Unusual Occupations

Sunday, August 31, 2014



It is that time of the year when there is music and drum beats being heard all over. There is'nt as much dance, fun and gaiety as it is in Mumbai or  Pune. But then this is Bangalore. Down south and down right conservative.
Ah... that is probably unfair to say the least. Conservative atleast in relative terms.

If you were foolish to go drive on the roads today, you would be pleasantly surprised at how well co-ordinated the traffic is, considering it is the 3rd day of Ganesha and most idols atleast in this part of the country go for the immersion today.

Much has been said every year about using the Clay Ganesha idols who being devoid of colourful paints, would not pollute by dissolving toxins from the harmful chemicals in the paint into our scarce and already polluted water bodies.

Apparently in the good old days, Ganesha idols would be made out of all the mud and slush that was available in abundance by the lakes and rivers beds where floods were receding after the year's heavy monsoon season. Local artists would make their own version of clay ganesha , dry them out in the sun and use them as a thanksgiving to the powers above for the bountiful rains showered upon them this year that would ensure a good harvest and therefore a prosperous year ahead.

The ganesha idol from every house and neighbourhod would then be taken out as a procession and immersed into the water source pretty much from where it came. ( Even Gods need to be recycled) amidst dance, music, food and high spirits ( literally and otherwise) across cross sections of people.

   PUDCHYA VARSHI LAUKAR YAA - translated from native Marathi means come soon next year.  The version which has many creative iterations in the later sentences have the first two standard lines which go like this

Ganpati Bappa Maurya  
Pudchya Varshi Laukar yaa. 

Goodbye Dear Lord Ganpati
Come  back soon next year.

It is that time of the year when we need to start worrying about our already scarce water resources getting polluted with Ganpati idols big and small. If they were made entirely of clay, it would'nt be an issue as nature ensures recycling and it would all sustainable. But then few manage to resist the glamour quotient that the big colourful ganpati idol brings with it. Big pandals and many households still buy a brand new colourful ganapati for the festivities.

The change is coming is slowly and steadily. Schools this year educated the children about the ill effects of colourful Ganpati idols polluting water sources and asked the children to insist  that their parents buy a non coloured clay idol this year. It is heartening to see the Pester power of children  being put to use for good causes.

A lot of this falls on deaf ears.
But not all of this falls on deaf ears.

This year, the roadside hawkers carried coloured  and painted plaster of paris versions in equal measure as they carried the non coloured clay version for sale.

The change is coming in people's consciousness, albeit slowly.

As eco-sensitive consumers, our Ganesha this year came from a hawker who only sold the non-coloured clay version amidst drizzle and downpour two days before the festival.

Our Ganpati did'nt look as glamorous as the ones in other households.
But we did end up making our own value statement.  ( First it was the Kitchen garden, then we were composting our own waste and now a clay ganpati !!! )

Soon it will be cool to have clay ganpati idols in every household.

Like they say



Thursday, August 28, 2014

Reducing my carbon foot print.

Reducing my carbon foot print. 

This post is a confession of a introspective middle class urban consumer.

It was one of those mad mornings when I was fixing breakfast, packing lunch, catching up on some yoga and  getting ready to work in no particular order.  Gouramma my domestic help arrives about 15 minutes late  from her scheduled time and  I know I am going to get terribly late to my meaningless monday morning management meeting. 
My bloodpressure has shot up to insane levels and I am trying to multitask. I have my dough for Rotis  readied while I get on to the job of peeling the vegetables.
Gouramma watches me  peeling away the chunks in a hurry. She tells me she could do with taking the skin with her to her home and if she may do so.  I ask her what would she do with it?

And that was when she gave me her two cents worth.

She said ‘you people’ waste a lot of wealth.  From where she comes, the skin , the most nutritious part of the vegetable is used for making a chutney, a broth or simply boiled with the Rice starch ( kanji) and had as a drink.  She gave me a dozen home remedies  about how a plethora of health problems like diabetes, obesity, migraine, fever , cold , cough, blood pressure and cataract could be cured by optimally using the benefits of the skin peeled out of most vegetables.

