Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Cash can't buy creativity

I admit Dan Pink  isn't  a name I was familiar with  till my neighbour  Kalayani Rangarajan made a reference to his work in her e-mail about a seminar  on motivation  to be held  this Friday,  at VIT University campus on Vandalur-Kelambakkam Rd., Chennai.. Dr. Rangarajan  is dean of  VIT Business School, and the seminar - a Corporate Conclave addressed to senior executives - takes off  from  Dan Pink's proposition on  'what motivates people to better their performance'.  Many of us can't be faulted for thinking cash rewards can motivate people to do better. This would be true in case of  shop-floor staff engaged in routine, repetitive work - machine operator, meat-packer or beedi-roller.
Money could be an answer in case of a strata of workers. But is it the only motivational factor ? Or is money an answer, at all ?  Dan Pink would have us believe money isn't what motivates people. In this regard he talks about three things -  autonomy, mastery and purpose.
This,  then, is the issue that speakers at the corporate conclave would address. Dan Pink, in his the book - Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us -  trashes the carrot & stick approach that companies adopt to motivate employees. The practice of giving cash rewards for better performance; of punishing those failing to deliver, says the author,  is outdated, unexamined, and is rooted more in corporate folklore than on scientific findings.
Many senior scientists, engineers and other professionals engaged in open-source  programme  tend not only do a better job of whatever they are good at, but they also give it away free to all-comers. It is not profit, but it is purpose that motivates people to do what they do in their discretionary time. Wikipedia is an example, says Dan, of what can be accomplished  if companies re-think the way they run business. Another example he cites in support of his case is the practice adopted at Google, where employees are allowed to spend  20 percent of their Google time (one day in a five-day week) doing their own thing; to work on their pet interests or project.  
VIT's Corporate Conclave
3 p m - 6 p m
March 1 (Friday)
VIT campus, Vandalur-Kelambakkam Rd.

Those interested can register their names for participation at this link.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Morning mist at Padur

The high-rise - Gem Grove - residential  that is close to completion  in my Padur neighbourhood was no more than a hazy outline  in this morning's  mist that virtually blanketed our stretch of OMR.
Have uploaded in OMR Resident Facebook a host of other morning mist photos.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Lakeside Photowalk

Would like to hear from amateur camera enthusiasts who wish to join OMR Greens on a  PhotoWalk this weekend along the lake behind ETA Rosedale.
Idea is to capture images of the recyclable garbage discarded on the lakeside. An album of such photos would be published in Facebook, as a run up to the OMR Greens Recyclables Retrival Day.
Our plan is to mobilize a group of students, equipped with garbage bags, for a lakeside recyclables collection, on a specifed date (say March 10 or 17). Plastic bottles, cardboard, paper etc. so collect would be sold to raddiwalahs. And the proceeds would go the rag-picker families we have identified at Padur.
To-do list for OMR Greens:
1) Contact local municipal school for mobilsing student voluntters.
2) Shop for sponsors to pay for gloves and polythene garbage bags.
3) Connect with Hindustan University civil engineering faculty for drafting project report and cost estimates for barbed wire fencing on strategic segments around the lake; and for construction of public toilets, with piped water from the lake, for the benefit of those who now use lakeside bushes.
The project report, prepared by the university faculty, would be taken up with relevant authorities.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Nilgiri's comes to Padur

 The evening before formal  opening of Nilgiri's at Padur.

