Tuesday, September 25, 2012

OMR Greens go shopping

With 4 days left for T-Day (Sat., Sept.29) Gopalan R, Neeraj Singh and I went to Kelambakkam to shop for hardware that we need to clear the OMR trash heap that sits bang in front of our apartments complex, Mantri Synergy.  Hand-in-Hand, green NGO, didn't confirm till Monday our request for loan of implements such as shovel, earth scraper,and tokri.

Meanwhile, we had a re-think on hardware hiring Vs buying and decided on buying the hardware (as suggested by my friend Ramkumar).The cost - nearly Rs.1,200 - made business sense, for we may have to pay transport cost from Mamallapuram organic waste disposal plant, even if  Hand-in-Hand loaned us the trash collection implements.
 We shopped for disposable gloves and mouth mask at Saravana Medicals. Its owner Mr B Kumar waived the charges - about Rs.250 - when he heard of OMR Greens and the purpose for which we needed mouth mask and gloves.  Incidentally, Mr Kumar's is the first sponsorship OMR Greens have recieved. We started off with Rs. 8,000 as contribution by 8 founder members.
Of this we spent Rs.4,000 on ourselves, buying designer T-shirts. Neeraj and his wife didn't bill us for designing T-shirt. Those who want to get OMR Greens T-shirt could contact Neeraj with Rs.400. He is available at neerajrajpoot@gmail.com ; Phone- 9600159307

T-Day (trash-busting day): Sat.,Sept.29
Time: From 7.30 a m (till 9.30 when it gets too warm)
Place: Pavement trash heap opposite Mantri Synergy, Padur, OMR

Monday, September 24, 2012

OMR Greens can go to schools

The photo triggered our thoughts on taking OMR Greens to neighbourhood schools. Following the Sept.29 trash-busting event, right in front of Mantri Synergy,  we could take our drive further up along OMR, from Padur upto Kazhipathur. Hopefully, the 29/9. trash-busting would help us create a buzz in the area.. We would like to hear from folks in other residential communities - Akshaya, Ouranya Bay, Oak Tree, Victoria Towers.
After a weekend meeting with Mr Keerthi of Hand-in-Hand  founder member Gopalan R suggested we organise an awareness march through the streets of  Padur village after 29/9. Hand-in-Hand can help us with placards that OMR Greens marchers could carry. The placards,  Mr Keerthi said,  have green slogans in Tamil.
Schools can be our next target. And the  signage (see photo), put up by the  29/9 site, points the Gateway International School, Padur, where we can organize a neighbourhood trash-busting , in collaboration with the school management. This is an opportunity for us to engage school students and teachers in our green awareness drive.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Automen back OMR Greens

A Padur autorickshaw driver Sudharkan gave me the idea. I asked him if he knew any place from where we could hire shovel, pickaxe and other implements to collect garbage, he wanted to know why I needed them. When I mentioned about OMR Greens plan to clear a trash heap on pavement in front of Mantri Synergy residential complex Sudhakaran offered to join in, and also bring his auto-driver friends. The auto stand at Hindustan University main gate has 17 registered auto-drivers.

But then when Vasu and I went to the auto stand the other day to talk to drivers about our Sept.29 trash-busting programme Sudhakaran wasn't there. But another auto-driver friend Yesu introduced us to his friends. I told them about our drive to create public awareness about the need to keep the space around us clean. The auto-drivers readily agreed to help. They said the local auto-drivers union would support OMR Greens.

We told them OMR Greens would reciprocate their help in a drive to clean their auto stand. I was particulary interested in getting them to  paste OMR Greens sticker on their vehicles. The auto drivers didn't need much persuasion to agree to our request.

It is now for us to design and get printed bumper-stickers. Which costs money. Any sponsors ? Meanwhile we have uploaded a 5-min video in two parts on YouTube.. Don't go by its quality. My amateurish attempt to record video with camera, while carrying on a chat with autodrivers is clumsy. I couldn't even focus on the faces while talking to them. But the audio track conveys a clear message of  automen's support to our green movement.                                   

