a curious glance

(little bit of what I see)

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The Rule That Is Evenly Odd?

Delhi is the most polluted city in the World, declared WHO in May 2014. Central Pollution Control Board of India rejected the study, claiming WHO has over estimated the levels of pollutants in the city. Rather than rejecting such reports and debating whether Delhi’s air is better than Beijing, it would have made sense to work on schemes to combat the pollution. Did we have to wait for the situation to become worse? The drastic rise in the pollution levels should have been enough to ring the warning alarms.

In 2012, there were 7 million deaths in the world due to air pollution, revealed WHO. Air pollution has become the most dreadful environmental health risk. It is the fifth leading cause of death in India. The pollutants, PM2.5 and PM 10 are way above the admissible levels in Delhi. These pollutants cause respiratory diseases, cardiac problems, ENT issues and lung cancer. As per the study conducted by Heal Foundation in 2015, 41% of Delhi school students (sample of around 735 students) failed the lung capacity test.

Why am I attempting to bring these facts to your notice? Well, it is better Late than Never. For all those who are against the Odd-Even Rule in Delhi, please understand the gravity of situation. If Delhi’s government is now attempting to fight against the deadly pollution, the least we can do is to cooperate. It is not just the government’s responsibility to bring down the pollution levels. I think we need to act as responsible and informed residents too. Akshat Mittal, a 13-year-old boy came up with a solution in the form of “odd-even.com”. It matches car owners with ride seekers through personal details, car types, frequency of rides etc. (It has been acquired by Orahi, check their site for further details, it might be of help to you.) I think more ideas and platforms to assist the scheme will be appreciated.

There are of course a few faults in the scheme, the first and the most talked about being the lack of robust public transport. Beijing had an extensive public transport to support its initiative. It also had an automatic surveillance system to track the implementation. Therefore, we cannot really plan to create the replica of Beijing’s scheme. But, considering the pollution levels, let us also agree that we have no time to improve the transport first and then implement the scheme.

In addition, there is a gender and class bias in the implementation of the rule. Do not women and two wheelers contribute to the pollution? Should not the enforcement of the scheme be more equitable? As per the study by IIT Kanpur, Two wheelers account for more than 30% of the air pollution in Delhi while Four wheelers account for only 10% of the pollution. Delhi Statistical Handbook* of 2014-2015 discloses 56.8 lakh registered two wheelers, almost double of the 28.7 lakh registered four wheelers. Out of the total vehicles that ply on Delhi roads, two wheelers account for 64% of the vehicles. Would not the entire purpose of odd even be defeated with the exemption of two wheelers? Arvind Kejriwal says that the public transport is not sufficient to handle so much load of passengers. Then, why not impose the rule on the two wheelers on different days?

The dialogue on feminism is doing many rounds these days. If we stress on the establishment of equal political, economic and social rights for women, then why not equally participate in the provisions of clean air. By exempting women from the scheme, Delhi government is actually propagating the idea that public transport is unsafe for women. Many women commute through metros, buses and autos on a daily basis, some for the cost factor and some to avoid the traffic hassles. I am sure others can do so on seven alternate days.

A lot of people did support the initiative last time around. Metros and Car Pools became the saviour for many people. Some left for office early and came back after 8 pm; others exchanged cars with their female relatives or friends on a day-to-day basis. A few of these steps did not to reduce the pollution but to some extent decreased the traffic congestion on roads at peak hours.

Now, did the phase one of odd even rule give us the desired results? The IndiaSpend’s Breathe air-quality monitoring devices detected an increase in pollution levels during the period. However, Delhi government claims inner circles of Delhi witnessed a positive impact while the border areas were not affected that much by the scheme. It further asserts that, had it not been for the scheme, the pollution levels had been much worse as January has the most negative weather conditions.

A message to the Delhi government: If the results are indeed effective, we will stand by you, but please reconsider your exemption list. Also, please try to focus on other solutions to curb the air pollution. A word of caution for you, Mr. Kejriwal, do not try to impose it too often. If you are seriously considering enforcing this once every month, think again. Let us be practical and acknowledge that in the absence of a comprehensive public transport support, the scheme would be inconvenient and unmanageable. You also do not want to encourage people to buy a second car as an alternative. Otherwise, you will have to impose a quota on license plates too as was done in Beijing.

