September 9, 2016

Bye, Blogger!

Bidding bye to Blogger and moving to my new space on Wordpress.
Extending a warm welcome to the readers of this blog to join along in my journey at 

June 20, 2016

One night...

A dark and dangerous forest,
She roams, with happiness, bereft.
Slithering creatures of the night
Whisper sensing her plight,
“Come to me! I’ll hold you tight!”
Lost in thinking of the paths that led her there,
She stumbles into the pit of rumination.
A shattering fall that hurts head and heart!
Snarling teeth and gleaming eyes, up above,
Behold the hounds of Netherville!
Claws itching to tear her guts out,
Towards the night sky, they shout,
Proclaiming that the prey is caught.
“Now to bite into the flesh of hope!
Now to shed the blood of dreams!”
Victory in their grasp, so near,
She stands there, soaked in fear.

From far-away,
Resounding roars of past insults,
Thundering trumpets of failed plans,
Crash against the shore of her now.
Her troubles bang the table for a final toast.
The darkest hour descends.
In the corner of the pit, she finds
Hard rock of conflicting voices turning soft.
Quickly that quicksand sneaks near her,
Trying to pull her down to the depths of no-return.
When around and below, darkness looms,
Far off, her ears hear a little bird,
‘Hey! Fly to me. I can teach you to sing’
‘Nay! I cannot show you the scar of my torn wing!’
With impotent words, she stares downwards.
Still, that birdsong, in her mind, echoes.
The sneaking quicksand, off her feet, she throws.
Unceasing snarling, roaring, trumpeting making her meek,
Tear drops of hurt trickle down her cheek.

A wounded bird falls into the pit from nowhere.
Perhaps, the handiwork of another hound up there!
The bird flutters all around,
Shaking its wings,
Struggling to fly and just then,
A flying drop of its blood colors her tears red.
Touched by that cackling fire on a cold night,
Touched by that caressing embrace after a fight,
She stands up, soaring to her full height.
Eyes burning with fury,
She stares back at the gleaming demons,
Like a possessed one,
The pit she thought she couldn’t climb,
She flies with wings she knew not she had.
With the pride of her belief back,
The lioness pounces on that evil pack.
Looming figures that eclipsed the sky,
As a deck of cards, they fall and fly.
Those roars and trumpets grow dimmer,
As she lets her confidence simmer.
Peering down her pit,
She declares to it,
“With brave words, you, I shall cover,
And not let another me suffer.”

Looking up, the curtain of darkness falls away.
The sky envelops her shivering soul,
With the scarlet blanket of possibility.
A spot of orange laughter, 
A shade of red passion,
A dash of yellow friendship,
A coat of violet hugs,
Many, many shades, her fingers touch.
Multi-hued threads of life to cling on to.
Closing her eyes, she senses,
The kiss of the morning breeze;
The fragrance of the blooming buds;
The song of the crooning birds.
Wondering, as she steps into the light,
Is this the end of every such night?
She knows not.
Just a thought,
To inscribe with indelible ink,
Of the night she refused to sink.

February 1, 2016

The Book of Life

It all starts with a blank page.
Words get written, struck, rewritten.
What will be the essence in the end?
Can you go back and change things?
What if there are points of no return?
When the last sentence is done,
What will it be worth?
Will it be loved, hated or worse, ignored?

What about the pages of yore?
That of the first man?
What did he do all day?
Perhaps only rub two stones together.
Lo behold! His mindless action lit the first spark.
In its warmth, we all bask!

In follies that one was the centre of the universe,
Pages have been written.
When someone tried to change it,
His life sentence ended.
Many a bloodshed page there has been.
But even in the bleakest of such,
There’s the punctuation of a child’s smile.

Pages written in gold embossed letters,
Silver spoon and diamond legacies.
Not any more interesting than charcoal imprints,
Engine smoke and dirty hands.

Pages that travelled the world.
Pages that stood still at a point.
Pages that moved the world.
Pages that the world moved.

Pages so abstract 
that different eyes read different words.
Pages so simple
that different hands change to different words.

On which strength stands,
There, a page of a mountain rock;
On which freshness flows,
Here, a page of a morning breeze;
On which serenity serenades,
There, a page of a wandering stream;
On which inspiration invigorates,
Here, a page of a shining spark;

Pages are right there to be seen.
But where is the author?
Why hide behind this creation?
Questions arise in surprise.
‘God’, ‘Nature’, ‘Consciousness’
‘The Force’, ‘Genes’, ‘Circumstance’
Answers abound around.
Crashing on the wall of truth,
Comes the resounding ‘You!’
You write your book!
Even though you know not to write.
The world may insist that it be written by another,
The Parent… The Teacher!
The Well-versed… The Knowledgeable!
Resist. Forget not your precious words.
It’s your precious choice!

In the colours of many languages,
Singing the same human song,
Penning the same human story;
In the fonts of many lifestyles,
Living different lives the same way,
Living the same life in different ways;

In the ordered and bordered pages of the developed,
In the overlapping and gaping pages of the developing,
Existing as the solitary word on a vast page,
Subsisting as the ignored word on a cramped page;
Standing in block prints,
Where the individual reigns supreme;
Flowing with the neighbours in cursive,
Where only society makes sense;
Whether as one in a million or one among the millions,
Pages filled as borders dictate;
Bold words fly beyond borders too.