Automen back us (2 min.28 sec)
Automen join Greens (2 min.07 sec.)

Honda showcase car at Mantri's

Mantri Synergy residents had Honda people showcase their latest model on their campus over the weekend.Prospective car buyers among our residents got all relevant details on the car without having to step out of their residential complex.Presumably, car companies, and those of other consumer durables, see marketing sense in taking their road shows into emerging OMR communities.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

OMR Greens bring out a T-shirt

 OMR Greens founder member Mr.Neeraj Singh has designed a T-shirt, which can be ordered by those who subscribe to the community cause. The first consignment of 10 shirts has been received.
Idea is to order a another lot of T-shirts, online  this weekend, so that we get them before Saturday next, Sept.29, when we plan to take on the first task of  clearing  the trash heap that has developed on the pavement right in front of Manti Synergy residential complex at Padur, OMR.

You don't have to wear our T-shirt to join us in trash-busting, but it helps in promoting our visibility, if participants can get one to wear,  in time for the T-Day. It takes four days for an order to be delivered.
As of now we rely on Neeraj to take care of T-shirts ordering. As someone who designed the shirt in a self-design-and-order website, it was expedient for him to do the ordering as well. Those who wish to acquire OMR Greens shirt could phone or e-mail Neeraj.  T-shirt costs Rs.400.
Neeraj can be accessed at neerajrajpoot@gmail.com ; Phone- 9600159307

Thursday, September 20, 2012

OMR Greens: Panchayat chief chips in

Padur panchayat chief with OMR Greens
 Padur panchayat president Mr Chinnakutty offered to join in a  OMR Greens  initiative to mobilise volunteers among residents to clear a trash heap in front of Mantri Synergy.. "I can also work  to clear the trash ," he told OMR Greens founder member R Vasudevan when he heard Vasu, Gopalan and I (all senior citizens) planned to put on gloves and mouth-mask and get down to cleaning the trash heap that has accumulated on the roadside in front of our residential complex. Pleased with  panchayat chief's response, Gopalan offered to  buy him a OMR Greens designer T-shirt.

The three of us had gone to meet the panchayat chief to seek Panchayat's help  in moving the garbage we collect to the landfill  at Padur. OMR Greens, a community service initiative by Mantri Synergy residents, plans, what they call, a trash-buster operation on Saturday, Sept.29.  The idea came from the Ugly Indian, a Bangalore-based volunteers group,  comprising mostly software professionals from Oracle, IBM and other companies. A platoon of these professionals move in to scoop up garbage  from city streets. They call their trash-cleaning work  'spotfixing'. We call it 'trash-busting'.

On OMR  at Padur we have littered the pavement over so long, allowing a trash heap to grow right under our nose. We blame the panchayat for the sorry state of affairs. The panchayat chief , on his part, blames  residents of  gated communities for using the pavement outside their complex  as dumping ground .Mr Chinnakutty expressed helplessness in catching the culprits because the trash  was usually brought to be dumped late into  the night to escape detention. According to the panchayat chief, trash dumped on streets was too much to handle by a staff of 12 street cleaners, who work part-time. You can't get full-time cleaning staff on the pay panchayat offers - Rs.2,600 a month.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Donation delivery in Chennai