Nilgiri's have opened shop at Padur, but at the crowded market street on a narrow stretch of OMR. A perfect prescription for peak-hour traffic jam on OMR. Location of Nilgiri's at Padur main street has evoked mixed reaction from neighbourhood residents
Apparently, residents at  Mantri Synergy welcome the development. Not many might know that Nilgiri's was among the retail chains - Spenser's and Reliance were the others - approached by PropCare  for setting up shop at the clubhouse,  at a time when we were less than 50 families in the complex. But then no retailer wanted to move in till we were at least 100 families.
Incidentally,  Angaadi  veg. vendor was at Mantri's before, an year-and-a-half back. Mr Raghavan of Angaadi  online veg. mart set up shop on Sunday evenings, for a few weeks, as a stop-gap arrangement. This was the time span  between failure of  negotiations with Nilgiri's  and Spenser's,  and  the setting up of Sarvamangala Stores in Oct.end, 2011.
It was said Nilgiri's, and other retail chains with brand image,  wanted Mantri's to provide rent-free space for a year,  and they also laid down other conditions for setting up shop in our complex.  At some point of time there was talk of Nilgiri's taking up space in a building under construction at Hindustan University, where IOB has moved in
Small retailers and grocery stores in Padur market area feel threatened, business-wise,  with the opening of Nilgiri's right in the middle of their neighbourhood. Political parties opposing FDI in retail, on the plea that allowing in foreign retail chains would kill domestic  traders, seem not to realize that it is not Walmart, but Nilgiri's and other domestic retail chains that pose a more immediate threat to neighbourhood shops.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Kelambakkam dump yard

There is no way you can ignore this  eyesore, a few minutes drive from Kelambakkam on way to  ECR/Kovalam beach.  If you happen to miss the  sight, the stench would draw your attention to it. A steady stream of people driving past, on a daily basis, do just that - drive past this ever extending garbage dump. 
A couple of residential blocks  are coming up,  not far from this spot. The garbage dump is located within a few minutes drive from the Kelambakkam  main street. And yet no one appears unduly bothered. The response of  residents we met during OMR Greens Kelambakkam Walk  was one of  helplessness

.Social activist Stalin, alleging that the main culprit is the panchayat body, says his representation signed by a group of residents and submitted to the area police chief and health inspector has evoked no response.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Padur Walk, a poor show ?

It was a poor show, if you went by the turnout. But then OMR Greens is no mass movement. And  numbers don't change people's mindset, about how they view their environment. In OMR , emerging urban communities co-exist with panchayat townships. Both need a mindset change to be able to cope with growing problems relating to  waste management,  sewage disposal, conservation of drinking water sources, compensating for the loss of green cover,  and for the carbon emission generated by cars, AC units, and freezers used by people living in high-rises.
OMR Greens   reach out to  all sections - high-rise communities, old-time residents, panchayat bodies, neighbourhood  institutions (Hindustan University)  and neighbourhood corporates - to explore possibilities, experiment a cluster approach to waste-to-energy conversion, sewage disposal, tapping solar and wind energy, increasing the green cover.
Padur Walk was meant to create awareness,  which,  we found,  isn't a one-way street. A 'walk' with placards was to spread the word about the green agenda.  For OMR green members the walk provided an opportunity to get a sense of their neighbourhood ground realities.  Rajaram who moved to Mantri's many months back said he didn't know there was so much more to Padur than a stretch of shops on OMR.

 A handful of us hanging out on a street corner with placards,  as Viswanath suggested,  drew much attention of  passers-by;  and many of them stopped by to interact with us. The presence of a young couple with a child in arms, and bearing placards, evoked public interest.

 How many three-year olds,  or  even young couple,  for that matter,  would want to spend their Sunday morning in community work ? I thought God stopped making  such people in Kaliyug . I was wrong.
At OMR Greens we had this  young couple with their 3-year old Sumshita  taking part on the Padur Walk. Rajesh Kanna  and wife Mohana Priya, with baby daughter in arms,  had biked their way from Perumbakkam to join us at Padur.

When our new-found friend Suresh Kumar from Kelambakkam had mentioned that some of his friends wanted to bring their wife and children along for the Walk, I thought he was putting me on. The appearance of the Kannas  for our Walk, all the way from their place beyond Sholinganallur,  wasn't the only surprise Suresh Kumar  had for us.
Producing placards for our events has been an issue for OMR Greens. An Awarness walk without placards is like soda without scotch. and Suresh Kumar came to our rescue. He showed up with a shopping bag full of cardboard placards.
As it turned out,  we had more placards than walkers. The first-time participants at an OMR Greens event outnumbered  the regulars this time.  We made up a double-digit number -  four car loads, to be precise - for our field trip to the waste-to-energy conversion plant at Mamallapuram,
Notable among the Kelambakkam participants, for our Padur Walk were Stalin, and Sudhanshu Shekar who turned up for the walk with his father and elder brother, who is on the staff of Hindustan University. The Shekars,  native of Patna,  have made  Kelambakkam.their home. The family runs a paper products unit that makes paper bags, plates and cups.
A highlight of the walk came at the end when we had a brief, but meaningful, interaction on OMR Greens agenda with Padur panchayat president, Mr M Chinnakutty, at his residence.