Gouramma could’nt be older than me.  But her rustic upbringing brings with it an ancient wisdom that has been transferred over for generations .  Somewhere, middle class  prosperity,  urban lifestyle and purchasing power  have degraded these values in me that I would have otherwise imbibed,  had I been born at a different time and place. 
I am not complaining about where in the station of life I am currently in, and I certainly do not envy Gouramma’s  station in life.
But her comment  about how ‘we waste so much of wealth’ struck a chord in me. 
I vowed to reduce wastage.  I promised  to gradually reduce my carbon foot print.

Two years hence we now grow some of my vegetables & herbs in my balcony ( Click here to read about  my creepy wild forest) and in my small plot of land adjacent to our apartment compound.

Last year we planted a Chempaka  and a Malavembu in our compound.  The Chempaka  is a slow starter or probably is turning out to be a  retard , but watching the 'Malavembu' sapling grow way above my shoulder  and spread its branches all over the compound wall gives me  immense joy.
That was my two cents of giving back to mother earth for all the deforestation that we have caused inorder to enhance our living conditions.

Four months ago I came across this group that propagates using your kitchen waste to make your own compost.  I invested in a kitchen waste composter ( That money would have otherwise funded a MAC lipstick or a Philips hair straightener) .

For the last four months all my kitchen waste goes into the smartbin , my kitchen waste composter and  the dry waste to www.kuppathotti.com.  

They buy all our dry garbage. Cardboard boxes, milk covers, old shampoo bottles, harpic plastic bottles,  old steel vessels, CD’s, plastic  bags and every thing that can possibly be recycled from our door step and even better they pay us for all the waste that we dispose.  

Every weekend my plants get a dose of smart brew that is taken out from the kitchen waste composter as their nutrition tonic. 

The results is evident for you to see. 

I do not mean to advertise but please visit their sites (http://www.greentechlife.in/smartbin/) and www.kuppathotti.com to see how you can reduce your contribution into  the huge garbage landfills that we as urban consumers contribute into.
This is my two cents worth to propogate responsible disposal of garbage and to help us live in cleaner cities and recycle every bit of what we can.

This post was written for the Write Tribe WEDNESDAY PROMPT ‘my two cents ...'

P.S : Gouramma  - my domestic help empties and changes our dust bin liner once every month or two months  and not every day. It consists of nothing but dust as it is meant to be.


@ Sky level

At 39,000 feet above sea level dusk traverses across time zones. From an airplane window it feels like you are chasing time. The dusk is longer than at sea level.

Clicked on a Panasonic DMC -LZ8

Submitted for Thursday challenge  where the theme this week in SKY. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

12 most amazing structures around which cities were built

1. Golden gate Bridge although technically on  the outskirts of San Francisco, symbolizes the beautiful city whose fringes today are where the silicon valley took birth.  In Itself the Golden gate Bridge has inspired many including Vikram Seth's poetry and the Logo for CISCO.      

     2.  Temple of Zeus is probably the oldest structure standing from the roman era. The Temple of Zeus along  with the Temple of Athena at the Acropolis symbolize the grandeur of the ancient Greek civilization and its buzzing capital city Athens.     

     3. Originally meant to be the clock tower for the monastery and the Church built nearby, the leaning tower of Pisa is a structure that intrigues many an architect standing well , not so erect but tall 400 years after it was built. 

What did the Big Ben tell the leaning tower of Pisa ?

If You have the inclination I have the Time. :)

4.      The Big Ben - Another ancient  Clock tower whose bell tolls unfailingly every half hour and the reverberations can be heard all over the square mile that originally symbolised the original City of London. The city that can easily mix and match modernity with its ancient heritage. 


5.  It is city of dreams, of riches, of poverty, of street smart urchins , of slumdog millionaires

Not until that fateful evening of 26/11 /2008 , the Taj Mahal hotel opposite the Gateway of India became world famous to symbolise the spirit so unique to that city that rose up once again within no time to carry on Business as usual.

Salaam Bombay.

