Friday, July 22, 2016

Green Resources : project for a Sustainability Knowledge Base / Archive

Over the past few months i've been working on a proof-of-concept for an archival website..

To capture the wonderful stuff regarding sustainability

Being shared among networks such as this,

To properly attribute & manage the info so that:

1. It becomes accessible to a broader audience; and

2. You can find it when you need it even after months or years have gone by.

The pilot site is here:

please check it out and let me know how you feel about it.

Look at the left & right for slide-in menus.

See the About section if you're getting curious.

This site goes way beyond the confines of standard websites/blogs and pushes the limits for the features needed.

Proud to share it was all done using free and open source technology, namely wordpress enhanced with a platoon of plugins.

The site's USP is a multi-channel filter using which you can filter down to the subject, type, location, level, language etc to refine your search.

The articles can also have features like their own map location and mulitple attachments.

In terms of content focus, my initial idea is that this should be a haystack that archives several short leads to resources, like contact details of a RWH expert in Delhi region, or growing method of a particular millet crop in Vidarbha region, or way to avoid a particular pest attacking a plant in city balconies, etc. Stuff that we usually share on our groups and mailing lists when somebody asks. I'm not looking at having full-fledged well-written articles because I already see  some sites like Vikalp Sangam, TheAlternative, Ecologise, TheBetterIndia etc doing a great job with that. Rather we should link to those articles and so help people find them. And geography wise, I'm focussing on material relevant to Indians (which may be international in origin but relevant here)

What's needed now: The Human Component

While technology is important, for something like this to succeed we need many caring hands on deck. Without that, this is just a tool without a master, and there's no way just one or two or people can keep up with the plethora of content being shared nowadays.

At the NPC (National Permaculture Convergence, Feb'16) and since, i got a strong feeling that the time has come, there are many more people coming forward wanting to do this and telling me they need something like this. So hoping to find ways to take this forward! Maybe a group out there with enough hands onboard can adopt this. Or maybe multiple groups can depute people and co-host it. Do reply back if you're interested.

And while the way forward gets charted, the site is LIVE and is open for you to contribute content! And yes, we can handle a flood of content and have ways of managing it effectively so jump right in!

There's a cool Submit an Article section where you can create an article yourself, attach a photo too, and when you submit it, it'll queue up for an editor to attribute, approve and publish. This keeps minimal load on you as a contributor... no need to login etc.

Lastly, this work is shared in the spirit of gift economy. The output is open source and free, while the inputs have been time-taking and a great learning experience for me (am open to web design projects, ahem!). If you liked this initiative and want to contribute towards it in any way, then click here: Contribute

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Happy Guru Purnima

19th July 2016: Guru Purnima is an Indian and Nepalese festival dedicated to spiritual and academic teachers. This festival is traditionally celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Buddhists, to pay their respects to their teachers and express their gratitude.

Wishing a Happy Guru Purnima to all the children who have taught me so much!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The link between our leaders' behavior and voters' preferences

Here's an interesting mail-forward from a friend of mine highlighting the day-to-day behavior of India's politicians, compared to how their counterparts in other countries behave. I then shared some insight about it, scroll to bottom to see it.

Why we are where we are and likely to remain there.... 

And even more interesting, a conversation that followed:

Me: We all know very well that there's only one party in this country that has broken this trend and even today goes around without all this stupidity.. AAP.

My Friend:
NO. Party politics needs to be kept away giving way to education; then only the Country will see the desired thorough change,

Is that really how all the other countries achieved it? Every last one of them? Did the USA and Britain and countries of Europe abandon all politics, elections etc and let a dictatorship handle things while they educated one generation? Would it be really wise to expect an idealistic "should be should be" solution with no real strategy of implementing it, and ignore the path others have followed?

As far as I know, there has been plenty of cronyism elsewhere too. At some point the electorate starting expecting better behavior and decency from their leaders and their authorities, and started voting more for those who lived up to those basic expectations. Like, for example, don't vote for a party that harbors criminals and rapists in its ranks, no matter how promising the main leader at the top looks : a very simple and basic way of drawing the line between acceptable and unacceptable.

They understood that there is a definite link between this day-to-day behavior and the actual character and overall work that the politician in question will end up doing for the country. They got the point that this basic linkage is far more reliable than the overly complicated soap-opera style speculations and calculations and isne-usne-iska-uska that we use with our typical Indian tendency to selectively over-think in political matters. They understood that a good leader is first: a decent person and second: one who keeps decent company, that these criteria aren't supposed to be overridden no matter how great the stated promises coming from the top, no matter how infinitely shrewd and wise you think that top guy is.