OMR Greens on YouTube

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A walk by the lakeside, Padur

 I have heard Padur residents get water supplied from a  lake in their backyard. Truckloads of water Mantri Synergy residents used to get before borewells were activated was, presumably,  sourced from this lake. Beneficiaries would find a visit to the lake educative. For me, a lakeside walk early this morning was thought-provoking.
Tell-tale movement of persons,  close to the lake suggest the following::
1) There is a crying need for a row of public toilets, watered from the lake,  for the benefit of those now using lakeside bushes for the purpose.
2) The water body needs to be fenced off , to make it inaccessible to public.
3) The muddy pathway that runs along the lake is so littered with snails that we could do with a signpost, saying,  'Snails Crossing: Tread/Drive Carefully'.

They are seen in scores moving about on the muddy road, in early mornings. Snails dislike sunlight. When it comes to pace the fastest of snails, they say, move 50 yards per hour.
The need for fencing off the lake can't be overstated. State govt. water supply undertaking has a pumping station that was put up five years back  under a community drinking water supply scheme  funded by the Asian Development Bank.  Lake-fencing, and provision of public toilets, which might not have been necessary factors when the drinking water scheme was launched, in 2008, now assume a critical dimension.

Suggestion: Engineering students/faculty in neighbourhood  institutions such as Hindustan University  and Mohd. Sathak Engineering College can take up Padur lake improvement as a class project. The project report they come up with can become a campaign theme for OMR Greens for mobilizing public support for implementation of the lake conservation scheme.

Monday, February 11, 2013

TED event at Hindustan University

Was pleasantly surprised to see this newspaper ad. announcing a TED event in my OMR neighbourhood.  In fact,it is being organised at Hindustan University, located next door to our apartments complex at Padur.  So close, and yet beyond my reach, tariff-wise -  as all TED events usually are. But then we would have access to the TED talks when they are uploaded on the Net eventually. If you are registered with TED website, you get e-mail notification whenever they upload a set of TED talks.
Speakers listed for Hindustan University TED event include corporate seniors, creative artistes, choreographer, cameraman, dancer, disaster management expert,  human resettlement specialist, and art director and set designer Thota Tharani who has worked in over 100 movies , including  Nayagan, Sivaji and Dasavathaaram.
They would address a select audience in an auditorium with limited seating. The day-long programme, Sat.Feb.16, starts at 9 a m, and seating is on the first-come, first-served basis. A TED speech  usually lasts  18 minutes, and though  there are shorter TED talks, of 6 to 8 min. duration.
Invitees are categorized as students, academics and corporates, presumably, with varying registration fee. E-mail , or call Venu Menon -8056047466; Ravi Kiran - 9994286098.

Calling high rise communities at Padur

ETA Rosedale towering over its Padur neighbourhood.

We would like to hear from high rise communities in Padur neighbourhood -  ETA Rosedale,  Akshaya, Ouranya Bay and the like. (e-mail us:
OMR Greens  is planning a Padur Walk  this Sunday (Feb.17),  following a positive response from local residents to our Kelambakkam Walk. We reckon a green initiative, by high-rise community residents at Padur can only promote  neighbourly  relations  with our neighbourhood old-timers.Putting it plainly, it's a PR exercise, for our mutual benefit.
OMR Greens have been there before -  trash-busting at Padur market street. Our first outing didn't evoke much enthusiasm among local residents.  People watched us,  mopping up trash from their pavement, with curiosity, amusement, and skepticism. Not one of then came forward to give us a hand. Of course, panchayat  president,  Mr Chinnakutty,  arranged for street-cleaners to cart away the trash we collected.