6. A Tourist guide who was linguistically challenged when it came to the queen's language remarked thus.

'This is the Biggest Erection a man has had for his Woman'.

The Taj Mahal - the original one in Agra is that 'must visit' place that symbolises not Agra but India itself.  

6. It is the most hyped, much less than ordinary Hollywood sign
It is the structure that is synonymous with the city of Los-Angeles.  
Much until the late 80's it was a dilapidated structure when some die-hard movie buffs got together and resurrected this famous HOLLY WOOD sign.   

7. The colosseum in Rome is the stuff around which legends are built. Some of us only reall Russell Crowe from that amazing Biopic Gladiator

8.  Paris : Gustave Eiffel’s baby symbolizes the city of Paris.  But it is that lady with a slight smile on her face who steals the show when you visit the city.

And now for the ones on my wish list that are not yet blessed by my presence.  

10.   Sydney opera house

11.   The pyramids of Egypt
12.   The great wall of China

Here I come ...
 Courtesy : google free images

This post is written as part of the Write Tribe Wednesday prompt '12 most ..."  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Its the time to mango - season 4

Its the time to mango - season 4 

This year's  mango season passed by so uneventfully. 
The deserving  climax to the mango season comes when the market gets flooded with the Neelam variety. 

David Davidar dedicated his book the house of blue mangoes’ – Neelam in native Tamil signifying the colour Blue. 

While there is nothing blue about the Neelam variety , it is probably named so because it leaves you with the summer blues, nostalgic memories of yet another incredible summer gone by . Neelam seldom gets exported ( that leaves it inexpensive for the locals to enjoy) . And that is because the sweetest of Neelam mangoes have a bug or two living at the center of the mango that the FDA outside of the Indian borders would be mortally paranoid about. 

A true conossiuer of mango would hardly get put off by the bug. The bugs choose the best neelam flowers to lay their eggs.

With time, the flowers ripen into fruits and the eggs into the bug. The sweeter and jucier the neelam, the more are the chances that there is a bug living inside.

Neelams are sweet and pleasant . Eaten by itself in its ripe form or in a juice variety, commonly made into Aam ras ( Mango pulp)  they are a fitting finale to end the mango season.

Linking to Thursday challenge - the theme being yellow. Anything that has colour yellow in it. 
And to Write Tribe - Pro blogger - Week 4 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Independence day

Independence day

Free trade - Indian Flag button gets made in China

India celebrates its 68th Independence day today.  
It is a national holiday on 15th of August except for essential services. 

On 15th august thousands of IT & BPO workers go to work and get paid a double wage in lieu of a holiday on July the 4th just so that the essential services for the rest of the world does not take a back seat.    
The Retail sector is on a overdrive today.  We could possibly rebrand independence day and Republic day as India shopping days.   

Anyway no one is complaining. Why spoil the party. 
   Times have changed. 'Being Indian' is not any more about being  ‘Swadeshi’.
Miniature Indian flag buttons - Made in China is sold on traffic signals by the same beggar who on other days begs at the traffic lights  holding a miserable looking new  born infant who is probably out on rent. 
For a change , on Independence day she is not around with a begging bowl but with something that does stir your Indianness and makes you reach out for a ten rupee note in exchange of a Miniature Indian flag - Made in China.        

It is a globalized world after all.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


 They were moments.

Moments Of Sheer Awe.

Moments Of Gratitude.

Moments of Silence.

Moments Of  Urgency

Moments Of reflection

These were everyday happenings.

The sun has been rising unfailingly for centuries , for millions of years. From the time the universe was created.

And yet there was  sense of urgency to capture that moment and record it.
The Sun, the water, the mountains and the sheer wonder and magic of all that they nursed within them.

Linking to Thursday challenge with theme Water ( Swimming, Boating, Fishing, Lake, Ocean, River,..) 
and to Write Tribe Pro blogger Week 3

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tradition - outsourced

Tradition - outsourced

The fast,mechanical and demanding lives that we lead leave few working women in Urban areas the luxury, time and the training to draw a Kolam/ Rangoli every morning.