Today India has one of the most highly criminalized elected bodies, from Panchayat level all the way to the various State Legislative Assemblies and all the way to Central level, on this planet and in India's own history. It's not an allegation, it's a fact. Here's a tool that can help you look into this: . I see a direct link between all the pictures shared above and this one simple basic fact, and I can also recognize and empathize with the bias which makes people overlook this, coming from a desperate hope against the simple laws of reality.

PS: I'll also point out the propaganda aim I recognized in the selection of images in this collection. I've seen such collections in email forwards in past years, and this one has a slight difference: all BJP leaders have been sanitized out of it. We're supposed to infer that they don't do the exact same thing and are much better.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

What should be done to Facebook and others for violating your country's citizens' rights

Facebook CAN track you offline: Site wins Belgian privacy case over following logged out users

...The social media site has won a legal battle against the Belgian data protection authority over tracking its users while they are not logged into Facebook.
Originally, the regulator had won its case and ordered the social network to stop tracking non-members when they visited publicly available Facebook pages.
But the Brussels Appeals Court dismissed the case, on the grounds that the regulator has no jurisdiction over Facebook Inc, which has its European headquarters in Ireland.

>> An example of how legal speak defies common sense.

The people that FB is tracking are in Belgium, and Belgium's data protection authority is trying to protect its own people from the violative actions of an outside company operating over the internet. If the outside company, basically a foreigner, is caught committing wrongdoing to citizens of Belgium, then it's a simple case of attack on national sovereignty and should be treated as such.

What the court has decided, means that if a NATIVE service had been caught doing it then the authorities could be free to prosecute them, but since it's a FOREIGN service doing it, it's suddenly totally OK.

Tomorrow, if a foreign based entity is caught committing crimes and doing harm to Belgian people, tomorrow if a foreigner is caught having raped a Belgian citizen, then that will be completely valid and legitimate according to the basic logic that the Bussels Appeals Court has followed in this case.

Which of course is absolute bullshit.

What is SUPPOSED to happen here is that Belgium has to issue an extradition warrant to Ireland to extradite and prosecute Facebook's executives for committing crimes on the citizens of Belgium. (It might be something that only earns a fine as per rules, but the due process is supposed to be the same.)

If Ireland is then unable to proceed as the people in question aren't really in Ireland and it's just a business address registered there to evade higher corporate taxes or obligations elsewhere, then the obvious next step is to SHUT DOWN the business by locking down that office, and confiscate whatever property, equipment and accounts are in Ireland and connected with the business till the executives responsible come down and face due process. If they want to contest the extradition warrant, let them take it up in a court in Ireland as per law. The only other alternative for the company is to forgo everything they had in Ireland and remain out as absconders. It is then up to tax authories at all other places where this business is based, to decide that if this business is no longer based in Ireland, then where is it, and which country should claim taxation and other obligations from it?

This situation brings forward the need for localizing transactions : Irrespective of where the hell the business is based, if they are violating Belgian laws (and being foreigners are hence seen as atacking the sovereignty of Belgium) then the Belgian authorities must have complete right to prosecute them in whichever way they can. And this can happen in quite some ways:

1. Put out summons for executives of Facebook to summon them to a Belgian court and failing which they are to be declared as absconders; if they ever enter Belgian territory (like, say, changing flights at Brussels) then they are to be taken into custody. (hey, this is exactly what was being done when the US set out for capturing Edward Snowden, including being willing to force any plane carrying him passing their or allies' airspace to land)

2. Summon any Belgian citizenship holding employees of Facebook or who are in a working contract with it as representatives of the company; let them off if they resign or forfeit the job contract immediately.

3. Enter the company in a national boycott list according to which all Belgian companies and citizens are forbidden from performing business transactions with it, hence economic boycott.
(Note: people using facebook don't get covered here, as they are consumers of freely provided service and not doing financial transactions with FB)

4. Use extradition treaties to summon FB representatives to Belgian court.

5. Confiscate any property owned by the company or its subsidiaries that is there or enters into Belgian territory.

6. Apply similar measures for other entities that are found to be benefiting from transacting with FB and aren't doing anything to make FB comply.

Given the present indoctrination that big internet companies like Facebook are above and beyond any country's laws, this all might seem too far-fetched to you. But try imagining what should be done if it was some other foreign based small company or individual found to be violating the legally enshrined rights of citizens of your country. If you WANT to have a law and order system, then let's treat everyone the same before the law, shall we?

Monday, July 4, 2016

Interesting Links for June 2016

Interesting Links for June 2016

When they instruct you to hate, don't.