An appeal to Uber, Ola and the likes (commercial vehicles are also exempted), please do not surge prices on odd even days. Your car pool option is a boon for those who do not have a direct access to the public transport, do not change it to a bane….

*http://www.delhi.gov.in/wps/wcm/connect/doit_des/DES/Our+Services/Statistical+Hand+Book/

Please refer to the link, http://www.delhi.gov.in/wps/wcm/connect/doit_transport/Transport/Home/Pollution+Control/Steps+Taken+by+Delhi+Govt.+to+reduce+the+Pollution+in+Delhi, to know more about steps taken by the government to reduce the air pollution

A note on the scheme: The second phase of odd-even rule will commence from April 15 and will last for fifteen days. It involves the rationing of private vehicles on Delhi roads to reduce the air pollution. As per the rule, cars with license plates ending with even number can ply on the roads on even dates only and similarly cars with odd plates will be allowed on odd dates. There is a fine of INR 2000 for non compliance.



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Brugge: Canals And Beyond….

Brugge (Bruges), the little city in Belgium that touched my heart. It offers warmth and comfort in abundance. I spent only a few hours in the city but as a souvenir, got memories for a lifetime. I would some other time talk about the different cities I visited in Europe. Today, let me present to you the place that left an everlasting impact on me…

We (my brother, his wife and I) reached Brugge from Brussels via train. It is about an hour and a fifteen minutes ride from Brussels. The air of Brugge is unalike; we experienced pleasantness with the very first step into the city.  The best way to explore the city is to walk, cycle or take boat rides in the canals. Having already cycled (well I could not cycle is another story, funny for others and sad/embarrassing for me) and cruised canals in Amsterdam, we decided to tour Brugge on foot.

The towering church, Church of Our Lady, became visible on the other side of the road, a little further down the station. We followed the path that leads to the church. My brother and sister-in-law are good with maps. Well, they had to be, they spent more than a month in Europe. Thanks to their tour, I could spend a few days in Europe too. (I do not like to read maps, I would prefer someone else do it for me.) Let me talk more about the church, at a height of about 122 meters, it is the tallest building in Brugge and considered one of the tallest brick tower in the world. It dates back to the 13th century and it took at least 200 years for its construction to complete.

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From the church, we decided to move on to the Centre of Brugge, which houses another ancient building, Belfry of Bruges (clock tower). The Markt (Market Square) also lies in the heart of the city and serves variety of European food with Italian as a specialty. The pizza we ordered was delicious but the pasta was a little bland for my Indian taste buds. The city centre also gives you an opportunity to talk to the fellow travellers and share your experiences.

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Some say, Brugge is the Venice of North Western Europe. As one walks along the city, the alluring canals wind their way to greet you. I could not get my eyes off the beautiful sights in my vicinity. Probably, these canals had the power to hypnotize me and make me fall in love with the city. I did not take many pictures of the canals, I was too overwhelmed with the entire feel and wanted to absorb the peace completely.

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Towards the south of the city is another hidden wonder of Brugge, Minnewater Lake. While we were eating our meal at the Central, a friendly old man from England suggested that, we must visit the lake. We followed his advice. It is full of greens to the extent that the water appears of the same colour too. It is the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the landscape. The lake also known as the “Lake of Love” is considered one of the romantic getaways in the city.

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I can spend hours and hours at the lakeside with coffee and a novel on my side. The sky changed its colour too often from the brightness of blues to the dullness until it rained. We did not have much time in our hand, we had to return to Brussels and then catch an early morning fight to Barcelona. It was time to bid adieu to the magical land. Also, as you stroll through the city, do not miss to observe the quaint houses and shops.

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Do I want to be a new citizen of Brugge???

Oh yes, oh yes, definitely yes:

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Let me summarize it for you:

Canals gliding through the lanes

Mesmerizing the visitors on promenades

Architecture, medieval yet appealing

Part of UNESCO’s World Heritage listing

Minnewater lake, the true love’s portrayal

Couples cross the bridge, making it eternal

A city with perfect blend of art and nature

        Congeniality suffices Brugge’s character….