For the benefit of Non-Indian readers : A Kolam is a design or a pattern drawn with finely powered rice flour adorning the entrance of every house. In a well meaning  way the rice flour was meant to feed  the ants, birds and other insects so that they do not invade the house in search of food.

In the modern days the ants and insects have been shooed away by powerful pesticides, the birds rarely enter the apartment compelxes.  Yet drawing the kolam / rangoli is a tradition that has not obscured away, atleast not yet. That is because tradition is not something the average south Indian indulges only on occassions. It is a way of life. And so what if it has now been outsourced.

 Thanks to people like Shanta, the domestic help who undertakes to do this extra value added service very little extra money at our neighbour's apartment.     

Shanta, our domestic help draws different types of Kolam for our neighbour's apartment entrance, early in the morning much  before we step out for the day.

Kolam / Rangoli in various designs , elaborate , simple, colourful , in plain white still dorn most houses in the south of India almost everyday. As you travel up north Rangoli gets more colourful and elaborate but is reserved for formal occassions or festivals.

This post is part of Write tribe - Pro blogger Week 3  

Friday, August 08, 2014



Hi Leena

Leena : Hey Welcome to Mumbai, Where have you reached ?

Listen, I have boarded the Taxi and we are on the western Express highway. Tell me which turn should I take to get to this place in BKC.

Leena: mmm... Give the phone to the Taxi Driver and I will tell him. 

Thanks. And By the way it is not a HIM but a HER.

Leena : Oh so you boarded a Priyadarshini cab,  did you  ?   

This is a country, where popular perception of a Taxi driver is usually a grumpy middle aged man who generously uses foul language with a dash of rash driving. A Taxi driver is someone who cannot be trusted since he could easily take you for a ride ( pun intended ) if you are not familiar with the city especially so if you are a woman travelling alone in a city. Bollywood movies are rife with instances of the young belle escaping from the clutches of the village villain only to the ensnared by the Taxi driver in the city who takes her for a ride until the hero comes along to rescue the damsel in distress.   

It is this perception and reputation of the average Taxi driver that Susieben Shah decided to exploit as a business opportunity and founded Priyadarshini cabs.  

A Taxi service by the women for not just the women, but everyone.  

Radha @ work
Radha is one among the 25 drivers employed by Priyadarshini cabs in Mumbai.  Lean, short and dressed in a pink shirt and black trousers with her hair tied up with a pink plastic hair clip, she looks less like a Taxi driver and more like a stewardess of a low cost airline sans the heavy makeup.   

Radha, like most other employees of Priyadarshini cabs was trained for three months by the organization that Susieben Shah founded. 

Radha's family migrated from Uttar Pradesh two generations ago to a slum in what was then Bombay, to make a living. As the slums turned into chawls and then into high rise two room tenements as part of the city corporation's slum redevelopment program, Radha's family integrated themselves into the infinite opportunities that the maximum city offered them. 

When the family came into financially difficult times it was expected that young Radha and her siblings contribute to keep the family afloat financially. Not that the city of Mumbai had any dearth of opportunities to make a living.  To the contrary it was a problem of plenty.  Radha could have chosen any job and made a living. 

When Susieben Shah, a social worker approached her with the offer to get trained as a taxi driver, she was not sure. 
 No one else that Radha had ever known had ventured into it before, not in Mumbai and probably nowhere else in the country. It was not a 'woman thing'. 

At Mumbai airport
But Susieben was determined and Radha was persuaded. 

Getting the Licence for driving a taxi was the easier part of the job.  

In the early days when fellow cab drivers would see a woman on the wheel, they would dangerously skirt past her vehicle in an attempt to scare and tease the driver, probably for lack of balls.  

Undetered the first batch of woman Taxi Drivers took to the road in 2007 in Mumbai to show them that they indeed had the balls.  Others followed slowly and steadily. 

Radha joined the team in 2007 and since then there has been no looking back for her.  She enjoys driving and the attention her Unusual occupation gets her not only from the men and women passengers, but also from the media. 