When the mainstream media,

whom you know is criminally culpable in causing wars and financial, environmental, social and cultural plunder and in general making bad things happen,

which you know is acting against the best interests of the public and in the best interests of power elites who own the media companies or who are in the common circles with them...

When this mainstream media

Is going out of its way

to encourage and instruct you

to absolutely hate any particular public figure,

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Palikade Permaculture Project - Plantation 1st Phase

The Palikade Permaculture Project – Phase 1 plantation
In March 2016, we (Astrid Rao and Sneha Shetty) attended a Permaculture Design Course (PDC) organised by Academy for Earth Sustainability and conducted by Narsanna Koppula , where we were introduced to the intricacies of water harvesting and soil conservation (WH & SC) among many other themes of permaculture.

In WH & SC, we learnt about "vegetative consolidation" of water harvesting structures i.e. consciously designed multi-level planting of trees, shrubs and ground cover on the water harvesting structures. The purpose is to strengthen the structures, increase biomass, enhance soil health, create micro-climates and many others. The loose soil of the newly created bunds also provide a good base for new saplings to grow in.

At our 18-acre farm in Kamshet, which we call 'Palikade', we decided to start with designing the land forms for WH & SC. We have only the rains as a source of water here, so we decided to grow indigenous/ native, hardy, rain fed trees as well as quick growing leguminous shrubs that would fix nitrogen into the soil, provide us loads of biomass and create microclimate. We started growing saplings of the latter in our nursery in April. Then we made a plant palette of what would grow well in our area, choosing species that would serve many functions. It would be a tropical food forest that would provide for food, clothing, shelter and other needs of not just the human residents but all the stake holders including the birds, insects and micro organisms (in Narsanna's words). This was a great opportunity to grow native trees that have been on my wish list for years (yes, i am a serious tree lover).

We began the water harvesting structures in April - boundary trenches, contour trenches, a couple of ponds and a percolation tank at the highest point in the property with the hope that they will hold the water and let it percolate into the subsoil, thereby using the soil itself to hold water. We also intend to grow a mix of cereals, millets, pulses, oilseeds and green manure on the land meant for growing annual crops & orchards in future. This is to regenerate the soil ('make the entire land a compost pit' – Narsanna's words). In the coming months, we will continue to plant a live fence on the boundary, comprising of various plants serving multiple functions.
Permaculture has the answers people – and Narsanna Koppula (founder of Aranya Agricultural Alternatives, Hyderabad) is a leading light of our times.

In the last one week, we have planted more than 2200 saplings and cuttings (of about 90 species), sowed hundreds of seeds and will continue to populate the bunds with ground cover (grasses, climbers and shrubs) of various types that will all do their bit to contribute to the fertility of soil and up our sustainability quotient.

Wishing you a very Happy Van Mahotsav – we at Native Place and Nirvana Adventures are happy to contribute to the mammoth task that the Maharashtra govt has undertaken to plant 2 crore trees by the 1st of July 2016. We are grateful that we could source about 1,000 plants from Government nurseries (Forest Dept- Shirota, Social Forestry - Pune & PWD- Pune) at very affordable rates. Thanks a ton, guys!

Peace Bliss & Happy Landings
From Native Place and team at Nirvana Paragliding Club , Kamshet , India

See some photos from this activity on

Few pics below:

(see facebook album linked above for all pics)


Note from Nikhil:
Feeling very lucky to have gotten to do a little participation in this huge project and getting to pick the brains of the designers. I walked barefoot in beautiful natural surroundings, got totally wet and totally muddy, was all over the beautiful sticky mud and can now say I have truly experienced the magic of monsoons. 

Palikade is a work of art and some very deeply thought out planning that can serve as an example for any student of planning or engineering. So many steps taken to harvest water, to make it go exactly where it needs to, to enrich the soil to the fullest; so much care taken with each sapling, ensuring the various indigenous species are well-mixed and spaced out with the prevalent flora, fully grown tree's canopy, height, root zone, nutrients etc kept in mind, sunlight, shade, wind direction, access, slopes all taken into account. I got to see high level engineering in perfect harmony with nature here, hats off to Astrid Rao and Sneha Shetty for meticulously planning and executing this project and the sheer amount of love and fun they brought into it. Even for the planting operations for our drinking, cleaning, cooking etc we were using rainwater directly collected from the roof of the small house there!

The local farmers from the village who were working on the project were also enjoying every moment, have understood many concepts of permaculture and were actively discussing about applying some ideas on their side. They also contributed their tacit knowledge about the wild medicinal herbs in the area, local growing habits, seasonal variations etc, all of which went into informing the project design. The ladies requested for and took saplings like drumstick home to plant for their kitchen gardens. So even the strong local connect that Astrid has established with the community here since over a decade, and the informal spreading of sustainability concepts, is something very exciting and we can look forward to more wonderful things happening here in the near future.