A lot of us have noble intentions –  of give away things for the needy..  But not  many of  us can spare the time to do  whatever  it takes to translate our intent to reality.  To bridge the gap between intention and reality  Maheedhar Raman, a Chennai Chartered Accountant, and his friend  Pradeep Mohan (must be a web-designer),  have founded a delivery agency.   BridgeTheGap  facilitates people who want to donate things,  but don’t have a clue as to how to go about doing it, or  who might want to use them.  Raman and Mohan have figured out a way to reach your gifts  to the needy.
All you  do is log in and fill out an online form,  listing the items you wish to donate,  and specify the address and time  you want them picked up.  Raman/Mohan do the pick up on weekends  and bear the transport cost.  They accept anything that is useable – clothes (old and new),  books,   furniture,  electronics and home appliances;  check/cash (if that is all you have , to give away); sponsor meals,  tuition fees,  and donation of medicines and provisions.   Contact – info@bridgethegap.co.in;  9789040473.
BridgeTheGap  is part of a wider  network -  DoingGoodFellows  - that seeks to bring  people who volunteer their skills/expertise  in contact with  NGOs  that could use their services.  Most of us have the intention, but lack the time and resources to identify those needing our services.  With the result,  our intent to do good remains untapped.  Their website,  citing a study,  says only 12 percent of those wanting to do something good end up doing what they wished.
The team running the site includes  Sajid Sharif,  Bombay IIT and Stanford graduate, who works in a consultancy firm in New York.
Palak Dalal, IIT-Bombay, worked at an education non-profit – Avanti; plans to do MBA from Harvard Business School.
Revathy Muralidharan, advocate practicing at  Madras High Court,is passionate about bringing change through the legal system.
Luigi Wewege,  Partner at Nikau Global a New Zealand based international trade company;  MBA from MIB – School of Management in Trieste,  Italy

Cross-posted from My Take by GVK

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fruit trees on Mantri campus

Former Association chief, Mr Giri Sundaram, and I have this thing in common -  we both are  kinda  nutty when it comes to tree planting.  Months before he became the prez  Mr Sundaram and his wife Revathy joined us in planting trees on Visitors parking lot outside Mantri gates. The Sundarams have an eye for plants, and they can identify most of them. The sapling Mantri's Santa Claus planted  last Christmas was identified  for us by Mr Sundaram. In case you are not familiar, the tall plant coming up on  the Seniors Area lawn is Nagapushpum.

When four of us - Pandey, Rahul, Sourav and I - as founding members of our short-lived Sunday Santhai initiative, hit upon an idea to plant trees on the lawns by the clubhouse swim pool Mr Sundaram not only welcomed the idea, but also suggested we plant fruits saplings that would benefit Mantri's children and their children for decades to come.  He planted a mango, and we have, growing on the lawns by the swim-pool, a guava, a sapota plant and another mango, planted to celebrate Advik,  the second child born at Mantri's to the Ramkumars of H block. Sourav and Rahul scouted for nurseries on ECR to fetch the fruits saplings, hybrid.

Ms Indumathi, former treasurer, planting a guava.

Now that we have a new association management in place, it is time we celebrated their term in office with community tree-planting. In an earlier post, announcing a new team at Mantri's, we suggested that all 20 elected mananging committee members consider planting a sapling each, in two rows along the front-side park, so that we have some shade on the driveway on either side of the park. Would appreciate,  if the Association acts on our suggestion at the earliest, before the end of the current monsoon days.

In case we go for fruit trees, instead of Neem, on  Mantri driveway,  we could get in touch with Prof. Ramasamy of LIBA on the Loyola college campus.  He leads a volunteers group engaged in distribution of saplings of fruit-bearing trees to whoever wants to plant them on their premises. You can read about them in The Hindu. The non-profit group - IIIBFT is also on Facebook.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Needed: A Bangalore-like 'dhamaka' on OMR

After reading about the Ugly Indians,  and seeing their six-minute video of what they did to the pavement close to Oracle office, Bangalore,  I thought, we could as well do with such dhamaka in our neighbourhood on OMR. We have no dearth of  pavements littered with trash ; and, have quite a number of spirited young residents at Mantri Synergy... And  we have it on YouTube, for all to see,  what happened in Bangalore  when a bunch of  professionals there got to work on a trash-littered pavement in the city.

As it happened in Bangalore, a bunch of techies,  presumably  from Oracle,  got togther on a Sunday morning to clean up a patch of pavement on Tavarakere Rd., opposite St.John's Wood apartments complex. Removing  a 100 kg. trash and giving the pavement a coat of whitewash took them two hours. As much of  calories-burning as you do at the gym. And then, at the end of it all, Oracle volunteers had a sense of having done something socially meaningful.

At Mantri's,  and Rosedale (across the road), we have  a pavement  with trash work cut out for us. Are you reading this, Souray Mohanty, Rahul, and Pandey ? They are founder members of our short-lived Sunday 'santhai' initiative. I can think of a host of other spirited young professionals in our apartments complex who would put on their gloves and mouth-piece for a dhamaka. Life at Mantri's, of late, has gotten a bit  monotonous and uneventful.