From our perspective it was worth the trouble. Video clips we uploaded on YouTube were noticed by other OMR communities at Sholinganallur,Thoraipakkam and elsewhere.  Nearer home, for OMR Greens, the Padur  trash-bust marked the start of our association with  Hindustan University. A representative group students and the faculty joined in our street cleaning exercise.
We have since met the Hindustan University director, Mr Ashok Verghese, who evinced critical interest in our activities, and offered to designate a faculty group to work with OMR Greens in drafting a plan of action for the next 6 to 12 months.  Upcoming Padur Walk is our first outing since our meeting with Hindustan University director.
The Padur Walk, starting from Mantri Synergy, would stop by at Hindustan campus gate,  Rosedale complex across the road,  before proceeding to Padur.  We make our way through side streets in the neighbourhood to wind up in front of the Padur Panchayat office.
After the walk we have lined up a field trip to Mamallapuram organic waste recycling plant. Some Mantri residents have voluteered to drive us in their cars to the waste-to-energy conversion plant. We should be back at Mantri's for lunch.
The Mamallapuram plant, run by Hand-in-Hand, a Kanchupuram-based NGO, has a 100 cubic meter bio-methanation unit with capacity to handle 800 kg. kitchen/food waste.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Who cleans up this roadside mess ?

The local authorities recently  re-tarred this Padur-Kelambakkam stretch on OMR. But the job is left unfinished by contractors who litter the pavement with roadwork debris. Who would make the pavement, whatever is left of it, pedestrian useable ? Shouldn't the contractors be made accountable for cleaning up the mess they leave after doing the roadwork ? Or should the roadside clean-up job be given to another contractor ?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Cutting down household food waste

Most food items we buy carry an expiry date .  That is the cut off date,  after which  the producer can’t be blamed if the food item you buy turns unfit for human consumption.  Publication of the expiry date is statutory, and  in many food labels  you also find a  ‘Best-before’  date of consumption.  Which,  according to Green activist Michael Bloch,  means,  simply,  that the item  (according to the manufacturer) tastes best before that date.  “I have no problem with swallowing stuff that is past the best before date and (so far) I’ve never had a single case of food poisoning”,  Bloch says in Green Living Tips website.  He adds: “I often wonder if the ‘best before’ date is a ruse from the food industry to have us chucking out more and then buying more”.
The green activist’s  tips for cutting down our  food waste:
1) Check your fridge weekly and bring foods that will expire soon to the front
2) Ditto for your food cupboards.
3) Bulk buying can save you money, but it can cost you more, if you buy too much of items with a short use-by date or the ones that lose favor with your family.
4) It’s not unusual to find packets of chips with just a handful left, or just a swallow of orange juice left in the container.It usually sits there until it’s thrown out.
5) Supermarkets are designed to get you buying more that what you originally came in for.
6) Don’t shop from memory….cannot remember all the things you need….results in buying too much of some items and not enough of some others – and waste sometimes occurs.
7) Leaving packets open, refrigerating stuff that doesn’t require it and vice versa speeds up food spoilage.
8) Some meals you make seem to generate more waste than others. That’s fine if leftovers can be eaten the next day…or else, you need to  slowly reduce the amount you cook.
9) Use the Internet….whatever it is you have too much of in the food cupboard that’s likely  to be tossed out …you could find a squillion recipes for online!
10) Even after following the foregoing points you might end up with some waste – and also unavoidables  such as veg. peelings. Compost or  worm farm kitchen waste.

Cross-filed from My Take by GVK

Sunday, February 3, 2013

OMR traffic: Sholinganallur snarl

Those of us who take OMR to work or for business commute know  how long it takes to clear Sholinganallur traffic junction. Think of residents living in and around this place. They get trapped in knots of traffic for atleast 20 mins. on the first and last laps of their daily commute, says a report in The Hindu.   
Sabari Terrace resident Harsha Koda  says traffic inflow via Medavakkam-OMR link road, from Tambaram-Velachery main road can be halved, if it is channeled through the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) which has connection to OMR at Karapakkam.
Mr Koda who is secretary of Sabari Terrace Apt. Owners Association, however pointed out that a trench dug across the SEZ road blocks traffic to OMR. Residents have reason to suspect that trench is there to block motorists from taking the SEZ road that by-passes the Medavakkam toll plaza.. The way out is for TNRDC - the road development coompany - to set up a toll booth on SEZ road, to tap Karapakkam-Madhya Kailash traffic. They could recover the cost in a year or two.