Astrid and Sneha

Sunday, June 26, 2016

An example of structural violence: slum demolition and then vengeful pursuit by govt in Dharamshala

Forwarding an email from a friend regarding demolition of slums in Dharamshala. Pay special attention to points 4 and 5. 

It would be far more honest if the government simply lined up all the 1500 people (esp the aged, disabled, women and children) and summarily executed them. But they have outsourced that job to brutal circumstances (which will obviously claim the aged, disabled, women and children first). This is Structural violence 101 : the end result is the same but the people causing the carnage get to conveniently avoid any accountability.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

On handling paramparaa / traditions

Imagine you get a big, old box/chest that was used by your
predecessors and now it's in your possession.

You open the box.

Inside the box there are several kinds of things. You enjoy your time
sifting through them, checking them out. Many interesting things. Many
of the things seem to also have a higher purpose of reminding about
what is important in life, what should be kept in mind, etc. There are
also some papers, letters in the box, written by the previous handlers
of the box, with some having explanations about some of the
constituents of the box.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Boiling down to the details

When discussing contentious topics, I've found that the best way to avoid going wrong is by avoiding taking any of the extreme positions, and boiling down to the exact components to check one by one for any real disagreement.
Example about boiling down to the details:

Friday, June 17, 2016

Call for Facilitators @DLRC - Urban Farming, English & few more

From Ajay Dalmia
Subject: Call for Facilitators @DLRC - Urban Farming, English & few more

Thanks to the Community for responding to our last call for facilitators. We have been been able to fill many positions. Following are a few that we are still actively seeking the right resource. Please respond or forward to individuals interested in the DLRC model of learning and facilitating:

Pune: Bootcamp 25-26 june, Hackathon 8-10 july on public transit and water supply

Smart City Maker's Fest 2016, Pune

Statement by Parliament of World's Religions on Orlando Massacre

Forwarded below. In case you can't see it in this email, please see it here:

My take:
What I love about this Statement is that it exposes the old tactic of responding to one form of hatred with another, while at the same time not falling for the opposite trap of appeasing or over-protecting any side. It calls for some serious accountability, self-examination and reform among the sides in whose name atrocities are being committed or perceived to be so : Something I've seen irresponsibly lacking in most secular bastions till now especially in India.

Who knows? If we didn't have so much appeasement and hypocriisy on one side then maybe it wouldn't have triggered the blanket hatred that has emerged in reaction to it on the other (keywords: "sickular" "pseudo secular" etc). Now please don't take off on a tangent; scroll down and read the mailer that I have forwarded to you also; those words are much better expressing what my own stand is while what I write is usually too open to misinterpretation by peers. <3

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Parliament of Religions

Monday, June 13, 2016

About Russia

Sharing from a newsletter, someone recently visited Russia and shared
these points about the place:

Pretty much everything was contrary to to typical Western
expectations, but contrasting in a positive way:

- The ship was relatively newly renovated, clean and well managed
- People are generally reserved and well behaved, very far from a
general Hollywood image of heavy drinking boisterous Russians. Downing
copious amounts of vodka and inevitably smashing the glasses against
the wall..)
- The quality of food was excellent. Not spectacular in a "haute
cuisine" way, but healthy home cooking with fresh and high quality
ingredients. Especially notable the aromatic taste of fresh
vegetables, salads, tomatoes and potatoes.
- Service was always attentive and friendly even though nobody
speaks more than a few words of English as a general rule.
- Cities are very clean compared to Western cities. People do not
drop rubbish everywhere. They don't seem to be munching something all
the time like you see in the West. If you inadvertently drop
something, people will discreetly alert you to pick it up. This s like
Switzerland must have been in the 60s.
- Supermarkets, even in smaller provincial cities, are full with
quality food including fresh produce of good taste and quality.
- What struck me is how well behaved and un-neurotic the children
are. Must be the healthy food and a much lower load of vaccinations
and sugar. There were lots of kids on the ship and they were busy
playing hide and seek and all kinds of games WITH EACH OTHER and not
getting on parents' nerves all the time or throwing tantrums like I
see it all the time with Western children. But also parents don't seem
to get on childrens' nerves that much.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Nonviolence royally screws materialism

At its core, non-violence is a tacit violation of the materialist paradigm.