As I said, we have a trash heap waiting to be addressed, right in front of Mantri's, and not far from   Rosedale.  We have platoons of spirited young people in the two communities. What we need is someone to  organize the trash-cleaning, and  video the proceedings (see Ugly Indian video) for YouTube. Maybe , the pavement  we clean , Sunday , would start collecting litter agains from Tuesday. As the Oracle techies who cleaned the Bangalore pavement said, their work and painting of wall wouldn't stop people from throwing litter; not until the 60 resident families on Tavarakere Rd. put in place a waste disposal system.
But then, if we do mobilize a group to clean up the pavement in front of Mantri's, and put it on YouTube, the video would go viral, and it might  move some others into action. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Eco-cab - a modified cycle rickshaw

Photo -  Chennai Focus,  for whom I have this question - Is it the cab designer, Sivaraj Muthuraman, at the driving seat ?

It's a three-seater vehicle that runs with solar energy, battery and by pedaling....Its running distance per charge is 150km and it can do a maximum speed of 45 km/h.

 As I read about the vehicle - looks a moon-lander, doesn't it -  I thought of  Mantri's and other gated communities on OMR,  where  such a vehicle can be used  for movement of residents, particularly the seniors, within the campus. Some airport, railway stations, even Chettinad Hospital in Kelambakkam,  deploy battery-operated golf-carts.
At Mantri's we have a long driveway, and padestrians - seniors, and others getting off an MTC bus with luggage - can do with an eco cab to take them from the main gate to their residential blocks. It gets rather hot on our driveway during summer days. A couple of  eco cabs, placed at our main security gate, would facilitate movement within Mantri campus.

Wonder if our residents association would consider acquiring a cab or two for Mantri's.  Designer Sivaraj Muthuraman reckons it's relatively cheaper, and easy to drive and maintain -  'Conventional battery-operated vehicles are expensive, even costing to up to Rs 4 lakh. In comparison, an Eco Free Cab would cost about Rs 80,000.'

Reference: Rickshaw gets an eco makeover.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Our school-leavers should get a gap year

OMR residents, given the travel experience and wider social exposure, may relate better than those elsewhere,  to the gap-year idea.Our school-leavers, though academically qualified, could do with the personality orientation that a gap-year experience might provide.

Most students have no clear idea of what they  want to do with their lives when they leave school.  Many have parents take such decisions for them. Whether it is such a good idea is quite another matter.   An engineering degree was what most school-leavers went for,  till two decades back.  Triple E (electrical and electronics engineering)  was a sought-after course.  I know of a young man who graduated in it with distinction,  and,  on the strength of  academic credentials,  he  got a placement in Kirloskars,  only to give it up after a few months  , to go abroad to study visual communication. Film-making is what he wants to do,  and he does this  on weekends.  He holds a day job in the  IT sector for bread and butter.

In recent years computer science has been a big draw  with  academically good students, though it may not be their  most favoured field .  If a student with high qualifying marks  gives up admission in computer science for catering technolgy or commercial arts he/she  must be deemed  bit of a nut;  or she must  have an over-riding  mind of her own.  In my days,  1950s,  we pursued an undergrad   course,  mainly to become eligible to appear in IAS exams. Today, the best and the brightest among our graduates, it appears,  pursue higher studies to go abroad or work in India, for Multinationals.  But is this the kind of life they would have wanted, if they were the choosers ?

Point is,  our education system is so structured that it gives little time or scope for students to consider their options.  In the U S they encourage school-leavers to take a year off before joining college.  Idea is to let them go out and do their thing;  travel the world,  if they dare, and can afford it;  or get an internship with an NGO, social welfare agency or a charitable trust.  Mukti,  a charitable organisation in Chennai that provides the needy with artificial limbs,  sounds the kind of place where a school-leaver could spend a few meaningful months of internship  during the gap year. Internship experience would give students a greater sense of purpose when they do get to college.