Among the many newspapers and magazines that have covered an article or two on this all women Taxi service, it was the BBC that catapulted them to international fame, when its crew came over to Mumbai to make a documentary on women entrepreneurship and featured the women from Priyadarshini cabs.    

Radha works about 10 hours a day and sometimes she does the nights. 
It is in the nights, that the demand for women drivers is acutely felt.  Especially over the weekends at the hotels, pubs, airports and at railway stations. 

Fitted with GPS tracking devices and manned ... oops womanned by a 24/7 control room, Priyadarshini cabs assure safety for the passenger as well as the driver alike. 

What with a politically connected Boss like Susieben no one would dare mess with the girls on the wheels !!!   

Crew of Priyadarshini Cabs
Photo courtesy : http://www.priyadarshinitaxi.com

Radha feels like one among the family of the 25 odd drivers that are a part of Priyadarshini cabs.  They help each other in times of family distress and everyone out there understands the need for flexi work hours and support systems at work.  

There is a growing demand to recruit more of their tribe. However women drivers are difficult to find even in a city like Mumbai. 

Radha says that for a high school drop like her, working in supermarkets or a low end BPO outfit would have been the obvious choice. But she is glad she chose the road less travelled.  Quite literally the Road, to travel and make a living. 

Click here  if you would like to read more about Radha and her Tribe.  

P.S : Radha's real name has been masked upon her request to remain anonymous. 

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Blessed are the meek for they inherit the earth

Simple is the theme for the Thursday challenge.

Simple village folk going about his chore  - bathing and washing while the River was blushing crimson at the romantic overtures of the Rising sun.  

Simple yet strong.
Poor yet Rich.
Blessed are the meek for the inherit the earth.

Linking this to Thursday challenge and to Write Tribe Pro blogger   

Monday, August 04, 2014

My grandmother said...

My grandmother said

It is nothing like what you all have today.
You were doomed if you had them and doomed if you did not have them.         
When it arrived , it would be three complete days of isolation.  Your food arrived through the window. You washed up all your clothes and there would be heaps and heaps of it.  It had to all dry in secrecy, lest the world know what you have been upto. 
And when it did not arrive yet again, you knew it was time to hope for one more time.      
Ah ! the travails of menarche and pregnancy.

It is nothing like what you all have today.

This post is dedicated to Menstrupedia’s Aditi Gupta and Tuhin Paul  – the husband and wife team that started the initiative of spreading awareness about Menstruation among young girls and boys.  Click here to know more.  

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Chicken soup for the vegetarian soul

Chicken soup for the vegetarian soul

‘Why are all Indians vegetarians?‘  asked my Chinese host.
We were at an upmarket Argentinean Steak house in downtown Hongkong   and we had just finished ordering with great difficulty since their vegetarian menu was limited.  To be precise a vegetarian menu that did not include egg, fish and scallop or shrimps was very limited.

‘Why are all Indians vegetarians?'  Asks my Chinese host?
'Why do all Chinese look alike?' I am tempted to ask, but decide to be more polite.

'Not all Indians are vegetarians. But a lot of them, particularly those who seek a living abroad come from a certain sect where families do not eat meat', I offer by way of explanation.
'In fact Indian cuisine contrary to what you think is big on sea food and meat,' I add.
'It must be difficult being a vegetarian all your life', remarks my host with a tinge of sympathy in her voice.

‘I have always been a vegetarian and I haven’t known any better’ I say in a matter of factly manner.
'Where will you vegetarians get your energy from?'   Asks my host. 
I suspect there is something lost in translation.
'Why, do I look tired or dull by any measure?', I ask my host.

Thus began our conversation that wandered along its way on the virtues of vegetarianism, veganism and the raw food diet that I occasionally experiment with.

But all that is beside the point.
Travel is tough on vegetarians the world over.  It is even tougher if you exclude some or all dairy products from the vegetarian list and choose to be a Vegan.
It is pointless complaining. Therefore most vegans live on fruits when they are travelling.   Like most people who seek out authentic local cuisines while on a trip, partial vegans like me seek out authentic local fruits while on the go.
Banana is a universal fruit.  Avocado, though not universal, is a very friendly and versatile fruit since it travels well, fills up your stomach and keeps away the hunger pangs for long periods of time. And what better, it can be eaten with salt and pepper on it which doubles up as a nice and complete meal in itself.