An acceptance of supremacy of materialism leads to the 'might is right' concept : the parties that manage to acquire greatest material wealth and control over physical existence, get to decide things for others. Violence - direct or structural, is the way that supremacy is asserted and implemented. Ideas like "the meek shall inherit the earth" don't make any sense at all for a materialist worldview, because materialistically that's impossible: 'survival of the fittest' meaning most materially powerful is the rule.

So materialists do violence, or materialists accept violence. Violence is the way supremacy of the materialist paradigm is enforced. If you are a true materialist (as the mainstream academia wants everyone to be) then you have to accept that violence is what ultimately works. My ability to kill you at will confers upon me the power to control how you live and what you do (in my service) while you live, hence tipping the 'survival of the fittest' scale in my favour.

BUT... hold your horses (or lumbering biological robots as the materialist paradigm asserts)... what if the materialist worldview is not everything that is?

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Second Green Enterpreneurs Meetup #Pune 4th June 2016

Greetings !
After our first successful Green Entrepreneurs Meetup we are back to get the momentum rolling yet again.. :)

Inviting green entrepreneurs (and those who want to start!) to Green Entrepreneurs Meetup- Second Chapter at The Real Green Cafe , Koregaon Park.

Here, you will meet others like yourself and exchange ideas, resources, strategies on what works and what doesn't.

  • This time we will be focussing on how to convert offerings to actions.
  • 10 min- Slot by Sharmila Oswal, Fouder of Green Energy Foundation. She will be talking about her journey as green entrepreneur and services of her foundation followed with relevant Q&A round.

Who is this for:

  • Individuals working for green economy or 
  • Social enterprise that honours the three P's: people, planet and profit or
  • Anybody looking to contribute to solutions for pressing issues around environmental problems.

What all was discussed at the last meetup? Click here to find out!

Bring along: a pen, a notebook, and a can-do attitude!

Seats available: 15

When: Saturday, 4th June 2016, 10.30am-12.30pm.

Location: The Real Green Cafe,
above Subway, Koregaon Park Lane-6 entrance

Please Whatsapp us on 8983584431 to RSVP! We can accomodate only limited seats.

Join the conversation on FB!

Warm Regards,
Nikhil, Aishwarya, Shivani

Real Green Cafe | Spirit-In Pune


If you are working for green solutions or have any green initiatives, kindly share your project details in link below-

We are making a city-based directory of green solutions to create wider platform for holistic living. This listing will help us to make your project reach community in more effective way.

Fwd: MoM for first Green Entrepreneurs Network meetup (14.5.16)

Dear Friends,

Greetings !

We heartily thank you all for giving your valuable time and great insights at the first  Green Entrepreneurs Meetup at The Real Green Cafe, Koregaon Park, on 14th May 2016.

Thanks to Nikhil for being 'the bad guy' and such a great compere helping all of us to stay on topic and within time. Thanks Aishwarya for providing "The Real Green Cafe" as a green conscious space for all of us to feel the energy. And a big thanks all the 20 friends who joined us. Thanks, Shivani for co-ordinating the whole thing and dreaming big! See some pics here.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

My insights on "broke, hungry and on trend"

My friend Parth shared this:
This article struck a chord somewhere... felt like sharing with all of you :)

I found the article very good and helpful. Here's why.

1. It serves as a very good non-example for the young adults (I mean late teens too) who are just getting started with figuring out how they want to chart their careers. A non-example means: an example of what the instructor wants to teach the learner to NOT do. So, simple message : avoid damaging yourself / bankrupting yourself just to fit in. Bankrupting in monetary terms as well in other forms of wealth, like health, emotions, ideas, self-respect.

2. Exposure matters. Some people are able to figure out that there can be a better way to do things well in time. Some don't. Many realize something is wrong, but are not able to put it into words exactly what is wrong, and have not been lucky yet to come across alternative ways.

Some background:
For almost a year from mid-2011 to around Feb 2012, I was in the state I just described, as a primary school teacher in an educational fellowship program that had told me that there's just one way to do things. I was just not able to make things work, my heart was objecting the whole time but I didn't know why, I was not able to do anything in flow, even the simplest of things for other Fellows seemed just too difficult for me.

And then a book literally fell into my lap : John T Gatto's "Dumbing Us Down".

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A hands-on gender sensitization/normalization activity for boys

I was raised in a household with 3 women (mom, a 7 years elder sis, a twin sis) and one where we did most of the chores. As the littlest and clumsiest runt of the litter, I was assigned tasks that carried the least risks. Which included hanging all the washed clothes to dry and folding them when dried; and to run to the shop nearby to get essentials (packaged products ie.. for picking the right veggies etc my mom couldn't risk it).