Be it across those eons or these miles,
Every time a page is opened,
There is doubt but also hope.
Claps few; Curses too;
Clamouring voices queue.
‘This will be worthless!’
‘This will be priceless!’
‘Are you sure?’
‘What does it matter?’
‘Why don’t you just stop and end it all now?’
Just be sure to hear the whisper
Of that gentle voice, ‘Keep writing…’

January 24, 2016

Unfinished Garbage Tales from Chennai

The story of garbage is being written in every home and every street corner. An everyday drama where everyone is an actor! If you take any other issue, say corruption, one may flick it away with a ‘No! I have never taken or given a bribe. Not my concern’. But is there anyone who can say I produce no garbage at all? Maybe because everyone is responsible, we tend to think that someone else will do something about it!

When you exert even the slightest of mental effort, you’ll find that this isn’t some kind of rocket science. There’s a simple solution as has been demonstrated so many times - Segregate, Recycle, Compost. I even heard a development scientist remark that all the research that needs to be done on solid waste management has already been done. So, why then are our streets still in this state? Why hasn’t all that research translated into action and results for the common man? With all these thoughts bubbling within me, I decided that instead of just cribbing, I should actually do something about it. Living in a block of apartments, I wanted to talk about this to the residents. I wanted to at least find out what people thought about this, if at all they thought. Some insights gleaned were the issue of time. When there’s so much to juggle - work, family, children’s education, where is the time to think about this? Some were so busy that they shut the door in my face as if I were just another annoying salesman. Some people did welcome me, but they too filled me with their tales of cynicism and everything else that was wrong in the place. Many also said yes and they would be willing to work on this. But still, there is a stepping back, a lack of drive when it asks for more than just words. 

While the challenges of confronting minds are many, it’s heartening to observe that the floods have lit a flame of passion in people. Many have this burning intensity to do something about this. Maybe because they worked from their hearts selflessly during the floods for strangers or maybe having analyzed in their minds that the destruction caused by the floods was because of human action, they want to change this. I find there are many who want this but they know not how. At the same time, inertia and the comfort of not doing anything is pulling them back. It would take a lot of confident and strong hands to get them to the fighting side.

Many such hands have been and are at work at attacking this problem from angles many. Here are a few that I learnt of...

In the Past…

How can we forget the fervor initiated by street welfare associations of the 90s? Starting in 1989, the organization branched all over the city with the goal of making it green and clean. But why has their presence diminished? Even on their website, there’s hardly any activity since 2013. Have we changed as a city? Have they not been able to keep up with the dynamics of this internet driven world? Any organization working on this problem now needs to look at where this organization went and what they learnt, to continue to make a difference. 

This was an action research organization, which conducted and produced a lot of meaningful results for Chennai. Their research, maps and articles on solid waste management contain a wealth of on-the-ground data and strategy for tackling this issue. They have closed operations as of 2014 but some of the team members are continuing their work through the Citizen Consumer andCivic Action Group.

At the moment…

A social enterprise that focuses on the ‘Recycle’ segment of this cycle and attempts to connect the customers to the nearest recycler. Their aesthetically well done website exudes the freshness of youth and the promise of hope. Their upcykle store is yet to open but it seems the right fit for our artists aspiring to elevate things from the domain of dirt to the realm of art. Especially impressive is their research and mapping abilities which holds the promise of extending it not just to recyclers but also to all other stakeholders involved.

An initiative started by The Hindu, which aims to bring out the various infrastructure problems in the city. As of now, there are more than 500 stories and 1950 activists listed on the site. This forum needs to be appreciated for giving a space for citizens to tell the world what's wrong around them. I only fear that people may become satisfied with simply ranting and not bothering about taking constructive action. While that could happen, this also holds the promise of ensuring accountability if ways are found to expand beyond reporting towards action. 

Whenever I talk to people working on this area, this name keeps popping up. I have come to learn that they are a group of activists working on various environmental issues towards inspiring citizens to act for their environment. 

Ask the Neighbors…

Siru thuli (a little drop) is an environmental NGO from Kovai, which works towards changing Garbage to Green and is helping communities to close in on the gap to zero waste. 

Daily dump is a start-up in Bangalore that focuses on the ‘Compost’ segment of this cycle. They produce composters for various needs as well as offer services to install the same in households and apartment complexes. They have outlets and franchises in Chennai. The Dailydump site and Youtube channel have many videos and links that makes you say, ‘Oh, that seems so easy!’ 

Sowing seeds of awareness…

Chennai Trekking Club

A group that is well known for its annual Chennai coastal cleanup initiatives.

Environmental Foundation of India

They focus on reclaiming the rivers and lakes, among other awareness programmes.

The Ugly Indian

A quirky initiative which believes in doing and showing by example. Cleaning a street, changing the look of a place, literally illustrating that change is possible. 

In addition, there are pockets of neighborhood activists who have been or are attempting to implement effective waste management even as I write this. An MRC Nagar community, CleanKotturpuram Campaign, Shanti Ulhas from Mahalingapuram are some names I have come across, who make hope burn brighter. No doubt there are many more doing this silently in their homes and apartment complexes. A salute to each and every one of them! You may climb the Everest, you may even fly to Mars but the ultimate challenge lies in changing people’s minds. These organizations and communities need something to feed their passion. What will we give them? Our time? Our money? Our minds? Our efforts? A question each one must ask of oneself, if we want to move to a different tomorrow.

Of our future…

Although the trajectory of today isn't exactly heading to a clean and green future, can we try to reimagine a different tomorrow? Isn't it still possible to conceive of a day when...
As you fly into the city, green smiles at you from every rooftop; 
Laughing children fill the groves of what were once the landfills in Perungudi and Kodungaiyur; 
IT employees turn farmers too, all in a day’s work.

Here's to doing all it takes to get to this 'The End'!