(Pictures captured by me and my sister-in-law)

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My Friend Prefers a Baby Boy !?!

A casual chitchat over a cup of coffee with my friend advanced towards marriage and children. She very firmly said, “You know whenever I plan to have a baby, I will prefer a boy.” Within fraction of seconds, thoughts like, “What is wrong with her”, “Being a girl herself, how could she say this” and “She has a contemporary way of thinking, then why”, crossed my mind. Before I could utter my shock at her words, she continued, “Only because the world out there is not safe for her. I will be constantly worried about her security and may not give her the liberty to live her life to the fullest.”

Whenever I am out of my home in the evenings and the clock strikes 8:30 pm, my phone flashes “Papa calling”. The phone rings after every 10-15 minutes until I reach home. He is absolutely against me travelling alone after 9 pm. Sometimes when I head towards home post the deadline, I hear only two stern words, “kaha ho” and he bangs the phone down after my reply. I am anxious on my way and anticipate the worst scolding of my life. To my surprise, his frown disappears as soon as he sees me. My mum on the other hand never rings me continuously (she knows it irritates me). However, she is the one who is glaring at me when I reach home. It took me a while to understand it is not me that they mistrust but it is this society, especially the lecherous men.

It is the sad truth that every woman in this country faces eve teasing in her growing up years. It is in the form of casual whistling, lewd remarks or unwarranted touch in a crowded bus. I remember I used to walk to my college, as it was just a kilometer away. In that 10-12 minutes of daily walk on a busy main road for three years, I have experienced men ogling at me and walking behind me uselessly.

A woman gang raped on bus in front of daughter after attackers kill her newborn son (Shishgarh in Uttar Pradesh); Mother kills her two minor daughters suspecting father sexually abused them (Hyderabad); 18-Year-Old Records Video To Prove Rape By Father (Jalaun district of Uttar Pradesh); Girl, 15, raped and set on fire (NCR) are the few horrific incidents that occurred last month in India. If these headlines hit the papers on a daily basis, then the world is indeed not safe for current or future daughters. My mom and dad have reasonable grounds to wear that glare and frown respectively, don’t they? Our Parents always say, “You will understand only when you have your children.” Maybe, my friend feels that already. She wants to raise her baby girl in the world that will grace that child with respect and dignity.

National Crime Records Bureau of India reported 36735 incidents of rape in its crime report of 2014*. This implies an outrageous number of about 100 rape cases per day. As per the data, close to 90% of the rape convicts knew the victims (relatives, neighbors, employers etc). God knows where these numbers will reach if the cases that were never registered were to be included.

I used to stay in Munirka when the appalling Nirbhaya rape case happened. It disturbs me immensely that while I was busy watching TV, an incident like such took place in the outskirts of my colony. No woman should ever go through such excruciating pain. Peace marches to India Gate and lightening candles as protest may expedite the entire judicial process but it does nothing to cleanse the hideous mindsets.  Something is definitely wrong at a grass root level of our country. I think this mentality plagues from those times where men used to consider women as mere sex objects. And it still prevails in some households of India.

The punishment for rape offenders must be such that it instills horror for any man ever thinking to commit a rape. Our nation needs to stop breeding such barbaric minds. How o how, is the big question? Should judicial system allow us to pelt stones at the rape convicts to channelize our anger? Should there be public hanging? Should there be castration, more so for pedophiles? Though, I am not sure if any of these steps would eradicate rape completely from our society. Sexual assault is a mental sickness that requires cure.  Is it the education system that needs reformation or is it the parenting that needs correction? Many states of USA, Poland, UK, Germany, South Korea have already accepted castration as an alternative punishment for rape offenders, majorly on voluntarily basis though. Is it not high time for India to adopt the same?

All of us feel the pain caused by these disturbing instances. I hope we can together find answers for this unresolved issue and make this world a liveable place for the daughters not born yet. Let me end by sharing one of my verses for you to reflect on:

Yes it is her fault
She is born for assault
She is bred by her family with care
for you men to ogle and stare
Oh she didn’t wear something that covers her knee
so you have the right to celebrate and glee
Its the dead of night and she is out with a boy
You get the liberty to use her as a toy
Its your horrid mind you coward
that planks your heinous act forward
Dare not touch her without the consent
because that’s how it is rightfully meant
But of course it is her fault
She is a Woman, born for assault!!!