I was thus handling everyone's bras and panties from a little age; my mom taught me to especially check the crotch section of chaddis with my fingers to make sure they've dried properly before I fold them. Never experienced any kind of shame or ridicule from it.. it was the same as doing the gents' chaddis and banyans.

I Fight Rape Culture because...

Re-posting from

I Fight...!

"I fight Rape Culture because
When I told my ex boyfriend about my rape
He 'forgave' me.

I fight Rape Culture because
I saw my baby sister age overnight
As she told me about her best friend getting molested.

I fight Rape Culture because
My closest friend was abused as a child
And he told nobody but me.
It took him 13 years to open up.

I fight Rape Culture because
My friends admit to letting their partners f*** them when they don't want it
Then laugh it off as typical male behavior.

I fight Rape Culture because
Saying that you're raping someone is perfectly acceptable
If you're playing a video game.

I fight Rape Culture because
Men tell me they are insulted when women walking in front of them
start to walk faster.
As if their ego is more important than our safety.

I fight Rape Culture because
If I tell somebody their rape joke isn't funny
I am told that I'm uptight.

I fight Rape Culture because
It won't die out
Unless we kill it ourselves."

Sent by Pallavi Vatsa. Original source unknown.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Indian Supreme Court judgements in Swaraj Abhiyan case, pertaining to food & drought

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Kavitha Kuruganti
Date: Fri, May 13, 2016 at 12:05 PM
Subject: ~GMfreeMH~ Today's judgement in Swaraj Abhiyan case, pertaining to food: Re: Judgement of SC in Swaraj Abhiyan Drought case

Directions 30. 

In view of the discussion and the conclusions arrived at by us, we issue the follow directions: 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

How To change the subject line of an email you are forwarding, on gmail

How To change the subject line of an email you are forwarding, on gmail.

1. You have pressed FORWARD. A new typing space has opened.

2. Move the mouse over the button just to left of Recipients box, and click it.

3. From the dropdown list of options that appears, please choose "Edit Subject"

4. Now you can edit your fwd email's subject like. Please write there a proper description that is relevant to the actual email.

Good non-examples of subject lines : try and avoid these:
  • Fwd: Please forward
  • Hi
  • Hello
  • Help needed
  • Help!
  • Urgent
  • Fwd: (no subject)
  • Request
  • Re: Digest

Friday, May 13, 2016

Describing Transition

Describing Transition : My take on it..

It is observed in nature, in electronics, in any system that there cannot
be an instant switch from one state to another. Even in digital circuits,
upon closer inspection we find there is a transition. Sometimes that
transition can be smooth, other times messy.

So applying that concept to the macro level, various initiatives like
Transition Towns movement started with first the acceptance of things as
they presently are rather than complaining about it.

Then we think up of how we would like things to be. And then we figure out
how we could transition from here to there.

The intermediate steps can be messy, and because they’re intermediate,
won’t be perfect.

Many times we build overly high expectations and then when something that
might actually take us towards where we want to go comes along, because
it’s not perfect, because it’s an intermediate transition step, we might
end up rejecting it out of hand and so fail to transition.

It could be :
  • a political option at elections that isn’t the perfect one that you had wanted but at least can help to keep the criminals & greedy folks out of the system, 
  • a technology that isn’t absolutely 100% clean. 
  • a chemicals-free healthy food product that had to be packaged in plastic as it was the only option available to the maker right now to get it to you without losing 75% of the material in transit. 
  • something that shouldn't be more expensive, but is for the time being due to financial compulsions. 
  • a solution that does 80% of the job but isn't able to do the most difficult 20% that no one else also is able to do yet, like a machinery upgrade in an industry that removes 80% of the polluting effluents.
  • having to charge money in order to make a living while advocating a better economic model / givftivism etc.
  • one family member compromising on values and staying in corporate job to be able to make ends meet for the family and so enabling the parttner to work in promoting giftivism, alternative models etc. 
  • creating opportunities for schools to adopt better practices while still wholeheartedly agreeing with unschooling concepts.
  • heirs of large fortunes deciding to not follow their parents' footsteps and instead devoting their time and energy and their inherited resources to help good things to happen.
Invitation: Do you know similar situations? Write them in the comments section!

Some of these opportunities might still take us one step closer in a 100-step transition process, and so even if imperfect (and at times apparently conflicting with the overarching vision), can be a far better option than remaining stuck in the status quo.

Once you go a few steps forward, other opportunities might open up that you
can’t see right now. Kind of like that story of the dark road at night not being lighted all the way, but your headlights light up the first few meters and that is sufficient to go forward. On the way you might even find co-travellers and allies.

