar played to a packed house for three hours of vintage film songs credited to playback singer Mukesh.  

Portraits of Dr Natashekar’s favourite trio – Mukesh, Rafi and Kishore – found space on the wall of his clinic. Outside,  at the reception counter, I saw a photo of our doctor paying respect to Siddaganga Swami at Tumkur. To mark the swamiji’s 100th birthday celebrations Dr Natashekar brought out a CD of his rendering of  Basavashwara’s Vachanas.

Geet Gatha Chal is Mysore’s own music group of the local medical fraternity that puts to public use their personal hobby.  The group includes dermatologist P A Kushalappa, Dr A L Hemalatha, Dr Sneshasri and a few others.  A one-of-its-kind cultural initiative that is worth emulating by talented professionals in other towns is not widely known beyond Mysore.  Geet Gatha Chal doesn’t have a website.

Dr Natashekar, like most other professionals in Mysore, is not very coversant with Internet usage.  He could do with some help and guidance from software professionals who admire Dr Natashekar’s music.  A website of his group would surely spread public awareness about the good work done by this group; and help Geet gatha Chal network with interested individuals and groups wth flair for music.

Geet Gatha Chal can upload video-clips of their concerts on YouTube for the benefit of non-resident Mysoreans who admire their music.  With a website of its own and YouTube exposure Dr Natashekar and his group could get sponsored for concert tours by NRI associations, notably, Kannada Sanghas in the US and other countries.

Meanwhile, Geet Gatha Chal could visit local welfare institutions such as orhanages and homes for the aged to entertain inmates. Spending time, an odd Sunday afternoon, with them could by a fulfilling experience for the music group.  Dr Natashekar and his friends would do well to reach out to the  folks who have neither the opportunity nor abiity to make it to Kalamandira.

Volunteering at a Bangalore orphanage

Lisa from New Hampshire plans to spend the summer in Bangalore on volunteer work at an orphanage. “This is my first trip to India and my first time volunteering in an orphanage,” she e-mailed. Googling for ideas on how she could make her work meaningful Lisa happened by an earlier post in this blog.

Lisa is among the 60 million Americans who take to volunteer work in their neighbourhood, or farther away from home during summer break. A report by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics says that people between the ages of 34 and 54 are the most likely to volunteer; and they do so for various reasons – a need to help out, do good, give back. Or maybe it’s boredom that drives many to volunteering; a desire to meet new people; or, as NYT report put it, ‘concern that one’s obituary won’t (otherwise) have much to say’.

I can’t help feeling that a sense of adventure, coupled with the spirit of volunteerism, has been a factor in Lisa’s decision to make her first trip to India, volunteering for the first time to work at an orphanage.

Here’s what she says in her mail: I am a teacher in New Hampshire and I volunteer in afterrnoon programs for kids here all of the time.  I am constantly trying to combine children having fun and children learning. 
I have been trying to think of ways I could help the children I will be working with this summer in Bangalore – besides teaching them and caring for them , bringing them gifts, starting fundraisers in the US (where I live) for them etc….  I thought about taking them someplace special… and the zoo idea came about.  that’s how I “googled and found” you!
I was wondering if this is something feasible – of course I would have to discuss this with the people in charge of the orphanage,,,,
I was wondering where/if I could find some type of transportation to rent – a school bus or something to bring the 40 children on an outing.
I was also wondering if the zoo is the place of choice to bring these children to.  I would want them to 1) have fun 2) get out of the orphanage 3) learn something….
If you or anyone you know could help me with this, I would much appreciate it!