*http://www.ncrb.gov.in/ (2015 data has not been made public yet)

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Dad, Politics and Me

Index (Key)

A: Rising New Star
B: Ruling party
C: Opposition

Apolitical, that is me. My dad, political and how. Anti-B would be a better phrase to describe him. Actually, he used to be Pro- C. He accepted the downfall of C and gleamed with the rise of A. I take keen interest in movies, sports, reading etc. I cannot be away from politics then, can I? The very cliché statement, “everything becomes political in our country” is actually as true as “India never loses to Pakistan in a Cricket World Cup Match.” This coupled with my dad’s interest in my disinterest makes my life as political as his.

Encounter with his enumeration of all the news against the doings of the leader of B, is a typical start of my morning. He never pays heed to my response “not interested”. I usually snap at him, “Do not purposely screen out the good things” and he says, “There is rarely any,” with a furious expression and tone. I exit the room to exit the heated conversation.

Whatsapp him a joke against B, he will applaud. Send him one in support, and he will bombard you with Anti-B’s. I exit the chat this time. He is an avid reader, and thus very knowledgeable so if you argue with him, he will throw facts, you cannot contradict. However, do media print facts, is the provocative question? He knows his not so favourite leader has done some good things too and he sometimes (actually a few times) acknowledges them with a heavy heart. That is a sign of relief for me. I remember he laughed at the political son’s interview with Mr. Goswami too.

There are the following types of political fans (non-politically affiliated public):

  • They are and have been supporters of B since history and nothing will change that
  • They are not really supporters of B but believed in its leaders ideology and his campaign
  • They are and have been supporters of C, while they no more promote C but will highlight  everything against B
  • There are then a few who are so fed up with both B and C that A gave them a new hope

I fail to understand type 1 & 3. How can they have blind faith in any political party is beyond my understanding. What worries me is that many people in our country support a party or its belief because their forefathers did. Your inclination towards a political party is justifiable but why do you have to defend it in its every course of action. It frustrates me that people my age can bomb the social media with anti nationalist claims. Okay, I believe India is a Tolerant Country but if a celebrity’s public statement can cause such a stir (more so because his name is Khan), I would be first to retract my former statement.

I am not a supporter of JNU’s movement against Afzal Guru’s execution. But can the government really be threatened by a student’s speech so as to blemish his identity as”Anti-Nationalist”. India is the world’s biggest democracy and an outcry of “maybe” irresponsible slogans by a few students caused such anxiety and insecurity for the government. Why are words such as Sedition and Anti-nationalist used so freely. If expressing your discontent for the ruling party makes one anti-nationalist, then by that logic ruling party actually becomes equivalent to the entire Nation..?

A wounded horse, Shaktiman was made part of the political gimmick. Can’t someone who does not have the ability to discern Politics be spared? Was the Jat agitation for reservation so violent or was it purposely (politically) made so destructive? I know that these parties would never end the game of defaming each other, no matter how low they have to stoop for it. All is fair in love and war has now been extended to All is fair in love, war and politics. Thus, it becomes imperative for people to use their own reasoning and stop being prejudiced.

“We fully support that there must be right to dissent and disagreement in the society”,  our Finance Minister recently said. I sincerely hope these don’t end up as mere words. I express my gratitude to our Prime Minister for considering the rollback on tax on EPF. Oh, I almost forgot, my mother is really worried about the soaring prices of dals (pulses). Sir, could something please be done about this….?

PS: It is a sheer coincidence that these parties name actually begin with A, B and C

 

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Almora: Wild and Serene

Trip, trip, trip, my soul sister had been chiming continuously since the beginning of year. Well, I very well knew the hidden meaning – Goa, Goa, Goa…. I have pestered my other friends for a year now, taken desperate planning initiatives, but could not land in Goa. Work, Marriage, Budget Constraints, are a few reasons out of the many, that Goa seems a far fetched idea for us. The timing is just never right. Well, we will make it happen together is the pact.