When on the go, I explore new vegetables and fruits at the local farmers markets. The variety and diversity never cease to amaze me.  Truth be told, I get turned on by the glimpse of an exotic fruit or vegetable like a teenage boy would if he catches a glimpse of a cleavage.

I photograph vegetables and fruits in a local farmers market wherever, I get a chance. This one is from a village off Florence in Italy. I bought a sample of each vegetable and tried eating them raw. Some were edible in the raw state and others were not. 
But it was all amazing ... the look, feel and in some the taste.

While on this trip to Hongkong I knew what was in store and therefore stored up MTR’s ready to cook 'Rava upma' mix and 'idiappam' packs in my check in baggage and made good use of the hotel Kitchenette.
However I had made a mental list of things to do and on them, was to try out the exotic fruits that grow in South East Asia.  Many fruits that grow in South East Asia do not travel well and are therefore not exported to the outside world.  That part of the world is rich and blessed with fertile land with abundance of flora and fauna of thousands of species that include edible fruits and vegetables that are not yet famous in the outside world.
 I sought out a vegetable and fruits market and headed there to try out various kinds of fruits. Durian certainly was on the top of my ‘to eat’ list. In South East Asia they call it the king of fruits.  I am partial to the Alphonso mango and will leave that debate for another day another time.
Although similar in looks to the Indian Jackfruit, the botanists opine that the two are unrelated and do not belong to the same family.  To the layperson the similarities are striking.  Click here to read my misadventures with the Durian in Hong kong.

Dragon fruit looks exotic, colourful and intriguing from the outside. Botanically it comes from a family of cactus plants. With a magenta exterior with green pointed cones it looks but is less coarse than a pineapple both externally and internally.
It is easy to cut through and unlike a pineapple and the white pulp inside that comes along with hundreds of  small seeds, it is easy to scoop out and be eaten as a fruit.  It might look like a Kiwi but its taste could be described closer to the pear.

Sweet in varying degrees, dragon fruit sells  cheap and in abundance in the local market places in Asia.  

Mangosteen is no relative to the Mango, the undisputed king of fruits. In South east Asia, it is called the queen of fruits.  But it is an exotic and lovely fruit that doesn’t look too good from the outside. Its exteriors do not complement what it holds on the insides.  A hard pulpy purple exterior, when opened reveals a white and purplish pulp which forms the edible part of the fruit and is arranged similarly to the interiors of an orange fruit.   Mangosteen is sweet and has a cooling effect.

A fellow vegetarian colleague from Hongkong was kind enough to take me out for dinner at a vegetarian restaurant in Hong kong.  This restaurant specialized in dishes like vegetarian chicken, vegetarian pork and vegetarian lamb. 

I photographed my order before I ate them, so I could create a bit of scandal, with folks back home about turning into a carnivorous meat eater after my visit to Hong kong.  Note the Vegetarian fish made entirely out of mushrooms.  

Among other things that are amazing about Hong Kong is its vibrant culture.  Despite having been a British colony until 1997, the english speaking population is a minority and would consist of mainly the expatriate population from all over the world.
It is also a tourist haven for shopping.
The light and music show, a dazzling display of laser lights from the buildings that form the Hong Kong skyline is a must watch.

The Big Buddha also known as the Tian Tan Buddha is an amazing place to visit. But what quenched my soul was the wisdom path walk along the mountain trail along the Big Buddha statue. Contrary to the image of Hong Kong as this big financial centre lined with skyscrapers , about 70% of Hong Kong is green and out of bounds. 

The stark similarities of some of the medicinal plants to their Indian equivalents were amazing. 

No wonder the ancient Chinese medicine and the rest of the eco system that has developed along the lines of wisdom imparted down for centuries is now being lapped up by the western world.