The gap-year concept,  I reckon,  would be a hit with our  students.  Of parents, I am not  so sure.  There may be  parents  who dismiss this as a waste of time.  Parental  mindset matters,  if we want our school-going generation to take to the gap-year practice.  Parents take decisions for their school-leaver son/daughter in many of our middle-class households.
Question is:  would you want your son/daughter spend a year getting a  ‘feel’  of the world before joining college ?
Maybe I would,  if colleges were to  grant admitted  students a year- long deferral (as many universities do in the U S);
f our universities give  ‘weightage’  to an applicant’s  gap-year experience;  and
If companies adopt it as part of the CSR  (corporate social responsibility) to fund NGOs,  rural welfare and community organisations for gap-year internship of school-leavers.

College students fill gap year with meaning.
Worth(lessness) of an MBA

Cross-post   from My Take by GVK

Mantri's driveway fruits & veg. mart

N Ganesh, M D of  Thottam  fruits & Veg. retails, was at Mantri's on the first day sales.
A make-shift fruits and vegetables stall functions on the driveway behind  'A' block for four hours - 8 a m till noon - thrice weekly - Tuesday,  Friday and Sunday.  Mantri residents who made this possible are Mr Soundarajan  and  the Association chief Mr Umapathy Sivanesan.
Mantri driveway stall is part of a marketing initiative by small and marginal farmers to reach fresh vegs. and fruits to consumers straight from their farms. The farm producers co-op is called Thottam.

Thottam,  I reckon,  is a  value-added vegetables pushcart marketing model on commercially viable scale . Like the  pushcart, the Thottam people serve costumers virtually at their door-steps. Thottam managing director N Ganesh told NDTV that his company represents about 600 farmers and has its core retail mart at Shollinganallur, OMR.  A member farmer interviewed on TV says he saves 30 percent in cost - mainly in transport of produce. What's more, Thottam's farmers get a share of the company's profit. Mr Ganesh is hopeful of his company making a profit of Rs.12 lakh this year.  As a consumer I am more interested in his prices.
A quick check with my wife indicated  Thottam rates are competitive in respect of onion, spinach, cauliflower. Banana price was on the high side. The range and varieties of fruits and vegs. on offer  works to Thottam's advantage. Besides price, quality,  regularity (3 times weekly) and punctuality (8 a m start), I would say,  are the key to the success of  any  make-shift retailer .'Would you open at 8 sharp', I heard someone asking Mr Ganesh. The Mantri resident said he left for work at 8.45 a m. Most other Mantri residents  are on a clock-work schedule on weekday mornings.  Thottam retail  was there, and open to business  at Mantri's well on time this morning.                
NDTV telecast last month a brief  item on Thottam. The video link  takes its time to open on my desk-top. Besides, the operative part,  in the 2.30 min. video clip, starts after 30 seconds of advert.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Additions to R and S Shelf

I picked up the other day S V Divvaakar's novel,  The Winner's Price, from the Read & Share Shelf at Mantri's  D block lobby. An interesting fiction set in today's IT era India,  with a story featuring a bunch of IIT alumni. It's, as its  author says, about life beyond the college campus.
It was thoughtful of the book's donor - Kalyani Rangarajan (E-703) - to leave her name and contact number. This helps those of us, book borrowers, thank the donor, and, possibly,  discuss with her/him the book after we are done with it.. Following Ms Rangarajan's cue, I started scribbling my e-mail ID on the books I leave on  the shelf, just in case anyone who picks up one of my books wants to get in touch. Meanwhile, I have left the following titles at our R & S Shelf:      
Rush Limbaugh's  'The Way Things Ought to Be'
Women's Work, a novel by Anee Tolstoi Wallach
Allen Iverson, the legend of an NBA superstar
Michael Jordan's Last Comeback, When Nothing Else Matters
The Hughes Papers by Ealine Davenport
The Greening of America by Charles A Reich
Beloved Infidel by Sheilah Graham
Reel Power by Mark Litwak
B R Chopra's Mahabharatham (in Tamil)
How to Build a Better Vocabulary.