I have itchy feet, and the holiday list from office showed a long weekend in March that coincided with my birthday. I could not let it pass like a casual weekend. I knew the chiming friend would be game while other friends will find some excuses. The travel bug has not bitten them yet. I had to abide by my pact, so Goa was out of the list.

Party was not on our mind, relaxation was. Escaping the city life was the criteria.

“Where do you want to go?”

“I want a combination of greenery, hills, river, I want to walk in a forest and maybe bird watching”

“When did you become so demanding?”

“Well, it is my birthday”

(A jaunt to Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary has been in our minds, so bird watching unfolded from our previous discussion)

Thus, began the research to find such a place. Almora/Binsar met the above criteria and appealed to us. Our priority was simple, book a luxurious property to stay but to cut down on travel expenses. Pack as little as possible to make it easy for the bus rides uphill. We booked our train tickets and hotel a month in advance. And then eagerly waited for the getaway…

A month later:

Shatabdi made us reach Kathgodam by 11:40 in the morning. Discussion on our way:

“Let us take the cab, it will be more convenient”

“We decided we will backpack and try to save money on the commute”

“Yeah, but state transport, are you sure?”

“Yes, I have never done it, and it will be fun and a new experience”

I already knew this discussion will pop up, my friend has never been a believer of economical trips. Not to take away the fact, she has travelled more in buses for her journeys to her hometown.

Bus it was, and it was not bad, just bumpy, speedy and overcrowded. Maybe when I say that 2 days later we booked a cab for our downhill journey, you will understand me better.

Let me present to you Almora and Binsar:

 

Breeze so Fresh and fullness of green

Breathing in the environment unusually serene

The overbridge casts an alluring spell

Pristine views adding to the charm of hotel

 

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                           View of Almora from our resort, Imperial Heights

 

View from the balcony

               View from the balcony

 

Tiny bridge over a tiny pond in our resort

                 Tiny bridge over a tiny pond in our resort

 

Stroll in Binsar with wilderness around

Chirpiness and tweet, a never-ending sound

Trust your ears and get clicks on your side

You’ll need luck to sight animals in the wild

 

In Binsar Sanctuary

             In Binsar Sanctuary

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Spot the Bird

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There lies a jungle resort near the zero point

Fairyland that turns scary in the night?

Losing track in quest to reach the crest

Chilly winds too dampen the interest

 

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As we descend towards Almora

Highlight is the colourful flora

The valley leaves us spellbind

A definite rejuvenation of mind

 

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Scribe your wish on a paper, tie it with a bell

Then be a strong believer, your prayers will fulfil

 

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                       Golu Devta Temple

 

As the sun makes mountain its blanket

The sky gradually blushes in scarlet

The peaceful days culminate, the calm remains

With the glimpse of stream, we approach the plains

 

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Kosi River, lower in the hills

                   Kosi River, lower in the hills

 

Believe me, it was a perfect getaway from city’s hush hush life. Life in these 3 days seemed unperturbed. When the hills are calling, be assured Almora will not disappoint you as a destination.



Hotel and Food Details

The room rent was INR 3900 a day for a valley facing package (without breakfast). The best price was available through cleartrip app.  The views and the entire look of the resort justify the price. It could improve upon its services a bit, like providing barbecue facility even if the occupancy rate is not 100%. The food served in the hotel is more than satisfactory. One could also visit  Kasar Rainbow restaurant for more economical yet delicious meals. You can read books or play chess while savouring the food here.


Costs of Travel

As I mentioned in the beginning, we hired a cab for our return to Kathgodam.  If you book your own taxi, it will cost you INR 1000-1200 bucks (one way).  Be careful, and do not pay for a two-way ride as these taxi drivers make a constant up and down journey with passengers. Do not be misled into paying INR 2500 for your one-way ride. There is also an option of sharing your ride with other travelers. It will cost you around INR 250 per person. The bus rides costs INR 125 per person to Almora. To reach Binsar, you can again share your rides or book your own taxi.  Expenses on train ticket will be INR 700 for one way.

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