Addendum: Where will it begin? Will it begin amongst those who are living most hand-to-mouth, who cannot afford to take risks, who are at the mercy of the dominant systems? Among the poor? Or the rich? Or the middle class?

I think Transition will start first where it can do so without too much risk to the attempters, and then spread once it has established some kind of proof-of-concept. It'll be impractical to expect it to begin only at points of greater difficulty. And different kinds of transition may have different kinds of circumstances.

 The flip side

By rejecting imperfect things by default, by staying locked in the status quo (and so unconsciously voting to prolong the status quo), we might not be taking a risk but will still be 100% guaranteeing that good things will never happen. Which is better? A 100% failure guarantee or a 1% chance of success? What would a tree have to say about this : a tree that generates 10,000 seeds of which maybe only a handful will grow to be trees? Does nature prefer to lock itself into the status quo because of a lack of assured guarantees, or does nature prefer taking a shot, and maximize its shot-taking ability to tip the probability odds into her favour?

And since we don't live in a vacuum, there's a social obligation too. Your rejection of a good thing just because it doesn't fulfil your extreme expectations..

(Example insert : like expecting the vegan restaurant with a "green" in the name to be 100% plastic-free when they never ever committed to that at all, failing which you dismiss it as a fake/fraud, nevermind all the efforts they have been making despite all odds and taking on serious expenses to do the best that they can, nevermind the thousands of other restaurants out there whom you're giving a free pass with zero obligation and focusing all your negativity and judgement on just the one who actually gave a shit, who stepped out of line, took a great risk and tried to make things better),

...and sharing of your harsh dismissive stance with the larger community and using your perfect logic to justify your up-nosed high-horsedness, might actually DESTROY the chances of the solution you and others want from ever happening. Why would anybody even bother to try doing something nice ever again with people like you sitting around and waiting to insult any attempt at it in front of the whole community? Those who have done these kinds of things need to learn that they share responsiblity in prolonging the problem even if they weren't the original problem-causers.

Note: I'm upping the pace a bit here because the above example.. has actually happened just yesterday, with one dear friend of mine getting on the high horse and having done some serious amount of damage to another dear friend's initiative which by all counts did not deserve that kind of treatment; and the damage done might very well be permanent. So I have seen first-hand how bad things happen when somebody assumes a position of high expectations and perfectionism and unilateral definition-imposing (the 'green' in the name was never supposed to stand for zero-plastic.. my friend blindly assumed that without asking and judged the whole thing without trial) and forgets how to be nice in the process.


So in times of transition, it pays to be kind and humble and nice, to be accepting of what presently is, to not be perfectionist or have unrealistic expectations and instead explore how we can move where we want to get, realistically, incrementally, positively and at many times, intuitively.

Project to make managing bus routes much easier for any bus authority : looking for a few creative coders

Hi Friends,

Please connect with anyone who would like to do some fundoo coding-for-public:

Design document: (a ppt slideshow) :

or click here:  Bus Route Information Management System

(lots of things ironed out since the last time I spammed you about this, and I've now broken it down to phases where initial ones would be fairly simple to implement)

Specific detail: As far as possible I want to pull this off on PHP/SQL/Javascript platform.

If you could connect me with a pune-based college's computer science department it would be heavenly!

Sharing a few of the slides to stoke your imagination.. 

(please see the slideshow shared at top for seeing all the slides. Slides have been updated since I made these screenshots, pls refer the slideshow for latest.)


Special thanks to PMPML officers, staff and fellow volunteers at PMPML Pravasi Manch for their constructive inputs and continued encouragement.

Disclaimer note: If you believe you're a .NET-only developer then this is not for you. And, absolutely no hi-fi advanced server/stack based solutions allowed which require complicated command-line installations on server side and need to be maintained as if they're some freakin' nuclear power plant. This whole thing can run off just 2 tables in its most basic form (phase 1&2), so let's keep things simple. Aur copyright / IPR ki baat ki toh chappal khayegaa.

Thanks for your time! Do connect if interested!

FAQ's about the Bus Routes Management System project

1. Why don't we just do live GPS mapping of all buses and wait till that happens?
>> a. I'm sure there's many folks already doing that; 
b. I feel that timetables and proper routes info for buses is something basic and necessary and cannot be substituted by live GPS mapping; 
c. I'd rather empower and make accountable the bus system people to do things properly, and enable them to keep up their obligation to the commuters of punctual and transparent service, instead of leaving everything to the map apps and giving leeways for last-minute delays and changes. It would be great to have BOTH instead of having to choose one.
d. The all-buses-will-have-GPS thing isn't here yet for each and every city and town in the whole country, and this solution shouldn't be limited to just one metro city.

2. Are there any deadlines for this?
>> Once you see the whole thing, the question that pops up for most is "Why isn't this available already, it's such an obvious thing!". I think that's because of the deadlines culture, and have witnessed closely how things have gotten messed up in Pune's bus system's case because of rushing and taking shortcuts. But anyways, if you do want to fix a deadline, how's this : Before your children grow old enough to commute on their own using public transport.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

about John Perkins
More Confessions of an Economic Hitman: This Time They're Coming for
Your Democracy
John Perkins

More than the article, I want to share what inspires me about this man:

He's seen the deepest depths that mankind can stoop to, he's seen how
whole countries are deliberately messed with and how entire
populations' lives are toyed with. He's been there himself.

And just look at how positive he his, how deeply he understands that
we're all in the same boat, his compassion for humanity rather than
hatred, his hope rather than despair.

I have witnessed this repeatedly : people who do get exposure to
darkest sides and who get to witness real misery and who decide to do
something about it, are often the optimistic ones, the ones who have
so much hope and conviction that a better world is on her way, the
ones who are always smiling and never whining.

Whereas those who have been in comforts, who haven't really seen the
dark realities of the world, who haven't figured out what they want to
do about what they feel is wrong, I see them being really pessimistic
and hopeless and dismissive about humanity. I don't know about what
others may have seen, but this has been my observation.

If this trend is real, then what might this tell us about how we want
to raise our children? What if shielding them from the big bad world
is going to make them MORE despondent and hopeless and pessimistic
when they grow up? What if letting them know about what is really
going on in the world, is the key to empowering them to fix it when
they grow up?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

How come suddenly flight ticket and iphone

Just backup-posting here a common reply to many people disparaging on social media about how some popular social icon is suddenly using iPhone and going on a flight when he's supposed to be poor:

Financial assistance flows in like water after you actually stand up for something that matters. Even many friends of mine who could never afford have received iPhones as gifts to help them with the good work they're doing. And air tickets can be bought FOR you by well wishers. This guy's well wishers aren't just your poor slaves.

Critics, thoda toh dimaag istamaal kiya karo

The Way of the Marathon - by Abhishek Thakur

Re-posting from my friend Kiran's FB post :


There are two distinct ways I have seen people engage in the social space.

The first is like a sprint. There is a burst of energy, like Bolt trying to run his 100 metres. Post a fellowship or a program, you are totally fired up. You realise that the world has burning problems, and you dive right in.

Soon, you have a social enterprise. Or, you are already volunteering 16 hours a day for some cause, relentlessly.

It's all great. You get acknowledgement from the people around. You have exciting stories to tell and feel the throbbing passion.

But sooner or later, burnout begins to loom on the horizon. The wake up call may be through a health crisis or a break up. It could be a parent losing patience or friends giving up on you. But it comes.

And with that comes disillusionment and 'giving up'. There may even be some bitterness – about how things will never change. There's a story about why it won't work or why you will get back to 'it' later.

But there is another way to engage with social change – the one I have seen the elders of this space choose.

This is the way of the marathon.

Just as you prepare to run for a marathon, this involves careful preparation. This preparation is at many levels. At the mental level it is understanding your cause. At the physical level it is taking care of your health. But the most important preparation is spiritual.

Social change can be a depressing journey. Consider your experience. Problems are super complex, solutions may not work and things keep getting worse. There are few blips of success. The work is time and thought intensive. And it is often underpaid.

In this scenario, spiritual practice is the fountain of hope.

After the initial burst of energy has fizzled, life can seem quite directionless. Many of us head back to corporate jobs. Others go for further studies, looking back at their social tryst as a youthful fling. Some save 'social work' for post retirement repentance.

But the way of the marathon requires each of us to care for ourselves. to nurture ourselves as the space through which Life will do its work. This journey is not for years but for decades spanning a lifetime – there is no exit strategy here.

My practices include journaling and meditation. On the path, the company of noble friends helps - these are others who are on the path and inspire me to keep walking. Self care includes eating healthy food, exercising and keeping the brain active.

The way of the marathon also involves preparing those around you to live with your choices. As they say, if you want to walk fast, walk alone. But if you want to walk far, walk together.

The marathon way is also about learning to live within one's means. Creating a financial 'model' that allows us to sustain work in the long run is as essential.

Finally, there is no better way (or reason) to grow than to serve. Contemplation has to become a way of life.

I am preparing for a marathon (and already running it). And I'm looking forward to a joyful jog all the way to the finish line. Like every generation, we too will chip into the journey of the planet.

The only question is – will we get burned out by it or have a blast while it lasts!"

- Abhishek, our thakur.

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